Random Thoughts About Writing My 1st Novel (Part 2)

Skip this post unless you’re REALLY bored.  I’ve hit the wall and I’m using it to work my way through it.

This novel writing thing is hard.  I feel as if all of the progress that I made at the end of last year has come undone.  I am at a complete loss on how to proceed.  (Some of you are yelling at me to OUTLINE!!!  But I am drawing a blank even when I try to outline!)

I wanted the book to be funny, but there’s nothing funny coming out of me right now.  (Okay, that was unintentionally funny, because it can be taken the wrong way.)  It’s easy to be funny in person or make snarky comments on a website, but true satire is HARD for me.

How do you achieve Seinfeld-esque wit or Chandler Bing sarcasm when all that’s flowing on the paper is knock-knock jokes?  It’s horrible.

So, what’s funny?  What makes me laugh in stories?  Or more importantly, what kept me INTERESTED in stories, even when I wasn’t laughing?

STAR WARS:  The banter between Hans Solo and Princess Leia made the Star Wars movies for me.  I watched them over the holidays.  It had been years since I had seen them.  I know that I may get torpedoed for saying this, but the dialogue was, er, not so good.  And yes, Episodes 4-6 had far superior dialogue than Episodes 1-3 did, but seriously, Episodes 4-6 didn’t exactly have great dialogue either.

I really think George Lucas owes his Star Wars success to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.  They saved those movies.  Without their banter, I honestly think the entire Star Wars franchise wouldn’t exist.  Even Mark Hamil’s lines were cheesy to the point of punch-him-in-the-throat irritating.  I was this close (picture fingers pinched together) to hurling my remote control at the screen during Luke Skywalker’s scenes.  Whiny and annoying, he was.  (Channeling Yoda, I am.)

HARRY POTTER:  What did I like about Harry Potter?  The entire wizarding world?  That’s too broad.  Let me mull this over.  I liked the good vs. evil thing.  Again, too broad.  I liked the boarding school.  Yeah, that’s getting more specific.  Come to think of it, I’ve always liked boarding school stories.  I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s “Twins At St. Clare’s” stories.  What is it about boarding school that’s so appealing?  I guess throwing a bunch of unsupervised, young, hormonally-driven people together in a confined space is a recipe for entertainment.

I remember how thrilled I was when I finally left home for college.  I couldn’t wait for my parents to leave so that I could explore the university campus with my new friends.  Maybe part of this nostalgia is what made Harry Potter so appealing to me.  Interesting.

PERCY JACKSON:  The reasons I liked the Percy Jackson books are fairly basic.  Percy Jackson is funny and the story is based on Greek mythology, which I love.  Nothing beats a good prophecy-driven quest.

I recently picked up a copy of Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.  It’s pretty good, but I just can’t get into it the same way I got into Percy Jackson.  It feel as if it’s the same story, but with Norse gods, instead of Greek gods.  I’m only part way through the book, so I realize that I haven’t given it a chance.  I’ll finish the entire thing and perhaps include it as another “textbook” to study.  So, the most interesting thing about these books for me is the foundation in myth.

GREGOR THE OVERLANDER:  Gregor is very similar to other young adult fantasy heroes.  He has an unfortunate “current” circumstance, is thrown into a “magical” situation, and turns out to be the “chosen” one with “special abilities.”  Blah, blah, blah.

What made this book a little different for me was the whole “Alice in Wonderland” thing.  Gregor and his 2-year old little sister accidentally fall down a laundry room chute and land in another world.  They talk with animals and fight with swords.  Gregor is a warrior.  You see where I’m going with this?  😉

MY CONCLUSION:  I didn’t realize that this post would evolve into an abridged young adult fantasy book review, but that’s what happens when I follow my “stream of consciousness.”  So what have I learned?

I need banter, a boarding school and an “other world” tumble to make a story interesting for myself.  “Special” ability is good – perhaps some levitating or mind control.  Maybe a prophecy and a quest.

Add a touch of Indian mythology and this is my recipe.  Time to work that into my novel.


Random Thoughts On Writing My 1st Novel

I’m scared.  Seriously.  For the last few days, I’ve tried to write.  But I haven’t been able to because of this fear.  You see, I made a 2016 New Year’s Resolution to write a full manuscript by the end of the year and since then, I haven’t been able to write anything.

It sucks.

This may not be a big deal for some of you, but I’ve never finished writing a complete novel.  (Unless you count my jumbled NaNoWriMo mess from a few years ago, which I don’t.)  Writing an entire manuscript is a big deal for me.

You may wonder what I fear.  Cliches.  I’m so scared that my first book will be filled with cliches.  In 2015, I overcame many personal obstacles to writing, but one of them remains strong:  the idea that my story has to be “original.”

What does that even mean?  Has anyone ever written something “original?”  Both Harry Potter and The Hobbit were based on ideas from Norse mythology.  Star Wars was influenced by Akira Kurosawa‘s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress.  Hell, even Star Wars:  The Force Awakens cannibalized itself and based the story on Star Wars:  A New Hope.  (They both had a Death Star, but they were different sizes!)  So, if J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George Lucas can do it, then what’s MY problem?

A few things are helping me manage my fear.  First, in my experience, to conquer a fear, a person should run TOWARDS it, instead of AWAY from it.  Well, with the exception of fire.  And cliffs.  And rabid animals.  Hmmm….  Maybe I should phrase this differently.

Let’s try again.  Last year, I started to get over my fear of rejection by embracing it.  Perhaps I should do the same thing with cliches?  Just write a book of cliches.  Maybe it should be called “Charlie Weaver and the Book of Cliches.”

Hey!  Is it a sign that it sounds like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?”

What’s that I hear?  I think my wheels are turning again……   😉

DAY #22 : A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

Earlier today, I read a post on Ana Spoke’s blog called “The Best Way To Predict Your Future.”  It gave me chills, because although she doesn’t outright say it, Ana’s discussion alludes to a concept called “The Law Of Attraction.”

In plain terms, the law of attraction is simply “like attracts like.”  A person’s thoughts influences his or her reality.  If you have positive thoughts, you will attract positive experiences.  I first heard about this concept from a borrowed copy of “The Secret,” but the book was so hokey, that I couldn’t bring myself to actually spend money on it.  However, on some level, I agree with the premise.

Now, before you roll your eyes at me and call me a new age hippie (or worse), you should know that I’m a trained engineer.  I have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.  I worked in the automotive industry for over twelve years.  I love data and often clung to it like a lifeline.

But the universe is filled with mysteries.  Things exist that we can’t measure or explain yet.

The first law of thermodynamics is that energy can’t be created or destroyed, only transformed.  I grew up in a Hindu/Buddhist household.  My father taught me one fundamental thing:  thoughts are a form of energy.  So if energy can’t be created or destroyed, then where do our thoughts go once we have them?  Personally, I believe that they are transformed into our reality.

Now, I’m not claiming that I’m a genie who can just think, blink, and make things materialize out of thin air.  (But let me try….  I just won a million dollars.  Wait for it…. Wait for it….  Nothing.  Damn.)  But I do think that our thoughts influence what we experience in life.

Words are powerful.  When we write something down on paper (or computer screen), we are sending our thoughts and feelings out into the universe, which responds accordingly.  I’ve actually experienced this myself quite often during my career.  Just this past weekend, I changed my LinkedIn profile to say “Freelance Writer.”  Two days later, the e-mail from Scary Mommy arrived saying that they wanted to publish my essay.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But what if it isn’t?

So, just for the hell of it, I’m going to write down my goals in bold writing.  I know these may seem lofty, but I’m of the mindset that if I’m going to do this, I should GO BIG OR GO HOME!!!!

  • I will write an award-winning young adult fantasy series based on Indian mythology.  (Replace Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief with Shivani Roy and the Demon King of Lanka)
  • I will sell over 1 million copies of my books.
  • I will generate enough income from writing alone to support my family and to start a foundation to help inner city kids get access to a good education.  
  • I will be a New York Times best-selling author before the age of 50 years old.  (I’m 41 years old as I write this note.)  

Okay, Universe.  There’s my request.  I promise to work my ass off to achieve these goals and to have faith that everything I need will fall into place as I need it.

We shall see…..

The Demon and The Deva (Prologue)

Once upon a time, in a world very similar to our own, there was an ancient land called Bharat.  Within Bharat was a small kingdom called Videha.  This is where our story begins.

The ruler of Videha was King Janaka.  Under his long reign, Videha was prosperous.  The people were happy, and life was peaceful.  There was just one problem.  King Janaka was aging and he didn’t have an heir.  For many years, Janaka and his beautiful queen, Sunayana, prayed to the gods for a child.  But the gods remained silent.  No child was born.

One day, a senior advisor in Janaka’s court, named Vyasa, approached the king in the throne room.  “Sire,” Vyasa beseeched him.  “You have heard me talk of the Seers for years.  The time has finally come.  You need their help.”

Janaka’s brow furrowed.  Everyone in Bharat had heard of the Seers.  They were a group of golden-eyed mystics who lived in the kingdom of Mahishūru.  They followed the teachings of an Asura called Mahishasura.  “Demons,” Janaka sputtered at the thought of an Asura setting foot in his kingdom.  “You want me to ask those demon Asuras for help?”

“Janaka, I am your friend,” Vyasa looked him in the eye.  Few others would dare do the same thing.  “We have known each other since childhood.  I will not just sit beside you and feed you idle words in this time of need.”

“I still have time,” Janaka protested, flushing angrily.  He was older, but still one of the most powerful kings in Bharat.

Vyasa raised an eyebrow.  He was accustomed to Janaka’s ego, but the time for soothing injured pride had ended.  “Sire, please allow me to speak honestly,” When Janaka nodded, Vyasa continued.  “Your enemies are mobilizing against you.  They are waiting for the first sign of weakness to pounce on Videha.  You must have an heir and time to train him.  Without one, Videha is in danger.”

“But to ask an Asura for help is outrageous,” Janaka scowled.  His distaste for Asuras was deep-rooted.  Devas and Asuras had been fighting each other for centuries.  It was only in the last two decades that a tentative peace agreement had been forged between the two groups.  But the distrust still lingered.  “There must be another way.”

“My brother, there is no other way,” Vyasa said softly.  It pained him to admit it.  He didn’t want to approach the Asuras for help either.  “I’ve seen it.  This is the only path to an heir.”

“So, who do you propose we call?”  When Vyasa raised an eyebrow, Janaka shook his head.  “He won’t come,” Janaka crossed his arms.  “Even if I ask him to.  There is too much bad blood between our kingdoms.”

“Yes, he will.”  Vyasa smiled.  When his visions were clear, they were never wrong.  “Ask him and he will come.”

One week later, Vyasa’s statement was proven correct.  He rushed into the throne room and found King Janaka conducting his daily meeting with his ministers.  Conversation halted as Vyasa approached the king.

“Sire, he’s here,” Vyasa whispered into the Janaka’s ear.

The king waved his hands, dismissing the ministers.  Once they scurried out of the room, Janaka nodded to two of his guardsmen.

The heavy doors at the opposite end of the room swung open.  An Asura named Mahishasura entered.  He surveyed the room with one sweeping glance as he strode across the marble floor.  Despite his towering height, Mahishasura looked up at the throne from the bottom of the steps.  “Janaka.”

“So, we finally meet,” King Janaka nodded back, and remained seated.  He pointedly lowered his head to look down at the Asura.  It was customary for two royals of equal status to greet each other on level ground.  “I’m told that you are the legendary Mahishasura.”

Mahishasura’s golden eyes eyes narrowed.  He recognized the insult.  “I am.”

“You look more human than I expected,” Janaka remarked casually.  He scanned the Asura from head to toe.  “I’ve heard that you are part water buffalo.  If the stories are true, where are your horns?”

Mahishasura smiled, baring even white teeth.  “Stories don’t always contain truth.”

Vyasa fluttered around Janaka nervously.  He said softly, “Sire, I must remind you that we invited him here.  We need his help.”

“Yes, yes,” Janaka lifted one hand and waved Vyasa away.  The internal struggle was apparent on his face.  After a few moments of silence, he stood up and walked down the steps.  “My advisor has reminded me that you have done us a great favor by appearing in our court.”  He extended his hand.  “Please forgive me.  You have shown us a great honor with your visit.”

Mahishasura raised an eyebrow.  After pausing, he took Janaka’s hand and clasped it in greeting.  “You are forgiven.  Now, what is the purpose of my visit?”

“I have been told that your people have special,” Janaka hesitated.  He searched for the word.  “Abilities.”  When Mahishasura remained silent, Janaka continued.  “I have need of such abilities.”

“Is that so?”  The expression on Mahishasura’s face was mild interest.  “And why is that?”

Janaka grimaced, as if he spotted something distasteful.  He squared his shoulders.  “My advisors tell me that I will never have an heir without your help.”

“I see,” Mahishasura replied evenly.  He didn’t appear surprised by the revelation.  “And if this is true, why should I help you?”

The Asura was trying to bargain with him.  Well, this was something that Janaka could understand.  “What do you want from us in exchange for your help?”  He extended his hand to point out the splendors of the room.  “Gold?  Jewels?  I will pay your fee.”

Mahishasura snorted.  “I am the rightful King of Mahishuru.  It is one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Bharat.  Do you think I could be bought so easily?”

“But you’re not,” Vyasa interjected.  When Mahishasura turned his gaze to Vyasa, the old advisor stammered.  “Your Highness, I mean no disrespect.  But I have been told that you gave up your right to the throne to follow the teachings of the Seers.”

Mahishasura nodded.  “You speak the truth.  I am no longer the King of Mahishuru. But my people still follow my words as law.”

“Then why are you here?” King Janaka demanded.  He didn’t have time to banter with an Asura.  “If not for gold or wealth, why are you here?”

Mahishasura’s brow furrowed.  Why indeed?  “I will help you.  But for a price.”

King Janaka threw up his hands in exasperation.  “What price?  I just offered you all of the gold you could ever want.”

“My price isn’t wealth,” Mahishsura replied.  He glanced over his shoulder and nodded at someone waiting outside the throne room.  “I need your protection.  For him.”

A woman holding the hand of a boy walked up to the group.  The boy was young and handsome.  While the woman kept her eyes cast downward, the boy boldly met the penetrating gaze of Vyasa.  He grinned, showing a flash of even white teeth, before turning his golden eyes to King Janaka.

“Who is this child?”  King Janaka demanded.  There was something about the boy that made him uneasy.

Mahishasura smiled.  He rested his hand on the boy’s thick black hair.  “He is the younger son of the Sage Vishrava.  His name is Ravana.”

DAY #20: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

Does anyone else have this problem?  Loss of momentum in the middle of writing a story?  It’s Day 20 of this challenge and I’m trying to pick up the story from where I left off yesterday.  I had tons of ideas for the direction I wanted to go when I stopped typing yesterday afternoon, but all of them flew out of my mind…..

Sigh.  Well, let me retype the last paragraph or two from yesterday, and see if I can generate some momentum again.  (NOTE:  I won’t include the retyped portion in my final word count.)

Shivani couldn’t admit defeat so easily.  She needed Patrick by her side for her first trip to Bharat.  “What difference does it make if they do discover you?  They can’t hurt you.”

“No, they can’t hurt me,” Patrick replied, and looked her straight in the eye.  It was time to tell her the truth.  “But they can hurt your parents.”

Shivani started at his words.  “My parents?” she repeated, frowning.  “What does this have to do with my parents?  They’re dead.”

Patrick studied the emotions that flitted across her face.  He had to tell her.  It was the only way she would be ready to face the situation in Bharat.  “What do you know about your parents?”

“Well,” Shivani hesitated.  “Not a lot.  I mean, the people at the agency told me that I was left at an orphanage in India when I was a baby.”

“And?” Patrick tilted his head.  He leaned against the desk and crossed his arms.  “What else did they tell you?”

As Patrick’s gaze narrowed, it occurred to Shivani that she had never questioned the story.  “Not much more than that,” Shivani shrugged.  “Just that an American couple adopted me and brought me to this country.  But they were killed in a car accident when I was little.  No one else wanted to adopt me.  So I went back into the foster care system.”  Shivani studied the floor.  It sounded so much more pathetic when she said it out loud.  She didn’t like that at all.  “I’ve been there ever since then.”

“So, no one knew who left you at the orphanage?” Patrick persisted.  He suspected what her answer would be, but wanted to make sure.

“No,” Shivani whispered.  Was it possible that her parents were still alive?  That they were the ones who left her at the orphanage?  Her heart started beating wildly.

Patrick knew what she was thinking.  He hated to crush her hopes, but she had to know.  “They weren’t the ones who dropped you off at the orphanage,” he said softly.  He winced when he saw the light go out of her eyes.

Shivani’s shoulders slumped.  He was probably right, but that small sliver of hope prompted her to question him.  “How do you know that?  Did you see it?”

Patrick hesitated.  It didn’t take his Seer’s abilities to see that Shivani wasn’t going to respond well to the truth.  What was the best way to approach this revelation?  “I guess you could say that.”

“Oh,” Shivani muttered, disappointed.  Patrick’s visions were always accurate.  “Did you see what happened in a vision?”

“No,” Patrick replied.  “It wasn’t a vision.”  When Shivani looked at him with confusion, he gave up his feeble attempts at tactful disclosure.  “It was me, Shivani,” he stood up and looked into the golden eyes that reminded him so much of someone else he had once loved.  “I’m the one who left you at the orphanage in India.”

DAY #16: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was check my email.  This single action could be the focus of an entire blog post about screen time addicts, but I digress.  I checked my inbox and was surprised to discover a message from the website Nugget Tales.  It contained the following message:

[New post on Nugget Tales] Shivani Roy and The Demon King of Lanka

Another piece here from a brand new writer, this is an excerpt from a novel they are working on and they would really appreciate some feedback from our readers. We hope you enjoy it!

YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE STORY HERE:  http://nuggettales.com/2015/10/10/shivani-roy-and-the-demon-king-of-lanka/

I stared at the screen in shock.  OH MY GOD!  THAT’S MY STORY!!!!  I knew that it was supposed to appear sometime in October, but I still wasn’t prepared for the surprise.  I would have shrieked, if not for the fact that the house was quiet.

I clicked the link to Nugget Tales and to my incredible delight, saw my story PUBLISHED LIVE ON THEIR SITE.  For a few moments, I just sat in the dark, basking in the glow of that incredible screen image.  Someone actually thought enough of my story to post it on their site.  Unreal.

After a few minutes, my husband walked into the room to inform me that the kids were up and saw me just sitting on the bed and staring.  He beamed when I told him the news, hugged me and said, “Congratulations!  I’m so proud of you!  You’re a published author now.”

I pushed him back and automatically replied, “No, I’m not.”

He looked at me strangely and tilted his head towards the screen.  “Isn’t that your story?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Isn’t it posted on that website?”

“Yes,” I said hesitantly.

He shrugged.  “Then you’re a published author to me.”

I didn’t argue with him, but had trouble accepting his words as truth.  Which is why I’m writing this post.  I have it in my head that to be considered a “published author,” I must have a published book or be a regular writing contributor to a large website.

So, is this my own personal issue?  Or do other people share my views?  What does a writer have to do to be considered a “Published Author?”

I recently read an article on Kristen Lamb’s blog about women not “owning” their achievements.  Men own their achievements, while women minimize them.  Is this my problem?  Is it because I’m female that I feel so insecure about owning this title?

After struggling with this internal debate all afternoon, I finally updated my LinkedIn profile with the following title:  “Published Author.”  I still feel guilty about putting it up there.  I have this image in my head that people will see it, roll their eyes and snicker about it.  But I’m going to try and own it.  We shall see.

DAY #15: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

Well, I’ve reached the halfway point of this 30-day writing challenge.  It’s been a really great learning experience for me as a writer.  I can’t believe how much writing I’ve done by just setting aside 15 minutes a day.  (I admit that it generally ends up being closer to 45-60 minutes a day.)  I’ve made more progress on my “prequel” in the last 15 days than I have in the past two decades.  It’s very encouraging.  Every little bit of writing counts!

I’ve always had this idea in my head to write the entire story in chronological progression.  But this challenge has helped me to realize that this is the obstacle that has prevented me from completing a full manuscript.

I’ve always admired J.K. Rowling’s method for writing.  She didn’t write a single sentence until she mapped out the entire Harry Potter series in a 900-page outline.    Since I’m an engineer and a planner, I thought her “plan twice-cut once” method was logical.  Rowling wrote an incredibly complex story.  There were no holes in her story premise.  Thanks to her detailed outline, Rowling left no unanswered questions.  How else does a writer achieve such a feat?  Especially a novice writer?

But I’ve discovered over the past 15 days that her writing method doesn’t work for me.  For years, I’ve tried to outline my full story, but grew bored.  Outlining took the fun out of writing for me.  Then, I tried to write the scenes out sequentially and hit one road block after another.  It finally hit me this week.  I should just write the scenes as they appear to me, even it means jumping all over the place in the story.  A simple solution that should have been obvious to me from the very beginning, but wasn’t until now.

Oh, my God……  I just had a disturbing thought.  Does this mean that I’m actually a closet “pantser” after all?  “Pantser,” as in, writing by the “seat of my pants.”  Yikes!  That’s Karma for you.  I’ve become the very type of writer that I always viewed with skepticism.

So, from here on out, I’ll be jumping around from scene to scene.  I’ll continue to use this blog as my “pantsing” site and write without constraint.  But earlier this week, I also started my “true” author’s blog under my name “Taara Datta Donley.”  I will use that site to organize cohesive chapters based on my scattered progress on “A Writing Mama’s Journal.”  This way, my planning side won’t work itself into a tizzy.  At least my left eye has stopped twitching….

DAY #14: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

It’s Day 14 of this 30-day writing challenge.  So far, I’ve been able to follow a sequential story progression but I admit that I’m stuck.  I don’t know what the next logical scene should be.  So, I thought that I’d jump forward in the story and try writing an “out of sequence” scene today.  Here goes:

The fire blazed higher as Mahish poured the ghee onto the embers.  King Janaka could feel its heat on his face.  There were two ornate mats on the ground in front of the fire.  He sat down on one of them, while Queen Sunayna sat on the other one beside him.  Vyasa stood on Janaka’s right side, holding a large bowl.

“This is absurd,” Janaka muttered, and shifted uncomfortably on the mat.  Was sitting on the ground really necessary?  He could have just as easily sat down on a cushion for this ceremony.

“Sire, please,” Sunayna whispered, as she glanced at Mahish.  The Asura was standing on the other side of the fire, with his eyes closed.  She could see the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed deeply.  “He may hear you.”

“And what if he does?”  Janaka snapped, before turning to scowl at Vyasa.  “Please tell me why I agreed to do this.  How will some demon fire ritual produce an heir?”

“It’s called an Agni Yajna, Sire,” Vyasa offered, watching Mahish with obvious interest.  He looked down to study the contents of the bowl in his hands, but Vyasa didn’t recognize most of them.  “The Devas used to perform them as well.  I can still remember my grandfather performing one.”

“I know what it is,” Janaka huffed, slightly outraged by the indignity of sitting on the ground.  He didn’t know what had possessed him to agree to it.  “What I fail to understand is how throwing ghee and demon herbs into a fire will produce an heir.”

“We must be patient, Sire,” Vayasa replied.  It was entirely possible that the king would stand up and walk away in the middle of the ceremony.  Offending their Asura guest was the last thing Vyasa wanted to do.  “What harm does it do perform a simple ceremony?  You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

Mahish walked around the fire to Vayasa and reached into the bowl.  He picked up a fistful of herbs, and held them to his forehead before throwing them into the fire.  The flames crackled, as a silver mist emerged from the fire.  Sunaya watched the mist, mesmerized as it slowly encircled the small group.  When her skin began to tingle, she closed her eyes and started slow, rhythmic breathing.

On a table to the right of Vyasa sat two small bowls.  Mahish picked one up, swirled the contents and offered it to Janaka.

“What is this?” the king asked, reaching for the bowl.  He sniffed the cloudy liquid and shrugged.  At least the demon brew wasn’t offensive to the nose.

“Havana samagri.  It’s a mixture of special herbs from Mahishuru,” Mahish replied, stirring the second bowl.  He studied Sunayna’s face before carefully balancing the bowl in her lap.  Janaka didn’t notice that his wife was in a trance.  Manish continued,  “They promote fertility.”

“How?”  Janaka asked, before his eyes widened with the realization.  “Must I drink this?”  He held the bowl gingerly, frowning slightly.  Although the bowl emitted a fragrant aroma, the murky liquid didn’t appear visually appetizing.

“Yes,” Mahish said, turning away from the king to reach for a cloth.  He smothered a grin before turning back to the couple.  “You must drink this every night before the fire for thirty days.”

“And after thirty days?”  Vyasa asked, relieved that the king remained seated on the mat.

Mahish tilted his head towards the king.  “King Janaka will perform a final penance.”


DAY #12: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

Ravana could taste the fear.  His heart pounded as Niku and Rajesh each grabbed one of his arms.  They dragged Ravana kicking and screaming towards the water trough.

“So, demon boy?  Can you do it?”  Niku snarled, as Rajesh pushed Ravana to his knees on the ground and held him there.  Niku grabbed the back of Ravana’s hair and pulled his head back.  “Can you breathe under water?”

Rajesh chuckled.  It was all in good fun.  He would pull the younger boy up after a few minutes.  No one would really get hurt.  “He’ll learn fast if he can’t.”

Ravana took one last gulp of air before Niku pushed his head into the trough.  The cold water hit him like a wall.  He kept his mouth tightly sealed while struggling against Niku’s grip.  Was Niku really going to kill him?  Panic set in until an image of Master Mahish entered his thoughts.  The Master always told him not to waste critical energy on fear.  After what seemed like an eternity, Ravana closed his eyes and exhaled the breathe that he had been clinging to like a lifeline.  When he stopped struggling, his body went limp.

Ravana could hear the panic in Rajesh’s voice.  “He isn’t moving, Niku.  Pull him up.”

As Niku lifted Ravana’s head out of the water, a surge of energy propelled Ravana to snap his head backwards.  He hit Niku squarely in the face.  There was a loud crunch.

“Aaaarrrrgggghhh,” Niku screamed, releasing his grip from Ravana to reach for his nose.  Blood dripped through his fingers, down his face.  Without thinking, Ravana dropped to the ground.  He stuck his leg out and swept it around, knocking Niku down.  Ravana quickly scrambled on top of Niku’s chest.  He grabbed Niku’s head by the hair and slammed it into the ground until Niku’s eyes rolled backwards.

Rajesh stared in shock, as Ravana wiped dripping water from his eyes with the dry edge of his sleeve and ran over to Sukha, who was still lying motionless on the ground.

“Don’t just stand there,” Ravana yelled at Rajesh, as he placed his fingers on Sukha’s temples.  “Check on Niku.”

Ravana’s voice snapped Rajesh into action.  He moved quickly and knelt on the ground beside Niku, but then looked helplessly at Ravana.  “What do I do?”

The answer came to Ravana without any thought.  “Clear the blood from his face.  Make sure that he’s still breathing.”

Rajesh nodded and used his sleeve to wipe the blood from Niku’s face.  Ravana closed his eyes and slowed his breathing.  Sukha still hadn’t regained consciousness.  Ravana focused his energy on finding the injury.  When he found the ruptured vessel, warmth seeped from his finger tips.  Ravana could feel himself losing strength, but he maintained his physical contact with Sukha.  When Sukha coughed, Ravana dropped his hands, exhausted.  He collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily.

“What happened?”  Sukha mumbled, as he tried to sit up.  He rubbed his temples and twisted his head.