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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.

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Nisha Trilogy Journey

Nisha trilogy journey, which started as a little project, has really developed into something quite delightful and fantastical. The original fantasy novella is well, novella-length (70 pages), and it was something I scribbled down at the end of March 2020. Technically, I “scribbled” it on my iphone notes app with my poor thumbs. That’s when the lockdown was first implemented in Indonesia. I think it was my way of coping with the world which was screeching to a halt.

Surprising Reception

Some of the first readers including my dear friend and editor Chriswan encouraged me by saying they enjoyed the read. I was honestly pleasantly surprised because wait people ACTUALLY LIKED the craziness sprouting out of my imagination? Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

I then wrote two backstories for the supporting characters in Nisha: Faris and Saad. After about 6 months, I started writing Sacred Rituals based on the backbone of the two backstories. Sacred Rituals presented some challenges: namely my first battle scene. My too enthusiastic self also got hand injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome). That sucked, but I learned my lessons.

Again, some of the first readers encouraged me by assuring me that they liked Sacred Rituals, and that the writing grew and the sequel exceeded their expectations. This meant so much to me because I am honestly a newbie writer and have no proper training like I do in my music.

At the moment of this writing, I’ve finished the draft for the last installment of the trilogy. It is in my editor’s hands, and it is finished and written – without me getting another carpal tunnel relapse – so I’m super proud about that! I expected the back and forth editing process will take a couple of months, as does the cover illustrating process with Inez. If everything goes well, the last installment will be released sometime in the beginning of 2022.

Fingers crossed everyone stays well and healthy till the last part of the Nisha trilogy journey.


UPDATE! I’ve finished editing: we took much shorter than I predicted YEAY. So everything is on track for a public release early 2022. For impatient readers, here is a sneak peek of the cover.

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Goodreads Challenge 2021: Completed

Huzzah. What a fun journey this challenge has been. Thanks to the pandemic, I had some time this year to reconnect to my love of reading. When I decided to take on this Goodreads challenge of reading 60 books this year, I was quite sure I would be able to complete it-whenever I had time I could always read pretty fast. And I’ve always been that little girl with her nose in books. Perhaps that is also you.

You can see my challenge on Goodreads. Here I would like to recap some highlights and lowlights.

Let’s start with the low first. Here are 3 titles I had mixed feelings about this year:

  1. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Surprising eh. As much as I enjoyed the whole universe and the following Six of Crows duology and King of Scars duology, the first book which started it all was disappointing. I think it’s all because I watched the Netflix version first and had too high of an expectation!
  2. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Sorry, but I actually had to stop reading this because I was too triggered by some underlying themes which rather bugged me. I might pick it up again sometime in the future, or I might not. I won’t push myself though.
  3. A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J Maas. This was hard to filter, because I couldn’t stop reading it when I was in the middle of it. However, reflecting back, it felt like eating way too many potato chips. You know, that bloated feeling afterwards.

To be fair to myself, I had many many more books that I enjoyed and loved than that I had mixed feelings about. This is good. This means I am better at picking which reads to invest in. So here are my 5 fave reads of from this challenge.

  1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Lyrical, poignant, mysterious, and hair-chilling plot twist. Oh my. I get goosebumps remembering it.
  2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Definitely cried and laughed at the same time. Also has an excellent plot twist.
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I have Sherry to thank for this! The Lunar Chronicles is cemented in my heart forever.
  4. Cerita Carissa by Krisan Wijaya. One of very few Indonesian books I read, and this made me cry! Heartwarming, touching, very realistic fiction.
  5. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Oh goodness. Eugenides and Irene, Attolis and Attolia, I am speechless.

And that’s my overview! I realized I read at a pace of about 6-8 books average per month, and I like this pace, so I will attempt to keep going and reading and enjoying!

How is your reading going this year?

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Nisha 3 Cover Sneak Peek!

Dear readers, a very special email popped into my inbox a couple weeks ago. It was from my illustrator Inez Wandita. By now, I am simply in love with her works and have complete trust that she will interpret my drafts into fabulous covers.

Inez had emailed me her ideas for the cover of the third book and the last installment of the trilogy. After observing some reviews and feedback, we decided to go back to the design of the first book cover. If you noticed, Nisha and Sacred Rituals have very different vibes and design. The reason is because the story developed and really “amped up” in the second book, so it felt necessary for that to be reflected in the cover.

We both acknowledge though, that the effect is a non-consistent look, alas. Well, we’re still learning. At least it was a beautiful learning point!

Well, here is a sneak peek of the draft design for the 3rd book!

I hope you enjoyed the little sneak peek! The draft is being edited at the moment. Finger- crossed the 3rd book will be released towards the earlier half of 2022. I’ll be posting title reveal and snippets until then, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get all the insider updates.

If you have read and reviewed Nisha, I want to thank you so much for helping me share Nisha’s story out there to the world.

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First Nisha FanArt!

The first of hopefully many many more Nisha FanArt! This is a super cute piece of work I commissioned from Mary, a talented young Indonesian digital artist.

The scene is from Chapter 16 of the first book. Nisha, Faris, and Saad are at the Border, trying to help General Char in her efforts to defend their kingdom from neighboring invasions. Faris has an idea which will eventually be a huge asset to their efforts. His idea is rooted from when he was a child, training with his Outer Movement magic under the guidance of his parents.

However, in order for Faris’ suggestion to work, it requires Saad to link and channel the Outer Movement Magic which Faris practices with the Inner Movement Magic which Nisha practices.

This scene is one of the most memorable scenes when I read the book. It shows the characters’ companionship forming as they work together, and I thought it was a beautiful scene to illustrate.

mary

Without further ado, here is the illustration!

Meet the Artist

Mary

Mary is a 16 year old digital artist whom I met through the Mad Tea Book Club. At this time, she is also a volunteer board member of the book club.

Q: Why digital medium?

A: I think digital suits me the most. I’ve always preferred working in digital over other art mediums.

Q: When and where did you learn drawing?

A: I started to draw seriously around 6th grade and was self-taught for almost 4 years until I went to art school.

Q: How did you come to love drawing?

A: In 6th grade, I fell in love with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I watched the fanart speedpaint on Youtube of this book (?). I watched countless of videos until one day I decided to try to make my own. I tried to follow their process. The result wasn’t the best but I was proud of it and enjoyed making them. So I kept practicing and making more fanart, until today!

Q: What is your dream job?

A: I’ve always dreamed to be a book cover artist or childrens’ book illustrator! Oh to be able to bring other talented people’s stories to life and see my illustrations on stores’ shelves!

Keep updated with Mary’s journey and dreams via her Instagram profile – where you can find more of her illustrations!