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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Let's Talk Writing: Masochism

Well, fie. Me being a horror writer (exclusively for now), I'm bound to stumble on topics like that. Regardless, nothing is sacred in writing.

I have always extolled a certain kind of attitude when it comes to writing. And that attitude is to enjoy it, to write only an amount you're comfortable with, and to write whatever you're comfortable with. That's how I settled on a daily 1,000-words-a-day writing routine, and how sometimes I'll fall a little short when something happens, like Christmas celebrations. That's how I ended up with a horror novel for a debut book, and why I've been writing horror short stories as my second project.

But that doesn't always work, if my falling short of my 1,000-words-a-day goal occasionally is any indication. And it doesn't quite explain away the 100% of how I do things either.

There's this other side of me, a dark side if you will. And I believe it's a dark side that every writer possesses, that hell, most people have. It's more common than you think.

It's the will to step out of your comfort zone, and improve yourself, try new things.

It's how I managed to get through 1,000 words a day to begin with. Just look at my first few posts on this blog:

A New Beginning - An Introduction

Writing Report #1: Exhaustion

Writing Report #2: The Return

So, I went from being barely able to scrape out 300-500 words a day and a wee bit of edits to churning out 1,000 words a day, or 2 chapters (4,000-8,000 words) of edits a day.

But what if I take it one step further?

What if I were to join the dark side and be masochistic? I'm already halfway there, making sacrifices for the delayed pleasure of achieving something. Even in my real life, I used to run half-marathons, and I can tell you that it's gruelling - all for the sake of staying fit and... achieving something. And when I stopped running myself into the ground on a tri-weekly basis, I started recently eating less with a fruitarian bend (but enough) to stop gaining weight - even if it means going to bed hungry sometimes.

Sometimes, I talk about achieving a state of Writing Nirvana, wherein I bring out inhuman results at little cost to myself. For this entire year, I haven't been able to get there at all. And now I think I know why.

The path to Nirvana is supposed to be fraught with pain and suffering. I wrote 4,000 to 5,000 words a day once because of the pressure of meeting a deadline. At first, I was filled with anxiety and dread, but at the end of the day, I was pleased with myself.

Perhaps I should re-enact that on a daily basis? But to be masochistic is to be more than that.

It's to enjoy the whole thing, all the way. Writing as a masochistic demon can't turn out to be a job. It must be something I embody, something that I must gain pleasure from even if my fingers and head aches. It must be to the point of near-sexual or drug-fuelled ecstasy. That's going to require conditioning. Major conditioning.

Huh. Funny how I tend to describe Writing as my Wife and my Book as my Daughter. Tee hee.

Anyway, I'll have a month to figure it out. On the extreme, if this 'Masochism' project works out, I could be looking at anywhere between 90,000 words written at least to, say, 120,000 to 150,000 words. More than enough to finish my short stories collection with room to edit or work on a third book.

Good thing I've been playing around with the concept of a demon character amongst other possible things to write about. She'd serve as something of a shrine to this idea.

Well, time to take out the knives, flogs and clamps! I'll have to draw a pentagram and lie down on it too! Fun times!

Hehe, just kidding! Or am I? 😈

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Writing Report S2 #29: Christmas Slow-Down & Fervour

This writing report is for the days from Last Wednesday to this Tuesday (21 December 2016 - 27 December 2016)

On Wednesday, I remember that I was only able to write about 600 words for Faceless Angel, my first Dark Science Fantasy Horror pet project (whew! What a mouthful!). I remember making up for it the next day with 1,000 words, though I didn't quite make up for the loss the previous day.

Then I stopped. My debut novel, The Keeper of Pulau Purba, was put on promotion starting Wednesday, and I began to feel the need to revise my novel further, because the last 20% chapters hadn't had their editor's suggestions implemented yet.

Thus, I returned to the 2-chapters-a-day editing plan. I remember working on my debut novel everyday except for Sunday. Thus, on Thursday, I cleared 2 chapters, and I did the same on Friday and Saturday. I remember clearing 3 chapters on Monday simply because I felt guilty for Sunday - going out with my friends to an all-day church Christmas celebration cum party doesn't excuse it.

Yesterday, which is a Tuesday, I cleared almost 2 chapters. The last chapter I edited was twice the length of the average chapter, and I had to edit while I'm outside.

But I'm very close to concluding the edit for my debut novel. I've reached the final climax of TKoPP. I have about 4 chapters left to edit, just in time before I set sail for Batam on a Writer's Retreat. Once I've fully edited The Keeper of Pulau Purba this time, any further edits would be for an official 2nd Edition, which I believe will be far away.

I guess that's all for now. My writing reports will probably be spicier once I'm in Batam. See you guys!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Thoughts on the Brink of Christmas

Before I move on with my little opinion piece, I'd like to inform you guys, my dear readers, that my book is on a Christmas sale...
$0.99 after 75% discount!!!

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Now, onto business.

Basically, this is coming from a little online chat I have with some acquaintances regarding Christmas. In short, one of my new friends and his family/relatives don't really celebrate it, and they believe that the spirit of Christmas should be spread throughout the year, and then magnified some. In other words, be a good person both in and out of Christmas.

In short, I agree. Since I hail from Singapore and am of Chinese and Agnostic background, Christmas doesn't quite come naturally to me. It is more of a cerebral thing to me, a representation of certain values that we must and should embody: kindness, generosity, charity, empathy. Christmas is thus a celebration of virtues for me, and not quite of the Judeo-Christian meanings it originally encompass.

But that's no reason not to celebrate Christmas. Being a writer, chances are, I'm certainly no prude. Just yesterday, an old childhood friend of mine pretty much calls me the YOLO-man when we met for a little catching up. He notes that I'm exceptionally liberal and risk-taking, and all for human rights and all that is fun and good. While I tend to be very disciplined in some ways, I guess he's mostly right. He knows me well, anyway.

Back to Christmas. It's still on the table even if it's not a native custom and something I don't 'get in the programme' fully and 100%. It's great as a reminder, and besides, it's a good time to catch-up with friends (if my earlier story is any indication) and just let loose a little. Sometimes, we need a little time-out.

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Personally though, this Christmas hasn't been kind to me. Let's see...

1) Owing to my lousy job with poor benefits and poor pay, I have little opportunity to enjoy. Celebration is an occasion for the good times. The economy sure did lend a hand to this.

2) So my family's overseas in Malaysia while I'm stuck here. This one's a blessing in disguise though. There's an uncle there that I really dislike for his abysmal social skills that partially stems from an ageist-related superiority complex.

3) I attended a party where I don't quite fit in. Basically, everyone's friends with each other there, and I'm the third wheel. It's also no coincidence that it's a party in a publishing house I used to intern in, and everyone there is of a trade publishing affiliation while I am the only indie author there (and indeed, probably one of few in Singapore). But it's mostly because I haven't quite made an impression of myself. My internship lasted only 2 months, I didn't do much in that time, and I haven't contributed much at all on a voluntary basis, haven't worked with them much on a professional level. I am not published with them either, but I tried.

4) Let's just say that my Christmas promotional campaign hasn't been going as planned... (psst... You can fix that by buying my book! /shameless plug)

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But Christmas is more than a celebration of virtues. It is a time for miracles. While I don't believe in miracles, only in human agency and action resulting in some interesting results, coincidences and consequences, I'm no less grateful for whatever goodness has counteracted the bad things:

1) I get to meet an old friend. We've been so busy.

2) I will be meeting another, and we'll probably be discussing our literary pursuits as well.

3) I'm getting out of this chicken-shit outfit. (I've resigned from my job. I'm FWEEEEEE!)

4) I've made arrangements for a writing retreat in Batam, and it will be for a month. Y'all will hear from me soon enough from that country.

Yeah, I would much rather stay positive, even if I have to drag myself to it. For whatever darkness there is in the world, even if it's in the northern or southern pole, there will always be light somewhere, sometime.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Writing Report S2 #28: Epiphany

This Writing Report is for Monday and Tuesday (19 December 2016 - 20 December 2016).

Things have been going great so far. On Monday, I worked up 1,000 words, and on Tuesday, 1,100 words I believe. I'm back in business, yee-ha! And I didn't have to torture myself that much this time!

Basically, I think my stab at the Science Fantasy genre seems to be working. I'm enjoying myself with the writing, and the story is unwrapping by itself too - It's character driven, so I feel more like a chronicler rather than an author this time. My job is just to render what I see in my head with as much clarity as possible, appealing to my six senses.

I believe it's going to be my longest short story yet, in the tradition of fantasy works being longer than their other-genre counterparts. 3,500 words in, and my main character hasn't even left his village to go on his quest yet. My projection for now is 15,000 words. It could explode to 20,000, but I'll try to make that number the maximum blast radius.

If I haven't talked about the plot yet, it's this: A young man's father returns from being lost in a forest for 4 days, packing a seemingly terminal disease. No one could cure him. Young man decides to find out what happened and see if there's a cure from where his father came from.

Simple plot, really, but it's expanding in terms of narrative and content. The antagonist, I feel, is going to be quite unique for a science fantasy-ish setting. They won't be straight-up villains - I don't like doing straight-up villains. Even the titular Keeper of Pulau Purba may not be a villain-villain, if you read the book closely enough.

Anyway, I'll end off here. Good days! Perfect for leading up to my Batam Writing Retreat, where I'll kick into high gear and try to write 1,500 - 2,000 words a day. Maybe aim to achieve a state of Writing Nirvana.

Alright, see you guys!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Writing Report S2 #27: Disruptions

This writing report is for the dates from Wednesday to Sunday (14 December 2016 - 18 December 2016)

This has been a slow week because of the adjustments I have to make based on the stories I write. I guess I've pretty much found out the downside to writing a slew of short stories, and that is the adjustment period. Now, I'm sure not all authors suffer this, so I'm chalking it down to my inexperience with the short form.

It is also at this period that I started wondering where I should be going. To be blunt, I'm not sure what I ought to be writing next. It took me a while to figure it out and remember that I want to put my main universe in this collection somewhere. So I did.

On Wednesday, I completed about 800 words of a flash fiction piece set in the world of The Keeper of Pulau Purba. I was still adjusting to it, as I haven't immersed myself in that world for a while.

On Thursday, I wrote 400 words. This is where I got worried about my performance. My explanation here, though, is that I was worried that this flash fic might turn out to be a short story after all.

Friday. I wrote 300 words. I figured out a way to make it short. But still, the ToPP flash fic came up to almost 1,500 words long, which makes it a stretch to call it a flash fiction piece. That's like 6 pages long on a standard 250 words per page average. Still, I think the terminology is sound - It's still extremely short, short enough to be a flash fic, just that it's right at the edge.

Saturday. I had to figure out what to write next. I eventually settled on a short story with a science fantasy setting, but still intended to be horror. This is a huge change from what I'm used to writing - I've always written horror set in the contemporary and urban world, with at most a sub-genre or secondary genre to spice things up.

Faceless Angel, as I am tentatively calling it, seems to be science fantasy first and horror second. Either that, or I'm falling for my own slow-reveal story structure.

On Sunday, my belief in my writing is still shaky, so I only managed to eke out about 520 words.

Yep, I officially really need another personal writer's residence. Good thing I've set aside a month in Batam for that purpose. No distractions - Just me and my writing. And a new environment. A new neighbourhood to explore. Great food to try. Yeah, it's going to be fine, just like the last time.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Brian Reviews #2: From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

Disclaimer: There's going to be a whole glut of spoilers. You have been warned!

It's a Stephen King book, so of course the car's gonna eat cha!

Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

The first time I heard about this book wasn't quite of an auditory nature at all. I found it nestling deep in Stephen King's bibliography. For many years, it lingered, despite my near-ignorance to its contents. See, I saw the synopsis, and thought it was great - a Stephen King book, that of course, would never fail to impress.

It'd been something like 5 years before I finally got around to purchasing it through a homegrown online mega-bookstore, opentrolley.com.sg. It'd been one of my Stephen King moments. I bought three books in a bundle, and this is the first book of the three that I read, owing to its history with me.

Needless to say, I am slightly disappointed. But it isn't an entirely wasted effort. The potential is there, and I believe Stephen King did his best with it. Only problem is, he couldn't quite see it through to the end.

The specific book cover I had received, which is exactly like the one above, tells me everything I need to know. It's about a car, and in retrospect, it's about a young man who'd lost his father to the Buick (notice it behind the shadowy figure?). But scratch that bit about losing the father to the Buick though, because that's not quite what happened, but that's the impression.

So the packaging is good, now let's move on the to meaty bits of this guy. Let's dissect him, shall we!?

The novel starts with the death of Curtis Wilcox (nice name, by the way, he's the kind of state trooper who will comply, I bet), and his son visiting the barracks of a Pennsylvanian State Trooper unit as a way to grieve his loss. That's how it begins. I think the initial chapters hooked me well and good, I continued reading with no difficulty from there.

And from thereon, the novel sure took a ride to the top of the bell curve (with the Buick, hee-hee). The overall frame structure of the novel is amazing. With a frame story set in the present, encapsulating a series of accounts from members of the State Troopers, the form of the story never fails to satisfy. It shakes things up with different personalities and backstory each time as the story shifts perspectives.

That said, the characters, as is usual of Stephen King, who have been said to be the Charles Dickens of the 21st century, are very, very well defined. They are life-like, larger than life even. But they are written to be human, very believable.

Each character, even the minor ones, have a detailed backstory of their own, and most of the time, the story doesn't use an info-dump to flesh them out. That's some premium writing right there - good writing isn't just about putting intricate descriptions on a page, as much as physically and literately possible, it's also about engaging the reader's imagination, and getting them to fill in the blanks frequently. Even the local janitor, gas pump attendant and punk-girl, minor characters all, are better defined than some main characters I've seen elsewere. They are amazingly described right down to their personal twitches and secrets - good stuff. A lesson to all writers, no doubt.

Then there's the main antagonist itself, the titular Buick 8, and the creatures that emerge from it. Despite being a car (at least as it appears to the characters) and sitting around in a garage most of the time, its presence is felt, and the threat it presents is constant. The frequent descent into the uncanny valley that both the Buick and the creatures, from the 'man' who apparently drives it into our world to even the leaves, 'bird' and finally, the three-handed 'alien', are quite effective, putting me on the edge of my seat.

But it is from the near-mid-point of the novel that this book starts slipping off the bell curve, said creatures notwithstanding. It's where the novel's strength turns into its weakness. Basically, it's as if he's missing a few tools in his literary toolbox, and he kept using the same ones over and over. When first used, his tropes of an unknown horror from a neighbouring dimension works, but then he kept doing it over and over. Even as he fleshes it out, and made the consequences of inter-dimensional visitation felt, it eventually got old. This is only revitalised slightly at the end of the novel, when something more substantial came through the Buick, and we get a glimpse of the other side.

That said, there's a sense of 'antagonistic threat elitism' going on in the novel. Only the Buick itself was dangerous. Sure, the King threw a bat-thing and some leaves at us to scare us with the potential of great hazard for our beloved Troopers, but he didn't quite follow it up with any real danger. The final (barely) humanoid being that came through the Buick-portal device is supposed to be it, but it is emphasised that it is just as afraid of people as the people are afraid of it, maybe more so since it is outnumbered. It tried to run, and killed a dog by accident. I know what Stephen King is trying to do here, but it doesn't quite work out in terms of the horror part of the book, in the terms of the cosmic horror he's trying to evoke.

That said, remember when I say that Stephen King is regarded as this century's Charles Dickens? Yeah, I think that part of his writing kind of overshadowed the darker half of the novel, and when two parts of a novel clashes to gain the attention of the reader, the result isn't quite pretty. This time, as it usually happens, there's only one victor, and I think it's the Charles Dickenesque portrayal of the Pennsylvanian State Troopers that won out. It feels as if the horror aspect was just thrown in there to shake things up. And when it's done so blatantly, it loses much of its effect after the shock.

All in all, it's still enjoyable for what it is. Just that the horror in this book has been shooed off by the ghost of Charles Dickens.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Writing Report S2 #26: Pre- & Post-Military

This Writing Report is for the first week of December (1st Dec 2016 - 4th Dec 2016) and this week, Sunday to Tuesday (11th Dec 2016 - 13th Dec 2016).

By now, my statistics for the first week of December is a bit blurry. Makes me wish that I have an advanced writing software that records my exact statistics day by day. But I can roughly reconstruct what happened from my emails to myself and more recent statistics.

Basically, I finished up the short story, 'Agoraphobe' by the end of November, and I started 'The Hatch' on the first day of December, that much I remember.

According to my email with 'The Hatch' attached, I wrote 489 words on Thursday, 1st December 2016.

On Friday, I wrote about 800+ words in my office, bringing the word count up to 1,300+, and between that time and Sunday night last week, I wrote about 3,000 words. 1,000 of that can be attributed to Sunday, so I must have written 2,000 words from Friday night to Sunday (2nd Dec 2016 - 4th Dec 2016).

Knowing myself, I probably did 1,000 total on Friday and Saturday each, and spent Sunday demoralised and despairing over my impending military service.

Before I go ahead and write on about my writing exploits for the past 3 days, I'll state on record that I have done nothing for 6 days last week due to my return to military service.

Anyway, the days after the conclusion of my momentary service in the Singapore Armed Forces have been very fruitful.

On Sunday, I clocked in 1,000 words. A good start.

On Monday, I overclocked at 1,100+ words. I was really into the story, which is about a mechanic who found a weird rectangular hole in the last stall of a deserted restroom.

And I finished it up on Tuesday, which is yesterday, Nearly 500 words. I wrote nothing else that day, because I promised a friend to hear a a friend's friend's business proposal (a mouthful, I know). But the reason why I stopped at that number is because 'The Hatch', as the story is titled, was concluded yesterday. I am still deciding what to write next.

From the looks of things, I might be behind schedule by 1,000 words minimum, but it shouldn't be a disaster by the scale of my grand plan. To write professionally is all about the long game. The grand plan. I am not disconcerted by my setbacks, but I will definitely work to make up for them.

Until next time!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

On the Army & Writing

Some of you might have realised that there has been an awful lack of posts lately on my blog. Some of you might have hallucinated a choir of singing crickets when you viewed my blog for the umpteenth time only to see nothing.

Well, don't worry. I haven't sworn off blogging, I've just been busy with this:
If any of you need a boot camp in writing, lemme know :)


Basically, I'd been called up to return to military service for a week. It's a fucking tiring, soulless and thankless job. It's especially bad for me since I have additional responsibilities (just look at all those chevrons!) and none of the pride, way nor will to do it. But hey, at least I'd returned in one piece on Friday.

Some of you may know that I have a rather... dim view of the military. I'm always bashing on it quite a lot and for good reason. It pretty much clashes with my lifestyle of artistic ambitions. Every single day is a major struggle even when I'm not fully occupied in camp, and it'd be far worse when I am.

Despite my CO being kind and allowing my unit to return home each day, I was too tired each time to think about writing. All my time at home was instead used to maintain myself. Cleaning myself up after a filthy day, resting, preparing for the morrow as there's usually more gear to bring to camp, and sleeping early because I had to reach camp early.

But what I am going to say next is probably going to cause a Richter 10.0 Earthquake in Singapore (not that Singapore suffers from any form of natural disaster):

It's not entirely bad.

Yeah. It's not entirely bad. Well, in a masochistic sort of way. The army is a prominent topic to write about. Heck, I mean, my debut novel, The Keeper of Pulau Purba (available in Amazon now!), has the army as a major theme. In other words, I've spent a week walking in the shoes of my own characters. It's a good refresher on what it means to be in the army, willing or not. If it's good for a conversation in the coffee shop or a bar, it's good for a novel.

Then, I get to hang out with my wife:
I love the smell of gun smoke in the morning.

This time around, we get to brush up on our marksmanship. I get to shoot on the range. It's one of the few things I like about the army. So, the story goes that I get to team up with my storemen and drivers for the shoot. It's a team thing, which means all our scores are averaged out for the final decision as to whether we are marksmen or not.

We're driven to a simulation building the day before. It's the day I found out that there's a guy in my detail who couldn't shoot at all and he's in the twilight years of his tenure as a reservist. The final year, I might add. To tell you the truth, just like I told him, I couldn't be bothered with the marksmanship status and prize money that has been offered to us. I just wanted, then, to be done with the army and get out. The shooting bit was just an arcade sideshow for me. Therefore, my teammate's poor shooting didn't bother me in the slightest. The only problem was that everyone else were all thinking very differently.

I also found out that I was the second worst shooter. So I guess it pays to be humble (more on that later. Oh boy, a lot more, I tell you). Mainly, my excuses include the simulation screen, which was dark as hell, and my sports spectacles, which tends to fog up in the air-conditioned simulation room. Both problems were solved the next day, just in time for the big finale.

As if I'm in a novel myself (for all you know, we could all be figments of one person's imagination), the table was turned the next day. Everyone else started screwing up, and I became the team's best marksman.

By the second time we did a reshoot, I've only missed one or two shots out of 15... every time, except maybe the first time, when we had to do a night shoot, in which I forgot to reload when I'm out of bullets, and I did crossfires to hit the smaller targets to help my poor, retiring storeman, only to find out that it's not allowed. In the meantime, my guys continued to break the rules by cross-firing and hitting illegal targets (unwittingly, to their credit) or outright missing the target - Until they got it right the last time. I had to be on my toes all the while, performing at top capacity while they get their shit together. My hands were shaking by the end.

The story ended the next day for me, when we finally leave the camp and our uniforms behind, at least for another year, but with a cruel twist - The brass seemed to be impressed with me for some reason, and wants to make me a Company Sergeant Major. Oh, cruel fate! An idealistic writer who hates the army for a CSM. What the frickin'-!

Anyway, my point is that no matter how bad things get, there's always a silver lining. Here, it's that I get to mine this experience for writing and story material. Let's just say that the sequel to The Keeper of Pulau Purba is going to be even more awesome, the more I suffer. But don't worry, I'll happily bleed on the page for you guys! That's why we have blood donation drives, folks!

So for the rest of you who might be experiencing worse or something similar, when the going gets tough, and tears start dripping, remember that if you survive, you can look back and think to yourself, 'hey, now that's something I can use.' Whether be it to write a book, or just be all the wiser, it's something, even if it's evil.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #25: Good Days

This Writing Report is for the dates 28th November 2016 to 30th November 2016, which is Monday to Wednesday.

It's been good so far this week. I've managed 700 words on Monday, 650 on Tuesday, and a whooping 1,350 on Wednesday. The reason for this is a sudden drop-off in workload at the office. With my duties quickly finished, I was able to concentrate on my writing.

The result is another short story finished. It's about time. It was in development since long before my novel was out, so that means it's been hanging around in limbo for 4 months when its length requires only about a week to complete. The reason for its developmental hell is because I kinda dropped it to work on editing my novel before publishing it - As some of you may know, I had to keep editing my debut novel even after it was published.

Well, it's all history now. Agoraphobe is now officially a Draft 1! As such, I think I should celebrate by telling you guys about it:

It's basically a short story set in a 22nd century Singapore, in which the government there has been continuing on its policies unabated for over a century. The result is a severely overcrowded world. Every infrastructure a metropolis needs, be it transportation, housing, policing and the law, are coping but with quality of life suffering. We see this world from the perspective of a downtrodden waitress going about her daily routine, which takes a turn for the worse.

It turned out to be almost 7877 words long. I projected it to be 7000. Can't complain. That's about 32 pages long. It feels just about right. Length is no indication of quality, that's for sure.

Can't wait to work on the next story. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head, looking to breach through my skull and land on a page. I'll keep you guys updated on what I'm working on next.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #24: Slow Climb

This Writing Report is for the dates ranging from 23rd of November to 27th of November (Wednesday to Sunday).

I've been making a slow climb back to my previous rate of writing and editing. Last week, I was either writing or editing, not both, and I haven't hit the 1000 words/day (writing) or 2 chapters/day (editing) standard I've set for myself yet, but I've got a feeling that this week is going to be different.

The excitement at my workplace has died down, and my physical exertions are going to be minimal as next week would be the army channel (heh). I've just written about 700 words in office today as I waited for my duties to surface.

I will probably edit one chapter today, which would mean exceeding the minimum I've set for myself. Editing-wise though, I will never exceed a chapter a day. Let's just say my editor's a little busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas. She'd be engaging in a different craft than editing. A nativity play (heh).

Anyway, let's hope this is the start of my return to my writing norm.

But I know I'll do more than that soon, because I've got news. I'll soon be relieved of my job, it's only a matter of when. Either end of next month or the month after that, depending on a crucial decision I must make.

Once I've been freed from wage slavery (at least momentarily), I'll be going for a second writer's trip, which will probably last for a month. It will be for my second book, a collection of short stories (and flash fiction, and poetry, yes, right, maybe). I predict that I will be able to finish much of the book in that span of time, given that I managed 1000 words a day with some bonus once in a while in my last 2-months-long writing trip.

Now that I'm seasoned with a 'lighter' project to work on, I think I can manage 1500 - 2000 a day. Even if I managed only the former, it would mean 45,000 words. Adding to the stuff I'd already completed and will finish in December, that'd pretty much add up to a completed draft 1. I'm aiming for 100,000 words this time, and this is what I've accomplished thus far:

Sesame Seeds: 7000 words about why you shouldn't sleep in an ant-infested house.

Window's Shadow: 800 words all dripping with children's blood.

Agoraphobe (Working Title): 6000 words filled with circuitry and implants. Projected to reach 7000 words.

University FYP (Forgot the Title): 13000 words on why you should treat your girlfriend or boyfriend well. Knowing myself, it could be edited towards something like 15000 words, but we won't count that.

Total: 27800 words.

If I write at 1000 words a day from tomorrow onwards (1 week will be expended on military service), it will give me about 26000 words.

Grand Total: 53800 words.

With Writing Trip Lower Estimate: 98800 words.

In other words, just a little nudge, and I'll reach my target.

The future seems to look a little brighter (heh).

Friday, 25 November 2016

Post-Publication Realisation

Just decided to post about a little something I realised about the condition of being a newly published author (though it's a stretch to call myself that, considering that I haven't even sold books by the thousands yet).

Back then, books were something magical to me. Every time I open one up (provided that it's good), I feel myself transported into a world, and it's ever so vibrant and colourful. Even a horror novel was vibrant and colourful in its own way.

Sure, it's the same as it had always been now, after launching my own about a month ago. But my eyes are no longer virgin, so to speak. I find myself scrutinising the writing of every author I read, regardless of fame. I find myself comparing to him or her, and sometimes I enter review mode. What's good and bad about the writing? I'd keep asking myself that.

Thinking back, I estimate that the 'corruption' began soon after I've finished my novel. I started being this way when I first began editing my book. Hyper-awareness, I suppose, for the hyper-real world.

This is both good and bad. On one hand, I believe I'll learn much faster than before when it comes to the craft of writing, due to my hyper-awareness and hyper-sensitivity to writing.  On the other, books are no longer (as) fantastical, as mystical as something that seemed to have been produced by the hands of Demi-God/desses.

Back when I was a kid who'd scribbled his first few story paragraphs outside the prompting of a teacher, that was my impression when I looked at my writing and looked at Daniel Defoe's.

Now, I realised that we are all human beings, equally full of potential, equally capable of accomplishing great things... And also equally flawed. Daniel Defoe's second and third Robinson Crusoe novels didn't exactly fly like the first one did.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #23: Decline

This Writing Report is generally for the dates from 8th November 2016 to 22nd November 2016.

I've entered a new low in terms of writing.

A lot of things have been happening that's slowing me down. I've recently had to report to camp for military matters. Even if it's just for a day, it's draining and has a cooling effect in the days before and after. Next, I have a one week training session coming up right at the start of December.

This is not to mention the fact that the reservist lifestyle forced upon me requires that I invest some time in my physical fitness, and not just health - If it's just maintaining my body, a simple regime of health food (no anorexic tendencies required!) and low-intensity exercises would have been enough.

In my day job, I've hit a peak of activities. A lot of money making potential for the company, which means I can do little to nothing in terms of writing when I'm in office. It's been a few weeks since this started, and it's draining.

And speaking of health. My right ear had become blocked by ear wax like 3 weeks ago after I started applying olive oil drops prescribed by a doctor concerned with the cleanliness of my ear canals, resulting in severe Tinnitus and partial deafness. It wasn't a pleasant experience, as I wasn't sure if it was temporary or not. It was only last Friday that I got that cleared up with a doctor and his pump. Too bad I didn't take a picture of the cylinder containing all that gunk.

The only boon to my writing life is that my tuition tenure for this year had come to an end, freeing up the weekdays. But life so far has been draining, and I've been spending more time recovering and stoning in my bed than anything.

So far, my daily routine for writing hasn't been followed through. I'm averaging a chapter a day when I'm editing The Keeper of Pulau Purba, and up to 300-700 words a day if it's writing. But that's going to change, as it did before. Especially after I'm done with editing my debut novel. I seriously need to get that out of the way first.

I hope I have better news in my next writing report. First thing I'm going to need to do is clean my own writing house up first. I'll be posting more often here, and upgrade my blog - It needs a few new rooms.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Let's Talk Writing: Why Write Horror?

Why write horror? Why write about scary stuff and horrible things when I can just talk about pink, fluffy poodles and idyllic neighbourhoods? That's a question that comes up quite often whenever I talked about my literary preoccupation.

I guess it started all the way back in my childhood. I'd seen a lot of horror flicks and read my fair share of horror books in my time. Starting with pretty tame fanfare like Mars Attack (a parody, but it has its moments) and Goosebumps (kid's stuff, but it wouldn't look like a horror book if it didn't aspire to be one) then moving on to some serious business, the likes of The Thing and Alien, then my first shot of Stephen King's bibliography, and it went downhill from there (which is a good thing).

I was a kid like any other in my younger days. I got scared easily. But what happened after the initial shock wasn't like any other path normal kids would take. I started liking it for some reason. Years later, I rationalised fear. I thought it'd toughen me up. That's in contrast to most people I've met so far, who'd chant 'why read or watch horror when real life is horrifying enough?' or the most basic response they could give- Avoiding anything resembling horror like a plague, not a word with a pale face.

Talk about masochistic pleasure. Heh. Keep the whip away please... just... not right now.

*Ahem* I guess horror with me is about as legitimate a method as any other literary genre to get to the human condition, to learn and understand yourself and the world. It's just as good a way to build character. Maybe even better in some ways. You don't toughen yourself up by reading Cinderella. The darker side of the human psyche is inaccessible in some of the more idealistic fantasies. Perhaps only shades of it could be glimpsed from other genres.

So that leads to the reasons why I write horror, other than the fact that I want to tell a good story. It's my way of doing soul-searching. Descending into the cave and Hades before emerging out. It's as much about me understanding myself as it is about trying to make people understand my position. It's a way of doing it when the topics I cover are dark and perhaps not exactly all rainbow and sunshine. Some things just can't be sugar-coated, or shouldn't be if you want to write it right.

Horror is also one of those genres that does certain things that I want right. Horror thrills like the best of them, next to its close cousin, the Thriller (surprise, surprise). It can be violent, it is allowed to screw you over, no-holds-bar style. It's often what I want and what I need in a story.

Other than that, horror is more prevalent than you think. Books of other genres can slip into the horror-mode from time to time, in some subtle ways. Adult horror - losing your loved ones or having your kid dodge death in a close shave (if even that). That's horror too. The terrible implications of a political system. That's also horror, especially when you see your civil rights slipping away a bit at a time. Going fully horror allows me to tap into all those things to the fullest. No pretensions, no beating around the bush unless it's good writing.

And if any of my explanations doesn't do it, then it's just because I love it. I like scaring the bejesus out of people. I get off on it. Way I see it, I'm handing wisdom over to them one heart attack at a time. And it's satisfying.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #22: Slow Progress

This writing report is for Saturday through to Monday (5th - 7th November 2016).

Progress is slow. Overall output is down simply because I'm a little tired of editing, and I didn't want to overtake my proofreader. It'd do no good to stress the both of us out. Basically, I've edited 2 chapters on Saturday, and 2 more on Sunday. I did nothing on Monday, not even a story. I was teaching tuition, and I simply didn't have the energy left after that. That's combined with the fact that my workload in my job has increased because it's hiring season in the schools.

Anyway, that's going to change soon enough. This is the last week I'll be teaching tuition, at least until February or March next year. The time freed up for that - About 2-3 hours, counting both tuition and travelling time, will be a valuable boon to my writing life, not so much because I'll be spending all that time writing, but because it'd decrease the pressure on me so that I can actually write and edit, what have you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #21: Winding Up

Hey guys,

It's been a long, long time since I last did one of these, but it's all for a good reason. I'm just going to demarcate this change of circumstance by making this writing report the start of 'season 2' of my Writing Report series. All will be explained below, but for now, onto business:

This Writing Report is for 1st November 2016 and 2nd November 2016. Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

As you all know, The Keeper of Pulau Purba has been out for a few weeks. It has seen over 1000 downloads and some sales and library reads on Amazon since. With that novel installed in its rightful place in the never-ending library of the Amazonian concrete jungle, my attention could turn elsewhere.

For now, I'm in a transitional phase. I will still need to edit the second half of the novel, from Chapter 29 to 60, and in addition to that, I will be working on a new book. A collection of short stories, with the main genre being horror, but some of the stories might have secondary genres, such as sci-fi and fantasy, thriller, you name it. I've thought long and hard about it, and I've decided that I probably can't release the stories one by one - It'd be too costly, too time consuming, and it'd be a logistical nightmare added to the fact that I need to work on subsequent stories.

Anyway, with this in mind, I wrote about 300 words for the collection. Before Tuesday, I'd been doing token amounts of editing work as I read through my stories to regain the feel of them.

I plan to pick up speed quickly, just like before. On Wednesday, I wrote another 300 or 400. In addition to that, I edited 2 chapters of The Keeper of Pulau Purba. Assuming that my proofreader's speed isn't a limiting factor, it will take only 15 days to finish up with TKoPP.

But real life isn't made up of theories. I'll no doubt catch up with my proofreader, so on some days, I will concentrate on writing alone. It feels so refreshing! Working on new stuff!

One last thing. I've read stories of Amazon's horrific work conditions. I've even learnt a thing or two about it. Their principles are correct, but the execution horribly flawed - They'd forgotten everything about human rights and the benefits of retaining talent altogether. I plan to incorporate some of their principles into my writing. Specifically, the professionalism aspect of it, the drive for achievement. But I'm tempering it with common sense and self-preservation. I won't be driving myself into the ground, literally and metaphorically.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Stuff that Makes or Breaks Writers

While I was surfing the waves of the Kboards forum, I encountered a man (or girl, didn't matter) who decided that talking about anything bad in my country is wrong because there are starving kids in Africa who can't get an education and many people would love to be born in my country. It annoyed the crap about him, and he admitted that he had never been to my country.

Now that really brings me back, all the way to my childhood. So what did go right, and what did go wrong? I'm going to try to do this chronologically:

1989: I was born, and I survived my birth, obviously. Ding!

1995: My entry into the education system begins. Ding!

1995: Bullying begins at a young age. Bzzt! (But also good in a twisted sense as it taught me a lot about human nature from when I was a wee lad)

2003: My entry into secondary school at the age of 12 marks the beginning of my interest in writing, reading and literature. Ding!

2004: For some time in my youth, I was discouraged by my fundamentalist Christian mother from reading Goosebumps or any other books she deemed wrong. Pokemon is evil, that's how bad it was. Bzzt!

2007: Confusion about my future led me down the wrong path as I pursued Biomedical Science rather than something related to writing. Bzzt!

2009: I was conscripted. Giant BZZT!!!

2011: I entered university after 2 years in that hell hole. Ding!

2011: It is at this point that the anti-intellectual, anti-creative environment in Singapore becomes apparent. Similarly, as my eyes were opened, the traditionalist attitude of society becomes hard to tolerate and work with. BZZT!!!

2014: A few internships at a number of publishing houses showed them to be financially and politically challenged. Traditionalist attitude reigns supreme in some, ensuring that their growth is limited. I realised that Singapore's publishing industry is not only NOT thriving, but might be dying. BZZT!!!

2015: Graduation. Can't find work in the publishing industry. It's just too small and embattled. BZZT!!! (Although this actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it frees up my writing and editing energy for my own work)

2016: Found work in an exploitative human resource/cleaning/security company. You'd have to work 2 half-days on Saturdays every month, there's minimal pay and benefits for outrageous job scope. BZZT!!!

2016: My reservist liabilities begin, which means some time lost to the military at random times throughout the year, plus a ton of worrying, fearing and lamenting throughout the year. BZZT!!!

2016: I couldn't get my book traditionally published - There are just too few places to submit to, and I was out of options quickly. BZZT!!!

2016: I got my book out on Amazon. Ding!

2016: But that presents a double-edged sword: If I don't become successful, well, I don't get paid for this all that well, and nothing much will come out of it. If I become successful, I'll earn, I'll get famous, people will read my stuff. Lots of events will happen. But if I piss off the wrong people in Singapore, they're going to become a bunch of sour plums, press charges against me, and get me sued. If it's some powerful, rich dude doing it for the state, oh boy. And since human rights means nothing to the majority in Singapore.., BZZZZZZTTT!!!

So there you have it! A brief history of the good, the bad and the ugly things that could make or break writers, at least in Singapore.

So, what are my findings after this little thought experiment? That dude who has never been to my country, who decides to lecture me about it anyway had it right in a select few areas. Sure, I get fed, watered and educated well enough, but you see all those buzz kills? Well gee, that's a lot of them, and many of them have a lot to do with being a writer.

I rest my case that Singapore is not conducive for the development of writers. Nothing much redeems it in that direction. The scheme of things could keep the body alive, and its desires in check, with all the food, water, safety and security provided, but this is all at the cost of the soul and mind because, apparently, the prerequisite for material success is an overbearing government that can't stand critiques, and a traditionalist, close-minded society that won't allow even the slightest deviancy from the social norm.

Here's the funny thing though. What serves to limit creativity can also serve to enhance it. Paradoxical, contradictory, I know. But, see, censorship and all the nasty stuff associated with a dictatorial regime is the stuff of history, something else to write about. It's its own topic. Not to mention, when there are restrictions, you learn to find your way around them - That's creativity for you, alright.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Lamentations Post-Publication

Ever since hitting the publish button on Amazon, I felt joy. My baby girl is going to school, hooray! But there wasn't just joy. Being a writer is all but a simple occupation, in my case, still a preoccupation. Nope, I get the whole cocktail of emotions running high.

I get to feel elation when the number of downloads soared during the free book promotion. Then I get to feel regret, when I realised there are still errors in the book. Then I began to fear for my future. And get depressed over it. The stark realisation that I am helpless despite my best efforts dawned on me pretty quickly.

The very timeframe and deadline that I released my book on ensured that it will be released imperfect, as it meant my book will only be edited half-way by my proofreader. Then, of course, it's never enough, especially not when I'm working on a shoestring budget.

That said, I can only depend on myself, and my peers. If there's nothing else, it's the people who'd been exemplary. The guy behind limelight book covers, my proofreader, Abigail Sim, the folks at kboards who advised me... Hell, one guy wrote a message to me, single-handedly moved me into fixing a glaring issue with my book, a mere 45 minutes from when a major ad with Freebooksy kicked in!

I'm not going anywhere with this post, really. There's no outline, no objective for it. I guess I just want you guys to know how it's like. Writers, or aspiring writers, it's going to be tough all the way, just like raising a kid. For readers... I'm trying my best. I'm truly sorry if I disappointed. But know that I'll keep at it no matter what.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Brian Reviews #1: The Boat by Clara Salaman

Don't worry, the Boat won't eat you. This novel isn't authored by Stephen King, you know.


Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 Stars

I can still vividly remember where I got Clara Salaman's The Boat from in the first place. It was a warehouse sale, and it had been going on for something like 3 days by the time I went in. I expected that I had to sift through a lot of unwanted books to get to the honey-pods, and I found it decently surprising that most of the books were actually good stuff. George R. R. Martin was there, and so was Robert Jordan.

Then I came to Clara Salaman's book. I saw the huge, silver-lined title. The ominous boat in the background. It looked pretty good to me. Fits the title and blurb at the back very well. Straightforward, but compelling. Did I mention the blurb? Yes, it gave me exactly what I wanted: The makings of a thriller, or even... I was thinking of horror. Back then, I figured that I need to read more than Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft. And looking at Clara Salaman's book, I decided that I should take a chance with her. Here's the blurb, by the way:

"It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime...

Johnny and his new bride Clem have arrived in Turkey for a year's honeymoon. Young, blissfully happy but poor, they are surviving on love, luck and a spirit of adventure.

So when a boat appears out of a raging storm, crewed by a bohemian couple who represent everything Johnny and Clem want to be, they do not think twice about stepping on board. But all is not as it seems. And when they finally open their eyes to the truth, the boat is in the middle of the vast open sea..."

Two young adults stuck on a boat with some VERY liberal-minded folks, isolated out at sea? I'm game! Gimme, gimme!

Except it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

My biggest gripe with the book is the painfully slow and unimpressive development and pacing. The thrill/horror isn't even a vague, constant throb, more like half-hearted spikes that wore off quickly, and even then, much of it can be attributed to its shocking subject matter, which I won't spoil for you. Important moments are ruined consistently by long-delayed reveals of the truth surrounding the boat and its occupants. Said important moments that act to move the plot are like calm waves on a sunny day. I'm not swept by them, nor moved in any way.

There isn't even a real sense of danger, and as a result, I don't fear for the characters - In fact, it's very hard to be afraid for the good guy (and girl) when their very survival is very much mandatory for a strand of the plot to function.

All this goes on for something like 75% of the book. That's way too much content dedicated to developing the plot, with much of it being wasted on the slow-burn that didn't exactly cook the meat. Normally, 25% would have done it, +/- 10%. I was nearly done with the book around the middle, but thankfully my reading stamina was better than that.

Then there's the editing. As a writer, I can understand that it's impossible to whack every grammar-mistake-mole in the book. Still, it's something that needs to be said. While the errors in the book isn't plentiful, they're noticeable. The book is saturated with enough errors that it gave me pause, but not enough to turn me off completely. I'm talking about something like one error for every eight to ten pages - Sounds infrequent, but it adds up.

All of this leads up to a crescendo in the story, which, again, is lacklustre. The antagonist is dispatched too easily for all the build-up about how he's an insurmountable killing machine. The eventual fate of the characters, including the protagonist, is hard to believe, especially considering the amount of control they have to just sail into the sunset, happily ever after - protagonists and supporting characters of other thrillers and stories of the horror genre aren't so lucky. Mine certainly wasn't (hehe hyuck-hyuck-hyuck!) In the end, it feels forced and convenient, written for the sake of having a bittersweet ending.

So, we're left with a book that doesn't work well as a thriller or horror, and ends poorly. Why read the book? Well, beyond the cover and the blurb, the other things done right on my book, I feel that the prose isn't a total loss. I think Clara Salaman is better off writing drama or tragedy, contemporary and literary stuff.

The characters are well written, with enough depth to sink The Little Utopia in. This goes even for the very minor characters who exists for a mere few pages. Similarly, Johnny and Clem's backstory is enjoyable, and their tragedies enough to dredge up a tear or two in my eyes. They feel as alive as some of my closer friends. The same goes for the their counterparts too, the so-called Bohemian Couple. They aren't your usual monsters. Just to be clear, they're humans, not actual monsters, by the way. That's about as much as I'll spoil for you.

Conclusion: Clara Salaman's The Boat suffers horribly when it comes to the plot, pacing, even the atmosphere, which isn't strong enough. However, it is redeemed by its characters, their development and backstory - Just far from enough to cover the 3rd degree burns inflicted by its highly-compromising shortcomings.

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Sum of My Words

It has been something like a week since I first published my novel. So far, there hasn't been any miracles yet, but that is to be expected.

It's why I have a marketing plan in place. This is very very important...

Basically, my book is going to be free from tomorrow onwards until the 29th October 2016, just two days shy of Halloween. So if you're reading this... Pick up the skull here:

Check kidding, here's the link: The Keeper of Pulau Purba


Don't forget to follow, like my Facebook page and stay tuned as the magic unfolds!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Looking Forward: Plans for the Years Ahead

So, I now have a book in Amazon. It will get the usual treatments that E-books get. For me, I'll have to get the other half's editing down. It'll get the standard marketing buffet for Halloween and 30 to 90 days in the future, depending on the type of promotion.

But what am I going to do from here? Well, write! It's what writers do.

I have big plans, and many things to write.

But the general strategy of my work will differ from many other indies. I'm not going to have a series springing from my first book. Eventually, yes, but I've got other projects.

My strategy is basically 'Whatever the Hell I Want' (Guess where I adapted that line from? Hint: The title has a number)

And my next big project is a series of short stories, and it may include flash fiction and poetry. The latter two forms weren't in the original outline, but reading Stephen King gave me ideas (as usual). It was the book, Skeleton Crew, which tipped me off to the better way of doing things.

The way I see it, flash fiction and poetry can act as a kind of 'palate cleanser'. Prepares the reader for the next story with something wildly different. Sometimes, readers could get tired of reading stories of similar length.

10,000 x 10 words could become a little numbing, especially when we keep going through the same old-as-dirt Intro-Climax-Resolution story structure. I certainly felt it when I watched horror film anthologies. It doesn't matter how good the content is - because stories are more than just the content. It's plot, story, characters, structure, vocabulary, grammar, style, the vibe, personality of the author, stuff and things.

Anyway, that's my next immediate plan, and it will likely take anywhere between 2-4 months to finish the first draft, maybe 6-8 months to get it out, assuming that I learn from my experience with Pulau Purba and do things more smoothly.

Beyond my short story collection, I've finally got something related to The Keeper of Pulau Purba lined up. I'm thinking of doing an interquel, and not just any interquel. It'd be a collection of maybe 3 novellas, taking place during the events of the first novel.

Hmm... But anything can happen so far into the future. I might just decide to come up with a sequel. Interquel or sequel - Both are equally likely. I can see the appeal in both. But what is a guarantee is that I want to revisit the world of Pulau Purba.

So that just about covers my plans for the next... Oh, 2 years. Unless I achieve a paradigm shift in writing speed or something, in which case, 1.5 or 1 year.

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Keeper of Pulau Purba is OUT!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Flight is a-okay and we will be landing shortly. The weather is hell and I am going to kill you one by one. Please remain in your seats, the stewardesses will be with you shortly.

The Keeper of Pulau Purba is out!!!

Actually, it's been out for a few days, but I had to make a few tweaks here and there to format the book correctly. I'm going to have a victory meal for dinner today!

Below are the links to the book at Amazon, enjoy:

Cover's looking hot after a tiny change.

The horror novel has been enrolled in Kindle Select, and is available in Kindle Unlimited as well.

Links to The Keeper of Pulau Purba on the many international Amazon platforms:














Sunday, 16 October 2016

I Did It!

Woohoo!

I finally did it!

I've been formatting the Keeper of Pulau Purba for the past few days and I've finally hit a real milestone!

My e-book has been uploaded and it's currently being reviewed! Check it out:

It's now just a matter of time...


The only mistake so far is the cover. I forgot to upload the final version made at the very last minute that includes a 3-4 pixels wide light grey border. It'd fade into the white background as you can see, but it's nothing major and permanent. It'll be the first thing I fix when The Keeper of Pulau Purba goes live.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

I'm Always Blue: Distribution Platform Blues

So, now that I've implemented most of my proofreader's edits (at least those she managed to crank out in the past month), and am now awaiting for my front and back matter to come back from her, there remains but two or three simple steps left to publication.

Funny how, after wading through writing the 155,000 words long manuscript itself, editing it to the tune of 8 times including my proofreader's input and commissioning a cover for it, I'm freezing up inside from the prospect of needing to format the novel and get it through a distribution platform.

Formatting could be easy, and it could be difficult. I've been doing some research and working up some courage, stopping short of fuelling myself up with some liquid courage. The conclusion: If I go Amazon, it's going to be tedious but doable. Smashwords will kill me, eBook Partnership is off the beaten path, and I'd have to come up with my own epub and mobi files - It's going to maim me up real good. Draft2Digital appears to be the most author-friendly of the lot, and will treat me like a writer instead of a multi-tool.

So now it's not so much that Formatting is THE issue. It's now the platform, and the kind of formatting problems I get biting at my heels will come from my choices.

Here's what I narrowed it down to:

1) A Trek Deep into the Amazonian Jungle (1

Amazon being Amazon is huge, and if I go full in and drink their Kool-Aid with Kindle Select and their exclusivity requirement, I need only format my novel once for ebook and once for CreateSpace. From what I've seen, it's not that hard, doable but with a moderate learning curve that I think I can surmount - with a small investment in time.

Problems:

  • Requires moderate effort in formatting.
  • Amazon is only one platform. Big as it may be, it can only cover so much territory.
  • The Amazonian tribe that rules there is selfish.
  • The United States will suck 30% of my royalty away.
  • My fellow Singaporeans will have to go on a Journey to the West to read my stuff.


2) Around the World in 80 Days (2

I use Amazon, but opt out of their Select program and make up for the loss in exposure with Draft2Digital. As D2D won't tax me with additional formatting burden, it seems like the obvious choice. It'd even be my solution to CreateSpace! So it'd mean even less effort than an expedition into Amazon country.

Problems:

  • Still requires some effort in formatting.
  • Draft2Digital is new compared to the likes of Smashwords. Their reach is limited.
  • My Amazon expedition will be smaller.
  • The United States will still send its army of squirrels to squirrel away 30% of my royalty. But! This issue is mitigated with multiple distribution channels.
  • Draft2Digital demands a 10% tithe. It's on top of what fees that'll be cut from my royalty on all platforms. I'd gladly kiss the ring, but still...
  • Reduced control over books with D2D.
  • It's still tough for my fellow Singaporeans to take a gander at my books.
3) The Wild Card (3

Then there's eBook Partnership, which pretty much distributes to every single platform on the internet, including Amazon. Might even have a deal with aliens, their Library of the Old Ones or something, you never know. Amazon, Scribd, even weird places I've never heard of. And Bookmate! Oyster! There are some services on their list that has set up shop in Singapore! As well as all corners of the world!

Problems:
  •  I'll need to come up with my own epub or mobi file, as well as 101 others. There are some services that I have no idea uses what file.
  • Does not have the same visibility as other distribution aggregators like Smashwords and D2D. I have trust issues.
  • Has a yearly fee. And it's paid per title. It'll stack up the more I write.
  • Further reduces control over my books - It's not the fastest service, data will be slow to come, and there's a price to relying on a single service for your worldwide distribution. This, however, is counterbalanced by the fact that it solves the US tribute issue, and it's a fixed amount.
4) A Trip to a Mental Asylum (4

I can always start pumping out all the formatting myself, and risk losing my sanity. Smashwords would make a good distribution platform for this, combined with the effort already required on Amazon and any other platforms I choose. Oh joy.

Problems:
  • Beware, soulless man inside!
  • What I don't pay in cold, hard cash, I pay with my time. My schedule won't apply.
  • The US will still make off with 30% of my money because I'm a foreigner.
Choices, choices...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Writing Report #20: Final Edits

This writing report is for last Monday to Sunday (an entire week! How did I...), and will likely be one of the last writing report dedicated to Project Green, also known as The Keeper of Pulau Purba (03/10/16 - 09/10/16).

The pacing of my work slowed down, but it wasn't because I was tired or disillusioned or something. I was hovering just behind my proofreader, and I needed to give her space. Besides, there are other things that a book requires.

On Monday, I finished editing Chapters 17 and 18. It's the last day of sustained editing, the quota was reduced here.

On Tuesday, it's only Chapter 19 and Wednesday, 20. I took a break on Thursday. It is also around this period that the book cover is being worked on heavily. There were many decisions to make, and I leveraged on kboards.com to help with the decision-making. This was also where I started worrying about the front and back matter of the book as well.

On Friday, I did chapters 21 and 22, as well as making a minor change to the backstory in chapter 6. I removed the Prime Minister's name from one of the companies on Pulau Purba. Figured there's someone who's actually dead that I can use. I took the name of Singapore's first President instead, Yusof Ishak.

It was at this point that I was thinking, 'What was I thinking!?' It's not the first time though and it won't be the last. The novel can never be perfect. Gotta accept that and move on.

I took another break on Saturday. Okay, this time it's because I was feeling tired and lousy.

But I made up for it on Sunday with editing chapter 23, and finishing up on the front and back matter so that I can push it to Abigail for proofreading and other kinds of editing.

The road map is nearly filled with X marks. I've accomplished nearly everything that a new book requires. All that's left are some straggler front and back matter pages, chapter edits that could be pushed to after publishing, some formatting, and then the PUBLISH button.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The End of My Book Cover Struggles


Beautiful, isn't it?

Yup, my book cover is done!

Makes me wish I'm not speaking in an empty auditorium :D

Thursday, 6 October 2016

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 7: The Warrior Woman

Whew! It's been a long while since I last did this! But never mind, let's carry on!

The second most prominent character in my book is referred to as 'the warrior woman' at some points in The Keeper of Pulau Purba. Nur Aidah Binte Da'wud, but she's almost always referred to as Aidah.

A Malay ex-professional soldier who volunteered to be on the reserves despite the law requiring only the men to do so. She's spunky, she's brave and witty at times, and she's a maverick who defied authority when it is wrong. I guess it's pretty obvious here what I'm going for. The prevalent strong woman character that feminists love - That anyone with a decent way of thinking and life would accept.

But that wasn't what I was thinking when I conceived of the character. I am not a feminist, and neither do I just go with the flow and write what is popular. I am more of an 'equalist', holding both men and women with equal regard.

No, the character is based on a group of three Malay women I met while on summer holiday, back when I was just a humble university student. It was at the conclusion of my second year, I believe, and I needed the money. So I ended up in a newly-opened warehouse with an endless amount of aggravating administrative problems. I was hired alongside a few Malay women.

They are all divorced, two have children to feed, and one of them (as far as I know) suffered the most vile and inhumane abuse. Her husband fled without paying her maintenance after the court case and divorce.

But one other thing they have in common is that they are rejects of the Malay community. Two of them, I think, is ostracised because they have Chinese blood in them. With one of them, it resulted in a kind of mixed-race beauty. She's a wonderful gal, a strong single mother who could stand on her own, but she was certainly suffering. She's only a year older than me. I might have fallen for her then, but I didn't want to be unprofessional even if I was just a temporary worker. It helped that she, well... I'll leave it up to your imagination.

But Aidah's personality came from a pure Malay girl with an attitude. An individualist, she had no qualms about doing things her way and expressing what she felt and thought. She'd 'given her husband back to his mother', I quote, and lives in a rented room. I saw a Facebook post from her lamenting a rejection from a guy she was chasing.

I wasn't close to her by any means, but I felt for her the same way I felt for the others. She's probably the girl who would have won me over from the Miss Mixed-Descent if things had gone the way of a soppy romantic-drama series. But alas, I'm no Casa Nova and I'm hopeless when it comes to romance. I'll probably die alone and be found two weeks later by the police all juicy and taken apart, chewed up half-way to oblivion by rats, cockroaches and ants.

*Clears throat* Anyway, let's get back on track.

So yes, Aidah is an amalgamation of these 3 women. I'd forgotten their names, even though I promised myself to remember them, but yes, Aidah is made up of Girl #1's tragedy, Girl #2's *ahem* romantic potential and strong maternal instinct and Girl #3's personality and mannerism. There's some overlap.

If you're a writer, the take-away from this is that inspiration can come from anywhere, including the people around you, and it is only when you get to know them that you'll be able to get to it, and of course, live a full live. Don't spend all your time in one room, banging away (on your laptop) 16 hours a day.

If you're a reader (which most, if not all, writers are), then know this: there's always a basis in reality for fiction. Your favourite character may be real somewhere sometime as an alternate version. Just ask J. K. Rowling about Snape and you'll know.

And for anyone with a husband or wife, be a good spouse, okay? It's no good to anyone if abuse or some deep shit happens.

Have a good day, Brian J. W. Lee signing off.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

5 Things That Will Improve Your Writing Space

I don't know about you guys, but whenever I finally sit down after a long day to write my story, I want my writing space to be just perfect. It never totally is, but I'm always striving to please my animal body so my mind could transcend the physical plane and travel across dimensions.

It's not easy. Our bodies are fragile creatures, and any slight deviation from a tightrope-area of one given property of our environment will illicit a response, a distraction, and soon, the magic is broken.

No matter how much I conditioned myself to less-than-ideal environments, I know I would eventually break. That's when I realised: Training is only half the battle. The other half is your environment. Put a whale on land, and all that muscle and resistance to asphyxiation goes down the drain. Put a fully trained cop behind a desk for 8 hours a day and a few years, feed him loads of donuts, and he won't look like a cop anymore.

It's the same with writers. As much as some misguided laymen think we're some kind of magical creatures, we're absolutely not. We're just like anybody else. If you're going to write your story in a dingy, moist toilet that smells like decayed shit all day and every day, you're only going to get crappy work.

So, to avoid that, here are five things that will improve your writing environment - Just don't put them all in your toilet and expect them to work like a charm.

5) Night Light (5
Your sole source of light for a life of darkness.

It's one of those little lamps you can plug directly into your wall sockets, and BOOM! No, it doesn't explode (unless you put gunpowder in the lamp), but it's instant campfire for you to tell your story to... Well, your future audience.

To blast your room with your super-bright fluorescent ceiling lamp might seem common sense, but I challenge you to rethink that if you have an office job in a super-bright office where you stare at a computer screen 8 to 9 hours a day. Even if you don't, having bright light is straining on the eyes, especially in the morning or night, which happens to be the period many of us write.

Go easy on the eyes, pal. If you can't see, you can't write. If your eyes feel like going 'pop!', all you'd think of doing is lying down - And soon you'd be asleep, I say that from experience. There was this once, after a long day of work with very little sleep that I thought I was going blind. It didn't help that I've switched all the lights on as if there are creatures in the dark out to get me.

So, a night light is in order. It blocks out unwanted visual imagery, and lets you concentrate on you, your laptop, and your story.

4) Air Conditioner (4
For that soft, smooth skin.

Or a radiator, depending on where on Earth you are.

Would you feel like working on your Shakespearean masterpiece if you're panting and sweating in the park? I highly doubt it. It's the same anywhere else, including your bedroom. As human beings, our body is actually pretty poor at handling temperature.

We can, no doubt, survive in a huge range of temperature, but there's a reason why most members of the human race aren't free to weave tales out of thin air until recently, and temperature is one of them. Too high, and we're all clammy and sweaty. Too low, and our fingers would be shaking too much. Way too low, and you won't have fingers for long to write your epic saga.

So, an air conditioner is indispensable. Find your sweet spot on the temperature readout, and BAM! Another part of the environment you won't need to worry about anymore.

This is one thing I can't seem to get right though, as I tend to set the temperature too low. As a result, it'd put me to sleep after, like, half an hour of work. To be fair to myself, I was pooped after work. Don't make the same mistakes as me - Set your temperature right!

3) Radio (3
Non-standard, but it sings all the same.

And finally we come to something that isn't quite so basic! Up till today, there's just something about the radio that's so arcane. Television sets? Pfffff! Common stuff. But a radio! Boy, a radio!

Not too long ago, I decided to turn my gaming laptop into a poor man's radio by logging in to a radio streaming site whenever I wrote. My writing experience has since become better.

My guess is that, us being sensory creatures, we need all of our senses stimulated in order to work properly. Back to the basics - our ancestors rely on sounds to understand their environment, and in a way, so do we. When crossing the road, for example, I know exactly what I'd hate to hear: The screeching of tires, a car horn blaring. That would mean my life will be over in seconds. There's a reason why sensory deprivation is torture!

But I believe it's not just about placating a primitive part of us. What do we get from radios? Music and a DJ. It's not noise, not like your neighbour upstairs, or that damned motorcycle in some street next to your house. It drowns out noise, and it's soothing. It's ethereal art, coming from an arcane box.

Through the radio, we connect with our fellow artists. Musicians, singers, songwriters, DJs, sometimes even storytellers - Just that they manipulate sounds, and like us writers, words. It's inspiration.

2) Couch + Foldable Table (2
Don't! It'll swallow you whole!

Have you ever had one of those times when you sat for hours until your butt became sore? Or when you decided to lie down in bed to write, but hours passed instantly into daylight?

Even the simple act of sitting down for the express purpose of writing needs more scrutiny than some people realise. I've had both experiences, sometimes in a single day.

Bottom line is, you need something that's a cross between a hard chair and a bed to work. I discovered that a couch works pretty well. You're not lying down vertically, so you won't feel the need to close your eyes and time-travel to the next day. The soft cushioning will minimise tissue-damage from hard surfaces. Perfect!

But then you'd discover - If you haven't already - that a couch presents its own conundrum. See, that desk you used to use when you're on a chair? It doesn't work with your couch. Neither is it going to be healthy for you to put your computer on your lap, no matter how much your laptop is telling you to.

Enter the foldable table. You can get either a cheap wooden/plastic one for maybe $50 - but you'd have to make sure it's the right height for your couch. I got lucky, as I guesstimated my way to the perfect height, but don't count on luck to work every time! You can always get one for a few hundred bucks though - They'd probably be bigger and more flexible to account for different kinds of couches.

1) Writing Laptop (1
Your magic window to your dream.

And now we finally come down to one of the most important thing in your writing space. Without it, writing will be impossible. In general, I mean writing devices, from the most current iPads down to the typewriter and even pen and paper.

Sometimes, the medium on which you write on can determine how you write. Ancient Sumerians used clay tablets, and their writing script is based around those unwieldy things. Nothing cursive and fancy, just straight marks with indentations and dots.

While I don't know how it would have impacted your story if you decided to write on paper or typewriter (that would be a subject for a specialist scholar), I know exactly how it's like to write on different laptops, and I know what kind of laptops I'd rather avoid using:

- Those pocket laptops you can keep in a pouch, with a screen size of around like 11 inches, up to even 12-13 inches. The reason why I hate these little guys is mainly the keyboard, which turned out to be too small for my hands. The small screen is a bother to my eyes, but not as bad as when I need to push a story out with the keyboard. It took me something like a few hundred dollars, a tablet with a keyboard-casing attached and an 11 inch laptop for me to realise that going small and light is convenience at the cost of your soul.

- Low-spec comps. 32gb solid state drive and something like a 564mb ram. Cheap, but slow as grandpa. All it takes is a single Windows 10 update to max out the storage space, and Chrome to reduce the FPS to sub-24. While word processors generally aren't affected, you'd probably sigh every time you need to do some research or watch a video, or even surf the net and check your email for your editor's reply.

- On the reverse, gaming war-machines pulled from UFOs. Not recommended especially for beginner writers. You'd probably have a hundred games installed there (I'm not kidding), not to mention a million apps (now we're talking hyperbole), all your videos and music collection. It takes discipline just to write, something which beginners often lack. I was able to write on it, but the temptation is always there, which is why I left it behind on my 2-months-long writer's retreat, and nowadays, whenever I write or edit.

Right now, I'm suffering from the second point, as I thought performance to be secondary when considering a writing laptop. I won't be so foolish the next time I visit a computer store! A mid-ranged laptop will just about do it.

So there you have it! 5 things that are bound to maximise your writing space! Take them home and enjoy!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Writing Report #19: Post-Absolute Wreck

This belated writing report is last Wednesday to Sunday (28/09/2016 - 02/09/2016)

I have, as of late, eased myself into editing my novel the second time in a row (third time, counting redoing the first 13 chapters).

On Wednesday, I was able to work through 3 chapters, while on Thursday, two.

On Friday, despite the Absolute Wretchedness I suffered when I was unjustly banned from the Water Cooler, 2 chapters, but on Saturday, just one, because I was still a little overwhelmed, plus I was sourcing for a good cover artist.

I made up for it with 3 chapters on Sunday though. I am fast catching up with my proofreader. I'd even told her that I am fine with her not finishing by the 10th or 15th of October, and so she decided to slow down. It is from here that I will be able to see just how disciplined my proofreader is. As of now, I'm not seeing anything exceptional.

Progress in other areas is steaming ahead just fine. The cover's in the hands of a professional now. Although he won't be using any images custom-made for the book, the result got me excited.

It is simple, with only two separate images used, yet it brings across the message so well. A black skull with toy soldiers on top, below a greyish abstract vector map of Singapore. Horror, the setting and the theme could be deduced from all that alone, if the reader is perceptive enough.

Yet, it is far from done however, which is why I refused to show it. What I saw wasn't cleaned up, had watermarks all over it because the images weren't bought yet, the font used was placeholder, and the Singapore map wasn't final.

But it was encouraging. Could use as much of that as possible.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Authors on Pedestals & Getting Banned for a Week on Absolute Write

There's this thing that fans of books and the writers who produced them have. It's muted today compared to back then, when the internet is nothing but science fiction. To some, we're like immortals, always wise and never wrong, never given to human failings and flaws.

Just like some politicians (with often terrible consequence), actors, and in general, people we consider heroes, authors are put right up there on a skyscraper-sized pedestal.

And so, oh boy, if they fall, they're going to fall really hard. Your favourite President or Prime Minister? Yeah, he's raised a nation out of one crisis or another, built up the economy, but if you look hard enough, they're squirrelling money out of the treasury or having wanton affairs. That actor you loved in the latest Sci-Fi blockbuster? Busted for drugs, violence, wife-beating, etc.

And now we've come to authors. Stephen King was a drug addict.

Sorry Stephen, gotta say it man, gotta say it. Still love you!


Some modernist writers, including Gertrude Stein, people who'd contributed greatly to the international literary tradition, are elitist and supporters of authoritarian or fascist regimes. Then there's the more common disillusionment of famous authors, which happens when you get his autograph and you get brushed aside before you could open your mouth.

It all comes down to this: Authors, or writers, are regular ol' people. The sooner people realise this the better. I realised this with Stephen King in my earliest adult years, I believe. I was shocked to learn about this, but I understood then that in the end, we're all human beings, flesh and blood with a finite mind. I came to terms with it rather quickly, and I found that for all his drug addiction, he's far, far better off than other celebrities and the crazy stunts they're pulling. He kicked the habit, and as far as I know, he has no other problems (at least until the day someone discovers a secret basement full of skeletons, malformed animals and a portal to hyperspace-hell).

Now, with all that being said...

Well, shit.

So I got banned from a forum full of writers, full-fledged authors and artists, at least for a week.

Let's look at the crime, shall we?

Let's see, I was happily getting feedback for my poorly-done book cover when this happened:

Wha- But, but, but!

One of the commenting authors, a published giant with 10 years of experience in the AW forum and numerous books under her belt, decided to take things personally, when all I was doing was to try to form a connection with her, you know, empathise with you, like what normal human beings are supposed to do:

I said I wanted to be like you!

And so everything went down the shithole when I'm... Let's just say, a little displeased with what she's giving me. So I called her out on it, saying that she was being over-sensitive, and that she's probably having a bad day and needs to sleep it off.
What the fuck?

And of course, the admin decided to go down on me with the ban hammer and crushed my knees with it, instead of, you know, arbitrating the shit out of this, trying to keep the peace, collect both sides of the story, etc, like any good purveyor of justice would do:

Apparently, the rest of the thread with me accepting critiques with gratitude flew right over his head and the planet of Mars.

Specifically, these:


Maybe they think I'm double-speaking and is actually beating everyone up?

Note that I was completely fine with what said Over-Sensitive Author is saying. It's the fellow who popped up 3 times, so I waved at her 3 times.

And... The words that started it all.


And so the rest is history, I got banned for a week, but that's not all, folks! The admin deleted my last post, which is fishy to say the least. Maybe to hide evidence of my more reasonable side? My last post was more than those two paragraphs. If I remember correctly, here's the reconstruction of the first half of my post:

"I think you're being over-sensitive.

I misunderstood you, you cleared things up. It's supposed to end there.

I was just trying to straighten things out.

Why are you seeing ill-intention even where there is none?"

Not quite accurate as I remember it to be a bit more eloquent.

So, my takeaway from this is this: The author is accomplished, a veteran member of the board, popular and respected. Only problem is, she's a tad sensitive. Despite her flaw, she's going to get her way, because hey: Well-Published Author VS Unknown Guy. Fight!

And I promptly got my ass handed to me.

I knew right from the beginning that I'd get my ass handed to me. I'm just that kind of guy who can't stand any form of injustice, in this case, a misunderstanding of what I'm doing and the subsequent consequences.

And of course, the authority's in favour of the powerful. How can I not see that? It's the same everywhere, and it's even worse on the internet. I've encountered it on other forums. Two guys disagreeing on something. On average, the guy with more post and credit gets saved and the other gets the ban hammer. I guess the internet grants absolute power and control, and as the saying goes, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'.

I just woke up the next morning and found that I got banned. No messages, no demand for explanation, no anything.

Well, maybe this could be a good thing. I can now focus on myself and function autonomously to get my novel out, yay!

PS: I just realised that I might be staring at a Dystopian society in the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum. I came in thinking it's a perfect Utopia, only for shit like this to happen. And of course, like how any good Dystopia functions, throw in the elitist authority (Admin & Insta-Ban-Hammer), the censorship and fact manipulation (My post getting deleted and any post can be edited)... I have half a mind right now to migrate.