A Social Media Hiatus This December


On Vacation til the New Year

I’ve been under the weather for the past weeks, which has slowed down the blog. I had planned a social media hiatus starting this December, but it came somewhat early.

So this blog, Amlokiblogs, my Twitter, Triberr, Facebook, Goodreads and G+ will all hibernate through December, and come alive on the 1st of January.

This is to give myself a much-needed break from online life, so I can focus on my health, family, and my writing.

In the meanwhile, wish you all the joys and blessings of the festive season, and see you in the New Year!

Can You Invent a City?


The Urban Utopia of Time in Honduras

The Urban Utopia in Honduras

I’m not talking about Monopoly here , or any other board game. This is a real-time experiment Honduras is planning to undertake for the sake of economic development. Sounds like a fiction scenario, but it isn’t.

I recently came across this article, and it made me wonder about the possibilities of such an ambitious, unapologetic social experiment in creating an urban utopia:

The Honduran initiative was inspired by Paul Romer, a New York University economist who promoted what he calls “charter cities” at a TED talk in 2011. Rather than experimenting on existing cities, which could provoke resistance, Romer proposed building new urban areas on vacant land with room for several million residents who choose to live there.

The cities would remain Honduran but would enjoy a high degree of autonomy. They would be governed through charters made up of tried-and-tested political, economic and social regulations gleaned from around the world. Partner nations would provide guidance and oversight on troublesome issues like law enforcement and the courts.

For example, the Honduran judicial system is widely viewed as slow and corrupt, a factor that concerns foreign investors. To provide legal stability, the island nation of Mauritius has agreed to allow its Supreme Court to serve as the court of appeals for a future Honduran charter city.

Another proposal is to ban physical currency in the new cities and rely on debit cards and electronic payments to reduce crime and corruption. It sounds radical, but Nigeria has already placed limits on bank withdrawals and deposits to discourage cash transactions in Lagos, Abuja and other cities….

…The plan’s many skeptics warn that Honduras could become a laboratory animal for foreign social scientists. Angel Orellana, a former lawmaker and attorney general, calls the plan 21st-century colonialism. Hondurans, he said, would be giving up a piece of national territory that would become a virtual foreign protectorate.

I can see a novel set in this city. A thriller, or a period piece, or even science fiction. As writers, we sometimes create cities from our imagination. In this case, people with the right amount of money would be building a city from scratch, and decide the political, economical, social and perhaps even cultural rules by which it would run.

Is it possible to create an ideal urban utopia? Do you think this city would become a shining example of a technologically advanced metropolis or get mired in drugs, gambling, and prostitution? Can you really invent an actual city?

Have You Read These Books?


I talk often about reading, and books, because that’s all I do, read books and work obsessively, painfully, undauntedly, on writing one. (Hah. Feels good to let go of a few adverbs, the sort of words I’ve been keeping from stinking up my WIP all day.)

Since I’m a geek, and would want nothing better than for everyone to start reading one book a day (will make for a better world, I promise you, if everyone read, or had the luxury to read, at least one book a week).

I’ll share a few lines from books I’m reading now. (Why? Because this is my blog and I feel like talking about books, that’s why!)

By Nightfall, Michael Cunningham

By Nightfall, Michael Cunningham

“And yet, of course, Peter is mesmerized by the ruined car and the horse’s body. Isn’t this the bitter pleasure of New York city? It’s a mess, like Courbet’s Paris was. It’s squalid and smelly; it’s harmful. It stinks of mortality.” ~ By Nightfall, Michael Cunningham

(This book skipped my TBR queue, cos it is a copy signed by the author. Does that make me a stinky little snob? Probably. In my defense, the book is lighter than my Kindle, and doesn’t make my handbag weigh like Sissyphus’ stone. So there.)

Singapore Decalogue, Zafar Anjum

Singapore Decalogue, Zafar Anjum

“A lot of Indians in the office?”

“Not a lot. maybe a dozen or so. There are lots of Singaporeans and a few Filipinas though.” A pause. ” Have you ever slept with a Filipina? Some of them are very pretty.”

“No, I’ve never slept with anyone.” ~ The Singapore Decalogue, Zafar Anjum

(This is a collection based on the city-state I live in, written by an author- friend, and I’m thrilled for him. All the best, Zafar!)

Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch

Jamrach’s Menagerie, Carol Birch

I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.” ~ Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch

(This is the 4th of the 14 books sent to me by Random House India to review on this blog. The first review appeared here. Time for me to speed up on posting the other reviews instead of languishing in my couch, buried up to my eyebrows in books!)

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Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Any other book you’d recommend?

Lion and Panther in London


Aerogrammes by Tania James
Source: Random House India

In recent weeks, I’ve been talking about books sent to me by Random House India, for review on Daily (w)rite.

Today, I’ll talk about  Aerogrammes and Other Stories, by Tania James. As I said in my earlier posts, this would be my entirely subjective take.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary, and I love short stories.

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Right off the bat, I’ll tell you I didn’t read this collection at a go. Not because I couldn’t make the time, but because of two things:

1. The stories are all set in different (real) worlds, and each so transports you to its setting, you don’t immediately feel like entering another one.

2. The stories are rather sad (poignantly so), and I could only take so much of it each time.

The first story, a retelling of the history of India’s Gama pehelwan was so steeped in a kind of honor and strength and courage that we don’t see any more, that it made me tear up at times. The second one, a story set in Sierra Leone and the US, of how a chimpanzee completes a human family, had me thinking about Bruno Littlemore. I wish this one were a book of its own, because it felt like a novel cramped in the body of a short story.

My absolute favorite was “The Gulf”, told from the point-of-view of a little girl, not just for subtext between a child and adult world (something James does very well in the other stories like “Ethnic Ken”, a story of a girl’s love for the Ken from Barbie dolls, and how she outgrows it) but also because of the writing:

“After my mother leaves, my father puts his elbows on his knees and leans forward, his eyes closed. I wonder if he is dozing off. The song in the radio softens and slows, at which point my father takes an imaginary violin in his left arm, pointing it downward, and tilts his chin against it. He draws his invisible bow along with the single, smooth note from the radio’s violin, his face perfectly still, as if listening for his own pulse. The slipper with the exposed toe begins to tap against the orange carpet. The melody gathers force, and he dives into his performance, elbowing the air, rocking back and forth as he inscribes the space between us with song. The music climbs inside his body, takes possession of him like a long charge of electricity.”

James, like Jhumpa Lahiri, talks of the immigrant experience, but her assessment is less clinical, more given to emotion, in stories like “Light and Luminous” where a talented, middle-aged Indian dance teacher falls prey to the very thing she’s fought all her life, the temptation to bleach her dark skin, or a delusional old man who thinks his grand-daughter is his wife reincarnated, and wonders “Why am I here?”

I smiled at James’ tart commentary on contemporary life (in America):

“The most popular magazines at Foodfest are the ones that offer help. The experts grin from every corner, beaming with the relief that anyone can drop fifty pounds or build their own patio or achieve a positive outlook.”

Why you could read it: If you like literary stories, by the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri or Yiyun Li, you’ll love it. If you read more genre than literary, this book could be a good bridge: some of the stories have an other-worldly quality to them, and unlike most literary stories, satisfy the reader who wants to know ‘what happened in the end’.

Why you might avoid it: This isn’t light reading, so pick it up if you want to be entertained, but be prepared to be moved to sadness at the same time.

My cribs: My only crib was the the juxtaposition of the stories: “Girl Marries Ghost” felt like the weakest , added in as an afterthought at the end. It did not come across as subtle and spare as the rest of them. Personally, I liked “Lion and Panther in London” better than “Aerogrammes”, for its combination of humor, irony and pathos, and thought it might have made a better title story.

Over all, I enjoyed the book, and though I took my time reading this collection, it felt like time well-spent.

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I played this first review by ear, giving you my unvarnished thoughts as a reader, and letting the format emerge on its own . What would you like to see changed in the format? Was this review helpful?

Five Weird OCD Twitter Rituals You Should Consider Trying


Twitter is my favorite social media platform, but I have to confess I am a little OCD and ritualistic when it comes to my Twitter experience.  Most of these processes involve ways to clean up my tweet stream, but others are the ways I engage and interact. It might seem a little odd to some people, but it works out well for me.

Here are five of my weird OCD Twitter rituals:

1. TwitCleaner

On the first of every month, I religiously run TwitCleaner to clear the noise from my stream. It’s the quickest way to unfollow suspected bots, people who post too many duplicate links, people who post only links, and people who have little or no interaction with their followers.

2. ManageFlitter

Every Monday morning I run Manage Flitter to see who unfollowed me so I can return the gesture and  unfollow those who have inactive Twitter accounts. I’m always able to weed out between 30-60 followers that way. Perhaps it seems petty to unfollow those who’ve done the same to me, but I am a strong believer in two-way interaction.

3. Morning Tweets

I tweet every morning from 7:30am-8:30 am with my morning coffee (excepting weekends and vacation). I like to be able to to catch up with anyone who personally interacted with me since bedtime the night before and allows me to keep  a strong level of engagement with my most active followers.

4. Evening Tweets

I tweet every night from 8:45pm-9:45 pm (excepting weekends and vacation), because I work a regular 9-5 job during the day and my “mom” job after school, and this allows me to catch all the tweets I might have missed earlier in the day. I don’t like my tweets to go unnoticed, and I know my followers appreciate a reply. Sometimes I miss a few people, because I have a lot of activity in my mentions feed, but I try to be diligent in catching up with everyone.

5. Retweets

During my morning and evening tweet sessions, I make sure to retweet at least 20 followers each during both times from my main Tweet stream. I specifically select followers I haven’t had recent interaction with in awhile to let them know I haven’t forgotten them and to show a little extra love to the followers who have helped me with retweets and website visits. I also spend this time reaching out and interacting with people I might not have tweeted with in awhile.

Of course, there are times I am able to tweet a little during the day, but it’s not often.  With my weird OCD Twitter rituals in place, I feel like I’m on top of things most of the time. I have different routines for Facebook, G+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc., but those are posts for another time.

How about you? Do you have any OCD Twitter rituals? Assure me I’m not too crazy by sharing them in the comments! :-)

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This post by Amberr Meadows has been syndicated with permission from her and Jim Dougherty , on whose blog the post first appeared.

Have You Kissed a Mountaintop Without Trudging Up Its Slopes? #IWSG


Yaks carrying their burden

Trudging Up the Mountain

The following post is for Insecure Writers Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

This is a picture taken by my dad, somewhere upwards of Nepal, on some off-the-map stretch of Tibet during his trek in the Himalayas, where the hourglass turns at a different pace, and the air is rare and thin. The Yaks make those bundles look small, but I’m sure they feel the weight just the same. Just as I do, writing chapter after chapter of my WIP. A lot of writers I meet online and off say that they enjoy writing. For me, I enjoy having written. And right now I feel the weight of all those unwritten chapters, and the air around me seems thin.

Prayer flags in the Himalayas where the hourglass is slow

Prayer flags in the Himalayas

What I need, is to let go. Not of the writing, no; but of my ingrained instinct for perfection. I’ve been studying rewrites and editing for fiction classes I do with kids, and that seems to have rubbed off on me. I can let my inner perfectionist loose when I do rewrites. Not now, during the first draft.

Right now is the time to let my soul take flight, like these prayer flags from my Dad’s camera on that same trip. They seem to reach for that obscured peak, losing none of their colorful exuberance in the process. There is more than one way to climb a mountain, they seem to whisper to the winds. On some days,  you can kiss a mountain’s top without trudging up its slopes. Let the breeze bear you up, all you have to do is let yourself float.

Have You Kissed a Mountaintop Without Trudging Up Its Slopes?

Blogs I’ll NEVER Visit Again


Visiting Blogs

Blogs I shall Never visit again

I’ll start with a confession: I’m not a model blog visitor in terms of the number of blogs I visit. I do 10-15 blogs a day at the max, other than in April, when I do more than 100 a day while hosting the A to Z Challenge. (If you don’t know about this challenge, I suggest you check it out.)

So for the 15 or so blogs I visit, I expect to be reading and commenting on all without a headache, and preferably within the hour. Not very ambitious, is it?

BUT. But.

I find some blogs that won’t let me do this. Not that anyone should care, but I have a headache from visiting my fair share of *such* blogs today, and I feel like listing out the sort of blogs I’ll never visit again:

1. Blogs with black backgrounds: You know the ones with an inky background, and light grey font? (I know you love Paranormal, but that doesn’t mean you have to torture your readers.) Or the ones with shiny pink or other neon colored fonts and icons on black? Flashy things in the sidebar? Not only would I never follow you, I would blacklist you if I could. I Love My Eyes, and won’t subject them to your blog.

2. Blogs that make me jump through hoops: If I like your post, I want to comment on it. If you make me cross-eyed with word verifications, or with the effort to find how to comment, or sign on to some vague service for the privilege, I’ll Pass. Thank You Very Much. Not following you either.

3. Blogs that do not believe in paragraphing: You might be the biggest Sherlock, Einstein or Dickens, but if you write in a dense chunk of 2000 words, my eyes would glide away after the first few lines. There’s a reason that Return key is there. Use it. I wouldn’t rush to the follow button on this.

4. Blogs written in terrible English: If you don’t have the time to learn the language you want to communicate with the world in, much less to proofread your posts, I don’t have time for you either. A few typos are acceptable (we’re all human), but not an entire glob of gobbledygook I have to try and make sense of. Next.

5. Blogs that thrive on controversy alone: I hate flame wars. Life is too short to indulge in negativity, to get attention or otherwise. Enough said.

Now that I’ve got it off my chest, I have to say that the sort of blogs I list above are in the minority. Or I’ve probably managed to weed them out of my blog circle. Mostly, I’m a happy camper, and I LURVE my blog buddies.  Sometimes, they are the only reason I blog.

Are there any blogs you would NEVER visit again? Is there anything on this blog that drives you crazy? Fire away in the comments!