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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Short story in Esquire Malaysia

As an early birthday present I couldn't ask for anything better than the timing of the publication of "Jaguar Tracks". Manny 'Pacman' Paquaio on the cover adds extra punch.
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Friday, 28 October 2011

Scary Tunes

Halloween approaches like a horde of zombies outside a makeshift survivors' camp and the usual lists of Scariest Films/ Books/ Stories/ Urban Legends rear their disembodied heads.

However, here is a list of scary music that may help when you are writing horror by setting an apt mood for your session. Scary tunes will keep you awake so think of the money you'll save on coffee and Red Bull. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

1. Atmospheres Gyorgy Legiti (1963)
Part of movements "Kyrie" and "Dies irae" from "Requiem" by Gyorgy Ligeti. Atmospheres is famously used in Stanley Kubrick's "2001 - A Space Odyssey whenever the black alien monolith appears.

Sounds like?
The beautiful disembodied wails of dead souls swirling in the void outside a derelict spaceship as a swarm of nanobots eat away at the lining of your spacesuit (and that is just the introduction!)

2. Imperial March John Williams (1982)
Don't laugh at the familiarity of this piece. Yes, now you can hum it but remember the first time you heard it during The Empire Strikes Back? You thought the Empire was going to destroy your home planet, right?

Sounds like?
Darth Vader and legions of Stormtroopers marching into your home. What? Uh-huh these aren't the droids you're looking for muh lord....

3. Dead Souls Joy Division (1979)
The title is based on Nikolai Gogol's incomplete 1842 novel although you can't really tell from the lyrics and Ian Curtis' doom-laden vocals.

Sounds like?
Icy desolation punctuated by dissonant guitars and a regimented drumbeat. The atmosphere from Manchester circa 1979 seeps through the ages to genuinely chill your bones.

4. Doctor Who Theme. Composed by Ron Grainer at the BBC Radiophonic workshop (1963)
The original was cut and spliced together on segments of analogue tape - no digital jiggery-pokery here.

Sounds like?
Sinister swoops, electronic 'stings' and pulsating bassline. Imagine your radio suddenly tuning into an alien signal from from another dimension.

5. Tubular Bells (Introduction) Mike Oldfield (1973)
Famously used on The Exorcist soundtrack although I did not watch it until I was much older. All I knew was that this was a rather sinister piece of prog-rock and was impressed by how well it sustained its mood.

Sounds like?
Leaves stirred up by an ill wind as you hurry past that 'bad' house in your neighbourhood.

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Stereotype Shoot-Out

Now I present the first in a new series called 'Stereotype Shoot-Out', in which I shall dispel common preconceptions and pre-conceived notions associated with writers and writing.

Writer Stereotype #1

Your formative years must've been traumatic

Err, no. No more rocky than yours. There were no wicked step-parents or malicious authority figures a la Roald Dahl.  Fiction is not therapy although writing it can feel therapeutic. (But for the love of God pity your readers if you wish to go down this route! Or have the courtesy to provide sickbags...)

Oh sorry, you were not referring to trauma per se. You meant the euphemistic byword for 'trauma' which is 'experience'. Yes, it is also commonly believed that a writer has experienced an unnatural amount of pain together with obtaining a diploma from the School of Very Hard Knocks. However, literary output is not solely the polished product of the excavations of a writer's emotional seam.

Let's use an analogy from mineralogy; minerals rarely exist in isolation. If diamond is present at a site, you can bet there will other carbon based minerals nearby (graphite etc..) Diamond is in high demand in the market but it doesn't mean diamond is the only mineral that exists in the mines. Some fictions trade in misery yet writers aren't miserable. Our seams are richer than that. Let us surprise you.
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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Dammnit, Shine!

Mid-year is glut time in The How-to and Inspirational Section. Not many books stand out but this one was simply titled, Shine.

Yes, the author runs his own motivational-speaking company so there is just a hint of slickness to the book's structure (a series of statements and no chapters) but it is more than an inspirational guide to fulfilling your potential at work. 

In the case of writers, you are your work, and this book asks not how to fit in, but how to stand out.
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Monday, 18 July 2011

The Shock of Being New

Try not to faff about when it comes to revisions and rewrites. I know this sounds harsh (but I wield a red pencil and I'm not afraid to use it)

"But it's not quite how I envisioned it! Gimme more time!"

You've had your time. In fact, the problem is of too much time in some cases. Try being on death ground and facing a tight deadline. All the faffing about evaporates when faced with $$$.

But ever consider why your revisions are not working? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result each time. For example, your last published story was character- based so you may also approach your newest story based on character. But your writing muscle gets bored easily - the plot dynamics start taking over and you're left wondering how to make your characters fit.

You are a new person every time you write a new story. Perhaps, that sounds insane but consider that it is inevitable with the passage of time. You've had other experiences between stories, perhaps nothing has trickled down from your previous stories or your literary interests have changed.

Writers hate change (I know this very well because I'm also a freelance fiction editor) but sometimes you can't make changes without knowing what is the nature of your change.
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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A Little Housekeeping....

Apologies for the month- long absence. Head over to my other blog (see links on the right) while I carry out some maintenance and housekeeping on this blog.

Lots of sleeve-rolling , duct-tape , WD-40 and axle-grease will be involved for the time being.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Tight deadlines are the anathema of all writers. You can tear out all your follicles overnight and look like a plucked goose in the morning after you hit "SEND".

You may plead for more time. But leisurely writing is a luxury: nice job if you can get it. In some strange roundabout way, deadlines will make your writing better. Leaner and tighter. It's like a bootcamp or a performance run - it's the universe's way of saying "Enough pussyfooting and get on with it, soldier!"

Here's a challenge for May and June- pick a competition or a call for submission with a tight deadline. It will feel arduous but very rewarding in the end.
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Monday, 2 May 2011

Poems for the Underground

I wrote them because these are the type of verses I'd like to see on the MRT in Singapore...or any underground public transport system in a major city

After Ruyard Kipling's "If"

If you can be on the platform at 6 in the morning,

While no one is out and about.

If you can refrain from yawning,

As other passengers scream and shout.

If you can seize your seat nearest the door,

When the train doors open with a shudder.

Or, giving it up upon the sight,

Of a third trimester pregnant mother.

If you can Twitter- and not make typos in your tweet.

If you can sms- with both thumbs on your Blackberry

If you can multi-task with Iphone and Ipad without a seat.

And make both devices necessary.

If you can bear to starve until Shenton Way,

Buying your breakfast from McD's.

Or make do with hot water,

And your desk-drawer stash of Maggi Mees.

You'll be a Working Stiff, my Son!!

...After "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Train after train, train after train

We wait, inside a cramped compartment.

As cheerful as an extended family,

In a one-bedroom apartment.

Adverts, adverts everywhere,

And nothing you want to buy.

Adverts, adverts everwhere,

The last sale was in July.
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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Verbal Diarrhoea

 It sounds like a bad joke but I think I've come across examples of it. It's the opposite of writer's block (conversely, writer's block is verbal constipation) and it is just as negative.

Verbal diarrhoea is when the writing is excessive, fitful and comes in torrents of steaming doo-doo. "Hahah!" you think, "I should have problems like that!".  Ermm, no you really don't....!
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Saturday, 2 April 2011


A close friend gave me a quill last year. The nib has to be dipped in a bottle of ink, wiped and this does not prevent the ink dribbling onto the page.

Why do I persist in using the quill? It's because I enjoy it. I love feeling and hearing the scratch of the metal nib on the paper. dipping the nib back into the bottle when the inkstream runs dry. Now this is really *writing*.
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Saturday, 12 March 2011

The 'R' Word

"How do you handle rejection letters and emails?"

I have no easy answer for this question. Within the first ten minutes of receiving the said letter/ email I feel like all members of the Sex Pistols on the last leg of their US tour; to quote Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), "Ever get the feeling that you've been cheated?". Maybe I'll trash my hotel room and throw television sets into the swimming pool at the same time. I only ever received the personal sort of response, the sort that actually mentions why it was not accepted but "...please send more.". These are the best to receive because the editor/ agent thinks that you have potential

Collateral damage aside, please do not fire off a salvo to the editor or agent who obviously failed to appreciate the merits of your work. You're allowed to seethe for as long as you wish.

Improve. edit, tweak and continue on your way.

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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Nifty Fifty Blogfest

Anstice is hosting the Nifty-Fifty Blogfest at Impossible Dreams. I like numerically-themed writing prompts, but never considered any integer larger than 10.

(Apologies if I took the theme too literally.)

Pity the reputation of the number '50'.
It is a middle child, used to indicate the halfway, the median, and the demi. As every student and teacher knows, 50 is poised in this middling yet crucial position between success and failure. As every employee knows, 50 is not quite retirement age, and every senior citizen knows it is not yet the signpost to the land of the second childhood. 50 cents is only half a dollar or a mediocre rapper.
50 has a smaller sibling called 5, who has more esoteric and biological associations. There are 5 elements, 5 points to a star, and amphibians, reptiles and primates (including us) possess 5 fingers and toes.

But 50 refuses to be upstaged- it manifests in geography- (50 states in the USA), and two 50s in the same sentence, 'fifty-fifty' denotes equality.
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011


It is award season again (Grannys. Golden Globes, Emmys, Oscars...) and we look upon them with interest. Some of us may love the pomp, spectacle and glamour while dreaming of our time when we're recognised.

I've been shortlisted for a major national writing award. I went through the stages of surprise, excitement, bewilderment and disbelief (not in that order). Yes, I received my consolation prize, had photos taken and did interviews. Does it sound too self-effacing to say that its no big deal?

Because it really isn't. The best feeling I had out of the entire experience was submitting the story, knowing that it was a job well done.

Work for the sake of the work. Your time will come, along with those awards. But they aren't the be-all and end-all of your creative existence.
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Monday, 7 February 2011

Writing In Your Head

Sometimes we don't have pen and paper, or access to a computer and during those times we panic, as if our bright ideas are like pet goldfish brought back from a fair - w e have to put those ideas in their proper place or we fear losing them.

But consider Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He had no access to pen and paper for six years while interred in a Siberian prison camp and he was granted no priveliges.To have attempted to scrawl anything in secret would have resulted in more beatings and torture. Grim conditions for any human being, yet alone a writer.

What did he do? Dostoyevsky wrote in his head. He composed and memorised novels and essays. In 1857 he was allowed to publish some of his work while still serving his sentence and after his release he churned out novel after novel. You may know some of them: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot....

There is no need for the prison camp treatment, but we are all in our individual wall-less prisons. Confined by day jobs, family and social obligations. No time for writing. You don't have to compose your magnum opus while on the bus every morning, but writing-in-the-head works very well for smaller tasks, such as opening lines, short stories and character sketches. Don't be scared of forgetting anything. I promise you that when an idea grabs you during one of these head-writing sessions, it will be all-consuming.
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Monday, 24 January 2011

The Stories So Far

Thanks to Eleanor Ng for taking this photo :) This will go on the credits page soon enough heheh.
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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ditch the 1000 word rule

It's a new year and with each year comes all those well-intentioned New Year's resolutions. "I resolve to lose weight, quit nail-biting and/or break the landspeed record..."
Nothing wrong with aspiring to self-improvment but the discouragement sets in when goals are set too high and results do not quickly manifest. (Lose a pound a week, bite one less nail and build up to your target speed...) Think of the time - you have 365 days! 52 weeks! 525 600 minutes....

I tried the 'write a 1000 words a day' rule and found it to be rather unfeasible. No doubt there are
writers who do not find 1000 words too daunting a target (and I salute all of you- please divulge your secrets of prolifacy in the comments below....) but I discovered that as a goal, it creates a lot of anxiety. The writing session plays out like this; 'Check word count........check word count again....'

The 1000 word rule is similar to the 1000 calorie rule - ditch it! Write an 'x" number of words that work best for your work in progress. Just like ingesting 1000 empty calories on a crash diet, you could end up typing 1000 empty words that neither forward or enhance your WIP.

Happy New Year to all!
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