Wednesday, 31 October 2007

NaNoWriMo 07: The flag is about to drop!

Okay... I'm almost ready!

Still writing the outline for my novel and am hoping to finish it by today. I'm also hoping that by writing an outline first instead of simply winging it like I did in previous years might actually help. Perhaps.

I have a good feeling about this year's effort... but that could be the stale vegetables from the mamak's I had for lunch.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

A Look at Author Spaces.

Where do writers write? And what do these mysterious places look like? The Guardian will show you, but those are for the famous ones. For lesser known writers, Martin Livings has a good selection of pictures. I think they're mostly Australian-based.

UPDATED: Fixed link. My bad.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Land Beneath The Wind: Day One.

I've always been fascinated by Sabah. I like the fact that as a state, it's history is separate from that of Peninsular Malaysia. Most Malaysians, when they speak of Malaysian history, they're really just referring to the history of Peninsular Malaysia, and even then it's mostly a revisionist version of history, which I think dates from 1970. Malaysian history, in general, really just gives a cursory glance towards Sabah, merely skimming over the details.

It's the same with Sarawak as well. But I dunno. Maybe I'm just seeing this from a West Malaysian point of view. I really have no idea what Sabahans make of Malaysian history. Maybe they just take in stride that Malaysian history is skewed to the Peninsular since that's where the Federal Government is.

I was pondering this because today me and L went to the Sabah State Museum. I learned a lot today, from the Kaamatan Festival to the Dragon of Kinabalu (I didn't know these Sabahans kept a dragon! Very selfish of them not to let us know. A pity the Chinese killed it) Of particular interest to me was the period between the last years of World War II and Sabah's integration into Malaysia, when it was a British Crown Colony and still known as North Borneo. It was particularly interesting to know that North Borneo was actually already given self-governance two weeks before entering Malaysia.

To get to the museum, we walked from the hotel. The weather was fair, and there was a nice breeze so it wasn't tiring, considering that the walk was a little more than three-quarters of an hour away. Unfortunately, it began to rain when we got there so we had to stay at the museum until it stopped. Good thing the museum was quite big. The museum compound also includes an art gallery, a botanical garden and a heritage village. I really liked the heritage village because it reminded me of Melaka's Mini Malaysia. It was a collection of traditional Sabahan houses which I thought was cool. Too bad we were limited with what we could see because of the rain.

So anyway! Now that the history and culture part's done, I guess the next step is to enjoy the seafood! That's something to aim for tomorrow then.

Also, hotel wi-fi is AWESOME.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Sabah, Here I Come!

I'll be leaving for Sabah for my honeymoon tonight. A friend asked me whether it's a bit late to consider this a honeymoon but I say any vacation with my wife is a honeymoon in my books!

Anyways, see you when I get back! I'll write! I'm off now to buy an English-Sabahan Dictionary so I can communicate with the locals.

Monday, 22 October 2007

30 Days of Write: NaNoWriMo 07!

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantWell, it's that crazy time of year again, my friends! Early mornings and late nights, typing and/or scribbling away like nobody's business. Checking incessantly the word processor's word count; despairing that the daily word target hasn't been reached; despairing that ideas have all but dried out.

Yes, the month of November is nigh, and that means it's National Novel Writing Month once again! We all know the drill but here's the lowdown: A participant of NaNoWriMo should write a novel in a month, or at the very least, 50,000 words of prose. Within 30 days.

I failed to complete last year's NaNoWriMo challenge (managed only about 15,000 words)... or even the previous year. I wonder if I'll be able to make it this year? No idea, but I'm giving it a shot anyway!

Last year, I tried writing a fantasy (with sf elements) novel, but this year I'll be attempting a young adult book instead. My idea concerns a bookish, nerdish and completely anti-social boy who is chosen to be one of the children who will oversee the administration of a gateway city between our world and the Netherworld. The city is a portal where all the monsters and ghosts enter our world where they are given licences to spook humankind. It will have so many sexually ambiguous monsters, you'll lose count before you can say "Dumbledore is Gay". That's my elevator pitch anyway. What's yours?

So anyway, good luck to anybody else who's entering this year!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Advice for First-Time SFF Novelists.

Kate Elliot over at DeepGenre has this to say for budding SFF novelists:
First, if you’re not willing to work hard at writing, don’t bother.

I am sure we can find the exception that proves the rule, but every writer I know who has been successful

- however we are defining that term today, and I tend to be ecumenical in my inclusiveness, so let’s just assume that I mean in a pretty broad sense not limited to the pots-of-money sense and frankly just about every working writer I know will laugh sadly or even perhaps a tad hysterically when you ask her or him about the average annual earnings of working freelance writers -

has worked immensely hard, turned or churned out a lot of pages in the journey through apprenticeship toward some level of mastery, and kept writing despite setbacks, rejection, cold feet, and those soul-sucking periods of doubt.
By that I don’t mean quit writing for enjoyment. Anyone who wants to write because it pleases them or soothes them or excites them, should absolutely write.

Please never let anyone stop you from writing.

Writing is a gift, a blessing, a catharsis, a joy. It’s yours; cherish it.

Also, writing is just too difficult for it to be worth doing, in my humble opinion, if you don’t love the process or feel driven to write (which are not quite the same thing).

But if you’re not willing to work, and work hard, and work stubbornly, then don’t make plans for a brilliant career. That is, be realistic about what you’re willing to put in, and therefore what you can potentially get out.

I have seen cases where people
1) talk about the novel or book they want to write that is really fabulous
2) write and rewrite the first 50 pages of that novel but never move on
3) write the first draft of a novel but never revise it - or revise it sufficiently - while meanwhile expecting that naturally a publisher is going to pay them pots of money (see above) for their fabulous soon-to-be-bestselling manuscript
4) never write a second novel, and a third, or multiple short stories, in order to continue learning and improving
5) say to themselves, ‘well, if s/he could publish, then it can’t be *that* hard’

The way to succeed as a writer is - to write. To write something new. To write more. To keep writing.

It amazes me how many people fail to grasp that essential truth.
There's a lot more good advice to be had if you follow the link.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

"Oh Christ"

Definitely one of the most memorable reactions ever.

Bill Watterson on Charles Schulz and Peanuts.

Creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, reviews the new Charles Schulz biography in the Wall Street Journal:
It's a strange and interesting story, and Mr. Michaelis, the author of a 1998 biography of artist N.C. Wyeth, paces the narrative well, offering many insights and surprising events from Schulz's life. Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the book is the juxtaposition of biographical information and reproduced "Peanuts" strips. Here we see how literally Schulz sometimes depicted actual situations and events. The strips used as illustrations in "Schulz and Peanuts" are reproduced at eye-straining reduction and are often removed from the context of their stories, but they vividly demonstrate how Schulz used his cartoons to work through private concerns. We discover, for example, that in the recurring scenes of Lucy annoying Schroeder at the piano, the crabby and bossy Lucy stands in for Joyce [Schulz's first wife], and the obsessive and talented Schroeder is a surrogate for Schulz.

Town Boy Launched in the US.

Lat's Town Boy, my favourite Lat book ever, has now been launched in the US, following what I can only assume is the successful launch of its prequel, Kampung Boy.

While Kampung Boy is fun and all, I am more attached to Town Boy because it takes place in Sungai Rokam (where I went to primary school) and Ipoh (where Lat went to secondary school). Sungai Rokam was (and still is, actually) a Malay housing estate developed in the '60s on the outskirts of Ipoh.

I hope those Americans enjoy it; they seemed to have liked Kampung Boy quite a bit. That's all very well. Lat's books are probably some of the very, very few things from this nation we can truly be proud of.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Bah Humbug Weep Ninni Bong.

Hoho. It's not always I get to reference Charles Dickens and the Transformers movie (the original movie, not the recent live-action monstrosity) in one sentence.

So you may have heard that there's some sort of festive celebration that's going to happen this Saturday. Personally I can't wait for it. I'm not looking forward to the day itself, though I guess the rendang daging my mother might make (my brother doesn't eat beef) should make for some good eating.

No, what I'm really looking forward to is the ability to drink coffee again. Whenever I feel like it.

Oh, sweet, heavenly coffee. Manna from the gods! I miss you so!

In Bed with Books.

If only I had one of these when I was a bachelor. Would've helped a lot.

Via Urban Planning Blog.

Friday, 5 October 2007

The Tower of Darkness.

Alike for those who To-day prepare,
And for those that after a To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries,
"Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

--Omar Khayyam; translated by Edward Fitzgerald

I keep wanting to write a fantasy story inspired by this. Perhaps one day.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

50 Years of the Space Age.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of mankind's ascent into the Space Age. We owe a lot to you, Sputnik.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Silverfish New Writing is No More.

The Bloke in Bangsar has announced that Silverfish New Writing is no more after the seventh book rolls out. Say what you will about Raman, but the New Writing series has been a large contribution to the local literary scene and its discontinuation will be a major loss.

On the other hand, it's a perfect chance for another publisher to pick up the reins and fill in the vacuum left by Silverfish. A chance to start anew, with less politics and perhaps more focused on local writers, like what Amir Muhammad says on his blog:
I feel the series should have stayed as a focus on Malaysian and Singaporean writers. It could have then become a reference point for writers and readers interested in this area. From the third issue on, it started to lack a distinctive character when too many foreigners started pouring in.
But then again... who reads all this literary nonsense anyway? Surely not Malaysians!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Interview with Quentin Blake.

Anyone who's grown up with Roald Dahl would know Quentin Blake's wonderful illustrations. The Guardian interviews him:
Is there anything he can't draw? "I stay away from motor cars. And I can't do architectural drawings, really. What I want to convey is movement and gesture and atmosphere. I like drawing anything that is doing something. Dragons are good because you can arrange them in interesting ways across the page, get people to ride on them. I can't seem to keep birds out of my books." You can see them not only in his edition of Aristophanes' The Birds and his book with John Yeoman called Featherbrains, but in a grinning self-portrait featuring him dangling from a ceiling fan, pencils stuffed in his pockets, papers and birds flapping round. His grin is the still centre to the chaos.

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