Wednesday 28 November 2018

#bookreview: Letters to the Church | Francis Chan

Letters to the ChurchLetters to the Church by Francis Chan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Letters to the Church is thought-provoking, especially since it addresses some of the issues I am currently having around church.

Chan draws examples from his personal experiences, both in the old megachurch and in the new house-church style, but qualifies them with the statement that what he has done and what he is doing isn't representational of what Church is meant to be worldwide. He seems to ask instead, who are you following? Jesus or the church leadership team? What does faith, love, and community look like in your context? How would Jesus work in your situation, in your community?

The one thing he does come strongly against is the consumer mindset that besets many a churchgoer, myself included. The emphasis here is not how the church can cater to you, but how you can serve your church in its goal to reach the surrounding community.

I guess it all centres around the question What IS church? Is church as we know it the way it's supposed to be? Or is it supposed to be something more? Chan draws stark differences between the Westernised church (Westernised, not Western, because there are many churches in the East which follow the Western ways) and the persecuted church.

And that's the answer I'm still trying to find.

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

Tuesday 27 November 2018

#guestpost: Why the busiest times are the best times to write by @akooman

If you’re like me, you have to pretty much hire private security to keep yourself from watching reality television, because if you start you can’t stop. Not the self-absorbed-celebrity-does nothing-significant-and-films-themselves-arguing type of reality TV. I mean the shows where creative people have a deadline to make something, with an interesting challenge thrown in for kicks.

Like: Use this ball of string, four rags from a mechanic's shop, and a push-up bra to design a glamorous outfit that an A-list star will wear to the Met Gala. You have three hours.

Or: Here’s a box of locally grown produce (turnips), a can of Spam circa the Vietnam War, and four jelly-filled doughnuts. Make an appetizer that will persuade a Michelin-star chef to hire you as the sous-chef at her new Vegas restaurant. You have twenty-five minutes.

Put a bunch of success-hungry creative people in a room together and give them a timed challenge with limited resources and I’m a fan, no matter if it’s fashion, furniture or fine dining.

It’s amazing to see what people can come up with on a forced timeline. It’s cathartic to see how they handle the pressure cooker of agreed-too but extreme limitations, especially when there’s some prize money and career breakthrough on the line.

If you’re indie anything—musician, writer, artist—you probably know just how mesmerizing it can be to watch such creative feats unfold.

As ridiculous as it may first sound, I think there’s something to be gleaned—besides entertainment and the occasional inspiration—from these creative Guinea pigs: a sobering kind of motivation.

In fact, my busiest times are the best times to write. Now, you might scoff at this premise coming from me, since I’m about to release Book Two in my YA series nine years after releasing Book One. But hear me out, because I stand by my claim.

One of the most productive exercises I have incorporated into my own writing practice and that I use when I lead other writers in workshops is to “force” writing for short moments, with a single rule: write for an entire minute, no matter what.

For some, especially writers with writers’ block, this can feel like cruel and unusual punishment akin to water boarding, but it’s actually a kindness. Once the parameters are clearly established and the stopwatch starts, one minute typically turns into two, then three, even five or more and the resistant writer can’t stop writing.

Boundaries, deadlines, limitations are a kind of grace for any writer.

That’s not to say one can command the best content at any time, simply by summoning a stopwatch and a pad of paper with a pen. Because certain stories must be ready to tell.

That’s the flip-side of the coin that is my own writing practice. I thrive within clear deadlines, but the story I need to tell must also be ready to be told. And there’s mystery to that process for me.

So, I can’t say with one hundred percent certainty why I waited almost a decade to write Book Two. Life got busy (with multiple stage plays, tours, a film, world travel, family, grad school, and a hundred other things) so the project got pushed back. But it also wasn’t ready.

I wrote other things in the meantime and when it was, I set a timeframe. And, on available days I had to write, I sat down to craft the story. Sometimes the writing flowed outside of the set time; sometimes it stopped short.

Then I’d schedule another deadline until the book was complete. Despite “everything else” in my life both professionally and personally, I’ll do the same for Book Three.

For some reason, the busiest times are the best times to write because I’m forced to ensure I carve out time for the thing I love, that refuels me, that I need to do, in the midst of all that’s going on (even when the busy thing is a writing project itself. Because—as an aside—even in the midst of a project, there’s always another story I want to tell and pick away at and find time to simply outline because it’s another opportunity and a kind of reprieve or breath of fresh air from the hard work that the current project requires).

So, my fellow creative, let “busy” fuel your practice. What mesmerizing feats will it force out of you?


Andrew Kooman is an award-winning writer and producer with a Master of Arts degree in English from Western University. His critically acclaimed work has been produced around the world and translated into more than 10 languages. A co-owner of the production company Unveil Studios, Andrew writers for the page stage and screen. His new novel Ten Silver Coins: The Battle for Acchora is available November 29, 2018 and is the second book in his YA series.

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Monday 26 November 2018

#musicmonday: So Faithful | Josh Yeoh, feat. John Dip Silas

You’ve been so good
You have been faithful
Oh how I love you, God


Because sometimes you need to sing it into being.

Friday 23 November 2018

#fridayflash: Physicality

The first thing Daisy noticed about the house was the draft.

“It’s a little cold in here, isn’t it?” she remarked to the real estate agent as they went up the stairs to look at the bedrooms.

The agent gave her an odd look. “The heating’s on,” he said, going to check the thermostat.

It was, indeed, on.

Daisy stood next to the radiator, feeling the warmth of it, wondering where that odd draft had come from. But it seemed to have disappeared; the house was warm and cosy, everything she had been looking for.

There were two large bedrooms on the upper floor, each with their own attached bathrooms, perfect for when family came to visit or if she decided to take in a lodger. On the ground floor was a cosy living room filled with antique furniture and knick-knacks from the prior owner (a little old lady who’d died the previous year) and an old-fashioned fireplace, a mid-sized kitchen, and a tiny study, should she want to do any ‘serious work’, as the agent put it.

It was perfect, despite the yard being too large (a gardener could be hired, if need be?) and that draft (where was it coming from?). Daisy got the number of the hired man who used to work the yard for the previous owner, but didn’t mention the draft; after all, the real estate agent hadn’t noticed anything. Maybe she was a little too sensitive to the weather.

Daisy paid the down payment on the house and moved in right away.


Elizabeth woke up in the living room. Really, she’d taken to falling asleep all over the house lately. She yawned and stretched, then got up to put the kettle on, only to walk into the coffee table. She stood, blinking confusedly at the table for a while, then looked around the room. Someone had moved the furniture while she’d been a sleep. How rude!

The couch she’d been on had been placed at an angle on the left of the fireplace so that she could rest with toasty toes while looking up occasionally to see that her roast wasn’t burning, which was why she’d gotten up and walked straight ahead towards the kitchen. Only, someone had moved the coffee table that was supposed to be by the head of her couch—to put her tea cup on, of course—into the middle of the room, right in front of the fireplace. Really, where was the sense in that?

Elizabeth shook her head, tutted, moved the coffee table back to its original position, and then went to make a cup of tea.


The kettle was whistling in the kitchen again, but Daisy was quite sure she hadn’t put it on. It had taken to whistling at odd hours of the day, usually at eleven in the morning, well past when Daisy had her breakfast, and then again at three in the afternoon, when she was busy working in the study.

Sure enough, the kettle was warm, but it was empty. She put it away, locking it in the cupboard for good measure (There! See if those hooligans could get at it now). She was almost at the study door when she realised something looked different. She stood in the doorway, surveying the living room. Someone had moved the coffee table. Well, she was too tired to move it again, so she decided to let it be.

Daisy shivered. That draft was too much. She’d have to find someone to fix it.


It wasn’t funny. Why anyone would think that pranking a little old lady was a good idea, Elizabeth couldn’t fathom. How could she have elevenses if the kettle was locked away? She’d gone searching up and down the kitchen for it, but it had been nowhere to be found. Someone had locked this cupboard though—really, this was too much—so it had to be in there.

Elizabeth fretted, wondering who she could call. Maybe that nice young man down the road who did her yard could help. He’d know how to pick the lock, or maybe he’d be able to help her find the key. She had to admit—her eyesight wasn’t what it used to be. She’d lost many a thing in the last year, especially with all her furniture being moved around by pranksters. Resolutely, she marched out of the house, letting the door slam behind her.


The slam of the door jolted Daisy from her mid-morning nap. Those hooligans again! The furniture, then the kettle, and now, the door. And that perfectly nice real estate agent hadn’t even warned her that there were hoodlums in this area who enjoyed breaking into people’s houses! Admittedly, they hadn’t stolen anything (she’d checked all her belongings to be sure), but they were very annoying.

Daisy went down and had another look around. Nothing had gone missing, though someone had obviously been rifling through the kitchen cupboards. What did they expect to find in there? Hidden money? She wasn’t one of those little old ladies who kept spare cash in a jar in the kitchen. She’d had enough. It was a Saturday, so the real estate agent was probably not going to pick up her call, but she’d seen a man (the hired man the agent mentioned, she thought) in one of the houses down the road when she was coming back from the store the other day. Maybe he’d know what was going on in this neighbourhood.


Alex looked up in alarm at the sight of two ladies beelining towards him, one alive and one very much dead. It was at times like this that he hated his ability to see and speak with the dead. Well, he should have expected it. He’d known Elizabeth’s spirit hadn’t left the house yet, but hadn’t done anything about it or mentioned it the last time he’d worked on her yard.

Now he was going to have to explain to the new occupant that she was sharing the house with a ghost and to Elizabeth that she’d left the physical plane. How fun.


Partially because we were supposed to do suspense, with elements of foreshadowing, shifting points of view, withheld information and lines of convergence, if I got that all right.

But also partially because I promised someone on twitter a ghost story.


Wednesday 21 November 2018

#bookreview: Ten Silver Coins: The Battle for Acchora | Andrew Kooman

Ten Silver Coins: The Battle For AcchoraTen Silver Coins: The Battle For Acchora by Andrew Kooman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ten Silver Coins: The Battle for Acchora drops you in the middle of a story you last left... almost ten years ago now. It took me a while to reorient myself to the happenings in this book (seeing that I don't have a copy of the first one with me at the moment), but then I got caught up in the excitement and it didn't really matter.

The Drylings of Acchora are now visible, and the volcano they've been hiding in for years has erupted, causing them to have to flee for their lives, both from the spreading fire and the Rashtakar's armies. Ama and Juria take risky, unconventional paths to try to save the land and people they love--not just from the evil one, but from traitors in their midst.

It's an ambitious project, in both scope and breadth. The story gets slightly confusing at times as Kooman tries to pull several key storylines into one cohesive text, jumping from Juria and her brother Jordyn, to Ama and Jill, sometimes together, sometimes individually, extending the various points of view as you go further in the novel to encompass a huge cast of Drylings. Kooman can get very descriptive, giving you details of what these creatures look like in exquisite detail, describing action scenes sometimes almost blow for blow--it's imaginative and vivid, but sometimes a little too much to take in at a go.

Carrying on the theme of acceptance and second chances from the first book, the Drylings' rejection and suspicion of the Invalids--Drylings born without wings--echoes Jill's status as an outcast in Vendor. This is countered firstly by Ecklar's drive to save Juup and Trill when no one else would and Ama's willingness to take them in, as well as Jill's persistence in seeking them out.

The Battle for Acchora is also a journey of rediscovery for the Drylings--things they have long forgotten come to light as they emerge from their shelter. If there is a new theme to this story, it's probably this: that the sins of the fathers should not be visited on their children.

If there were anything I'd really like more of, it would probably be a little more clarity on the mystery of the ten silver coins. But I guess Kooman is just teasing it out as we follow the coins (and Jill) into the next book!

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.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM BOOK 2 Jill loosened the red tassel and opened the mouth of the pouch, pouring the contents into her hand. She gasped. A handful of coins filled her palm, the same dirt covered coins in need of a polish that she had found in the emptied fountain in the Great Hall. “What’s on the coin?” the cat asked. Jill rubbed one of the coins to remove some of the dirt. The dirt smudged away to reveal an elegant equine face. She held it up for the cat to see. “A horse.” “Turn it over,” the beast commanded. The other side was also covered in dirt. She placed it back in her hand. When the cleaned coin surface touched her skin, the ridge of the scar etched into her palm by the firestone started to pulse slightly with red light. “What marking is on the other side?” the cat asked. Jill started to rub the dirt off the coin. She didn’t expect to see anything, since the opposite side of the coins had been devoid of engraving when she first acquired the treasure from Seraph. “Oh my!” Jill said, when she saw the mark. “How can that be?” “She held up the coin for the cat to see. “Impossible!” the cat said. “It looks like you,” Jill said, “but this beast has wings.” Excerpt From: Andrew Kooman. “Ten Silver Coins: The Battle for Acchora.” iBooks #itunes #BookSeries #YA #novel #adventure #identity #story #writer #preorder #fiction #giftideas #christmasgifts
A post shared by Andrew Kooman (@andrewkooman) on

Ten Silver Coins: The Battle for Acchora launches on 29 November 2018.

Preorder your copy from Andrew's website (with special freebies!) or from the following retailers:

Monday 19 November 2018

Saturday 17 November 2018

#fridayflash: more #nanowrimo excerpt from the WIP

Josh stood frozen. Was this the way? Was this how they’d finally be able to return to Maha? They’d get Michael back to Maha—it was impossible to bring Samuel under these conditions—and when they were there, they’d be able to drum up the revolution, be able to amass an army to fight back, find a way to win back their city. He could subvert Lady’s Dell’s orders. Somehow. He had to talk to his father, see how they could use this to their advantage. Maybe they could actually leave without too much bloodshed.

The blow that landed on his cheek stunned him.

“Bastard. You’re planning to take it, aren’t you?” Michael growled. “You’d take my throne from me and laugh as I grovel at your feet. You want to break me like Dell has done my father?”


“The throne of Maha will not be taken by infidels. It will not be occupied by Bayangans. The world will end before God allows that to happen!”

“Michael!” Josh grabbed at his prince’s flailing arms. “That is not what I intend to do! Listen to me, Michael,” he whispered fiercely, forcing the mad prince down on his knees. “You will be restored to your throne. But for now you must stop this. Stop it before you endanger everything.”

But Michael wouldn’t stop. He was in a frenzy, driven by fear, anger, and bitterness. Josh wrangled him into a chokehold, then manoeuvred his body, pressing him face-down into the floor. Reaching out, he snagged the ever-present chains and snapped them on the bands around Michael’s wrists and ankles. Michael continued wriggling on the ground.

“I don’t know how to talk sense into you, Michael, but you have to snap out of this. I can’t return a throne to a madman.” Josh kept his voice low, hoping that no one was listening at the door. “I’m going to meet my father tonight. I didn’t plan on bringing you along, but I’m going to need to. You need to listen to everything we have to say and understand Michael that everything we’ve been doing is intended to return your throne to you. You’re going to have to make decisions tonight. And you’re going to have to trust us.”

Michael stopped struggling.

“Can I let you up now?”

Michael nodded and Josh lifted the pressure from the back of Michael’s head and neck.

“Do you really mean all you said?” Michael asked, still wild-eyed, mouth full of carpet dust.

Josh nodded. “I do.”

“Why have you never told me all this before?”

“I told you right in the beginning, but you refused to believe me. And then it got too risky.”

“Then why tell me now?”

“Because if Dell intends to return us to Maha, this speeds up our timeline. This is an unexpected development that I hope will turn out for good. I don’t know how exactly we can subvert it to our purposes, but if we can, it means that you now need to know what we plan and how to react when we stage our coup.”

Michael lay silent. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. Then he opened it as he exhaled. “I’m sorry. Could you let me go now?”

Josh dug in his pockets for the keys and released the chains. His jaw hurt and he stretched it.

“That’s going to bruise really badly,” Michael said, dropping his eyes habitually.

“Yeah, thanks.”

They sat in silence.

“You know what?” Josh finally said. “You really pack a punch. This was the hardest time it ever took for me to subdue you. And even then, I felt as if you let me.”

Michael lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling. “Something’s changed. Something clicked in me and I felt a surge of power. Not like anything I’ve ever felt before. It shocked me so much that I stopped. I was only flailing about half-heartedly to throw you off.”

Their eyes met. Josh’s eyes widened.

“Your Berserker powers,” he gushed in a quiet whisper.

“No…” but Michael’s eyes widened too.


I was thinking of developing this week's homework into something for next year's Commonwealth Short Story prize so I decided not to post it up. :)

Anyway, did a 10K day yesterday, wouldjalookitdat!

The story is probably 80% waffle right now, but that's okay, because most of that waffle is helping me figure out what the characters want :p

Wednesday 14 November 2018

#bookreview: Reading Like a Writer | Francine Prose

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write ThemReading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it was on the supplementary reading list and I was feeling lost about how all these people with literary backgrounds were giving deep opinions on the books we're reading in class and I was just like... it's a book, I liked it or I didn't like it, or it bored me to death. (I don't do very well in verbal discussions. I would just like to send them all my Goodreads reviews lol).

Prose talks about the things she looks out for when reading, which is sometimes helpful, sometimes uh, where did that come from? But on the whole, it's covered a lot of things we've also been doing in class. I do like her end conclusion, though, which does say just read for the sake of enjoying the language, not because you want to dissect the story or argue about your opinion of what the author intended when he said such-and-such. (Will Self also said that in yesterday's lecture: read, read, read, read.)

I do read a lot. But what I need to get better at is close reading. This book gave some pointers on how to start doing that.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 13 November 2018

#guestpost: the Diverse World of the Island of Myste | Randall Allen Dunn

Diversity in stories is a very popular theme today. However, I was planning to write characters with diversity long before it became a trend, because many other writers were doing the same thing before me.

I saw strong examples of diversity in fiction when I was a kid. Television series like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible had very diverse casts that showed various races working together as teammates and equals, who rarely acknowledged the difference in their races. Several other television series highlighted individual races, such as Diff’rent Strokes, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and 21 Jump Street. I also saw cartoons that featured other races, like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and animated portrayals of The Harlem Globetrotters and The Jackson 5.

Diversity in fiction is not really a new concept. It’s simply identified and spotlighted more heavily these days when it occurs. Those shows that portrayed diversity well have inspired me to create stories that present diverse groups in believable and positive ways. Even in high school, I wondered why the lead protagonists in American fiction stories were always white. I determined to write some stories with non-white heroes.

My latest story, The Island of Myste, is a fantasy adventure for middle grade readers, about an adoptive family that is also a mixed family, something which has not been done very often in fiction. We have many stories about heroes who have been adopted, from Superman to Harry Potter, but they typically share or resemble their adoptive parents’ race. The nine-year-old hero of this story, Yumiko Corr, is a Japanese girl who has been adopted by an African-American couple. This causes her some stress because she clearly doesn’t look like her new parents, which gives her an innate sense that she doesn’t truly belong.

My wife and I are white, and we have two African-American children that we have adopted. One of the most heartbreaking things I experienced as an adoptive father was when our one-year-old daughter was comparing her brown-skinned arm to my wife’s, and asked when her skin would start to turn pink. My wife explained to her that we had different skin colors and it would not change, and did not need to change, because she was perfect the way she was.

But I have come to believe that sharing the same race within your family provides a deeper sense of belonging, especially for kids. We all know it shouldn’t feel that way, but children in a mixed family can feel disconnected, even though they know they are fully loved, simply because they look different. In The Island of Myste, Yumiko and her adoptive parents travel to Tokyo to search for her birth mother, so Yumiko can feel a sense of identity, once she knows where she came from. But a freak storm transports them to another dimension, where nothing exists but an enormous island, on which strange creatures called the Nephilim have been trapped for centuries. Like Yumiko, the various individual Nephilim feel disconnected from one another, even though they are all one tribe, created with different roles and abilities. The Centauri (Centaurs) are outstanding archers and woodworkers, while the Taurusors (minotaurs) are overly aggressive iron workers, and the Meral (mermaids) nurture others and help them to see beauty in life.

Unfortunately, the Nephilim were all banished to this dimension for failing to lead and protect mankind, as they were created to do. They were divided even farther when a spoiled human boy, Rodney, recently took over the island, using stolen magic to enslave everyone. Yumiko soon discovers that she’s destined to rescue the Nephilim from Rodney and return them to her own world.

But to do that, she’ll have to teach the Nephilim to work together and have hope again, that they can be restored to their former roles of honor. Just as we need to maintain hope that we can overcome prejudices and stand together as one race.

I’m really looking forward to introducing readers to all the Nephilim tribes, many of which will surprise them but, I hope, will satisfy their expectations for what they have always imagined creatures like centaurs, mermaids, gargoyles, and other fantasy figures to be. Some are introduced in the first book, and more are revealed in Book 2.

There’s a sneak preview at the end of this book for the sequel, Terror on the Island of Myste, which comes out in December. That story introduces some new central characters and Yumiko makes a bold decision that changes everything for the Nephilim. Book 3: Escape from the Island of Myste releases in January, when the Nephilim attempt to escape from King Rodney and the island. There’s also a contest that people can enter, to be named as a Nephilim in the final book. To enter, people can link to my website to learn how to create their own Nephilim name, here:

All you have to do is choose which Nephilim you want to be, then follow the naming pattern to turn your own name into a Nephilim name. You can become a fairy, gargoyle, minotaur, or whatever you want.

Once you have your name, just email it to me at, with a contact address for you or your parents. If you have trouble creating your name, email me your name and I can send you your Nephilim name in 2-3 days.

Then I’ll add your Nephilim name to a page where you can ask people to vote for your Nephilim name.

The top 3 voted names by midnight of December 31st, 2018, will be published in Escape from the Island of Myste!

Meanwhile, Book 1: The Island of Myste, is now available for pre-order and will launch this Friday, November 16th!


Despite 900 years of Jedi training, Randall Allen Dunn was rejected as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. He later used his Lunar gifts to become a volunteer Watcher guiding future writers and Vampire Slayers, until the Sorting Hat placed him in the YA ThrillerWriter faction. He now writes action thrillers that read like blockbuster movies, packed with action, adventure, and infinite possibility.

You can contact him by using the Force or by email:

#musicmonday: In Over My Head | Bethel Music


I have come to this place in my life
I’m full but I’ve not satisfied
This longing to have more of You
And I can feel it my heart is convinced
I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched
You already know this but still
Come and do whatever You want to

I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where never been
And I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind

Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in
Let love come teach me who You are again
Would You take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You
Come and do whatever You want to

And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, and that's where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head

Whether I sink, whether I swim
Oh, it makes no difference when
I’m beautifully in over my head
And whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when
I’m beautifully in over my head
And I am beautifully in over my head
Beautifully in over my head


You hold the world together
Stop me unravelling

Friday 9 November 2018

#fridayflash: excerpt from the #nanowrimo WIP

A knock on the door alerted King Samuel that it was time for the scry. He reluctantly kept the bottle back in its place, stood and smoothed down his shirt, then shrugged on his royal robes. He would appear in this kangaroo court in all his regality so they’d remember who he was and what he represented.

The council was already seated when he entered the Council Room. They made to rise, but he gestured at them, signalling them to keep their seats. He took his own seat at the head of the table and nodded at the priest in charge to open the scry.

The High Priest from Suci appeared in the mirror and, to his surprise, the Secretkeeper from Impian. What was she doing there? Where they conspiring against him? He narrowed his eyes at them. Well, if it was going to be a firing squad, at least Tun Ali from Impian wasn’t there. Moments later, King Samuel winced when Tun Ali appeared in a second mirror. Ali looked bored.

“You too?” Samuel said with a snort.

Ali shrugged. “I was summoned, so I here I am.”

“Well, let’s get this over with, shall we?” Samuel said, looking at the High Priest.

“This is no joking manner, young man,” the High Priest said sternly.

“As I have said over and over again, this is the best course for Terang—it is the only way to see lasting peace in the kingdom, instead of always having to worry about impending war from Bayangan.”

“You would ally with the enemies of God!” the High Priest protested.

“Well, if God were against them, he can strike them dead and we wouldn’t be in this fix of always being on the brink of war. Don’t you want peace, High Priest? Don’t you think the people deserve that chance for peace?”

“Young man, your heart is in the right place, but your actions are wrong. This treaty might offer peace for the short term, but it will only end in disaster,” the Secretkeeper said.

“I’ve prayed about this,” Samuel said obstinately, “and since God hasn’t struck me dead, I can only assume that I’m not doing anything wrong.”

“He has sent his word to the priests both in Maha and in Suci but you have ignored their advice! You only listen to your own council.”

“The Temple itself says that each man can approach God on his own and that God speaks to their hearts. My heart says that this is what is right for me and for Terang. Dare you go against your own teachings?” Samuel mocked. He pushed aside the remnants of his worry that he might be headed in the wrong direction. This was right, he told himself again. “Besides, the council of seven in Maha are in agreement.”

The seven other men around the table nodded. They hadn’t all been in agreement at first, but Samuel had worn them down, pleading his case and reworking the treaty to satisfy their worries until they had reluctantly agreed. The only thing he refused to budge on was the fact that he was going to marry Dell.

The High Priest and the Secretkeeper seemed to be having a hurried whispered conversation.

Samuel preened. He’d managed to throw them off, at least a little.

“My visions only see dark things if you take this route,” the Secretkeeper finally said. Her face was downcast, her tone low, but Samuel knew it was all an act. 

Get him to pity the woman and maybe his heart would be moved. No. He’d made his decision and he would stick to it. “Ramalan, I do not profess to understand the workings of your visions. But I have seen things with my own two eyes and they tell me that this is the best way forward. The people of our city are crying out for help. This treaty will bring jobs, trade, money. It will help everyone from the poor to the rich.”

“Must you marry the girl?” Ramalan asked.

Samuel’s face pinched. “Is that what this is all about? Despite all that I do for the kingdom, all the things I sacrifice, you would deny me the right to marry a young woman who is willing?”

“We do not deny you the right to marry anyone, King Samuel,” the High Priest replied. “Just not her. Not her, who is our ancient enemy.”

Samuel shook his head. “I don’t understand you. For all your talk of forgiveness and repentance, you cannot accept when one who was our enemy has repented and is now seeking to be our friend.”

“Fellow rulers,” Tun Ali finally spoke up, “Far be it from me to impose on any of you, being the youngest of all, but it is Samuel’s right to marry whom he wishes.”

Samuel shot him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Ali.”

The two scrying from Suci looked frustrated. “God says—”

“If I may remind you, High Priest, there are many Bayangans in Maha. All of them follow God and the teachings of the Temple. How can you be prejudiced against them when you preach love towards all? Princess Dell may yet come to know and follow God as we do.”

“And has she shown any interest in following our religion?” the Secretkeeper asked sharply. “Or does she merely delay you and tell you it may come to pass one day in the distant future?”

“In fact, Dell has visited the Temple in Maha when she was here,” Samuel said. He’d almost had to coerce her to go, and it was just a tour of the premises and not during services, but he didn’t say that. “I would say that she is quite open to listening about God. Belief and faith will come in time.”

A long silence permeated the room. 

“Do you have anything else to say?” King Samuel said when a long enough time had passed.

“It looks like we cannot convince you otherwise.”

“No, you can’t. I have quite made up my mind, and it is within my rights as the King of Maha and Sovereign of the tri-city states of Terang to do so, especially when the Council of Seven are in agreement.”

“One last thing then,” the High Priest said.

“What would that be?”

“Will you release my priests? The Temple in Maha has informed me that you have unlawfully imprisoned the Chief Priest Francis and two other high ranking priests over the last three months. What offence have they made against you?”

Samuel grimaced. “I will release them on the condition that they return to Suci and replaced with new priests who respect the authority of the King. These priests have spoken out publicly against My Royal Person in the middle of Temple services in an astoundingly rude manner. This is both disruptive and against the rule of law. If they wish to admonish me or impart their ‘words of wisdom’, I would advise them to do it in a more courteous manner instead of inciting insurrection.”

“Noted. We will discipline them as necessary,” the High Priest said.

“Now, if that is all…?”

Samuel waited for those in the scrying mirrors to assent before he signalled for the attending priest to break the link.

“Well, that’s that then,” he leaned back in his seat with a big smile.


So this is the last bit I wrote yesterday during my write-in at the Uxbridge Library. I'm kind of liking it at the moment, and unfortunately liking my "bad people" with more glee than the actual intended protagonists of this story.

If you notice, this takes place in the whole Absolution universe ha. It's supposed to happen way before Secretkeeper and Absolution, so yes, the Secretkeeper is Nek Ramalan, though I suppose she's not old enough to be "Nek" yet. Hmmmmmm. 

Wednesday 7 November 2018

#bookreview: More from the MA reading list (which I surprisingly liked) #AnnasMA

White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Told mostly by Miranda's twin, Eliot, White is For Witching explores the tragic tale of Miranda Silvers, the girl with pica, who is slowly fading away after the death of her mother, Lily. I say mostly, because parts of the novel are also told in a general narrator type POV, by the house (hah) as well as Miranda's friend, Ore. But mostly, it's Eliot's voice who dominates, Eliot who is both friend and enemy to his twin.

Oyeyemi keeps you off balance throughout the book through POV changes, stylistic formatting changes, shifts and revelations within the text that sometimes blindside you. She starts with Miranda's disappearance, heads back to the past where it all began and then ends up back where she started: where is Miranda?

This week's theme is on Place, so I'm guessing this book is significant because it uses place (the house on 29 Barton Road) as a character, as a persona that holds secrets and affects everything in Miranda's life. (Is Miranda truly crazy, mentally ill? Or is it the house or whatever spirit that lives in it the one that is doing things to her; this living house that claims all Silver women as hers? Who are the shadowy beings only Ore can see besides Miranda?)

Dover seems like a small, white town, with a burgeoning immigration population. Is the racism seen (four immigrant boys slashed, killed; the house's rejection of Ore) something inherent in the house/its spirit or is it a projection of Miranda's subconscious? It's never settled who killed the boys, or why Tijana thinks it's Miranda, other than the fact that the last one, her cousin Agim, sees a slight resemblance between Miranda and his attacker.

Cambridge is nothing more than a place where Miranda escapes to and meets Ore, where she separates herself from the house, where she slowly fades. But Miranda also seems to feed off Ore, in the same strange way Lily might have fed off Luc, though it's never clear, never explained. (Is it the soucouyant? What is Sade trying to ward off?)

Nothing is clear. The narrators are unreliable, the main protagonist dead or missing, only seen through the eyes of those around her.

A haunting, unsettling read.


Perfidious AlbionPerfidious Albion by Sam Byers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perfidious Albion is very much a story of our times, for all that it's set in a future post-Brexit era.

Byers touches on all the current hot-button topics: racism and equality; Internet privacy, doxing, and rape threats; unsolicited dick pics; feminism, misogyny, and the fragile white male; efficiency, microtasking, and freelance culture. Within just Robert & Jess's relationship, Byers lays bare the stark differences in approach and understanding of similar events between a male and a female of similar standing and class (attacks on males are professional, attacks on females are personal). With Trina and Darkins, you see a vast difference in how the world treats a black female and a white male. Innocuous words are twisted into sinister intent for political gain.

There's no specific place to this, for all that it's set in Edmunsbury, a small town in eastern England. The events both seem local and global, a microcosm that holds true for the world. Everything is out there on the internet--Jess wars against Robert's online persona through a fake person of her own whilst maintaining cordial relationship at home; Robert changes his tone and beliefs (while pretending he's holding true to his principles) according to what his editor wants and what they think the readers want; Trina's life rapidly spirals just because of one ill-advised tweet latched onto by Bennington and opined on by Robert. A shady group of masked men disrupt events by asking "What don't you want to share?"

A lot, it seems.

Everyone has things to hide. And it's mob justice, beginning with social justice warriors on the net, that seems to prevail.

The Internet is a place on its own--a world that lives and breathes by its own rules, where nothing ever seems to die, or can be revived at will with just the right (or wrong) word, just one misstep.

Perfidious Albion feels like a cautionary word to readers: be careful of what you do and say online. Anything can be twisted if the situation is ripe.


The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Found this absolutely hilarious. Well, turning into an insect isn't exactly hilarious but... the story.

The ending though...

At any rate, this is pretty deep third person POV (I think?) primarily from Gregor, but it shifts to a general omniscient narrator at the end. It... actually brings to mind those stupid essays we used to write in school, imagining your a pen or a book or some other inanimate object. It's like someone asked Kafka, "Well, what would happen if you were an insect?" and then he wrote this.

View all my reviews

Friday 2 November 2018

#fridayflash: Time Flies

I wrote a story, and it's gloriously stupid, and I was accused of fanfiction.
But I don't care. It's gloriously stupid and I like it. HAHA


The problem with eternity is the flies. I have no idea where they come from. It’s annoying, I tell you, but they’ve just always been here and they won’t go away. It is eternity, after all, so I suppose they’re here for the… duration. I’ve raised a prayer with the Big Man, but you know how it is. He’s too busy dealing with the prayers from earth to deal with those from this side of time. After all, earthly problems are temporary, but urgent. Eternal problems are… eternal.

Still, flies. Not ordinary flies—Time Flies. Millions of buzzing little pockets of time that remind you of temporality and mortality where it doesn’t apply anymore. If you squish one, time stutters a little, which is an interesting experience. There’s no actual today or tomorrow or yesterday in eternity, you know. It’s all one long, lump of events that eventually merges into one unending… day, for the lack of a better word. It’s always been a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, anyway.

But time flies like an arrow—direct to the point, speeding along its trajectory, as straight and as true as the one who aimed it—so when a Time Fly hits you, it’s like mortality all over again. For a brief moment, you’re back there on earth—or whenever and wherever it was you were spying on in the universe—and I guess it’s jarring. Maybe a little dangerous if it’s done too often—it messes with your head and your grasp on reality. Elvis Presley, you know, always popping in and out of existence. You never know when a sighting is the real thing. I doubt he knows himself now, since it’s happened so often. People just launch flies at him for fun, and since he just can't help spying on any event that plays his songs or has Elvis impersonators, he often gets lumped in as his own impersonator. Ridiculous, but there it is.

Talking about mortality, back when I was a lad on earth, I hated it. I was always hoping to live forever—there’s that ‘and I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y’ song I always thought was a bit of a scam to make you learn your spelling—but when you’re alive and mortal, all you want is to stay alive. Mostly. Sometimes some people got a little suicidal, but even then, every narrow escape from death and maiming was like an answer from heaven, as if Someone Up There was saying ‘it’s not your time yet’. Cancer was the worst thing that could happen to you, like a scourge from the devil or something.

But here and now, time is a cancer. It eats at you. It grows like a tumour, with unexpected side effects. Blink and it could be tomorrow, or it could be yesterday. Yesterday, I opened my eyes to realise that I’d drifted off towards the distant past. Right then, that blasted Pratchett, cheeky bloke, launched a fair crate of flies at me and I spent an hour of earth time running from T-Rexes. By the time the effects wore off and I popped back into eternity, I was exhausted and caked in mud. Still, it was something to do so I can’t fault him. We're all bored to death here. Well, not quite to death, since we are already dead. I wonder where I can send him? I suppose if he popped back to earth in 2018 he’d shock a lot of people right there. I generally try not to blink near statues though.

If all this is a little incomprehensible to you, don’t worry. Time is a mystery, even to the philosophers, and if they can’t figure out if temporality is linear or circular, I doubt you, with your mortal mind, will understand. Honestly, I too find it hard and I have all eternity to puzzle it out. I’m just telling you as it is. As the good doctor said, it’s wibbly-wobbly anyway, and there are rifts in the continuum everywhere. How else can you explain Cardiff? Or Narnia? Or the Bermuda Triangle? Or, for that matter, Arthur Dent?

The earth is always imminently to be destroyed, if the movies are to believed, whether it’s by God, demons, Vogons, or random chance. It’s all the same from this side of eternity, because then you’ll just pop over the boundary and join us. It’s not as if you need to find the Ultimate Answer to the universe. We already know that, even if we don’t know what to do with it. I don’t quite recall what the Ultimate Question was. Time does that to you, it just makes everything so vague when everything blends together.

Where were we? Time is always ticking on for you mortals and I lose track of my thoughts so easily. Oh, we were talking about eternity, weren’t we?

Yes, eternity is great, it really is, if you like that sort of thing. You have all the time in the world to do whatever you wish because time doesn’t exist. There are no deadlines to chase, no datelines to worry about and definitely no dates to forget. I can pop back and forth whenever I wish, so it’s not as if I have to choose one over the other. Solves all your problems, you know. Back on earth, you’re always chasing time, as if it’s a thing that can be caught.

If it’s all the same to you, the bloody flies annoy me. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana—and I wish Time Flies would love a banana so I could throw them one and they’d leave me alone.


#sorrynotsorry :p

Theme for the week: Time; and/or the distortion of it.

Also, based on feedback this week, I'm figuring that (including the seminar leader), 2/8 have no clue who Terry Pratchett is (though I'm just mentioning him in passing for the fun of it), "Elvis sightings" are a relatively unknown phenomenon, half of them haven't read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and only one  (another Malaysian, coincidentally) seems to have heard of the "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana" quote. And mayyybe half know Dr Who, or at least appreciate the passing mention.


Nanowrimo is starting. I don't know if next week's piece will be a nano excerpt or a writing exercise. We'll see. Also, word counter is up on the right again, if you want to track my progress.