Thursday, August 31, 2006

How to take (and give) rejection

This is such an interesting topic I just have to blog about it. Ted linked some quotes from a local publisher, basically saying, "Rejection is not about you. It's about your work. You are not good enough yet to get published. So deal with it."

Brutal yes? What if that entire book was your life work and you have just been told it's not good enough? No words of encouragement. No constructive criticism. Just a flat, "No."

Lit agents and publishers call it the 'slush pile.'

I personally believe that if you want to reject someone, it's best to outline to the person:

1. It's the work you are rejecting, not the person
2. If this particular piece of work is not good enough, it doesn't mean your future work will not be good enough
3. These are the reasons: a)....b)....c)
4. BUT you can improve if you do a)....b)....c) e.g: write better grammar, make your sentences simpler, write a more compelling story etc
5. It's not the end of the world. JK Rowling herself was rejected many times.
6. Now, go home and take my advice and polish up your tome. THEN come and see me again when you are ready.

All this can be said fairly nicely. We need to nurture our young Malaysians, not deflate their hopes. (Yeah! The Merdeka spirit!)

I may not be a big time publisher, but I certainly hire people in a big time way (almost every month). Sometimes during the interview, when I decide I'm not going to take someone, I actually tell the person kindly, "You know, You have these good points 1), 2), 3). But you come across as not very energetic/your English is quite bad. That's why I can't take you on. But if you improve on a), b), c), next time I'm sure any company would be glad to have you."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Sun had a bound woman pose

Ah, pity the Sun isn't online, but they had an interview with me today and a striking photo of a model with her hands bound behind her back as a pose. Hee hee.

I'll post the article later. (That means a massive typing job).

But if everyone can head over to Argus Lou's new blog (please look at my links), she has a nice story there for your reading pleasure. Give her your comments, yes?

Monday, August 28, 2006

MPH Writer's hi-tea

Sharon and Lydia have already blogged extensively about this, so I'm going to give my take on it.

It's my first MPH writer's hi-tea, and when Yvonne Lee whispered into my ear, "Every year got a lot of drama one," I didn't understand. Until I saw it for myself!

THE TOPIC: e-books. Not really appropriate because most people weren't that interested in it. They were more interested in getting published the traditional way.

THE TIMING: It started late...perhaps more time should have been allocated for Q and A.

THE MODERATORS: I thought they did a fine job with what they were given. This is what I said to Lydia, who's feeling a little down because someone sent an email around complaining about her moderation. "You did a fine job, Lydia. If anyone thinks they can do better, maybe they should give you pointers next time before the forum. After all, we didn't learn moderation techniques in school, did we?" And we all know there are personalities who cannot be told "Your time is up."

The highlight of the forum, for me, was Lillian Too! She's a little bit like Erin Brockovich in the way she tells it as it is, according to as she knows it. She doesn't mince her words! I think she deserves a forum all to herself. I know she stepped on many people's toes with what she said during the forum, but - like Lydia said - you can't please everyone all the time.

Among the things I gathered from her speech:

1. She says not to trust literary agents, esp UK and US ones (I have one myself, and so far, he hasn't given me any cause for doubt.)
2. She has sold 10 million copies since 1993 of all her books. Bravo! Despite that, she doesn't earn as much from royalties as she does from publishing and stocks and shares.
3. "Write a damned good book!"
4. She has personally pledged that if she thinks your book, dear author, is good, she will personally introduce you to Harper Collins et al and fight for you all the way.

I think she's a really good marketer and businesswoman, especially since she found a niche at that time not many people ventured into - feng shui - and took it all the way. And if she comes across as less than humble, well - remember, this is what makes the world go round, all types of personalities!! (I think she stepped on a few romance writers' toes when she said they follow a formula).

Then during the hi-tea, I circulated around with Lydia, Yvonne, Eric Forbes, Sharon and said hi to everyone I haven't met. I finally met Karen Ann Theseira. One of the Book Project writers (Vaneeta - hope I spelled it right) came up to me and said how much she enjoyed Dark City. I was so pleased. Also found out I sold 5 more books from 1 Utama since yesterday's talk.

I think May Zhee, the pretty 15 year old author of Vanity Bee, will go a long way. Apparently, she self-published and got a distributor all by herself, without any help from her father. Attagirl!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My first author appearance

MPH, 1 Utama, 1.00 - 2.00 pm

It's over, and it's not a total disaster! Thank goodness some of my friends showed up, like Yvonne Lee, Margie, Pauline, Eanny. And I met Yvonne Foong and Kit for the first time. And some other people I don't know actually sat down to listen too. I think there were about 20-25 people there, including the ones standing behind the pillars and bookshelves.

Yvonne Lee was the most active participant in the Q and A, and she asked so many questions to keep the momentum going. Thanks Yvonne!

Basically, I just talked about writing and publishing in general, and coming up with ideas for the stories. Then I did some book signing. My agent Jerry was there, and he brought along an editor. After that, Jerry held centre court as everyone networked and exchanged cards. Let's hope a lot more writers get published after this!

The Singaporean editor Jerry brought along actually hated my first story :) But he thought the rest of the book was pretty good, though he says it can't come up to Edgar Allan Poe standards (obviously) because I described too much.

Rodney, the store manager, was there all the time and was most supportive. He said I'd sold over 80 books in 1 Utama, and he had just reordered another 50. (I checked with the computer, and it said I sold 85 copies.) He also gave me a rolled-up copy of the Bestseller List which cited Dark City.

So all in all, a new experience! Now for the Writer's Hi tea tomorrow. Apparently over 40 writers will be there at the Booker Room in 1 Utama. Lydia will be one of the moderators. Book exchange tomorrow, Lydia!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Galaxie interview and author appearance

Finally, got time to post it. As seen in this fortnight's issue of Galaxie:


What are the inspirations for your stories in Dark City?
Urban legends, newspaper stories of rape, murder, kidnap, the Canny Ong incident and movies or shows like The Machinist, The Eye and Desperate Housewives.

Some of the titles of your stories are intriguing (like Session One, The Six Million Dollar Man) while others (Coup of the Century, The Maid) are more direct. How did you come up with the titles?
I’m really bad at giving titles to my stories but I do try to make them punchy.

While writing Dark City, were you spooked by any of the stories?
Not at all. I am hardly frightened by anything I write or read. Nothing really disturbs me.

What do you look for when you read a book?
I am drawn to good plots, the ideas that drive a story and great story-telling craftsmanship.

Can you name some of your favourite authors?
Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Lord Jeffrey Archer and Stephen King’s early work ‘cause his later ones are verbose.

What kind of books do you like to read?
I read any book that has an interesting plot, even chick lit, but I find books on serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer (the one who inspired Silence of the Lambs) fascinating. I love getting into the mind of serial killers.

What’s in store for you after this?
There are plans to turn Dark City into manga. I’m also working on a children’s book.

Oh, I have my first author appearance this Saturday!

It's at MPM 1 Utama, 1.00 pm - 2.30 pm. I honestly don't know if I can stretch it out that long. Don't worry, it's mostly Q and A and inspiration stuff. Please come if you can to support me! (Afraid no one will turn up)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

MPH Writer's Circle yesterday

Ted has blogged about this, so I'm going by a different angle and what I took from it.

Dato' Ng, CEO of the MPH Publishing Group, said that the 'in' genres now for fiction are Malay romances (and Malay books in general) and Children's books. I am in the midst of writing the latter (and having Dark City translated into the former), so I asked if he was interested. He said, "Of course, let's have a look at it."

(Actually, my agent is hoping to get this children's book published in the UK because I have actually met the UK publishing contact - blogged about earlier - but you never know how these UK publishing deals turn out. So I better arm myself with a whole lot of options.)

The most interesting part of the morning for me (other than meeting Ted) was the way Dato' Ng suggests and rejects books on the spot. Being 15 years in the business, he has an uncanny knack of knowing what sells and what doesn't. This is the gist of it.

Q: "Should I write an autobiography about a movie star?"
A: "Nope. Definitely not. It won't sell."
Q: "What about Siti Nurhaliza's wedding?"
A: "It's already been written about. Besides, if you don't have her permission, she might sue you."
Q: "I'm in HR. I want to write about how young people can find careers."
A: "Is there a market for this? Everyone just goes on the Internet and downloads this nowadays. The trick is to keep your book short and simple. People don't like to read long wordy books."

And I've learnt something about children's books. Apparently, the writer shares copyright with the illustrator, and the illustrator also gets part of the royalties. The illustrator's pictures might turn out to be more popular than the text itself!

As for non fiction, political figures always sell, and cookbooks are evergreen.

Dat' Ng also espouses self-publishing whenever able, especially for non-fic. But the con is finding a distributor for your book, because bookstores won't deal with single authors. ("Too much fuss creating a separate account and invoice just for your book, which might sell only 5 copies.") Naturally, fiction writers don't like to self-publish because it is horribly tabboo.

The other session was from Shoba Mano, who had success getting published the e-publishing way (these US publishers also do softcover) in the romance genre. Great going, Shoba!! Apparently, one can also attend writers' workshops on the net and google for a whole lot of publishers. Some of these publishers accept query letters and your first 3 chapters by email.

Although it is not my genre, I do know a little bit about Romance. I'm talking about pure romance (with its subtypes of historical romance, adventure romance etc), not chick lit, the latter of which I infinitely prefer.

According to the 'how to' books, Romance is one genre where it is easiest to get published. BUT you have to follow a certain plot pattern. There always MUST be a happy ending, when the lovers unite after many obstacles. If you don't follow this pattern, you will NOT be published in this genre.

So all in all, interesting morning.

Quill mini interview

There's a mini interview with me in this quarter's Quill, MPH's magazine for writers.

Here it is:


A collection of pulp fiction that will entertain and keep you turning the pages.

Who is Xeus?

Xeus* likes to write racy, explicit stuff. “I wanted to write without the fear of censorship, and in Dark City, the publishers let me go a mile.”

In Dark City: Psychotic and other Twisted Malaysian Tales, all seven deadly sins are explored in great detail.

Xeus took two months, between having a full time job, to write the first draft, another month to rewrite it and yet another for editing. “I wrote for one or two hours each day. Sometimes during weekends, I’d finish an entire short story in a day.”

Reviews from the trade press have been great, with accolades like ‘remarkable’ and ‘it’s that good’ being tossed around.

*a pseudonym

I also met Ted and his better half at the writer's workshop today. Hi Ted!! Looking forward to your first book. I'll post more on this workshop later.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sniff...a sweet letter

I bought the Merdeka copy of Galaxie today. There's a review of Dark City and an interview with me. I'll post those later. But meanwhile, I got yet another spin snippet for the back cover of my next English edition and Malay edition.

“Each tale opens with a disturbing can of worms…..Psychotic, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Resistance are sensational and thought-provoking…..a fun read with plenty of thrills to keep you engaged.”


Hee hee. I'm getting quite good at abbreviating reviews.

Anyway, there was a very sweet letter regarding one of my columns. I write 2 columns for Galaxie, and this is one I've kept for over 10 years now. Imagine - 10 years on the same column! Along the way, I've received bouquets and brickbrats. During the Michael Jackson baby stint back in the 90's, I wrote about how weird Mikey was (he still is) and received quite a lot of hate mail.

Recently, I wrote about how horny King Kong was and apparently received quite a lot of complaints as well! It's fun to write an entertainment column that provokes such strong feelings.

I've also received many great letters along the way, all of which are published in the Letters column of Galaxie. Going down (sniff) memory lane, I remember one letter telling how a student was reading my column under her desk in class, and she laughed out loud. The teacher demanded to see what she was reading, and she showed her. The teacher then read out my column to the entire class, and everyone had a good laugh.

And since I now have a blog, I'll share the most recent one in this current issue. There's no secret that I'm also Suzie of Galaxie, and since Suzie is also a pseudonym, here goes:

"I'm wondering about my most favourite column, Suzie Says. I've noticed that Suzie's page has not been featured in 2 issues and I was wondering why. I hope you've not stopped this column because she does have fans out there. Regardless of the complaints you got for her article Horny, Hairy Ape, many of us think her column is brilliant. I've been an ardent fan of hers for many years and I just worship her eruditeness and wit. I may be opinionated, but I think she unequivocally rocks and I think she is what distinguishes Galaxie from other local magazines. So please do not exclude her from future editions, OK?"

Santheira, via e-mail


Anyway, I was interviewed by The Sun today and Klue yesterday. More on that when it appears.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

If you have writer's block, should you try to force it?

Every now and then, I have the incredible urge to NOT write. Like for the last few days. I was bogged down by work, and didn't have the energy to lift a pen (uh, tap into a computer.) And of course, if I haven't written, I feel guilty as sin.

Do you ever feel that way?

So - do you force it even when you don't feel like writing, even when your brain's as dry and uncreative as a wispy bone?

Some writing books advocate that you should do 1 page every day, even if you don't feel like it. You should, they say, whittle at it even when the words are forced and painful and you feel like you're writing something totally unpublishable. Honestly, I've tried that, and I realized, "Hey, writing's supposed to be my hobby. I'm supposed to enjoy it. Why am I forcing it?"

Then of course, some days, the words and ideas just fly. I would do pages and pages and even whole chapters. Some of the stories in Dark City were written in 1 day, just because I had the 'urge.' That's why these days, when I don't feel like writing, I don't force it. And when I do, I let it flow.

What's your style?

Anyway, I'm going to the MPH Writer's Circle this Saturday. Gonna meet up with Oon Yeoh, who promised to interview me for his new magazine. Anyone coming? Thought I need the camaraderie of other writers to make me snap back into effortless writing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why the Singaporean National Library banned me

My Singaporean literary agent gave me the scoop on why Dark City was banned by the Singaporean National Library.

"DC was restricted because of profane language and obscene content,says the report. No surprise,there is always a double standard when the authorities censure the local works as compared to their leniency with English and American works."

I see. So they are allowed to stock American and English books with profane and obscene content, like works from DC Lawrence or Joyce. But NOT Singaporean and Malaysian works.

I don't get it. Why the double standards? Are we in South East Asia meant to be 'pure'?

PURE? Us Asians? Who's anyone trying to kid?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I've been banned!

Would you believe it? I've been banned by the Singapore National Library. They refused to stock my book in all their branches, citing 'It's too explicit and graphic" after reading a few chapters.

The outrage!

At least I haven't been banned here by our own Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka. They took 5 copies to keep as 'National Heritage.' I'm not sure I can quite call Dark City a national heritage, but at least I can count on my own countrymen/librarians to support me.

Aside, I've been offline for several days now, thanks to Streamyx. But those TM guys have been working around the clock to restore it. And they have. Kudos. They get a bad rap, but sometimes they get it right.