Category Archives: Procrastination

Plot to the Rescue, or Day 11 NaNoWriMo

So far, so good.

I haven’t gone out of my mind yet and I don’t feel as if I’ve run out of ideas for my NaNoWriMo main character, a teenager named Benjamin. Plot has finally reared its scaly head, and it is an exciting thing. The only thing I worry about is how to end the YA story! The setting seems to be a kind of post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy, and it’s basically just me tossing out everything my imagination can come up with, and doing crap to my character for the sheer heck of it.

Must remember to throw in a dragon in there somewhere.

So far, I’ve dislocated this poor boy’s arm, had him brained by a dictionary, kissed by a cute boy, driven him into a radioactive-like wasteland and just yesterday had him slammed into by a ‘Hellboar’.

I like torturing my characters, in case you didn’t know. You’d be amazed how interesting they act under stress! (Yes, I know, I’m sick).

After 11 days, I am fairly surprised I have been able to keep a consistent daily word count of 1,700 to 2,500 words, including my Malaysian novel. Some part of me keeps expecting me to crash, until it dawns on me that 2,000 words a day shouldn’t be that hard. I’m only making it out to be. I keep thinking the only way I can get ‘proper writing’ done is to take a holiday or day off.

Instead, NaNoWriMo is forcing me to make the time even on busy days. Sneak in an hour of writing here, an hour there, and voila. It’s amazing.

The difference, of course, is the quality of the prose. There’s almost a kind of automatic writing involved in writing my YA novel. It’s insane fun, letting go and not caring about rhythm or reason. In fact, I’ve been treating my yet-to-be-named YA fantasy novel as a vacation from the darkness of (haha) my Malaysian novel. NaNoWriMo is not about churning out glowing prose! It’s about setting your muse on fire, doing crazy things you would never do in a story. It is your license to, ahem, spill.

R. S. Guthrie raised some interesting points, among other things, when he argued against forcing a writer’s muse to work:

The problem is, shaking our muse awake and barking commands only serves to startle him or her into leaping from slumber and running headlong into that pesky, graffiti-scarred wall the East Germans used to call “Writer’s Bloc”. In fact, it’s been my experience that putting a collar on the muse and leading her to water gets you two things:  1) A pissed off muse. 2) A snoutful of fear when she throws you on your back and waterboards you.

He seems to believe that stress has never been a prime ingredient for creativity, and that forcing the muse is a “pretty poor way to create lasting, quality prose”.

He has a point there, but then again, I’m not aiming for quality. All I know is that a daily deadline is getting me further than I ever have since I decided to do this mad YA-novel-by-day, Malaysian-novel-by-night mission.

Hopefully if there’s one thing I can take away from the NaNoWriMo experience, it would be a writing habit that stays where it is like the loyal pooch, instead of the damn contrary cat it has been in recent years.

19144 / 50000 words. 38% done!

And 500 words of Malaysian Dark.

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Filed under Books, Fantasy, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Procrastination, State of Mind, Triumph, Writing

My Ode to Spam, or Day 9 NaNoWriMo

Couldn’t make my word count yesterday. I was so sleepy I could only achieve some 300 words last night.

I swear, it had something to do with the fact that firstly, I slept the day before at 10.30am (my fault), only to be awakened two hours later by the gorgeous, maddening smell somewhere of frying spam.

Yes, Spam.

Malaysians also call it luncheon meat. But apparently according to my friend Alison, luncheon meat in Scotland is more luxurious, whereas spam is just “things with gristle in them”. Euw.

I have such fond memories of spam! I used to fry luncheon meat with tobasco sauce, front and back, then make a sandwich with mustard and more tobasco sauce. The fumes of cooking tobasco sauce would smack into your face like a freight train of chilli shipments. A spam sandwich is seriously awesome with butter, but luncheon meat is juicy even without. Mmmmmn.

We’ve eaten spam with anything! Chopped into cubes for fried rice, fried it with eggs… heck, some creative people have even made sushi out of it. How wonderful is that?

I would so eat that.

Inspired, I shall now compose my ode – well, more like haiku since poetry is not my thing – to SPAM.

Oh Spam how sinful

you sing, hot with buttered bread 

and cholesterol.

Grieving for Skyrim

Tomorrow, 11.11.11, Skyrim releases into the world, and I can only weep. I have literally waited months and months for this video game that would make up for Dragon Age 2 as the ultimate computer RPG.

But come tomorrow, I won’t be one of those bloodthirsty fans getting it, simply because I can’t afford it yet.

Again Skyrim joins the long list – Dragon Age 2, Fallout New Vegas, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Mass Effect 2 and Witcher 2 – of video games I am waiting patiently to play. Like a piranha waiting for that fat tourist who’s just prematurely peeled off his foot scab to dip toes into the Amazon river.

Not only is Skyrim ridiculously expensive at launch time, but I’ve told myself I will only allow myself to play the games when I’ve finished the Malaysian novel. And I’m so close! I can sense blood in the water!

Let’s see, which will I play first… Ooh, decisions, decisions.. Probably Fallout New Vegas, first, at least until the price for Skyrim drops.

Skyrimmmmm.

Right. Should get back to the writing. Ahem, carry on.

14374 / 50000 words. 29% done!

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Deus Ex, Dragon Age, Fallout, Family, Fantasy, Food, Malaysia, Mass Effect, Novel, Procrastination, Skyrim, State of Mind, Witcher, Writing

Winter is Coming

Have you ever woken up in the wee hours of the morning, brain refreshed and renewed, and turned on your computer enthused about churning out page after page of glowing text from that novel you’ve been neglecting lately?

Only to find yourself going: Wait, I must check Facebook, ooh I must twitter this, look shiny interesting blogpost must read–screw you novel, stop pouting at me, you will keep!

My life feels a lot like that lately.

Zing

The weeks have been whizzing by pretty fast! First of all, the bookshop job has been demanding a lot out of me, but I’m immensely grateful for being employed. The first few weeks, taking the bus to work, I was on cloud nine.

Now it’s a bit shocking to realise how easy it is to take a job for granted. When I stumble home, body aching, the last thing I want to do is work on the novel – and this inspires a new range of feelings: a kind of resentment at the new distraction, guilt for procrastinating and not writing more, and a deeper self-loathing along the lines of Why-Can’t-You-Be-More-Disciplined-and-Get-Your-Life-Together?

My friends tell me that I am just too hard on myself, that the brain needs rest and time to simmer over plotlines and ideas, so on and so forth. But deep down I feel that I myself should get some words down at the end of the day, to feed that writing habit.

Also, best friend Liz (with her usual brand of tough love) reminds me that I should focus on the positive side of things and what I’ve achieved so far (she suggested making a list, which I thoroughly and honestly plan to do one day). And that I should shift my mindset from ‘I must finish this’ to ‘I should aim to…’

This way, writing becomes less about about the stick-and-morningstar, ahem, but more goal oriented.

I Not Been Idle!

In any case, the writing bits are coming along – just not much on the novel.

Besides deriving (probably too many!) hours and hours of pleasure MUSHing, I have sent a story for a writing contest, edited someone’s synopsis, and been wistfully eyeing yet another anthology called ‘Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations’.

I wish I knew about this one sooner, rather than just two weeks before the deadline! I do have a possible story in me head, but it requires a ton of research, more thinking, and certainly a more stable environment considering I am supposed to be finally moving back to our flat next week – now that repairs are (supposedly) done after a nasty flooding incident last December. (Good lord, still can’t believe my poor landlady has been out of her own home since last year!)

Anyway after a bit of soul searching, I’ve decided to sadly give this intriguing-sounding anthology a pass, although it doesn’t mean I will not work on that germ of a story someday.

At the very least, the past month I also sat down and fleshed out the villains that might appear in my Malaysian Dark series. Yes, the eternal novel I’ve been working on has actually sprouted babies. I always knew Malaysian Dark would make a good series, considering the limitless possibilities of its folklore. It’s just a question of how I can develop all the pieces together in the beginning, and not tack on some convenient piece of lore as an afterthought (*cough* George Lucas *cough*).

Winter is Coming

But time is of the essence. I should aim to finish (see what I just did? ; ) most of the novel by the end of this month, because November is NaNoWri. I’d been toying whether to actually commit myself to it, since my US friend Ashley has been fired up about churning out that 50,000 word novel.

If I do decide to do it, I’ve even got an idea on what to write. It would, surprisingly, be a Young Adult novel, which I realise could be such a pleasure to do. It would get my head out of the Malaysian urban fantasy morass that is Malaysian Dark, and make for a lovely change of pace. I’m actually excited about writing it too! Funnily enough, it was the bookshop job that inspired it.

Argh, but…should finish Malaysian Dark! Winter is coming, and knowing me, if I’m too damn cold, I cannot write. (I still remember shivering in my room last year because my fingers were half frozen, despite the gloves).

Plus, next month is when I start on the new Christmas mail sorting job, God willing.

November be coming, and I must make a decision soon.

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Filed under Contests, Fantasy, Malaysia, MUSH, Novel, Photography, Procrastination, Role-Playing Game, State of Mind, Triumph, Writing

Pinch me, I live!

Blogging is like riding a bicycle. Once you fall off and skin your knees, it’s damn hard to get on that bike again.

So has it been with me about blogging, or writing diaries or journals in one form of another! Diaries and I have had a tempestuous relationship over the years. From the age of nine, I’d jot a few ‘Dear Diary, I broke my brother’s toy today and my mother doesn’t understand me’ lines. And then I’d wander away a couple of months, reread those passages, and wonder what emo weed was I smoking.

One time my best friend gave me a lovely notebook (I find it difficult to resist the allure of a fresh unspoiled journal, my house is full of them and yes, I don’t mind more). On the very first page of that new gift, I wrote enthusiastically about my day.

When I finally got around to adding to that journal again, on Page Two, it was nine years later. Nine. I was somewhat impressed I returned at all. I’m pretty sure that journal is around here somewhere.

I started blogging in 2003 and again the Fairweather Syndrome set in. I wrote a few weeks, trundled back in 2006, and since then, I’m quite proud to say I’ve actually been at it for months at a time.  And now here I am!

Right, so where am I at?

I Live, Really

What a month it has been! I am fairly breathless and sore and achey all over. First of all, I got a temporary two-month job in a bookstore. I can’t believe I got it! I was beginning to lose faith of ever being employed again. Despite some hitches and a few boos-boos on my part, I am absolutely loving this job.

I’m actually sad my contract finishes end of this month, as I adore the amazing people and the environment here, but at least it is valuable CV experience. I would love to stay on for a part-time job here, but ah well, I can only drop hints and not hope too much. I’m thankful enough as it is.

What is it I do? Well, it’s the busy Back to University period and I’m assigned to Customer Orders. I basically get orders and reservations from people, and then, like a detective, chase after that book! Whether it is somewhere amidst three floors of bookshelves, or when acquiring the book from…somewhere else. It’s that latter part that can be a doozy. It certainly keeps me on my feet! And it’s certainly never dull.

Consider, for instance, the first week when I was helping this sweet old lady who was trying to decide whether to buy this book she had reserved. I was talking to her when I decided to close this folding chair which was obstructing the work space, I thought. The next thing I knew, I’d snapped the chair shut on my finger. I felt a warm tingle from a fingertip.

And then blood squirted over both my hands. I stared in morbid fascination as red gushed from a single cut over my nail. The elderly lady was on the phone asking someone for advice about the book. I removed a tissue I happened to have in my pocket and jammed it over the cut. I was about to excuse myself when she suddenly asked me to speak to her friend on her mobile phone.

So what did I do? I hid my injured hand behind my back – because by then it looked rather alarming – and spoke briefly to a bemused sounded young bloke on the phone. Then I gave the phone back, cheerfully told her to take the book to a sales counter if she wanted it, then fled for help.

I didn’t think so much blood could come for a tiny wound! Luckily my manager was able to administer first aid, and wrapped the finger until it looked like Quasimodo’s hump with an allergy episode.

My Other Life

Everyone who works in the bookstore seems to lead a double life. One colleague is a playwright, for instance. Another is a musician, and so on. It’s all really quite fascinating! Whereas myself, I’m supposed to be a dedicated writer.

Progress on the novel is slower than I’d like. But on the positive side, I’ve submitted a short story to Cleis Press in time for the anthology deadline, and saw the release of my Edinburgh tour article for an iPhone travel app! I was rather proud of that one, because the latter bit involved a huge amount of research and fact checking that took up two months of my time. I’ll probably not make much money off it, but it’s good for experience.

Also, I’ve had to put my waitress job temporarily on hold until my bookseller contract is done, but at least the Auntie has been understanding about it. I might possibly have the job back if they need people. At the very least, if they take me back, if I have no other prospects, I can earn most of the rent money from the waitressing.

Meanwhile, I am trying to find a contest, anthology or magazine that will accept this short story I wrote based in 15th century Malacca. I am somewhat proud of The Caretaker, but it’s been uncommonly difficult to find acceptance for it. I already submitted it to fantasy and SF publication Interzone, and it came back with a polite rejection note.

But ah well, persistence is the name of the game. Somewhere out there, I’m sure I’ll find a home for it.

Must keep writing, must keep the fire going.

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Filed under Contests, Fantasy, Malaysia, Novel, Procrastination, Triumph, Writing

Attack of the Killer Bumps

Whoops! I should be writing today, but I just had to show this.

I was walking home the other day when I came across this weird black bump on the pavement. Two of them! They were the most adorable things in the world I’d ever seen. I don’t even know how I could have missed it, walking that same route twice a week.

Was it new? I never noticed!

Why was it shaped like… Well, look at it! It’s not particularly slender nor cylindrical.

It just inspires feelings of fuzzy ooziness.

“K-Ump rose from the deep, deep ooze where he had lain dormant for centuries. He emerged into the wet air, thrust his sensory nodules out to sniff, studied the lay of the land. How flat everything was. He crooned contentedly. The world was ripe for the taking.

“Then his ancient enemy Durty-Dawg sneaked up on him and lifted a leg.” 

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Filed under Leisure, Photography, Procrastination, Science Fiction, Writing

Hopping to It

Let's storm that, er, castle.

In an attempt to put my life in some kind of order, let me review some of the things I’m doing / rushing lately.

June 15th? Have to finish this Edinburgh Tour article very soon, like NOW. It’s the first time anyone ever (recently) engaged me to write anything. It’s slow going however as I have to be careful with the research and fact checking, but will be so worth it, I think.

June 27th: Need to submit something to the 2011 Story Shop submissions call for the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). If successful, I would be able to read an extract of my work, like I did in last year’s festival for the slot on Writing into the Future: The Best from Scotland’s Creative Writing Courses (I still blush at that mouthful of a title). Let’s see if I can repeat the feat this year.

For those wondering, the opportunity came up when I got the email telling me I didn’t get the EIBF bookseller position. Someone was kind enough to get back to me and say competition for the places were fierce this year, and there were simply others with much more bookseller experience than me. Oh well, chin up. Rise and rise again.

July 3: Illicit Ink’s next fabulous evening spoken word event: The Midsummer Murder Mystery. I have again surprised myself by agreeing to read a story! It just so happens I’d already written the draft of a crime-themed tale. So all I need to do is polish it for performance, steel my nerves, and go all out.

July 29: For some reason, I got my eye on this – Cleis Press‘ romantic erotica anthology called Beastly Babes. They’re asking for submissions, and already I am pondering how to come up with something suitably Malaysian. I should also really get around to submitting one or two of my short stories to Interzone or Black Static sometime. One lucky success does not a writer make!

There’s also a LONG list of freelance writing work I need to bid for and battle it out with hundreds of other writers. I know it has to be done, and tried. It just gets frustrating because writing the bids are so time consuming, with often very little gain.

Oh and following certain recent events, I seem to be seized by this sudden need to speak to as many Malaysian writers as possible.

The job hunt also continues. I’ve decided not to spend £1,200 on some ludicrously expensive computer diploma course. Now looking elsewhere for certification and cheaper training.

Oh. Yeah. I should probably also get down to finishing my novel too.

Tick, tick, tick.

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Old Library

Hurray, I found pictures of my old library!

This was back in Ipoh city, of the state of Perak in Malaysia. I worked in Ipoh for eight years and, well, one tends to accumulate the odd book here and there. Those sturdy bookshelves were snapped up for an absolute bargain, thanks to my lovely housemate. It’d taken scores of boxes to move them from my previous cramped house, and once I had finally assembled them on the shelves of my new home, in order of genre and species: Bliss.

How I so loved to stare at the shelves. There’s something comforting about coming home weary from work (I was a journalist) to feast your eyes on those lovely books all stacked out.

And then I resigned my job to study in Edinburgh, and the time came to ship my somewhat expanded collection back to my hometown, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

That’s in Borneo, by the way, across the frickin’ South China Sea. This was when I learned my library numbered some 600, not including the stacks of magazines, comics and graphic novels. And this was AFTER I had sold three bagfuls of them for cash.

I nearly broke the backs of my poor parents when they flew in to help me pack. They didn’t have to help, bless them, but for some reason my Dad thought I couldn’t do it all on my own.

“SIX HUNDRED!?” I could hear him mentally roar as he stood there staring at the shelves resembling tracts of stubborn battlefields.

In the end, we needed TEN large plastic containers to pack them all in. Later as we huffed and puffed, hauling the sealed containers between us precariously down the stairs, I made sure to look properly contrite while my Dad muttered about how I would be the death of them.

Here is a very rough inventory of my library, off the top of my head:

Fantasy(roughly 30%) – Tolkien, C.J.Cherryh (Chronicles of Morgaine), Fritz Leiber (Lankhmar), Ursula K. Le Guin (Earthsea etc), Dianne Wynne Jones, Megan Whalen Turner (I adore her Attolia books), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance), Jim Butcher, Piers Anthony (Incarnation series), Wendy and Richard Pini (Elfquest), C.S.Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Steven Jackson (Fighting Fantasy), Mercedes Lackey (Valdermar), Mickey Zucker Reichert (Nightfall), and probably some others I’ve forgotten or despise.

Science Fiction (15%) – Frank Herbert (Dune), Stephen Baxter (Evolution), Star Wars, I am sure there are plenty more, I just can’t remember!

Other Fiction (5%) – The odd classic, thriller, crime and Young Adult titles, such as Anthony Horowitz’s strangely compelling Alex Rider spy series. There’s something about the writing that just hooks you in, and that’s a rare talent.

How-To (8%) – Plenty of books on plot, characters, viewpoint, how to write fantasy and science fiction, and so on.

Non-Fiction (8%) – I keep acquiring books on psychology, first aid, survival, religion, history, wars, castles, conspiracies and so on. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and so on.

Manga (15%) – Some titles were given as review copies, since I used to write manga and anime reviews for my newspaper company. But mostly I’m guilty of spending a sinful amount of cash on these in my richer days: Gravitation, Death Note, Fruits Basket, Fake, King of Thorns, Saiyuki, and some significant number of shonen-ai and yaoi titles 🙂

Comics/Graphic Novels (15%) – Strangers in Paradise, Bone, X-Men, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Impulse, A Distant Soil, scores of titles. Clear Marvel slant there.

Magazines (4%) – Stuff, PC Gamer or any other tech or computer gaming magazines. Basically anything geek.

I just wish I took better pictures of my fantasy collection! But ah well, most of them are back in my hometown now, waiting for me.

When I travelled to UK, I did carefully choose and take with me a few favourites. These are the books which, one way or another, inspire me to write fantasy in the first place. A topic for another time!

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