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Showing posts from May, 2006

A Treasure Tower of Books.

There are a 170,000 books and papers consigned to the Cambridge University's library tower because they were deemed too populist or lowbrow. But a recent look inside has revealed that the material inside are literary gems: In Cambridge, the main body of history has always been looming above the town in this big Stalinist building of eight or nine storeys [designed by Giles Gilbert Scott of telephone box and Battersea Power Station fame]. It's always had this mass of hidden history inside." The collection includes popular Victorian and early 20th-century novels with beguiling titles such as Tempted of the Devil, Love Affairs of a Curate and Only a Village Maiden (which, despite the implications, has an entirely innocent content). As the definition of academic in the 19th century was very restricted, it also covers translations of foreign and classical literature and authors not studied at Cambridge. Ooh! Imagine being able to browse through the stacks of books! And in min

British Council's New Writing 15.

Just got word from British Council that the editors of their anthology, New Writing 15 , will be Maggie Gee and Bernardine Evaristo . Submissions are currently being collated and we'll find out in September whose writings made the cut. Personally, I'm excited! When I sent in my submission (on the last day *groan*), I forgot to attach my short story, and had to resend the email. My snafu has been making me nervous ever since. Getting this email just confirmed they got my story, which is a huge relief. Now to wait. Wake me up when September ends? If anyone's wondering what I submitted (but I suppose nobody cares :p), it's a story that concerns a father who has brought his son back from England to Malaysia and now his son is finding it hard to get used to life there.

Book Cover Design.

Despite being told not to judge a book by its cover, the man on the street does exactly that when browsing in a book store. (I know I do.) A visually catching cover is likelier to entice him to pick up the book, read a few pages, and hopefully, buy the book. So it's no surprise that much thought and care goes into the design of a book cover. Jane Sullivan of The Age looks at the tricky business of matching a book with its cover .

The Water Tower.

Back in February, I heard that local publisher Silverfish was accepting submissions for their new short story compilation. I've always wanted to get into some serious writing, so I sat down and wrote The Water Tower . Then I rewrote it again for another six times. But alas, the story was rejected. Oh well. Here it is anyway. I present to you, my first short story. Enjoy! ( Please? ): Suresh once asked what I loved so much about exploring. “Seeing new things, new places. Seeing what kids in the other neighbourhoods do in the evenings,” I had said. “The kids elsewhere do the same thing other kids do lah,” he replied. “No, sometimes they have different activities. What they do depends on what’s around them. And what’s around them is what I look forward to finding when I go exploring.” “What do you mean, around them? Like what?” “Like the airport. The kids in that neighbourhood play different games than in other housing areas. I think it’s the noise. Or the planes.” “The airport!

Rejected by Silverfish.

Received my first rejection ever in the email today. My Water Tower short story isn't going to make it into the next New Writing collection. Ah well. It was my first "proper" short story and it probably wasn't as polished as it could have been, or it probably wasn't the editor's cup of tea, perhaps? I'll be posting it up on this blog soon. Let's see what you think. (I need to go back and look at it too; I bet it'll be one cringe-fest for me.) Anyway, I've got other stories I'm waiting on and in the meantime, I shall just keep on writing. UPDATE: Story is up! Read here .

Google celebrates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.

Google celebrates the birthday of one of my favourite authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , with a nice homage (or is that Holme-age? *cough*) in the Google logo: Pretty cool, eh? I really like how the magnifying glass and the trademark deerhat make out the "O" and the "G" with the Victorian lamp post completing the deal as the "L". Excellent! I shall celebrate by re-reading my all-time favourite Sherlock Holmes tale, " The Adventure of the Dying Detective ". The game's afoot!

Payless Warehouse Sale.

And yet another money sink appears: At least the organisers have the good sense to organise this sale when my salary's already in , unlike some other bookstore chains *cough*Times*cough* who like to organise their sales at the end of the month when the money well's dry. Can't read the location? It's at: 3K Sports Complex & Inn, Jalan SS13/1, Persiaran Kewajipan, 47500 Subang Jaya

DAY SEVEN: Stay on target!

Word Count: 1500 It is the seventh day of my manuscript writing and what do I have to show for it? By right I should have around 7000 words down, but instead, I have only 1500. I've got plenty of excuses to why this is, all of them involve work in some way or another. Also, the other day there was a games industry meeting I was invited to go to. (I used to be in the games industry, now I'm stuck in advertising, yeeuchh.) But excuses are still excuses and the manuscript is waaaay behind schedule. Can I make it in time for my August deadline? I'm still optimistic that I can reach this target. I'm gonna finish this damn novel by August or die trying, goddammit! I'm typing till my fingers fall off!

Fancy a shot?

Picador is launching a new series of books called "Shots", and each book is a short story priced at £1. The idea behind this scheme is to encourage people to read more short stories, which are in the decline in the West. (Short stories seem to be on the up-and-up here in Malaysia.) Picador Shots was (Andrew Kidd's) solution and, thus far, the reaction of booksellers has been enthusiastic. With elegant, minimalist covers, these slight volumes are very collectable but, because they cost only a little more than a daily newspaper (and far less than, say, Vogue), they are also highly disposable. Sounds great, but who knows how much they would end up costing here in Malaysia? RM6 per book? Would Malaysians welcome such a price of admission for a half-hour or so read? UPDATE: Sharon gives her take on Picador's Shots .

Saddam Hussein, Novelist.

A novel said to be written by Saddam Hussein was smuggled out of Iraq, and the manuscript has been translated into Japanese . It is entitled Devil's Dance and--here's an interesting bit--it was supposedly finished a day before the US strike on Baghdad. I also found this particularly interesting too: Its Japanese translator has made a plea for the former Iraqi leader to be spared the death penalty should he be found guilty by the tribunal in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein is a witness to the troubled relationship between Iraq and the US, she says; he should be allowed to live and tell his tale. Yes. Let him live. We need more novelists in this world. (Just as long they don't continue their careers in dictatorship.)

DAY THREE: Wallowing in Self-pity.

WORD COUNT: 700 words Didn't do any writing yesterday because I got sidetracked by the latest episode of Doctor Who. (The one with the Cybermen, goddammit why does it have to be a two-parter!?) With that in mind, I resolved this morning when I sat down with MS Word loaded, to write as much as possible to make up for yesterday. Unfortunately, today I was sober enough to realise that what I wrote the day before was utter and complete rubbish! The direction wasn't where I wanted it to go, the characterisation was off, the details of the scene were wrong, wrong, wrong! What the hell was I thinking? So I started again from scratch, and this time I've got the story plodding along to where I want it to go. (I think.) Because I spent most of the time wallowing in self-pity and cursing how stupid a writer I am, I ended writing only 700 plus words... 300 words short of my daily goal. Sigh. And that's not counting what I owe from yesterday. Looks like I'll have to somehow

DAY ONE: Writing a manuscript in 80 days.

I woke up at 2am this morning, having slept at 11pm. I was wide awake, and I couldn't fall back asleep. Plus, I began thinking of my guilt. You know what guilt. The guilt writers always have. The guilt of not writing when you promised you would! But didn't! I had three days of holiday and I wrote not a single word in my novel. Ah, procrastination. So yeah, I'm awake. So I get up, feeling guilty, I put fingers to keyboard... and typed away. Two hours later, I have 1700 words and the first chapter finished. (One heckuva short chapter, but I'll take what I can get. Can always expand in 2nd draft.) But this achievement did made me think a bit. (My brain's usually in sleep mode even when my body isn't.) If I could just force myself into writing at least 1000 words a day... I could probably have a first draft done in 80 days! (Shush! Stop laughing! I'm serious!) If I could just push myself, force myself , to write everyday, I'd be done by August. I've

Tan Twan Eng gets published.

A bit old this, but Susan Abraham reports that a Malaysian writer has successfully had his book accepted by Gregory & Company , a British literary agency, and the book has already been sold to a publisher, Myrmidon Press. Tan Twan Eng's debut novel, The Gift of Rain , concerns a young half-chinese boy, Philip, who meets a Japanese diplomat on the eve of World War II. Due to his mixed parentage, he is considered an outsider by his peers. But Philip finds a true sense of belonging with his new friend, Hayato Endo, who teaches him about Japanese culture and the martial art of aikido. But when the war starts, his friend proves to be a spy and Philip is put in a dangerous situation to protect his family. Expect the book sometime in autumn this year. Wonder how much Tan got for his advance? Tee hee! Actually, I'm wondering more about the reason why Malaysian writers like to set their books during the Japanese Invasion. It's great and all, and I'm not yawning over that

Wesak Day.

Happy Wesak Day everyone! If you've been wondering why the font types and sizes keep changing on my blog, it's because I'm experimenting on what makes best readability. I think I'm settling on what I have currently. What do you think? Do your eyes hurt? Does my blog look fat in Trebuchet MS, size 11? After a long week at work (I've been coming home after 12am every day), I was thinking of sleeping in today, and probably waking up sometime tomorrow, but alas and alack! my bioclock woke me up at 8am today. I almost got up to get ready for work before realising I had to get back to sleep but it was too late. By then I was already wide awake . Curse my daily routine! Curses and plagues! Since I'm up and about, I might as well have some quality time with my short story manuscripts and perhaps a little with Salman Rushdie too.

Kiffe Kiffe Demaine by Faïza Guène.

The book I'm currently looking forward to buying is a book that was wildly popular when it was first published in France in 2004, selling well over 70,000 copies. Originally published in French, Kiffe Kiffe Demaine by Faïza Guène is about a 15-year-old Muslim girl raised by her Algerian immigrant parents. Poor, they live in a ghetto on the outskirts of Paris. The novel touches upon themes such as cultural diversion and conservativeness as well as criticising the social systems in place. ...okay, so I'm not really doing a good job at making it sound exciting, but I will be getting this whenever it reaches here, translated to English. I can guess there will be a slight confusion though, as the US edition is entitled " Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow ", but the UK edition is entitled " Just Like Tomorrow ". Gah. By the by, here are a couple of interviews with Faïza Guène: French-Algerian author hits big time ( The Daily Star ) Voice of the Suburbs ( The Guardian ) T

Hari Kunzru in Kinokuniya KLCC.

So I went to Hari Kunzru's book reading at Kinokuniya just now at 7.30pm. (After which, I had to go back to the office and is why I'm only posting this up now.) The reading was held in Coffee Club Xpress upstairs. When I arrived, I was a little surprised (but maybe I ought not have to) to see that there was a full audience seated, waiting for Mr. Kunzru. He gave a superb reading from a chapter in The Transmission , the scene where Guy Swift goes to Dubai to pitch to the rich Arab golf guy. After the reading, there was a Q&A session and the following is what was discussed. (If anybody who was there is reading this, please do tell me if you spot any discrepancies in the comments section, thanks!) On Dubai: Someone asked if Hari Kunzru had been to Dubai, and he said yes. He found it so amazingly odd, he felt compelled to put it down in writing. On Malaysia: He couldn't really give a proper opinion, because for the last 48 hours, what he's seen of Malaysia has bee

I've been tagged!

I don't normally do this, but since it's Hilmy who's tagging me, why not. THREE NAMES YOU GO BY: 1. My real name 2. Teddy 3. Tedds THREE PHYSICAL THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF: 1. Being able to fit in a small space. (Very useful when diving underneath the computer table to check if rats got to the wires.) 2. I can wink with either eye! 3. I can spin a pencil or pen on my fingers. THREE PHYSICAL THINGS YOU DON'T LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF: 1. I am short-sighted. 2. I can't look in the rear-view mirror without taking my eyes off the road ahead. 3. I don't have any useful superpowers (or useless ones). THREE PARTS OF YOUR HERITAGE: 1. Siamese-Pakistani 2. Chinese 3. Javanese THREE THINGS YOU CAN'T STAND: 1. People who feel the need to talk loudly about inane topics and can't stop when they've started. 2. People who don't signal!!!111 3. People who mess up my perfectly planned writing schedule. THREE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU: 1. Gory pictures. 2. The p

Best First Lines in Novels.

In a post dated 9th May 2006 on John Ling's site , he writes: Most people ignore the power of that first sentence. It can kick things off and set a mood. And the best way to learn how to write one is to study the openings of some classic novels... (more on his site ) How true. One of my favourite things to do when I'm in a bookstore is to open a novel and read the opening line--to see whether the author can hook me into his or her story. If I find one that's really good, I make a mental note of it (and perhaps even buy the book in hand) so I can learn to write as good an opening line in my stories. Check out the American Book Review's list of 100 Best First Lines in Novels . I don't agree with some of the inclusions but at least my favourite is listed: 30. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984) But take note! It is usually advised (I think Elmore Leonard is a major proponent) that a story

Novel Outlining.

*puff puff pant pant* I've just finished outlining my novel, and boy, it feels like I just jogged a few huge rounds. And I haven't even started writing it yet! Of course, some writers prefer not to outline their novels. It stifles their creativity. Take Stephen King, for instance. He just dives straight into his prose and hopes for the best. His reason, he says, is that he loves to be surprised when he gets to the ending. I totally get that, but I'm not Stephen King, so I have to outline. An outline is useful for keeping me reminded of what to write next and, hopefully, will stop writer's block from happening. And who's to say there won't be any surprises? A novel outline is like a road map. Sure, you know where you're going, but if you take a little detour, you might see some stuff you weren't really expecting. Now that the outline's done, I more psyched than ever before to get done with my novel. Hurrah! Here are some links for those wondering

Getting Free Books from Kinokuniya.

If you've been asked by Kinokuniya to provide them with your house address, they'll be nice enough to add their newsletter to the junk-mail, promotion leaflets and numerous bills you get in your mailbox every month. The newsletter, called "Gems of the Month", showcases the book offers they have in the current month and interestingly, what books their staff recommend to read. Last month however, they started asking their readers to submit book recommendations instead. (I think they ran out of staff to ask for recommendations.) Readers who submitted their recommendations, and were accepted to be published in the May newsletter, got to choose a book from the May Gems of the Month selection. I don't mind a free book (who wouldn't?), so I emailed in a short review of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist . About a week later, someone from Kinokuniya called me up and said my recommendation was going to be published in the May newsletter. Hooray! (I regret to share with

On Murakami.

I've recently finished Haruki Murakami's brilliant Kafka on the Shore , and now I've started (and am immensely enjoying) Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children . Kafka on the Shore was--and this is stating quite the obvious for those familiar with Murakami's work--quite easy to read, but hard to understand. I think you could read it and interpret it anyway you like, and you'd probably still be right... even if what you think the book means wasn't really what the author had in mind. My initial exposure to Murakami was through Norwegian Wood , which I liked for its pop culture references, nostalgia and simple storytelling. I then borrowed a copy of The Elephant Vanishes , a collection of short stories, which I first hated, then slowly began to like as I began to understand what Murakami was trying to say (or at least, I like to think I do!). His stories are surreal and often have subtle motifs that, when examined carefully, bring to light much of his chara

Start Internalising.

In probably the funniest thing I've seen related to the infamous Kaavya Viswanathan, The Morning News launches a contest to find out who can plagiarise the best. Get internalising, people! Follow the link below.

Submitted!

In the past two months, I've written two short stories: "The Water Tower" and "Odd One Out". "The Water Tower" is about two young boys who go exploring one evening, and they find a water tower. They try to climb it ("Imagine the view!"), but there's always something to hinder their plan. I have submitted this 3100 word short story to Silverfish Books to be included in Silverfish New Writing 6, but I will only know at the end of May whether the story is to be included or not. "Odd One Out" is about a Malaysian father who has recently brought his son home from England. He sends his son to a Malay school so the son can reintegrate himself with Malaysians, but the father soon finds out it's not as easy as sending him to a school and letting things take care by itself. At 4700 words, this is by far, the longest story I've written so far. It was also the hardest. I think I felt like jumping off cliffs numerous times during