Sunday 31 August 2014

#30to30: Day 24 - Selamat Hari Merdeka!

I'm going to be celebrating Merdeka somewhere up in the sky over a bunch of different countries. It's a little sad. Then again, it's not as if I would actually be doing anything huge or different back home. 

I thank God for Malaysia and all that she has been to me. A home. A familiarity. A comfort. A safe place. I'm not very good at adapting to change, or to new things, and I suppose that's why I've always returned home, I guess, besides the fact that I keep thinking, if everyone goes, who will stay?

We always hear about people being called to go. Go to the mission field. Leave your family, leave your comforts, leave your job and bring the gospel to the unreached. And yet, lift up your eyes. The fields are white for harvest. You don't lift up your eyes and see across the world. You lift up your eyes and look across the street where you live, at the person in the cubicle next to you, at your classmates and your lecturers, at the homeless in the street, at the people who walk by you every day, who talk like you and think like you. And I believe that for everyone who is called to go, there are more who are called to stay. 

Stay in a Malaysia that is crumbling, because who else will be her strength? 
Stay in a Malaysia that is corrupt, because who else will be her justice?
Stay in a Malaysia that is in pain, because who else will be her healer?
Stay in a Malaysia that is in chains, because who else will be her freedom?

There are so many things wrong with our nation, but then again, no nation is perfect. Everywhere you go, you will find something to complain about, you will find corrupt and illogical practices in government. The answer is not ditching it. The answer is asking the question, "So what should I do about it?"

It doesn't mean that you will be involved in politics. It doesn't mean that you start a revolution and march along the streets. It just means that you make your voice heard, one way or another, through your votes, through the way you deal with people, through the way you bring up your children, through the way you slowly change the culture.

Because really, what makes up a nation?
The people.
And when the people change, the nation changes too. 

Saturday 30 August 2014

#30to30: Day 25 - Dear America, thank you for loving me

It's the end of my business trip in San Jose. I'm flying home tonight, and I don't really know what to feel. I'm a little sad and heartbroken to leave my new friends and community, and yet relieved to be finally heading home. I feel like I'm going to miss out on a lot of things that are going to happen here, and yet I'm excited for the things that are happening back home. 

I know I'll be back again so it isn't forever goodbye. Still, it's like I'm leaving a piece of my heart here. Thank you for welcoming me into your houses and  hearts. I'll miss hanging out with you guys.

See you in January.

Friday 29 August 2014

#30to30: Day 26 - #Fridayflash

I've been involved with the #Fridayflash community on and off since I started my twitter account in late 2009. It's a great way to network with other writers (when I'm not too lazy to blog hop) and to have some fun, quick fiction to read.

So anyway, in conjunction with that, here's a little flash fiction. :)
Writing prompt: Name


He lay on his bed, staring at the white ceiling. His blankets lay crumpled around him where he'd tossed them off during the night. He couldn't get her out of his head, even though two years had passed since the divorce. Two years, to the dot, though why he remembered the exact date of the divorce and not their wedding day was a mystery to him. Two years, and her name still wouldn't stop ricocheting in his head.
I miss you.
The curtains weren't doing much to keep the sunlight out, so he got up and sat on the edge of his bed, staring at his feet. He studied his toes, and the hair on them, desperately trying to find something that would keep his eyes away from the ring that lay on his bedside table. He wish he'd thrown it away. But he couldn't; not when he still thought of her so often. She'd probably thrown her ring away, or given it to whoever she was with now.
Won't you come back?
Maybe he'd call Maddie today, he decided, see if she'd like to hang out. She was a nice enough girl; kept his mind away from Sharon, distracted his heart from the stabbing pain that refused to go away. He should be over this by now. He reached for his cell phone and heard something drop. He bent down and picked up the ring absently, almost mindlessly. Turning it round in his hand, he closed his eyes and thought of her, her name changing in his head, as it always did when he held it.
What was good has turned to evil.
He needed to get his life back in order.

Thursday 28 August 2014

#30to30: Day 27 - Childhood friends rock

I've made great friends along the way, but there's something comforting about the familiarity of friends you've known for your entire life. Well, maybe not your entire life yet, but at least from when you were in school.

Sometimes you drift apart. It happens. Life gets in the way. Distance does make a difference. Time takes its toll.
But then you somehow get into contact again, and it feels like you've never left. Besides, they know your deepest darkest secrets and your most annoying quirks but still talk to you anyway. Who else does that?

#30to30: Day 28 - Letting go

The thing about life is this: it's filled with moments that you need to let go of.

Some of these are bad stuff - times when you were hurt, disappointed, or trod over. It could be times when you did stupid things and had to face the consequences. It's usually easy to let these go because you don't want to remember them. It hurts too much. But at times, it's difficult to let them go as well because you've grown to let pain define you; you've started to think of yourself in terms of what you're NOT. (Or you're just secretly a masochist.)

Then there are the good stuff - the things you've achieved, the accolades you've earned, the great experiences you cling to. You remember these with a little bit of pride and nostalgia and it's hard to let go of, because why should you? 
And yet, sometimes it's our own successes that hold us back, because we're so satisfied with what we already have that we stop moving forward. And sometimes, we're so caught up in the memory of what used to be that we can't grasp the new thing that's coming, instead ending up wallowing in the bitterness of "when I was young(er)".

Letting go. 
It's not easy, and I still struggle with it. 
But at least I am aware of the need to let go. 

Wednesday 27 August 2014

#30to30: Day 29 - Work anniversary!

Today marks my first year at my current job!

There are many things to be thankful for in this job, summarized into three MAJOR DEALS for me:

  1. No need for super crazy overtime (there are still deadlines but... *shrug*)
  2. I get to travel to the U.S! 
  3. I have time to write. (When I'm not being lazy)
It hasn't been all smooth-flowing. There have been some bumpy-ish patches, but overall, I've had a pretty good year here. :)

Monday 25 August 2014

#30to30: Day 30 - Celebrate yourself

I'm probably asking for trouble, but I decided to do a little mini personal blog challenge. It's not as if I have nothing else to do. I have an editor chasing me, a script (or two) to finish, a friend's chapter to critique, lots of work to finish up... BUT ANYWAY.

I don't really know what I'm going to post, but it's probably going to be a combination of random thoughts, appreciations and highlights.

And I'll start it off with the reason why I'm doing this. It's really just to celebrate me and a looming milestone. :)

Photo credits: someone on facebook. Gabe, I think?
One thing I've come to realise over the years is that sometimes, if you don't make an effort to celebrate yourself, no one will. It's not to say that you think you're better than anyone else, or you think that you're so great that everyone needs to celebrate you. It's just the fact that sometimes, when you're feeling low, or if you feel people have abandoned or forgotten you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to decide not to wallow in it. Instead, count your blessings and do something crazy. Like this #30to30 blog challenge. :)

p/s but if you have clinical depression, please seek help.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

#bookreview: Games of Chance by Will Hahn

Games of Chance (Judgement's Tale, #1)Games of Chance by Will Hahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At 121 pages, Judgement's Tale: Games of Chance is a novella that paints for you the background of the Lands of Hope, giving you glimpses of the strange young man from over the sea, Solemn Judgement, and yet not telling you quite enough about him or what he's supposed to do. You meet unlikely heroes: Linya, Mhoral, Treaman, Haltar and Bildon - swept away on an unwanted quest.

Will Hahn's writing and world building is interesting enough to keep you wanting more - and that's the problem. There isn't enough in this book to keep you satisfied. It ends too abruptly, making you feel short-changed, as if the book is unfinished.
Maybe I'm too used to long fantasy books that I can't wrap my head around the fact that Judgement's Tale and its sequel, Eye of Kog, is going to be released as a series, with a new book (or at least part of it) released every 3 months. I'm not one for watching TV series. I don't know if a book series will be any different.

I guess we'll see.

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Tuesday 19 August 2014

The belated #wdnwc14 day 3 post

So I was supposed to finish off my post on Sunday, except that after rushing off to the airport (spending more than 1 hour in the shuttle to get there), I was hungry. And then I started reading Jeff Gerke's "The First 50 Pages" and then when I finally got back to San Jose, we headed off to dinner and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which was full of plot holes).

Anyway, so Day 3.
First session of the day was lots of dirty little publishing secrets revealed by Phil Sexton, followed by revision tips from Barbara O'Neal. I'd say one of the most informative (for me) slots was the one after that, by Carlie Webber, regarding the query letters and agents, though I don't know if I will ever use that information, seeing... I don't even know if agents exist in Malaysia. Unless I'm trying to publish it in the USA first. Hmmmmm.

In between sessions I was eavesdropping on people talking about science fiction. Haha, well not really eavesdropping. They were right beside me and they knew I was listening. I think.

Final plus point of this writer's conference - got invited into a critique group on facebook. Let's see where it goes! :D

Sunday 17 August 2014

Day two of #wdnwc14: of workshops and friends

Today's programme was chock full of really informative sessions. I don't know if I've finished processing everything yet, but I can say this - at every session I feel like a sponge, soaking up stuff, wondering if I'm going to start leaking. Which isn't a bad thing.

Also, I'm hearing stuff that makes me go 'hey, so maybe if I applied *this* and added *that* it would make my story go much better. 

One was definitely the Writing Active Setting session, which talked about how even how you describe a scene can be put to good use to show facets of your character, or even build conflict and tension. 

Bits of the plotting workshop tied back to Larry Brooks' session yesterday about the first plot point and I'm going 'those bits in my NaNoWriMo drafts that I thought were conflicts... I think they were really the first plot point or maybe even just an inciting incident. No wonder it seemed so stuck.'

But it's not just been workshops. In between I've made friends, Howard, Luke and Naomi, to name a few, and met a fellow accountant who's in the middle of edits (whose name I forgot. Oops.) 

Looking forward to the final few sessions tomorrow (no Hugh Howey, bummer) and maybe making a few more connections before heading back to San Jose and being boring. 

Saturday 16 August 2014

Day one of #wdnwc14!

I had been thinking of live blogging the conference but I decided against bringing my laptop (one less thing to worry about) so I'm basically pretty much old school with pen and paper. 

Anyway it has been a mix of anticipation and terror coming here but I'm glad I made it! Thoroughly enjoyed the sessions with Larry Brooks (on structure) and Jonathan Maberry (opening keynote). Probably should have hung around and/or visited booths and gotten things signed but LK was waiting for me in the lobby! LK was one of my first writerly friends on twitter and though she wasn't attending the conference, she braved traffic and drove about an hour plus to meet me and have dinner. *so touched*

So I'm just tuckered out right now and going to sleep. Tomorrow should be exciting :D

Friday 8 August 2014

#bookreview: Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease

Shadow SwarmShadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arbethol Nauile is the promised saviour and the rightful heir to the throne of the Nuadaim. He just doesn't know it yet. When he wakes up in a mausoleum not knowing his own name, or anything that has happened to him in the past 300+ years, it looks as if the ancient prophecy has failed, and the Neglafem's sacrifice to protect him has been in vain.

Elise is more than ready to give up on the prophecy and leave the strange man to fend for himself after watching her grandfather, Iliam, being killed on the day of the King's Presentation, but her grandfather's sacrifice and faith means more to her than anything in the world. Leading Nauile out of the citadel where they were beset by the enemy, she is soon taken hostage by the enemy to be used against Nauile.

Because Arbethol is remembering things in flashes as well as being told them by the people he meets, you do get a rather good background of the Nuadaim over the course of the book, usually when you need to know it. The list of names and terms at the back was also quite useful, though a little clunky to refer to on the kindle (that really only works well on paperbacks). The world is pretty well-built, and the narrative is well-written. The characters seem a little flat and one-sided at times - it's not to say that they weren't well-developed. It's just that they felt a little stereotypical, especially Elise. Other than her kidnapping being the catalyst that launches Nauile to start a war against the enemy, I don't really see why he falls in love with her or how. I guess traipsing through the woods together might make you attracted to one another, but... that was it?

Shadow Swarm is very strongly Christian allegory - I could smell it from the middle of the book, though that's probably because I'm extremely sensitive to these kinds of things. It doesn't really detract from the story itself; it's only just a little predictable at the end.

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

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shadow Swarm! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Shadow Swarm tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that cannot be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, and saw his mother die while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano. Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet ravaged by a war of the gods and began anew. All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin in a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.
Get Shadow Swarm through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

About the author: D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn't been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer's Sirens. It's not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters he brings to life.
Connect with D. Robert on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.

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Wednesday 6 August 2014

#bookreview: Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail

Cephrael's HandCephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first started reading this, I was reminded strongly of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, minus the annoying women and plus faster pacing overall, which was a win for me.

Trell of the Tides embarks on a journey to discover his heritage.
Prince Ean val Lorian is being hunted by persons unknown.
The Adept race is dying, and Cephrael's Hand, an unlucky configuration of stars, hangs in the sky for all to see.

McPhail weaves these stories through the tome leaving you wondering: Who is good? Who is evil? Is Bjorn really the traitor he has been branded or is he working to the same purposes as the other Vestals - to protect the realm of Alorin?

I enjoyed Cephrael's Hand and am looking forward to picking up the sequel, The Dagger of Adendigaeth.

* I received this ebook as a review copy from Novel Publicity.

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P/S Lovely new cover revealed yesterday, along with a giveaway! Check out yesterday's post.
PP/S I may have posted this review before. I think. But I couldn't find it via my tags. So maybe I didn't. I can't remember.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Guest post: Three Must-Read Series for the Fantasy Connoisseur

A Guest Post & Cover Reveal by Melissa McPhail
Having been a fantasy reader for more years than any southern-bred lady should ever admit, I’ve encountered some excellent fantasy novels. Over the decades, I’ve watched many wonderful books rise to a height of popularity, enjoy the thrill of riding that wave of reader buzz, and then bob away to take their place on a shelf with others of like fame. With so many outstanding fantasies rising and ebbing across the years, it’s easy for newer readers to overlook some classics. Since I’ve been swimming this sea for a while, I thought I would share a few favorites you might’ve missed.
All of these novels have inspired my work in some important way.

Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber
“Amber is the one true realm, casting infinite shadows of itself.”  Only the royal family of Amber have the innate talent to navigate the shadow realms of Amber, of which Earth is one such shadow. At the beginning of Nine Princes in Amber, the first book in the series, Corwin wakes in a hospital with no memory of his identity. As he learns that he’s a prince of the royal family of Amber, so also is he pulled back into his brothers’ and sisters’ perpetual treacherous vies for their father’s abandoned throne.
Corwin moves from one near-catastrophe to another, each one often devised by a different family member, but his wit and his wry, cynical view make all of his misadventures—and indeed, this series as a whole—a joy to read.
The patterning described in my series is nothing like the pattern the royal family of Amber must walk in order to manipulate the shadow realms of Amber, yet Zelazny’s novels did provide a spark of inspiration for my own realm of Alorin, where “all things are formed of patterns.”

Anne McCaffrey’s The Rowan
The Rowan is a beautiful blending of science fiction and fantasy. The story follows The Rowan’s life from a traumatic disaster on a far colonized planet through her training as a telepathic and telekinetic adept with a powerful gift. Adepts such as The Rowan form the foundation of space travel in McCaffrey’s tale, which is part adventure, part coming of age, and part love-story. Ultimately, in trying to save her true love, The Rowan births a gift that may be the key to saving all of humanity.
The way McCaffrey described The Rowan made an indelible impression on me. The Rowan provided the early inspiration for the Healer Alyneri in my series.

C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy
This is one of those series that never really loses that popularity wave. But in case you missed hearing about it the last time it crested, the Coldfire Trilogy, starting with Black Sun Rising, is a must.
Gerald Tarrant is one of the most memorable anti-heroes ever written. More admirable still when you realize Friedman wrote him long before Mark Lawrence made the villainous blackguard interesting. In Gerald Tarrant, Friedman presents a man of cold arrogance and bold evil—and makes you fall in love with him, hook, line and sinker.
The artful way she crafted Tarrant inspired me to explore virtue and vice in my own story’s cast of personalities. Some of my more alarmingly compelling characters have Gerald Tarrant as their distant grandsire.

The Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Are you ready for the reveal of the new Cephrael’s Hand cover? Because here it is! 

What do you think? Does it do a good job conveying the fantasy genre? Is it a book you’d be attracted to in the store? Does it make you want to learn more?
Thank you for helping us celebrate! If you’d like to see the new covers for books 2 and 3 in the series stop by, and check them out.
Guess what else? The author is offering a special giveaway as part of this grand event. Check out the Rafflecopter form below (it’s also available at to find out how you can win a Kindle Fire. Hooray!
Oh, and don’t miss learning more about Cephrael’s Hand and where you can pick up a copy—that’s below too.

“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:
In Alorin… three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him.
In the kingdom of Dannym… the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord.
In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.
Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or wherever awesome eBooks are sold!

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No, wait, what? I didn't cross post my review to my blog? 
Okay, check out the review tomorrow!

Sunday 3 August 2014

Destiny Conference, 215District and serendipity

It's been a crazy weekend at the Destiny Conference. I could put it all down to coincidence or serendipity, really but let's just say it as it is. God's been pulling strings. ;)

I had been ambivalent about attending the conference despite ohmygoshit'skutless and lookpeopleit'stheexactsameverse!Serendipity! moments.

So I did what any normal person in 2014 does. Divert ambivalence into a complaint about lack of money on facebook. And then this woman full of awesomesauce GIVES ME EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED FOR TICKETS AND MEALS at the conference. (Though it turns out I didn't actually really need to get meals, it was so near my hotel). (No linky on this woman because she might hate me for it... she shall stay anonymous until she decides to say something.) (Really, don't listen to me when I complain about money because I really, really, really do have enough. I'm just stingy and trying to convince myself to spend on something I want, other than books.)

I just opened my book of notes, and I love it how the (kind of) first phrase I wrote down from Mario Murillo says, "Some of you look at how impossible your dream is. You're looking at the wrong thing." Somewhere down the page, it continues, "Even when you don't know what to do next, God is going to do amazing things!" It's as if God is just affirming again and again and again that I don't have it all, but it doesn't matter. He knows what's going to happen.

Your latter will be greater
"A culture of victory and excellence can be handed down to create a generation that exceeds the prior generation." - Mario Murillo
Even as we start to build 215District, I believe this is a word in season, this is the word that we need at this time. It seems as if things are falling apart, and we are trying to build a new culture, a new identity from scratch. It's difficult. But we have the people and the tools in place - setting that culture of victory and excellence NOW is what is going to ensure the future of the generations to come.

We are called to be counter-culture, and in a world where standards don't matter, where excellence isn't a big thing (even in the church), we should (and need to) build a culture of youth that care about doing the right thing, and doing it well. Let's not buy in to the lie that it's okay to be mediocre, it's okay to kind of just follow along with what everyone else is doing. The verse says that we shine like stars. Another verse says that we do it all with excellence as if doing it for the Lord. Other verses promise that we will be the head and not the tail.
I covered the book of Daniel in cell group before I left, but this was an interesting thing Mario brought up that I don't think we considered during our discussion. Daniel served through the reign of 4 kings. We know that. But the thing we didn't think about was that in those days, each new king that came into power purged (i.e. killed) all the servants of the old king and put his own people into power - but Daniel was so valuable, that they couldn't kill him. Each time, he was reinstated to power.
If you stay right with God, He will promote you to be the leading edge of your culture.
And we need that. We need to stop playing catch-up with where the world is going. We need to stand up for our convictions. We need to be so good at what we do, and so strong in what we believe in that people will stop and listen. Even if they don't agree.

There's more to be said, but I'm sleepy.