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The Joy of Annotating

I am officially deeply infatuated with annotating. Ever since my social media channels have been repurposed towards more of a bookish niche, I’ve been seeing all these gorgeous pictures of book annotations. I mean, take a look at Jules @yourstrulyjulietta annotations!

The only books I used to annotate were my textbooks. However, drooling over their pretty pics made me want to try it out too.

Equipment

I ordered transparent sticky notes and natural-ish colored tabs from Shopee and got to work annotating. At first I made smudges on my book GASP PANIC MODE. But well isn’t that life. The (very) first book I annotated was Galatea (Madeline Miller), followed by Transcendent Kingdom (Yaa Gyaasi).

I had the funniest feelings but what I didn’t realize was how much it would help me process my thoughts as I’m reading the book! WHAT! I’ve been missing out on this!

What About the Old Faithful Kindle?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be reading on my Kindle (it’s so convenient, really). But I’m also going to intersperse more physical books to annotate. I also enjoy doing giveaways on my social media channels, and guess what some of my #booktweet friends even said they liked to receive annotated books better than clean books! What do you know.

Ah, it’s so much fun I can’t wait to annotate more!

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A New Series!

My blog besties, I’m sorry to update y’all kind of late on this new scifi project I’ve started (!!!!). After Elements (Nishaverse #3), I had already plotted out the next book in the series. It’s set to be a standalone happening a couple of years after the final events in Elements. However, as the Muse usually whispers in odd ways, I got this idea…

When the Muse Whispers

Ok it’s not really sudden because I’d been thinking about it for a while. Plus there was this phase of my life back several years ago when I was just obsessed with theoretical physics, string theory, M-dimension, and all that. I’d always wanted to write a story that happens in several dimensions at the same time, and how they (the characters, the dimensions) relate to each other.

Then I kid you not I hear this TikTok sound that’s trending (below) and BAM that was what got this sci-fi romance draft started. So obviously we know that I’m clearly not over my obsession with theoretical physics. Second I am probably having too much fun on TikTok. BUT DO NOT JUDGE THE MUSE! If it comes, it comes.

What’s It About?

So what do we know about this new series? Well, the setting is in Nusantara (the new capital of Indonesia) 25 years from now. Our heroine is inspired by the Netflix Arcane series – Jinx and also her sister Vi. This new series is a young adult science fiction romance. Aaaand, of course, there is a parallel world to which they travel.

I wrote and wrote (and wrote) earlier this year. After the first draft was finished (March 2nd) hubby read it and gave some crucial feedback. This was a very important worldbuilding aspect I hadn’t been able to grasp: how time works in the parallel world they travel to. I also had to go through the whole draft and change ALL the tenses. I’d written it in third person past tense but then felt that first-person present tense was what the story needed.

Draft 2.0

I finished the second version of the draft earlier this month (April 2022) and am now just letting my wonderful beta readers and editor go through it (slay through it is probably more accurate). I’m nervous but well that’s just part of it. In the meanwhile, I’m doing as much reading of classic sci-fi for reference: Dune, Ancillary Justice, and The Left Hand of Darkness. I also plan to check out 2 mangas for reference: Full Metal Alchemist and H2O. I just need to find them…

If you have science fiction recommendations for me, let me know! To read some of my other works, visit the shop. Every purchase helps this wayfaring author, so thank you, readers!!

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A New Experience: Editing Alasan Alin

Alasan Alin is a brand new book by Krisan Wijaya (author of Cerita Carissa) which I had the privilege to edit. The book is published by Omah Library (RAW Press), in a collaborative effort with Mad Tea Book Club. Here is your cue to toast to little dreams coming true.

A Big Little Dream

Since we started the Mad Tea Book Club, Sherry, Krisan, and I had been thinking about also having a small publishing house focusing on Indonesian women authors, with a curated theme of women empowerment. Of course, a dream takes time, resources, connections, hard work, and support. We’re super excited that Omah Library is on board to give it a shot for the first venture. Out of the box? Yes. Unusual? You bet.

Well. Life is short.

And so it was that I came to the editorial role for our first book: Alasan Alin. First of all, please be aware that the book is in Bahasa Indonesia. Lucky for me, Krisan is an excellent writer, so it makes things very easy. My contributions in editing Alasan Alin were largely 2 points: the stylistic footnotes and the plot twist at the end.

Ala Crazy Rich Asians

Since the book is a medical chick-lit, there are some healthcare related words that the general public might not be aware of. The author, Krisan, is a doctor herself, so in the first draft, she explained the terms in the narration. As we all know, this helps the general reader understand the terms, but it takes a lot away from the flow of the story. In order to keep both objectives, I suggested to Krisan to adopt what Kevin Kwan does in his series Crazy Rich Asians.

If you’ve read that series, its full of slangs and terms that’s very Singaporean, so Kevin Kwan moves all the explanation to the footnotes. He keeps the footnotes interesting by taking a different narrative approach – its sarcastic and snappy. I think this style works well for Alasan Alin, so that’s what we did for the final draft.

Alin’s Character Arc

My second contribution is the plot twist at the end. This is crucial to Alin’s personality and her whole character arc, thus Krisan and I discussed it back and forth. I don’t want to spoil things, so will just hint mysteriously (HA). Upon my first reading, I got the impression that the author (Krisan) had wanted to take it a certain way, but then shied away in the end. In so doing, the original intent built throughout the draft seems compromised. I suggested a plot twist that feels like it really was there all along – so Alin can really be Alin, with all her imperfection, flaws, and also fiery spirit.

…so Alin can really be Alin, with all her imperfection, flaws, and also fiery spirit.

Editing Alasan Alin was a completely new experience for me, but I loved it. The book can be ordered here. I do hope you enjoy her story!

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Elements (Nishaverse #3) Official Release

This is the day! I’m so excited to share with all of you Elements (Nishaverse #3) which is the conclusion of the Nisha trilogy. Thank you to to all the readers for being a part of this ride with Nisha and her friends. To celebrate this special day, I’ve commissioned from fantastic bookstagrammer @yourstrulyjulietta to make a book trailer video.

Music: Game of Survival (Ruelle)

You can now purchase Elements (Nishaverse #3) in epub and/or mobi format at the shop. Take a moment to rate and review the book on Goodreads – I love going through what readers’ think because it is great feedback for me and for the story development in the future… wink.

To see what advanced reviewers’ and readers have thought so far, check out this page.

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Elements Cover Reveal

Is it Christmas yet? Naaahhh just the breathtaking picture of Inez’ cover for Elements, the 3rd book in the Nishaverse series!

Elements cover goes back into the same vibe as the first cover after seeing some feedback from reviewers and readers. Most seemed to like the cover of the first book better, although both images gathered solid praise. So we went back to that vibe, but with a different emotion on Nisha’s face. If you read the book you will understand why…

Illustrated by Inez Wandita

Elements will be officially released at the shop on 31st January 2022. In the meanwhile, advanced reader copies are now available for reviewers! If you are a book reviewer, have reviewed both Nisha and Sacred Rituals, and would like to review Elements (in exchange for a free digital copy), please fill out this form.

So now that all three covers are out, what do you think? Which one do you like best?

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Writing Lessons from Great Fantasy Authors

One of the positive sides of the pandemic is that I got more time to read. I originally set my goal to read 60 books in 2021, and completed that around October time. To date, I read a total of 73 books so far! I’m quite proud of myself. Virginia Woolf once said : read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river. I definitely feel a little bit of that rubbing off, because I almost never struggle with writer’s block – it’s pretty easy for me to weave a story from a blank page. Of course, then there is re-writing and editing, and that’s a different story. But generally, I do feel the massive reading that I do aids my writing.

Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.

virginia woolf

In this post I’m going to share three precious writing lessons I’ve noticed from some of the most enjoyable authors I’ve come across. They’re all fantasy authors because well, that’s without a doubt my favorite genre!

NK Jemisin

I read her Broken Earth books, and wow, it’s fantasy writing that people will study about years later, I’m sure of it. Something from Jemisin that I’d be interested to experiment with is how she drips the world building into the narrative with passages from “scrolls” or history books of that world. She puts a bit of this at the ending of every chapter, so that through these “chapter endings” so we are able to know more about the world she created. How she uses different point of views to indicate different points of time amidst the centuries is also something quite cool.

Megan Whalen Turner

I think MWT has some of the best plot twist writing skills ever. It seems she does this by “playing around” with the narrator’s perceptions. As a reader I feel like my default is to sympathize with the narrator (unless if it’s a serious antiheroine, which is a different matter), so what the narrator perceives is what I perceive as a reader. Thus when the narrator is “shocked” as the twist is revealed…well my jaw is dropping as well.

Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone trilogy was not my favorite, but Six of Crows duology completely went off the charts. It was followed by King of Scars duology. Something I learned about Leigh Bardugo is how she gives vulnerabilities to her characters. For example, take my favorite character Inej Ghafa. She is amazingly strong, and given what we know about her traumas from the Menagerie, her character becomes incredibly three dimensional. The pains and flaws are so relatable to the readers, thus the characters feel so real.

Worldbuilding, plot, and character arcs. Pretty great writing lessons there, in addition to the sheer enjoyment of reading their series!

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Nishaverse Wallpaper Airdrop!

Elements, the third book of the Nishaverse trilogy is ready for a release date of 31 January 2022. In the meanwhile, Inez and I have made a Nishaverse wallpaper series to satisfy your anticipation time.

There are 3 digital artwork in this Nishaverse Wallpaper series so far:

  1. Ged Luft (whom we all occasionally get annoyed at)
  2. Baba (Faris’ cool father)
  3. General Char (Nisha’s aunt)

Here is a high res of the Ged wallpaper:

Collect the 3 wallpapers by subscribing to my newsletters! The Baba and Char wallpapers will be airdropped to your inbox next Sunday, 28th of November. If you’ve already subscribed then sit back, relax, and wait for the airdrop 🙂

My newsletter contains exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming books and projects, and also special digital gifts from me (for example: the wallpapers and music recordings). I promise I won’t be sending you spam, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

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Arranged Marriage Theme in Nisha

A lot of great reviews have flowed in for my fantasy series Nisha and its sequel, Sacred Rituals. Thank you so much to all my readers out there who have taken the time to read and review my books. One review, in particular, caught my eye. It’s Febrian’s review on Goodreads, can you can read the full review here.

Febrian wrote “believe me, Nisha, I was also wondering what it would take to get your parents to understand your life is your choice.” She highlighted the arranged marriage theme, which I would like to highlight in this post. No major spoilers for the book ahead if you haven’t read it.

Nisha and Ged Luft’s Situation

Indeed one of the running themes in Nisha is her arranged marriage to young Lord Ged Luft. Her parents, the King and Queen arranged this because the crown was running out of money, and for them, the only way to refill the crown’s coffers was to marry off Princess Nisha to the Lufts, a wealthy noble family of their Kingdom, Seis.

There are many wonderful stories in literature or in real life which depict forced arranged marriage working out very well, but not mine. As Mary, an illustrator who has read the book also said in a Mad Tea Book Club discussion, she didn’t think Nisha was a good example of arranged marriages working out well.

This is precisely the case because I have experienced arranged marriage situations, and it simply didn’t work out for me. I was THIS CLOSE to getting married to someone whom my parents had introduced. I ended the relationship because I knew I would not be happy long-term in that arrangement.

Child Bride

There is one BIG difference though, and that is the point that Nisha is underage. I was set up when I was in my mid-20s, but Nisha was set up in her teens. And this is my main point: CHILD MARRIAGE IS NOT OKAY. If you think this practice is finished, I am sad to say that it is not so.

Globally, 1 in 5 women were married before their 18th birthday. As instability increases, girls living in conflict or crisis settings become particularly vulnerable to the practice.

unicef

This is precisely what happens to Nisha. Her kingdom falls into crisis, and the answer in her parents’ mind was to marry her off to solve the problem. NO, IT DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. And if you read Nisha and Sacred Rituals, you will know why.

To read more on child bride problems, visit this article (International Women’s Health Coalition).

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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is something I have naturally done since a young age, without giving much thought to it. I suppose I had been lucky enough that someone at some point of my growing up had taken the pains to read aloud with me.

I remember in junior high I used to enter storytelling competitions where I would memorize short stories and perform them live (from memory) in front of a jury panel.

Benefits of Reading Aloud

As it turns out, reading aloud has tons of benefits!

  1. According to psychologist Colen MacLeod, reading aloud helps memory. People consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This effect is beneficial for younger kids to the elderly.
  2. Reading aloud helps detect memory issues earlier, such as Alzheimer’s disease (source: National Center for Biotechnology Information). From someone whose grandmother had memory issues and died without remembering anyone anymore, I am a bit concerned about this in my genes. Thus if I can detect it sooner, it would be better for me later on.
  3. For young minds, reading aloud helps to sharpen focus, improve vocabulary, and increase levels of comprehension (source: Learning Loft). This means, if you have a young child, encouraging them to read aloud to you is a practice of great value!

Recently, I’ve started reading aloud performances on my Instagram channel. There is a lovely section of Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables Series), the iconic first meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (A Study in Scarlet), and also some of my writings. The prologue of Sacred Rituals is there along with the beginning chapters of Nisha.

The more I read aloud, the more I like it. Another book influencer that reads aloud is the highly popular Jaysen, dubbed “king of booktok” from Ezeekat Library.

If you like to listen to read-aloud (aka audiobooks), you can also out Nisha audiobook at my shop, which I narrated. If you’d like to read aloud something of mine, let me know! It might be fun.