Friday 28 March 2014

Friday Flash, A to Z, Divergent, Books and rambling about everything else!

I was thinking of doing a Friday Flash, but I think I need to concentrate on working out my A to Z posts. I'm working on E right now, and it seems the Elves want to fight over some obscure treaty or covenant that the men (or rather, the one man in trouble) have no clue about. I still have a long way to go and looking at the rate I've been writing... this does not bode well.

In other news, I've just watched Divergent. And Four, oh, Foooouuuurrrrrrr. *sigh* I don't know if I would fangirl enough about Theo James, but Four. Mmmmm =)

Comic-Con 2013 - Thursday
Comic-Con 2013 - Thursday (Photo credit: robjtak)
Okay, maybe I should finally go read the book. Which has been sitting in my TBR list for a few years. But...

In other other news, I just bought 30 books at the recent Big Bad Wolf box sale. My unread shelves are overflowing. I have 3 or 4 books in my Kindle/iPad waiting to be reviewed. I don't know how to arrange books on my shelf anymore. I need more shelves.

Oh and GIVEAWAY! Go get some love with my giveaway now!

*heads back to writing*


P/S we're hopping within the hop for Supernatural themed A to Z. If you think you fit the bill, join here!

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Wednesday 26 March 2014

Narratives: Who am I?

We've reached Exodus as part of our cell group's Bible study, and I stayed up until 2 a.m. on Monday night (uh, I mean Tuesday morning?) prepping slides (and getting distracted by YouTube and Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt) because I felt like it (totally unnecessary, but oh well). And now I'm staying up late Tuesday night, after said cell group, writing this. (Why, I wonder, why? Why can't I just go to sleep like a normal person?)

Moses' questions and protests (Read Exodus 3 and 4) when he was called by God to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites are questions that rise often in my life. Not always in the same sequence, not always only once, but often over and over again - especially the first one, "Who am I?"
"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11)
Who is he, indeed. Only a son of the line of Levi, the line of the priests (though the priesthood hadn't been instituted yet, so maybe that doesn't count?). Only the adopted son of the previous Pharaoh's daughter and therefore the step-brother of the current Pharaoh, a Prince of Egypt. I think that makes for added misery/conflict to the whole "let my people go" saga.

Who am I is the recurrent question in most of our lives today, maybe because the narratives in our lives often say we're only average, nothing special, so we can't do anything much. Maybe we buy in to the narrative that says I must be a rich white male to do anything worth noticing, or I must be a starving genius from a third world country to be recognised. The narratives in our heads and in our books tell us that nobody notices the middle-class, working class kids, the in-betweens, who try their best because they aren't special, precocious, or obnoxious enough to be watched. Only the outliers, the very good or the very bad, the Hero or the Villian, the ones with the special talent, get the attention we crave.

We're so plagued with self-doubt and self-esteem issues as a generation (or two) that it isn't funny anymore. So we find the need to pigeon hole ourselves, to define who we are by what we do (or at least by what we do best), or who we're related to (as long as they're famous), or who we know (the more famous or infamous the better), or any other thing that can somehow make us sound better and greater than those around us. Yet the more we try to attract attention to ourselves, the worse we feel about ourselves. There was a guy who tried to kill himself because he couldn't get the "perfect selfie". Our self-esteem issues are getting way out of control.

If you were to ask me who I am, I could give you a myriad lables, depending on who you are to me. I am a daughter, a cousin, a niece, an auditor, a writer, an editor, a singer, an actress, a worship leader, a dancer, a Christian, a child of God, a failure, a winner, a manager, a teacher, a blogger, a thinker, a reader, a hoarder, a single, a young adult.
These are the sum of my parts, but they are not all of me. I'm more complex that these titles imply, and yet, I use them because it's simpler that way, and if I were to excel in something (oh look, I edited a book that's on the bestseller list - I AM NOW SOMEBODY) then that's a way to bolster up my faltering ego, to prove to myself (and others) that I can do something.

Then you get God's answer to that question: It's nothing to do with who you are.
"But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain" (Ex 3:12)
Like, what? Does that even make sense? And yet it does, because it takes the pressure off little ole fragmented you, and puts it all on the great big God of creation. It means that it doesn't matter who you think you are, or how much you doubt and hate yourself. All that really matters is that God Himself has chosen you and has promised to be with you until what He's called you to do has come to pass.

It's a difficult answer to come to terms with; it's one I struggle with most frequently. My inadequacies and failures often feel like a millstone around my neck, dooming me to further failures - sometimes not because I'm not good enough, but because I don't believe I am, therefore I don't see the need to try. There is a desperate need to change that narrative in my head, to still the voices that whisper "if you don't try at least you won't fail." And maybe that's why I've been coming face-to-face with an overwhelming wall of love, as if God is standing in my way saying, "look here, I've told you this before and I'm telling you this again, and I'm just going to shove it in your face until it gets into your head."

I'm desperate for a Word to tell me what to do, where to go, and all I keep getting is Anna, I love you. You're precious and special to me. Who you are is more important than what you do. I've called you, yes I've called you, but first and foremost, I've called you to be Mine. Anna, listen. Trust me. You don't need to 'love me enough' because I have love enough for both of us. I have faith enough to keep you going. I am that passion in your soul you've been holding tightly to. I am that song in your ear you've been listening for. I am the words in your heart you've been trying to write. Everything you've done for Me I know, I see, I remember. Your faithfulness is your righteousness, your steadfastness is proof enough of your love. I am a jealous God and I am jealously in love with you. I am a jealous God and I am jealously guarding you for Me.

Who am I then?
There's only one fitting answer to that question: I am His. 

Friday 21 March 2014

#atozchallenge: the great and awesome theme reveal! #atozreveal

Back in December I was on a nature walk (haha, so unlike me) with my uncle’s family up in Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. Part of the trail was covered in planks, and it was pretty cold (at 6am!!) so there was frost on the ground. It was pretty magical. My head started filling with fairy stories, and then it struck me - how come all the cold places have really nice fairy tales? (Or at least Disney-fied ones?) Eastern folk tales seem to be more gory and scary and not (yet) cleaned up for kids - they seem targeted to frighten, rather than to inspire. I placed the idea out of my head until I visited in South Lake Tahoe, California in January and had my first experience ever of snow. That’s when I started to think seriously about it.

Snow. Wonder. Magic. Magical places. Fairy tales. Fairies and pixies and imps. Noble centaurs, light-footed elves and gruff dwarves. Dragons that swooped overhead, regal and majestic. I've always loved me a good fantasy story anyway, especially when there’s magic involved! Some of my favourite writers include Robin Hobb, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Brandon Sanderson, Lynn Flewelling, Terry Pratchett and Garth Nix. It’s all magic, magical systems, strange and wonderful lands and lots of different sentient, maybe magical, species.

In some of my recent writings, when I’m not being contemporary, I’ve also been toying with writing in a more fairy tale style. A little archaic sometimes, with some old-world charm (I think).

Putting all of these together, I’ve come up with my A to Z theme:

flash fiction: mythical creatures

Some of these stories will be inter-related. Some of them aren't. It really depends on where the stories have taken me and the places they've led me to. I hope they take you to magical places too. Because of my snow bias, I'm going to be more Western/European biased as well, since I grew up on British books anyway. I apologise in advance if the places aren't quite as real as they should be (especially if you actually live there) because there's only so much wikipedia can tell me about places I've only been to in books. Feedback is always welcome!

I'll be updating the index as I continue writing (as they may change as I continue writing). Links have been added to the pre-scheduled posts (that I'm really lagging on!) but you won't be able to get to the posts until they actually go live! So BE PATIENT.
P/S They're all scheduled for noon Malaysian time (+8GMT) so if you live somewhere further West you won't have to wait as long as those in the East. 

In conjunction with A to Z, because I think it's a great blogfest, I'd like to give YOU a chance to win a copy of my book, Love in Penang. The giveaway will run from today (woohoo! Theme reveal!) all the way through April. More details are on the dedicated giveaway page here.

2022 update: Deleted old code. This A to Z Challenge has been compiled (and edited) into a novella, which you can get here!

Thursday 20 March 2014

Print version of Imaginary Friends launches this Saturday!


Because I'm just SO bad at keeping up with everybody and everyone, I just realised that my friend Melanie Lee is launching the print version of her book Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the kid in us this Saturday, 2pm at the Putrajaya International Book Festival.

And I can't go because I've been making lunch plans AND tea plans like crazy.

So if you're somewhere in the Klang Valley, and are planning to go for the book fair, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go and support her! (I wants an autograph *throws fit*)

The illustrations have been awesomely reworked (from what I can tell from the updates in her facebook page) giving it a more edgy, contemporary style than before.

I've previously reviewed the original e-book here in all its old-style, cutesy glory! (Fun youtube song included!) Go get it, 'kay?


P/S - Check back here tomorrow for the A to Z theme reveal. And if you haven't signed up for A to Z yet, DO SO NOW.

PP/S - Imaginary Friends was born out of A to Z. REALLY WAN. Well, I think so anyway.

PPP/S - The Love in Penang giveaway starts tomorrow as well.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

#bookreview: God's Loophole by Dan Rix

God's Loophole (God's Loophole, #1)God's Loophole by Dan Rix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jeremy Rockwell has built the bubble - a prototype machine that isolates users from reality, letting them directly experience quantum effects, such as manipulate individual atoms. Rockwell brings in his girlfriend, the mysterious Raedyn Summers, and his brother, sports jock Gabriel, as business partners in his new tech start up.

Fighting against time to produce results for their backers, Raedyn and Gabriel spend more and more time using the machine. Even as they become addicted to the experience of being in the bubble, strange effects soon plague them; things that Jeremy cannot explain away scientifically.

Quantum physics (or any science, really) isn't my strong point so if there's anything wrong with the science, I couldn't say. It felt plausible to me, though there were probably things that could have been explained better. What I can say though is that Rix's writing has continued to improve from my first brush with him (Triton) and his earlier effort (Entanglement). The story pulls you in quickly and the book is paced fast enough that you don't find yourself worrying about them so much. In fact, it just adds to the tension when you get to the what-the-heck-just-happened ending and you wait for the next book...

Note: I received a pre-release copy of this book as part of Dan Rix's mailing list.

View all my reviews

See my reviews of Triton and Entanglement here.

God's Loophole will be released on March 27, 2014.

Monday 10 March 2014

When an airplane disappears

Time seems to stand still.
Eternities passed before the next -
piece of news filtered
in, which didn't say much either. When
will daddy come home?
The children ask, not knowing the pain,
the anguish it brings
in its innocence. Wait and hope, wait-
and pray, wait and wait
For the miracle that may never
happen. But may. 'Cos
no one knows yet. And maybe no news
is good news or no
news is worse news. I guess it depends.


Because fiction is how I deal with thoughts I am incapable of processing.

Official Malaysia Airlines announcements
Where is MH370 - curated Tumblr - Live
Reuters - Timeline of events

Sunday 9 March 2014

In search of my innate Malaysian voice

I don't listen much to TED talks, but this caught my eye whilst browsing Facebook.

I identify with her in many ways, growing up reading British and American books, growing up writing stories that have a very Western slant in my extremely Asian surroundings. I believe it was Shamini Flint (or was it Preeta Samarasan?) who talked about something like this as well in last year's Georgetown Literary Festival, questioning why there aren't stories about our Malaysian experience, about the things that make us, well, us.

I'd like to believe that my writing has started to change in recent years, that I'm allowing my innate Malaysian voice to emerge more and more. The yellow-haired princesses of my colouring books and early writings have changed to brunettes and black-haired vixens, and yet, there is still the fact that even my choice of words in writing still reveals that bias. 

Maybe it's my lack of proficiency at my own national language or my supposed mother tongue. Maybe it's the tail end of anglophilia that still has its grip on my heart. Or maybe it's a subconscious mindset that I need to start changing.

Either way, there needs to be a Malaysian Voice to support this growing awareness of who we are as a nation. Even as people are standing up to be counted politically, yearning to make a change, there needs to be a new Voice of literature standing up to pull us together, saying, this is who we are. This is what has shaped us. 

Not just for us.
But so that others can understand us too.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

#bookreview: The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue

The Reluctant Prophet: A Novel (The Reluctant Prophet Series)The Reluctant Prophet: A Novel by Nancy Rue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reminiscent of Charles Sheldon's In His Steps, The Reluctant Prophet follows the story of Allison Chamberlain as she gets a divine nudge to do crazy things - like buy that Harley Davidson she doesn't even know how to ride. And care for that broken prostitute and her loud-mouthed son who have just lost their father and grandfather. Allison isn't always certain that she's hearing God's voice right, but that doesn't stop her from doing her best to follow what she believes is His will for her life.

Rue addresses several issues in this book - the call of God to take care of the broken and the downtrodden, the religiosity that has crept into the church, and the ability of one person, who opens her heart to God, to start making changes in her community. One of the things I liked about this story was the way it dealt with doubt and faith - and not knowing all the answers. It opens a place for dialogue for people who are struggling with their calling, especially when it is not quite accepted by the church.

Another thing I think this story addresses is the fact that people in the church can and should do ministry with the help of non-believers - one of Chamberlain's greatest support was her fellow HOG, Chief, who's quite a skeptic about God.

The book is not without it's faults: sometimes things just seem to fall into place too easily and too quickly. Sure, Rue is showing that God is sovereign and he uses our background and past even before we knew Him to equip us to do what He wants us to do today, but I would think that a more faith-driven approach might have been a better touch.

On a whole, The Reluctant Prophet was a great read - one of the better Christian fiction I have read in a while. This is the kind of thing that "Christian fiction" needs more of. (Well, I think so anyway).

View all my reviews

I think I'd go far enough to say that this is one of the kinds of books that I'd like to be writing. (Besides awesome swashbuckling, epic type fantasy saga, ahahaha). I just think there needs to be more real stories out there about faith. Not the types where everything is peachy and kind and nice and the worst problem you face is that you're not getting that promotion you wanted, or the guy you had your eyes on has fallen in love with someone else and you're so sure you're going to be single for the rest of your life, but things that talk about what true love in action looks like.

But things that make you question your faith and how you're living it.