Ash Mistry and The Savage Fortress

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Sarwat Chaddas Blog

City of Death mini-tour, New York City!

 

Yes, I'm coming to New York!

HUZZAH!

Okay, it's gonna be superquick, faster than a speeding bullet type of thing so you'll need to be organized. It's really come out of the blue so if you are around, do come along!

 

Sat 3rd May, 1-3pm

Books of Wonder

Now I'll be at this most splendid boostore with the following MEGA- authors. Soman Chainani (SCHOOL OF GOOD AND EVIL) and Tui T. Sutherland (WINGS OF FIRE series). Fairies, dragons and demon kings. What more could you possibly want?

 

Sat 3rd May, 3pm

PEN World Voices Festival

Then, faster than a speeding bullet, I will zoom across town to talk SUPERHEROES, which as you know, are my most favourite things. This will be with Chris Farley and should be really rather good.

 

Sun 4th May, 12.30pm

PEN World Voices Festival

SEX AND VIOLENCE IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS. This is were the wild things REALLY are. We'll talk, we'll argue. Come and join in.

Ravana the demon king is coming your way!

At some point when this darn upload works.

Because rhinos can't climb trees

Hello Chris!

It's not often I get an acutal fan letter nowadys with emails and twitter and Facebook and whatnot so I was well chuffed when one arrived yesterday. So, Chris had a few qeustions about the Ash books that I thought I'd answer here. Okay with you? Excellent.

1. Why Rama and Sita? Well, I knew I wanted to write about Indian Mythology and so I was going to pick the biggest myth there was, the Ramayana. It's also the most easily accessible to the new reader. So, even if you don;'t know anything about Indian Myth, the Ramayana is the most straightforward. Prince Rama goes to defeat the demon king Ravana to rescue his wife, the Princess Sita. There. All you need to understand. Then, there is the idea of Rama being an avatar of Vishnu, and I love the idea of eternal heroes returning at times of great peril. This led to the idea of Ash being the Eternal Warrior, and freed me to go into other eras and heroes. In the first Ash book you discuss Ash was Rama. In book 2 you find out he was the emperor Ashoka. Then in book three a soldier from WW1 and also (my fav) Spartacus. I reference many, many other past lives but those are the main ones.

2. Rama and the two aastras. In Ash #1 Rama has to pick between the Vishnu aastra and the Kali-aastra. I must admit, I made that up. In Indian mythology Rama is an avatar of Vishnu. I was just providing internal logic to MY version. I will be the first to admit I have made modifications to the original story!

3. Have I written any other books apart from the Ash trilogy? Yes. Check out DEVIL'S KISS and DARK GODDESS. Equally badass they're about the Knights Templar and a teen girl, Billi SanGreal, whose been trained up to take on the Unholy. Just think of Billi as Ash's older, more violent sister by another mister.

4. The Ash Mistry trilogy (in order) is ASH MISTRY AND THE SAVAGE FORTRESS. ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH. ASH MISTRY AND THE WORLD OF DARKNESS. All three are out now in the UK.

5. Research for the Ash books took about two years. I've visited India, Pakistan, Tibet and China to make sure the details of the locations in each were correct. 

Anyway, I hope that helps!

Why I love THE HOBBIT

Sigh. For so many, MANY reasons. Lets start with the first, most important.

1. I think I was about 7 and I can remember the day perfectly. It is one of those golden summer moments. I'm sitting on the floor in the classroom and the sun is shining through the metal-framed window and it's sunny outside but I'm about to go on a journey which, if I'm honest, I never really came back from. That wardrobe to Narnia? Yeah, it was a lot like that.

So, the teacher (whoever she was, I owe her big time), starts reading about hobbits. They're small and difficult to spot for us 'big folk'. Now I don't know about you but at 7 you can suspend disbelief at a moment. So I wasn't quite sure what I was hearing was fiction or just a true tale from long ago. Where there hobbits? If I was really quiet, could I spot one? Was there one living in my back garden?

I don't remember many details after that, but just a feeling. A tumble with teh dwarves as they escape the wood elves in their barrels. That moment Bard shoots his black arrow. The joy of the Battle of the Five armies and the sadness of the deaths of those we loved in its aftermath and the most fitting end for the Arkenstone. And if you've read CITY OF DEATH now you know why I did what I did with the Koh-I-Noor in the final few chapters.

That book changed my life in the most fundamental way. Fantasy became my genre. I've strayed away, sometimes for years, but eventually I come back. I really honestly believe I became a writer because of that one summer afternoon.

2. Does there need to be another reason? 

When Ash met Billi

You know the best bit of the Marvel movies? It comes at the very end, after the titles and just as you're about to leave. It's the tease to the next movie, isn't it?

I think it was IRON MAN that did it first, with Tony Stark meeting Nick Fury to talk about the Avengers Inititative.

So that got me thinking...

Superhero team ups. That's why superheroes and team-ups were invented, right?

We've got the Avengers, we've got Superman & Batman on the horizon and we've got Doctor Who coming up later this month with THREE (or maybe four?) Doctors in the house! Or TARDIS. I know, wasn't it amazing when he turned around and it was John Hurt?

It all gives you the META-STORY. It tells you that hey, there's other stuff going on beyond the borders of this tale and it all weaves into one another. It's the butterfly effect of fiction.

So, what does this all mean to me? And you, since you've read it so far.

My two series, DEVIL'S KISS and ASH MISTRY, are all part of one glorious whole. In DEVIL'S KISS I hint at Elaine's time in the East, and in THE SAVAGE FORTRESS I hint at other holy warriors fighting against the forces of darkness.

I've got Elaine in both series. Think of her as my Nick Fury. She's aware of the big picture. And one day, she knows that something will happen that will need both the Knights Templar and the Kali-aastra.

So, sooner or later, Billi SanGreal and Ash Mistry were going to meet.

So, below is that teaser scene. 

In Billi's timeline it takes place after DEVIL'S KISS but before DARK GODDESS.

In Ash's timeline it takes place after CITY OF DEATH but before WORLD OF DARKNESS.

SUMMARY

Ash is in trouble (and if you've finished CITY OF DEATH you'll know exactly what I mean) and the only contact he has is Elaine. So he's heading off to see her in North London.

WHEN ASH MET BILLI

Ash had left her a message. Elaine had left him one.

            Eight o’clock.

            Ash came out of Finsbury Park station. The pub across the road was overflowing. Saturday evening was balmy, the last traces of the summer lingering, stretching out the evening. The doors were open and the patrons stood on the street, spilling out onto the road. Crowds surged around him, making their way to some open-air gig in the park itself.

            Ash checked his mobile screen. The address was a few minutes away. The red pin hung over it. Some sort of shop.

            It had been a bad day. The school forum had been buzzing with conflicting reports about what had happened at the disco. Jack was alive. He was dead. It had been a gang from another school. It had been the Russia Mafia.

            Ash hadn’t been mentioned once. But his inbox was filled with messages from the boys. And Gemma. He hadn’t dared open them. She’d buzzed him six times on his mobile and left a string of texts. She’d given up by around five.

            The map led him round a corner past a kebab shop, and a line of garages. Then he saw the sign.

            Elaine’s Bazaar.

            The three golden orbs hung over the entrance. It was a pawnshop. Business was good as the window, protected by a steel wire grille, was filled with gear. Laptops and games’ consoles seemed to be the best sellers but behind a wide-screen tv was a stuffed owl, it’s eyes glazed and void.

            Ash checked his watch. Five to.

            Good enough. He hit the buzzer.

            Footsteps scuffled across the floor. Through the smoky glass he could make out a woman, approaching. Keys jangled on a chain. There was the faint stink of cigarette smoke.

            “Who is it?” The voice was harsh and crusty with old tar.

            “Ash Mistry. You Elaine?”

            The keys rattled some more. There was a cough and chink of bolts falling back.

            Kay stepped back. The door was new and the frame reinforced with steel. This Elaine took her security seriously. He glanced at the blind owl in the window. Was there more to this pawnshop that just feathered junk and a box of iPods?

            The door opened a sliver and a puff of smoke blew from the gap. A beady, wary eye peered at him.

            “Been wondering when you’d turn up,” said the woman. She drew the door open. “I’m Elaine.”

            She pulled her long woollen cardigan tighter around her sparse, wiry body. Long, brittle grey hair hung down to her shoulders and her face was wrinkled with age and stained with a life-time of smoking. She snapped her bony fingers. “Shut the door behind you.”

            “Want me to lock it?” Ash asked.

            Elaine laughed. Another octave lower it would have been a cackle. “Who’d be stupid enough to mess with me with you to protect me?”

            Ash stopped. He peered into the room. There was someone else here.

            A tall, stuffed bear stood looming over him. It’s face was twisted into a snarl and he would have been pant-wettingly terrifying if someone hadn’t put a top hat on his head or warped his thick neck with a pink feather boa. A couple of children’s bikes formed a line along the wall, there was a pile of big, chunky leather trunks staked on each other. And someone sitting on them.

            She’d been so still he hadn’t noticed her. The room was dingy and she hung out of the glow of the one fluorescent tube that provided the only light in the shop.

            She looked a bit only than him. A knife scrapped across the surface of an apple but she wasn’t looking at the fruit. Her eyes, so dark as to be black, gazed down at Ash.

            The girl wore black jeans and a black teeshirt. Her skin naturally dusky but darkened by the summer sun. Black hair knotted into a loose pony tail hung over her shoulder. A silver band on her wrist glistened in the low light. Though she hardly moved more than her wrist she looked like trouble.

            The knife moved smoothly through the flesh of the apple. She sliced off a segment and popped it in her mouth.

            Ash felt a prickle of something, creeping up his back. Elaine pointed at a stool.

            “Sit down there so we can chat,” she said.

            Sitting down meant him having his back to this girl. That seemed bad. He gestured at her with his thumb.

            “And she is..?”

            The girl stood up and stepped down from the stack of trunks. The dust around her hardly stirred.           “Billi,” she said. She peeled off another chunk of apple.

            A bit taller than him she had an easy grace. This Billi reminded him more of Parvati than anyone human should.

            “I’ve a friend a lot like you,” he said.

            “I seriously doubt it.”

            “Anyway, Billi. Nice to meet you. Do shut the door on your way out,” Ash said.

            “I asked her to come,” said Elaine. Billi hadn’t moved.

            “Why?”

            “Added security.”

            Ash bit his lip. Who was this Elaine? “To protect you from who? Me?”

            “Isn’t that why you’re here?” replied Elaine.

            “I’m an ordinary guy,” said Ash. “I am.”

            Elaine’s eyes sank into her wrinkles as she took another long drag. Her fingers tapped at the stub, dropping ash onto the lino. She idly rubbed it with her boot. “Go on, Billi. I’ll be fine.”

            The door bell chimed as Billi left.

            Elaine adjusted her stool and sat down. “I hope I’m not making a big mistake.”

            “And if you are?”

            Elaine smiled. Her teeth were plaque yellow. “I dind’t get into this profession without people owning me favours.”

            “What sort of people?”

            “Extremely violent ones.” Elaine squashed out her cigarette. Her hand dipped into her pocket and within seconds a second was lit and burning in her lips. “So you’re the Kali-aastra?”

            “Not what you expected?”

            “No. But I’ll manage my disappointment.”

TO BE CONTINUED... 

PEOPLES OF AMERICA! THIS. MONDAY 28TH OCTOBER.

Festivals and what I did on my holidays

 

Hello! Sorry about the long time no hear but I've been on holiday (and most splendid it was too, thanks for asking) and frankly, haven't had much to blog about apart from doing quite a lot of writing. Which is quite boring!

I've never undertsood why anyone really wnats to be a writer beyond it being the best job in the world though, given the option, being a ninja or astronaut would have been my prefered choices. Anyway...

Some of you may not believe I exist. Yes, there are though who think I'm just too good to be true (a sadly small minority) and those who might believe the world could not be so cruel to create me (a larger group, equally sadly) but to both I say, hold your horses! There are opportunities to meet me in the total FLESH!

BATH LITERATURE FESTIVAL. I will be there on Sunday 29th September with fellow author Sam Gayton. We'll be waffling on and jabbering about all things mythological and adventurous in the afternoon. Details are HERE.

HERTFORD CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL. I'll be there on Friday 4th October. Not quite sure what I'm doing there, TBH. Just come find me!

Then, off to Wales, to the SPACE, TIME, MACHINE AND MONSTER event. I'm there Sat 19th October. Bring on the AWESOME! Details are HERE

What, you can't make any of those? Fear not, I shall also be at the BARKING AND DAGENHAM READING FESTIVAL with a whole bunch of other cool authors. That's Thursday 5th October evening, I think. More deatils will follow as soon as I have them!

Chepstow Secondary School

I've been working with Chepstow secondary for the last year, running a writer's group with a bunch of students, ranging from Year 7 to Year 9.

There have been some amazing work and I'm very impressed they all survived the journey! I am not known for my delicate editorial comments. Many was a homework that ended up being returned covered in red ink, but all survived, all produced a splendid final year short story, all collected under an anthology. I was very touched they all signed it, I'll hang onto it as I know in a few years time there will be some publsihed authors coming out of this group and I'll need proof to claim my 10% finder's fee.

So, it was great to head up to sunny (and it was sunny) Chepstow and see the gang, now they've all completed the course. But there was more in store...

Chepstow did an ASH MISTRY week! All the brain child of Emma Mellen and the headmistress, Claire Price, they turned that school in Wales into a little corner of India. EPIC! The incoming Year 6's gathered to turn out a mind-blowing performance of the key scenes of the story with special effects, actors and a march of the gods, no less!

Above are some of the actors and musicians and even cooks who took part. My head was gigantically swollen by the end of the evening. I got a chance to talk to some of the parents of the Year 6's and they're in for a major exciting time.

Secondary school is a big deal, no two ways around it. This is where you'll become an adult. It is intimidating. There are exams, and tests and universities at the end of it. You'll have an amazing range of things to study, and homework. Lots of homework.

It will be hard. At times you'll feel it's impossible. You'll have moments when you wonder 'what's the point?' Friends will do better than you and you'll struggle. I've been there. What do you think it's like, writing every day? Not knowing if what you're doing is any good, if any one will like it and hey, you're not qualified for this and everyone else seems to be doing so much better. It's like they were emailed the secret for success and no-one cc'ed it to you.

Well, I'm here to tell you it'll be okay. And you are allowed to fail. No one, and I mean NO ONE, makes it all the time.

Ash Mistry is about a loser. Not a comic loser, just a guy who is never going to shine. He'll never be head boy and he'll never come first in Sports Day. 

That's okay. Most of us won't either.

But Ash never, ever, gives up. If you've read ASH MISTRY AND THE SAVAGE FORTRESS you know even being killed doesn't stop him. If there was a point to writing that books, it was that.

Writing Ash was constant struggling against failure. People said no one reads ethnic heroes. People say that Indian mythology had not appeal, that it was too alien and too complicated. Many of those people were in publishing.

Fortunately not in HarperCollins.

I didn't do it alone. I had people, coachs, to guide me. Sarah Davies, my agent, the biggest and the best. She made sure Ash worked. Then Nick Lake, my editor. He wasn't happy with us dumbing it down. He wanted it to be big, epic, and as wild and as complex as it needed to be. All the past lives of Ash are in there because of him.

But isn't that what it's all about? The not giving up? We saw Wimbledon last Sunday, didn't we? We saw a guy whose school was a scene of a awful, truly awful event. We saw a guy who was, so close, to being another one of those 'could have been but never quite got it together'. 

Look at what he was like in 2005. Lanky, scrawny even. Struggling to play with the big boys and with major stamina problems. Not promising material.

Look at him now.

He didn't just try harder, he tried better. Moved to Spain when he was 15. Trained in Miami (bet that helped when he was playing for 3 hours in 40 degrees last week) and he got better coaching. I think it's not fluke the guy he hugged first was Ivan Lendl.

Don't let failing stop you. Murray has won 2 grand slams. He's played about thirty five. So he's LOST thirty three times. That's if you want to look at it glass half empty.

If it matters to you, failure is nothing. Fail fast, fail often and fail BETTER. If this doesn't work, try it another way. Get teachers, friends, family and anyone else around you to give you tips and clues to make it work. And it will. That is the law of the universe and who amongst us are bigger than that? But do not, ever, stop. 

The Indian Summer Giveaway!

Can you believe it? I've written FIVE books! HUZZAH!

The fifth one comes out this Thursday so I though time to give away some treats. You lucky, lucky people.

What have we got on offer? FIVE sets of prizes! FIVE!!!

THREE sets of the Ash Mistry trilogy!

TWO sets of the Billi SanGreal duology!

To anywhere in the WORLD!!!

Yes, it feels like Christmas has come early, doesn't it?

TO RECAP on how I've spent the last five years (and no, it wasn't all on Facebook and YouTube.)

THE ASH MISTRY TRILOGY

ASH MISTRY AND THE SAVAGE FORTRESS (ASH #1)

Take an average school boy. Add one immortal sorceror. Thrown in a demon king. Stir well and wait for it to blow up IN YOUR FACE!

Fav Line: "You know what? I've suddenly realised something. I'll the side-kick, aren't I?"

ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH (ASH #2)

Ash Mistry died last summer. Then Kali, the goddess of death and destruction, brought him back to be her weapon, the Kali-aastra. Now Ash must pay the price of being the world's deadliest killer. Greater dangers. Greater horrors. Greater sacrifices.

Fav Line: "I saved Savage's life. I'm such an idiot."

ASH MISTRY AND THE WORLD OF DARKNESS (ASH #3)

A world lost to demons. One weapon of Kali. NO CONTEST.

Fav Line: "What is democracy but rule of the mob?"

Now if that's not enough to have the blood pumping in your veins, there's yet more. Before Ash Mistry there was Billi SanGreal. And she will kick your butt very VERY hard.

DEVIL'S KISS (BILLI #1)

Meet Billi. She's fifteen and born to kill. Trained as a Knight Templar it's her job to destroy the Unholy. That's the things that go bump in the night. She's very good.

Fave Line: "Killing him should be easy. He's only six."

DARK GODDESS (BILLI #2)

The ancient witch, Baba Yaga, has returned. She's seen what humans have done to the planet. She's not happy. She's gathered her followers, a tribe of female werewolves, and is on the hunt. She has just one goal; to bring about Fimbulwinter, a new Ice Age. Bye bye, mankind.

Fav Line: "You shall keep the company of martyrs."

So, there you have it. a taste of what's on offer. It's raw, it is violent, and there is a high body count. Be warned. If you think you can handle it, just say hello or something in the comments section and next week I'll put all your names in a hat and we'll pick ourselves five winners. Easy-peasy.

 

And that's a wrap. The Ash Mistry series is DONE.

Wow. It's over. Three books bashed out. Rewrites galore. Many many notebooks filled with plans and ideas and plots and characters and monsters. Lots of mad scribblings on posters with coloured felt-tips.

I feel kinda weird. There are no dancing elephants. There should be. I remember this feeling after doing an exam. At the end of summer term and you're looking out inot the future with 'Now what?'

Ash is been bubbling away since 1996. One day I'll dig up the notebook where I first did his adventures. It was a small pocket thing that I had with me when I travelled around the East on my grand tour. It was a scribbled comic strip then and I even had a go (when I got home) drawing it. Some of the artwork's on this website (the Kali image was the first page). 

Wow. I was in my twenties when I first pondered Ash and a lot of you reading this weren't even born. A lifetime has come and gone in the space between the first sketch and the last page.

Yeah, what next? To be honest it's something I've been pondering quite a while. There have been a few half-good ideas but none string enough to replace the long obssession I've had with Ash.

Well, until a few weeks ago...

It was the first May bank holiday and me and family were packing up the car to drive down to the Isle of Wight for a cycling holiday. The weather was fine. The bikes fixed to teh roof and then I started driving.

And it came to me. Like a choir of angels. It was a total epiphany (look it up).

By the time I was out a whole plot, complete with characters and settings and heroes and villains was it place. Now, less than a month later I'm already 20,000 words into it. 

Can't tell you more but, fingers crossed, this will be the next series. Like Ash, it will come at you like an UNSTOPPABLE FACE PUNCH.

Nevertheless, we have to celebrate the conclusion of the Ash series and herald 'Ash Mistry and the World of Darkness' arrival! Yes, I mean LAUNCH PARTY.

So, get yourselves down to TALES ON MOON LANE, Monday 8th July, 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Awesome bookshop. If you're interested in coming and chatting and shmoozing and whatnot, just leave your name on the comments box thing below!

ASH MISTRY BOOK 3

It's out on 4th July (UK for now).

You've got the final face off. You've got the demon nations poised to take over the world. You've got DRAGONS.

It's why the word BADASS was invented.

Tripwire

Alan Moore. Michael Moorcock. Mike Carey. Frank Miller. Mike Mignola. Joss Whedon. Seriously, if your don't recognise any of the names listed where have you been for the last 20 years? It's pretty safe to say that modern popular culture has been defined by some of those above. No Moore, no modern superheroes. No Miller, then no Dark Knight. No Moorcock, then no modern fantasy. And Joss Whedon? I think I've made my point.

And they've all been in Tripwire. Many before they were ANYWHERE else. Tripwire Magazine's been up and running 21 years, which is awesome in anyone's book and there's something pretty special being arranged for the 21st Anniversary Edition.

Joel Meadows, as well as being a beautiful human being, is the brains behind all of this. It's been his labour of love and it shows. There's no trend following, no sacred cows left unslaughtered, Tripwire in name and nature. 

Tripwire deserved to be BIG, HUGE, for it's 21st birthday. A party's being planned at Foyles but in the meanwhile we need your help. 

Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing company. You donate, things happen. The 21st Anniversary Edition of Tripwire needs £10,000 to make it happen in all its beauty. It's over half-way there but (in the best superhero tradition) the clock is ticking and you only have a few more days to make it happen. Here's the link and what's on offer.

 

Launch Party this Friday 15th March!

Dear Chums, I hope you're all well. I'm fine thank you, though last week was UTTERLY MENTAL with World Book Week and running around from school to school and delighting teachers and pupils with my lessons on 'How to BUild a Better BADASS.'

Yup.

ANYWAY...

This FRIDAY 15th MARCH there will be a small party to celebrate the publication of 'ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH'. Frankly I spent long enough writing it so there should be a party. There will be talking, some drinking, more talking, a speech, some more talking, maybe even laughter and I promise you you'll leave the party with at least ten NEW FRIENDS. 

And hopefully a SIGNED copy or two of my book. Frankly, what more could you possibly ask for?

An INVITE?

Of course! You are ALL invited. The fun and games will be at DULWICH BOOKS, and from 6.30pm till 8.30pm. Address of this fine establishment is;

DULWICH BOOKS, 6 CROXTED ROAD, LONDON, SE21 8SW. Nearest train station is West Dulwich (get that from Victoria) or you can catch the Number 3 bus from outside Brixton Station and it'll drop you off more or less outside the shop.

Yes, I know it's south of the river but that's where the party's at.

Out on THURSDAY! YES, THIS THURSDAY!

Yes, at last. The book's out and it will be EPIC. It will be the sort of EPIC that will sweep all other forms of EPICNESS before it. Think Conan with Gamma Radiation, hailing from the planet Krypton and adopted by the Wayne family out in Gotham.

I'm hoping you'll be up early, visiting your local bookshop with your £6.99 (about teh price of two of your parents' lattes at Starbucks) clutched tightly in your sweaty fist.

Frankly, take £13.98, buy two copies and keep one hermetically sealed so it will forever remain perfect.

I really, REALLY wish I could tell you something about it. For those who haven't read book 1, look away now for SPOLIERS will follow and you should be thoroughly ASHAMED of yourselves for not having a copy. No wonder people look at you strangely when you walk down the street. That's right, the ARE staring at you.

SPOILERS

At the end of Ash #1, we know Ash has become PRETTY BADASS. After all, he his now the deathless servant of Kali, the Kali-aastra, her divine weapon. So, book 2 opens with him back in London, trying to hold it together and be NORMAL. Not easy when you can kill with a touch. He thinks his problems are over, beyond asking Gemma out on a date at Guy Fawkes Night.

But Savage comes, and he has a mind-blowing plan that requires the aid of Ash. Now you may think that's impossible, after what happened in Book 1, but Savage hasn't survived all these centuries without having plans within plans. The guy's tricky and we find out quite how tricky he is. Which is REALLY tricky.

Anyway, we have all the usual, extreme violence, horror, a few laughs, ancient tombs, demons, and more magical mischief than at the stag party of the head boy at Hogwarts.

ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH. It why writing was invented.

EVENTS!

Right, pay attention. The powers that be have decided it's time to let me back out in public. I know, you'd have thought there'd be some international law against it but security measures have been put in place so, I'M FREE! BWAHAHA!

So, you're wondering one of two things. Firstly, is there anywhere you can hide? Nope. There is no escape. Ash #2 is coming out and frankly, I cannot think of a book, certainly none others written by me, more filled with BADASSNESS. This should be the motto

With great power comes great BADASSNESS. Yes, it is a real word.

The second question is, if there is no hiding place, where will I actually be? Well, after book 2 probably somewhere in your darkest nightmares, but before then...

THE IMAGINE FESTIVAL, Fri 22nd Feb. 10.30am and 12.30pm.

Yes, it is south of the river, like all the best things in life. I'll be giving workshops of creating MEGA-HEROES (because superheroes are so 2012). There may be some acting involved. It's running all week so plenty to see and do, and it'll be both EDUCATIONAL & ENTERTAINING. Huzzah! More details HERE.

ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH LAUNCH PARTY! Fri 15th March. 6.30pm 'till 8.30pm.

Also south of the river at Dulwich Books. It will be AWESOME. 'Nuff said. Just email them or something or comment below so I know you're coming. We'll sort out badges later.

LONDON BOOK FAIR, 15th April, details TBC

Yes, I'll be there, chairing a panel! How cool is that? It's the biggest book event in the UK and there will be many splendid things happening. Don't go to any of them, come to mine instead.

And, before I forget, book's out on Thurs 28th February. Write the date on your diary/calender/forehead.

 

Hello, American cousins! Rather nice feedback from 'over the pond'.

As you know the very nice people at AAL publsihers took it upon themselves to publish the adventures of Ash Mistry in the good old ex-colony of the USA. And very pleased I was too. Just look at the cover. Rather fantastic, IMHO>.

Anyway, not only has it be gracing shelves across that continent from shining sea to shining sea it has gained some rather splendid reviews. I know, splendid reviews for a book written by me. Wonders will never cease.

Now, I'm MUCH too modest to tell you all the wonderful things the reviewers have been saying, so instead I'll let them tell you themselves. Firstly, a STARRED REVIEW from the SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL.

CHADDA, Sarwat. The Savage Fortress. 292p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-38516-9; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46996-8. LC 2011046291.

Gr 8 Up–On vacation in India with his aunt, uncle, and younger sister, pudgy Ash Mistry can’t wait to get back home to his video games and London friends. But when his uncle is offered a million pounds to assist mysterious Lord Savage with translations from an archaeological find, Ash becomes embroiled in an overwhelming and deadly real-life battle. He realizes that Lord Savage is not an ordinary mortal and that his minions are rakshasas (demons). Determined to save his uncle, Ash unwittingly betrays himself and becomes the rakshasas’s target. When he falls into a collapsing pit, he discovers a golden arrowhead–the aastra (weapon) of the ancient goddess Kali. With a splinter of it lodged in his thumb, Ash is able to channel Kali’s power. But it is not enough to save his uncle and aunt, and, when they are killed, he sets out to save his sister–and the world–from Ravana, the all-powerful demon king, and his gruesome forces of evil. Chadda weaves Hindu mythology into an engrossing story of a shy, overweight gamer who becomes transformed into one of his own comic-book superheroes. Plot-driven, fast paced, exciting, and sometimes terrifying, The Savage Fortress is the ideal next step for readers who loved Rick Riordan’s books about the Olympian heroes and Anthony Horowitz’s “Gatekeepers” series (Scholastic). Vivid descriptions of contemporary India and flashbacks to the mythological battles of Rama and Ravana enrich this tale of a nerd’s metamorphosis. Make time for this novel, because it is very hard to put down.–Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

Well based on that surely it's only a matter of weeks before it becomes required reading at all schools, don't you think?

What, you need another opinion? How about one from the Bulletin of teh Center for Children's Books where The Savage Fortress is one of their recommneded reads?

Chadda, Sarwat The Savage Fortress. Levine/Scholastic, 2012 292p ISBN 978-0-545-38516-9 $16.99 R Gr. 5-8

If the heat and the crowded streets of Varanasi weren’t bad enough, thirteen-year-old Ash Mistry finds out that India’s holiest city is home to a fortress of demons, effectively putting the kibosh on what he though would be a fun summer vacation. Pudgy Londoner Ash discovers that Lord Savage, a wealthy businessman leading an archeological dig in Varanasi with the help of Ash’s uncle, is actually marshaling an army of rakshashas (demons) to take over the world, but his plans hit a snag after Ash picks up a legendary arrowhead and begins to suspect that he may be the reincarnated soul of Rama, India’s greatest warrior king. With the help of a former demon and several other reincarnated souls, Ash prepares to take on Savage and perhaps even the gods themselves. A classic hero’s quest, this action-packed story has its protagonist making the transformation from portly, brainy everyday kid to courageous, physically strong warrior with relative ease. Chadda wisely keeps his hero’s mental state the same, however, so even after Ash has proven his abilities, the boy is racked with self doubt and frankly resentful that this lot has fallen on his shoulders, two traits that will make him immediately relatable to a young reader. Graphic fight scenes leave little to the imagination, describing in cinematic clarity just what happens when one is attacked by a twenty-foot crocodile-demon hybrid. The incorporation of the Ramayana legend serves as a basic introduction to Indian deities; fans of Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, Indiana Jones, and the like will appreciate this non-Western take on fantasy adventure. KQG

Then there are that nice people at Kirkus who are rather looking forward to more on Ash (soon, chums, soon!).

THE SAVAGE FORTRESS Author: Chadda, Sarwat Review Issue Date: September 1, 2012 Online Publish Date: August 15, 2012 Publisher:Levine/Scholastic Pages: 304 Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99 Price ( e-book ): $16.99 Publication Date: October 1, 2012 ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-545-38516-9 ISBN ( e-book ): 978-0-545-46996-8 Category: Fiction

 This fantasy riffs on events from the Ramayana—the takeoff point for a knock-down, drag-out adventure that draws a 13-year-old into the unfinished business of the Indian gods.

A Londoner visiting his uncle and aunt in India, Ash Mistry’s first mistake is picking up an ancient gold arrowhead that involves him and his younger sister Lucky in business left from India’s legendary past; his second mistake is refusing to surrender the ancient weapon to the (very obvious) villain, Alexander Savage, and his rakshashas (demons). As is often true in fantasy quests, characters appear and disappear after helping or hindering the hero. The narrative arc is carried forward at first by the direct unfolding of Ash’s discovery and Savage’s hunt for the arrowhead. In addition, there are flashbacks that key readers in to Rama’s story. These provide vital information in a highly palatable way but also take some liberties with the original legend. A rousing and breathtaking climax supports the tied-up threads of the ending. Nonstop action and likable teen characters will attract fans of fantasy quests such as the Percy Jackson books and the saga of Nicholas Flamel.

 There are hints that Ash may have unfinished business with India and its gods—let’s hope so. (Fantasy. 11-14)

So, thank you all you out there on the other side of the Atlantic for all your support for The Savage Fortress. I really do hope you stick with Ash, there's much more to come and if you're of a mind to spread the word on all things Ash Mistry, I certainly won't stop you. 

 

 

Ash Mistry and the World of Darkness (The Ash Mistry Chronicles, Book #3)

I've just finished writing Ash Book #3. Now what I mean is the first draft, the raw warts and all and doesn't quite make sense and is that one with all the crazy in it. The MENTAL crazy.

It's about 76,000 words long, the same length as the first couple but the final product will probably be about 80-90,000 words. Let me explain:

1. I write fast and this is the fastest book I've ever written, and probably will ever write. I started it in November so, including for 2 weeks off over Xmas, it's been done in two months. The book's intense, complex and the pay off in the trilogy, so all the loose ends from the first two MUST be tied off. And, of course, the best was saved till last. Ash will go out with an apocalyptic BANG, guaranteed. Whatever has come before (and bearing in mind how the first book finished), the third has to be bigger and better.

2. Why so fast? Deadlines. Ash Book #2 comes out in March (UK) and the original plan was Book 3 would be the following year, March 2014. Instead it'll be July, THIS YEAR. Which is great so you don't have a year to wait to find out how it wraps up, just a few months after the second the third will be on the shelves. You'll thank me, the second book ends with a cliffhanger like no other. You will not see it coming, another promise you can take to the bank.

3. I use the draft to get all the big, main events in. Ash #3 criss-crosses time and space, a lot happens and all of it world-changing. I like to have these things sorted early on so I've plenty of time to give them that polish so it hits like a shock wave on the page. What I do on the second draft is join the dots and smooth out the internal logic so each scene ends as powerfully as it can and leads seamlessly to the next. Hence the word count will rise. Writing novels is a tricky business. What seems clear and logical to the writer may not make any sense to the reader. Especially if the story, like this one, has had a three book arc, so things in the first will only be relevant in the third.

4. You've got to build on what's gone before. Book by book Ash and the world he inhabits expands  and deepens. Especially as Ash is the Eternal Warrior and has many past lives. It could be easy to get lost in them (actually a theme in Book 2) and means he's many personalities and histories. It important for the writer and reader to keep track of them and how they relate to the story. There is nothing random in story telling.

5. And I love it. Firts and foremost I've wanted to tell a big story. It's been a challenge and a large part of why I did Ash in the first place. I love history, mythology and travelling. All three played huge parts in Ash's tale and will do so in Book 3. 

It's weird thinking about the third book when the second isn't even out. Such is the nature of publishing. But soon, very soon, the entire saga of Ash Mistry will be out. Assess will be kicked, and sacrifices made. Prepare for a world of darkness.

2013, The Age of Darkness

Wow, so that's 2012 more or less wrapped up. Hope you've enoyed it. The highlights? Well, I rather enjoyed seeing the Queen parachute in at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. It's nice to see that there's no age restriction to being a Bond Girl. So, for no better reason than it's the end of the year and these things are traditional, here's my best of:

1. Movie-wise it's been a bumper year of AWESOMENESS. Just off the top of my head The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Avengers, Seven Psychopaths, and Dredd, which was as badass as I'd hoped it would be.

2. Book-wise, my favourite book has to be Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It was how magical tales should be and went a long way in restorting my faith in stories concerning the fae. Otherwise another fav is of course the ongoing Game of Thrones. I read books 2 and three this year and book 4, Feat of Crows, is my Xmas read.

3. TV-wise I this year discovered The Big Bang Theory (now a Chadda family favourite) and Archer. OMG, where to begin with Archer? Utterly mad and utterly brilliant.

4. Our summer hols in Tuscany was rather great. Hope yours was too, whether in Tuscany or elsewhere.

5. Finally met Philip Reeve, major hero of mine. Do check out his Mortal Engines saga, the best series since EVER.

Now, that's 32012 sorted. Let's look ahead now, shall we, for I have news...

In 2013 there will be not ONE, not THREE but TWO Ash books! Huzzah!

Yes, because life is too short and who knows where any of us will be in 2014 Ash #2 comes out in March, and Ash #3 comes out in July. 

It's very exciting as Book 2 does end on an ALMIGHTY cliffhanger which, I promise, NO-ONE on the planet will see coming. And no, Ash isn't a ghost, and you'll be growing grey hairs wanting to know how it plays out. Basically I think we went BADASS AND BEYOND in books 2 and 3. I'm about 70% through Ash #3 and it's been helter-skelter just blitzing it. Oh, I wish I could tell you more but hey, it'll be worth it.

I promise it'll be entertaining, educational and EXTREMELY EXTREME. Ash goes deeper into the study of Kali and there is no turning back. It's why the word BADASS was invented. Simple as that.

So, have a great Christmas, try not to overdo it with the mince pies and I'll see you here in 2013.

Ta ta!

Seeing what's out there

I don't quite know how many countries I've visited but certainly during my twenties I visited a lot. I lived out in the Far East, in Hong Kong (whcih was rather awesome just before handover) and did a lot of backpacking. 

All of them fed into me wanting to be a writer. The idea for Ash came about in 1995, writing a series of adventures set in the East using mythology from India and beyond, rather than the now familiar western settings.

It also taught me that pretty much everyone's the same. The more you tarvel the more you realise that. And what's more, most people want to help. They're proud of their country and want to show you the best of it. They want to find out about you and where you come from. I've chatted with a post-master in Mongolia about the British Museum (he'd heard about it from the radio), taken part in a wedding in Yemen (where AK-47's were the fashion item of choice), attended a funeral in Varanasi.

It's a pretty amazing world out there. It put my life in perspective. There was a slave fort in Ghana, by the sea and it was a peaceful, thoughtful place but then you visited the cells underground and got a sense of the darkness, not just physical but soul-ful, in us all. Above the cells the slavers built a church, one of the first Anglican churches in West Africa. People, not that different from you and I, must have come down to that curch to worship on Sundays, during Easter and Christmas, and all the while they had below their very feet their fellow man (just like them, you and me, but for their skin colour), chained and bound for a short, brutal life of misery in the sugar plantations of the West Indies and farms of the Americas.

It#s why I write what I write. Sure, Savage is a bad guy in book 1, but you learn more about him in Book 2 and start to think, 'Well, I'd have done the same if I'd been him'. And you will meet a new Ash, made powerful by Kali, now an agent of death and you'll start to think, 'Hey, Ash isn't the hero I thought he was'. 

Heroes and villains. It's easy to slip from being one to the other.

My Next Big Thing

Okay, this is me taking part in My Next Big Thing where I talk about my next project. By all means stay and read it, I've kept the answers fairly brief as I know you're busy and those dancing cat videos on YouTube aren't going to watch themselves, are they? Plus I'm feeling a bit tired and want an afternoon lie down.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

'Ash Mistry and the City of Death' for you Brits and Commonwealthy people. 'The City of Death' if you happen to live in that other former colony the USA. It's due out March 2013 for the UK readers and Fall 2013 for North Americans. I know, it's ages but it'll be worth it.

2. Where did the idea come from?

I just wanted to write the MOST BAD-ASS book imaginable. There is no message, moral lesson or any sort of educational value to my book. I'm rather proud of that. Plus I thought it would be a great excuse to visit India to research the story. Because that's where it's set.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

BAD-ASS.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition.

Christian Bale. For all parts. He's that good.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ash Mistry KICKS ASS VERY HARD.

6. Will your book be self-publsihed or represented by an agency?

I'm too lazy to self-publish and can't draw as well as I'd like. I save all the hard work for my publishers, HarperCollins in the UK and Arthur A Levine in the States.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About four months. The nice thing about sequels a lot of the ground work's already been done. Book 1 ended with a lot of weirdness. Now that goes to level INSANITY.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Anything with swordfighjts, assassins and monsters. Lots of monsters.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My ten year old self always wanted this book. True, he would have probably wanted more ninjas, but I did add sharks.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

There's a secret code in the story leading to a million pounds sterling hidden somewhere in London. Honestly*.

*Okay, that's a big fat lie.

Right, now I should nominate some other most splendid writers. Plase take your time to check out Alexander Gordon Smith, Alex Bell and Alex Milway. They will enrich your lives in ways you never thought possible. Frankly your IQ will jump a dozen points for sure and you'll be strangely more attractive. Or just stranger.

Ash Mistry and the City of Death

Well, what do you think? Is it not gorgeous? Do you not want to take it in your arms and cuddle it? I know I do. Well, this is the UK version of Ash 2, due out in only a few more months! You people State-side will have to wait a little while longer, like a year but, hey, you've been busy with elections and hurricanes and so you'll probably need a little rest before picking up Book 2.

What can I tell you about it beyond it will be the most IN YOUR FACE book you'll ever read?

The Amazon thingie does give a few clues away but all you need to know it'll be MORE badass, MORE exciting, MORE violent than the first book.

MORE VIOLENT? How is that possible? 

I know, there has been concern raised regarding the violence in The Savage Fortress and all I can say it was utterly intentional! Hey, it has MONSTERS and DEMONS and DEMON KINGS and their MAN-SLAYING DAUGHTERS and KALI and IMMORTAL SORCERORS and DEMONS and FATE OF THE FRIGGING WORLD AT STAKE STUFF GOIN' DOWN. How could it not be violent?

Yes, arms are ripped off. Yes, there is an unfortunate incident on the road, and yes, and even more unfortunate incident of gore up to your eyeballs and cannibalism (of sorts) and, I think, some torture (more psychological that physical) but I did not set out to right a 'nice' book. Who would read that?!? Not I.

It's a tale of high intensity and high anxiety. But it's a tale of heroism, of sacrifice and of doing what needs to be done. If you're not on the edge of your seat, biting your nails to the bone as you read the book then I'll be rather disappointed. But if you're sitting there thinking 'how much more insane can this go?' and then think, 'wow, REALLY REALLY insane', then I can go to bed knowing my work is done.

 

A Plea to all Mothers

One of the most important aspects of being a writer, especially of children's books, is that you have a responsibility to help develop young minds. But these young minds rarely have credit cards or suitably large enough allowances to buy books because, hey, you could get twelve packets of crisps or a six-pack of Coca Cola for the price of a paperback and who wouldn't want that sort of sugar rush on a Friday morning after a hard week of learning your times tables, right?

And even if they did have the money and were forced to spend it in a bookshop how are they to know which book will provide the moral, social and mental stimulation a young mind needs? What book provides the essential vitamins to make a brain grow?

I have no idea. Probably something by Phillip Pullman. Or Jackie Wilson. Or maybe Jackie Collins. I forget which.

ANYWAY...

My book ('Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress' or just place, yet dynamic, THE SAVAGE FORTRESS in the US) has been out and so far Mumsnet haven't added it to their essential reading list. This needs correcting.

Now, mothers of the world, I feel your pain. Life's busy and the little ones are growing fast and your husband, bless him, is working all hours at the office and, well, your son isn't getting the attention that he needs, is he? Be honest. You try your best but you are, after all, not a MAN. 

I know it's the 21st Century and David Beckham is a role model to millions, but what does a growing boy need? You may think you have it under control, but do you? Really? Please, take another look at your son as objectively as possible. But first tell him to put the cat back down, it's not meant to be swung around like that.

1. Is your son into hair products?

2. Does he have a sense of fashion?

3. Does he listen to Alex Clare?

4. Does he have female friends?

If you answred 'YES' to any of these then I'm afraid your son may be...SENSITIVE. Unless you do something IMMEDIATELY then it could be worse, he may become...AN EDWARD.

I know. You thought it couldn't happen to your child, but it could, oh so easily. Why is he listening to soopy love songs when he should be listening to the lamentation of the women and why is he busy with his hair when he should be busy crushing his enemies under his sandaled feet?

"But, Sarwat, what can I do to prevent my son from becoming... *choked sob* an... *another choked sob* an Edward?"

Well, all I can say is 'calm down, Dear', the answer is at hand. Now, my book have been out for a while and in a report earlier this week scientists have discovered children (including boys) are maturing at an earlier age than before. I'm sure by the time the research is complete they'll discover that reading Ash Mistry makes a boy MANLY. 

Yes! There are eight year old boys who, on finishing my book, have woken up the next day to find they now have CHEST HAIR and BEARDS! An entire generation of boys could be saved from the ignomy of being EDWARDS, but only if they read the right book (which is mine, BTW, incase the subtext is too subtle). 

Simply put, reading Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress/The Savage Fortress will make your son MANLY. We'll have your child out in the woods wrestling large carnivores and engaging in scarification rituals by the end of the fifth chapter. Or your money back*.

Next week I'll be reporting why Parvati, a half-demon assassin, is the ideal role-model for eight-year old girls.

*Terms and Conditions apply. Obvs.

My new job! Writer in residence

Tuesday was an important day for two reasons. The first was it was an anniversary. It was October 9th 2004 I wrote down this in my diary:

Radical change of plan! WRITE A CHILDREN'S BOOK.

That was it but that's how it all started. Then by lat 2007 I had an agent, by early 2008 I had a book deal and by mid 2009 my first book in the shelves.

And now is eight years later. The best eight years of my life, without exception.

And the second reason Tuesday was so great was I began my year as 'writer in residence' at Chepstow Secondary School. And a most excellent day was had. Well, by me, certainly. The teachers seemed happy by the end of the day and none of the children had been reduced to tears, which are my criteria for success, so success it was. Mad morning roleplaying demons and ghost and all things between with Years 7, 8 and 9's and then wrapping it up with what shall forever be known as 'licking the flamingo'.

What you've got above is me giving my first real life lesson. It's weird how these things begin. We went through a few key principles of writing punchy stories and the 25 kids, ranging from Year 7 through to 9, were given there first assignment. Then, over the year we'll be having monthly Skype meets and wrap up with me heading back at the end for a wrap up. There's a lot of ground to cover but, as I told them, this was where my passion for stories began. At school. Back at primary the teacher read the class the hobbit and my life's never been the same since. At secondary I studied MacBeth and frankly, if you look hard enough, you'll see the themes of loyalty v power and fate v free will and ironic victory/defeat replayed out in my books. 

It's early days, but it all starts somewhere. A decision made eight years ago brought me to a life and lifestyle I've craved. Yesterday a friend did comment how lucky I was. Damn straight. I KNOW I've been lucky. I've friends who are better writers but not published and we all know writers who are huge but shouldn't be published. Luck does play a part but the words on the page are the biggest component of that 'luck'. The more you write the luckier you'll be.

I'll be getting the kids to sign a finder's fee contract before the end of the year. 20% of their first advance seems reasonable, don't you think?

Oh, and on other news, started writing Ash #3. 

 

Wot I do

Okay, I write books. Now some of you may be wondering how you do such a thing beyond just bash the words down onto paper. I have no idea what will work for you but this is how I did it.

Lets start way, way, waaay back. Say, 1981, B.I (before Internet). That is when I really started writing stories. Me and my mates used to play Dungeons and Dragons (my persoanl fav was Nemesis Hawk, my paladin, died horribly in a fireball). Now I'm not going to explain what it is because if you know anything about geek culture, you know about roleplaying games and, hey, jocks at the back, we geeks OWN the world. Just ask Bill Gates or anyone working at Pixar.

Well, roleplaying games such as D&D need a story, one that's open-ended to a degree and mixes up fighting monsters and interacting with NPC (non-player characters) who give advice or cause trouble. 

Now these adventures could be bought, ready made scenarios. But, two things here. They were expensive, could only be used once and were pretty boring to read and remember everything. This was the role of the Gamesmaster. To create worlds and the stories within them for their players.

So I wrote my own. And that was how my career as a write began. I wrote fantasy adventures, epic vampire adventures (Vampire the Masqeuerade has a lot to answer for), westerns, Grimm fair tales, spy, sci-fi. Various franchises got in on it. We had Star Wars, Bond, Warhammer, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd and Conan and many more. Played them all. Run them all.

What's great is you're feeding the story direct to your audience. You need to keep them entertained, and you need to keep one step ahead. Much like being a writer.

Then, many years later, 2004 to be exact, a friend suggested I have a go at writing a proper, normal book. So I did. That turned out to be a 100,000 word epic which was teh first draft of my first book, Devil's Kiss. I've still got it soemwhere. It was undisciplined, random but great, great fun to write. So when it got roundly rejected, I just wrote another book. and another and so on until, in late 2007 I won a writing compettion and signed with one of the judges, Sarah Davies of the extraordinary Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Now it's 2012. I've been a full-time writer since 2008. It's all gone very quickly but very terrifically. I've a new series out and there's more to come.

The Savage Fortress (as it is in the US) is my take on what might happen if an average boy and geek, Ash, born and brought up in the safe comforts of London, went on holiday and discovered he was the only one who could stop the demon king, Ravana, returning and turning the world into a new realm of Hell. Which would be bad.

I've had the most insane time writing it. It's fast, furious and exotic, set out in the ancient city of Varanasi and teh vast deserts of Rajasthan. You've monsters, immortal sorcerors and gods and demons and the rise of a very different type of hero. 

What's not to like?

The Savage Fortress

The Savage Fortress is on its way. That's what we're calling it in the US. Publication is 1st October so a few things have started coming up and there's some other stuff I want to talk to you about first.

I've mentioned this on Facebook but decided it should come up here too. There's a book that's been stirring up some trouble on racism recently. It's sci-fi and about 'pearls' and 'coals'. Now I've not read the book but this isn't really about that. What I find odd is how we're using all this time and effort complaining (and lets not forget, raising this book's profile) for all the wrong reasons. 

The BEST way to combat racism/mono-culturalism in children's/YA fiction is to support those authors doing something about it. Do not waste your time and effort saying this book is bad and evil and is destroying the rainforests, you're just adding more fuel to the fire without actually achieving anything. It's easy to complain, then do nothing.

There are some utterly awesome writers out there bringing light to different viewpoints and worlds and I don't mean Westeros. You've Cindy Pon, Irfan Master, Dia Reeves, Wendy Meddour, Jasmine Richards, Candy Gourlay, Mike Jung and so many more. Go get one of their books!

We live in a world of business where virtue is second to success. Sometimes good things fail and this is especially true of 'ethnic' writing within children's/YA books. There's been recent lists of 'Best of' and it was nearly all Caucasian in viewpoint and literary talent. This year's Edinburgh Lit Fest for children had (as far as I could work out) almost no ethnic writers. So, what happens? Those writers don't get the profile, don't get the support thier books stop getting published and it becomes a 'truth' that 'ethnic' doesn't sell. I'm really sorry to be up on my soapbox about this and of course there are amazing exceptions but look at the vast diversity in the entertainment businesses of music, film, dance, TV, almost anything else then compare it to the lack of divesity in 'young' fiction. Something needs fixing.

Now, fighting the good fight are the librarians and teachers of Texas! I'm insanely pleased to announce that 'The Savage Fortress' has been nominated on the Texas Lone Star Reading List for 2013. Huzzah! It's the longlist and I'm up against the great and the good but that's cool, it's very nice to be sharing space with the likes of Michael Morpurgo. Jolly nice.

Also, are any of you up at the Birmingham Eid Mela on Sun 2nd September? I'll bethere talking about books and superheroes and such. Come say hello and we'll go grab a samosa!

How to write a book, my way

What you see above is the plot for one of my books. Which I wrote AFTER I'd finished it. Now, if you look carefully you'll see two maps (the third is off the right hand side) of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a few post-its as little reminders and dates and people I needed to remember when I was writing the book. Now, this is what I did when writing a book.

1. Research. LOADS. Now I did a month or two reading before I actualy started then I was researching as I wrote the first draft. I had a rough idea of locations, kep characters and the order of events so more than enough to get the bulk of the story down. A lot of writers right chunky 1st drafts and then trim. I'm the opposite, my first drafts are very lean, nothing more than the bare bones of the story. I might have a few false starts, try a few chapters this way then that, scarpping one but sticking with the other. But once I've settled in then I push on until its done. A month off working on something else, sometimes more,  then I read through the draft making notes where I need greater background, a few more lines of description, more intensity and perhaps just MORE of this or that. For example a first draft may be about 50,000 words but the final novel closer to 70,000. As you can see, a lot goes in later. This is important because...

2. I don't want to loose the energy of the tale. The first draft is a BLITZ. I'm not worried about getting it right, but getting it DONE. The first rule of writing books is to FINISH. So, my little technique means I do finish, pretty quickly. Four to five months to get the first draft down. In the meanwhile I'm still reading about the subject, making little notes on my maps and bits of paper, reminders of what I want to do when I go back to it. BUT there is a great satisfaction in having it DONE. The story may change halfway through so I'll put a note reminding me to change some aspect of the beginning but I do not, EVER, revise what I've written. Otherwise I'll be changing and changing and never get it finished.

3. Schedule. I've done a few books now so have a rough idea of how long the book'll take. This is to stop me from having too many afternoon sleeps. Typically (first draft) will be 20,000 words per month, usually more but never less. Second draft, based on the size I think the final ms will be is usually 2-3 months. There will be interruptions, Usually edits on other books, but I do aim very seriously at getting the book complete. Like my new project, finished just before we break up for the summer.

4. Second draft is pretty chuncky. I read through the ms, make a note of where the gaps are. Then, chapter by chapter, I make a table of events on my index cards and put them up on the wall (as above) to see how the story is being paced. Pacing is a black art and very subjective. Books I may finish in a day others may take weeks to complete. This is where understaning your genre helps. Mine and action, so I've a fairly good instinct for the tempo of a book. I've noticed a trend in short chapters which I think is kinda rubbish. A chapter (IMHO) should have a beat of its own, sometimes you want the reader to linger, to abosrb big chunks of the tale, other times you want the reader to be flipping through pages within seconds. My chapters can vary from 20 pages long to a couple of lines. It depends on the needs of the story, its pace, at that moment in the overall story.  Still, each to their own.

5. Plan the next project. Near the end of the redraft I start pondering what to do next. This serves two purposes. It gives my hope I have another story and motivates me to finish this one on time so I can crack on with my new, super-exciting epic! I force myself NOT to write anything on the new one (except maybe a few notes so I don't forget) until I finish the book I', working on. It's effective since, perhaps, towards the end you're feeling worn down by the relentlessness of the current project and may risk slacking at the final hurdle. Don't. FINISH.

That's pretty much it. Every writer has their own strategy. This is mine. Have a great holiday, people!

Don't be afraid!

Well, what do you think? I don't know, author photos are funny things. I had this one done in a bit of a desparate panic some time ago (my hair is now less and greyer) but recently, on a school visit, a teacher was surprised to meet me and said 'You don't look at all like a serial killer.' which, I suppose I should take as a compliment.

Anyway, DO NOT BE AFRAID. I will be appearing at the Pop-Up Festival of Stories in Central London on Sat 30th June. The festival runs Saturday and Sunday and there will be delights for young and old, short and tall, thin and not-so-thin! I repeat, though my author photo may be on the scary side, I am not! I am house-trained, do not bite and delightful company. Just as almost anyone who've met me. Okay, not anyone I've actually worked with but certainly my publishers feel I'm safe to meet the public. 

As well as me (as if that was not enough) there will be Jon Mayhew! Alexander Gordon Smith! Katie Dale! Candy Gourlay! Many other authors and artists wise, talented and edible! These are your new best friends or your money back! Money, what money? The festival is FREE! FREE!

There are plenty of details here.

Ash's sister by another mister...Billi SanGreal

Last week I visited the delightful Dulwich Prep and we talked about all things Ash Mistry. It was rather cool doing a visit where everyone had read the book already so we could take the discussion into realms beyond book 1. There were a few clues to what was coming next, Ash Mistry and the City of Death, hints to the greater world Ash was now part of. 

And that included Billi SanGreal.

I'm a big fan of crossovers and the idea than our heroes tread a path with others. Ash and Billi inhabit the same world and the clues where there in my first ever book, Devil's Kiss. Chapter 23 to be precise. Elaine mentions having a brahman friend who helped her with her astrological predictions. Guess who? Rishi.

Then, in Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress Rishi mentions a group of warriors in London dedicated to fighting the Unholy. It's there in Chapter 11. Yeah, that's him talking about Billi and her crew, the Knights Templar.

Both series are meant to be part of a greater whole. Any fan of the superhero genre knows what I'm talking about and any fan of Michael Moorcock will recognise my homage to his 'Eternal Champion' concept. I've expanded than to the belief (highly appropriate to Ash) of the reincarnated hero, destined to be reborn again and again, trapped in an eternity of war and struggle. Ash #2 takes the concept from Book 1 and goes further. If Ash has been Rama, who else has he been? Some of his previous incarnations may surprise you. I can't tell you more, you'l have to wait 'till Book 2.

I've worked a long time on this, and now's probably as good a time as any to clarify timelines between the two series, Billi SanGreal and Ash Mistry. As Ash progresses the overlaps will become more apparent and, in Ash #2, you meet one of the key players from my first series. Who knows, if things work out I'd love to do an Ash & Billi teamup. I've even got a BIG BAD all lined up for that...

So, establishing timelines, for those who might be interested.

July and August. 'Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress' takes place during the summer holidays. Ash is thirteen. He'll turn 14 at the end of August. Billi turned 15 on the 14th July, Bastille Day. She is just over a year older than Ash.

September. Billi takes part in the Ordeal and joins the Knights Templar. These events are covered in 'Devil's Kiss'.

November. 'Ash Mistry and the City of Death'. The Knights Templar play a small, but critical part in Ash's next adventure.

December/Jan. Billi goes to Russia and faces the immortal witch, Baba Yaga. Bad things happen to the city of Naples. All explained in 'Dark Goddess'.

Jan/Feb. The aftermath of 'Dark Goddess' has a direct effect on Ash Book #3.

After that? Who knows..?

Spill the Ink Tour, Part One (plus competition details!)

Phew. Just back from five utterly mad days running hither and thither around England. Loads of schools, LOADS of kids and loads of insanity. Where to begin?

Well, Monday was up loony early (like 5am) to rush up to Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and people who live in Nottingham. I met up with the HarperCollins crew and my new BFF Sian Patterden and Sarah Lean, fellow authors who were going to join me on tour, exploring the wilds of the British Midlands.

So, at Nottingham. First stop was Nottingham High Juniors, and we kicked off with talking about gods, goddesses and demons and crappy holidays. In fact, crappy holidays seemed to come up a lot. A LOT. I suppose it's because 'Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress' is actually about a boy who does go on the absolutely WORST summer holiday of his life. You know, hot, crowded, loads of flies and dodgy food and, of course, demons. Demons will spoil any holiday, gauranteed. The boys were awesome and the signing queue very long. I'd like to give a shout out to Anand who didn't get his book sorted in time, DO NOT FEAR, ANAND! Me and your parents are on the case. Expect something pretty darn soon.

Which reminds me, if any of you want signed copies of my book, just drop me a line via the 'Contacts Me' page and I'll arrange one of my local bookshops to get it sent to you. See, a I a nice guy or what?

Anyway, then, a joint event with Sian and Sarah at Chilwell School with some of the Year 6 feeders. Rather most mental. One girl was explaining how, on her crappy holiday, they had to hide under a car from the police. I can only assume her family are a gang of hardened bank robbers or something. Her name and address have been passed to the authorities. Y'know, I wonder of other authors get these sorts of audience? My must ask JK Rowlings next time I see her.

Day 2 and we zoomed off to Leicester and gusee what, we got really really lost. I lost my team, I lost the other authors and the taxi broke down, got lost and dropped me off at the wrong school. And this was only Day 2! Still, when I fianlly arrived at Foresr Lodege the kids could not have been more amazing. Like, totally. Managed to squeeze out an epic battle between the forces of good and evil in the short time i was there and then to Stokes Wood Primary which was were the Wales thing started to happen. Hmm, if there's one thing that came up a lot was how many kids have gone camping in Wales when it's rained. Form then on it was were-sheep, man-eating cows and trying to find the loo in the middle of the night.

Two days down and already feeling like a space cadet. I'll blog about the next few events later this week but first I want to mention a competition. DESIGN A DEMON.

That's what I need you to do. Draw it and give it a name and tell me a bit about it. This is open to al the kids I saw last week and anyone else who wants to join in. Basically, I need more demons in my books. I'll be writing a few short stories at the end of the year and they'll be going up on the website and I need you guys to help supply the bad guys. We want IN YOU FACE fangs, claws, tusk and all together BAD ATTITUDES. I want then wild, fer4icious and the sort that will tear your face clean off. I want them big, bad and oh so dangerous to know. So get designing and get drawing. I will give you the address to send off the artwork at the end of June so you have a complete month to design something quite INSANE. There will be some AMAZING prizes and the winners will get book 2, 'Ash Mistry and the City of Death' WAAY before everyone else. That seem reasonable? Cool. Alas, the competition is only for UK residents. I'll be sorting out a world-wide competition after the summer.

Thrills, Spills and Exotic Locations

This could be another entry in 'How I became a writer'. What is it that you love? That's what you should write about. Simple, really. So, I love Bond movies, always have, always will. There are some I love less that others, but they're Bond and that's all that matters. So, when writing, what ingredients do I take from Bond and giving them a shake (not stir) to make them my own?

1. Action. Well, d'uh. Lots of it and always, ALWAYS in your face.

2. Hero, double d'uh. There is only one Bond so there was no point in trying to do anything similar, so I went almost the complete opposite. Ash certainly isn't sauve, sophisticated or highly trained. Part of the fun was taking a weak, cowardly geek and turning him into a hero. 

3. Exotic locations. Bond is a fantasy, so I wanted my setting to feel like a fantasy. Hence India. It's strange, awesomely exotic and epic on every level. Everything is much more, the riches richer, the poverty more extreme, the key word being intense. You do not have Bond havinmg a fight in your local B&Q. The stakes are high and teh location should refelct that.

4. Bad guy. Bond and Ash are defined by their bad guys. Lord Savage is clearly a Bond villain. He has weird henchmen, he's fabulously rich and cultured and plans to destroy the world. These are all Bond villain credentials. If you've read the book you're recall a scene where Ash and Savage have breakfast. Now it's not some snack in the morning room. It's ontop of a massive fortress, the furniture is iron, the cups and teapots the finest china and Savage has a massive bodyguard, Mayar, at his shoulder. The talk is civilized, but filled with danger and brutality. The only thing missing is a laser beam threatening to slice our hero in half.

5. Taking the hero to the edge. If there are weak Bonds, the problem usually lies with the villain. The poster above is from the second Bond movie and, to many, still the best. Bond steals a typewriter. When all is said and done, that is the plot. But it has Klebb, the introduction of SPECTRE and the guy with the white cat and. best of all, Red Grant, the perfect assassin and the evil doppleganger of Bond. He is to Bond what Moriarty is to Holmes. Everything our hero is, but evil. I still believe no other villain has ever come close to taking Bond out. Grant remains, in my eyes, the BIGGEST of the Big Bond Bads. If you don't believe me check out the fight on the train between Bond and Grant. It'll be on YouTube. And all because he ordered the wrong wine. So, when I want to make my hero sweat, he sweats blood. Anything else just isn't worth writing about.

This all adds up to larger than life adventures. I know they're toatlly unrealistic, but hey, we've been watching Bond for the last 50 years so there must be something about the guy that appeals, right? I recently got kicked out of a school because I wasn't willing to give a lesson about 'realism'. I don't know. I'm sure I read a realistic book once, something about a kid having problem with his homework or something, but, frankly, I have that in my life already, I don't need to read about it too. Nope. Give me mad bad guys, psycho henchmen, palaces and secret underground lairs and heroes who just do it better than everyone else. They bleed, they suffer, they sacrifice but they never, ever give up. That's lesson enough.

 

How I became a writer Part One

It took me a long time to become a writer. Say about 25 years. Firstly, in my defence and not because I ws just being lazy, I didn't know that I wanted to become one for most of that 25 years. But, even though I didn;t know it at the time, my training in storytelling began in the summer of 1981 when I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons.

For those of you unfamiliar with roleplaying games the premise is simple. You take a group of friends. One is the Dungeon Master (or Games Master or Storyteller). He or she creates an adventure. This could be clearing out the goblin caves, or defeating the ancient vampire lord or freeing a village from a bunch of Mexican bandits. The DM details the opponents, any traps or surprises, then narrates the opening scene. Tradition dictates a stranger walking into a local tavern, wanting to recruit adventurers to sort out said goblins/vampire lord/bandits.

The other players have created a persona of the setting. For the traditional fantasy world we have the archetypal fighter, wizard, cleric and thief. These are known as classes. They could be human, elf, dwarf or hobbits. The players decide who they want to play and each class and race has its strengths and weaknesses. They then go off on the adventure, guided by the DM who explains who and what they encounter ('You come to a bridge guarded by a troll who demands your hobbit for food') and the player-characters rise to the challenge appropriately, either through negotiation or, more usually, through violence expressed by spells and swords. And so on, the challenges becoming more complex as the adventure heads towards the climax and the face off with the Big Bad.

I tell you, there was no greater thrill than facing down the evil vampire after having defeated his minions. I used to play fighter types so was always up front, injured, armour battered, but still defiant. What was best was you controlled the hero, decided his actions and suffered his fate, good or ill. You rolled dice to determine the success (or not) of you action, whether it was to swing your magic sword at the horde of werewolves or shoot an aroow or climb a wall or pick a lock, avoiding the poisoned needle hidden within. The games could last for years with characters going from eager young amateurs heading off to fight a bunch of orcs to legendary heroes facing down the mightiest of dragons and demon lords. You knew you'd arrived when you came up against a demonlord.

You name a genre, there was a game for it. Fantasy, espionage, wild west, steampunk, science fiction, cartoon, horror, the list was endless. One particular game, Vampire the Masquerade allowed you to take out the role of vampires (or kindred as they were called in the World of Darkness) and frankly, it's probably responsible for the entire vampire paranorm YA genre. I will happily admit my first two books, Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess, were based on my early games of Vampire tM! I think that's why I write the genre I write.

Now, how does this relate to writing? Simple. Someone needs to write the adventure. Someone needs to build the setting, create the ambience, detail the motivations and abilities of the villain and the other inhabitants of the world. These are all basic skills in writing stories, don't you think?

I reckon I became a writer, in the end, because I couldn't earn money as a profesional roleplayer. Back in the 1980's, Roleplaying Games were king, but now they've been superseded by computer rpgs, which I think is a shame. They're still out there but I reckon (could be totally wrong, I hope I am) it's supported by a hardcore who played back in the day before the internet and World of Warcraft. 

After a long gap I'm back playing the games that I love (nay, ADORE!). I've met other writers who all started off as roleplayers and I think, especailly in teh fantasy genre, the vast majority probably played Dungeons and Dragons at some point early in their careers.

All good things...

On a windy and dark Friday 13th we finally got around to celebrating the launch of my book, 'Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress', at the rather fabulously redecorated Waterstones Oxford Street Plaza. Once again I'd like to send BIG THANKS to Ann, the mastermind at Waterstones who arranged EVERYTHING and also came suitably dressed in a rather fab sari. Her photo is now doing the rounds at many matchmakers in India and we're in final negotiations over the dowry with the maharajah of Jaipur.

It kinda made me realise quiet how long it's taken for me to get this book out. The first version was as a comic book, way back in 1995. I was travelling around the East on a fairly meandering trip which took in Cambodia, China, Tibet, Nepal and India, crossing the Himalayas in the depths of winter and stumbling around India during the mind-boiling heights of summer. You don't know pain until you've been riding a grumpy camel for 2 days in a desert when the temp is 45degC and you get caught in a thunderstorm at night without a tent.

The story stayed, drawn, unpublished and up in the loft for years and years, but never quite forgotten. To be honest I never had great hopes in ever getting it out until...

2009. I was working on Dark Goddess and wondering what to do next. My BIG agenda was I wanted an Asian hero without all the cliches. People may argue with me over this, but non-white heroes are VERY thin on the ground in children's fiction. They are common in 'issues' books, like gang culture, or Islamic fundamentalism and forced marriages and wibble-wobble headed tales about the Raj. This was not the sort of story I was going to tell nor the sort of hero I was going to write about. Now I'm not saying I'm against these other forms of stories. One of the best in Guantanamo Boy written by the ever brilliant Anna Perera and one of the best books I've ever read. What I'm against is that with an ethnic hero, that seems to be the only type of story they can appear in. They never get the chance to fly on broomsticks or face off with vampires or defeat dragons. They can be in issues type books, but not in rip-roaring IN YOU FACE action and horror. They can't be HEROES in the classic 'taking out the monsters' sense. They, simply put, cannot be BADASS.

It may have taken a while (like 17 years) but I'm rather pleased (sod it, INSANELY pleased)to have finally got an Asian badass hero onto the children's scene. His skin-tone is incidental, not the sum of him. He is not here to teach you what it is to be Asian (because there is no such thing) nor give you a heart-warming tale of Indian family life with irate aunts and meddling parents and struggles to resolve the culture clash. The only clash you will hear will be the clash of swords. The only struggle the battle to save the world and the the heats will be red, bloody and torn pumping from the chests of the bad guys. If you have any doubt, just remember this. Ash Mistry was born to be BADASS. Period.

 

Generation: BAD ASS

I was watching 'Batman Begins' last night and well, it brought up a few things. Firstly, Batman ROCKS. Second, Christian Bale is AWESOME. Now, you may disagree in which case, to quote a wise man, 'I pity the fool'. It also puts to mind the death knell of (I hope) the man-child heroes we've been having to deal with for the last few years. Yes, I mean you, R-Patz.

Looking at the summer releases and what's popular on the box I do get the feeling that we are entering a new era of 'old school' bad-assness. Lets look at the list, shall we?

1. The Dark Knight Rises promises BAD-ASS extreme. Firstly it will wrap up the Christopher Nolam era of Batman which I think is the standard all other superhero movies, damn it, ALL movies, should be measured against. Christian Bale is nothing if intense and Tom Hardy looks damn frightening as Bane. I've purposefully avoided all trailers and spoilers in this one but you've got two physical powerhouses facing off and only one will walk away. Any comic fan will also know Bane was the one bad-guy to break the Bat so it could be all to play for.

2. Prometheus. Michael Fassbender and Ridley Scott and Alien. What's not to love? If anyone threatens Bale's crown of BAD-ASS KING then it's Fassbender. The guy was the best thing by far in the XMen:First Class and frankly, when Craif retires as Bond Fassbender's name will be at the top of the list as a replacement.

3. Avengers Asssemble. A nerd-gasm of superheroes. The director, Wheldon, is the man who knows how to handle esemble pieces and is a fan-boy favourite (the guy invented Buffy, fcs!) and if anyone saw Firefly and Serenity, he mixes family dynamics, action, humour and tragedy perfectly. I have high hopes for this one. And don't you just want to see Stark and Cap America face off?

4. Game of Thrones, season 2. I just saw Headhunters starting Nikolaj Coster Waldau, the guy who plays Jaime Lannister. Tall, ridiculously good lookin' and totally ammoral. Now I know everyone's going on about Peter Dinklage but I reckon Nik will be the breakout boy from the series.

What's interesting is that all the bad-asses above are around forty. Boys need not apply. It makes sense. Bad-ass is about reputation and you only get that with longevity. It shows you've done more than played, you've survived and it the game of bad-ass, that counts for everything. 

 

The Savage Fortress

It all began with the Hobbit. I remember being read it while in Primary School, a chapter per day over a few weeks. I think that was the moment I fell in love with fantasy. The brilliant characters, the excitement of the quest and of course, a huge dragon.

Now Tolkien is rightly famed for the elaborate detail and depth of his world setting. He created a vast history, family trees and even Elvish. He set the standard all other fantasy has been judged by. A few have come very close (George RR Martin, for example) but none, yet have surpassed him. So, when I decided to write my own fantasy series, I knew I have a lot of work cut out for me. So I did what every other lazy slob would have done. I cheated.

Let's face it, who has the time and patience to build a whole world when you can use the one we've already got. You just need the right setting. And few places are more fantastical than India.

Take the picture above. It's the Savage Fortress. The actual building I describe in my book. It's real, a rundown maharajah's palace on the banks of the Ganges, down river from Varanasi. I hardly needed to do anything (okay, I added the demons) but the fortress is for real. So are all the other locations in the book. The Lalgur, the burning ghats, the city out in Rajasthan, even the Seven Queens. I've changed the names, I've moved them about a bit to suit the story, but that's the thing about India, it's a fantasy world you can visit.

 

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress Launch Party!

I am having a party on Fri 13th April. It would be very nice for you to be there, it's been ages since we've spoken and it would be lovely to find out how the family is doing. Details are simple and straightforward.

7-9pm, Waterstones Bookshop, Oxford Street Plaza (halfway between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road tube stations). RSVP office@oxfordstreet-plaza.waterstones.com. 

We will be chatting, drinking, nibbling and chatting some more. There may be intelligent conversation, but I wouldn't count on it. I may give a speeech. Okay, I will definately give a speech but I promise to keep it short-ish.

I can see you're absolutely overflowing with excitement, yes, you at the back picking your nose. Don't think I can't see you.

Anyway...Waterstones will be transforming the shop into the Savage Fortress so it should like rather special. What more is there to say? Party. Please come. Details are repeated on the Events page, albeit in a slightly more amusing fashion.

Have a great Easter and don't pig out on the chocolate eggs!

Sarwat

Stereotypes Kill

I've been mugged at knife point, twice. I've been detained by Homeland Security. I've had people move carriages when I've got on board a train and I've swapped buses because I saw a guy with a beard and a backpack sitting in front of me.

Let's talk about the mugging. The first was in Nicaragua and two guys wanted my wife's handbag. Now we were seasoned travellers and had no money in that handbag because it was an obvious target (and Nicaragua has a reputation) so I can only hope the two muggers got a lot of use out of our Spanish phrase book and travel guide. Still, it was a hairy and reminded me to avoid men with large knives. Nevertheless, Nicaragua was AMAZING. We had a wonderful Honeymoon and my wife came back pregnant. That kind of wonderful. We explored Guatamala, scuba-dived off the Bay Islands and went to Ometepe and wandered around forests and jungles and dined on the beach and enjoyed the hell out of it. The mugging certainly didn't put me off having the best time ever.

The second mugging was slightly more complex. I got in a taxi with three guys who, truth be told, looked rather suspicious, but it was snowing, I'd been out since about 4am and just wanted to get home so thought I'd share the taxi since they were going my way. Lo and behold, they got near their destination, drew knives and demanded our phones. Thsi was back in about 2003 and mobile phones were expensive and frankly, I thought a waste of money and didn't have one. They saved on a cab fair, I suppose.

I will be honest, that, more than the Nicaragua thing, scared me. I spent the next few weeks worried about getting on teh train and whatnot, looking around to see who else might be there and basically letting fear control my life. Not a good way to live.

Then, September 2001 and London 2007. 9/11 was weird, but, being in London, 7/7 affected me more directly. I noticed how people cleared the train or moved seats when I got on. Now these people had seen me at teh train station every single day for the last 4-5 years, but I was Asian and a bunch of Asian guys had just blown up 50 people. I admit, there were moments when I would see a 'brother', have a look at the size of his backpack, and think about moving. And I did.

My first trip to America got off to a somehwat rocky start when I was detained for hours on arriving at New York. Now I don't travel well (and was reading a book with an exploding plane on the front, my bad) but tehre was a moment when I got quite afraid. What if there was someone on the FBI wanted list with the same name as me? What if someone had made a spelling mistake on a form and itself of writing 'Osama bin Laden' had written 'Sarwat Chadda' in a 'cut and paste' mixup? Come on, we've all done it sometime on an email, haven't we? Sent it to the wrong person or the predictive text got out of control. Easily done. Not so easy to fix. It's a condition called 'travelling whilst being Muslim' and I'm afarid it'll be around a while yet until people calm the hell down.

Some people say stereotyping is in our genes. We are programmed that way. It saved us from being eaten by sabre-tooth tigers back in the day. We see one creature (big, fanged with claws) which attacks us and eats half the tribe and make a generalization (big fanged creatures with claws are to be avoided). That may well be part of our programming but then, deep down, so is climbing trees and eating nits off our neighbours fur but we seem to have got past that. Sadly we've seen the fatal consequences of stereotyping with the death of Trayvon Martin, and I suppose that's what's prompted this blog.

There is no eay answer, but our response is. We can either live afraid of the different or we can enjoy the world for its diversity.

Later.

 

Public Events, the do's and don'ts

Apparently speaking in public is something most people fear worse than death. So it seems doubly ironic that writers, people indulging in the most isolated and lonely and hermit-stylie career are expected to go out and, y'know, talk to the public. Hey, I feel anxious asking someone for directions, let alone having to entertain a hall-full of total strangers. Now, as I prepare to launch into a whole new round of such activities I've decided to compile a few handy tips as a reminder to self, and anyone else contemplating going out there for a bit of face to face.

1. Do not start crying in-front of the audience. Especially if it involves lots of snot. If you feel you may be prone to the odd weep, bring handkerchiefs. Using your suit sleeve to wipe your nose is not good etiquette.

2. Do not make the audience cry or wet their pants or vomit. Especially if parents are present. There was a mix-up at the bookstore and I ended up with an audience of about thirty 6 year old girls, all dressed in fairy outfits. Bearing in mind my previous series was a nihilistic thriller where the first chapter involves our heroine killing a six-year old boy (don't worry, he totally deserved it)it did not go down well with the mummies AT ALL.

3. Do make sure the audience have been checked for weapons. We all want our talks to be interactive and thrilling, but a line must be drawn over live firearms use. AND (I kid you not) dismembered limbs.

4. Do not go to one of the biggest YA book events in America and declare 'I don't believe in YA'. It will not help sell books.Remember there is a thing line between 'audience participation' and 'riot'. If you don't recognize it, the police will.

5. Do have fun. When it works, there's no better feeling. My absolutely bestest moment ever was the signing after when this kid came over and told me he'd never finished a book in his entire like, except for mine. There are few careers that can have that effect on a person. Enjoy it.

Now you're probably wondering if I'm totally safe to be let out in public, but I assure you, I am! And to prove it I'll be giving a talk at the Guardian Open Weekend on Saturday, 24th March (like, THIS Saturday).

Details are on the Events page (above) but basically I'll be at the Hub Library at 4.15pm for an hour. Do come along as we'll be discussing 'Blue-skinned heroes, black goddesses and ten-headed demons', which, I'm sure you'll agree, are the best things in life.

Competition time! Best Bad Guy (or Gal!)

what is it that makes a great Bad Guy? Apparently when George Lucas was casting for Star Wars (the first one) he told David Prowse he had a choice between playing Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Prowse, not wanting to spend the hotest summer of all tiume (this was 1976) in a monkey suit opted for Vader. Lucas said 'Congratulations. You're playing a character no one will ever forget.' And he was right.

Obviously dressing in black helps. Think of Dracula, ninjas in general, Evil Roy Slade. Black is the colour of choice for those with galaxy ruling ambitions. Also, being foreign, especially English, also adds to the bad guy cred. Hannibal Lecter, anyone? Granted, Hopkins is actually Welsh, but I think I've made my point. I feel quietly proud that when the US wants a top quality baddy, they find them here. What's even more interesting is when an American plays a baddy, the often give them a British accent, for no reason at all! Look at the Die Hard movies (first 3 anyway, never saw the fourth). Two Brits playing Germans and with Die Hard 2 with treacherous marines, the leader was played by a Canadian, playing an American. Weirdy weird.

So, you were wondering about the competition, weren't you? Simple and simple can be, mes amis! Tell me about you favourite BAD GUY, or GAL, (we'll have no sexism on this blog I can tell you that right now). Not just the name and 'because they're cool' but their qualifications. What makes them madder and badder than the rest! A pile of goodies (signed book, artwork, and a few other bits and pieces) for the best one!

Closing date end of the month (that seems fair) and, for now, only UK residents. Don't worry, the rest of the world can join in later!

US COVER REVEAL. ASS-KICKING, don't you think?

Dear Chums,

This is the US cover of the book. I think you'll have to agree it KICKS ASS to the highest degree. So, while I wait for your heart-rates to return to normal 70 bpm from the shock of such an awesome cover I will point out the event depicted (great big crocodile demon bursts through the flames after Ash and his sister Lucky) is NOWHERE near the climax of the book.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Sarwat, how came you possibly top such a moment of such EPIC EPICNESS? Will we be needing medical assistance because frankly, our hearts and, perhaps, even bowels, cannot handle the fact there may be events of an even more MIND-MELTING nature? Would you advise changes of underwear?"

Pssh! I say 'Pssh!' You are here, reading this, because you are a hardier breed than the general reading public. I suspect your breakfast are brimstone and iron and that even your grandmothers are brave, muscle-bound and capable of wrestling grizzly bears. 

So, what have we got with the UK covers and the US covers now revealed? Ash. Awesome weapons (my personal fav, the Indian punch dagger). A mysterious golden arrowhead. A huge flaming demon. A gigantic red-eyed crocodile demon. Explosions. Flames and Ash's sister, Lucky, running for her life. But, when all is said and done, we have BAD ASS.

Later, people.

Sarwat

A fistful of AWESOME

What are you reading? Who are your favourite authors? If you're looking for any recommendations of In Your Face books, then you've come to the right place. All I can say is take your World Book Day tokens down to your local bookshop RIGHT NOW and pick up one of these guys:

1. Philip Reeve. He's written the Mortal Engines series and is the GRANDMASTER of Steampunk. If you want rolling cities that prey on each other, the most BADASS action heroine ever and nuke-powered terminators then these books are for you. Did I mention nuke-powered terminators? Oh yes. 

2. Will Hill. His Department 19 will rock your world. Jamie Carpenter is recruited into a secret government organization dedicated to taking out vampires and stopping the BIG BAD, Count Dracula himself. This has a guaranteed 'no sparkly vampires here' stamp of approval.

3. Bernard Cornwell. Old school but still, when it comes to action, we all measure ourselves against his standard. Straight historical fiction with epic heroes like Sharpe and Arthur and I'd recommend either as a starting point. Yeah, you can thank me later.

4. George R.R Martin. Of Game of Thrones fame. You might have watched the series but the books are so much better. You will read these and then be saying 'Tolkien who?'.

5. Jon Mayhew. He's the author of Mortlock and Demon Collector so if you want your horror Gothic and very Victorian, he's the man you go to. If anyone out there deserves to take Darren Shan's horror crown, it's this guy. You will be sleeping with the lights on after you read his stuff.

Till next time.

Sarwat

Welcome to the age of darkness.

There are some books that they want you to read. The good guys are good and help old ladies across the street and the bad guys are basically a bit naughty and if anyone dies it’s because they weren’t that important anyway and you won’t miss them.

There are other books meant to make you a better person, to learn that caring and sharing is the way to deal with problems and vampires are people too.

Then there are books that are IN. YOUR. FACE. This site is dedicated to those sorts of books.

You are here because, deep down, you know that to defeat evil, you need a touch of evil yourself. 

‘Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress’ is about a boy who learns that to beat the monsters, you need to become something even worse. He starts off just like anybody, happy to hang out with his mates, muck about on computer games and stuff his face on fast food. Just like you and me. And his problems are just beginning. He’s the only one that knows, really knows, that what’s out there in the dark, is very real and very hungry.

Those supernatural beasties aren’t there to be made friends with. They don’t like you; you’re a mortal. They hate you with a passion undiminished after thousands of years and if demons know anything, they know how to hate.

Check out the website. Learn about the demons and their king. Find out more about Ash, his allies, and enemies. The war between gods and monsters is about to explode and Ash stands in the middle of it all. But to be the hero we need, he’ll have to embrace the darkness within...

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