Wednesday, 20 June 2018

#bookreview: Lost Gods by Micah Yongo

Lost GodsLost Gods by Micah Yongo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are books you like instantly and there are books that grow on you. Lost Gods is more of the latter for me. It sounded intriguing enough that I requested a review copy via NetGalley. And I liked it, it's not that I didn't. It was exciting and mystifying enough that I kept reading, though it wasn't gripping enough that I couldn't put it down. Yet after finishing it, the pervading feeling isn't one of satisfaction--it's one of confusion and mystification, if that's the right word. I feel lost.

Maybe it's the way Yongo writes. Backstories sometimes appear out of nowhere, triggered by a single random thought; the paragraphs, and even sentences, are long and dense; it's very rooted in African legends. I have not read enough African writings, so there is no ready shorthand that I am used to, not like when I read a "standard" Euro-centric fantasy and I already know what things are--or figure out what things are not--because it's what they've always been. This is good--I like it because it is new, it is fresh, it is exciting, and it's truly fantastic--but it is also not so good--because I don't always understand. Meanings flitter away from my grasp.

Still, it entertains. The mystery draws me in. I re-read parts of the beginning to find a better way to write this review, and I find myself finding gems and going - ah, I missed that the first time, that's what it means! So evidently there are layers to be uncovered here. I guess it is the journey of discovery that makes it hard for me to get this book as much as I would have liked.

I want to know but despite a revelation of sorts at the end, there is still much that seems shrouded in mystery. It's not a full revelation either--the major arc is mostly resolved, but the "bad guys" (so to speak) are still at large and there are warnings of devastation to come and vague hints to what Neythan is supposed to become so there's obviously going to be a book two.

Overall, I'd say Lost Gods might probably appeal more to readers who like more classic/literary/older fantasy styles, and not current YA readers who want quick, flashy and exciting. Though there is a lot of death, assassinating and betrayals.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 18 June 2018

#musicmonday: Forward Motion | Relient K



SO.

I'm in the midsts of freaking out with all the paperwork for my Chevening award and university unconditional award letters, but I guess now's a good time as any to announce:

I've gotten a place at Brunel University London to do an MA in Creative Writing (The Novel) under a Chevening Scholarship so yes. Freaking out and pushing on and trying to make sure all my dragging jobs get closed up. Besides wondering what else I need to buy to survive four seasons in London when I'm a tropical city girl (but also YES COLD WEATHER YAY)!

I am also about two posts behind in my supposedly twice monthly posts over at teaspoonpublishing.com.my/blog AND overdue to finish A Still Small Voice and like super slow in actually finishing April's camp nano novel which I said I was going to finish in June. HA

Yeah. Forward Motion needed.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Down the TBR hole

Time to kinda go down the TBR hole again. I found it off one of the blogs I've been following sporadically, and since my "to read" shelf on Goodreads now stands at 444, it might be time to pare it down a little.



So yeah, it works like this:
  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf. 
  • Order on ascending date added. 
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time. 
  • Read the synopses of the books 
  • Decide: keep it or should it go? 

Picking up from where I stopped the last time:

The Silence of the Lambs  (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

There's a killer on the loose who knows that beauty is only skin deep, and a trainee investigator who's trying to save her own hide. The only man that can help is locked in an asylum. But he's willing to put a brave face on — if it will help him escape.As famous and classic as this one is... I don't think I'm really that interested in it.

Verdict: Delete


EnchantmentEnchantment by Orson Scott Card

In Enchantment, Card works his magic as never before, transforming the timeless story of Sleeping Beauty into an original fantasy brimming with romance and adventure.

I probably added this when I added everything of Card's. Still, it sounds pretty interesting. I'd like to read it, but I won't go so far as to start tracking it down, so I guess I'll keep it off the TBR for now.

Verdict: Delete


Red Prophet (Tales of Alvin Maker, #2)Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card

Come here to the magical America that might have been and marvel as the tale of Alvin Maker unfolds. The seventh son of a seventh son is a boy of mysterious powers, and he is waking to the mysteries of the land and its own chosen people.




Prentice Alvin (Tales of Alvin Maker, #3)Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card

The Tales of Alvin Maker series continues in volume three, Prentice Alvin. Young Alvin returns to the town of his birth, and begins his apprenticeship with Makepeace Smith, committing seven years of his life in exchange for the skills and knowledge of a blacksmith. But Alvin must also learn to control and use his own talent, that of a Maker, else his destiny will be unfulfilled.


Alvin Journeyman (Tales of Alvin Maker, #4)Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card

Alvin Miller, a gifted seventh son of a seventh son, utilizes his skills as a Maker to help create a brighter future for America, but his task is further challenged by his ancient enemy, the Unmaker, who plots to end Alvin's life.

Doing this as a set because I have read book 1 and skipped to like book 5 or something, because I couldn't find these three. I probably have them in one of my shelves by now (not sure if all, but at least some) so I guess I should get round to reading this set soon just so I can mark it as read.

Verdict: Keep all three!


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium, #3)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy

Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge—against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.


I also see the rest of the series in my TBR and I actually bought the set a while back with the intention of reading it. When... is just the issue here.

Verdict: Keep all three!


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. 
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

A little ambivalent about this. It was never high on my to-read list, but you know, it's one of the "big names." Kinda.

Verdict: undecided.


Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

This got on my list because of the nanowrimo thing. Without that link, I don't know if it will really pique my interest.

Verdict: Delete? Maybe? Yeah, I guess.

AAANNNDDD my TBR is still at 441. LOL

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

#bookreview and launch: Priceless by Janeen Ippolito


A little ambition can turn into a lot of trouble, even for the city’s wiliest double agent.

After years of rebel spywork in the dragon-human war, Nula Thredsing is ready to claim her legacy.

As the Scepter of Commerce’s new liaison to dragons, she’s one step away from the old family seat on the city council. But during her first meeting with dragon diplomat Tiers Sunscaler, they are attacked by rogue dragons—one of them Sunscaler’s former tactical partner, who is bitterly determined to keep the sham war in action and turn the diplomat to his side.

At the same time, Nula and Tiers discover a startling connection: an embermate bond. While a political marriage suits Nula, the bond’s side effects are obnoxious—and potentially deadly.

Aided by an unexpected cat-dragon and a mysterious unicorn, Nula and Tiers must track down the rogue dragons before their dangerous bond tears them apart.

Fortunately, Nula is used to impossible odds—and this time, she has a dragon on her side.


MY REVIEW

Priceless: An Ironfire Legacy NovellaPriceless: An Ironfire Legacy Novella by Janeen Ippolito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, I pretty much loved Lawless to bits, so when I was offered a review copy of Priceless it was all *grabby hands*.

Priceless is not as... involved, since it's like an in-between-novella that focusses on Nula Thredsing, one of the minorish characters in Lawless, and Tiers Sunscaler, who if I recall correctly hasn't quite showed up yet, other than in a few mentions. So yeah-- if this is a tactic to make readers excited for book 2, then Ippolito has nailed it. Because Priceless...

- is snark and craziness
- a little bit of Deus ex machina, but not really, once everything is explained
- spies
- cat-dragon
- bloody unicorns
- like wth cat-dragon
- all these helpless people falling in love but is it love if they are, like, embermates and have no say?

Oh gosh, why am I reading a romance? But you know, it's dragons. And cat-dragons . And all these lovely snarky people ignoring the festering deep, dark desires they've shoved aside for politics and appearances. Until it's almost too late.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews


PREORDER NOW!
*squints at date*
Yeah, you should still have at least half a day-ish to grab the preorder swag deal thing because I was too lazy to do two posts and I'm playing hard and loose with timezones here. But grab it quick before midnight! It's a Cinderella deal! :p
Or just be boring and head to Amazon to get a copy if you read this too late. 




Janeen Ippolito believes words can (and should) transform worlds. She writes urban fantasy and steampunk, and creates writing resources, including the reference book World Building From the Inside Out and the creative writing guide Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories. She's an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and is the leader of Uncommon Universes Press, a small science fiction and fantasy publishing house. She’s also the cohost of the podcast Indie Book Magic. In her spare time, Janeen enjoys sword-fighting, reading, pyrography, and eating brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website: janeenippolito.com

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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

#bookreview: How to Be a Perfect Christian

How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual LivingHow to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alright, I generally enjoy a little satire and usually find The Babylon Bee pretty hilarious. So when this came up on Edelweiss for review, it was pretty much asdfghjkl;omgineedtoreadthis.

As it turns out, I prefer my satire in small, concise soundbites (see: The Babylon Bee website), not in full-length, dense-ish, how-to-like books (see: How to Be a Perfect Christian). Some of the snark is spot on, but when it's in an endless stream like this one, it just gets a little too overwhelming. Or maybe it's a little too over the top that it ceases to stay funny after a while. Either that, or I've reached my eye-rolling quota for the week/month.

So yeah, if you really, really love satire (or you really, really hate super religious people and churchianity and want to laugh your head off at them), this is the book for you! [5 stars! Best ever!]

But if you're a new-ish Christian, easily confused, or you don't understand humour, you're pretty much going to be burning this book at the stake. [1 star. What rubbish is this! *angry face*]

Final star rating: 3, because I don't know how to rate things anymore.
Personal verdict: amusing, but eh.

Though I have to say that the ending does have pretty solid theology--if you get the roundabout way it's being said.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book via Edelweiss. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 4 June 2018

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

#bookreview: Still Wrestling: Faith Renewed through Brokenness | Les Ferguson Jr.

Still Wrestling: Faith Renewed through BrokennessStill Wrestling: Faith Renewed through Brokenness by Les Ferguson Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favourite thing about this book is its absolute honesty about where Ferguson is with his faith. It's easy to talk about bad stuff or doubt and then gloss it over with a flippant "I'm better now" or "I've overcome that" especially when you're a preacher.

But Ferguson doesn't take the easy way out. Right near the beginning, in his introduction, he hits you with this:
It wasn't that I doubted God's existence. No, I doubted whether I mattered to God at all. And if I didn't matter to God, then how could his Word offer any hope to me?"

Towards the end, through the expected look-aheads and positive notes, he also offers acknowledgement that the fight isn't over yet, with these:

Sometimes I get mad at God. Often the only time it seems I really talk to him is when I need something.
Though smiling and laughing at memories happens often, fresh tears are never far away.... So keep wrestling. Don't quit. Remember this is just a battle--God has already won the war.


In between, Ferguson explores 26 different stories from the Bible, both OT and NT, from a single perspective: pain and brokenness. He's honest about where he was and where he sometimes still is: running away from God, doubting God, questioning God, struggling so much against all that we're supposed to know and be just by virtue of being "Christian." At times, it looks bleak, but at times God's light also shines through. Sometimes he asks the hard questions, even those he would rather not ask, would rather not know.
The real question isn't why he did or why he didn't. The real question is, Will we serve him anyway? The real question is, Will we trust him?

I think, in the end, what you get out of this book will be what you put into it. Ferguson is being vulnerable here, and if you're still hiding behind that pretty veneer of respectability and strength, you'll spend most of your time avoiding the hard-hitting questions. True, not all the stories and narrative (and questions) impacted me personally, but as a whole, Ferguson tackles a difficult subject from a wealth of experience and from multiple angles.

Don't look for platitudes of faith where everything is nicely tied up and presented. You'll find instead plenty of brokenness on display--and yet despite it all, shattered faith is still faith.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 28 May 2018

#musicmonday: Light | Gungor -- and #LemmeLearn fundraiser!



"In 2014, a woman tweeted that she would be faced with "a real ethical dillema" if she became pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome. Richard Dawkins responded "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice." Also in 2014, we had a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome and two heart conditions. We named her Lucette, which means 'light." Lucie has taught us how much every life matters. This song is for her and all the beautiful people on this planet with special needs. We think that you make this world a better place."

---

LemmeLearn is raising funds for the LemmeLearn Empowerment Centre. Funds raised will be used to furnish the centre with the following:

- Simulated kitchen
- Simulated office space (incorporated within our real office space)
- Hydroponics Urban Edible Garden
- LemmeDrink Kombucha brewery
- Training and therapy rooms

LemmeLearn Fundraising Dinner 2018: Lemme Go Bling!
Date: 23rd June 2018
Time: 7pm
Location: Bayview Hotel, Lebuh Farquhar
Dress code: Evening wear with sparkly BLING

Tickets are going at:
RM150 per ticket
RM1500 per table

For tickets, please contact Indra at 016-5447727 or indra@lemmelearn.com

Who is LemmeLearn?
At LemmeLearn, we strive for effective inclusion. Our program is designed to equip people with special needs with social skills, functional living skills and required skills for employment. Partnering with the community, we aim to build purposeful, functional, independent lives.



Wednesday, 23 May 2018

#bookreview: The Sorceror's Bane | C.S. Wachter

The Sorcerer's Bane (The Seven Words Book 1)The Sorcerer's Bane by C.S. Wachter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sorceror's Bane is an enthralling, action-packed read. And I use enthral in both senses of the word. This first novel in a planned series of four books follows young Prince Rayne through his kidnapping and enslavement at six and his journey to becoming a master assassin.

The fact that I read this in one sitting says a lot. And no, this isn't a quick 2-hour light read. It was one of those sprawling life epics--okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration--that take up like 5 or so hours of your time. I legit started reading during late dinner at 9 pm (duh, because you need to read something while you eat alone, right?) and finished at almost 3 am, because I am an idiot that way.

Good versus Evil, Light versus Dark
At its core, The Sorceror's Bane is a sword and sorcery tale of Good versus Evil. In the vein of fantasy epics such as Eddings' Belgariad and Gemmell's Legend, Wachter utilises prophecies and faith to spur the actions of her heroes, even when a subconscious action on their part.

The Sorceror's Bane holds echoes of Wachter's Christian faith. There is a single god known as the One that rules over this universe, represented by the light. There is an evil, or a darkness, that opposes the One and his believers, embodied by Sigmund. There are seven scrolls, or prophecies, to each of the seven worlds in Ochen, reminiscent of the words of the Lord to the seven churches in the book of Revelations.

Unexpectedly hopeful
Wachter is masterful at pulling at your heartstrings. Just as soon as you see a glimmer of light for our poor young protagonist, just as soon as you think things will not get worse, Wachter breaks your heart as Sigmund and his evil cohorts find new ways to break Rayne's spirit over and over again. Yet threaded subtly through all this darkness, Wachter manages to always leave the reader with a glimmer of hope--whether via Rayne himself or through his friends Anne and Warren--reminding you that although evil abounds, the One is in control.

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series and I hope it doesn't take too long to come out!

View all my reviews

Monday, 21 May 2018

#musicmonday: Build My Life | Peyton Allen



Oh really.

Because I cannot discern your motives and motivations right now. 

Or what you're even doing with your life. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

#bookreview: Irresistible World Building for Unforgettable Stories

Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories: A Creative Writing Guide For World Building That SellsIrresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories: A Creative Writing Guide For World Building That Sells by Janeen Ippolito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Irresistible World Building, Ippolito focuses on how each author's worldview and unique perspective, the characters they've created and their specific narrative style plus genre expectations, all need to contribute to the creation of a world and a story that is unforgettable. She reminds us that a world is not built in a vacuum--what the author believes in and has experienced is often the best way to connect with intended readers. She suggests that using this perspective as a core base--not to push an agenda or belief--tied in with the theme of the story is the best jumping point to create a world that stands out and is beloved by readers.

Structure-wise, this short guide is simple and easy to follow:
- an introduction to the section
- application questions
- writing challenge

Where Loper's The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World from Scratch focuses on the nitty-gritty, micro process of world building, looking at all the aspects that should be covered (or at least considered), Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories: A Creative Writing Guide For World Building That Sells focuses on the larger, thematic overview of building a world, emphasising the passion and goals of the authors themselves.

Ippolito also has a book & workbook, World-Building From the Inside Out, which likely deals with the micro stuff, but I haven't read that one yet.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 10 May 2018

SO, #GE14. THAT HAPPENED

Okay, just for one day, let's talk politics.

I don't like talking about politics because it tends to be highly controversial and I don't like conflict. Also, everyone has a right to their opinions, even if it means I'm going to privately judge you forever. It's okay, you guys can privately judge me forever too. You know, just privately in our heads, and not on social media or something like that.

I really should be getting some work done right now, but whatever.

This last Malaysian General Election has been a wild ride, full of gerrymandering, fake news, immense Whatsapp spam, and a gazillion ads. Even now, after everything has been counted, the swearing in of the new government is being delayed and there are parties shifting allegiances.

We did this musical last weekend, and my feelings today are summed up by the very words I spoke:

Excerpt from Abbie & the A-Team by Nancy Jenster
[In this scenario, CAT = Malaysia; FRANK = Dr Mahathir]

I'm a sceptic at heart. I don't believe in too good to be true scenarios and I have a tough time believing in miracles. Yay, people, the nation voted in change... but it's not going to be all peachy, okay?

And with this kind of history... you never know what's actually going to happen.

So yes, we rejoice (temporarily) and also worry (temporarily) but once this kerfuffle has died down and the mess that is democracy starts to settle, I guess we'll see.

Also, another apt quote:

Excerpt from Abbit & the A-Team by Nancy Jenster
P/S this is why you need the arts. More funding and recognition for writers, please?

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

#bookreview: Not So Stories

Not So StoriesNot So Stories by David Thomas Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not So Stories has been one of my most anticipated reads ever since Zedeck Siew announced that he was part of the lineup. I was about to bite the bullet and buy the book when I managed to score a review copy, so YAY!

Not So Stories was compiled as a response to Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, which Nikesh Shukla describes in his foreword as "steeped in colonial nostalgia." I don't recall if I've specifically read Just So Stories (which I've recently found on Project Gutenberg) but if it's in the same vein as other Kipling books I've read, I get what he means. Not So Stories tries to recreate a new collection of animal tales from multicultural, multiethnic lenses, "confronting readers with the real harm colonialism did and taking the Just So Stories back." I cannot meaningfully compare the two right now but I will say that this book both succeeds and fails in its intent.

It succeeds because this wonderful collection of short stories does offer a multitude of unique voices, some of which I can personally identify with as a Southeast Asian, and some of which I can recognise and understand as stories from other cultures, none of which revert to the standard white male Christian point of view that I grew up with as an Anglophilic Chinese-Malaysian. Yet, where it fails is in its target audience--although the anthology is purported to be for children, one story has sexual elements unsuitable for younger readers and at least two others have themes that would probably only appeal to adults. Maybe if it had been targetted for "adults who grew up reading the original as children," it would have succeeded on all counts.

Now on to the stories!

Cassandra Khaw opens this anthology with the brilliant How the Spider Got Her Legs . It has a lovely folklorish feel, beautifully lyrical, but is also very, very brutal--not in physical sense, but how it rips away the veils from your eyes to reveal the evils of colonialism. At first, I wondered at "All of them pale, with hair like someone had spun the noon light into threads, eyes like ruptured sea glass", but Spider soon gets the [White] Man to admit that he took the land from "the Man who once lived here" and that his venom makes his victims "slowly wither of self-loathing." It's subtle, easily missed; yet as you read, you come to realise that this is what has been done to us in Malaysia (where Khaw comes from): we learnt to deify the White Man and loath ourselves, until we grew up and realised the lie--they are no better than we are. (5 stars!)

Queen (Joseph E. Cole) brings us into Africa (I presume?) with an inversion of roles: men here are described as beasts, whereas the anthropomorphic animals are the people. There is anger and pain, sorrow and desperation, a fight for life and freedom. There is also the quiet othering of what is usually a central narrative ("when they worship their cruel man-god who makes them eat his flesh and drink his blood, like savages") and harsh accusation against humanity ("... kill one another for paper and pieces of metal and for any number of pointless reasons. You rape the earth, molest the Earth, taking what you desire without thought or consequence"). Yet there is also reconciliation, the Queen who speaks to the princess who would be queen of her tribe. (5 stars!)

Wayne Santos's Best Beloved is one that I resonated with quite a lot, being set in nearby Singapore, but is also the first of the stories that step out of the children's domain into a rather more mature arena. In fact, Best Beloved also seems rather out of style with the other stories in the book. It's very much more contemporary in feel, with a horror/urban fantasy vibe, besides moving away from animal stories into the paranormal, featuring Chinese ghosts, angry spirits and pontianak. (5 stars!)

The next story hops over the causeway to Malaysia. The Man Who Played With the Crab (Adiwijaya Iskandar) has a Stranger trespassing Beting Beras Basah in a bid to find the great crab that wrecked his ship. There's a deliberate garbling of names--Adiwijaya emphasises the lack of effort made by white men to pronounce names from other cultures--and blatant disregard for lives and beliefs that aren't central to whiteness. There is also a sense of heavy resignation ("my kind shall be written away as myths") amidst a tinge of hope ("But your time shall pass too.") There is an amusing hint of an origin story for British perception of Malays and Malay culture in Malaysia--and because I got distracted, here's a link on the mysterious Tasik Pauh Janggi in Beting Beras Basah (in Malay, sorry). (5 stars!)

In Samsara, Georgina Kamsika explores what it means to be bicultural. Should Nina learn to embrace her mother's Indian roots, or should she fight to retain the white-passing privileges inherited from her English father? Must she choose one or the other? Can she not be both? I don't personally have experience in being biracial, but I do relate to her never-quite-fitting in, in my case because I am a "banana"--white on the inside, yellow on the outside. This one, like Best Beloved, dips into the spirit world, instead of the animal one. (Four-ish stars?)

And we finally get to Zedeck Siew's Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger! Other reviews complain that this is three (or more) stories in one. In a way it is--I see the thread that goes through the whole thing, but it's hard to digest. Siew weaves a convoluted story that begins with the river-mother, who makes the crocodiles, the youngest of which becomes a Tiger. This shifts into Were-Tigers and Were-Crocodiles, playing hard and fast with myth and religion, magic and faith, acknowledging the temptation to disregard culture, upbringing and heritage for the feeling of belonging and acceptance, before finally ending up back where he started with the river and the Tiger, and maybe a retribution (but maybe not). The ending feels satisfying, in its own way, but also as if I've missed something. This one isn't explicit, but part of the setting (a girl stays the night, they hang out at the club) might need some navigation with younger readers. (I'm confused. And conflicted. Four stars?)

How the Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic by Jeannette Ng was like a peek into a culture I'm supposed to be of, but I've never really identified with. I spent much of the time wondering whether the Tree of Wishes was located in Hong Kong, or if this was some other harbour, a village that worships dragons of the sea, "the price paid to buy peace" that becomes part of an "empire so vast that the sun never set upon their queen's soil". Ng returns to the beautiful style that Khaw uses effectively at the beginning of this anthology, tangling history with modernism and progress. I really want to know who Old Man Uncle is. (4 stars.)

After all that good stuff, Stewart Hotston's How the Ants Got Their Queen felt just a little too labourious to get through. It's mainly a powerplay between the ants and the pangolins anyway, with a lot of eaten ants. (I probably didn't get much out of this story as you can tell. Two... three stars, maybe?)

Tauriq Moosa returns us to fantastical animal tales in How the Snake Lost its Spine . I was amused by "the White Devils from distant lands" (Northern Mountains) who believed themselves "first and chosen, those who most resembled the Creators though no one knew what the Creators actually looked like" whilst the "Others, Those Below, Those Far Away" were believed "to be a mistake". There's no hiding that this part at least is allegory, plain and simple, except maybe to the White Devils themselves. (Four stars.)

The Cat Who Walked by Herself (Achala Upendran) is a myth of the origins of the homestead, relating how Man got himself Woman, Dog, Horse and Cow through his might and magic. This one veers out of cultural identity into a more feminist lens, focusing on the power play between Man and Woman. It's a little gory, with many severed limbs, so probably okay for older children. Also, more Woman than Cat, though it's Cat who instigates Woman mostly. (Ah, I'd say four stars.)

Zina Hutton's Strays Like Us meanders into Egyptian territory with Bastet drifting through Miami refusing to be forgotten. This one has hints of American Gods (with a nice reference to Neil Gaiman too!) so it doesn't quite blend in with the rest of the stories either. (Three stars.)

How the Simurgh Won Her Tail (Ali Nouraei) reminds me faintly of Haroun and Luka by Salman Rushdie. Against the backdrop of a children's hospital, Amir tells the story of the Simurgh, who sets off on a quest to make herself a tail. The story is charmingly told, juxtaposing the Simurgh's distress at seeing the state of the world with the comfort gained by the children in the Paediatric Oncology Ward. If there is equanimity to be achieved, it is from the words, "This too shall pass." (Five stars!)

Raymond Gates's There is Such Thing as a Whizzy-Gang is another story that doesn't quite fit. It seems to be about a mythical creature from Australia and reads like a Enid Blyton-type pixie/fairy story but it's never quite clear if this Whizzy-Gang actually exists. Oh well, I guess that's the mystery of the story? (Three stars.)

Back to the animals, How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off (Paul Krueger) seems to be mainly harping about overwork, bad HR practices and recognising religious celebrations of minority cultures. It gives off a kind of hard-boiled detective vibe, without the detective, and features a lot of smoking, pizza and beer. This story will really only appeal to adults so I'm not sure what it's doing in here. (Three stars.)

Overall, I'd say that each individual story in Not So Stories is great on its own (except the ants. What was with the ants?) but the problem is that not all of them fit together quite well in the same book. Where I was expecting a fantastic collection of animal tales for children (or at least tales related to animals), some stories veered off into the paranormal and the mythical, and some into very adult mindsets/settings.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

----

Addendum:

I was going to post this for Music Monday, but didn't. Still. A song for today.




Kasih-Mu, karya-Mu, nyata dalamku | Your love, Your works, are evident in my life
Kau pegang hidupku dalam tangan-Mu | You hold my life in Your hands
Darah-Mu, salib-Mu, tebus hidupku | Your blood, Your cross, redeems my life
Nama-Mu berkuasa sanggup bangkitkan | Your Name is powerful enough to raise

Harapanku di dalam-Mu | My hope is in You
Hanya Kau Yesus kuatku \ Only You, Jesus, are my strength
Kupercaya kuaman dalam-Mu | I believe I have peace in You

Tak pernah gagal rencana-Mu | Your plans have never failed
T’rangi jalanku kuasa-Mu sempurna | Light my way with Your perfect power
Pengharapanku takkan hilang | I will not lose hope
S’bab masa depanku Kau sediakan | Because You have prepared my future
Tak pernah gagal rencana-Mu | Your plans have never failed
T’rangi hidupku kuasa-Mu sempurna | Light (Illuminate?) my life with Your perfect power
Pengharapanku takkan hilang | I will not lose hope
S’bab masa depanku dalam-Mu | Because my future is in You

Words & Music: Andre Hermanto, Andriyanto, Billy Simpson, Joshua Tremonti, Kevaz Lucky, Nina Sari Ishak, Ricky Sutanto, Tirza Agatha, Winny Jessica, Yumir Vishreda
Crappy translation by me.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

#bloghop: Irresistable World Building by Janeen Ippolito



Welcome to Janeen Ippolito's The Irresistible World Building Blog Hop! That's when we hop around various blogs that are all talking about the same thing: Irresistible World Building. What's that you say?



Write stories with worlds that create lifelong fans and fandoms!

Irresistible World Building for Unforgettable Stories contains key methods and tips on how to weave your world building into every aspect of your story, from theme to plot to character arcs.

-Use writing prompts and exercises to jumpstart your creativity
-Get ideas on how to refresh world building genre tropes while still hitting reader sweet spots
-Learn to embrace your inner geek and passions to connect your world building with readers

Vivid world building is great. Vivid world building that sells? Even better!




About the author

Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes urban fantasy and steampunk. She's also an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and the editor in chief of Uncommon Universes Press. 

In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, food, and making brownie batter. She believes that words transform worlds and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. 

This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website: janeenippolito.com

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

#bookreview: Frost | Selah Tay-Song

Frost: Tales of QaiMaj Vol IFrost: Tales of QaiMaj Vol I by Selah J Tay-Song
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Frost is really a quick read.

The compilation consists of 6 brand-new short stories that explore various aspects of life in QaiMaj, along with a short commentary from Tay-Song, followed by a preview of Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern, the first in the Dreams of QaiMaj series, plus appendices -- which is a bonus if you haven't read that one yet or you're wondering if you should invest your time in it.

Dreamer -- I liked this one. It's a charming piece about Stasia as a child and how Glace was assigned as her guard, but didn't really give me any new insights.

Guildless -- This is a gripping story of betrayal; I vaguely remember Norle from the books, but don't think much of his background is revealed there (I could have just forgotten), so this was interesting both as an origin story as well as insight into how the guilds work.

Warrior -- oh, Larc. Ingenuity and self-discovery is the core of this one. And also, misplaced dreams.

Fisher -- this is probably my favourite of the six. It explores the relationship and dynamics between the humans and the Icers. It's at once immensely down-to-earth, telling you how to fish, whilst being philosophical, as Katu ponders on Icers and the mystery of perfection.

Player -- I don't really know about this one. It's part origin (?) story, part ridiculousness, part economics. Liked the theatrics, meh about the story itself, I guess. Or maybe I just never really personally cared too much for/about Casser.

Slink -- Well, it's about Glace, so... =)

Overall, not a bad read. I'd say a good primer for those who are considering getting into the series, and maybe a nice refresher for those who've already read it.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Edit: Have been updated that the preview isn't quite as long anymore! But you're reading it for the short stories anyway...

Monday, 30 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Zilch

Z is for Zilch because that’s what I’ve got for you today.

I think I was overly ambitious (as I always am) because I sometimes need goals to push myself.
But I also forget that sometimes downtime is also necessary, goals or no.

---

Updates to add:



The idea now, I think, is to be a little bit more consistent.
Another 30K to go on this WIP to actually finish the story.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Young -- or when Rahsia was young

I don't know if I'm going to keep this, but I like it well enough. It's sort a continuation from Rahsia. (With some stuff in between but eh.)

---

Nek proved hard to corner that evening, though Rahsia tried as hard as she could to speak to her away from her mother. She couldn’t figure out whether it was Mak who kept hovering over them or if it was Nek who kept steering them to Mak, but every time Rahsia was alone with Nek and was about to ask her about what Iman’s mother had said, she’d find that Mak was somewhere within earshot.

By the end of the night, Rahsia was grumpy and annoyed. Finally, Nek came in to tuck her into bed. Rahsia saw her chance.

“Nek,” she started to say, only to be interrupted by her grandmother.

“Rahsia, a secret is a secret. I know you want to ask me about your father, but if your mak doesn’t want it to be said, you can’t sneakily ask me and expect me to tell. That’s what it means to be a Secretkeeper. To keep the secrets safe so that you protect the dignity and the wishes of the person who told it to you.”

“But don’t I have the right to know about my father?”

Nek smoothed Rahsia’s dark hair back from her face. “You do have a right to know, but not from me.”

“But Mak doesn’t want to tell me anything! It’s not fair.” Rahsia could feel the tears prickling behind her eyelids. She forced them back. She wasn’t going to cry like a baby. Not for something stupid like this.

“And she has a right to act that way.”

“Why do you get to know?”

“Because I am her mother, child, and I have the authority to ask her to tell me. You are her child, so she can decide what part of her life she opens up to you.”

“Can’t you make her tell me?”

“What good would that do? It will only cause her pain and create a rift between you.”

“Because of who my father is?”

“No, that is over and done with. Because when you force someone to speak about something they are not ready to share, you rub chilli into wounds that have not yet healed. She carries a heavy burden in her heart that she cannot let go of yet. And I share that burden with her as the Secretkeeper.”

Rahsia’s mouth formed a silent O. “Is it difficult to be a Secretkeeper?”

“Yes. I have heard many, many terrible secrets and none of them can pass my lips. I guard them jealously, even against the priests—”

“But they can read minds, can’t they?” Rahsia interrupted. “Then they would know everything that everyone has ever told you in secret!”

Nek chuckled. “They can’t read my mind. One of the secrets our ancestors have passed down to use is how to shield our minds from being read.”

“Wow. Can you teach me?”

“I will, one day. When you are old enough, I’ll teach you how. It will be a good thing for you to learn.”

“Can we teach Iman too?”

Nek looked sharply at her. “You haven’t told her anything, have you?”

“No, Nek. I didn’t. I promised. But she told me she was afraid of going to the Rumah Ibadat because she didn’t want the priests to know where she’d hidden her stash of chocolate from her brothers.”

“It wouldn’t hurt for her to share, you know. But yes, we can teach her too. Many people in Iman have learnt various forms of mind-shielding, so it’s not like it’s a deep, dark secret. It’s good to learn in a place like Impian, where anyone could force themselves into your mind.”

“Can the King read minds?”

Nek shook her head. “No, it’s only something those of Impian blood can do. The King is from Maha. You know what Mahan’s power is, right?”

“Strength?”

“Yes, that’s right. Now, go to sleep, Rahsia. It’s late.”

“Yes, Nek.” Rahsia snuggled further under her blankets. “Goodnight Nek.”

“Goodnight.” Nek kissed her on the forehead and then left the room, switching off the light and closing the door behind her.

Friday, 27 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Xenial

X is always a problem. Sigh. Anyway, xenial: "of, relating to, or constituting hospitality or relations between host and guest and especially among the ancient Greeks between persons of different cities", so here’s a bit about the hospitality of the nomads.

---

Adam looked around the camp as they were led in. It was smaller than the camps along the Pilgrim’s Trail, the dull tents making it seem bleak. Bedraggled children peeked out from tents only to be pulled back by anxious parents. They were led into a large tent which seemed like a community centre. A jug of water and three cups were set out on the table they were ushered to and then they were left alone. Adam poured out the water, and they drank thirstily.

A few minutes later, the camp leader approached and introduced himself as Samad.

“What can we do for you, Penance?” he asked as he sat down opposite them.

“How do you know—”

“Suci has been circulating your picture. Your kidnapping has been widely reported and hundreds of men, both nomads and soldiers, have been mobilised to search for you—which was why I was delayed. I had to contact the General coordinating the search to inform him that you have been found.”

“I see. I didn’t know—”

“How did you escape, if I may ask?”

“We ran. Magda—one of our friends—she sacrificed herself for us. She was in no condition to run, so she stayed behind to cause a commotion.” His voice hitched, and he closed his eyes, allowing the loss to flow through him.

“I am sorry,” Samad said quietly. “I was told that the soldiers have retrieved a body yesterday. They were afraid that you had been sold onwards. The slavers arrested were not very forthcoming.”

Adam frowned. “Yesterday? But that was when we escaped.”

“We just missed them,” Tulen said hoarsely. “We must have.”

Samad gave a tiny shrug. “It happens. But you survived, and you are here. For that, we are all thankful.” A woman approached him and whispered in his ear. He nodded and turned to the pilgrims. “Are you hungry?”

Adam’s stomach growled in response. At Samad’s gesture, all kinds of dishes were brought before them.

“Eat, Penance. And you, Tulen. We will continue our discussion after you have satisfied yourself.”
They tucked in with abandon, sating themselves on the warm breads dipped in spicy curries, roasted meats, and grilled vegetables.

After eating, Adam found himself sitting with the chief alone, stretched out in a more comfortable and homey setting. Tulen had fallen asleep while they chatted and ate, so some kind souls had laid her out on a pile of cushions and covered her with a thin blanket.

Samad leaned back and spread his hands. “So as I asked before, what can we do for you, Penance?”

“We need to resupply,” Adam said. “How far is it from here to Suci?”

“It is about four days from here,” the chief replied.

“Four?” Adam groaned. “I thought we would have been nearer.”

“No, you have gone quite far out of your way. It will take you two days at least to rejoin the Pilgrim’s Trail at the fifth encampment and then another two days to complete the journey.”

“Ah, it is what it is,” Adam said resignedly. “The other problem we have is that all our belongings were taken when we were kidnapped by the slavers. We do not have any money to purchase provisions, or to even replace our waterskins.”

The camp leader shook his head. “No, no, we will not accept payment from pilgrims—surely you know that already? Especially from you, Penance. It is an honour to serve you as you serve your God. Besides, the Temple pays us enough to ensure that we are well fed and have all that we need. No, we do not need your money.”

“Thank you, Samad. Thank you so much,” Adam replied.

“Do you need escorts on your journey? We could readily provide those as well.”

Adam almost agreed. It would be wise. Safe. “No, I must decline.”

“It is no big deal. For now, you should join your friend in sleep as we prepare what you will need for your journey.”

He led Adam to another sleeping area and left him there, deep in thought.

That evening, when Adam and Tulen woke up, they found that everything that they would need for the trip ahead had been prepared for them. Samad spent a little time explaining the marks on the trail that would lead them to the intersection with the Pilgrim’s Trail.

“Stick to the trail, Penance and Tulen the pure-hearted,” the camp leader advised as they took their leave.

“We will, Samad. We will,” Adam replied. “Thank you again for your generosity.”

They left the little camp with hearts full of gratitude and packs full of provisions for the journey ahead.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: What I Wrote Today

Also, what on earth am I writing =.=

---

The next day, Rahsia doesn’t get to resume her lessons, though. She’d had to head in to the shop, and by the time she reaches Iman’s apartment in the afternoon, she walks in to find Ahmad there. He jumps to his feet defensively when she enters.

“What’re you doing here?” he asks.

“I could ask you that same question,” she replies dryly.

“I’m their father.”

“Estranged father.”

“So I haven’t been around. Does that mean I should never get to see them?”

Rahsia wants to retort, but she knows that Iman does want her children to see their father, even if it’s once in a long while, so she shrugs her shoulders. “Well, as long as the children want to see you.”

Tulen nods at her and says, “It’s all right, Aunty Sia. I was hoping bapak would turn up soon.”

Rahsia turns to Telus who is staring wide-eyed at the man. “How about you Telus?”

The boy shrugs a little shyly.

“Do you know who he is?” Rahsia asks.

“He’s my bapak,” Telus replies but he doesn’t sound convinced.

“Have you met him before?”

“Maybe?”

“Yes, you have, Lus. Bapak’s been here four times already!”

Rahsia does a quick mental scan of the room. Tulen is holding her thoughts tight to herself and Rahsia can’t help but give an approving smile. Telus has hazy memories of maybe seeing the man before, but he’s not sure. There’s nothing negative attached to the memories, so Rahsia lets it go. Ahmad himself is a mess of uncertainty and pride, as if he’s not quite sure what he’s doing here, but he’s proud of himself all the same.

Why should he be proud of just seeing his children a few times a year? Rahsia shakes the thought away. He can be proud of whatever he wants. “Well, then. You’ll be seeing to their dinner?”

Ahmad looks confused.

“Will you be getting dinner for them, or should I be planning on being back later?”

“What about Iman?” he looks from Tulen to Rahsia.

“She’s rather caught up in something these days.”

Ahmad’s face darkens. “How dare she?”

“How dare she what?”

“Ignore our children?!”

“Oh, so you can ignore the children, but she can’t?”

“She’s their mother!”

“You’re their father!”

“It’s different—”

“And why would that be? And don’t say it’s because she’s a woman. I imagine it took both of you to have them, so it should take both of you to care for them, no?”

Ahmad flails for an answer.

“So you’ll be getting them dinner?” Rahsia asks again, a dangerous look on her face.

“Yes,” he answers weakly.

“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow then, Tulen, Telus.”

“Bye Aunty Sia, and thanks!” Tulen calls after her.

---


Getting there... the full target is 60k, of course, but this month's target is only 30k.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Visions (snippets of the current WIP)

Rahsia scrabbles at the last of her dreams. She’s built her life around a lie. Now that it has all been taken away, she has nothing. Everything she’s been doing in between has been waiting. Waiting for her destiny. Now she has no career, no prospects, no training that would be useful for anything. What use is knowing how to shield her mind to prospective employers? How useful is unravelling a dream to anyone but a priest or a Secretkeeper? What in Trikingdom can she earn by knowing how to skim thoughts or how to tell lies from truth? How could Nek have done this to her?

But it hadn’t been her fault. Nek couldn’t have known, could she? Foretelling was for priests. Nek had always insisted on that. But she’d also told Rahsia many times that she would be the one to take over. Not her mother. Not anyone else. If she’d known, she wouldn’t have— she would—

Nek hadn’t known. It’s a flimsy kind of comfort, but the only one she can find, at least until Iman wakes up. Maybe Iman will be able to tell her more. Tell her something comforting.

---

“What’s your end goal?” Rahsia finds herself asking.

“My what?”

“A priest doesn’t hang around and give advice for no reason, especially one from Suci. What are you trying to do?”

Father Farouk stretches open his hands as if trying to indicate he has come with wide open arms. Rahsia doesn’t believe it.

“Like I said yesterday, you’re important. I don’t know exactly how yet, but you are. And if you’re important, I need you to know everything you should be knowing and doing everything you should be doing,” he says.

“How do you know I’m important?”

He taps his head then points upwards.

“A vision?”

He sighs. “I guess you can call it that. No, it’s not really a vision. A vision would tell me clearly what’s going to happen and most likely when. This is more like a … well, a knowing.”

“A knowing.”

“It’s hard to explain.”

“Don’t injure yourself trying.”

“Anyway, no change to our dear patient. And I’m sure you’re worn out. I will see you tomorrow.”

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Update for #campnanowrimo

Sooooooo I've been dreadfully behind on my Camp NaNoWriMo goals, even though I've already reduced it drastically.

But yesterday, I did this.


So it's all good, at least until I have to hit my next goal tomorrow.

---

Rahsia wakes up with a crick in her neck. She doesn’t recall why she’s sleeping on the floor in such an awkward position. It’s not as if she fell asleep drunk last night, unless the priest had spiked her tea. He wouldn’t have done that. He couldn’t have done that either, unless he’d brought it with him. There is no alcohol in her house. No drugs of any kind either.

She stretches, feeling aches all along her body. The first thing she does is go in and stare at Iman. Nothing has changed. She goes into the bathroom and takes a long, hot bath until a pounding on the door reminds her that the healer was supposed to come. Has arrived. She scrambles to dry herself and throw on some clothes, kicking her discarded ones into her room and closing the door. By the time she reaches the door, the healer is scowling.

“Sorry. I was in the shower,” she says.

He nods and pushes past her. His inspection is a repeat of everything he did the day before.

“Did you find out anything about this, uh, medical suspension trance thing?”

“No.”

He’s out within minutes, leaving with an admonishment for her to remember to “water Iman.”

Rahsia giggles uncontrollably for the next five minutes. When she finally catches her breath, so goes to do as she’s told. Iman now feels to her like a houseplant. It’s a terrible thing to think of about your best friend, but it’s also a wonderfully amusing thing to think of your worst enemy. She can’t decide which category Iman falls into now, so she just refers to her as her plant. She must be careful not to say it in front of the children.

Monday, 23 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Tulen (an excerpt from Secretkeeper)

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

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

“It’s Aunty Sia,” she says.

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

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

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

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

Tulen lets her in and closes the door behind them.

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

A Memory stirs in her.

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

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

“What? Why? Where is it?”

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

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

“Mak is dead,” Tulen repeats hollowly.

---

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

Saturday, 21 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Secretkeeper

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

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

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

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

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

And it also didn’t work out.

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

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

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

Friday, 20 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Rahsia

Secrets are a burden.

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

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

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

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

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

Mak shrugged her shoulders and refused to say a word.

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Quest

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

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

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Penance (an excerpt from Absolution)

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Nek Ramalan + Oblectation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 April 2018

#AtoZChallenge: Memories (an excerpt from Secretkeeper)

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

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

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

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

‘You have the Memories,’ Father Farouk says. 

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

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

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

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

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



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

Also, yay! A current excerpt.


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