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My Liebling, or Day 27 NaNoWriMo

Now it’s my turn.

A dragon-sized Thank You to Limebird Writers and J.C.V for nominating me just days apart for a Liebster Blog award! I don’t think you can receive the award more than once, but it’s a great honour nonetheless.

Now I hope Limebird Writers don’t mind, but I am going to shamelessly steal their definition of what this award is 🙂

“The Liebster Blog Award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers, all in the spirit of fostering new connections. Liebster is German and means ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favourite’ .”

It seems I now have to nominate my “top five” picks, which I presume means my favourite writerly blogs, and let them know by leaving a comment on their site.

Apparently this includes then “basking in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers”, and most of all, to “have fun and spread the karma!”

Fun, I can do. I am not very good at basking. Which reminds me too much of basting, as in the basting of turkey, a word I just learned last month and which sounds to me like stewing in your own grease and sweat while an editor skewers you with a Death Star glare. (Can you tell NaNoWriMo is eating my brain?)

But anyway! On to my five picks, which was very hard, I can tell you. So many blogs to choose from!

I hemmed, I hawed, I headbanged and curled up in a foetal position on my bed. (Nicholls, I noticed you were nominated too, so I got to pick another one 😉

So here they are in no particular order! Go check them out, because I find them particularly inspiring, uplifting and even soothing after a long, hard day.

1) The Canary – This group of writers and editors have been churning out a massive amount of exciting content, from reviews of YA novels and literary titles, to brutal yet fascinating dissections of book blurbs.

2) Wife and War – I’m not very good at appreciating poetry but I find Amalie Flynn’s poems to be haunting and utterly mesmerising. This blog is about her coping as a military wife and reconnecting with a husband returning from war.

3) Deb E – Her tagline is ‘Writer, Illustrator, Mum’ – and it is debatable which job is the hardest! I love blogs about writers working on their novels, and there’s something about her fiction and art I enjoy.

4) Ika Writes – It’s not often you find another Malaysian who writes fantasy, much less someone so committed to getting her work out there. (I plan to attend Worldcon too, Ika!) She’s rewriting her fantasy novel with an eye to getting it all shiny and polished next year, last I heard.

5) Blood on Forgotten Walls – I find Ever Dundas’ stories somewhat dark and disturbing – and I like it! Her art is also amazing, and I could lick her name cards.

These stood out for me, and I wish I could choose more! Gute Nacht, everyone 🙂

NaNoWriMo wordcount

46453 / 50000 words. 93% done!

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

The Game, or Day 13 NaNoWriMo

I seem to be in a short story mood this week! Actually this was for a contest of 140 words, with a deadline I didn’t realise was for midnight of a particular day. By the time I noticed, it was exactly 12.02am. Ooops. So close, and yet so far.

Anyway it was 200 words too long, and in the end I decided to edit it and have a bit of fun with the story. A tale is never wasted in my mind!

Comments welcome, including suggestions for a better title 😀

***

The Game by Chris Kouju

The signs had been there from the beginning.

Yuzor was prone to impatience – swearing, aborted quests, constant fidgeting with the controls. It had the horde on edge. They could smell death in the air.

“Get in there,” I said, when I noticed Yuzor stepping onto the final battlefield. At my command, hellhounds surrounded his avatar on all sides, jaws lunging to kill. Yuzor dispensed with them easily, but no, he’d sapped too much of his avatar’s strength. He should have held back.

Hoping the victory would bolster his spirits, I sent in the Demagorge on a cloud of black smoke. The beast bellowed until the battlefield shook.

The avatar lifted his glowing sword and charged. As he did, we prayed it would be a good fight – one worthy of holding his attention.

He died the first time, of course. This was to be expected. The horde took pride in their challenge ratings, but I had other concerns. I watched for the signs of frustration.

He died again. Respawned. Tried again, only to die with spectacular speed. Each attempt, I could sense the horde holding its collective breath.

On the tenth try, I sensed a change. He was learning – honing his power, saving it for the critical moments. He jumped back when he should, knew when to lunge and where to slash at the Demagorge. He was winning!

I began to smile.

And then the Demagorge struck a lucky blow, killing him instantly.

We all heard Yuzor scream as his avatar lay sprawled beneath yet another game screen asking if he wanted to reload his last save. In his rage, we trembled.

Minutes later, the battlefield tore apart before our very eyes. Our world devolved to white, and I was forced to watch as my horde of hellhounds and arkbeasts were sent howling to the ether.

He’d given up. I cried out, but didn’t think he heard me.

Now in this blackness I must wait, alone, for the day he installs us in his heart – and hard drive – again.

END

NaNoWriMo Report Card

22564 / 50000 words. 45% done!

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Irony, or Day 7 NaNoWriMo

Well now, this is a riot. Turns out the dream about my laptop coming on fire was prophetic. The day after I posted, my baby Blue Screened on me! I need better dream interpretation skills! Thank God for my netbook.

I had to spend half the afternoon travelling to drop off my laptop at a computer shop, but at least I got to meet and chat with a lovely friend who saved me from a potentially bad decision.

Plus, it was a stunning blue sky today. Wish I’d taken pictures!

Coooooold

I nearly didn’t make today’s word count, simply because time was lost in getting my laptop repaired, and because earlier in the night, my hands were freezing despite me huddling under the duvet with the heating and my shiny new electric blanket on.

I found out later the temperature was a mere 1 degree Celcius – absolute madness. I have to wonder how the Scots of ancient history ran around storming castles and waging war in this kind of weather!

Today was also when I read the Week Two section of Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem book. Apparently we’re only supposed to read each of the weeks only when we reach that stage, so it’s a bit of a treat. The most useful advice I got from the Week One section was to:

  1. Turn Off Your Inner Editor (lovely reminder, as it drives me to keep writing)
  2. Avoid rereading what you’ve written in favour of chugging ahead (it certainly save time!)
  3. Keep the story to yourself
Of the three, I think it’s okay to tell people about your story as long as you make it clear you’re not asking for critiques or criticisms. You’re supposed to be inspired in Week One, not deflated.

As for Week Two, it seems I am heading for a storm in “three or four days”.

You’ve wrapped up the exposition, and now something book-like has to happen. Someone needs to fall in love. Or get amnesia. Or go on a road trip. But who? And how?

The questions just keep piling up and your first impulse will likely be to chuck out the whole thing and go back to the blissful life you led before this five-headed literary monster began devouring all your free time. As you write your way through the next seven days, know that Week Two hurts so bad because you’re making huge strides in your book, solving a year’s worth of plot and character problems in one over-caffeinated week.

The answers wll come. Just keep at it, and before you know it, Week Two will be a distant memory. The sun will be shining again, the way will be clear, and the writing will be fun once more.

What’s assuring is that I still only have a vague concept of a plot in my YA novel, and the book says that’s okay.

The best thing you can do for your story is to really let your characters move this week. Give them space to show parts of themselves they may have kept hidden in the first seven days. Encourage them to act out, indulge their desires, no matter how zany or destructive those desires may be. Allow change, and plot will happen.

I have this vague sense I am about to boot my main character into the wild, as it were. I even have the means, I just don’t know what’s going to happen. We shall see!

Update: Third day I’ve not been able to write Malaysian novel with all the interruptions. I plan to make up for some of it tomorrow! Which is technically later today. After I’ve had sleep, ahem.

Update #2: My friend Matt alerted me about this lovely Eastern-themed anthology, which challenges writers to reinvent some of Eastern myths. “–As adults, we’re sometimes bugged by the moralistic, simplistic way these fables are told. We’re aching to hear these tropes subverted, perverted or simply adapted to reflect our times.”

It’s due 31 January. I even have a book of Malaysian fables! Can’t wait to try my hand at this. Thanks, Matt!

Nine am now. Time for bed.

12165 / 50000 words. 24% done!

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November ‘Nanigans!

Recent Bedside Books

Here I am, having moved (again!) to my original flat after roughly ten months of living in temporary flats. How wonderful it is to have a stable home again.

For some reason, my books have bred like bunnies, however, and I was forced to make room for them on another makeshift shelf. If only there was some way to neuter my purse.

Anyway one unpacking, cleaning and vacuum later, and my bedroom is decent again. Which brings me to November.

Shenanigans

For over a week I wondered how I was going to commit to NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – when I haven’t fully finished Malaysian Dark yet. With one week left to October, I had to:

  1. Pack and move house
  2. Finish up loose ends at the bookshop job (like baking farewell beer brownies for the colleagues, twice, after certain misadventures with the Evil Oven of Temp Flat #2)
  3. Play this new tabletop RPG game, Anima, I’d been eager to try out with friends;
  4. And somehow finish that novel.

I can see it – the ending of Malaysian Dark – so clearly. I’m almost there. I just need to bridge the gap between the Chapter where the Hero is Horribly Traumatised, and the Chapter where Revelation Hits, which would hurtle me towards the ending I’ve already written. I tried to finish by the end of October, but it’s been a struggle.

And then it hit me. Why not do both? Write both for NaNoWriMo AND finish the novel in November too? I had some time, now that the bookshop job was finished. Sure, I had some commitments with the charity shop volunteering, and a possible mail sorter job later this month…

Why not?

1,700 words a day + 1,000?

Disclaimer: Models were used to re-enact the awesomeness of the Hat

So yes, I decided to do both. NaNoWri by day, novel by night.

I am taking precautions. I have appointed my new fuzzy headwear, the Blessed Hat of Productivity +5, so that whenever I don this holy cap of authorship, I shall be afire with the need to ejaculate as many words onto the screen as possible. I shall wear it chanting the mantras of NaNoWriMo:

    1. Quantity, not Quality.
    2. The Backspace Key is Thine Enemy.
    3. Announce your Commitment to the World, so that the World may Mocketh thee if Thou Dost Not Finish;
    4. Neglect all Social Commitments, but thou art allowed to findeth out what happened to thine Thief left Abandoned on that damn beach in Anima–

Okay, so I made that last up. Hey, I need to reward myself somehow!

I even have a writing buddy, one I have shamelessly egged into doing it, and we are both excited. We drew up our Magna Cartas, and Evil Magna Cartas, as suggested by Chris Baty in his wonderful book No Plot? No Problem!

My story will be, oddly enough, a Youth Adult novel, something I’ve never written before. I have enjoyed Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series, and Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books in the past, however. Here’s my Magna Carta list of what I would love to see in a/my novel:

  • Bookshops (this whole premise was inspired by my bookshop job)
  • Travelling, dimension hopping
  • A young protagonist with a sensible head on his/her shoulders
  • Magic – unique powers
  • Characters who survive great hardships or abusive backgrounds, overcome a flaw/disadvantage
  • Plot twists
  • Awesome villains – does not think they’re evil
  • Drama with a sense of humour
  • Books with grandiose titles
  • Tyrannical employers
  • Unexpected/thwarted romances – young, gay, sweet, subtle and awkward?
  • Good to bittersweet endings
  • Sacrifice
  • Redemption
  • Elaborate, intricate worlds that I would love to explore – sense of wonder
  • Pretzels, candy, chocolate – Very Important
  • Angels, dragons, demons, unicorns – Very Important

And here is my Evil Magna Carta, things I dislike in a/my novel:

  • ZOMBIES!!
  • Yet another vampire character – unless something different about it
  • Silly and nonsensical settings
  • Pets
  • Ditzy women
  • Pretentious writing
  • Characters who do (dumb) things that make no sense
  • Scenes that demean gay/bisexual chars
  • Characters who do long soliloquies aloud, or in their heads
  • Overly scifi or ‘lifeless’ settings – I want worlds that breathe
  • Too many strange events or settings that alienate readers – strange for the sake of being strange
  • Too many viewpoints that make it hard for readers to care
  • Contemporary settings – unless it is different/unique enough
  • Trite or convenient deus ex machina
  • Characters who brood/angst overly much – Get over yourself!
  • Too many adverbs
  • Clumsy info dumps – “As you know, Jim, we are three hundred years old and secretly blue”

Mind you I wrote these while half asleep, but it will do. Right then. No more dithering. On to Day One of NaNoWriMo! Wish me luck and sanity!

Hmmm, I suppose I should think about a character and plot, huh?

By the Way

My lesbian erotica shapeshifter story was accepted for the anthology Beastly Babes (now called She-Shifters). I am so relieved. The ‘race through a rain forest morphing from tiger to kingfisher’ part refers to my story!

It’s another step, at least. Must keep writing, must keep sending out there.

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Filed under Books, Charity Shop, Contests, Fantasy, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Role-Playing Game, State of Mind, Triumph, 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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Things that Go Bump in the (Malaysian) Night

For once, last night I actually slept at a decent hour (10pm as opposed to 6am) and woke up feeling much better compared to yesterday.  Body less achy, yay!

In fact, I even dozed off browsing the Malaysian Book of the Undead, a compendium of ghosts, spirits and jins benevolent or otherwise, for character ideas for the Beastly Babes anthology. Yup. I know how to choose my bedtime stories.

This is as good a time as any to share some of the wonderful illustrations of this book, which was published by Matahari Books and compiled by Danny Lim. Artist Mohd Kadir did the illustrations, and I have to say he really outdid himself. I wish I could see more of his work.

Those of faint stomachs should probably look away now 🙂

Euw. The Penanggalan is a species of female vampire said to detach her head from her body, entrails dangling, to fly around searching for women about to give birth.

I love the dogs! The Hantu Gerasi is accompanied by spectral hounds and is said to have a voracious appetite...for us.

The call of this serpent-eagle spirit, the Moyang Lang Kuit of aboriginal Mah Meri folklore, is thought to be a bad omen - signalling either someone's death, or that one's village will soon be abandoned.

The Jin (Jinn / Djinn) in Malaysia are difficult to define. They could be free spirits or bound to the will of a shaman. From my own research, there's even mention of complex societies and cases of them marrying humans. I wonder if they're the same?

Toyol - Awww. Looks like a goblin, doesn't it?

Awesome stuff. At 116 pages, I wish this compendium had been longer! There are many entries with single sentence explanations, with the most amount of pages given to popular supernatural beings like the Bunian and the Toyol. At first I thought it was simply the lack of research available, but I could find other references to Hantu Keramat, for instance.

There are also times throughout the book when Danny Lim demonstrates what a wicked wit he has, and I would have loved to have seen more, like what he wrote on the Pontianak, another lovely female vampire said to find her victims by hitching a ride on lonely roads:

“The lucky man who manages to vamoose before she can attack will usually fall ill with fever for several days, but at least live to tell the tale so that all beautiful female hitchhikers will always be forced to walk alone at night.”

And then there are ghosts that just BEG for elaboration:

Hantu Gulung – a river ghost that rolls up its victims.

Hantu Kangkang – the ‘straddling ghost’; male counterpart of the Hantu Kopek. This ghost uses his private parts to attack victims.

…Wha?

Seriously, this is not the sort of thing superstitious Malaysians laugh at. Heck, I’d gladly read about serial killer cannibals but when it comes to our own ghost stories, I’m a chicken! (Hey, I have to live there after all).

And lastly I leave with the Malay cover version of the book 🙂

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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 ÂŁ1,200 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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