Wednesday 30 November 2011

#nanowrimo: I did it!

*does jiggly wiggly dance*
Am not quite coherent right now, so I shall leave you to stare at the beauty of my cert.
Will be flying down to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow on the 7am flight so I will have to be up by 5. URGH.

Monday 28 November 2011

A short #nanowrimo update, and back to writing

I have 3 more days to write my remaining 20K words for nanowrimo.
I'm crazy to even think I want to try, but I think I will, just to see if I can.
See, I figure, with write or die I make about 500 words in 15 minutes. Which is 2,000 words an hour. But this is virtually impossible, because after 15 minutes of straight writing, my mind wanders. And then I need a 10 minute break to surf the internet (talk about self-control & self-discipline issues!)
So this means I can write about 1,000 words an hour (on a good stretch), give or take maybe 100 or so on either side depending on if I'm on a roll or if I'm just pushing through a scene. Which means I need 20 hours to meet the 20K. (The math is right? I may be an auditor but my mental math sucks. Would you believe I still count my change on my fingers?)
The upside of this is that I had originally take leave from work for project dance (and to be lazy) from this week onwards... the downside of which is I have to cancel one day's leave tomorrow to meet a deadline, but that's still TWO WHOLE DAYS OFF WORK.
And see, I usually spend 12 hours a day staring at a computer screen at work ANYWAY, so spending 20 hours over two days staring at computer screen to FINISH THIS NOVEL isn't going to be much different from what I always do.
And yes, that was me pep-talking myself.
It's 10AM and I have 19K to go.
See you Wednesday.
(I really should start a writing label/tag that says "I am crazy")

[edit 12.07AM, 11/29/11: Reached about 40K by midnight and am crazily impressed with myself. Would have gotten more done if I didn't get distracted following new twitter accounts and blogs after dinner.]

Wednesday 23 November 2011

And where is your faith?

[edit: you should read this with the playlist.]

Sometimes I wonder where my faith lies in all this. This pursuit of a better sentence; of words that tug at your heart and try to build; this story that is bursting forth in mouldy rags.
Because somewhere along the way, the tangible presence became an intangible longing, and the intangible prize reached out its arms and masqueraded as the real thing. Ah, it is easier to destroy with a word than to build with a tome. And yet sometimes behind the stories are the kernels of truths, half-forgotten.

I need You, because without You all this is empty. And the longing shows in the depth of it all, because I am shallow. I skim the surface, looking for the emotions that shore me up, lift me up, forgetting the roots that dig deep into the refreshing fountains that never end. Forgetting the foundation that brought me here in the first place.

All of my life, in every season
You are still God, I have a reason
To sing, I have a reason to worship
Desert Song - Hillsong

Still You stay behind the scenes, working unseen the untold stories, playing out the hidden dramas, drawing forth the silent songs. And there is that core that says, return. It calls, drawing me, pushing me, saying there is more. Have you forgotten? These eyes have forgotten heaven in its splendour. majesty in the flesh.

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God you are higher than any other
Our God - Chris Tomlin

And strength cloaked in weakness bids me come again, to cry out because I cannot. Because my heart is weak; my knees, they knock; my hands, they shake. And again this dream is too big for me to hold, this mystery too vast for me to comprehend, this longing too overwhelming for me to bear. And I need You. And You are there.

So we cry out Your Name, El Shaddai, God of grace
We rely on Your grace, Adonai, crowned in praise
We Cry Out - Gateway Worship (excerpted)

And oh, the depth of this love, so easily forgotten, so easily discarded. Yet it beats; it pounds; it grasps. It never lets go. You never. let. go. And You spur us on, deeper in, higher up, further onwards, to Narnia and the north, to where the unseen realm meets reality, blended in magic and fire and glory and majesty, driven by the Great Myth.

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about, the way
And oh, how He loves us so
Oh how He loves us
How He loves us all
How He loves - David Crowder Band

Still. all. you. are. Breathe. deep. Remember.

Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvellous mystery
Revelation Song - Kari Jobe & Gateway Worship

And all He is is all we are and all we are is all of His. And round it goes, the serpent that swallows it's tail in an endless ellipse. And where is your faith in the midst of it all?
In the depths.
Of who you are.
Of who you have forgotten.
Of who you long to be again.

The God I know
Your heart beats within me
As You are, so are we
The God I know - City Harvest Church

Monday 21 November 2011

Wonderfully generous writers

Over the year as I've participated in various blogfests, notably the Rachael Harrie's Third Writers' Platform Building Campaign, Rule of Three (#REN3 or Renaissance) and the A to Z blog challenge in April, through twitter and through my Triberr group (Writer Warriors!), I've come to know quite a few very awesome writer people on the interwebs. One thing that really astonishes me is how remarkably generous they are. Here's some of them:


The first plug I'm going to make is somewhat personal. After all, my stories are on it. Katharina Gerlach has compiled a total of 176 stories from 81 different writers from the Third Writers' Platform Building Campaign (with our permissions, of course) and is offering it as a compilation titled Campaigner Challenges 2011.

To quote Cat in her own words,:

I "stumbled over" an eleven year old boy who taught me how much can be achieved by doing small steps every day persistently. His name was Harry Moseley, and he passed away peacefully in his mother’s arms on Saturday 8 October 2011 at 11.10pm. The most amazing thing about Harry (in case you haven’t heard yet) is that he single handedly raised over £85,000 (that’s roughly 137,000 USD) for brain cancer research by fund-raising and selling hand-made bracelets. Awed by this boy who looked death in the eye but who was determined to enjoy every day, I decided to raise funds for people in need too.
All proceeds from the sales of the book will go to Help Harry Help Others to fund more research on Brain Cancer. The ebook is currently available on Smashwords and Amazon at USD2.99 each.


I haven't personally read Raine's books yet, but I met her through Triberr and have I've been following her blog. This month she's introduced the Raine Gives Back programme where 5% of all her monthly book earnings will be given to a charity of the month. If you're interested in fantasy/romance stories consider getting her books, the Saraquel Trilogy.


Lisa Vooght from Flash Fiction posted about the With Love anthologies here.
The With Love Project was crafted by a small group of talented artists and authors, that donates to Doctors Without Borders. This project helps and supports Doctors Without Borders, donating enough money from the project to aide in providing vaccinations, support resources and AIDS medicine to those who couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. The money is allocated for the various needs by Doctors Without Borders.
There are currently three books on offer - With Love, Dawn of Indie Romance and After Dark. Li has offered some snippets on her blog to promote the latest book, After Dark, and they are good. Of course, with Li in the mix, it has to be good. :)  It's currently on my to-buy list. Maybe it should be on yours too.

After Dark is available on Smashwords and Amazon.


The next one isn't quite a book plug. I met Carol through the #amwritingparty hashtag on twitter. I don't think the hashtag is still going - the last time I check it seemed to be pretty dormant. Anyway, she is going on a medical mission to Haiti with Mission Haiti Medical and is raising funds from for the trip.

As part of this mission, all serving are required to get immunizations and raise enough to cover our plane tickets and stay in the meager accommodations as well as money for RX meds and supplies for the mission. Additionally, we're expected to bring as much over-the-counter medicine as we can carry...if you can spare even a dollar, less than the cost of a cup of coffee, that's a box of children's vitamins from the dollar store--at minimum. Because we also have pharmaceutical connections and can purchase RX drugs and supplies at cost, so that $20 can support the medical needs of something like 60 Haitians for over a month. 
Do give if you can. I just did.


Saturday 19 November 2011

#nanowrimo update and a #fridayflash

And this is how you stagnate:

A 5-day vacation followed immediately be 3 deadlines (one submitted, two to come) is the root cause. I don't know how it's going to work out, especially since I've been hitting some snags plot wise. But at any rate, since I'm at it, I'll give you the initial short story I wrote that started off the whole idea in the first place. Maybe it should have remained a short story (but probably more developed) than this mess of a novel it is trying to become. I'm still wondering if I should work on a short story for the Commonwealth competition.

Urgh. I need more than 24 hours in a day. Or probably at least learn how to survive (and function) on less than 6 hours of sleep.


Shell was left alone. He had the urge to laugh hysterically, the ridiculous image of the one time he had argued with his teacher in school and had been punished to stand in the corner of the room wearing the dunce cap arising in his mind’s eye. He gulped it down, reminding himself of the vast difference in circumstances.
His hands were tightly bound before him, a length of chain that looped through his collar holding them waist level. Twisting his head to the left and up, he saw that the end of the leash had been tied to a metal ring in the wall. Not as if he could move it anyway, there was some kind of magic in the bonds that prevented his fingers from untying them. He shifted his weight on to his left foot, the brand on his right sole was aching again.
He stiffened as the door opened. The tall, blond princess entered, coming to a stop before him. Kest snapped her fingers and a goblet rose from the side table, floating gently into her hand. She sipped slowly, her eyes still focused on Shell.
“What magic is it that you have?” she asked, her voice low and throaty.
“M… Magic, Yo… Your Highness?” Shell’s wide eyes were still staring at the goblet. “I… I’m just a m… musician.”
Her long fingers pinched at her lower lip, her eyes narrowing. “Musician! Pah! You think you can sooth my father with mere music? There is magic in the tunes that you play.”
“Maybe it… it’s in the instruments, Your Highness. I… I don’t know any m… magic.”
“In that old harp they chain you to? It’s been there for the last fifty years, soaking up the blood of each musician that has displeased my father. Most of them last for only a day or two. You’ve been here for nearly a month. And yet I wonder why I never noticed you earlier. You, who dare perform magic in my courts.”
He was shaking now, shrinking back into the corner, sure that his end had come.
“I… I didn’t mean to, Your H… Highness. It was… was a mistake. I…”
She laughed as he fell on his face.
“P… Please don’t kill me! I… I won’t do it anymore.”
“Don’t do it anymore.”
Shell couldn’t tell if it was a question, or a statement. “No… no, I…”
“Do you have a death wish then?”
Her voice had moved. Shell sneaked a peek up to see that the princess was now reclining on her couch.
“Come here, boy.”
He glanced up at the wall to see the leash untying itself. He swallowed hard as he crawled toward her, hampered by his bonds.
There was amusement in her voice as she said, “You may rise.”
With a nod, he got to his feet, walking as best as he could in the short length of chain that connected his ankles.
“The shoes, please. Put them by the door.”
“As you wish, Your Highness.”
He worked at the many laces that held the high boots together, but it seemed that as he got each one untied, somewhere else his work was undone. The knot in the pit of his stomach grew bigger with each passing moment, beads of sweat rising on his forehead. And yet the princess didn’t speak. He didn’t dare turn to look at her, wondering in the back of his mind if this was some strange game she was playing, a prelude to his torture and execution.
He grit his teeth as he worked on, determined not to give in.
“What is your name?”
He startled at her words, his fingers fumbling. “Shell, Your Highness.”
“Relax, Shell. Close your eyes and imagine the knots in your mind. Can you see the centre? Play it like your harp.”
Shell closed his eyes and tried to think, the image of his own grisly death intruding into his thoughts. And yet even as his eyes shut off the light, his fingers seemed to find their own way in the darkness of his mind. A gentle touch here, a tug on that end, a pull, a push. He blinked as the boots slid easily off her feet into his hands. He wobbled to his feet.
“Never mind about that,” the princess flicked her fingers and the boots flew away of their own accord. “Come here.”
He sat where she had gestured, pulling his knees to his chest.
Her eyes, level to his from where she reclined, scrutinised his face.
“So strong, and yet so unaware. Do you know that even my apprentice has yet to reach the magical strength required to remove my boots? And you do it on your first attempt.”
“Please, Your Highness, I won’t…”
“You won’t what? Do magic anymore? You can’t help it, boy. It’s in you. And if you stop, if your music ceases to please my father, you’re as good as dead. No. I could use you.”
She stopped pulling at her lower lip, seeming to come to a decision. “Come along then,” she said as she got up. She strode to the door. Shell gaped as the boots laced themselves around her feet. The leash tugged at him and he hobbled along behind her. 


Wednesday 9 November 2011

Competitions: #REN3 and Commonwealth

If you haven't already visited the Renaissance blog... go now!
The shortlist of 6 has been up since Sunday, and you have two more days to vote for your favourite story. The poll will close at 11.59PM GMT on Friday 11th November, and the winner of the blogfest will be announced on Monday 14th November!
I'm kind of sad that I didn't make the list, but all the stories were so awesome that it doesn't really matter. :)


So maybe I'm slow-ish, but I just found out that Commonwealth Writers is holding two competitions:

Commonwealth book prize
Awarded for best first book, this prize is open to writers who have had their first novel (full length work of fiction) published between 1 January and 31 December 2011. Publishers must enter the book on behalf of the author except in the case of self published authors from eligible regions who can make their own submission. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £10,000.
Entry forms must be submitted no later than Friday 9 December 2011 (5pm GMT). Books must be received by the Prize Administrator no later than Friday 16 December 2011 (5pm GMT).

Commonwealth short story prize
Awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000 – 5000 words). Submissions must be made by the author of the short story. Regional winners receive £1,000 and the overall winner receives £5,000.
Entry forms must be submitted no later than 30 November 2011 (5pm GMT). 

So head on over if you're eligible! 


Nanowrimo progress since the last update: 0.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Nano Spotlight at Kelworth Files

Today I'm over at Chris's blog, the Kelworth Files for his Nano Spotlight, where he asks me 4 Nanowrimo-related questions and a sneaky ninja question.
Do pop on over!


Nanowrimo update:
I've crossed the 10K line and am pretty much on target up until yesterday. Today, I may have to work late (nothing unusual) in order to be able to leave work early-ish tomorrow (which to an auditor means after the official working hours of 5.30pm, but before 8pm) because a friend of mine is helping a friend of his do a video commercial shoot and asked if I wanted to help out. So maybe no additional words today.
Or for the rest of this week, depending on how much sleep I actually need.
My dad is graduating with his Masters this weekend so there is a graduation dinner on Thursday followed by the graduation ceremony on Friday and on Saturday, my family and I fly off to the exotic Land Below the Wind (I think?) of Kota Kinabalu. (That's located on the Malaysian Borneo, if you're checking).


But I had a blog post I wanted to do up on Sunday, which I haven't but which I might. We'll see.

Saturday 5 November 2011

The #nanowrimo update

It's four days into #nanowrimo (well, five, if you count the fact that it's already past midnight) and I've achieved a grand total of 5,529 words. Which is not bad, since I didn't write anything on Thursday at all. (Day 4's goal was 6,666 words)

I was hoping to be something of a plotter this year, seeing that I had a story arch and all, but right now... I'm not following the plan.
I had organised the story into two parts - the first part explores Shell's prophecy, his feelings of disparateness with his own country/race and how he was captured by the Danyans. The second part jumps forward about 15 years. Shell has found his niche in the Danyan society and is one of the cream magicians (main thought: echoes of Daniel in the Bible). Then he is ordered to lead a strike against his own country. His family, what's left of it, is still there. The main thought I'm playing with at the moment is the idea of loyalty to your country. How far and how deep does it run if you've left it for so long? If you've never felt like you belonged there? Will Shell have any qualms about the attack or would he just do it?

I got stuck on Day 1 and 2 because I just couldn't get a beginning out as I had envisioned. I mean, I had this whole Chapter One is going to introduce the MC, Chapter Two is going to play up on the MC's interaction with his family/society, etc.... but I just couldn't write it.
So about 3K words into the beginning, I gave up.Today I jumped right into what I figured would be the "Part 2" of the story and wrote 2.2K words in about 2 and a half hours.
Maybe I will still write Part 1... but we'll see. If I can't find enough energy to be intersted in writing it, it probably won't be very interesting to read it either. Maybe I need to keep on writing this "meaty" Part 2 stuff first to know more about Shell before I go back into that bit.

So I guess I'm still partially a panster.

Toodles off to do a bit of championing. :)

Tuesday 1 November 2011

It's the Open Minds virtual launch party!

Open Minds is finally launching today!
So as part of the party, I'm posting my review of the book. *throws confetti*
Special thanks to Susan for the e-ARC of the book.

In a world where the ability to read minds comes with puberty, Kira Moore is still a zero at sixteen. She can’t read minds and no one can read hers, making her the outcast with no viable future whom nobody trusts or likes. As a zero, not only does Kira have to deal with the normal pains of growing up, raging hormones and all, she also has to deal with being an outcast just because she is different.

Then the incredible happens - she accidentally controls her best friend (and secret crush) Raf’s mind, almost killing him. Desperately trying to get a hold on her new mindjacking power, the only one who seems to be able to help her is bad boy Simon Zagan. Even as she is pulled into his orbit and dragged deep into the hidden world of mindjackers, it gets both harder and easier to fit in - because now she can pretend to be like the others, but at what cost?

Quinn has written a brilliant post about her theme, quoted here:
The idea of tolerance (or the lack of it) is a compelling one for me. The human brain is wired to distrust the "other" - to be wary or outright hate those who are different. This is the wolf of hate, that Rick Hanson spoke of so eloquently. It takes conscious acts of courage and open mindedness to overcome this natural tendency to fear people who are different, to feed our wolf of love instead of the wolf of hate. While racial intolerance has a tremendous impact on the world, I think of tolerance as a broader issue that affects interactions between all kinds of people. Even small acts of open mindedness can have a huge impact on the people both giving and receiving.
  • Open minds treat you with respect, instead of snubbing you for being too strange or too new or too foreign or too shy.
  • Open minds are compassionate, giving you a hand up when you are down, instead of pretending they don't see your pain or piling on when the pack attacks.
  • Open minds accept you, treating you like the flawed, unique, wonderful person that you are, instead of judging you by your looks, skin color, or accent.

I love Kira’s voice in the book, which draws you into her internal dilemma even as she tries to figure out how to survive in a world that thinks her a freak. I love the way she tries to hold on to her principles and to stand up for what is right, even when it makes life even more difficult for her. I believe that the world needs more positive examples who will stand up and fight for justice and truth - and Kira Moore is one of them.

All in all, a great read.

Other miscellaneous tidbits:
  • Open Minds was started as a NaNoWriMo novel (yay for NaNoWriMo!) two years ago
  • Closed Hearts, the coming sequel to Open Minds, will be written during NaNoWriMo this year
  • Kira, in Malay, means count. In a bizarre way, I think the name is very apt. Kira is trying very hard to make her life, and the lives of other young mindjackers and zeros count. 


Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):

1) Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post

2) Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)

Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW

Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW

3) Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)

Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!


OpenMinds_cover_100.jpgWhen everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (also UK, France and Germany), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and print (Amazon, Createspace, also autographed copies available from the author).