Thursday, March 29, 2007

Will this back cover entice you?

Dear all, need to pick your brilliant brains again :)

Would this blurb on the back cover entice you? Naturally, Kenny is designing something to portray all the authors' names as well as part of the back cover. Please comment on what you like about the blurb, and which sentences you would change. Are the sypnoses of some of the stories compelling enough to make you pick up the book? Should I change them?


A youth is imprisoned in a swinging crate above the ground, the first obstacle in a Chinese box of puzzles he has to solve.

A 15th century boy meets the Angel of Death.

An attractive nurse accepts an indecent proposal.

A football gambling addict is captured by his creditors and made to go through a ‘Payback Chamber’.

14 different authors from Malaysia, US, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Switzerland come together to weave you 16 diabolically entertaining tales. Every tale has a twist, and every twist, a tale. See if you can spot the ending coming.

Praise for Dark City

"Why you should read this book: It's really good, that's why.”
The Malay Mail

“….Wow, what a read (Dark City) turned out to be….” Borneo Post

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The 2nd Malaysian LitBloggers' Breakfast Club

Finally, it's Lydia's and my turn.

It was lovely to meet everyone again - Sharon, Eric, Kenny, Spiffy, Chet etc. And I can honestly now say I've met the great Kak Teh! Oh her birthday too. Yes, Kak Teh came all the way from England. There were some new faces as well, like Esther (did I get your name right?), who is doing an assignment on us bloggers.

She asked me, "Can one improve one's English by writing blogs?"
I said, "One can certainly improve one's writing. But your English has to be good to begin with, and that can only come from reading a lot of good English books. There are some blogs written in totally atrocious language!"

Kenny introduced Lydia, who spoke about writing Honk and its success so far. It's gone into 2nd edition printing. Congrats! I spoke mostly about editing and the common mistakes I find writers making, such as:

1. not reading the instructions carefully when submitting for a writing competition
2. telling too much, not showing
3. inability to take criticism, and hence, improve.

I spoke about the 55 odd entries for Dark City 2, and how I wrote back to each and every one of the writers, thanking them, praising them on what they're good at, and critiquing what they're less good at, and showing them how to make their stories better. Everyone wrote back thanking me for my critique, whether or not their stories made the final cut, except for 2. And I know I've hurt these 2 writers, that they were not able to take my criticism.

But criticism is a part of a writer's life.

I in turn have been criticised many times. Sometimes publicly in national newspapers with circulations of over 1 million. I have also been praised many times. It comes with the territory. If you're a writer, you 
will have to take both sides of the coin.

I also have been guilty of every sin a writer can commit. I tell sometimes, not show. I use big words for a children's book. My chapter titles are horrible. I am too verbose. Sometimes people can see the ending coming a mile away. Some of the stories are not exciting enough.

So what do I do from these critiques?

I learn from them. I try to show as much as possible, not tell. I tone down my language. I try to think of more inventive titles. When not writing a literary story, I try to tone down the descriptions and metaphors. I try to make my stories and endings as engaging as possible. I leave a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, and indeed, every segment, with this in mind: "If I can make the reader want to go on for 1 chapter more, I have succeeded."

So what can we learn from this?

Open your mind as a writer. If someone doesn't like your story, it's not the end of the world. Learn from that someone how to make it better.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Vote - which cover do you like best?

Kenny has drawn 3 lovely covers for you to choose from. Now, which do you like best? The cover must grab your attention to the bookshelf, make you want to pick the book up and buy it!

Kenny will have this up in his blog as well. Great job, Kenny!

Obviously, the covers don't have the extended title of the book yet, but Kenny did mention it was hard to fit it all in. So some people have been telling me not to include the extended title (sorry guys! it's not artistically cover friendly!) And I wanted to fit in the names of some of the contributors, but again, not artistically feasible, so they'll have to go into the back cover.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The going price for a script

Blogging about this earlier, I mentioned that I'd heard the going rate for a Malay script is RM 45,000. Well, I discovered that's actually for a whole telenovella season. (Psssss......Deflating).

And why am I suddenly so interested in Malay scripts?

It all has to do with Lydia actually. She called me a coupla weeks ago, sounding very excited. "You know," she says, "a production company just contacted me. They read Honk! and absolutely loved it. They also read your article in the Star (the one about the reviews), read your book and loved it, and are interested in making your stories into a TV series for ________ (name of extremely famous station/service provider). They tried to email you but never got a reply. Are you sure your gmail didn't junk it?"

Now, I've had brushes with TV series before that didn't gel. So I didn't allow myself to get too excited.

Anyhow, I called the number Lydia provided me. Indeed, there was an interested production house. They'd produced a very successful series for NTV7. And Dark City's stories are right up their alley. They have been trying (so they said) to contact me for a month. They said there are at least 6 stories in Dark City that can be made into a 1 hour program. (Hmmm, I wonder which 6). They said they particularly loved Coup of the Century.

Naturally, I offered, "I can do the script for you! I know how to write a script!" (I don't know if possessing the script to the Matrix qualifies me in scriptwriting, but there, I had to put my foot in my mouth).

And then they told me it was going to be in Malay.


I haven't written in Malay since sixth form. And the going rate for a script is actually RM 1500. I checked with Nizam Zakaria, who very kindly shared with me his script format, and he said that was actually a good price. The production company said they were going to negotiate first and contact me later.

Hmmm. I wonder if anything will come out of this.

So - would you attempt to write a script in a language you're not that good in for RM 1500 (for every 50 minutes of air time)?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Making light of a real life terrible experience

This is the story of what really happened to me after surgery. It's a writing exercise to see if I can make humour out of a truly terrible experience. It appeared in the Star today.

Post-surgery horror


Surgery? Piece of cake. It’s the post-operation complications you should be worried about.

Everyone I know worries about having surgery. Even if it’s what I call a self-induced procedure: nip and tuck, liposuction, Caesarean because you want your baby to come out squalling on that all-important, very auspicious feng shui date.

Before I went for my “involuntary” surgery, I had heard all the stories:

“When they inject the anaesthetic into your veins, it’s like a very cold deluge flowing from your hand to your neck, and when it hits your neck, you’re out.”

“They make you count backwards from 100 to 0, and when you hit 93, you’re out.”

And so I went in quite happily to take out a tumour from my salivary gland. Only it’s notthat simple; I’d have to take out the entire upper lobe of the quite extensive gland.

Despite echoes of that story 10 years ago about the woman who was awake but paralysed throughout her entire operation, feeling the excruciating pain of every cut, I was quite upbeat.


The anaesthetist very kindly gave me a local anaesthetic before inserting the branula. (And I didn’t even ask for it, how kind.) And no one asked me for any New Year countdown. They just said, “Breathe into this oxygen mask” and before I knew it, a very pleasant fugue had descended in my brain and I was out.

The next thing I know, the nurse was gaily chirping, “It’s over.”

Everyone sounds absolutely cheerful in an operating theatre; maybe it’s all that laughing gas. There was no pain whatsoever; the whole thing was, in fact, quite pleasant and I spent the whole day dozing off.

And then I woke up, proper. After that, it was pandemonium. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

You see, there’s a checklist of complications that can quite possibly happen after surgery. Nothing to do with the doctors, it’s just one of those things that happen to hapless people . . . like me.

I woke up to find half my face paralysed. It’s a most uncomfortable sensation. You can’t blink or close your eye and you can’t smile. You can’t even open your mouth wide enough to bite into a burger. I’d read about this side effect for procedures like mine. Apparently, it happens to about 50% of people. But when you read about such things, you don’t think it would happen to you.

“I’m not a statistic,” you want to say. “Am I?”

“Uh,” I said, trying to wink and blink at the same time and ending up looking like a starry-eyed alien instead, “Will this get better?” In the mirror, my affected eye was acutely smaller than the other one, and the eyebrow was several notches lower. I resembled something a tractor had run over. Twice.

Night of the living dead

“Of course,” they assured me. “Your facial nerve was stretched during surgery to get it out of the way. Now, it’s very picky; it doesn’t like being stretched. Most people recover in two weeks.”

It was lovely to have my husband make a fuss over me. But on Day Five, my husband said, “You know, your swelling looks all huge and red, like a ripe tomato.”

I replied airily, “Oh, that’s just normal healing. You don’t know anything.”

On Day Seven, the “healing” popped and burst itself through four stitches, leaking pus all over my hair. I looked like something out of the Night of the Living Dead. I finally acceded to go to the house of my friend, a doctor, on no less than a public holiday.

“Why didn’t you come earlier?” she screeched.

“Didn’t want to bother anyone,” I said sheepishly, leaking pus all over her patio.

It seemed I had an abscess the size of a fist and it had to be drained. Twice a day. Squeezed out and emptied like a lemon. I had no pain surrounding the surgery, and this was the most painful part of the whole process.

I topped myself up with so many antibiotics and painkillers I gave myself diarrhoea.

After a week of milking, my abscess gave up its pulpy ghost. And then, to celebrate, I went out for a nice meal with friends. After 15 minutes of chewing, something trickled down my neck from my wound.

“Gakkk!” my husband jumped. “It’s saliva!”

Welcome to complication No. 203: I had saliva leaking from my wound. My friends were giving me surreptitious looks, no doubt thinking of decapitated monsters capable of spitting from more places than one.

When I finally went back for review with the surgeon, he patted me on the back. “Don’t worry, it’s all part of the normal recovery process. At least you can be assured it’s not cancer. Some people have more complications than others. I thought you’d said you read all about it on the Internet before the surgery.”

I said, “Gakkk.”

So now my wound has finally closed up beautifully. My nerve is recovering in stages – not in two weeks, but two months, more like. And if anyone again tells me they’re worried about surgery, I’d say, “The actual surgery was a piece of cake!” And refer them to this article.

Then again, it would’ve probably only happened to me.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Please suggest a title for Dark City 2 and win something!

I'm going down the Lydia way and using this blog for pitching competitions!

Okay, Dark City 2 has closed for submissions and I've received over 50 entries. I'm picking about 14 and writing 1 of my own. (Sigh, been putting that story off for over 1 year because of the research involved. Where am I going to find that chemistry professor? Anyone knows one?)

Anything left over which is really good will go into Dark City 3. (especially if the same writer sends in more than 1 entry). I'm trying to give as many people a chance.

So, please suggest a title for Dark City 2 and the winning entry will win a free copy. (I know it's not much, but it's the fun of participating, right? Hee hee.)

The title should be DARK CITY 2:____________________

(This is something in the vein of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King etc get the drift.)

Maybe even something to reflect the participation of so many authors.


CLOSING DATE: 20th March, 2007.

Anyway, check out Kenny's new poster. Pretty cool, huh? Kenny's designing the cover for Dark City 2 as well, so he would need your title pretty soon.