Monday, 23 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Tulen (an excerpt from Secretkeeper)

Rahsia pushes the problem aside when she reaches the Iman’s apartment building. Iman lives—lived—in a small one-room flat on the second floor. It’s poorly maintained, the once-white paint now a dirty, peeling grey. There are weird greenish fungus patches in various corners. There’s rubbish strewn along the hallway and up the stairs. She has to pick her way through the dirt. It’s not as if this is the first time Rahsia has seen it—she comes over often to take care of the children during the weekends when Iman can’t tear herself away from the Memories—but it’s the first time she’s really noticed it. No, the children cannot stay here on their own.

She knocks on the door and smiles when she hears Tulen’s careful voice asking who it is.

“It’s Aunty Sia,” she says.

The chain rattles and the lock turns and the door opens with a squeak. The ten-year-old girl looks up at her with worried eyes. “Where’s Mak?” she asks.

Rahsia’s voice sticks in her throat. How does Tulen know to ask?

“She’s late again, isn’t she? Too busy to come home?”

When did Tulen start sounding so bitter against her mother? Rahsia shakes her head. “No, Tulen. I’m afraid…” She cannot continue the sentence. Looking down, she sees that she’s gripping her hands together, right over left, left over right, cracking her knuckles. She stills them. “Let me in,” she says quietly.

Tulen lets her in and closes the door behind them.

“Aunty Sia?” she asks, a quiver in her voice. She must suspect something now, because of Rahsia’s inability to act normally. How does one act in the face of death? She hadn’t had to think of that when Nek died because Nek was old, and her grandmother, and she’d known she was going to die months beforehand. Why hadn’t Iman told her that she was about to die? Didn’t the Secretkeeper know such things?

A Memory stirs in her.

‘There is no time,’ Iman says to Father Farouk. ‘It will happen today and I cannot say goodbye to my children.’ 
The priest protests, ‘Don’t go that way then. Take another route. We need you, Iman.’
‘You don’t need me, Father. You need the Secretkeeper. And I am not the one. I was meant to only hold this role to teach my daughter what she needs to know for the future and I have failed in that task. I have been so subsumed with the Secretkeeper role and the Memories and the need to know that I have missed out on my true task.’
‘Your daughter?’
‘Tulen will be the Helpmeet. How she comes to that role, I do not know. I have not been given to see. You priests should know. Don’t you?’

Rahsia skims through the rest of the Memory. “Your mother left you a letter,” she says to Tulen.

“What? Why? Where is it?”

“I must find it. I just learned of it. There is no easy way to say this, Tulen, but your mak is dead.”

Tulen is silent for so long that Rahsia is afraid she doesn’t understand. “Do you understand what I just said?”

“Mak is dead,” Tulen repeats hollowly.

---

I was going to give you a snippet from Absolution, but I figured I'd give you a current one from Secretkeeper instead.
Here, Tulen is ten.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Secretkeeper

Secretkeeper first started out with the thought: What do you do with the secrets you keep?

I’d originally wanted to do an urban literary type story about a girl—one of those quiet types who are great listeners—that’s feeling bogged down by all the secrets she has to keep because people keep telling her things and being trusted to keep them secret. It was supposed to be set in Penang, because why not write about the place I actually live in, huh?

But… I couldn’t get the story to move. Nothing worked, nothing was interesting enough.

Then I decided okay, let’s add in some magic since I seem to write better when its fantasy.

So the story got revised—she’s still burdened with secrets—but this time, it’s because she has developed some magical powers that lets her see visions of the future/or snippets of things that are happening. And what if she sees something, but misinterprets it? And there’s this whole fiasco of her trying to prevent this calamity from happening, but it’s only happening because she’s trying to prevent it…

And it also didn’t work out.

Well, so, I was also working on editing (or trying not to rewrite) Absolution and I got to the bit where I gave the Impianans mind powers and wondered what on earth for. BUT wouldn’t it be interesting that because of these mind powers the priests from Impian are feared? And the common people have to learn tricks/skills to prevent their minds being read?

I was still thinking about that one person made to bear everyone’s secrets, and that felt rather like priests who take people’s confessions, and thought … but what if only ONE person listens to confessions and those confessions and memories can be passed down through the generations?

So yeah, that was how Secretkeeper more or less came about.

Friday, 20 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Rahsia

Secrets are a burden.

Rahsia had known that since she was seven and her teacher had stared when she said her name was Rahsia binti Abdullah. The teacher asked if that was really her father’s name, but hadn’t said why, so Rahsia asked her mother when she got home in the afternoon.

“That’s none of her business,” her mother replied with venom.

“But what does she mean, Mak? Why would she ask that?” Rahsia pressed, confused though she had never known her father. Maybe now Mak would tell her about him. “Why shouldn’t bapak’s name be ‘Abdullah’?”

Her mother wouldn’t reply, so Rahsia asked her grandmother that night at dinner.

Nek Ramalan glanced at her daughter over their simple dishes of fried fish with sambal tumis and fried kangkung with steamed rice.

Mak shrugged her shoulders and refused to say a word.

Nek shook her head and sighed. “Rahsia, there are some things that you are too young to understand now. It is your mother’s secret and she will tell you someday.”

“Mak!” Rahsia’s mother protested, scowling.

“Even if she doesn’t tell you in her lifetime, one day when you are Secretkeeper, you will know. For now, it is your Mak’s secret to keep and mine to bear.”

“I will know it as the Secretkeeper?” Rahsia asked with excitement in her voice.

“Yes. You'll bear our secrets, Rahsia, when the time comes. You'll be our Secretkeeper, the one that the world needs at this hour. For this time.”

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As a random aside, I don't know what Rahsia's mother's name is yet. LOL

This is also all very disjointed, and scattered all over the place & timeline, sorry.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Quest

I’ve been somewhat defining Absolution, and to some extent Secretkeeper, as YA fantasy. Yet whilst Absolution does fit the demographics (with characters in the YA range) Secretkeeper in all likelihood (especially with what I’m currently writing) will not. Rahsia, who is the main protagonist in Secretkeeper, will be in her thirties for the bulk of the story, at least in this envisioning. (WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN THE MORE I ACTUALLY WRITE! WHEN I WRITE!)

Right now, I’m thinking that both the stories might actually fit better as a Quest fantasy. The overall arch of the two books (I have no idea what the third one is about yet) is basically a quest to rediscover and fulfil the Berith Melach and the Sacrifice to prevent the destruction (or downfall) of the Trikingdom. Secretkeeper focuses more on the discovery by the Secretkeeper and the priests, Absolutions follows how it all actually comes to play.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Penance (an excerpt from Absolution)

“Sayang, you have the talent of saying many things without telling us anything of importance. I gather that you took up the burden they offered you, but what does it mean?” Magda laid her open palms on the table, as if in invitation. “You use many fancy words, but do not explain the meanings behind them.”

Tulen tugged lightly on Magda’s sleeve. “Ibu, do not press him if he does not want to explain. A pilgrim’s quest is sometimes secret.” She smiled at him.

“There are—it’s not—I do not understand all of it yet, Mother.” He reached out and grasped her hands. He thought he’d covered most of it—the prophecies in both Maha and Suci. What else did she want? What else was there to say? Did he have to spell out the details? He sighed.

“But I will tell you what I can. What I do know.” Yet all I know is merely words, his mind protested. “I am the Penance and the Sacrifice. The Firstborn Male offered freely as Sin Eater, the sacrifice to God to save the Kingdom. The journey starts from Nun. I will have to travel alone through Guruntulang to Suci, accepting only what the Nomad encampments have to offer. If I survive that journey, I will need to carry out six rituals before I can be admitted to the temple. I … I’m not entirely sure what happens after that, but that will be when I offer myself up to God as Sacrifice.”

“Why?”

Adam stared at Tulen. “Have you not been listening? Because God requires it. Or he will destroy us all.”

Tulen’s eyes seemed to burn into him. “No, but why would you agree? Why would your father agree?”

“For the sake of the Kingdom. For the sake of the people.”

“For the sake… oh, that’s what you meant this morning.”

Adam felt the heat in his cheeks. He hoped the flush wasn’t noticeable against his fair skin in the darkness of the room. “The honourable king serves those he loves,” he said, looking at Tunku Nawal.

There was no sympathy there, no understanding as he’d hoped. Instead, she leaned back in her chair, looking at him with hard eyes. “So your brother will be king. Abel, the second son, will be king?”

“They will knight him once the Berith Melach has been completed.”

Nawal looked confused. “But why? Why wait? Or will you take the throne after…”

Adam’s smile felt brittle, fake even to himself. “I doubt I will survive this sacrifice, Your Grace. No, the reason Maha cannot knight him now is because my father has placed the city under a banner of repentance. There will be no feasts until I am mourned and buried and the Kingdom is safe once more.”

---

As you can tell, I have not been writing T.T

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Nek Ramalan + Oblectation

In my Iman post, I introduced the character of Nek Ramalan.

Nek is a short form for nenek, which is the Malay word for grandmother. She’s Rahsia’s biological grandmother, but since Iman grew up with Rahsia (they were neighbours and went to the same school) she also calls her Nek.

In other parts of the story, others—including Father Farouk—also refer to her as Nek. To me, it’s because she’s this little old woman who is so beloved in her community that everyone refers to her affectionately as grandma. I don’t know how this will hold up in the long run, though.

---

I couldn’t think of anything for O, so I went to look at Rebekah Loper’s The A-Zs of Worldbuilding.
O is for Oblectation, which means enjoyment; pleasure. So ... entertainment!

This is something that’s not really developed yet in my world, so… wow. Hard thinking here. Lol.
What I’d like is for some common Malaysian children’s games to come over, like kali toi, congkak or pepsi cola. Though… the names might have to be changed because they’d make no sense at all. This would probably feature more in Secretkeeper than Absolution, because Tulen in Secretkeeper will be younger and more carefree. By the time she gets to Absolution, she’s too busy fending for herself and trying to stay alive to even think about entertainment.

Here’s some examples:
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/features/article/on-the-streets-of-george-town-a-celebration-of-childrens-games-video
http://gtwhi.com.my/celebrate/heritage-celebrations-2016.html

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This is also a two-in-one post because I gave up on thinking yesterday.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Memories (an excerpt from Secretkeeper)

Rahsia flops on her bed and stares up at the ceiling, watching the fan spin hypnotically.

You’ll bear our secrets, Rahsia, when you come of age. You’ll be our Secretkeeper, the one that the world needs at this hour. For this time.

Nek’s words slip into her mind and she has to pause to decide if it’s really her memory of Nek’s words, or if it’s something that’s resonating from Nek’s Memories. She doesn’t know if there is a difference, or if there should be. She’s so unprepared, despite having built up her life towards this point for the last thirty years. Her cheeks burn as she remembers how she’d given everything up so easily when Iman had taken the Memories from Nek. But what else was she to do, to think?

The sting of betrayal still sits in her heart, but its grip is looser now.

‘You have the Memories,’ Father Farouk says. 

The dreamlike quality and the setting in Rahsia’s guest room lets Rahsia know that it’s Iman’s Memory. This must have been from a year before, when Iman had first woken up.

‘The priesthood is not involved in the dealings and the office of the Secretkeeper. You alone hold its secrets. You hold all the secrets of the Secretkeeper.’ The priest tries to hold back a grin, but fails. He thinks he’s funny. He’s always had.

‘Why did it not pass to Rahsia?’ Iman asks. 

Rahsia feels a swirl of emotions that aren’t hers. Did the Memories pass on emotions? She isn’t sure. A little, she decides. There is, after all, muscle memory that she can interpret. Rahsia remembers the feeling of eyes widening, a realisation. Iman’s mouth falls open, she shakes her head. What had Iman realised?

But Rahsia cannot read thoughts, she cannot Remember Iman’s unspoken thoughts. So she doesn’t know what happened then, except that Iman had thought of her, had asked the same question she had, before taking up the role. Iman hadn’t stolen it from her. It had been forced on her. There is a little comfort in that.



In Impian, Memories are passed down through an unbroken line of women who take on the role of the Secretkeeper. It’s often passed from mother to daughter, but in certain cases, the Memories choose a more suitable host. In The Weight of Secrets (or Secretkeeper, as I call it), there’s a slight blip in the line of succession.

Also, yay! A current excerpt.


Still way, way, behind goals, but I WROTE STUFF!!
*wiggles*