Friday, 30 May 2014

#fridayflash: the voices

Dear Denise,

I hope you get this letter. Casey refuses to let me anywhere near you, and Natasha’s pretty much of the same mind. Even Lex stared at me for a long time and mumbled something about Max and appearances before saying that he’d try.

It really doesn’t look good for me, although I have Lex’s word that they won’t press charges. I understand where they’re coming from, though. What else should they think when they found me standing over you, razor in hand, blood everywhere? Don’t worry. I didn’t tell them and I won’t, unless you want to. Tell them what you need to – I can take it. I can bear this for you until you’re ready.

I hate the voices in your head that tell you you’re not good enough. I hate the voices that keep telling you that you’ll never be loved, that you’ll never be worthy. That you deserve to hurt. They’re wrong. They lie to you in the worst way. It will be a long battle, Denise, but it doesn’t need to be a bloody one.
You don’t have to listen to the voices that tear you down. You have a choice. Listen to me. Keep my words with you, even if you can’t reach me.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
YOU ARE LOVED AND TREASURED.
YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE.
You can choose to do something different. Make something beautiful.

Every time you forget that, call me and I’ll remind you. Call me, please. Just DON’T DO IT. Please.

You are stronger than you think you are, and this one incident will not break you forever. I wish I had been able to answer your call. It was the worst timing ever for me to have silenced my phone. Forgive me, Denise. Forgive me for being almost too late.

I fought this battle before, Denise. You’re stronger than I was. You can win this.
Remember that even when you hate yourself, I love you still.

Mark

Denise stared at the scars on her hands, remembering Mark's voice. He'd taken the razor from her hands. Held her. Whispered to her the words that still echoed in her head, overpowering her own.
It's okay to cry. Crying is better than cutting. Crying is better than dying. Itsokayitsokayitsokayitsokay. I love you. It's okay. It's okay to cry. 

She gripped the letter tighter as she read his words again.
I hate myself. 
It's okay it's okay it's okay. You're beautiful.

---

Prompt: The Evil Within
Background canon: Would you just listen?, Aloof (Read at your own peril. You may want to gouge your eyes out midway through)

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

#bookreview: Exodus 2022

Exodus 2022Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joe Stanton wakes up searching for his missing daughter - the daughter he knows is dead... the daughter he never had. This bizarre hallucination is only the beginning of a wild ride that Joe and his girlfriend, Ella, find themselves on - one that includes a billionaire weapons contractor, a genius scientist, telepathy, the future of life on the earth and Joe's impending death.

I totally loved Exodus 2022! I'd read it halfway before bed on
Monday night and was intending to do stuff on Tuesday morning, being a public holiday, but partially because I was lazy and also because I really had to know what happened I ended up spending the whole morning finishing the book.

The story has a very strong environmental thrust and some paranormal overtones. I'd hesitate to say fantasy... it has a more "religious" feel to it (i.e. other higher power, good vs evil).

I only had 3 issues with this book, which isn't quite major enough to warrant any drop in my rating, but I figured I would mention them here:
1. Iffy formatting in the kindle version made some awkward line breaks between sentences. It didn't affect the sentences or meanings or anything, but was just a little annoying.
2. Priest with tattoos, long-hair, earrings and on holiday together with his girlfriend? Not something that would normally be tolerated in churches where I'm from, but then again I don't know much about the Episcopal church.
3. The ending (which was happy/tragic for me) raised one... question...

I received this book for review as part of the Novel Publicity Tour.

View all my reviews

About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!


About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of EXODUS 2022! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official EXODUS 2022 tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: Joe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter. Or so it seems. Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year- old’s outburst on drugs. What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns. With the help of his girlfriend—the woman he loves and dreams of marrying—Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.

Get EXODUS 2022 through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Kenneth G. Bennett is the author of the young adult novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, and the new sci-fi thriller, EXODUS 2022. A wilderness enthusiast who loves backpacking, skiing and kayaking, Ken enjoys mysteries, science fiction, action adventure stories and, most especially, novels that explore the relationship between humans and the wild. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and son and two hyperactive Australian Shepherds.

Connect with Kenneth on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.

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Friday, 23 May 2014

#Fridayflash: The Evil Within

She painted with broad strokes, making loud statements in bright colours. Stepping back, she wiped her fringe away from her eyes with the back of her hand and squinted at the canvas. It didn’t feel right. She glanced at the open windows, wondering why the sunlight seemed to have dimmed when it was too early for dusk. The horizon seemed to have blurred – was it her eyesight, or was it the haze? She put down her brush and closed the windows, drawing the curtains before turning on the studio’s lights. In the harsh fluorescent light, the painting looked even more garish.

He watched her pacing from the couch, counting her steps. One, two, three, four, pause. One, two three, turn. Her steps were unsteady, unlike the rhythmic tick of the pocketwatch lying on his bare chest counting down the seconds of his life. How long more did he have? He wriggled his fingers, trying to get blood into them again.

“Why won’t it come out right?” she threw the brush down.

He watched the paint splatter; a bright red that started to streak towards him as the brush rolled across the floor. “What’s it supposed to be?” he asked, his voice cracking a little from disuse.

“My soul.” She turned to him and flushed. The thin blanket had slipped to the floor, exposing his naked form.

“Use more black.”

“As if you’d know. You’re not an artist.” She crossed the studio floor, bending to pick up her brush where it had stopped right in front of him. She leaned over and kissed him, harshly, desperately.

“I’m hungry,” he said sullenly when she finally pulled away.

She rolled her eyes. “All I have is cereal.”

“I haven’t eaten all day.”

“Neither have I and I’m not complaining.”

“You’re not eating by choice. I’m not.”

She patted his cheek, leaving a smear of paint. “You won’t be hungry much longer.” She got up and went back to her painting.

He listened to the tick of the clock as he struggled against the ropes that bound his hands and feet. He was running out of time.

---

This prompt, "The Evil Within", comes to you from The Writer's Tower.

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Why do I keep freaking myself out?
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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

#bookreview: The Daughter of the Sea and Sky

Daughter3DThe Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack has launched! This fabulous title is available now on all online retailers and in your local book stores. You aren't going to want to miss this new literary journey exploring the clash between reason and faith, and the power of hope and love.

The Book

After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light—two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean.




Summary: A mysterious nine-year-old from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a couple in the Republic, claiming to be the Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. Is she a troubled child longing to return home, or a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of the Republic? The answer will change the lives of all she meets… and perhaps their world as well.
Author: David Litwack
Genre: Fantasy/Speculative Literary Fiction
Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Amazon B&N

My Review


The Daughter of the Sea and the SkyThe Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Helena and Jason pull a refugee from the Blessed Lands out of her sinking boat, they didn’t expect that she would turn their lives upside down. Nine-year-old Kailani, who calls herself the “Daughter of the Sea and Sky”, cannot assimilate herself into the lifestyle of reason and logic in the Republic, but neither can she return to the Blessed Lands until her penance is over. In an attempt to rescue her from being sent to a correctional facility, Helena applies to be her temporary legal guardian until her tribunal date and brings her to the Glen Eagle Farm – the artist colony where her estranged mother lives.

On a general scale of things, I’d rate Litwack’s latest offering with 4 stars – the story is not so fast-paced that it makes you lose your breath and yet it’s not so slow that you get bored with it. It’s a beautifully written story, a little vague and dreamy at times, that touches on the divide between faith and reason, love and duty, and how an innocent child can somehow throw your life off-course.

Carlson and Benjamin offer counterpoints to each other – one man trying his best to protect a young girl even though it may cost him his job and his pension, the other with fanatical fire in his heart, doing all he can to use her for his own gain. Litwack’s characters are well-fleshed out, and because of that, easy to identify with – their hopes are sometimes your own, their foibles are often things we are guilty of but try to deny.

And that is also the reason why I would rate this 3-stars for personal enjoyment – because the battles fought felt a little too close for comfort, the questions raised leaving uncomfortable feelings in my chest. With these stirred emotions, the ending, while providing closure to the story, left me with a feeling that there should have been something more. There should have been a deeper meaning to this seemingly simple story. And maybe there is. I just have to discover it for myself.

I received this e-book for review from the author via Novel Publicity.

View all my reviews

Other books by David Litwack:
There Comes a Prophet
Along the Watchtower

The Giveaway

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Monday, 19 May 2014

Guest post: Get Off The Writing Merry-Go-Round And Try Something New

Today Nikolas from Grammarly is guest posting on my blog! :)
Get Off The Writing Merry-Go-Round And Try Something New
Just keep going and going and going…
Ever feel like you’ve been doing the same thing repetitively? Feel like you’re stuck in a rut? No new ideas coming in and your creativity is at an all time low? Why do we do this to ourselves, writers? We keep trucking along, trying to finish our manuscript, when our writing is suffering. Stop riding the same horse and try something new. Your writing will thank you.
When you get stuck in a rut where you write forever and know that even though the keys are punched fast, the quality of the writing is terrible, you need to stop and do something else. No matter how many words you write, they’re not good words. You may have met your five-page minimum for the day, you may have written from 2-7 p.m. just like you planned, and submitted that draft to your editor, but at what cost?
 Give Your Brain a Break
You’re writing crap because your brain feels like crap. You’re tired or annoyed or frustrated or burnt out. There’s not enough time to feel sorry for yourself so you just keep working; turning out pages like rain drops. Why not give yourself a break? Take a yoga class, read a new book, talk to a new writer, find a new client, teach yourself something new about writing. Even the most experienced writers are always learning. The English language is constantly evolving, adding new words like “bootylicious” every day, so writers need to stay up on trends and information.
Take some time out to stop writing. Yes, stop writing. Just like plants need water, soil, and food to live, so do you. You can’t just place a writer at a desk, water them, and poof out comes greatness. They need to be fed and praised with sunshine compliments and take a nap every so often. Writing constantly, although it has shown to improve skills, burns you out and leaves you with a quality of work that is far less than what you’re capable of.
 Try a New Fountain of Knowledge
When I’m tired of writing, I like to move to editing or writing prompts. They help me clean my head and look at my work in a different light. I can see that there are fresh ideas on the page when I free write and I can tell that my work is improving by just changing the topic. Likewise, when I sit down to edit, I can see my work’s flaws a lot better and see where the links in the chain aren’t matching up.
Proofreading can become a difficult task when you’re brain is fried, however. That’s why I like to turn my work over to the online source Grammarly for a fresh pair of eyes and perspective.
Grammarly identifies errors in my writing that I miss, teaches me how to avoid my most common errors, and gives me a chance to unlearn and relearn grammar and punctuation through it’s teaching tools. It adapts to my style and even suggests context-optimized synonyms that improve my work. It’s a tool that really wants you to take advantage of it and drives you towards better writing. When I proofread with Grammarly, I know the work is error-free and better than what I could have done myself. I know that I’ll learn more about writing but also have the opportunity to reach out to other writers for help through the question and answer boards. Grammarly is a different style and type of tool that truly encompasses all the particles that make up a manuscript.
 Give Up Your Season Pass
That’s right. Get off the merry-go-round and let your brain have a rest. Even if you work tirelessly for hours or days or months, eventually a crash will come. Do yourself, and probably your friend and family, favor and go out to lunch or paint a picture or go for a walk to give your brain a break. Taking into account the other parts of the writing process, such as proofreading and contacting agents or publishers, can help you see the big picture rather than just focusing on the small pieces of your manuscript that have been driving you crazy. You’re a hardworking writer; enjoy the view every so often.            
---
Bio:
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.
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Guest post: David Litwack on backpacking and new beginnings

Daughter3D
The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack has launched! This fabulous title is available now on all online retailers and in your local book stores. You aren't going to want to miss this new literary journey exploring the clash between reason and faith, and the power of hope and love.

The Book

After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light—two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean.

Summary: A mysterious nine-year-old from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a couple in the Republic, claiming to be the Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. Is she a troubled child longing to return home, or a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of the Republic? The answer will change the lives of all she meets… and perhaps their world as well.
Author: David Litwack
Genre: Fantasy/Speculative Literary Fiction
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Amazon B&N

Guest Post - On backpacking and new beginnings

In my earlier days, when I had younger knees, I loved to go backpacking in the mountains of northern New England. My favorite place to hike was the Lafayette ridge in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. The exposed ridge goes on for a mile and half along a knife edge, from the summit of Mt. Lafeyette across Mt. Lincoln to Little Haystack. For the entire way, there are magnificent views in all directions, that is, if the weather cooperates. And there’s the rub. The mountains of northern New England host some of the most violent and unpredictable weather on earth.
I made six attempts to climb the ridge, succeeding in only four. In the two others I was forced to turn back due to high winds that took my breath way. Each time, I’d park at the trail head, stare up at the craggy summit, and steel myself for the ascent. I was both exhilarated and scared, knowing how hard it would be, how far I had to go, and how the possibility always existed that I’d make a wrong choice and have to turn back. But always there was the upside of that magnificent view if I succeeded.
I’m reminded of that experience this week as I begin work on my fourth novel, the sequel to There Comes a Prophet. While writing a novel is easier on the knees, it’s a lot more work, a commitment of a year or more. It’s also fraught with risk, where one bad decision can lead down a thorny path that leads to nowhere or worse to a cliff you don’t see until it’s too late.
But worst of all, there’s always the possibility that you won’t find your way to the end, that some obdurate character will rebel or some miscreant plot element will rear its ugly head and shout: “No! You’re wrong! There’s no story to be found here.” But as I once again venture into the literary woods and take my first tentative steps along the path of blank pages, I’m reminded that, like with backpacking, there’s the hope of reaching that glorious summit. And that, after all, is why we writers write.

David Litwack, author of There Comes a Prophet, Along the Watchtower, and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky
www.davidlitwack.com

The Giveaway

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The Tour

Follow along at Novel Publicity Events
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Friday, 16 May 2014

#fridayflash: placeholder

Are you living a placeholder life?
Carrie stared at the screen, the words seeming to grow bigger the more she contemplated them. She wasn't sure what they were supposed to mean. It was if someone had planted the thought into her subconscious and they had flowed through her fingers onto the e-mail that she was writing. She deleted the line and continued her letter.
At any rate, Michael won't be back until the 21st, so maybe we could catch up some time before then. I feel so awkwardly free when he's not around!
Everyone else is achieving their dreams while you're stuck in a rut.
She frowned as she re-read that last line. Where had that come from? She deleted it.
Funny thing happened today. So I was looking for new music to listen to and a friend recommended a list of them, ending by saying "This will destroy you." I was like, what? Why will I be destroyed by listening to your music? Apparently it's the name of a band. Ridiculous, right?
Don't you think it's time you did something?
"This is crazy," Carried said to the empty room.
Go on. Take the plunge. You know you're sick of your boring life.
She stared at the blinking cursor as it paused and then moved on its own.
Live your real life. Stop being filler. You know you want to. 

---

I was thinking of placeholders, for no apparent reason.
Actually, this piece feels a little creepy. Hmm.

---

I'm researching emo instrumental music for background music for an emo monologue sequence. Ha. Post-rock is kind of cool.

Mono's Hymn to an Immortal Wind has been writing music for quite a few writing projects, notably A Place To Call Home.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

#bookreview: The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis

The Key (True Reign, #1)The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old peasant Rema should be happy - the Crown Prince has picked her to be his wife. The problem is she hates his cruel guts, was blackmailed into submitting to his proposal, and she may be in love with his brother, Prince Darmik.

Prince Darmik can't help thinking about that girl he met in the forest - but he's too busy trying to quash the rumour that a legitimate blood heir to the throne exists and is trying to overthrow Darmik’s family.

The Key has all the ingredients to a fascinating read - a budding but thwarted romance, deadly sibling rivalry to overcome and a mystery to be unravelled. Jennifer Anne Davis weaves all this together into a wonderful tapestry of words that keeps you wanting more.

View all my reviews

Monday, 12 May 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Wordle: UntitledThank you for stopping by for this week's Writing Process Blog Tour!

This is a travelling blog tour that pops up every Monday for writers to share a little about what, how and why they write. If you're a writer, I hope it cheers you on on your journey - and if you're not, hopefully it will give you some little insight into the lives of the people who create the stories you love!


The tour was passed on to me by an online friend of mine, Corinne O'Flynn. We met through the indomitable Damyanti who added us into her Triberr group, the Writer Warriors. Since then, we've been in periodic contact through Triberr, her blog, twitter,
Corinne OFlynn writes all kinds of things from flash fiction to essays to novels. She loves writing Young Adult, especially when it has dark edges and fantasy elements. She wrote her first novel, a YA fantasy, THE EXPATRIATES, as a “pantser” and soon realized (over the course of many, many, *many* drafts) that outlining was invented with people like her in mind. Now an avowed “plotter” she’s excited about completing her second novel, a YA contemporary witch murder mystery, COVENTRY TOWN, in what felt like a fraction of the time. By day, she runs a non-profit organization in Colorado and spends as much time as she can with books.

So on to the blog tour:

What am I working on?
This is a very, very difficult question, mainly because I am working on multiple things often without a solid deadline (sometimes because I stretch them like taffy). I do not think I have ADHD, though sometimes the way I handle my writing projects makes it seem so.
I've just completed a fairy tale blog series which I'm considering turning into a novelette. I'm setting aside the month of May for revisions though this might stretch into June since I'm also working on a script for a church service on May 31st (that's mostly written, but practices take up time).
I'm also mulling over this year's Christmas script - I have a story idea, but that's basically it. Let's not talk about the 3 or 4 fantasy manuscripts in my folder which needs editing and the S+S script and short story deadlines in June that I was hoping for.  

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I walk the fine balance between being real and true enough to engage the depth and width of human emotions, and being clean and hopeful enough to be a "Christian" story. Actually, no. I'd rather just go for the emotions than to be preachy.
I tend towards despair and desperation and brokenness because that's where most of us spend our lives and I try as much as possible not to use "But God said..." or miraculous interventions because Deux ex machina is often a flimsy plot point.
At the same time, in all I write, I try to keep it "clean". Because, you know, kids may be reading. Sex and death happens, but it doesn't need to be graphic. Besides I'd feel awkward.

Why do I write what I do?
There's room in this world for honest, gritty stories that talk about faith without making it seem like a holy grail or unattainable thing. That the small things that you do in life faithfully do actually matter. I mean, there's our faulty faith in the ordinary times and there's faith that makes miracles happen - and so often we focus on the miracles that we alienate the people, like me, who sometimes wake up struggling to believe.
Also, the world needs more fairy tales and dragons. And it's easier to be true in talking about ideals and faith, and despair and brokenness, when you're writing in a fantasy world, than when you're writing in the here and now. (Well, at least for me)
I also think there is room in this world for more clean stories. True, there is a burgeoning adult market, but that doesn't need to be at the expense of good reads for younger people, or people who just don't like graphic stuff.

How does my writing process work?
Most of my stories start with either a character which interests me (sometimes just his/her name) or a line or sentence that grips me. Once I've written about a page (maybe 500 - 800 words), I'd be able to tell more or less where the story is probably going, or if it's just going to be a flash. That's when I sit down and start doing a bit of plotting, though usually by the way I'm midway through the story that initial plot is usually just rubbish. (hi plot, bye plot, it was nice meeting you). So I'm really more of a pantser, though that act of sitting down and plotting a plot does help in the development of the story, even if I don't end up using half of what I planned.

And that wraps it up!
Thanks for dropping by. :)

Next week, the reins go to these three lovely blog friends of mine:

LK Gardner-Griffie started writing her first, never to be published, novel at the ripe old age of 9. She believes in that magic nation of imagination, and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface. Born in Seattle, WA and raised & living in southern California, LK is definitely a west coast girl, but loves to travel.
LK has spent time working in a variety of jobs, such as retail sales, insurance, throwing papers for the LA Times, pre-school teacher, and a brief, but memorable stint at a gas station, before ending up in the transportation industry. LK works for an international shipping company in the capacity of business, process, system support manager and has decided it is time to carve out a little time for writing as there are several more projects that she has in the works, as well as those that are still just a glimmer in her mind.


Julya Oui loves to dream up stories and make them happen with the stroke of a pen. She writes movie scripts, plays, novels, short stories and articles with monsters, muses and mystics in the City of Everlasting Peace.
Her first book of horror short stories, "Bedtime Stories from the Dead of the Night" was published in September 2011.








Melanie Lee is writer from Singapore specialising in content related to travel, food and heritage. Her work has been published in TODAY newspaper, Travel + Leisure (Southeast Asia), Singapore Tatler, Yahoo! Singapore, and POSKOD.SG amongst others. Besides editorial writing, she has co-authored Quiet Journeys: Finding Stillness in Chaos (Armour Publishing) and published a collection of short stories, Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us (MPH Publishing) as an illustrated e-book and paperback. She has also edited three coffee table books for ORO Editions: Sculpting Spaces in the Tropics, 13 Houses in Aamer Taher’s Design Journey, Fort Canning Hill: Exploring Singapore’s Heritage and Nature and Parting Glances: Singapore’s Evolving Spaces.Previous clients include the National Museum of Singapore, Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the Ministry of Education.
Melanie is an Associate Faculty at SIM University, teaching a variety of writing and communication subjects.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

#review: Sinbad the #musical


It probably doesn't make much of a difference whether I review this now or not, since there are only two more shows in this run - Saturday, 8.30pm and Sunday, 3.00pm. - and I heard that they're sold out. Then again, I suppose feedback is always good.

I enjoyed watching Sinbad, despite the kind of weak storyline as well as the kind of pathetic ending. I'm not sure what the actual Sinbad canon is supposed to be, except that he's this dashing sailor/pirate person, but for this musical, the storyline is a very basic (and slightly underdeveloped) 3-act hero's journey.


I suppose I should start with the plus points:

1) THE VIZIER IS AWESOME.
I honestly think Gene Sha Rudyn basically carried most of the show for me. He's the classic comic bad guy and I think he's a much stronger and well-rounded character than Sinbad was. Or maybe I just like the bad guy. Haha. (Ooo, he was a Malay rocker. Figures)

2) The group songs and choreography had great energy and were actually really entertaining
I particularly liked the group songs in the second act - "Orders is Orders" and "We're not that bad". I don't suppose they really added anything much to the story, but Huzzah and the guards were entertaining in this one (Huzzah kind of grows on you in this scene) and the choreography around the prisoners and their movable prison bars was interesting. From the first act, "We Work", "Sinbad the Sailor" and "Waiting for the day" were interesting enough to grab your attention as an opening scene, but I guess I don't remember anything catchy enough to make it memorable.

3) The singing is good
I mean, compared to the usual fare, these people can really sing. =) I'd rate them a couple notches up from Broken Bridges and super way better than Malaysian Girls. Can't really compare them to Marrying Me I guess due to the size of the productions.

4) Suliman
I don't know what to say about him. Um. But I found his solo impressive, and he had great stage presence.

The not-so-plus points:
1) The hero didn't really feel heroic.
I mean, he was mainly just a love-sick fool. And an enchanted one at that, although he didn't believe in magic. He was rather good-looking though :)

2) I wasn't really sure what the Ezra character was for, and why she was a principal cast and why she had a solo, which I unfortunately tuned out on because I couldn't really get what she was singing. Sorry.

3) The story line was overall rather weak, though it had its funny moments either through a witty line or through one or other of the cast and ensemble's quirks. I'd say that this musical was not so much plot-driven as it was character driven. And the problem it had was that it was focusing on too many characters. So whilst it was entertaining, it wasn't really... cohesive. Maybe another bugbear I have (which others might not really care about) was how much it seemed to depend on cliches. Or what I feel were cliches at any rate.
Maybe the other thing is that... it didn't really have an emotional arc. Things happened. But they didn't really draw you in to feel with the characters. So it's bam-bam-bam, this and that happens, bam-bam-bam, something else happens. Which goes back to why the Vizier and Suliman stood out for me was that I felt them.

I think that's the best I can figure for now.

---

So I noted a few familiar faces in the musical program book.


One of which was that Dominic Luk, whom I worked with in Yes Broadway Penang, was the vocal master. That was like.. woah, really. And also Riena Aisya, one of the really dedicated dancers from Yes Broadway Penang was in the ensemble! Yay for them!


Alvin Looi, of course, who had been actively promoting this musical on facebook for the past few months. (Nah, there's your picture. Don't jeles anymore).

Oh. And the most astounding thing happened. Okay, it didn't just "happen" but... well. I walked down the stairs and saw a college friend of mine, and she was talking to this guy, and she's like "don't you remember each other?" Frankly, I didn't. And then she was like... "he was in Drunk Before Dawn". And I'm like, oh, okay. Brain doesn't quite remember but he's starting to seem more familiar. and then OHHH. Ten years. TEN YEARS DID NOT JUST HAPPEN.

And now I'm thinking... WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Post #atozchallenge reflections


I'd wanted to do this reflection post earlier (like say Monday) but life got in the way, the same way it's been doing all through April.

My goals for the challenge, other than finishing the challenge, was to visit and comment more on other participants' blogs. So how did I do?

I finished the challenge.
Yay! Though I "cheated" a little bit - I wrote some of the Friday and Saturday posts really late... as in... I posted Friday's post on Saturday (hey, it was still Friday in the US) and the Saturday post on Sunday. But... well, I did it. So now I have a brand new fairy tale!

I visited a lot of blogs.
Okay, mainly because I had to, being part of #teamdamyanti. I could have done a better job of it by visiting more often, instead of when Damyanti was asking for reports (heh heh) but... well... I was busy and tired.

I lagged a little on commenting.
One thing about April was that I was out most nights, so when I visited blogs during lunch time in the office, or after office hours, I couldn't leave comments for all of the Wordpress sites. So I ended up commenting only on blogger blogs or those which weren't Wordpress based.

So overall... I'd say that this year's A to Z challenge was pretty successful for me - though not as much as I'd hoped for.

Well, there's still the road trip to consider...

----

P/S in other happy news, Love in Penang has gone for its 3rd reprint! :D


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#bookreview: Stolen Woman by Kimberly Rae

Stolen Woman: What Would You Risk to Rescue a Trafficked Friend? (Stolen #1)Stolen Woman: What Would You Risk to Rescue a Trafficked Friend? by Kimberly Rae
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kimberly Rae tells an interesting story of Asha, who was adopted as a baby by American parents, and how she makes a faith-filled trip to volunteer at an orphanage in India, the home of her birth. Part of her mission is to find out more about her heritage, the other is to discover if God wants her to be a missionary.
There, she meets Mark Stephens, a third-generation missionary, and Rani, a girl who has been tricked into prostitution. Asha has to decide if she will obey the mission's directive not to get involved and to stop trying to help Rani, or to follow her heart, which tells her she must do something, even if she doesn't know what.

In a way I could identify with the frustration Asha felt when she was told to stop helping Rani, and yet at the same time, I also identified with the frustration that Mark had in getting this stupid bull-headed American to stop trying to think she knows better than the 'locals'. (I still think they should have told her what they were doing from the beginning, but then again, this is just a story. ha) Maybe this stems from the fact that, while I'm not involved in anything as dangerous as human trafficking, I have seen and heard enough well-intentioned but badly carried out forms of "evangelism" and "trying to help" which, coupled with the fact that some missionaries do not understand cultural differences (and sometimes don't try to), ends up in either making things really confused, or even turning people off from the gospel.

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Announcing the #loveinpenang #giveaway winners!


Our two winners are Aila Namira Azizul from Malaysia and Samantha from Australia!

I'll be sending an e-mail out to the winners soon!

Congratulations! And a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all who entered!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Special Agent Francesca - author interview

Special Agent Francesca Blog Tour Banner

Today we welcome a twitter/triberr friend of mine, Mimi Barbour, to answer some author-y questions!

1. Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.
Well, my book is purely for entertaining, one that I hope will give the readers a chance to let their everyday world fade away while they enjoy the antics of Francesca. She’s quite a gal!


2. Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
The main characters are my heroine, Special Agent, Francesca Donovan and my hero, Sean Collins. The sparks fly from the first moment he sees her in a restaurant where he dubs her a screwball and decides what a waste of a great pair of legs. Later in the story, when they’re forced into a bogus engagement, his first impression takes a decided turn for the better.

My favorite secondary character is Detective John Hampton (Ham for short). He’s the father she’s never met until forced to seek him out when she arrives in Vegas. This Irishman is hilarious and so sweet; you just want to hug the man. The main Vegas Series bunch also show up in this book and they add a lot of color.


3. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Oh, come on, any author who doesn’t use – or admit to using – aspects from the people they know are either living a very boring existence or they’re losing out on a huge field of personality quirks to draw from. I use a facial movement from one, hand manipulation from another, lines they’ve said, laughs, voices, eye twitches, ways of walking – the list goes on and on. I also take from personalities: grumpiness of one friend over certain issues or the glee from another when faced with happy news. Codes of honor, sense of humor, ways of thinking over problems and coming to certain conclusions, they’re all melded into the behavior of my characters. It’s a mishmash of everything I’ve ever experienced in my life – guess it’s what they call my author’s voice. In my way of thinking, I gather all this awareness from everyone I ever knew, mix it all together and regurgitate it as I write my stories.


4. Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book? Here’s one small excerpt that I admit made me crack right up as I wrote it!!
Suddenly the tower gave her take-off clearance and she eased the plane onto the runway and into the air. Once she’d completed her post take-off check list, she decided to help him relax.
Speaking through the headset, she started. “It’s a lovely day for flying.”
“Huh?”
“I said it’s a lovely day for us to be up here.”
“Yeah!”
“Do you have any questions?”
“When will we get there?”
Her giggle turned into a full-throated laugh, which only stopped when his green face glared his dislike.
His complexion made her remember the barf bag she’d stored away in case of an emergency. “You look a little weird. Are you alright?”
“Of course I’m alright.”
“Then how come your face keeps changing color?”
“It’s the native coming out in me.”
“Cool! First time I’ve ever met a Martian.”
“Smartass!

5. Describe yourself in three words.
Happy, Loving, Driven


6. How would you describe the way you work as a writer?
As I mentioned above, I consider myself driven. That’s how I would describe the way I work as a writer and how I handle my career. I’ve only become a serious author since 2006 – around the time the e-book world opened up all those new opportunities. I’m in my mid-sixties, (dammit! Where did the time go…?) And I have so many stories thrashing in my head clamoring to exist that my biggest worry is running out of time.


7. Did you always want to be a writer?
Maybe in some subliminal way… I always knew I could tell stories that would keep people amused. My kid loved his bedtime mommy tales and I could keep him amused for hours in the car on a long trip.


8. I loved the story of your 100-year-old fan and how you surprised him by dedicating your book to him. Are there any more stories about how you connect with your fans?Actually, yes - Last August, for my birthday, I got an e-mail from a fan in Russia, a man who belonged to a book group who’d read and loved my Vicarage Bench stories. They had one small problem, they were only able to get the books on the internet and couldn’t have paperback copies sent to them from Amazon. So, I decided to accept that this person was for real and I mailed him the requested copy of the anthology, plus my photo and bookmarks. He was thrilled and sent me pictures of the group. 
Shoot forward to January 2014 when my 85 year-old mom said she had a new bucket-list item that I could get for her. (I probably shouldn’t have let her see that movie because she gets everything she wants now by using that term LOL)Mom has a collection of postcards from all around the world and she wanted one from Russia with the Olympic insignia on the front. Could I ask my friend from Russia to send one to her? (I’d told her about my previous communication with Eduard.) So… I figured what the heck. He’d been very gracious when he’d sent me the thank you for his parcel. I wrote to him explaining my mom’s request and the darling man not only sent her the postcard, but also Olympic stamps, a small notebook and a selection of postcards. She was thrilled. So was I. We have continued our friendship and I’m sad to say how worried I am since he lives very close to the Eastern border of Russia and the Ukraine.


9. What do you like to do to unwind?
Every evening, I have a cocktail with my husband and we discuss all kinds of items while we make our dinner. And we spend a fair amount of time at the table visiting and sharing. By the time we start the clean-up, I’m full, happy and sassy – ready to watch a couple of hours of my favorite shows. Unless I have work to do. Sorry to say, this has been happening more frequently. Gotta stop that nonsense!! Yeah! Right!


10. Tell us one random thing about yourself that you'd like your fans to know!
I love reading your reviews. I used to try and answer every single one but I ran out of time. There are so many now that it’s all I can do to grab a few hours a week and read them all. So – if I haven’t left you a comment, it isn’t because I don’t care. Please know that.

Thanks Mimi!
Here's a bit more about her new release, Special Agent Francesca
  Synopsis
An introvert, Special Agent Francesca moves to Las Vegas to escape her powerful, domineering mother. On arrival, multiple obstacles challenge her. She needs to approach a father she’s never met, a man who doesn’t even know she exists. Then she must play the role of a loving fiancĂ©e with a stranger. One who makes her question every unexpected emotion he provokes. Craving the chance for real undercover work, she grabs the opportunity to be involved in cleaning up gang corruption in a nasty neighborhood. When she poses as the new owner of a hotel, the deadly-dangerous situation ramps up and she’s forced to fight her way from one conflict to the next.
Sean Collins, Psychiatrist and LVPD Profiler, has never known anyone like Francesca Donovan. From first sight, he believes her to be a screwball but her beauty and maddening personality attracts him. Despite her prickly disposition, which gets them into a load of trouble, her rotten driving skills and her constant battles, he’s hooked. Once he’s roped into a mock engagement with her, his desire to make it real takes precedence over everything else in his world.
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Excerpt
Sean drove like a maniac to get to the hotel. He knew he shouldn’t call anyone since both he and Frankie had been warned to stay in character, that these dudes had ears everywhere and the ability to tap phones. He did have his burner phone that Eddie had arranged, but he wanted to keep that number unused until they needed it for an emergency. The fact that Frankie had slipped warned him she must have been rattled. From what he’d seen of his lady, nothing got to her. Hold it! Nothing except her mother.
He pulled into the parking lot and the sight he came upon had his teeth grinding and gravel flying as he slammed on the brakes. Just as the car stopped completely, a younger man’s body hit his windshield and slid down in front of his wheels.
Frankie had another fellow on the ground and was beating the shit out of him. Sean couldn’t believe his eyes. What the hell? Quickly, he got out of the car and went to assist. Not that there was any need to help her, he just figured he’d stop her from murdering the poor bastard.
As he approached, the wiggling idiot didn’t seem to know when to stop. “Bitch, get off of me.” She held him in a way no one could escape.
Sean couldn’t resist. He crouched down and waited until she noticed him. “Having fun?”
At first, Frankie looked embarrassed to be caught straddling a young man in the parking lot. But that wore off when she had to apply more pressure to stop the perp determined to flip her off. Giving the dude her full attention, she asked, “Who sent you here? Tell me and I might let you up.”
With his cheek being ground into the gravel, and his arm twisted up behind his back in a hold that looked positively painful, the loser still refused. “No one sent me. I was just messin’ around. Hey, man, can you get this crazy bitch off me?”
Sean grinned evilly, held up both hands and shook his head.
MeetTheAuthor OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Author of The Vicarage Bench Series, Angels with Attitude Series, Vegas Series, Elvis Series and the brand new sizzling romantic suspense series called Undercover FBI. Mimi lives on the East coast of Vancouver Island and writes her romances with tongue in cheek and a mad glint in her eye. “If I can steal a booklover’s attention away from their every-day grind, absorb them into a fantasy love story, and make them care about the ending, then I’ve done my job.”
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