Tomorrow never came

autumn leaves

You had an inner confidence that seeped into the way you moved, talked and presented yourself. Naturally, I was intimidated by you, mistaking your confidence and poise for haughtiness. But I was quickly proved wrong after we ended up at the same desk.

I realised that you were a kind and gentle woman; you had a way of making anyone feel calm when the world seemed to be falling apart. And I sure needed that during those crazy deadline days where it seemed as if my story would never turn out right for print.

Yet, during those years, I didn’t take the opportunity to get to know you better. I was still intimidated, I suppose. And yes, more than a little absorbed with the dramas in my life.

And then I moved to Australia.

A friend later told me that you had told her that you would’ve liked to know me better.

When I returned in May, I made a promise to myself that I will do just that – get to know you better.
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What I learned from my month of hell

Overwhelmed
In July, my life was hell.

In a way, it was a long time coming.

Three months before, I moved back to Malaysia after three years of living in Australia. The decision wasn’t easy to make. In fact, I had spent sleepless nights since July 2014 wrestling with the idea.

Adelaide was quiet, peaceful and gorgeous. But I was terribly homesick and felt that my dreams were struggling to be realised there. In the end, I took the leap. I wanted to return to steadier, more familiar grounds in order to seek clarity and direction.

I came back way too fast. Not a great idea. But once I returned, it felt right. I enjoyed being with my friends and family again. Better, I was offered a job before I even hopped into a plane back to KL in May. I felt lucky. Blessed.

But life speeded up very quickly after that. Too quickly.

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Interview with Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking has become quite a legend among budding writers – those who publish independently and traditionally. After uploading her Young Adult ebooks to Amazon and Smashwords, she ended up making up a million dollars in a few months. Unsurprisingly, big publishers took notice of her. (Ironically, these publishers rejected her novels over and over again years ago.)

She ended up signing up with St Martin’s Press, for a US$2mil (RM6.4mil) four-book deal.

I had the opportunity to speak to Amanda. The result is my article, published in The Star: Amanda Hocking: A Success Story.

The following is the full transcript of our conversation:

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Want to be a writer? Stop dreaming and start writing!

Want to write a novel? Be a journalist? Be a freelance writer? Be a social media consultant? To do all this, you need to take a very important step: take that leap of faith.

Aubrey Andrus wrote a post I heart so much: The First Hurdle: Why Writers Should Stop Being Scared and Take the Leap of Faith. One particular paragraph really stood out for me:

Even the talented ones who are likely to be very successful as a freelancer prefer to dawdle and over-research what it takes to go out on their own. They dream instead of do. But your dreams will not come true until you step over that first hurdle. Take that first leap. Bust your excuses. Start taking action instead of thinking about it.

I was exactly like that! For years I dreamt about writing that novel. So, I read and read and read books about writing. I had shelves full of them. But did I do any actual writing? Nope. I realised I wanted to be as perfect and equipped as I can before I start anything. But you know what? You can never learn until you do the actual thing and make mistakes.

So, I started writing. In the beginning it was difficult to battle my perfectionist tendencies and not listen to my inner critic, but I managed it! I ended up writing a short story and submitting it to the MPH Alliance short story contest. I didn’t win or anything, but boy it felt so good to finish a story!

After that, I became bolder and bolder. I ignored that inner critic monster and took a few leaps of faith. I submitted a poem to an anthology. (Didn’t get in, but Sharon Bakar gave me awesome feedback.) Then I called up a publisher to find out if they were interested to publish a few children’s stories I wrote a couple of years ago. The time it took for them to get back to me was tough for me, but in the end they came back with a yes! That was how the Trixie Koala series of children’s books was born. The books are now published in paperback and ebook format.

Aubrey also wrote this: You must do the things you think you cannot do.

Yes! Totally!

Moving to Australia. Getting published. Working as a digital content writer. These were the things I thought I could not ever do because they seemed too difficult, too impossible. But here I am, living my dreams at last because I dared to take the leap and dared to fail. And I did fail a few times. But rather than moan and dwell on it, I picked myself up and walked towards the next challenge. That’s what I recently learned. It’s not about doing the right things to succeed — it’s about knowing that you’re going to be all right even if you fail.

Photo by LarryLens.

 

What should I blog about? Help!

Should we inject some heart into our content strategy?

Should we inject some heart into our content strategy?

I’ll come clean and say it. My blog has an identity crisis. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into designing this website, and I’m really proud of it as it showcases my writing – nearly two decades’ worth. It has gotten me jobs, and I even became a guest star on an ABC radio show in Australia because of a post!

Still, most of the time, I wondered: what the heck should I blog about?

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The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker (review)

Chicken Chronicles by Alice WalkerThe 37 essays in The Chicken Chronicles is actually a collection of Walker’s blog posts. But this is not just a day-to-day chronicle of the life of a chicken owner. Instead, Walker reflects on the world via the lens of her relationship with chickens. She talks about Gandhi, writes a tribute to Michael Jackson, wonders about dealing with the rose-munching deer that occasionally invades her garden and ponders the loss of her innocence. And with names like Gertrude Stein, Rufus, Agnes of God and Babe, it’s hard not to fall in love with the fowls.

I love chickens, after all. Especially marinated with spices and fried to a crispy crunch.

Ahem, just kidding.

What worked: I suppose if anyone could write a memoir about chickens, it would be Alice Walker. Although the book teeters dangerously close to being mushy and smarmy, Walker’s beautiful prose just beautifully conveys her love and infatuation with the chickens. The chickens – with adorable names like Babe, Gertrude Stein, Agnes of God and Splendor – don’t have memorable personalities, however. Not sure if the fault lies in Walker’s prose, which does a great job in the description department or it’s because, well, they’re chickens.

What didn’t work: Walker calls herself the chickens’ “mommy”, and writes letters to her “girls”. This particularly literary device is an acquired taste. But I found them funny and endearing, and at times I actually laughed out loud by the fowl antics. The only letter that didn’t do it for me is the essay where she talked about how her childhood was ruined because of a tragic incident involving a chicken … and dinner.

Final say: Like I said, The Chicken Chroniclesis an acquired taste. If you’r a lover of good prose, whimsical stories of the animal kingdom and highly tolerant of anthropomorphism, this book may just give you a chuckle or two.

10 things I learned from Korean dramas

1. Men do most of their brooding while showering.

2. You can be in a coma for two years, but you’ll be up and walking in a few days.

3. Someone who doesn’t share DNA with you can look exactly like you.

4. A piggyback ride from a guy is as good as a proposal.

5. I may have lived in America since forever but I speak perfect Korean and shite English.

6. If anything major happens – like, you know, you marrying the wrong gal, mum/dad/grandma/grandpa will faint/have heart attack, so you might as well have 911 on standby when you make that shocking announcement.

7. Heirs of conglomerates are gorgeous by default.

8. If you’re an orphan, your biological mum/dad is probably some rich CEO.

9. If you’re in love with some rich CEO’s kid expect to be kidnapped/blackmailed/threatened by sister/brother/mother/father/ex-girlfriend/wannabe girlfriend.

10. There will always be one person in your life whose main purpose in life is to screw up your love life.

Bonus point: The girl always ends up with the jerk. It’s the rule of k-dramas, dudes.

Fanfiction: Wacky, Weird, and never boring

Well, that’s not necessarily true, of course. I read fanfiction even if I have money to buy more books! It’s free, it’s there, and it’s utterly fun. Fanfiction.net is a great place to start your fanfic hunt, though there are some sites out there, run by adoring fans, that can be leagues better in story selection.

If you’re a wee bit clueless what fanfiction is, it is fiction based on the characters of a television (usually) show. However, fans have written fanfiction based on certain books as well, such as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and even comics like X-Men.


Wanna see Aragorn ditch Arwen and hook up with Eowyn instead? Never fear! It’s merely a fanfiction away!

I discovered fanfiction through my sister, who was reading Sailor Moon fanfiction. I thought the whole exercise was incredibly weird at first, but nevertheless curiosity won out and I tried my hand at reading Star Trek fanfiction, and I got hopelessly hooked from that day onwards.

The one fascinating thing about fanfiction, and the whole addictivness of it all, is that you see your favourite TV/Book characters placed in situations you would never see on television.

Like seeing Chakotay and Capt Janeway having a wild, romantic night out in the holodeck. Or Gil Grissom (of CSI) doing the liplock with Sara Sidle.

I’m not much into the whole romance thing, but am more interested in the action/adventure aspect of fanfic.

But finding good fanfiction can be a painful endevour at times. Since most fanfics are written by fans, not all of them are great writers. Some fanfics are downright painful to read. Characters are out of character, and although I’m very forgiving of spelling and grammatical errors (since I’m no Grammar Queen myself), these errors do get tiresome after a while.

I notice that certain shows attract better writers and stories for some reason. Shows like X-Files, Stargate: SG-1 and Star Trek have a wealth of good stories. Don’t be surprised to find novel-length stories. But for some shows, especially those with a big teen audience like Buffy, Angel, Smallville and The O.C., finding good fanfiction can be an incredibly frustrating endevour. Maybe it is for me since it’s always about who is with who, who is in love with who, and who wants to sleep with who.

Yes, there’s a whole debate on whether fanfic is legal or not. However, fans are not stopping anytime soon, worshipping their favourite characters on stories they’ve created, placing them in weird, weird, weird situations.

And when I mean weird, it’s usually in the pairing department. Fanfic writers love to pair up their favourite characters. Sometimes it something all of us want. Sometimes it’s something few of us ever want (Boromir + Faramir [Lord of the Rings] love relationship anyone? Incest is not taboo in the fanfic world). Fanfic writers can sometimes speak in code, and for the first-timer, they’d probably get confused by the various terminology used. Such as:

  • slash: male and male relationships
  • UST: Unresolved Sexual Tension. Used a lot in the X-files universe!
  • Hurt/comfort: Where a character gets hurt, and another comforts the poor fella
  • Smarm: Imagine tough-looking guys talking about their feelings and dreams around a campfire and you’ll get the idea.
  • sibcest: Let’s not even go there.
  • fluff: A story of little substance, but read/written merely for the heck of it.
  • Smut: I don’t think this needs translation

Pairings are indicated by “/”. For example, if you have written a story where Scully and Mulder are lovers, you indicate: S/M.

Fans have even invented cute little names to indicate their favourite pairings. In the smallville universe, the Clark and Lana Lang pairing is “Clana”. Hehe.

Well, since I’ve joined a gym, and my expenses will inevitably go up, one of the first things I’d have to cut from my spending bill is books. So … looks like it’s a raid at the fanfiction archives for me from now on!

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

Six months ago, my site was flooded with thousands upon thousands of spam comments. Rather than laboriously deleting all 20,000 of them, I’ve decided to republish the posts that were the worst culprits. This post was first published on Oct 24, 2004.

Am currently reading Toby Young’s How to Loose Friends & Alienante People and have decided to put aside Marion Zimmer Bradley’s stories about Darkover for the tale of the fall of a great man (in his head, that is).

In essence, How to Lose Friends is a long, well-written gossip rag about the glitzy going-ons behind Vanity Fair, a particular magazine I’m rather fond of. And we all love gossip – especially one that mentions a certain well-known draconian Vogue editor.

I’m talking about Anna Wintour, in case you’re not in the know. Some of us in the journalistic world take perverse pleasure at novelists ribbing editors, especially those with a reputation like Wintour’s.

Wintour is one difficult lady, according to Young and to popular legend. It is suspected that the author of The Devil Wears Prada based her portrayal of her novel’s cruel boss on Wintour – she was once one of her assistants.

Indeed, after reading Young and Lauren Weisberger’s account, I find some similiarities. But I can’t remember them off-hand now to list them for you right now. But I can tell you what makes Wintour so “ballsy” to say the least.

According to Young, Wintour lives like a Queen (she is paid a cool US1mil a year) and uses the company’s petty cash account like her own Swiss bank account, she doesn’t ever ride in the elevator with anyone (except maybe the Queen of England or anyone worth sucking up to, I suppose), gets annoyed if anyone talks to her without her permission, yada yada yada.

She makes one of my old bosses – the one I worked with once upon a time in an ad agency not so far away – look like my fairy godmother.

But hey, maybe Wintour will one day rise up and write a tell-all biography on how wrong Young and Wesberger is. (Shrug)

For now, we common folks without Prada to wear can enjoy the gossip.

PS: Another book on bosses behaving badly worth checking out could be The Nanny Diaries. It’s currently sitting in my library, unread. But after Young’s deconstruction of the politics in Vanity Fair, I’d possibly be more hungry for Bad Boss Lit – so it’s probably next on my To-Read list. Also, Sydney Morning Herald has a piece on Bad Boss Litt. Is it the Next Big Genre? Chick Lit, after all, is so yesterday.