Tag Archives: family

Once More for the Skies, Dear Friends

Pretty in spring

I’m back. Again. Hello, anyone!

A lot can happen in six months. Or seven. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. And when the days fly past, part of me can’t help but feel guilty on days when I’m not squeezing every drop of creative brain juice possible onto the page by the time the clock hits bedtime.

But as a friend pointed out, I need Sanity Breaks too!

I’ve needed a lot of Sanity Breaks this year.

Here is a quick summary – Good and Bad – of what’s happened/happening since February.

  • I had the most amazing time in Texas – yay!
  • I returned home safely to Edinburgh (I swear!)
  • I had one  short story published in an anthology
  • I’m halfway to editing my Malaysian urban fantasy novel (faster! *cracks whip*)
  • I’ve been frantically planning a trip to Europe this month with my parents – woo!
  • I’ve been working full-time in a clothing store since April – double yay!

Yes, after months of agonising, dread and drama, I finally chased down that most elusive quarry – a permanent full-time job in the UK. Pity it took a year before I could corner it, but better late than never, at least!

A summer view outside my window

The sad thing about it? My visa expires this year on Dec 10, and that means I must go home to Malaysia, leaving behind a gorgeous city and amazing, amazing friends. And because I’d be disappearing the whole month of October for my Europe trip, I had to resign from my job end of September. No company was going to let me beam off the planet for a month and take me back another month, only for me to disappear into the Delta Quadrant when December hits. Unless you were a Very Nice company.

It’s been an incredible experience nonetheless, these past few months, working in the clothing store. But that’s a story for another day.

The Bad News

The downside? Let’s just say I’ve had a bit of an emotional crisis. The kind that involves family, challenges your sense of identity and esteem, and bitchslaps when you choose to butt heads against walls people have built an entire lifetime. The kind of crisis that makes you want to curl in bed and give up.

I have to admit: May, June were tough months. It was hard to concentrate. I had the emotional equivalent of train wrecks stuck on Repeat in my brain. I spent months questioning who I am, what I am, what I should be.

Even now, with the Europe trip of a lifetime about to kick off in just four days…well, some days are hard.

But guess what?

I’m still here, still writing, still living and reaching for the Dream.

I am Rocky Balboa. I am Jean Grey. I am hunger and anger and joy and pain, and I am NOT giving up. Blue skies, ahoy!

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Filed under Depression, Family, Malaysia, Novel, State of Mind, Work, Writing

My 1st Role-Playing Game, or Day 20 NaNoWriMo

My first RPG. With much thanks to HMTKSteve and Acaeum for the picture!

Twenty years ago, more or less, I played a thief character in a role-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons Basic.

It was my first such game, and I was still unsure about pretending to be someone else, with statistics, in a fantasy world. The only thing I knew for sure was, I love fantasy!

My friend Freda was the game master, and between the two of us, she put my thief character through a simple adventure I can no longer remember. We were armed with nothing but sheets of paper, pencils and erasers, dice…and our imaginations.

The two things that stuck from that first game was:

1) My char’s life points were so low a single hit from an enemy could kill me.

2) The memory of my thief stepping on a log to cross a river, only for this ‘log’ to actually be a crocodile chomping for my leg!

It’s an old chestnut now, this classic trap. But ahh, those were wild and exciting days, this idea that I could explore imaginary worlds and take on the role of a character who wasn’t this shy, introverted, damaged girl.

For reasons that remain unclear to me, Freda wandered away, and I was desperate to play it again. I played gamebooks, highly enjoyable solo adventures but it wasn’t the same. I needed people. I need…a party of fellow adventurers.

Trouble was, I was in Malaysia. And NO ONE knew what this Ar-Pee-Gee thing was. I resorted, then, to desperate measures: I recruited family members.

Actually, ‘recruited’ is too mild a word. I shanghaied them. Cajoled. Poked and bullied my mystified brother and cousins  into a room where somehow we sat down with a minimum of chaos and played. I wanted to be a player instead of the storyteller, but I had no choice. I had to be the gamemaster. I had the rules, and it was me who ran the show.

Little did I know it, but that was my first exposure to public speaking. I remember stammering, nervous shuffling through sheets of paper, my voice quavering while desperately describing scenarios that would hold the interest of arguably one of the toughest audiences of all.

We had some fun times, I recall, with my finest moment involving a monstrous cyclops and a mirror and my brother and cousins resorting to hilarious ways of bringing it down. I smile at the memory, but I still wanted someone else to run the show.

My Latest Adventure

Some would say I’m now on the greatest adventure of all – having given up a cushy job to fly halfway across the world to this exotic land of Scotland. I’m dirt poor, but exceedingly happy. For one thing, I’ve found a new gaming group, and good friends to play with.

The game is Anima, an anime-inspired RPG. I play yet another thief character named Sevren Gale, who has some minor, ahem, people issues and is somewhat attached to his crow companion, Kai.

Its been ages since I played with a group, and it shows. And I’m no longer quite the girl I was before. Each time I play, however, I get practice expressing myself in a storytelling format. And really, anything that can make you do that, and open your mind to worlds of wonder and possibility, doesn’t deserve the label of a mere game for “children or geeks”.

(I am, however, unashamedly geek).

For those interested, here’s a brief extract from a session report:

Sevren forgets the lord’s name as soon as he hears it. He’s too busy staring at the man’s damn house – a thousand slum families could probably fit into the place.

As usual, he lets Ya’el do the talking while Sevren sits, trying to decide if it was worth making off with the silverware. Their employer – ugh, what was his name? Sevren decides to call him Lord High and Mighty – was telling them about how his daughter had been kidnapped. Just when Sevren’s thinking this was going to be a rescue mission, Lord High and Mighty adds his daughter was returned unharmed after he’d paid her ransom.

“But,” LHM says, seething, “I want those bastards who kidnapped her to pay. Honour must be satisfied!”

That’s when Sevren looks up from scratching Kai’s feathers. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me the kidnappers gave her back, alive, and you want us to go after them? You already paid them. They fulfilled their part of the bargain.”

LHM booms something about justice and honour and all that shlock, and Sevren has to pull Ya’el to one side.

“Something is not right here,” Sevren hisses to her. “What is a nobleman of his rank doing recruiting for people in a seedy tavern? He has people to do that sort of thing for him. The guild of fighters, for instance. Something is fishy here.”

Ya’el argues with him (she seems to want to do this stupid job for some reason) and Sevren argues right back. In the end, the thief agrees to go along with LHM’s revenge mission. Mostly because enough money was offered for it to go right into Sevren’s head.

The next thing he knew, LHM was taking about some Orin Doom person who led the group of bandits that kidnapped the girl. Sevren definitely got the idea that two people were not going to take on that band in their fortress.

“We need to outsource,” Ya’el says to him.

LHM next jabbers about something interesting. An air ship known as a Zeppelin was going to make its maiden voyage from Holdfast to Daal, where from there their merry band could make their way to the bandits’ hideout.

“I will get you passage on that voyage,” the lord says.

Sevren sighs happily. Kai would like that.

NaNoWriMo Word Count

33828 / 50000 words. 68% done!

To recap: my mission this month of November – to do NaNoWriMo by day, my other Malaysian novel by night, and blog about something vaguely interesting every day of November. So far I am surviving!

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Filed under Books, Family, Fantasy, Gamebooks, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Role-Playing Game, State of Mind, Triumph, Writing

My ‘Boyfriend’, or Day 10 NaNoWriMo

Friday again, and that means it’s back to my restaurant night job, something I look forward to with utter rapture, I can tell you. Let’s see if the kitchen staff continue to give me grief.

On the plus side, I notice the restaurant people have stopped asking me whether I have a boyfriend. This was months after a ploy of mine that involved, ahem, borrowing a colleague from my temporary job, and asking (okay, begging) him to pretend to be my boyfriend.

That’s right, we had a ‘pretend’ date in the same restaurant I work. Horrible, I know, but I actually enjoyed dinner with the boy, who was charming and very sporting about the plan.

Anyway since then, the restaurant people have stopped nagging me about my relationship status, which is a relief. Before that they tried to set me up with someone, something that has already happened to me twice!

I know they mean well, but I swear, it’s like there’s something genetically ingrained in the Chinese people to find out whether you’ve been grafted by the hip to anyone yet.

Once I had a Malaysian colleague who expressed surprise that I didn’t plan to marry anytime soon. Shaking her head, she cited how the Bible said that we should “go forth and multiply”, adding that women even have a duty to bear children.

I can’t remember what I replied, but one thing I do feel strongly about:

  • I don’t need to be married for my life to be complete.
  • I don’t need to have a partner to be content or even happy – although I do admit it can get lonely around Christmas or Chinese New Year. But isn’t that what parents, siblings and friends are for?
  • I feel I am still getting to know myself. And I can barely look after myself, kitchen disasters notwithstanding. How can I be expected to care for another human being?
  • Selfish as it is, I’m enjoying my privacy and independence too much to give it all up, and yeah, people knowingly say someday I’ll meet that someone I would be willing to make the Ultimate Sacrifice for. But until then I am having too much fun!

Man, I don’t how I suddenly ended up ranting about singlehood. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Christmas is coming around, and I’m feeling a little melancholy. I know this is my ‘fault’, but at least I can feel thankful I have so many friends to take the place of where partner and children would be!

Some years ago, I decided to have a serious talk with my parents.

I asked them if it was all right I didn’t marry yet. After all, I was the only daughter in a (mostly) Chinese family, and I was already about 26 or 28. In Malaysia, much of the older generation still expects you to marry around a certain age, and there’s bound to be pressure when the next social gathering comes along and the relatives cheerfully ask you when is that big day.

But my mom said: “As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.”

I don’t know if they realise it, but my parents have given me the greatest gift of all. They’ve given me love and support, but most of all they have given me the freedom to choose how I wish to live my life.

Perhaps someday God will direct me to someone I’ll live the rest of my life with. Until then I can only humbly enjoy this gift of happiness.

Speaking of happiness…

Report Card

Arghhh! Still on massive Skyrim envy, torturing myself with every video game review I do not quite read. A friend installed the game a few hours ago, and I can only vainly listen to snippets of non-quite-but-verging-on spoilers.

Tackled more of the NaNoWriMo yesterday! And 600 more words of Malaysian Dark. I must finish my Malaysian novel! I am aiming for December to finish first draft.

10am. Must sleeeeeeep.

17330 / 50000 words. 35% done!

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Family, Fantasy, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Skyrim, State of Mind, Triumph, Work

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

The Only Way You Can Go is Up

I got another job rejection today.

I’ve decided to do a count ever since I started applying for work in this country, and have come up with the following statistics:

Rejections by Type of Industry since October 2010

Within Field of Experience

Bookseller – 3

Marketing/Communications – 3

Freelance Writing Work – 2

Outside Field of Experience

Retail – 3

Food/Restaurants – 3

Admin/Office – 2

Supermarkets – 2

These numbers are interesting because it looks as if I’ve been applying for jobs outside my field of qualification and experience. I then realise that although I have a Masters in Creative Writing, a (Malaysian) Diploma in Business Communications and nine years of (Malaysian) journalistic experience, those sort of jobs are few and highly competitive. Like shark-in-the-bloody-water competitive.

As for proofreading and editing jobs? Ditto.

On the other hand, there are plenty of restaurant and admin work out there…the trouble is I don’t have any recent experience. No employer is going to take someone who last did some waitressing or office job 15 years ago, in a foreign country. Then again, there are also companies that actually don’t mind those without experience, but I hear these tend to be leery of hiring the ‘higher educated’ candidates, the ones who look more likely to fly the coop the moment ‘something better’ turns up. Which gives me a sneaky idea, actually. But no, more on that later!

Anyway aside from that, the answer then is to train, or keep bidding for freelance writing work. I’m not going to touch on writing-related successes, or failures. That’s different. These are the bread and butter of every writer. Job-wise, though…I am going to have to be inventive. Smart. Imaginative. I must get off the beaten track!

It’s Just Bad Luck

A relative said something the other day that made me so angry.

I said, “I applied to a few jobs and I’m waiting for them to get back to me.”

And the relative said, “You can’t wait for them, you have to go out and find them!”

Which I had to concede he did have a point. Perhaps I was not looking hard enough. Until that person ruined the moment by ‘subtly’ asking if I’d thought of doing something with Avon.

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I know. I’m doing all this job hunting in between writerly stuff. And besides, at the charity shop where I volunteer there is a distinctly gloomy air among the staff. People are talking about how bad the UK job market is right now, about how thousands of youths are graduating with no jobs available to them.

“It’s just bad luck, sweetheart,” Mom said to me on the phone, recently. “Just give it a try, okay? You have two years.” Less. “No harm in trying.”

On the plus side, I have amazing friends, a loving family, a book volunteer job I enjoy…AND one freelance writing project – the Edinburgh Tour thing. Oh, and three more companies willing to take me on in the next few months, as a volunteer.

I can’t give up! I can’t despair! I must keep going!

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Filed under Charity Shop, Depression, Family, Photography, Volunteer, Work

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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Filed under Anime, Computer Games, Dragonlance, Family, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Leisure, Manga, Photography, Procrastination, Tech, Triumph, Writing

John Paul’s First Word

At 7 Months Old

I have a nephew named John-Paul, my only brother’s firstborn.

As Felicia Day once said in a webisode of The Guild, I have the maternal instincts of a wood chipper. But even I have to fess up that my nephew, nicknamed JP, is sinfully cute.

He just turned a year old on May 16, and just now my bro told me on Skype chat: He can now walk. His first word was Papa.

And then my bro added: I was so proud until he called everything Papa! Papa! Papa! 

PS: Okay I must go back to writing! 😀

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Filed under Family, Procrastination