June reads, pink hair, and manuscripts that just. won’t. end.

I couldn’t blog last week because work was relentless (ZALORA’s digital magazine community is going live soon!) and I was nursing a fever, sore throat, headache, and runny nose last week (doesn’t rain, but it sure pours).

Buuuut I’m back – with bolder, brighter, and pinker hair! :0)

I was going to go with just the darker copper this time, but it felt a little too dull. So I went and doubled the pink streak! Here were some hairstyles and colours I considered:

Totally leapt up when I saw this – SOOOOOO GORGEOUS!!!!! *__*
I’d love to go this red, but I’m not as fair as pretty Ms Han Ji Min
So I settled for this slightly browner tone like Tiffany’s
Not gonna lie – I wish I had the guts and freedom to go as nuts as Laini Taylor because look how fabulous that shade of pink is! But my dad will probably flip. Maybe someday, if I ever make it onto the NYT bestseller list, I’ll do this to celebrate!

My dad shook his head at the expanding pink strip as soon as he saw it, but oh well I love it. EMBRACE THE PINK! :0)

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And as if my May reading list isn’t long enough, here comes another one for June. But with more swoon-worthy tales of literary apothecaries, OCD romance, mysterious guardians, kidnappings, and magical guardians, the reading list just won’t quit! I mean, just look at these drool-worthy tales:

1. Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone 

A girl with purely-obsessional OCD finds her place amongst a bunch of misfits, and falls in love with a guy who plays guitar and writes poetry. Sorry, but I’m a sucker for stories like this.

2. Emmy & Oliver, by Robin Benway

Touted as a book to satisfy Sarah Dessen fans (that’s me!), a girl meets her childhood friend whose father kidnapped him years ago. Ever since The Snow Queen, I’ve loved the idea of childhood friends who become lovers. Plus, this one has got all the drama and tears, so I don’t care if the plot seems cheesy. It’s not cheesy if it’s well written. And based on the reviews on Goodreads, it sounds like it might be!

3. The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins 

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.” Don’t you want to read it already? I know I do!

4. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

Books to heal a myriad of ailments and undiagnosable woes, a literary apothecary – sounds like a delightfully magically realistic poignant read already!

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And finally, an update on the WIP that is No Room in Neverland.

It feels like I am NEVER going to finish this story. The word count currently hovers close to 79K. 79K! This is the longest I’ve ever written. Granted, it has two stories in one (Neverland Chronicles, and current day), but come on, 339 pages for a YA contemporary, really Joyce??

I’m trying to convince myself that it’s better to write too much than too little. But that just means you might end up cutting out a lot of scenes that drag down the story. And that’s just as hard as trying to thicken the plot! Conclusions are just as hard as beginnings, if not possibly harder. You have too much to lose by the end of the story to mess it up, so the pressure is ON to tie up the story nicely without making everything too convenient or cheesy or draggy or rushed.

My problem with the first draft of Neverland was that it didn’t have enough of a plot. But this third draft feels like it has TOO MUCH of a plot, and there are so many loose ends I haven’t finished tying up. And I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to end everything neatly because that’s just lame. A story doesn’t end just because a book does … Am I making sense?

One more scene. Two more chapters. And I’ll be done. And then I can go back and hack out all the extraneous parts. Come on, Joyce. You HAVE to see this through. You’ve spent way too much time and effort on this to stop now.

Writer friends, how do know when to end your story?

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Chinese New Year weekend recap!

Happy Monday!

For those who celebrate, how was your Chinese New Year weekend? Mine involved lots of pigging out and selfie-taking. So much so that I’ve sparked the comment, “Why do you keep taking selfies? Have you never seen your face before?” from a selfie-hating friend. Oh yeah, he’s a riot.

Anyways, pictures!

Remember those horse decorations at Chinatown? They look even more magnificent at night.

On the eve of Chinese New Year’s eve, we had a visitor at the office. And then some.

Everyone, particularly the non-Chinese, were incredibly amused by the God of Fortune and the lion dance troupe that came knocking in a clamour of gongs and drums.

Later, we had the traditional lou hei, where we tossed the mix of raw vegetables, salmon, honey, peanuts, crackers as high as we could without making a complete mess on the table, while yelling out whatever auspicious phrases we knew and our wishes for the Lunar New Year. Most of the wishes went along the lines of getting a promotion/pay raise/a boyfriend and winning the lottery.

When we were done, one of the guys from the International team asked, “So do you guys eat it or do you just play with it?”

Of course we tuck in! It takes a lot out of you to yell and toss things in the air. (I kid.)

Chinese New Year’s eve was the day of feasting, and we were all too busy stuffing our faces to take any photos of the spread. Ah well.

Per our annual tradition, my dad and I went to catch the fireworks by the bay after dinner. There’s something magical about fireworks. All these explosions of colour and light above you as the ground rumbles and shakes beneath you. You feel heady, dazzled, ready to take on what comes next. Like a star being born. Like you’re shaking off the grime of last year, one explosion in the sky at a time. Boom. Clean slate.

That family behind me couldn’t have been noisier. Don’t you just hate it when people talk during a firework display? It’s like being interrupted when you’re reading. You just need some space to appreciate the display in silence, reflect on the past year, and make wishes for the new year – NOT hear some guy behind you go, “Wah wah wah!” nonstop.

Ah well.

While waiting for the firework display, and after it was over, my dad and I got a little shutter-happy.

The God of Fortune in front of the Singapore Flyer
Light festival!
And more pretty lights!
And more!
What’s better than a horse? A pink horse!

There’s this Chinese custom where children sleep late – or better yet, don’t sleep at all – on Chinese New Year’s eve so that your parents can live to a ripe old age. It’s just as well that Dad and I usually go catch the fireworks at midnight. I get to prolong my dad’s life! Those who know me know that I abide by quite a rigid routine: asleep at 11 pm, awake at 7 am, swim at 8 am and start the day by 10 am. But this annual tradition calls for an exception. Besides, the pool’s closed on Day 1 of Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year Day 1 is when the entire family congregates at my grandparents’ place and – yes, you guessed it – feast. Again. Well, there’s the whole exchange of well-wishes and socialising and photo-taking. But food was a major part of the day too.

Again, we were too busy chomping down on my grandmother’s homemade dishes – vegetable and duck soup, stir-fried broccoli and mushrooms and prawns, braised pork belly and abalone stew with and hard-boiled eggs, roasted meats and ngoh hiang, which is this mix of minced meat and chopped water chestnuts and prawn bits rolled spring roll style in fried beancurd skin. HEAVEN.

Images procured from the Web, for the sake of those unacquainted:

Braised pork belly with hard-boiled eggs
Salted vegetable and duck soup
Ngoh Hiang

Is it any wonder my healthy eating habits go straight out the window during Chinese New Year?

Then we had to take the (pretty much) prerequisite selfies too. It’s not every day everyone is all dolled up and together, after all.

With my aunts and cousins on the left
And my dad

I swear by fit-and-flare dresses. They cinch in your waist and make your legs look slim. Bonus if they come in pretty colours like lilac or Ming vase prints!

On the second day, Dad and I caught I, Frankenstein, which turned out to be surprisingly good! I was pretty wary about it given the unfortunate experience with Hansel and Gretel (even the awesome Jeremy Renner couldn’t save it). Remixed classics tend to get butchered despite the best intentions.

But I, Frankenstein was pretty original, and as far as fantasy stories go, this one was entertaining enough without inane or extraneous dialogues. Frankenstein’s monster, in this movie, has become a modern-day demon-hunter caught in the age-old battle between gargoyles (descendants of heaven) and demons. So crazy it’s good!

And on the third day, there was more feasting. I’m starting to sound like an unapologetic glutton. This time, it was Korean barbeque, just because.

And that was it for the weekend! More gatherings to come, in the vein of Chinese New Year. And I’m actually looking forward to them!

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Anyway, this is completely random, but I am SO tempted to get some hair chalk. Have you heard of it before? Apparently, it’s like hair dye, but very temporary – so temporary you can wash it off anytime you want –  so this is perfect for someone who gets bored of her looks easily. With hair chalk, I can finally get pink streaks in my hair … like this!

Look how sweet but punkish Rachel McAdams looks!
You can look completely sweet too, but not boring, like January Jones
Ah, Chloe. I swear, she can do no wrong.

Have I mentioned that Chloe Moretz is one of my style icons? Such a fashion risk-taker but always classy and age-appropriate.

Pink streaks and waves, a la Nina Dobrev? Heck yeah!

And the best part about hair chalks? I don’t have to commit to anything. Just wash with water and shampoo!

Ah, hair chalk. Please stop tempting me!

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So now it’s back to real life, even though Chinese New Year celebrations typically last for 15 days. Back to writing and rewriting and revising and polishing, because damn I am making this year the year my writing dreams come true.

Stephanie Perkins on how to make yourself write even when the going gets tough:

Free-write before you write-write. Eventually, you’ll get so tired of your own whining that you’ll actually go write something.

Ha! Ain’t that the truth. After a while, I realised all my complaining and head-banging (that is, against the desk, not to the music) isn’t leading me anywhere with my work-in-progress. So I decided to push through. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

Or, you know, you can also blog.

Steph goes on:

I know from experience. I have tens of thousands of freewriting words telling myself how much both my novels and me suck. That negative energy has to come out somewhere, and freewriting is a safe place to say the things you’re most afraid of — and to wake your brain up in the process.

Free-writing. Hmm. Laini Taylor also advocates this practice. I mean, come on. She wrote an award-winning book of short stories based on these free-writes that obviously took her places. But then again, she’s Laini Taylor. She totally has the writing chops to produce award-winning (National Book Award, no less) books.

Writing a novel — a publishable novel — takes work. Real, actual, hard WORK.

This requires an attitude adjustment from, “Oh, what a fun little hobby” to “I will DO this. Even when it gets hard, even when I don’t like it anymore, even when I want to give up. I will keep working until I reach the end.”

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And finally, since it’s Monday, here are some mood-lifters to kick start your week!

Misha Collins and his son West cooking – too cute!

For the complete version (and a bag of laughs), watch this:

Westie, stop being so frigging adorable! I can’t take this! 

Plus, can I just say how incredibly patient Misha is? Guys are the sweetest when they’re good with kids. I like how he lets West make the decisions and doesn’t tell him what to do, just guides and facilitates whenever necessary. Giving your kids some level of autonomy can do wonders for their self-esteem when they grow older.

Check out the earlier episodes! They are just as funny and adorable! :0)

Pink owl cookies – too cute to eat!

You pretty, pretty boy.
Hallim Park in Jeju Island
Jeju-do, I WILL be back again. Soon
Santorini. Some day.
Because that’s the best way to get by

Have a great week, everyone!