Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016: a year in review

In preparation to write my year in review post, I went back through my archives and realised that I've actually been doing this for a long time.

Here are the previous year-in-review posts:
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015

So... what can we say about 2016?
Click to enlarge

Starting with the blog, simple maths says that this blog has garnered 48.6K views this year, which really goes to show that last year was an anomaly. And because I have apparently rediscovered my love for analysing figures and making graphs, here's a graph which shows you 2015 was weird:

Then again, my all-time top posts are mainly from 2015, so... *shrug*

Other than the A-to-Z blogging challenge (which I started doing in 2011!), this year's blog has primarily consisted of 3 types of posts:
  • #musicmonday 
  • Wednesday's #bookreview 
  • #fridayflash posts
I have to admit, I mainly slacked with the flash posts because... well... lazy. And busy. And writing other things. But since the book reviews have been mostly consistent until December, here's a round up of my favourite books for the year!


Well, there were actually 16 5-star books, but the last one couldn't fit in my screenshot :P 
I don't actually know how Goodreads arranges these but here they are in alphabetical order on Amazon (affiliate links):

Indie Author Survival Guide (Susan Kaye Quinn) - there might be a 3rd edition out but I can't seem to find it
The Ladybird Book of Dating (Ladybirds for grownups) - okay, this was a bit of a joke, but it's HILARIOUS
The Man with Two Pasts (Dan Rix) - this is the last book in a series, FYI. But it's a good series!
The Untold Tale (JM Frey) - OWAITOWAITBOOK2JUSTRELEASED
Zoe's Tale (John Scalzi) - this is book 4 in a series, but I read it without reading any other book of the series!

To read all my flash fiction for the year, follow this tag.

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Writing-wise, several things happened this year.

 
 


I released Coexist on 31 March 2016 with a semi-successful blog tour. (Okay, I don't know how successful it was, but I think it was successful? But maybe not, because several months later a friend says oh, I didn't know you launched.) At any rate, I have just approved a quotation to do a print run in Malaysia, so that should be out sometime... I don't know. January? Hopefully.

I wrote and released Anna's A to Z of Worship Leading, which was written for the A to Z blogging challenge, in May 2016.

Working with the Malaysian Writers Society (MYWriters) in Penang, we launched the first volume of NutMag, an annual zine which features writings from Penang! I had the privilege of editing this volume, and one of my flash fiction pieces is also included in the list of 10 authors.

I also sold a short story to Insignia Stories, but I'm not quite sure when that's going to be released. I was hoping it would round out the end of the year.

Lastly, Love in Penang (which I edited) is #58 on Fixi's all-time bestseller list, with something like 6.5K sales total (according to the publisher), whilst Cyberpunk: Malaysia (which includes a short story of mine) is at #82.

On to unpublished stuff, Flame of the North is also mostly done, just waiting for a cover and the editor. Dongeng is on its first draft and Absolution is kind of in the pits. But I'll get back to that in 2017.

I also submitted to a bunch of places this year and whilst half of them were rejections, one was an acceptance (Insignia, as above) and the rest are probably rotting electronically in the slush pile, I'm kind of happy with the volume of work I've produced. Even with the other whole bunch of non-starters and half-abandoned ideas. I really should start tracking my word count.

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Community-wise, the Malaysian Writers Society is A THING, like a real legit registered society, okay. And while we're still working out the kinks and trying to set things up right, it's still awesome cos it's happening, if you know what I mean.

Want to be a member? Here's how!
You can apply for membership here.

We pulled off registrations and a fest in Sept & Oct, leaving a lot of people very frazzled. I also got to lead a workshop on Self-Publishing! Woohoo!

In Penang, our events are moving at full force with weekly write-ins on Mondays at LUMA, a monthly write-in on the weekends (Sat/Sun - we swapped quite a bit this year) and not-quite monthly readings on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Not-quite monthly because we have a quarterly special which is often just a catchup/makan session. Oh! We also instituted the monthly critique as part of the Monday write-ins, which sometimes works but sometimes not. Oh well.

And, of course, the MOST EXCITING PART: our drop-in writing space at LUMA during the last week of November was an absolute BLAST.

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I also went back to acting for a short while, doing W;T with the Penang Players.

One of our publicity shots. 
I also turned down a chance to act with them in 2017 because I didn't like the script. But maybe I'll go for another audition in Feb. I don't know. I DON'T KNOWWWWWW. I might be in a cave by February trying to align timelines and stuff, so, yeah.

We (I) also tried to kick-start (again) a drama team in church, but whilst we did do one show during Occupy Beach Street and in church followed by a Treasure Hunt for Christmas Eve, I don't know how or if it's going to work out. Right now, I'm thinking it's a non-starter.



I also joined a choir.

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I don't really know what else to add here. I think I've covered the main stuff: blog, writing, acting... I updated my website (again) and created another website and if you think it's pretty, it's only because of the wonders of drag-and-drop templates. And canva.com, which makes life simpler.
And this post is getting too long.

So, goodbye, 2016. You have been an interesting year.

Friday, 30 December 2016

#fridayflash: gates

We were talking over the gate; a strange sort of place to have a conversation, if you ask me. But there I was, leaning over it--it was closed. Locked, like the door of my heart, you could say--and he was ruffling his hair, shuffling his feet, and well, talking, while his car was still running--though idling might be the better word. Which was interesting, to say the least, because we'd been in places together before, with no hurry, and my mouth would be running and his would be shut.

"But yeah, it's important," he stressed, though I couldn't see why it was so important for me to open the gate and head off to nowhere with him. Well, not exactly nowhere. There was a job that needed doing, but he needed an extra pair of eyes and hands. Normally, I'd be off in a sec, jumping into his car to head off wherever, but I'd already showered and was in a comfy pair of PJs. You know, the type with the cute little cartoons you wouldn't be caught dead being seen in. Which made me wonder why I'd gone out to see him in them. Probably too startled by that blast of his horn.

No, he didn't say where. He was talking but he wasn't saying much, if you get what I mean. I figured someone must've wanted something badly but he was worried about it. You know, if he'd just called before showing up at my gate, I might've been a little more inclined--or prepared--to go with him. I might even have had something called a key with me. Just saying.

"Find someone else," I said with an unapologetic shrug. I wasn't the only magic user in town and he knew it. I figured he just wanted someone to do the job for free. Because, you know, we were friends. Kind of. He looked a little upset and I almost changed my mind. But the gate was locked, so whatever.

Yeah, I could have magicked my clothes but I can't magic iron, so I'd say that that gate saved my life. How would I know that I'd be the last person to see him alive? I use magic, but I'm not clairvoyant. But well, what's done's done, eh? I'll miss him, maybe.

Friday, 23 December 2016

#bookreview: Flood and Fire | Deirdra Eden

Flood and Fire (The Watchers #3)Flood and Fire by Deirdra Eden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Watchers series starts off with a spunky 13-year-old Auriella in Knight of Light, a struggling 19-year-old Auriella in Hidden Fire and now an immortal (I guess 60+ but she's immortal so who cares) Auriella in Flood and Fire.

If I were to summarise this third book in one sentence, it would be this: Auriella does a Bella.

Okay, fine. My review may have a 90% chance of being affected by Christmas grinchiness (sorry, reviewers are emotional too). As you can read from the book description, Auriella wakes up and finds that in her long absence, her One True Love, Azrael is missing. But not quite missing-missing, if you get what I mean. He has joined the ranks of Disappointed Literary Lovers who do Stupid Things (TM?), such as Romeo and Edward and, yes, Bella. (Sorry, Stephanie Meyer, I do not mean to diss your characters so much.)

And so, Auriella, in turn, attempts to Do Stupid Things, but because she's quite untrained in her powers and lacks this thing called Control, she doesn't exactly get to Do The Stupid Things she had in mind.

To be fair, this book is very enlightening in a way. It tells you very often the things that hold a person back:
1) Fear (of yourself and of others)
2) Being unable to control your emotions (especially anger), which in Auriella's case, often results in spontaneous combustion
3) Being overly single-minded in chasing after a goal (whether it's a loved one or it's revenge. As demonstrated in the book, this almost always ends in disaster when you neglect other important things. Like using your brain and not being distracted.

Still, since I am a fan of swashbuckling tales, I cannot deny that I enjoyed much of the setting of this book, even though Auriella could be singularly annoying, and Alamar was not as, uhm, *romantic* as he could have been. He felt a little like a caricature of a dashing Italian lover, but something lacked. I'm not sure what. Maybe it was his bullheadedness. Or the way conversations between Auriella and Alamar always devolved into something akin to a Christian vs Atheist debate (in form, not in content). Also, why does everyone's name seem to start with A?

Plotwise, there were a few nifty tricks and twists, some which I saw coming, some which I did not. At any rate, Flood and Fire ends at a good place, even if most of this book felt like a filler to make sure that Auriella gets the training she needs (though not the training she wants, ahahahaha). I'm guessing book 4 should get back to the main meat of the matter.

I received a free copy of this book from Eden Publishing in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Read my review of Book 1: Knight of Light
Read my review of Book 2: Hidden Fire 

Buy on Amazon: Knight of Light | Hidden Fire | Flood and Fire
Buy on Smashwords: Knight of Light | Hidden Fire | Flood and Fire

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Enough is enough.

The most I can say is that I am tired and drained.
I'll try to keep up the last few book posts, but everything else will be on hiatus.

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At any rate, I 'm crazy enough to think writing a 40K novella for Tor submissions next month is possibly worth it.
Make that in 3 weeks.
I did nano, didn't I? (but that didn't need to be good enough to be submitted, eek.)

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Also, short story needs to come out soon; it's written, just needs editing. And a cover. But, TIME.

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I can't wait for Christmas to be over.

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Also, hello nanohoppers. I'll continue following you guys when I recover from being a buried potato.

#grinchy. #verygrinchy. #seasonschmeason.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

#christmashuntpcc is making me #grinchy


No review today because I'm swamped and behind.

Now I shall go back and hide in my cave.

BAI.

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Also currently listening to the new NoiseTrade mix tape and not exactly sure if I like it so far.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Launching tomorrow: Flood and Fire


Flood and Fire (Book #3 of The Watchers Series) by Deirdra Eden

Release Day Special: Buy 1 book get 3 FREE (Details below)

About the Book
Auriella joins the ranks of the Immortals, but Azrael has vanished in the depths of war. She is forced to choose between love or loyalty when the druids charge her with finding Alamar, an unruly Watcher who can control the seas. Though witty and charming, Alamar and his blood thirsty friends can’t be trusted. Now, it’s a race against time to find Azrael before he is killed, and Alamar before he is recruited by the Shadow Legion.


The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Traditional Apocrypha, the Pearl of Great Price and the Kabbalah. The Watchers are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad.

Deirdra Eden's, The Watcher's Series, is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl's discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions.

Read my review of Book 1: Knight of Light and Book 2: Hidden Fire

About The Author

Deirdra Eden has spent the last decade captivating audiences of all ages with her Amazon Bestselling novels and fairy tales. Her specialty is paranormal theology that delves into documented historical phenomenon and natural disasters of biblical proportions that entices indulgence of a fine line between fact and fantasy. Deirdra enjoys jousting in arenas, sword fighting and archery, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures with her family.

Connect with Deirdra and The Watchers
Pinterest    Twitter    Facebook   Reddit   Goodreads   Booklikes

  Release Day Special: Buy 1 book get 3 FREE!

Buy Flood and Fire on Amazon on December 14, 2016 and get 3 FREE ebooks! Just email a copy of your order to edenliterary@gmail.com and they'll send you 3 free ebooks.

Monday, 12 December 2016

#musicmonday: #Christmas songs!

The Christmas playlist I wish for (started sometime early this year, forgotten about and shifted to next year):



vs the Christmas playlist I apparently deserve:



I am grinchy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#bookreview: Unsound | Toby Neal

Unsound (Lei Crime #5.5)Unsound by Toby Neal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read one Toby Neal before, so when this came up as available for review on Edelweiss, I didn’t hesitate to take it up.

Unsound is a companion story to the Lei Teixera detective series, following the life of the police psychologist, Dr Caprice Wilson - which actually confused me a little at first until I realised it wasn’t part of the main series. I’d been expecting something more towards a straight detective story, but nope - this is a little more of a psychological thriller instead.

When a drinking episode goes too far and Captain Ohale threatens to fire her unless she goes to rehab, Caprice meekly agrees and heads off to Maui - to hike the Haleakala Crater alone while she battles to get sober. However, she soon discovers she’s not really alone - her stalker has come along with plans of his own.

The story was interesting enough. Neal moves you from action to action and emotion to emotion, without faltering. There’s Caprice’s crazy drunken antics to laugh at, the mystery of the strange objects that raise your hackles, the danger and fear out on Haleakala Crater, and, as always, the beauty of Hawaii to enchant you. However, it quite often also felt like a long, slow journey through an alcoholic’s mind, one who’s trying to use psychological tricks to both break her addiction and justify it. I guess that's okay if you like that sort of thing?

View all my reviews

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The 2016 #nanowrimo reflection post or how I wrote 33K in 4 days


Writing is often a constant battle between getting the words out and getting the words right. For the month of November and NaNoWriMo, the goal is getting the words out—whether it’s right or not. Not everyone can work that way, and that’s fine, but it’s often a handy tool for me to jumpstart new projects instead of procrastinating and waiting for inspiration to strike.

I had been a bit ambivalent about doing NaNoWriMo this year, mainly because I would be away for half the month, but I’d been encouraging a lot of people—mostly from our baby writing group—to do so and I thought I should set a good example by at least attempting it. After all, winning or losing wasn’t my main goal; my main goal was to continue to build this writing community.

I talked to our weekly write-in group as well as the NPO I work with, LUMA, and we set up the LUMA Drop-In Writing Space to host writers from 10am-10pm daily for the last 6 days of November. The dates also coincided with the annual George Town Literary Fest & In-between Arts Festival, which was focusing on food and zines, so we made a public event on Facebook and announced it in all the writers' groups we knew of online.

And then November started, and I went on my holiday, working sporadically on the new novel and totally pantsing all the way. Which was how I found myself at the start of our write-ins on 25th November with only 17K words. On one hand, I did wonder if I could actually reach 50K in such a short time, but on the other hand, I wasn’t very bothered because I knew that I had a lot of time before me and all I had to do was sit down and write, besides opening and closing the door for people (ah, the privilege of not working a 9-to-5). And so I broke a personal record and wrote an average of 8,000 words a day over the next 4 days, finishing 2 days earlier than I expected.

Now, obviously, I want to replicate this since I’m making writing my full-time job. If I know what’s been working these 4 days, that would help me to work better, right? I tracked all my writing this month (wordcounts & times) in Wordly and here’s my analysis of the data:




  • I rarely wrote anything more than 1K before lunch (noon/1pm). I open the place at 10am, but by the time I’m finished pottering around, making tea, going up and down the stairs, turning on the laptop, checking my phone, it’s usually almost 11am before I even sit down and start writing. This isn’t anything new. Even in my previous day jobs, when I had to be in the office by 8.30 – 9am, I always felt super unproductive before 10am, especially before making tea.
  • Tea is important, as noted above.
  • I averaged about 5.5 hours of writing time per day, despite being at the centre for 12 hours a day. If you subtract approximately 2 hours for lunch and dinner, I only “worked” about 55% of the time. It seems unproductive, but I’m not very good at focusing for extended lengths of time. It also works out (as averaged by Wordly) to about 1,541 words per hour. I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad, but at least it’s measurable.
  • Not having Internet access probably helped a lot, because there’s only so long you can stare at your phone before you feel that you’re wasting time.
  • Setting small goals helps, especially when I don’t feel like writing, or am unsure where the story is going. During those times, I do a sprint of maybe 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes, I’ve either written a good bunch of words and am excited to continue, or I’ve figured out a new direction and need to sit back and think about it.
  • Knowing where the story is going helps me to write faster. Some of the “unproductive” time was spent thinking about the story’s direction and possible plot points, which then translated into higher word counts during the next writing session. (Some of the unproductive time was also spent staring into space, which is another matter altogether ;) )
  • The best writing sessions were usually between 20 – 30 minutes.
  • The best writing session goal was usually to hit 1K words per session, which usually averaged out to 30 minutes.
  • I was hampered at times because I’d previously researched some local fairy creatures/folk tales, but I’d only saved the stub or link, instead of saving the whole document for reference. Having all research on hand (that is not online, where I’ll get distracted) is probably pretty important.
  • Having the right mindset really helps. During these 4 days, all I thought about was “I need to finish writing this story before I can do anything else”. This is very different from when I’m writing at home and thinking about ‘oh- I haven’t finished my book review’ or ‘I need to do this other project first’ or even ‘maybe I need to read/research this’ (and the usual culprit - ‘I’m hungry/bored/sleepy, I need to find something to eat’). So – I do really need to get into this ‘cave’ mindset when writing to make sure that I stop procrastinating! (Also already noted by the way I can be superbly productive finishing a short story for submission… the WEEK before the deadline!)


In summary, here are the things I need to be working on to make sure I’m really writing and not just being a bum:

  1. Set writing goals & deadlines and STICK TO THEM
  2. Work on only one project at a set time.
  3. Research BEFORE writing where possible (ahahahah) and SAVE/archive my research
  4. FOCUS!

All of which I already knew before, but now there’s DATA. Hard, measurable data.

But other than that, the writing space has also been a win community-wise. There were some down/slow times, especially in the beginning where I feared I’d be sitting there writing alone (which turned out okay because I was productive), but there’s also been a steady group of regulars, as well as a few newcomers added to our writing community. The group’s excited to take it further, so we might see more people coming for write-ins in future. And maybe more collaborations/discussions/critiques happening spontaneously.



… the only thing I am actually uber sad about is that I didn’t attend anything in GTLF at all. I’d been eyeing maybe 2 – 3 sessions, but I needed to sit in LUMA to keep the space open. Maybe next time we’ll try not to overlap with the fest. I had been hoping for some drop-ins from fest attendees, but that didn’t actually happen.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Revealing... Ever in the After: 13 FantasyTales! #coverreveal

cover-reveal
Hi everyone!

Today, I'm so excited to share the wonderful cover for Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales. This anthology of fantasy/SFF short stories has been put together in aid of Lift 4 Autism, and releases April 1st, 2017. 100% of the proceeds will go to Lift 4 Autism. So, let's take a look at the gorgeous cover!

  ever-in-the-after_cover_amazon

Isn't it beautiful? The cover was designed and created by Stephanie Keyes, and it fits the stories in the anthology perfectly.

About the anthology...

ever-in-the-after_cover_3dIn Ever in the After, 13 authors come together to explore fantastical realms full of supernatural creatures, dark intrigue, and spells that may-or may not-be curses. This anthology features work by:
  • Melle Amade
  • Miracle Austin
  • J. A. Culican
  • Madeline Dyer
  • Jessica Hawke
  • Alaina Hebert
  • Elizabetta Holcomb
  • Stephanie Keyes
  • Christopher D. Morgan
  • Mandy Peterson
  • Alice Rachel
  • Cadence Rae
  • Jaqueline E. Smith
A must-have fantasy collection full of surprises, secrets, and strong teenagers who know what they need to do to succeed in these mystical realities.

Add Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on Goodreads now!
Buy your copy of Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on April 1st, 2017!