Wednesday 31 October 2012

Eclipse One: New Science Fiction and Fantasy (#bookreview)

Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction and FantasyEclipse 1: New Science Fiction and Fantasy by Jonathan Strahan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 15 short stories in here are a hodge-podge of science fiction and fantasy stories (more biased towards fantasy/paranormal than science fiction), some of which provided a-ha! moments, whilst others left me puzzled.

I'd say there were overall more a-ha! stories than puzzling ones.

The few I really liked were:
- Bad Luck, Trouble, Death, and Vampire Sex (Garth Nix)
Well, what can I say - I initially picked up this book because I saw his name on the cover. Gardner, a bumbling wizard, somehow kills his adopted grandmother, the most powerful witch-queen in the nether-world by sheer accident. Now on the run, Gardner, with the help of Gurl, the gargoyle that used to sit above Granny's office desk, must figure out what's really going on. The story is laugh-out-loud funny. Its series of comedic errors would have made perfect reading for teens, except for its preoccupation with vampire sex. Then again, after twilight, who cares about vampire sex?

- Toother (Terry Dowling)
Someone has been killing women and stealing their teeth and Peter, a psychic, is the only one with leads to this terrible murderer that spans decades. Toother is a little dark, slightly reminiscent of Criminal Minds.

- The Transformation of Targ (Paul Brandon and Jack Dann)
What happens when the Mighty Revenant Overlord Targ, Destroyer of Mordane and Ruler of Hellinor doesn't want to be evil anymore? He goes to consult Hiram Hirsch, Consultant to Evil, that's what. The story is light, entertaining and brilliantly written.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Book Spotlight: Between Boyfriends by Sarka-Jonae Miller

So being the naturally *ahem* outgoing and friendly person I am online, I met the lovely Sarka-Jonae Miller via Goodreads, which led to Facebook, (doesn't everything?) and one thing led to another, and what do you know, I'm hosting Sárka over here at my blog for a book spotlight on her chick-lit novel, Between Boyfriends.

Just a little bit about the book to whet your appetite:
Jan Weston is boy crazy, emphasis on crazy, but when "the one" breaks her heart she vows to change. Jan quits dating and takes a hard look at herself, discovering that she does not like the flawed, spoiled individual she sees in the mirror.

Her progress toward positive change is derailed when her mother discovers she dropped out of San Diego State University to attend massage therapy school. Furious at being lied to, Mrs. Weston cuts Jan off. Now Jan is without a guy, her American Express card, and a way to pay for school. She has to do something so despicable, so vile, so cruel, she almost cannot imagine it: Jan has to get a job.

But maybe that is exactly what she needs? Jan is forced to change how she treats people and to reconsider her values. Through a "comedy of errors" and with the support of her real friends (plus the hottie from massage school) Jan is able to survive, barely. But can she really change or is she just between boyfriends?

Right, so this doesn't exactly sound like my usual reading fare, as KK will attest, but why not? So before I get down to reading it, a few things to give you the heads up on:
  • The blog tour giveaway - Sárka is hosting a blog tour giveaway (this is one of the stops!), with an autographed copy of Janet Evanovich's Motor Mouth or a signed picture of Lauren Alaina up for grabs. (Deadline: Nov 4)
  • Win an iPod shuffle - Write a short review of the book and stand the chance to win an iPod shuffle. (Deadline: Nov 15, US only)
  • She also helpfully points out that the book will be free on November 2, if you're taking notes...
Where to buy:
Amazon (UK): Between Boyfriends 

About Sárka:
Sárka-Jonae is a novelist and freelance health writer. Before writing full-time, Sárka worked as a personal fitness trainer and massage therapist. She attended both the International Professional School of Bodywork and the Natural Healing Institute, where she studied Thai massage. Sárka drew from her experience as a massage student and massage therapist when writing Between Boyfriends.

Sárka is an avid traveler, martial artist, yoga enthusiast, and animal lover. She traveled to Thailand twice to research the sequel to Between Boyfriends. She has also been to Costa Rica, Canada, England, Mexico, France, and Paradise Island. Sárka lives in San Diego with a menagerie, including two cats, two dogs, and a horse.

Monday 22 October 2012

The Worship Songwriter: A Step By Step Guide To Crafting Your Best Songs

So I've been following this David Santistevan's blog for a while and when he issued out a call for a launch team for his upcoming book, The Worship Songwriter, I thought... why not?

He sent the launch team a review copy and I read it on the back of our church's worship retreat, where Aunty Lucy was basically encouraging us to start writing worship songs, and you guessed it - The Worship Songwriter was basically giving tips to not just get started, but to hone and refine your songs.

There are great tips in this book if you'll take the time to sit down and work through them. I promise I will, some day.

What Is “The Worship Songwriter?”
The Worship Songwriter is an eBook designed to help you write your best songs. Whether you are a seasoned writer who needs some fresh inspiration or you have a brand new interest in writing worship songs, this is the book for you.

From idea conception to editing to finishing, The Worship Songwriter will guide you on a step by step process to finishing your song.

For a limited time, David is offering two special bonuses along with the book:
  • The Worship Songwriter Audiobook - grow as a songwriter as you work out, drive, travel, or go for a walk.
  • The Worship Songwriter Journal - An eJournal to get you started writing TODAY! Includes concepts and quotes from the book, as well as Scripture verses to inspire you.
What are you waiting for? 

Where to buy
David's site
The Worship Songwriter site
Direct buy link

About the author
David Santistevan is a worship leader, blogger, music teacher, and pastor. He works at Allison Park Church as the Creative Arts Pastor, investing in the next generation of musicians and worship leaders.

He married his wife, Emily in 2009 and their son, Tyler was born in July of 2012.

David’s blog, is a popular blog for worship leaders. It has won the Reader’s Choice award at Worship Leader Magazine for two consecutive years as a top resource.

David, Emily, & Tyler currently live in Pittsburgh, PA.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Stories From A Place To Call Home: stats for the month

I'm not sure what I expected when I first put it out on the interwebs, but well, this feels pretty good!

If you haven't yet picked it up, here's the link again: 

If you have the time, put up a review:


Monday 15 October 2012

Blast from the past: We All Fall Apart

Every once in a while, I revisit the stuff that I wrote a long time ago. On Sunday, my brother asked if I had any samples of "romance" stuff to help him in some story he's writing. I wandered back to my fictionpress site and stumbled upon this old thing.

We All Fall Apart was written for Script Frenzy in 2007. Uploading it to fictionpress killed part of the formatting, but it's still readable. It's corny. And blatantly immature teen flick. And definitely still playing on that theme I had of jazz bands and surprise parties. I still love the ending though, corny as it is.

Oh James. You're just too sweet, you know that Mez?
            (She reaches up and touches his face.)
Shh… don't say anything. Just let me talk. There was a time, when you were so distant, and Cedric was just too real and all there. I wondered then – what if? What if he was really the one? What if you didn't care about me anymore? What if you really had found your happiness with Heather, and just didn't know how to tell me? Would I just try to hang on and be cast aside? Or should I strike off on my own and make my own happiness?
Shh… wait. Then there came your letter. It blew up my whole world. I couldn't believe that my worst nightmare was coming true. I was so bitter I thought I would rather just break it off on my own rather than wait for you to drop the bombshell that I obviously wasn't meant to know about yet. It was devastating for me. I guess for you too. But I didn't want to care I didn't want to feel.
And then I learnt the truth about who Heather really was later on. I was still wondering, though. I was still bitter. And then Ceddy said something that really hit me on the head.
I asked him that question – the one about true love. He said it's about making a commitment and sticking to it. It's a promise – of being faithful to each other. And I came to a conclusion.

What was that?

A while ago, I made a commitment, and a promise. I don't want to go back on that. I think that being faithful isn't that you're never tempted, or that you're some kind of person with angelic thoughts and motives. Being faithful doesn't mean that you're a super hero and will never ever think of liking anyone else ever again. I feel that being faithful, is really choosing to ignore all the other distractions that come your way, even whilst acknowledging that those distractions are real. But it's a primarily a choice. It's a difficult choice. I'm not saying it's not. And truthfully, I do have to admit that in some ways, Ceddy is just… I don't know how to put it. He's one of those guys that's always there for you. And he really cares. He listens. In a way, I do like him. But in so many other ways, I do believe that you're the one for me. Even though I know things aren't great now. Things are in real fact, falling apart.
But! Listen to the but - I choose to honour that promise I made you a long time ago.
As long as I breathe…

As long as I live…

You're mine.

You're beautiful.

He puts his arms around her.

Love is nothing to the world
A hug and kiss means nothing much
But when I kiss you
I want to kiss you forever

They get up and walk to the car, holding hands. The sprinklers turn on and they laugh, chasing each other through the falling water.

When I touch you
I want to touch you forever
When I know you
I want to know you forever

She takes out her diary and lies on her stomach on the bed. She bits the end of her pencil, taps it on her chin and then starts writing.

Time comes and goes
Friendships live and die
But when I love you
I want to love you forever

He lies on his bed, with his hands behind his head, with a smile on his face. He picks up his hand phone and dials her number. He talks for a while.

Only you.

She puts down the phone and then keeps the diary. As she passes by her table, she stops to look at the photo frame on her table that holds his picture and smiles widely. She switches off the light.

(Ok, I admit the monologue-y stuff needs work).

P/S: Bali pictures are up on facebook. I will (maybe) blog about it soon.

Sunday 14 October 2012

How integrated is your faith?

One of the things that really struck us, or me at least, in Bali was the way the Hindu faith is so intertwined in the lives of the people that it is difficult to separate the cultural from the spiritual.

For example, what do you think that building above was? Some sort of temple or religious building?
Would you guess that it’s actually the local Starbucks?

Here’s the picture from the front. But you wouldn’t have been able to tell without the sign, would you?

I received an e-mail forward recently which said something like this:
"You have offered us Christianity in a Western cup... Give it to us in an Eastern bowl and we will drink of it," is a famous statement by Singh, who converted from Sikh to Christianity after his personal experience with Jesus, who appeared in his room on one morning in the year 1905, when he was just fifteen years old. 
Stanley Jones once asked Gandhi:
“How can we make Christianity naturalized in India, not a foreign thing, identified with a foreign government and a foreign people, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift?"
Gandhi responded with great clarity, "First, I would suggest that all Christians, missionaries begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practice it without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non–Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people." 

Sometimes it feels that our faith is nothing more than something to dress ourselves up with every once in a while. Something to occupy our time and make us feel busy and wanted and needed. Church is something you do on weekends. Or on certain nights of the week.

But it really shouldn’t be that way. It should be so integral to our very being that we’d know instantly when God is missing, rather than going down a long road and realising that somewhere along the way something has changed. God should be so integral to how you live and breathe and work that people can see Him in you. In the way you speak. In the things you do.

I don’t think integrated is really the right word after all. Integrated implies two separate functions or cycles being combined. Instead, integral means “ necessary to make complete; essential or fundamental”.

So how integral is your faith to you?

Friday 12 October 2012

#Fridayflash: Generation songs

She sang the songs of her generation and they loved her for it. They smiled at her as she walked by and she wondered if they saw past her smile to the wariness of her eyes.
“We love your songs,” someone said, “They speak to us, to our souls. Thank you for singing them. We can’t even begin to describe what they mean to us.”
“I’m glad they’ve touched you,” she replied, hoping not to sound awkward but feeling it anyway. She turned to go hurriedly, pretending that she had many things to do. After all, she was supposed to be famous.

She sang the songs of her generation and he loved her. There was adoration in his eyes as he came up to her, a package in his hand.
“What’s this?” she asked, looking at the swirly blue patterns and the little silver ribbon.
“Just a little present,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets and pretending to be non-chalant about it.
“Thank you,” she said, neatly peeling at the cellophane tape. She sucked her breath in at the pretty crystal rose, fighting back tears as he said rather shyly, “do you think we could go out?”
“Why would you want me?” she whispered.

She sang the songs of her generation, but she was empty. There was raw power in her words and her voice, but there was nothing left inside her, as if her songs had drained her, leaving her as an empty husk.
“What do you mean you won’t sing anymore?” her manager asked. “Are you trying to ask for more money? We can revise the contract.”
“No, I don’t mean that,” she said quietly. “I just won’t sing.”
“What’s wrong? Have you strained your voice? You could take a break, and we’ll start the new tour next year.”
She shook her head. “I can’t, Bob. There’s nothing left for me to sing out of.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t expect you to.”
She sang the songs of her generation once. Once upon a time, a long time ago.

Give me the songs of this generation
Sing over me its mighty anthems
Sing me the songs for this generation
Give me the words from Your heart

Wednesday 10 October 2012

#bookreview: Number 10 by William Clark

This was another of those cheap reads I picked up at a book sale (can't remember which, but probably the one in Kota Kinabalu). I'd been picking up more political-type books, and thought this might be an interesting read (even though it's fiction) about the British political system, off which Malaysia's scene is supposed to be based.

Number 10Number 10 by William Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Number 10 is an interesting look at the (supposed) happenings in 10 Downing Street during a political crisis. It's an old British book, so it's not half as exciting as modern American thrillers but steadily plods along with crisp language and pretty words.

View all my reviews
(Sorry, no book cover. It's apparently not read enough to have an entry on goodreads so I added it myself.)

I do like the concept of some dissension within a political party/sitting Cabinet, because it does mean that the politicians/ministers involved are actually thinking and working out things for the best of their constituents, rather than the Yes Man scenario we apparently have at the moment. This quote from chapter 16 puts it in an interesting light:
Everyone rather enjoys a row in Parliament because it gives substance to the supposed deep divisions between the two sides of the House; everyone hates a row in Cabinet because it means a struggle between supposedly united and friendly colleagues. It is usually carried on in polite terms, which make the dagger thrusts seem more malicious and treacherous than is the case when the atmosphere is lightened by the good clean fun of parliamentary abuse.
The thing is, the way it is, it's not even a proper row. It's more of a childish squabble.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question

So it's 9 days into October and that means that NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. I've logged in and activated my profile, so if you want to buddy up, do by all means.

The problem now is I DON'T HAVE A NOVEL IDEA YET! Then again, I hardly ever do until the end of October (or sometimes the beginning of November) anyway, so I'm not quite sure if I'm really going to do it this year. Besides, I have 3 years' worth of NaNo-novels to finish editing and whipping into shape, as well as another half-finished novel that I want to finish sometime in the future.
And I have that Coursera course on Greek and Roman Mythology that I'm midway through...
And the EAGC website I need to look at prep articles for...
And the short story book I'm working on...
And Christmas is coming...

Then again, it's November. And NaNoWriMo. It's this time of the year that you really get a lot of people urging you on, plus a legitimate reason to hide yourself in a hole and write because "I really want to win that cert".

What do you think? Should I, or should I not?

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Burning question: why ATSP?

Hey Anna, what's with the teaspoon? 

Well, there's a simple reason for that. It just so happens to be my initials.

How can that be? Your name is Anna Tan, isn't it?

Yes, but there's more to it.
In a normal Western culture, the order of a name would be [first name] [middle name, if any] [last name/surname], e.g. Orson Scott Card. (Because his book is right in front of me)
In a normal Chinese culture, the order of a name would be [surname] [name character 1] [name character 2], e.g. Lim Mei Ling (because these are really common names). Now, contrary to western practice, Mei isn't a first name and Ling isn't a middle name, so you wouldn't just call her Mei, or Ling. (Though these might end up as nicknames). What you would call her would be Mei Ling, (sometimes hyphenated) just as you would call someone Orson. Instead of Or, or Son.
A quirky Malaysian (and I think Singaporean) culture when parents want to give their children both English (or western) and Chinese names, would be to put it like this [first name] [surname] [chinese names].

Oh... so what's YOUR name?

My name, in full, is Anna Tan Shuh Ping, hence ATSP.

p/s edited. Because the editor is doing some funny html stuff.