Happy 2014!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! We’ve finally made the leap over to 2014, and I believe things are only going to get better from here :0)

How has 2014 been for you so far? They say the first day of the year sets a precedent on how you will spend the rest of the year. I don’t really believe that because I think it’s never too late too start over even if you fall off the wagon. But I do believe in starting the year right. So after my loooong looooovely swim, I spent an hour and a half editing Blood Promise in the morning, woke my dad up, fetched my grandmother to the temple, had brunch with my dad and went shopping for Chinese New Year decorations after that at Chinatown.

The decorations for Chinese New Year are pretty much all up. And my dad and I walked up and down the streets in the blustery weather to capture some shots.

These flying horses look so portentous against the steel-grey sky. I am just itching to write a story based on this photo. Something for Indigo Tides, maybe?
This one was right in the middle of the road junction.
Horses galloping down Chinatown under a shower of golden coins.
Guess we weren’t the only ones getting started on our Chinese New Year shopping
Melon seeds, anyone?
How cool are the Chinese-mask lanterns in this bakery!

And finally, my dad convinced my my hair didn’t suck (my hairstylist wrecked my bangs – I’m sorry, but he did), and he made me pose for this photo. It doesn’t look that bad here thanks to the wind.

Oh, and I was reading Laini’s old blog today and I learned she’s a new-start/Monday/New Year-lover like me! This is an excerpt from her old post back in 2009 (yes, that’s how far back I’ve read, because that’s how awesome she is to justify my trawling through her old posts):

I love a new year. I love a new week, even — Mondays feel like a time for beginnings, for making new commitments, you know? So, a new year is like the emperor of Mondays, the perfect time to spiff up one’s life and routines, make new routines, break some bad habits, start fresh. It is possible to form new habits — as proven by the fact that since painting the bedroom and getting new linens back in June, we have made the bed every day. Which, er, wasn’t the case before. Nothing like new bed linens to entice one to make the bed every day! So: what is the life equivalent of new bed linens? How to spiff up your life? Your writing habits?

So. New reading/writing habits (or ones I’d like to keep) for 2014:

1. Write something every day, be it a blog post, a short story, a scene, a chapter, or even a miserable paragraph.

2. Read something every day. In fact, read more than I do now. Back when we didn’t have Internet (I feel old saying that), reading was about the only form of entertainment I had so I read more. But now with the Internet, there are so many other things you can do other than read, and I feel like I’ve fallen back on my reading. My Goodreads to-read pile has 186 books, at last count!

But, you know:

3. Be constantly updated on publishing news. You have to learn all you can about the place you want to go, after all. Being in the know can only up your chances in the game.

4. Be more of a perfectionist in my writing. And less impatient to see results. I tend to hurry the writing/editing process because I’m to eager to see the end product and start querying agents. But you can’t really rush this. Because you only get one chance to impress an agent before he or she decides to toss your manuscript into the slush pile. It has to be PERFECT. Or at least somewhere close to it.

And some mood-lifters for the first workday of 2014,

*dies of cuteness*

(Speaking of cute babies, Laini Taylor’s daughter, Clementine, is impossibly adorable! I die every time I see a picture of her! She always seems so happy, like her parents. Arghh, so much happiness and cuteness – such a perfect family.)

And more cuteness (of a different sort):

Yes, I am completely shallow. What’s your point? ;0)

And something to ponder over for the day:

And with that,

Have the best year of your life yet!

Bring on 2014!

The quote above is from author Margaret Peterson Haddix’s German ski instructor, Horst, when she was learning how to ski. And it seems so simple but true. This shall be my mantra  for 2014. Now I just need to decide where I’m looking.

And how are we on the New Year’s goals front? I’m still working on mine. But the basic gist is smile more, write more, live more and worry less. The specifics I shall flesh out here and now.


GOALS FOR 2014 (this sounds so officious it will be a crime to not achieve these goals!):

1. Get a literary agent already. It’s been too many rejection letters – generic ones and kind ones – and near-misses. 

Despite the daunting odds (approximately 0.2% of aspiring writers actually score a literary agent and/or a publishing contract), it’s time to get someone interested in my stories already. To do so, I would need to


2. Write the best damn novel I have ever written, even if it means hours and days and months of tweaking and tinkering and obsessive perfecting of my manuscript. The process is not fun for someone who prefers jumping on an idea to working out the details. First drafts may be painful, but at least they’re exhilarating. Everything that comes after, i.e. editing, is torturous.

Still, I’m in too deep to pull out now. So with all or nothing, I’m going for all. Be it Blood Promise or Until Morning, I WILL get an agent on board for 2014. No more pining and wishing and envying; more doing and getting and having.


3. Be happy. An entire year has just passed, and more of them are just going to whiz by as quickly. Why mope? Why waste time and effort on being sad or angry with people and things that make us sad or angry?

For someone who cries when someone gets snappish with me, you can see why I’ve been struggling with this goal for ages. I can’t help it. People’s emotions rub off very easily on me (have I mentioned that I’m weird and sensitive?), and any negative mood from others can make my mood plummet faster than my colleagues can attack the packet of Tim Tams in the office.

So what I do now – and plan to keep doing – is think of a happy song, or a pretty face, whenever I feel my spirits start to flag.

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Besides, if you’re happy, people around you are happy. I swear, it works. 

Often, the ones we are closest to bear the brunt of our emotions because we’re so used to having them around and being showered with their love and concern that we take them for granted. So I shall smile more at my family, talk to them more often and always be patient with them so they’ll never doubt how much I love them.

(Okay, getting too maudlin for my liking. Moving on.)


4. Believe in myself more. I realise that sounds very vague, a resolution just begging to to be broken, so to be more specific, my first response to every bit of self-doubt would be 

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And no, this is not being narcissistic or egoistical. This is an attempt at confidence. You fake it to make it, as they say. And I say, hey whatever works. I am so done with putting myself down and worrying about not meeting people’s expectations and letting them down.

That applies to bad hair days, daunting writing tasks and everything else.

5. Set a proper schedule to learn Korean and French proper, instead of just visiting my notes and videos when I feel like it.

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6. Finish No Room in Neverland and write the sequel to Blood Promise OR get started on Indigo Tides. Either way, COMPLETE ANOTHER NOVEL.

(On a side note, I learnt a new term today! Introducing the “newt”, also known as a New Weird Thing, according to Laini Taylor.

That is, a writing project that is usurping the place of another writing project. Also known as a “slutty new idea”. Newts are to be discouraged, despite their unfailing awesomeness.

Here’s hoping newts don’t come attacking in 2014! More COOL THRILLING IDEAS – cooties? Right. So more cooties, fewer newts. Although really, any idea is welcome. I’m not discriminating. Newts have the potential to turn into cooties, after all.*

*Taken out of context, the above paragraph can probably certify my sanity level.)

That’s all I can think of for now. It always seems a little pointless to plan too far ahead since you never know what can happen two months down the road. But for now, this is my road map for the year ahead.

I hope 2014 treats you well! :0)

less sulking, more smiling!

Something from Debbie Millman to start off this post:

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.

And in that vein,

I FINALLY MADE SOME HEADWAY WITH NEVERLAND!!

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(Oh, Misha. How he manages to switch between himself and Castiel is beyond me.)

Plus, I’m going back to Blood Promise, and making the final edits before sending it out to the agents who professed interest in it before. Things to do and things to look forward to! No more wandering and wondering in Writer’s Block-ville.

Oh yes, merry Christmas, indeed.

I don’t know about you, but for the first time in my life, I’m feeling … excited for the coming year. New Year’s has always been kinda meh for me: they either meant another year of slogging it out at school, waiting for my life to start, or another year where I had no idea where I’m headed.

This is an excerpt from my New Year’s Eve post in 2007:

I’m so fucking sick of caring.
468 calories from 3 scoops of ice-cream, 525 calories from a lunch of bread and scones, 486 calories from a breakfast of pizza?
Fuck it all. Fuck calories, dress sizes, flat tummies, skinny thighs, sharp noses. Outgoing, athletic, bronzed and confidently cool? That’s something I never will be. I’ll always be ugly, stumpy and miserable: a pinched-faced girl with an over-the-top obsession with calories, fats and her appearance.
It’s okay. I know I’m pathetic. I think I’m pathetic. To the extent that I think I hate myself. 
How is it that some girls can stand in front of the mirror, look at their bodies and shrug at their love handles, the pudge at their tummies, and their thighs glued to each other? Why can’t I? In what way am I lesser than them? In that they love themselves more than I appreciate myself?
It’ll be 2008 in about half an hour’s time. I don’t see what’s so great about it. It seems like I’m entering 2008 just as clueless as I have been in 2007.


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Oh yeah, I was a bright ray of sunshine back then. Must be all the food I was not eating that made me such a miserable, pinch-faced bitch.

But this time, it feels different. Like I have every power to change whatever I’m not satisfied with in my life, instead of sit on my ass and wait for life to happen to me. It’s an entire year of changes waiting to be made! And it’s not just because I’m off what I call the “starvation diet” now (which is the stupidest thing I have ever done – DO NOT do that to yourself ever).

Maybe it’s because we get more bigger picture-y as we grow older and stop zeroing in on the smaller stuff. When we were younger, in our teens, every bit of emotion and experience is heightened, and what people say to us or think of us becomes blown out of proportion. We place too much stock in these things, and when things go awry or fall short of our expectations we are slayed. It’s the end of the world for us, and we rant and weep about it, write emo poetry in the middle of the night, thinking we’ll never be happy again.

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Now, though, it just seems so stupid to fret over the things that don’t matter in the long run. A bite of French fry isn’t going to make me a whale (although more bites might), a bad day will be better after some sleep and a long swim, one piece of criticism doesn’t mean that the entire world hates me.

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I think you can only be as happy as you choose to. I was miserable then because I gave myself the excuse to. It’s because I’m not eating that I’m so cranky. It’s because I need to be in control that I’m not eating. (Which is ironic because I ended up spiralling even more out of control as a result.) Maybe the best we can do is be happy for ourselves, so that we can be happy for the people who matter the most to us.

We’re still one week away from year’s end, but I’m tacking this on my list of New Year’s goals (goals because the word resolutions is just begging for you to fall off the wagon right off the bat). What are your New Year’s goals? :0)

on fresh slates and pretty horses

It feels like forever since I last spent a day with my dad. Ever since he got transferred over to Westgate Mall, we’ve been seeing less of each other, and most of our conversations take place over the phone or via Whatsapp.

But he finally had Sunday off, and we were determined to make good of the day! We’d originally intended to catch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but because of a couple errands to run we decided to just chill and not rush to the theatre. There’ll be plenty of time to watch it.

Instead, we had a long, lazy brunch, after which we took yet another selfie in the same lift. Ha, call us creatures of habit.

Yes, it’s a horribly grainy photo, because I was trying to press the shutter before more brunch-goers could enter the lift and wonder what the hell these two vainpots are doing.

Later, we went shopping for 2014 calendars and stationery at Bras Basah’s Popular bookstore. Simple pleasures :0)

There’s something about shopping for calendars – it sort of symbolises the expectations we have for the coming year, like by getting something to organise ourselves for the coming year we can make it our best year yet.

And since 2014 is the Chinese year of the horse, my Chinese zodiac (plus, I just can’t get enough of horses – so powerful yet graceful, how can you NOT love them?), I’m having high hopes for 2014. I know, I know, I shouldn’t build up my expectations and wait for things to happen but go and make them happen instead blah blah blah, but sometimes you just want to believe that the next year will treat you good, that you’re in safe hands no matter what you do.

Then we cruised around Chinatown (another perk of spending the day with my dad, I finally got to drive again! How I’ve missed driving!), where the decorations for Chinese New Year were halfway up. I didn’t manage to take photos because I was driving, but it was all golden horses galloping down the entire stretch of Chinatown, cresting and dipping, while gold coins are strung across the street from lamppost to lamppost. The coins looked a little messy, but the horses were pretty.

Ooh, pretty horses! Now I need to look for images of those on Pinterest.

by Marcia Baldwin

horse art 2

Carousel horses! Something so magical about them, don’t you think? That may be why so many of my stories take place in an amusement part, and the important scenes take place at or around the carousel.

Anyway. I’m actually more excited for Chinese New Year than Christmas. Probably because Christmas means the year is coming to a close, while Chinese New Year, which marks the beginning of spring, is the start of All Things New.

I’m a sucker for new things. It’s why I love dawn, and – weirdly – Mondays, and the New Year, the writing the first chapter of a novel, more than dusk, Sunday evenings, and Christmas and writing The End. There’s just something about the start of a new day, a new week, a new year, that is so … invigorating. Like it’s brimming with so much potential, so much room for something wonderful  and serendipitous to happen.

If you ever do wake up at dawn, when first light is just beginning to pervade the sky, smell the air. Smell it. Then look up at the sky.

Don’t you feel happier already? Instant mood-lifter, and all you have to do is wake up early! (Okay, now I sound like one of those annoying morning larks.)

So yeah, Christmas what? I’m all about Chinese New Year. New beginnings, fresh slates! Always welcome.

Which do YOU prefer?

*

An update on the “too many books, too little time” situation: I charged down to Kinokuniya last Friday on my lunch break and bought Fangirl and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Such adorable covers! How could I resist?! I’m getting excited thinking about reading them already. Whee!

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Yup, Jeremy Renner conveys it pretty well.

In fact, so infatuated with the pretty pastel-y covers was I that I did this:

Because we all need some colour in our lives.