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Shiva Kumar 3.0



Shiva Kumar, a Manhasset, NY resident, grew up in a traditional Tamil family, where the epics, mythologies, and fables of Hindu life enveloped him like the humid dawn of a steamy Madras day. As a teenager in America, Kumar absorbed the sci-fi classics of Le Guin, Herbert, Heinlein, Asimov, Zelazny, Donaldson, and Tolkien but it took four decades before he would revisit the stories of his childhood from a science fiction perspective. Kumar has been a filmmaker for over three decades and his work has been broadcast on PBS, ABC, BBC, Canal Plus, and other networks worldwide. As an actor, Kumar has appeared on numerous TV shows including FBI: Most Wanted, Quantico, Madame Secretary, Law & Order, SVU, All the Queen’s Men, Uncoupled, Billions, and Succession.



Path of Destiny - Release Date 5/14/24



Congratulations on the completion and upcoming release of your third book in the fantasy/sci-fi Lanka Chronicles trilogy, Path of Destiny. I loved books 1 and 2, An Awakening and A New Reality respectively.  I’m excited to see where you take readers in Path of Destiny. Though I finished reading books 1 and 2 months ago, I still carry the characters around in my head. I need to know what happens to Dharma, Loki, and Arya. I’m also curious about Maya 1, the sentient spaceship, and how all their paths cross once and again and conclude. Please share a quick summary of where Book 2, A New Reality left off and how you lead the reader into Book 3, Path of Destiny.


Thank you so much for inviting me back to discuss Path of Destiny, the third book in my trilogy. It has been a decade long journey but a totally rewarding one. I started out wanting to write about the unseen toll that the classic heroes journey takes on, not only the hero, but all those who encounter him. The great heroes of all mythologies win great battles, build empires, conquer armies, lay waste to vast tracts of land, displace peoples of conquered cities, and take actions affecting the lives of all those around them. I wanted to examine the accumulated toll such decisions have on aging heroes as they reflected on the consequences of their actions. Dharma, the hero of my story, is an aging warrior taking stock of his life realizing he has made so many mistakes that need to be redressed before his death.






Book 1, An Awakening starts with Dharma having nightmares about his former life and the gut-wrenching decision that sundered his relationship with his wife Arya. Thirty years later he decides to find Arya to ask her forgiveness for his actions. Along with his brother Loki, Dharma travels on the sentient spaceship Maya 1 to the cloaked planet Lanka where 3 decades earlier, he fought a brutal war against the Asura, once human but now a vampiric, shapeshifting demonic race of beings. Maya 1, the first sentient starship, and narrator of the story is aware of her unique purpose and is in search of her destiny. She forms an almost spiritual bond with Dharma and Loki. As they lie in cryo-sleep for the journey to Lanka, Maya 1 probes their dreams and subconscious mind to learn about their childhood, their youth and the events leading to their crash landing in Lanka thirty years earlier.





Book 2, A New Reality describes their life on Lanka after the crash. How Dharma, Arya, and Loki, start from scratch building a new simple life far away from the world of their galactic federation. Their 23rd century technology does not work on this planet, so they are relegated to primitive hunter gatherer tools. They meet the native species of the planet and begin to form alliances with the mighty philosopher birds called The Gridhra and the simian proto human race of beings called The Vanara. They also encounter the Asura, shapeshifting demons, hungry for their blood.

  

Book 2, A New Reality, mostly takes place on Lanka, describing events that happened thirty years earlier with occasional entries from Maya 1. At the end of Book 2, Arya has been kidnapped by Iraivan, the leader of the Asura. Dharma and the indigenous races of the planet gather under his banner to fight the demonic Asura who use the blood and souls of the Vanara and the Gridhra to corrupt the planet’s vital Prana energy with vile dark Ajeeva magic.





Book 3, Path of Destiny brings us back to the present, where the older Dharma and Loki, onboard Maya 1, wake up from cryo-sleep as they approach the Planet Lanka, also known as Prithvi by its inhabitants. Dharma has no idea if Arya is still alive, if she is still on Prithvi, and if she wants to meet him after all this time. Maya 1 realizes for her to fulfill her destiny she must continue to understand and facilitate Dharma’s path. So, she continues to record the end of the great battle, the aftermath and what happened between Dharma and Arya to sunder their loving bond.

 

The final chapter of the story brings us back to Maya 1 landing on Prithvi three decades after the great battle, and we find out if Dharma finally finds redemption or was his long and arduous journey back, ultimately fruitless. We all want catharsis, some meaningful conclusion to our life’s journey but there is no guarantee it will happen. Sometimes, it’s just over when it’s over.



In An Awakening, Dharma and Loki begin to reawaken and Dharma realizes he must travel back to Lanka to learn the fate of his once beloved Arya and possibly free her. Does Path of Destiny explain what takes them so long to reclaim their memories? 

 

In Book 1, An Awakening, we understand both Dharma and Loki have had their memories tampered with. They have dreams and fragments of memories, but the actual events from the great battle elude them. The catalyst is when they receive a coded message from Lanka providing them a complete retelling of what happened on Lanka thirty years ago. Suddenly, the floodgates open and long hidden memories start to emerge. As Maya 1 probes Dharma’s dreams, she helps us paint a fuller picture of what happened three decades earlier. Path of Destiny does help us understand why the message was sent and by whom.


We know from the first two books that Maya 1 has a role to play in the saga of Dharma’s life. Does this connection continue in Path of Destiny

 

Absolutely. In fact, it is in Book 3 that Maya’s story reaches its conclusion. She knows her destiny is inextricably linked to Dharma’s journey, so she is more than willing to facilitate it. But it is more that. She has, as much as an AI can, become attached to and has feelings for Dharma and Loki. She is invested in their journey. She is also learning and growing exponentially. By the time they land on the planet, Maya has become much more than a sentient spaceship. But of course, more about that will be revealed in Book 3.


What if anything does Maya 1 learn from Dharma’s tortured memories and how do her findings help on her own journey?

 

Over the course of the three books, we see Maya trying to understand human behavior. She comments on the irrationality of humans, yet finds their desire, passions, and capacity for fierce and passionate love inexplicable but admirable. She states that she would like to experience love. In fact, as she delves into Dharma’ and Loki’s dreams and memories, she finds herself becoming protective of them. She wants to nurture them, mother them, love them, as a parent or even as a lover. She wants to understand love and why humans will go to such lengths to attain it and destroy it. Maya gives us an opportunity to hold a mirror to our irrational human tendencies. We go to war, while professing to follow God’s laws. We destroy our planet knowing it’s all we have. We extinguish the possibility of love because of our insecurities and fragile egos. Yet, Maya still finds much to admire about us humans.





We know that An Awakening and A New Reality incorporate the ancient Sanskrit teachings of the Ramayana into the stories. How do you integrate the Ramayana into Path of Destiny? What similarities or differences are present in book 3 and the original Indian tale?

 

All 3 books were written at one time between 2015 and 2017. The overlay of an older Dharma going back and trying to atone for his actions, were my addressing what I saw as problematic portions of the original legend. Of course, it was written 5000 years ago and has been rewritten countless times to reflect the politics, culture, and spirituality at the time of each iteration of the legend. The Ramayana has hundreds of interpretations, not just within India but across all South Asia. There are versions of the tale in present day Sri Lanka that depict the demon Ravana, Iraivan in my story, as the cultured and benevolent monarch, who justly ruled his kingdom and that Sita, Arya in my story, was actually his daughter, kidnapped by barbarian invaders from the north. Ravana wages a just war against Rama and his barbarian hordes dressed like apes and bears and triumphantly brings Sita back home.

 

There are different versions in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma, and China. I tried to take all this into account to paint a fuller, more nuanced version of this popular epic. Book 3, is still very much part of the story of The Ramayana, but I have approached what I consider the problematic aspects from a different, more psychological perspective. Maya 1, the sentient spaceship has a key role to play in this updated reimagining of this ancient tale. Those who are familiar with the original tale will immediately see where and how my story differs and adds to the understanding of the original text.





We learn in A New Reality that Arya is connected to the powerful Prana of planet Lanka which allows her to channel a great weapon, something the evil immigrant settlers, who came before her, long to do but cannot successfully achieve. After being imprisoned by Iraivan and the Asura army, Arya loses the capacity to wield the Prana energy force. Without giving away too much, how does Arya attempt to free the power that’s trapped within?

 

Through much of Book 1 and 2 we get to know Arya as a self-possessed, articulate, beautiful, passionate, and powerful woman. We foreshadow her affinity for Prana in Book 1 when she is trapped underwater in a pyramid in ancient Cairo and feels the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Very early in Book 2, she starts sensing the planet’s vibrations, feels the emanations from the ancient trees, and can converse with the Gridhra, the giant protectors of the planet. When they face the Asura, she finds she can wield Prana as a powerful weapon, apparently with no injury to herself. All this comes without conscious thought. The power is there when she needs it. When her power is trapped within her by a containment matrix, she does not have the tools to understand how to unravel it. She fights and rages against it but is powerless to find a key. Book 3 does follow her path to finally breaking the code but it comes from an unexpected source. I foreshadow that very early in Book 1. I will leave it at that for now.




 

Toward the end of A New Reality, Dharma begins to understand he too may possess the ability to channel Prana. Does Path of Destiny allow the reader access into Dharma’s mind as he figures things out? 

 

The answer is a qualified yes. Some of the questions The Lanka Chronicles explore are if we humans have free will or are our actions pre-ordained? Is the universe a random chaotic place, or is there some intelligent design at work? Did Dharma, Arya and Loki find the planet by accident or were they led there? The Vanara mythology, generations earlier, foretold the arrival of out-worlders who will lead them in a great battle to rid the land of Asura corruption. Did the Asura get there randomly or were they pre-destined as well? Arya accepts the idea of intelligent design from the very beginning. Dharma, a rational 23rd century man, a pilot, a member of a galactic terra-forming dynasty rejects the idea of intelligent design and predestination. As he discovers the ability to channel Prana, he turns it into a rational technological advantage. He learns to use it in his war against the Asura. But there is more, which will be revealed in Book 3.



I’m hopeful that readers, including myself, who have traveled alongside Dharma, Loki, Arya, and Maya 1, watched them struggle through many trials and tribulations, felt the joy of their love for one another, cheered the marriage of Dharma and Arya, witnessed their triumph from stagnation to growth, and figuratively stood with them through combat and times of peace, can expect a satisfying ending. Without revealing the trilogy’s conclusion can you make a general statement about the future of these beloved characters? 

 

Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Something I have obsessed over was to, as they say in Hollywood, ‘stick the landing’. Many great series have suffered from an ending that leaves readers or viewers unsatisfied or even angry. I am sure your readers all have a list of endings of books or movies that left them mystified, lost, or just upset that the writer took the easy way out, wrapped it all in a tidy bundle with a bow on top, or just left us hanging.

 

Having said that, I realize how hard it is to please everybody. In the end I had to write to make sure I, the writer can justify and live with my ending. However, I will say that of my 5 beta readers, everyone felt that I provided them with a satisfactory ending. It is not cut and dry, it leaves room for interpretation, but whatever the reader chooses to believe will still, I hope, feel like a real ending.


I know I get a little choked up and misty eyed each time I read the ending. You have to remember; I have been living with these characters for a decade now. I know them, I feel for them, and I care for them deeply. I want them to be at peace with my ending. I know I am.





I’m sure my readers, some of whom may soon travel down the indie author path, are interested in how you approached the publication of the last book in your trilogy. What lessons did you learn? What tips can you share that helped make the process easier?

 

Now that I am on my third book, it has become a lot easier. Once I have completed the fine draft, I go over it at least 3 to 4 times on my own, looking to cut extra verbiage, rephrase sentences, use a thesaurus to find different words to describe a scene. Then, in the past I worked with a proofreader, but this time I worked with Grammerly and its AI component which gives me several sentence rewrites that help make the writing seem fresh. It is also good at catching where commas go, semi-colons, quotation marks etc. Grammerly has a useful numerical percentage meter so when a chapter gets to 97% accuracy, I know I’m in good shape. The last 3% are often sentences that I purposely leave in nonstandard English, or a slang or structured in a specific way to elicit a response.

 

I now know that first I create the ebook which is a word or a PDF doc that I convert to a kindle format. I also create epub and mobi versions of the book for different uses. Then I work on the paperback. I used the general formatting from book 2 and then customized for Book 3. Based on the book size which in my case is 5 x 8, font size -11, Times Roman, the space between paragraphs, 5 points, the space above and below and side to side all determine how many pages your book will be. My Book 2 was almost 500 pages. Book 3 is 400 pages so the spine is a bit thinner. You also have to decide if you want the page numbers, the authors name, and the book title to alternate page to page and set that all up.

 

The next step is to hire a cover designer. I have worked with the same cover designer for all three books. I wanted consistency of style and a certain mystery that repeated itself on each book cover. I chose a dark blue for Book 1, a dark green for Book 2 and a dark red for Book 3.


I wanted the cover to convey a hint of what the story is about but still leave a lot to the imagination. I also wanted to look out the window of the spacecraft, presumably Maya 1, over the shoulder of a person we assume is Dharma and the only thing different in each book is what he sees outside the window.

Book 1 shows a dark emptiness. Book 2 shows a blue green planet and Book 3 shows a glowing being hovering above the planet. I contacted other authors I know and asked for testimonials and quotes, wrote the back copy, which is really hard because you have to convey so much in a few short sentences, the author bio, a photo and you are done.





Did you experience any setbacks with getting your third novel published, such as formatting issues or cover art?

 

The process is definitely a back and forth between you, Amazon KDP, and the designer. Any change you make in one place has repercussions in other areas. Until you get the page count right, the designer cannot give you a final cover that will have the right spine width. I ended up getting 2 different proof copies to get the design and copy done right.


What wisdom can you impart to Wordy readers concerning the launch and marketing of your trilogy? Did you make any changes in the way you promoted Path of Destiny as opposed to your first two books? 

 

The big difference between Book 1 and 2 was that I hired a publicist for book 2. That was very helpful. Alyssia Gonzalez of Oso Literary PR helped design my website on Squarespace, worked on keywords for my Amazon book site, created A+ advertising stills that help market the book, helped get my book in front of reviewers and bloggers, got me some live readings and podcasts. For book 3 I brought her back because now that I have a complete trilogy, it is a bit easier to market, send the book out to review publications and capitalize on the groundwork she had done for Book 2.




 

You have established yourself as a proficient and successful writer of riveting and entertaining sci-fi. Do you plan to continue writing in that genre with new and different stories? Have you thought about other ancient stories you can retell? If so, please share a tidbit.

 

Once I get ‘The Lanka Chronicles’ out to market, my plan is to focus on a few different things. I have heard a lot of people ask if I plan to create audiobooks from my trilogy. I have produced one audiobook, Karma under Fire, as a narrator and audio engineer and trust me, it’s a lot of work. The Lanka Chronicles would be exponentially more difficult than that audiobook I produced. But the more research I do the more I believe there is a substantial segment of book lovers who exclusively listen to audiobooks, so I do plan on working on the audiobook for ‘An Awakening’.

 

I have also been writing a screenplay called ‘Journey to Babylon’ and have submitted it to several film festivals and have won a few awards. Here is what’s called the logline for the film:


With a heartfelt nod to the wonderful films of Edward Burns, echoes of Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ and Meera Nair’s ‘Namesake’, ‘Journey to Babylon’ is a funny, bittersweet, coming of age story of a creative and artistic sixteen-year-old boy from India who, like every other Indian immigrant, is expected to become a doctor or engineer. Set in 1976, Rishi is invited to his first ever wild summer pool party in very insular, very white, Babylon, Long Island. Trying desperately to belong, to be cool and to be accepted, Rishi’s zany weekend becomes a crucible, where he discovers his truth, his dreams, his place in this brave new world and his own unique take on the American dream.

 

The other project I have completed is a fine draft of a standalone novel titled Ratri the Cursed. It’s a contemporary urban horror fantasy derived from Indian mythology. The basic premise is that an ancient succubus demon cursed by the goddess Kali at the dawn of time, is unwittingly released from her eternal prison by a fleeing Anglo-Indian soldier in 17th century British India. The demon kills and subsumes all the hiding soldiers except for the young Anglo-Indian who manages to escape. Believing he holds the key to release her from her eternal curse, Ratri tracks the soldier and his descendants over the centuries and across continents until she finds the last descendant living in a broken-down tenement in the East Village in 1980’s New York. Rohan Campbell, a happy-go-lucky, clueless 20 yr. old part time student and aspiring rock and roll musician is about to have his life turned into a living hell.


Meet Shiva at his Book Launch event at The Next Chapter LI, May 16 in Huntington, Long Island.

 

 To learn more about Shiva Kumar or to purchase his books click on the links below:


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Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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