BLOOD PROMISE

blood fruits - Copy - Copy

Frosty Island has a secret. And, if the spate of deaths and freak accidents is anything to go by, that secret is about to blow up.

17-year-old April Renn is a reformed changeling who survives on blood fruits found on the island instead of human souls. But as the supply of blood fruits dwindles, April finds herself struggling to curb her hunger.

After her brother is captured for stealing fruits from the mercenary Traders who serve the fairies, April allies with a long-lost fairy prince and sets out to rescue him … only to find herself caught in a brewing fairy civil war where humans and changelings alike serve as pawns in the game.

BLOOD PROMISE, the first installment in a YA fantasy trilogy, stands at 78,000 words.

It’s time for #PitMad again!

Image from Middle Grade Mafia

It’s harder than you’d expect, writing pitches no longer than 140 characters that are supposed to summarise your stories and entice agents to ask to read the full manuscript. But here’s the final product for BLOOD PROMISE, NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND, and UNTIL MORNING:

Just a couple of hours into PitMad (it started at 8pm and ended at 8am for me because time difference is not on my side) and there were already more than 400 tweet pitches. Can you imagine the total number of tweets in 12 hours?? How is an agent supposed to sieve through all that? The odds are high, but good thing there are some agents who tweet the following:

So writer friends, did you #PitMad? :0)

Moving Day is Coming!

With the preparations for the new house under way, I’ve been busy packing and getting carried away scrolling through Pinterest for home decor ideas.

You know how you get when you’re on Pinterest. You see something pretty, and you pin it, and you find this whole board full of pretty things, and then you follow this board, and pin some other stuff from it, which leads to new boards full of pretty things. Then you pin stuff from that new board, and find more pretty things that lead to new boards. This is how even light gets sucked into black holes.

But look! So much pretty:

Yes, I’m sensing a trend here. But my dad said I’m only allowed to go crazy with the pink for my room. That last one, by the way, is how my room is going to look, except the walls are pinker. And I hope I can find a houndstooth cover seat (how cute is that!).

Excitement over decor choices aside, though, I’m a little bummed about moving out of my grandparents’. I’ve lived there for practically my whole life, and everything there is familiar to me. The bus routes, the little alleys and shortcuts, how I can just pop downstairs to grab a packet of nuts or batteries or lunch, the lifeguards and old regulars at the pool, the convenience of living so close to town, everything within reach, and how I can walk to the Central Library if I choose to.

Oh, well. This move has been a long time coming, after all. Plus, the new house is really pretty! Guess it’ll just take some time to reconfigure my life.

On the writing front, I am miserably behind schedule. I was supposed to finish editing Blood Promise by last Sunday and have my crit partner read it this week. But I’m only at page 280 of 331 (yes, I hacked away 17 ENTIRE PAGES, about 4250 words – I am terrifyingly long-winded). By this week, I promise!

By the way, book review of Fangirl and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender to come after I’m done with Blood Promise! Meanwhile, here’s a dreamy piece from Joe Hisaishi to tide you through the week:

 
 

Happy midweek! :0)

Monday link salad!

A post full of random stuff today:

Funny fashion memes. Anna Wintour meets Mean Girls, anyone? Also:

*

Strange things people found in walls. Money and shoes, I get (sort of), but fingernail clippings and hair?

 photo rachelbilsonew_zps9e79ec77.gif

*

This old post from ex literary agent (now author), Nathan Bransford that offers a really useful tip for figuring out your novel: creating one-sentence, one-paragraph, and two-paragraph pitches.

A query is basically a two paragraph pitch with some query-related detail. But sometimes you’ll want to use a one sentence pitch (for a bio, if you’re into that whole brevity thing), or a one paragraph pitch (for briefly describing in real life conversation when you don’t want someone’s eyes to glaze over).

My feeling: get it all out of the way at once. Save yourself the headache and come up with a one sentence, one paragraph, and two paragraph pitch before you even start to query. Then: practice and memorize your pitches. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Speaking from experience, it really does help to have a pitch ready even before you plunge into the novel. You get a clearer sense of where your story is going, what the conflict is, and what the stakes are. You also get to pare down your character to his/her most basic trait, the one that defines her and her actions, and the one that you as a writer set out to change by the end of the story.

I should have done that for Neverland. (Actually, I should have done that for all my novels.) Maybe then I wouldn’t have gotten stuck.

*

 

Also, I’ve started blogging for work.

One of the plus points of working for an online fashion retailer is that I get to fangirl over fashion trends and celebrity styles unabashedly in the name of work and write about them. Is this the marrying of two loves?

I’ve written quite a number of these articles so far, but the team is selective about what goes on the blog, and when. Here is one article I wrote about “must-have tops“.

Of course, they’re not really must-haves — people just write that to get you to read the article ;0)

 

*

Blood Promise, otherwise known as The Manuscript That Will Not Yield, is in the midst of some radical changes right now. I intend to rip out the awful saggy middle and whip it into something that will put Victoria’s Secret models to shame …

Okay, that’s quite a mean feat. I mean, it’ll be really hard to top this:

Favourite VS angel ever, Doutzen Kroes.

 

But it’s okay. Because I HAVE A PLAN NOW. So let’s do this.

 photo nickwritingletsdothis_zpscdd432e0.gif

 

In the meantime, I will heed this advice.

And this:

 

And keep happy with these:

from allthingsshabbyandbeautiful.tumblr.com

Peter Pan quote

 

Oh, stop. What are you trying to do to me?!

by Gelrev Ongbico

 

The view from the pier yesterday

 

Also, I’m really loving D&E’s new album. Aside from When You Cry, which I shared in an earlier post, this song, Teenage Queen, is another favourite. So catchy and upbeat!

 

And on that note, have a great week, everyone! :0)

a post of random things (it’s Friday – anything goes!)

This is going to be a whole post about random, unrelated stuff. But whatever. Nobody said everything in life has to be related.

1. Have you seen Zuhair Murad’s spring/summer 2014 collection?!?! IT. IS. INSANE. SO. GORGEOUS. CAN’T. FORM. COHERENT. SENTENCES. THOUGHTS. WHAT? PRETTY. I DIE.

 photo vanessahudgensexcited_zpsbee55c06.gif

Get ready for the onslaught of pretty! (Pictures all found from Pinterest – I swear, that site is a Black Hole!)

Don’t these remind you of Elie Saab’s designs? Murad’s creations are pretty similar to Elie Saab (also a Lebanese designer), except that the latter’s designs are a tad more girly and feminine and dreamy, while Murad’s are a little bolder, more risque, and contain sexier elements.

Saab’s designs:

Elie Saab can do no wrong.

Soooooo dreamy and ethereal!!

 photo rapunzelexcited_zps24772edc.gif

❤❤❤

I’ve been in love with Elie Saab’s designs ever since I first laid eyes on them, while Zuhair Murad’s designs are usually a hit or miss for me. Remember those crazy numbers Kristen Stewart wore to the Breaking Dawn premieres?

… Yeah. Not completely crazy about those. Good thing for her makeup in both instances, though.

But Murad’s SS14 collection is LOVE. LOOOOOVE!

2. So it seems apart from writing good stories, being a people person is also vital to a lucrative writing career:

If you’re in business, you’ve got to be a people person … Be genuine, be funny, be yourself. Reach out to your contacts and connections to build bridges. Go to writer’s workshops and befriend everyone there. Talk to everyone you meet in your town, and tell them what you do. Organic and sincere networking is the best way to develop a bridge to success. The friend you meet at the workshop could introduce you to his or her agent. However, don’t go into it thinking about what you’ll get out. Just focus on relationship building and the rest will flow naturally.

This does not bode well for a hermit like me. For the sake of my dream, however, I will do what needs to be done.

3. Here’s something funny that English majors can probably relate to. I know there a quite a few that ring true for me. Most ardently ;0)

Crush on fictional characters?

Check.

(Shiver remains my favourite book from Maggie Stiefvater. There is nothing quite like reading that beautiful, intense story for the first time.)

Geeking out on authors?

YesIWouldThinkSo.

Wow. I really seem thisclose to kissing the ground she walks on. So, check.

In love with my book collection?

Check.

(Speaking of books, I headed down to the bookstore two days ago and got my hands on Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby. Yay for new book purchases!)

And one more thing:

Isn’t that the worst?

4. An update on Neverland: it’s slow going but it’s going. Can’t ask for more than that sometimes. I don’t know where it will take me for sure, or how it will meander towards the end, but I’m having fun on this journey so far.

At least Neverland isn’t as disappointing as Blood Promise.

My critique partner has just finished reading Blood Promise (a million thanks, Jenna!!), and although she was very very kind and constructive with her feedback, the bottom-line is that she didn’t love it like I hoped she would.

 photo samanddeanuglycrying_zps79b446cb.gif

I feel SO BAD, like I’d just wasted her time making her read a substandard story. I actually don’t hate Blood Promise. I actually thought it was better than it had been previously. But I get this way: I’d love my story if people gave me positive feedback, and absolutely hate it when they’re not crazy about it.

And once Jenna said it out, I saw the truth in her words. It did need more work. I probably did need some time away from it, until I heard the story that begged to be told. Because Jenna may just be one reader, but she’s also representative of my target audience. Listen to your readers, I say!

If anyone’s willing to invest some time in reading my manuscript, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it! In the meantime, I’m hiding out in Neverland.

5. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed after reading Jenna’s email. While I deeply appreciate her forthrightness (why are people so afraid of hurting a writer’s feelings? Just tell me honestly what you think and I’ll be eternally grateful!), I am desperate for some perk-me-up right now.

So…

Awwww!
Paros, Greece
FABULOUS pink hair! LOVE, WISH, WANT.
Russian doll cookies! SO cute.

Can you tell I’m a sucker for guys with hair falling over their eyes?

And finally:

Love these boys (plus the drummer, Harry, who isn’t in here)! They’re one of the few groups that sound good live, write their own songs and have lasted for almost a decade (has it really been that long?!). Long live McFly!

feeding your soul

So it’s Monday again. Gosh, how quickly we’re zipping through the year. We’re almost done with 2013? Where did the last 300-odd days go?!

Anyway, so I know I intend for this blog to be mostly about writing, but I don’t want to be one of those writers who go on and on about the craft and their book and writing process and blabbity blah blah blah. So here are some updates on the personal front before I end with something writing-related again.

1. Last Saturday, I went for my first ever facial and pedicure. I know, it sounds unbelievable that a 23-year-old city girl has never experienced either of those, but I’ve just never really cared about stuff like that before, and I don’t have older sisters or mom to bring me to these places. My friends aren’t really into facials and pedicures either. I don’t know – it’s strange. But the bottom-line is: I’m not a facial or pedicure virgin anymore!

My dad’s the one who kept nagging at me to go for a facial and start paying more attention to my face, so I’ve been scouting several places to do one. But then Body Contours, a body-grooming spa, randomly contacted me in the middle of the workday and offered me a complimentary trial session as part of their marketing plan. I Googled the company and found that it seemed relatively credible, so I headed down for my appointment.

Of course, before anything else there was the sales talk by the manageress, who wanted me to throw down 800 bucks as deposit for a laser treatment package, which she almost had me convinced I needed because my skin is RAVAGED by the effects of my environment and age. (We Libras are notoriously indecisive and impressionable.) But after half an hour of dithering, I eventually decided to try out the skin renewal facial before making any drastic commitment.

My biggest problem is blackheads, and to say that the beautician was appalled at the state of my skin is an understatement – she kept tutting at the state of my skin, though not in a mean way. While they don’t look blatantly terrible in photos and upon first glance, up close my pores are HUUUUUGE. Plus, they’re clogged up with accumulated dirt and oil. So all in all, UGH.

What ensued was A LOT of steaming (the heat was very unpleasant, even though a lot of girls seem to enjoy that), kneading, squeezing and pinching out the crap in my pores (which HURT), before essential oils were rubbed on, along with a cold mask (which was the loveliest part, since it felt good and smelled lovely, all mint-y and lavender-y).

I ended up signing up for the facial package, for which I tossed down a $500 deposit for 6 more similar sessions. It’s actually quite worth it, in retrospect. At least my pores can breathe now, and they aren’t crater-like anymore when you scrutinise them up close (which I wish you wouldn’t do, because hello I’d like my personal space, thanks).

And as for the pedicure, it was $40 at City Nails, which I know isn’t the best deal out there, but it’s in a mall near my house so I’m okay with paying for the convenience. Besides, the shop was spacious and bright and each customer is led to a private booth (unlike many nail salons, which are usually cramped and everyone can see each other). The service was good, too. So that was $40 well spent, since my calluses are gone and my cracked skin is healed.

I just realised how much we have to do to maintain the condition of our bodies as we grow older. From dry hair to cracked heels, clogged pores to crooked teeth, there is so much to look out for. I would just leave them be if I could, but my dad has always emphasised the importance of personal grooming, because like it or not, people tend to associate more positive character traits with a person who keeps herself in tip-top condition. His words, not mine. And I suppose there is some truth in that, but phew, personal grooming is hard work!

(I know, First World Problems. I apologise for my insensitivity.)

2. MAMA 2013, aka MNet Asian Music Awards on Friday evening was a blast to watch, particularly with pop acts like Icona Pop and Big Bang present. Newbie group EXO performed well too.

I’ve never really been a K-pop fan. In fact, less than a year ago, my impression of K-pop fans are rabid tweens who fangirl over pretty boys and pretend very hard that they’re Koreans living in Korea. My interest in Korean pop culture only extended to the occasional K-drama, and it was only a few months ago that I started listening to K-pop and tried to pick up Korean. All thanks to Super Junior. And this boy:

Ahem.

The way I see it, you may turn up your nose at other brands of music and stick staunchly by your cool-as-shit indie music, reject other cultures and other types of pop culture. But then you’re just restricting yourself to what you know and allow yourself to be exposed to.

After I started watching Korean dramas, I learned of many other stereotypes and archetypes that are different from those in American dramas. There are new narratives to be discovered in different cultures, different personalities and way of life, and that can only make your book characters richer and more varied.

Likewise for music. There are only so many times you can listen to P!nk or Adele without wanting to stab yourself. And while I regularly source for new music online such as this:

And:

What’s a few more options for some listening pleasure, right? It doesn’t really matter that I don’t understand half of what they’re singing, as long as the music’s good: it either sets the right mood for a scene I’m writing, or gets me pumped up and grooving (in the privacy of my room, of course) … Wait, do people still use the word “grooving”? Ah, whatever.

And really, K-pop is just harmless good fun. (We need some of that on this cold, grey and wet Monday.)

 

Girls Generation with their catchy track I Got A Boy.

Bittersweet by Super Junior, which was perfect for writing several scenes in UNTIL MORNING.

Some Fantastic Baby by Big Bang to get you leaping out of your seat!

Still hopped up from the previous track? Here’s more: I Am The Best by 2NE1.

See? Does it matter that it’s in a foreign language? Music is a universal language on its own! Music is meant to be fun and engaging! If you open yourself up to new music, you’ll discover a world even larger and richer than the one you’ve cooped yourself in.

sarah dessen quote

And while we’re in the vein of music recommendation, this track by Bassnectar helped immensely while I wrote a scene for BLOOD PROMISE:

 

While this track by Paper Kites is soooo lovely – it reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are, for some reason:

The band’s just released its first full-length album, and their songs are just as pretty!

 

Also, this one called Safe Hands by Paper Aeroplanes is bittersweet in some way:

Hope you enjoyed those tracks! And if you have anything to recommend, do share! I am ALWAYS on the lookout for new music, regardless of genre or nationality. My soul is starving, and only music and stories can satiate it.

3. Here’s me and my dad taking a selfie (there’s something to be said about the world we live in for the fact that it’s the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year) after our usual Sunday brunch.

He’s been transferred to the west end of the island, so this will be our last Sunday brunch together in a long while. He gets occasional weekends off, but they’re rare. Plus, now that he’s working further, we’ll get less time to spend together. Which sucks. But if I look on the bright side, it means the time we spend from now on will be even more precious. On my more emo days, I wish I can provide sufficiently for the both of us so my dad doesn’t have to stress so much at work or just kick back and do the things he wants to do instead of what he has to.

Okay, I’ll stop before I get completely maudlin.

So finally, as promised, I’ll leave you with some beautiful writing quotes:

“There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written – it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.”  

~ Mark Twain

“Giving up is for giver-uppers. It’s the lamest thing ever. Your book is just a book; it can’t beat you. You are a real live person with will and imagination and typing fingers! You are superior to it in every way. How could it possibly beat you? That’s just silly. Of course you’ll win.”  

~ Laini Taylor

~ from CORALINE, by Neil Gaiman

“I think that the reason I write what I write is because of the passion and urgency and hunger of those younger years, the intensity of that period of becoming, when we are dreaming ourselves into being.”

~ Laini Taylor

Hope the writing’s going well for everyone! Keep feeding your soul and keep telling stories!

(Speaking of stories, I am just about done with the BLOOD PROMISE rewrite. Just one final tweak in the climax to make, then a complete hawk-eyed read-through, before I beg and beseech my critique partners to read it. In the meantime, I’m finally getting round to reading THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater. Yay!)

Have a great week!

Monday mood-lifters and a gathering of playwrights

Monday! First, THIS: some helpful advice from ex-literary agent and author Nathan Bransford.

Planning and improvising are the two basic ways to find your plot, but there’s only one way to find your voice: start writing, and keep writing until you find it … Write your way to your voice.

It took me a while to find Sean and Ian’s voices. If you recall, I’ve received feedback from a literary agent who said that Sean and Ian from BLOOD PROMISE sounded too alike. But after I managed to distinguish what it is that sets them apart – by narrowing them down to three adjectives each (i.e. Ian: angry, vengeful, brash; Sean: concerned, skeptical, protective) – I set about amplifying these qualities and tweaked their voices as such. Hopefully, it’ll work better this time. I can’t trust myself to be objective about my own writing; I need my critique partners! My saviours.

Speaking of BLOOD PROMISE, I’ve found a few images that fit the idea of the characters I have in mind. Pinterest, man. I’m addicted. But it’s also opened my eyes to so many visuals that lit my brain on fire. Follow me, if you’re interested!

APRIL, the changeling struggling to keep her craving for human souls in check:

This is April from Sean’s POV – because of his colour-blindness, he sees her eyes as a startling shade of blue. This leads to a twist that I won’t reveal here, of course.
I actually had the Australian model Gemma Ward in mind for April. April is not conventionally beautiful. She has eyes a little too widely spaced apart, a button nose and lips that typically curve in a sad wistful bow. Still, she’s meant to be beautiful in a strange otherworldly way.
SEAN, who moves to Frosty Island with his mother after he hears the news of his best friend’s disappearance while vacationing with his parents on the island: 

He’s the closest I can find on Pinterest. The Sean I have in mind is someone with an easy smile, dimples, and wide friendly eyes. Your favourite boy-next-door.

Maybe this one might be a closer approximation of him:

But nah. He’s my Peter Pan. Not quite Sean.

Case in point:

Oh Donghae, you are just too precious. (Can you tell I’m obsessed with this little boy? Ha.)

Ahem. I digress.

IAN, who moved to Frosty Island to live with his aunt Mel after his parents died on this island a week ago in an alleged car accident:

This one’s perfect. From the hardness of Ian’s features to the danger in his eyes, that spark of recklessness when he realises he’s got nothing left to lose anymore.

Anyway, how was your weekend? (I never have any idea whom I’m talking to whenever I ask questions like that on my blog. I’d love to hear from you if you’re reading my blog! Comment away; don’t be shy. I promise I’ll reply. Nicely.)

Yup, that’s pretty much me. Except this weekend, I finally went for the annual play-writing gathering last Saturday. It’s actually the final reading for the semester’s EN3271 play-writing students, but Huzir invites the ex-students back for a gathering of sorts. He opens his house up to us and have us all gather around in the living room for a cosy reading session – so generous.

It was so lovely to see my writing comrades again, and reminisce about the times when we stayed up to finish our plays or scramble to print out the copies for readings in class. I took both EN2271 Introduction to Playwriting and EN3271 Advanced Playwriting (both conducted by Huzir), because EN2271 was the most rewarding class I took in uni.

It’s wonderful to be part of a writing community and have people to commiserate with when the writing isn’t going well. Before that, I’ve never had writer friends or been part of a writing group, and the class made me see how rewarding it is to be part of one. It’s nice to be able to hear other people’s stories, share your own with them, and exchange ideas on how to improve one another’s scripts. It’s nice to have them root for your characters and have your classmates act out your characters; to hear Huzir’s insightful and immensely constructive and honest feedback on your writing; to have a group of writer friends you can keep in touch with after graduation because writing will always be the thing that bonds you all together.

These two play-writing modules have given me so much, and for anyone in NUS undecided on whether to try out for these modules, my advice is to TAKE THEM. THEY WILL BE THE MOST FUN CLASSES YOU WILL TAKE IN NUS. At least, for me it is. I’m not forcing anyone! *runs for cover*

There were close to thirty people who attended last Saturday’s gathering, including this semester’s playwrights. I didn’t manage to get everyone in the photo, but here are some of us. To those not in these photos, sorry! Next year, we’ll take a proper shot all together.

We basically just decided to make a 180-degree turn because we were profiled against the sunlight. The rest were by the refreshments table or in the washroom, so here’s us. I’m obviously the one in pink 😉

The plays this years were great! Funny and poignant character-driven stories. But the feedback was the best, especially when it was served with a dose of candour and insight. All the best with the final rewrites, playwrights! (That totally rhymed.)

Till next year, guys! And all the best for NaNo!

Unfortunately, I missed Lord of the Rings: Return of the King as a result of attending the gathering. When I realised it was airing on TV afterwards, I was like:

And here are your Monday mood-lifters:

Man, I miss this show! GILMORE GIRLS was funny and smart and sweet – almost everything you could as for in a TV show. It ended on a crappy note as it was slated for another season which, sadly, never came to fruition.

Some Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings crossover for you?
I totally heard this in Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice.
Oh, Siwon. You are such a derp.
And on a less creepy note:
All together now: AWWWWWW.
Have a great week, everyone!