post-christmas state

Reading this:

Image from Goodreads

This book makes me want to delve into another fantasy project! Leigh Bardugo has a knack for creating vividly imagined worlds, endearing characters with fully fleshed out back-stories, and quiet tension that keeps you flipping the pages way past bedtime. It’s not hard to see why she has such a passionate fanbase, or why Six of Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Watching this: 

Image from Drama Fever

My Lovely Girl (starring Rain and Krystal) came with mixed reviews. Some said the plot was too slow, and some loved the character development. But it’s surprisingly engaging, with the sort of K-drama moments that I love (you know, the ones where the characters don’t say a word and the music swells and you just feel all the feels and hear all the unsaid words? It’s those moments where you feel yourself falling for a show and start rooting for the characters. Those are the moments I want to create in my stories.)

Plus, Krystal is always a joy to watch.

Girl crush!

Missing this:

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donghae cute smile.jpg

Discovering this: 

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His name is James, and he’s the bass guitarist of the Royal Pirates. You’re welcome.

Listening to this:

It’s been two years since they debuted. Can we please start appreciating this under-rated band more already! I’ve raved about them here on ZALORA Community (yes, unabashed plug here), so I won’t say more. Just give them a listen.

Writing this:

Receiving this:

Sigh. Into the Rejection folder this goes. But I am still beyond grateful for the feedback, even if this isn’t quite the result I was hoping for.

Nothing like some heartwarming fan mail to lift your spirits and spur you on!

And lastly, finding strength in this:


Happy holidays! :0)

when not writing, I am planning an itinerary

It’s mid-December already?! How did THAT happen? Where did 2014 go??

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Donghae is as amazed as I am. Except consternation looks better on his pretty face.

It’s always as the year wears on that you get more disillusioned. Not only did I not accomplish any of my goals, I’m falling behind on my word count. Why, Joyce, WHY. Procrastination is a terrible colour on you. All those time you were waiting for the muse to strike – keeping unnecessarily busy with creating playlists for your stories, decorating your room, looking for new music, and reading (mean and scary) reviews on Goodreads – you could have plowed through your sucky writing and found a way through your manuscript.

It was around this time last year that I started on Neverland, and I’m STILL writing it, STILL haven’t written its ending even for the first draft.

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Don’t judge me, Siwon!

It’s one thing to write at your own pace, and another to put off writing it because you’re afraid you’ll fail again like you had the first two times (Neverland is at Draft 3 now).

Good thing for good books in the meantime.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15818357-dreams-and-shadows

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061955-siege-and-storm?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus?from_search=true

*

Also, I’m planning for a trip back to Korea next spring!!

Truth is, I’m a travel noob. I’ve never travelled free-and-easy before. It’s just easier to have travel agencies plan everything nicely for you. But I really want to learn how to plan a trip from scratch, get around on my own, and explore places I wouldn’t get to see on a package tour. Everyone I know travel on their own in their twenties. I mean, what better time to do that, right?

And where better to visit than the land of K-pop? Yes, I have become a legit fangirl and I’m not going to be ashamed about it. So I like K-pop, I enjoyed Korea the last time I was there, and now I’m going to make this spring 2015 trip happen.

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Donghae approves, obviously

But there are so many sites for flight and accommodation deals and so many places I want to visit and things to take note of (public holidays, for instance – you do not want to jump into the fray at train stations or the airport), transport preparations (e.g. buying train tickets beforehand) that quite frankly I’m getting inundated by it all.

So if you have any tips on flights, accommodation, places of interest, and getting around (we’re planning to travel around Seoul, Busan and Jeju), do share! All help will be greatly appreciated by this travel noob :0)

The week of rejection letters

Three weeks into NaNoWriMo and my word count stands at … 28k. Yup, just as I expected. I’m not going to make it in time.

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As Chuck Wendig said,

It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper.

Thinking is easy; dreaming is easier. It’s the doing that feels like carving out your skin inch by inch, but it’s also what gives you the most satisfaction. Now, if I could just hold on to that thought…

Literary agents, however, have had a very productive week in terms of responding to emails. At this stage, any response is better than none. I’m not really a fan of the whole “We’ll reply only if we’re interested” policy more and more agencies are adopting these days.

This week, I’ve had three rejection letters. Nice ones, but crushing nonetheless. I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to the sting. It’s nothing personal, I know. It’s just … you feel like you were soooooo close, you know? They’d already requested the full manuscript for consideration. They liked it. It JUST. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.

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It’s enough to make a writer want to give up sometimes. If your best still isn’t good enough, does that mean you’re just not cut out for this after all?

At least most of the agents are really kind. I’ve had one who called me Joshua and some who responded with just one line: not for me but thanks.

 

 

Rejection Letter #1:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting Until Morning to Giant Squid Books. Your novel is a fresh take on romantic YA and I have not seen many like it! However, the switching perspectives and long dream sequences did not resonate with us, so I do not think we are the right fit. I am confident that you will find a home for your novel and I wish you the best of luck.

Warmly,
Rachel 

 

 

Rejection Letter #2: 


Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending me UNTIL MORNING, and for your patience as I read it. I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and your use of magical realism really reminded me of his work. I loved the way the characters’ lives were interlaced, and how they meet inside Lexi’s dreams of Sam’s paintings. I thought the way you constructed their worlds was very fresh and interesting. I loved the twist of her being in a coma. Overall, I thought the concept of your book was very imaginative.

I felt like I had an immediate impression of each of their characters. Lexi seemed very free-spirited (in her dreams), while Sam has always had a lot of structure in his life and pressure from his father. I wanted to learn more about their characters, to see them develop and expand as I continued reading, and unfortunately, I didn’t see that as much as I would’ve liked. It was interesting to learn that Lexi is much less free-spirited in real life, because it helped give more nuance and depth to the version of Lexi that appears in the dreams. However, I still didn’t feel that I got to know either of their characters as deeply as I wanted to. I also felt that the way they appear to be complete opposites in the dreams, yet become close so immediately, felt a little too perfect and unrealistic. The similarities between them as well (both having a sick mother) felt a little too coincidental to be realistic.

As much as I admired the overall concept of your book, I’m afraid I didn’t connect to the characters in the way I’d hoped, so I have to pass. I wish you all the best in finding the right agent and getting this published.

Best wishes,
Annie B

 

 

Rejection Letter #3: 

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting to the Collaborative. Unfortunately, while your concept is intriguing, we recently sold a project that involves a romance conducted via dreaming, and as a small company, we need to be very careful about taking on projects with too much overlap to titles already on our list. I’m sorry this wasn’t a match but I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect home for your work!

All my best,
Annie S

 


Rejection Letter #4: 

Dear Joshua,


Many thanks for sending us Until Morning.
I am sorry I can’t offer to represent you at this time, but I wish you every success with your writing in the future.

Best wishes,
Gillie

 photo donghae exasperated_zpsr6ay2lfe.gif 

Can I go wallow now??

NaNo-ers, power on anyway! It’s a daunting task, seeing a novel through to the end without getting held back by rejection or self-doubt, and writing is a much less lonely business during NaNo. But nothing beats reaching the end, you know that.

Also, BIIIIG thanks to everyone who stopped by with an encouraging note or remark – you don’t know how much it means to a writer. *kisses you fervently*

24 Things About Turning 24

(Or, A Frivolous Post on Discoveries Made At 24)

((Or, What My 24-year-old Self Will Tell My 18-year-old Self))

1. You will never stop looking for stories.

2. Or loving them.

3. It’s okay to go all out with pink, even if people give you this look

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And this

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4. You still won’t know what you’re really good at.

5. But you know what you will keep doing even if you’re not paid for it.

6. You will learn that you are not supposed to wash away toner.

7. You will still hate wearing heels.

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8. Your Facebook feed will be filled with your friends getting engaged/married/pregnant.

9. Meanwhile, you’re just like

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And

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10. There is nothing wrong with reading Young Adult fiction even though you’re technically a New Adult.

Don’t ever be a book snob.

11. There are books that will move you

 

12. And shake you to your very core

13. And books you wish you’d written

14. You will face rejection. Lots of it.

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But you will keep trying. Because you want it that badly.

15. It pays to take a shot and put your work out there. You never know when it might get published.

16. The only way to get anywhere near published is by sitting your ass down and finishing that novel.

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17. A long swim makes everything better.

18. Graduation ceremony is important to the people who saw you through to that point.

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So take it seriously!


19. You don’t like being lonely. You just like being alone.


20. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and move on to better things.

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21. Don’t regret or be embarrassed by the things that make you happy.

22. When you stop obsessing, things fall into place.

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23. People can be nice to you if you open up to them.


24. You still don’t have shit figured out.

Did You PitMad?

So there was this thing that went on in the Twitter-sphere last week, 8pm Singapore time on 9 September. PitMad, which involves aspiring authors pitching their manuscripts in 140 characters or less (at regular intervals within 24 hours) in the hopes that a literary agent will request for it by favouriting the tweet.

Apparently, there are quite a lot of authors who have found representation this way, and literary agents are all for it too.

And since I have two completed manuscripts, I’m totally ready for this.

Tweet Pitches for Until Morning

#PitMad #YA Girl meets boy in a dream when she falls into a coma, only to find that he is the elusive painter she has been looking for.

#PitMad #YA After an accident leaves her in a coma, Lexi meets a boy who is like the nocturnal street artist she has been searching for.

#PitMad #YA Lexi and Sam are trapped in the same dream that is like the paintings a mysterious street artist has been leaving all around town.

#PitMad #YA Lexi’s search for Night, the elusive nocturnal painter, ends when she finds herself lost in her dreams with him.

Tweet Pitches for Blood Promise

#PitMad #YA A long-lost fairy prince, a changeling hungry for human souls, and a not-quite-human boy team up to stop a fairy-human war.

#PitMad #YA To save her brother from fairies, a changeling stumbles into a full-blown war with humans, where changelings are used as pawns.

#PitMad #YA A changeling struggling with her hunger for human souls forges an alliance with a long-lost fairy prince to stop a war.

#PitMad #YA When her brother is captured, April struggles to curb her craving for human souls, until she steals a dead fairy prince’s magic.

So far, I’ve only gotten two favourites, which is kinda sorta pretty damn depressing.

But is that going to stop me from pitching my manuscripts?

Best of luck for all the writers who took part in PitMad! Hope you’re having better response than me so far :0)

Book Review – Eleanor and Park

So despite the slightly underwhelming experience that was Fangirl, I’ve decided to try another Rainbow Rowell novels, Eleanor and Park. It came highly recommended by friends, as well as Goodreads folks, and Fangirl was enjoyable enough, so I gave E&P a chance.

Overall it was … okay. Better than Fangirl, in terms of plot and character. But I was still left wanting. Not for more of the story, but for something to seriously blow me away. Like, “reach into your chest and crush your heart to smithereens because THE FEELS THE FEELS” blow me away.

Or maybe I’m just dead inside.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The Story

Basically, Korean-American kid meets weird chubby girl who dresses differently. Eleanor ends up sitting next to Park on the school bus, and they start sharing his comic books and discussing music and it’s all very nice and dandy, except that Eleanor is being bullied by the kids in school and her stepfather is an explosive, sadistic ass. Plus, she keeps find sick, perverted messages scrawled in her textbooks.

Eleanor tries to keep Park a secret from her family (especially her stepfather, who will destroy anything good in her life), and her family a secret from Park (because she’s ashamed of them). But the story eventually reaches breaking point, and all the secrets come tumbling out as Eleanor’s carefully curated life comes tumbling down.

The Pacing

Compared to Fangirl, there is way more conflict and tension in E&P. I like how the subplot of the creepy anonymous notes (“suck my dick” – very classy, step-daddy) contributes to the main narrative arc at the end and actually creates a very cool twist to the story.

Plus, the tension builds steadily towards the climax at the end so it’s quite impossible to put down the damn book (looked up to find a couple of hours just gone).

The Characters

I’m still not sure how I feel about Eleanor. Park, I get. Park, I empathise with (he feels like he’s always falling short of his dad’s expectations and sometimes just want to retreat into his own world). Park, I might actually be in love with.

(If I imagine Donghae as Park, Park is practically swoon-worthy. I mean, they’re practically of the same build, they’re gorgeous – at least according to Eleanor, but she might be biased about Park – and they’re sweet and kind but sometimes a little brash.

*Swoon*

I swear, that’s what I did. Imagine Donghae as Park, I mean. He fits the character to a T! Even when Park went through the eyeliner phase. I mean,

Come on.)

Anyway, Park I love.

Eleanor, though. Sometimes, I got a little impatient with her. She either wants to jump Park’s bones, or she shuts him out. She is either super frail and in need of saving, or super snarky and mean. I get that the hostility is a defence mechanism, but it doesn’t seem very consistent.

Sometimes, she’s completely self-flagellating:

Sometimes completely smitten (and horny):

And sometimes just plain weird.

That’s a fine stride you’re making for feminism, love.

The Romance

As with Fangirl, Rowell did not hold back her horny rabbits characters. They are all over each other, and can’t stop gushing over how beautiful each other are and how they just want to eat each other up.

I thought their romance progressed a little too fast, to be honest. Like Steph from Cuddlebuggery said,

Park went from “God! Just sit the fuck down, Eleanor!” to “God, she has incredibly soft hands.” 

Eleanor went from “That stupid Asian kid” to “He’s so pretty. I love his hair! I want to eat his face!”

The next thing I know, Park is telling Eleanor that he’s in love with her, how he can’t imagine being without her, that she’s IT for him. Then Eleanor is telling him she doesn’t breathe when she’s away from him.  

The breakneck-speed romance is a bump in the road, but if you manage to get over it, the rest of the story is all right.

Except, REALLY? Park is swearing undying love for a girl he barely knows and Eleanor can’t live without a boy with whom she barely shares anything about herself?

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The Setting

The story is set in 1986, Omaha. But Park, or Eleanor’s African-American friends Beebi and DeNice, seem to coast through the book without much trouble. Instead, Eleanor is the one getting bullied.

I’m not saying pile on the hate, but everything else about the time and place seems to fall by the wayside when it comes to E&P’s epic love. Why set it in 1986, Omaha then? It could have taken place in 2014, and frankly it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I do like Park’s mother, though. How her backstory affected the way she perceived Eleanor and how she finally came around was something I wish Rowell teased out more. (It reminds me of Mrs Kim in Gilmore Girls and how she came to accept Lane’s boyfriend Zac, except I think the show did a better job at highlighting the character arc). I think it’d be more interesting to see more of Park’s interactions and domestic tension with his family members instead of him and Eleanor taking about comic books.

The Ending

This was me, basically

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Please tell me the story doesn’t end here. Seriously. There are so many loose ends untied. And while I get that not everything has to be tied up neatly – nor does everyone have to get their happy ending – there are still too many questions and uncertainties that the ending doesn’t quite address.

*Spoiler* Is Eleanor going to stay with her relatives until she’s legal? Has she been in touch with her mom and siblings? She just took off like that suddenly and built a new life so easily, cutting off from everyone, including Park.

One whole year, no word from Eleanor, while Park writes long, rambling lovesick letter after letter. And finally, when she does decide to write to Park, the message is only three words long on a postcard?

If I were Park, I’d be like

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But Park’s a sweetheart and a hopeful, hapless git. Like Noah from The Notebook. Which means he probably doesn’t exist outside of the book.

The Rating

Still, E&P had its moments. There were some parts that quite poignant:

And some dramatic and pretty:

Although I kinda paused at this bit:

 

Oh, I can come up with a lot of hot Asian guys, but I suppose since this is 1986 Omaha, the Asian boy fetish hasn’t caught on. Yet.

In all, I’d rate this book 3.5 out of 5 (compared to Fangirl’s 3). Not spectacular, But Rowell’s voice is natural and the writing never too heavy-handed (except when it comes to describing love interests). Some parts she sort of skated across (I’m sure there are a lot more social dynamics left to explore, considering the setting) to make way for the romance. And there were still a lot of questions left unanswered towards the end. But at least this one has more conflict and tension than Fangirl.

Have you read Eleanor and Park? What do you think of it? Is there something about Rowell’s books that I’m not quite getting??

Flash Fiction Friday – Azure

Rewrites for Blood Promise DONE! I’m kind of in a limbo state now, querying agents while planning how to tackle Neverland all over again.

So in an attempt to get back into the Neverland groove, this week’s short story is inspired by Peter Pan,

This pretty merman artwork: 

And, okay, this:

Is he rocking that blue hair or what! And on a sidenote, SUPER JUNIOR IS BACK WITH THEIR 7TH ALBUM!!!

*leaves to fangirl*

*gross sobbing*

*supersonic screeching*

*incessant self-fanning*

*spazzing*

*more spazzing*

*swooning*

*more swooning*

*faints*

Ahem.

Okay I’m done.

And now, here is this week’s flash fiction.

 

*

 
 

Azure

 

She had seen the boy with blue hair from somewhere.

At first, she thought she was dreaming. Or a hallucination. It had been a straight week of interrupted sleep and groggy eye-rubbing. People saw worse things when they ran on too little sleep.

But the boy seemed real enough. His features were fine, like they were painted the strong planes of his face with clean brush strokes. Bowed lips, arched brows, a narrow slope of the nose.

Definitely her imagination.

She could reach out and run a finger down, since he was just lying there with his eyes closed (asleep?), is azure hair fanning out from beneath his head. But she curled her fingers into her palm and whispered instead, “Are you really asleep?”

“If I were asleep, what would you have done?” His eyelids slid open and he sat up. Every movement he made was deliberate and fluid.

His eyes, clear, wide pools the soft fawn colour of a jay’s wing, revealed nothing of his age. They were boy and man, dreams and laughter, wistful and playful, sad and bright all at once. She found herself staring and took a step back.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Old enough.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means growing up is over-rated. We are all as young as we want to be.”

“So how old are you?” she huffed.

“You seem very preoccupied about age.”

“I just want to know how old is old enough.”

“Old for what?”

“Old enough to stop caring.”

He fell very silent. Ran a hand through his rippling, azure hair. She wanted to do the same, wondered if it smelled of the sea.

“There is a place,” he said at length, “where the caring stops for a while.”

He told her about lands too far away for her to imagine, about feisty girls who fought pirates and wore feathers in their hair. He told her about the men with smiles as bright as the knives they carried and voices as smooth as their coats. He told her about the mermaids with their flashy tails and fairies with their glittery wings. He told her about the castaway ship and the secret cave next to the lagoon.

“But those are just stories,” she said when he was through.

“Some stories are real, though. You lived in them once.”

So she did know him from somewhere. She knew him from the tales she had heard and the ones he told, from the ones he had taken her to. She knew him way back when he was just a boy no older than twelve, standing at her bedroom window. He told her he knew a place they could go where they didn’t have to worry about snipped shadows or growing up.

And back then, she had believed him. Back then, she was wrong. But that was the thing about the blue-haired boy. You wanted so badly to believe him, to believe in him.

She believed him then and she believed him now. She was sure she always would.

He smiled. Because he knew. There were children who never grew up, and those were the only ones he trusted.