LAMBS FOR DINNER

(Straits Times Press, 2013)

lambs for dinner

There is no such thing as coincidence – at least, not according to Skye. It wasn’t a coincidence that her father died seven hours after she broke a mirror, and it isn’t a coincidence that her imaginary friend is reappearing now that she meets Drew – the mysterious boy with a dark past, one that is somehow connected to her.

As Skye and Drew begin to fall for each other, they are thwarted by Drew’s estranged ex-roommate from the sanatorium, who will stop at nothing to make sure no one tames the wolf in Drew.

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8 swoon-worthy male characters in YA fiction

Yes, I am unabashedly in love with Young Adult (YA) fiction.

I think adolescence is a wonderful period to write about because the characters are at the most pivotal stage of their lives, still impressionable enough to change for better or for worse as they try to find and define themselves with a particular identity. In fact, some of the characters in YA have been the most memorable ones for me. Some of them also made me fall head-over-heels in love with them because of how layered and conflicted and real they are.

In YA fiction, as Laini puts forth here in this powerful post in defence of YA (it’s awesome – go read it!), “the subject matter is vast, and transcend all genre borders.”

Plus, as this post argues, “the attraction isn’t just related to the fact that young adult novels tend to have faster-paced narratives. Many of these crossover “teen” novels are satisfying to adult readers because they tap into ageless themes, namely the sense that each of us longs to know who we really are in a strange, confusing and sometimes otherworldly world. As it turns out, the search for self is a lifelong one.”

Okay, serious stuff out of the way, here’s a list of boys in YA fiction that I’ve swooned and gushed over, and been irrationally legitimately obsessed with:

1. Wes from The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

Still my favourite Sarah Dessen book, despite subsequent ones such as What Happened to Goodbye and Lock and Key that are just as beautifully written. Forever is something special, maybe because I can relate to the protagonist, Macy, so well, since she’s really close to her father and afraid of meeting new people too.

Who? Wes is your regular boy-next-door who prizes honesty – to everyone else and to yourself – above everything else.

Why? He looks for imperfections, appreciates them, even craves them. This is evident from the art he makes. (Yes, a boy who makes art. What’s not to love, right?) He uses scrap materials like wood and glass to create beautiful display pieces that are perfect in their imperfection.

Plus, he’s infinitely patient with his nerdy, overwrought little brother, Bert. Oh, and he helped the protagonist, Macy, move on from the death of her father. Yes, he’s a patient one. Perhaps boys who make art are usually this way?

Also, he is everything Macy needs to break out of her comfort zone (albeit with baby steps). He is responsible, reliable, has a great sense of humour and never gives up on you. It doesn’t feel stressful in his company.

In short,

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2. Sam from Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, Shiver. How I love you! I wish I could kiss you and have you turn into a boy as beautiful at heart and as sweet as Sam. The prose is honey and clove, bittersweet but not too cloying, and the setting just as heartbreakingly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve read another YA fantasy romance that made my heart swell and flutter and do all sorts of gymnastic feats the way Shiver had.

Quote from Shiver
Sam and Grace artwork for the book

Who? Sam is a sweet, soulful boy who turns into a werewolf when the weather dips and is desperately trying to cling on to his human form to be with the girl he loves. Also, he’s a little damaged: (*SPOILER ALERT*) when his parents found out he was a wolf when he was younger, they tried to slit his wrist and drown him in the bathtub. (Yes, lovely people, they are.)

Why? He writes poetry. He writes songs. He reads. He works at a bookstore. He reads Rilke (OH, RILKE!). He’s damaged, but is capable of love. He loves life, cherishes it, because of how fragile his humanity is. Need I say more?

3. Ian Waters from Wild Roses, by Deb Caletti

My favourite novel from Deb Caletti so far. Also the first one from her that I read. I loved the prose, the narrator’s voice, the romance, the drama of the entire story … but mostly, I loved Ian.

Who? Ian is the protege of world-renowned violin maestro, the brilliant but disturbed Dino Cavalli, who is also the step-father of the protagonist Cassie.

Why? He plays the violin. He has a great sense of humour, totally on the same wavelength as Cassie. He is never attention-seeking or complacent – much less cocky – despite his talent. He’s like snow that lands on the ground silently but beautifully. He’s the first character named Ian I had ever known, and his image will always go with that name for me.

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4. Mik from Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Night is a novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini.

You would think I’d be all over Akiva, the seraph warrior who is pretty much perfection embodied. But human Mik was who I fell for instead. Particularly in Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter, where Mik and Zuzana traipsed through the desert to find Karou, Mik was always attentive to Zuze, and very concerned about her well-being (is she dehydrated? bone-tired? in need of a good sleep?).

Plus, he and Zuze ended up being pals with the chimaera soldiers, who are basically animal hybrids. Monsters. They play well with monsters. Well, which monster can resist Mik’s sweet looks and manners?

 photo loveyouthismuch_zps461a56e3.gif

Who? Mik is the violinist with the dark, soulful eyes and flushed cheeks whom Zuzana is crazy about, and who turns out to be crazy about her too.

Why? He plays the violin. (I’m sensing a trend here.) He surprises her with cake and tea on an impromptu date on a rowboat. He gets her quirks, loves her for them, and comes with a few himself too (peacock footprints, anyone?).

5. Cole from The Road of the Deadby Kevin Brooks

I read this book waaaay back in 2005, but I remember how smitten I was with him, because he was a bad boy who was very protective of his younger brother.

Who? Your quintessential bad boy, Cole is the older brother of the narrator, Ruben. He gets into fights often, but fights for the people he loves.

Why? Because we all love a bad boy with a heart of gold. At least in fiction.

6. Michael Moscovitz from the Princess Diaries series, by Meg Cabot

I know there are people who scoff at the series for being about a self-indulgent teenage girl who uses way too many exclamation marks, but this series was what made me start keeping a journal when I was 11 years old and for that I’ll always be grateful to Meg Cabot. There is nothing quite as cathartic as putting your thoughts onto paper.

Who? Brother of Mia’s best friend, Michael has had a crush on Mia forever, back when she hadn’t ascended to royalty status.

Robert Schwartzman, who played the character in the screen adaptation

Why? He wrote a song for her, Tall Glass of Water. He supports her in her writing endeavours, is always eager to read what she writes, and gives sound, thoughtful feedback. He’s really smart, but works his ass off to amount to something he deems worthy of Her Royal Highness, even if she doesn’t care about their status difference.

Plus, his name just rolls off your tongue.

7. Luke Brandon from the Shopaholic series, by Sophie Kinsell

Okay, this one’s not YA, but come on, isn’t Luke swoon-worthy?

Hugh Dancy’s pretty eyes aside, Luke has many qualities to love. I mean, he married Rebecca Bloomwood, for heaven’s sake! Only a saint has that kind of patience. (No offence to Becky – I love her, but she can be tiresome at times.)

Who? Luke is the boyfriend – and later, husband – of Becky Bloomwood, a shopping addict and a pathological liar, but also a very loyal friend.

Why? He doesn’t do grand gestures of love, but you can always tell he loves Becky. Besides, he puts up with Becky, LOVES her despite her crazy antics. Enough said, don’t you think?

8. Jace Wayland/Lightwood/Morgenstern/Herondale from The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare

Okay, I watched the movie before I finished reading the book, so the first face that comes to mind is Jamie Campbell Bower’s. Which does not hurt at all.

Jamie + Lily = Jamily. They are SO cute together!

Who? Snarky, handsome, lofty and insouciant, Jace is a demon-hunting Shadowhunter. Also, a boy in need of love who failed to get any from his father.

Jace artwork

Why? He’s the unattainable golden boy at school, the one whom everyone loves or loves to hate. He’s gorgeous, strong, attractive and he knows it. But his confidence – though some would say arrogance – is to mask the broken, wanting boy within.

And as a shameless plug bonus,

9. Drew from Lambs for Dinner, by, um, me.

Who? Cole has a history of being abused by his father before he ran away from home. He is loyal to his friends and closest to his aunt, regards his best friend’s father as his surrogate father, but keeps everyone else at arm’s length.

Why? Because despite his (initial) belief that he is too damaged, too different, to love, that he is more Wolf than Man, deep down he desperately wants to believe that he is not only capable of it, he is also deserving of it. Which is why he gives his all to Skye, when he falls hard for her.

Also, because I wrote him. Ha!

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So that’s my list of swoon-worthy boys from YA fiction. Let me know if there’s anything I missed out, in terms of characters or the things they did to make us fall in love with them!

Who are some of YOUR favourite boys from YA fiction? :0)

mondays don’t have to suck

Because it’s Monday,

1. For those of you plotting your story out there, here’s a tremendously helpful list you can use to bring that Shiny New Idea floating around in your head to paper. I know I’ll be using it for INDIGO TIDES.

Yes, INDIGO TIDES is the name of my new novel. Nothing more can be revealed because nothing else makes sense anyway – yet. I’m hoping that will change once I get to the end of that list.
2. In the similar vein, here’s another guide on how not to get lost in your story and finding your way from start to finish. Some suggestions like a) plotting your novel chapter by chapter, b) writing a script beforehand and c) delineating character arcs are pretty useful – at least for me. I’ve tried them before, and they make it so much easier to crank out the words. 
a) For LAMBS, I plotted about two to three chapters for the next day, and wrote an average of 3,000 words each day. It’s how I managed to complete the first draft in a month. 
b) UNTIL MORNING was originally a script (as those of you in EN3271 Advanced Playwriting might remember) before I ran with it and turned it into a novel. The first few scenes took less than a couple of days to write because I already had a little more than the skeleton of each scene ready. 
c) Just a simple line of how you expect the character(s) to change over the course of the story can help provide more focus on where you want to take them. Worked for me for 15 MINUTES, which I finally finished after letting it languish for months and months and months because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my characters.
So give those tips a try and you might just make sense of that Shiny New Idea after all.
3. If you’re a grammar Nazi, you’ll probably want to figuratively make babies with this website, if you haven’t already. I stumbled across it when I wanted to find out what the deal was between addictive and addicting. The latter has never sat well with me, because it sounds about as grammatically credible as “would of” instead of “would have”, probably because the only times I’ve ever seen people use it is when they comment on how “addicting” [insert addiction such as Kpop or a drama series or a figurehead for a beloved book character like Jace Wayland] is. 

Not, of course, that I’m a grammar Nazi.

4. And in case you start thinking I’m only about writing and books and blah blah she has no life blah, here’s something other than writing and books.

In the words of Sarah Dessen, “Don’t think or judge, just listen.”

And this:

And:

I’m not one of those crazy fangirls, but I have to say Big Bang produces some really sick (original) songs. These instrumentals keep me awake during the workday, and are great for working out to!

Have a great week, everyone!

(And just so you know, I’m not usually this organised. I usually just dump all my words into one indiscernible paragraph and attempt to slice it into something more structured after that, but for the sake of those reading it I’ve decided to be less annoyingly trend-of-thought-y.)

Book launch recaps

I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR NOW!!! *does happy dance*

This isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything, of course, but it’s a good start. Yesterday’s book launch was a success, and although I was a tangle of nerves on-stage and missed out a good part of the speech I prepared I didn’t do a Jennifer Lawrence, tripping up the stairs, and my mind didn’t go blank.

My baby
 
 
The other winners of Beyond Words Novel-writing Competition (from left): Danny, Julian and Justine, with our lovely (camera-shy) editor, Geraldine Mesenas (in green)
 
 
 
Big congrats to the other winners, and huge thanks to the Straits Times publishing team and National Arts Council for all the organising and planning and execution. Our babies owe a lot to you. Thanks also to the wonderful people in my life who’ve supported and encouraged me and offered invaluable and candid (the best kind) feedback. I really hope you’ll enjoy LAMBS FOR DINNER! Thanks also to my blog readers – commenters and lurkers alike.
 
 
 



The book will be available on Amazon by June 15, and in major bookstores in Singapore by this weekend. The e-book will be out next year. Go grab a copy, and if you do enjoy it please tell your friends to tell their friends!

RELEASE DAY!

I am BEYOND STOKED. I’ve dreamed of this for so long and finally I get to publish my very first book. And it’s a book I actually like and don’t wish to stash away in the darkest corner of my drawer.

LAMBS FOR DINNER is a young adult contemporary romance about a girl whose imaginary childhood friend is reappearing in her life after she meets a mysterious boy with a dark and violent past.

Those in Singapore, do grab a copy from any leading bookstore after today! The e-book will be released sometime next year (watch this space for updates). Hope you’ll enjoy Drew and Skye’s story!

I borrowed an hour to meet up with my book editor yesterday to discuss my manuscript, LAMBS FOR DINNER. Can I just say that even though I don’t seem excited about having my book published, my heart actually does a somersault every time I think about it? I’m just trying not to get my hopes up too much before anything’s said and done.

Anyway, so I met up with Geraldine, who is super nice and very dedicated to making local YA a much bigger thing in Singapore than it is now. She brought along her pages of hand-scribbled notes and listed out which parts of the manuscript she loved and had problems with:

1. Drew – she loved him. As do I. I think it’s obvious to anyone reading it that the character has a special place in my heart. I didn’t have to work very hard on getting his voice right, or making it consistent, because his voice was just IN MY HEAD THE WHOLE TIME I wrote the story. Drew is irreverent, defiant, and there’s this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET that I feel describes him: “Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” I had loads of fun writing Drew.

2. Skye – my editor didn’t quite love as much. And come to think of it, all my female protagonists sound alike. They’re insipid, two-dimensional characters who observe rather than act. I don’t know if this is a reflection of myself, but I somehow always seem to relegate my main character to a supporting character. Geraldine thinks Skye’s history and inner emotions should be played up, or at least revealed, more, so that the readers can empathise with her better and actually WANT to read her story and not wonder why Drew would fall for such a watered-down character. Geraldine and I discussed female protagonists from books like Becca Fitzpatrick’s HUSH, HUSH and Cassandra Clare’s THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, and I grew to understand my responsibility as a female writer to present a believable character whom readers would be able to relate to and WANT to relate to.

3. Pool she liked, and wishes I can dig deeper and flesh out the nuances of the character even more.

4. The abduction was confusing to her because of many missing details and explanations. I was afraid I might overload the reader with too much information and have them skip over paragraphs, which was why I did more showing through dialogue and action rather than telling via exposition. But tell too much and you risk boring your readers; show too much and you risk confusing them by leaving too much up to interpretation.

5. The ending kind of got derailed, according to her. She said I started off the story with a strong build up, but then the ending became about something else – a subplot – and the main thread got lost or forgotten or skimmed across too conveniently to the extent of being unrealistic. For example, would a girl whose repressed memories of her abduction when she was six years old still leads to her experiencing panic attacks be able to forgive her abductor so easily when she meets him again after twelve years? Geraldine says there needs to be some form of closure for Skye.

It does seem like my story is too scant on the details now that I read back on it. As writers, we often don’t see the faults of our stories because that’s how the stories come to us. But to a reader, there are many things that may not add up or are not wholly developed. Which is why it’s so nice to have an editor with a fresh pair of professional eyes point out the problems with my story and suggest ways to improve.

I left that lunch meeting with Geraldine wishing more than ever that I could write fiction full-time.

I could get used to this

It’s my third day as an intern at Cosmopolitan Singapore, and I’ve pretty much figured out my daily routine.

5.30am: Wake up
6am: Travel to the swimming complex
6.30am: Swim
7.30am: Travel home
8am: Prepare to go to work
8.30am: Set off for the office
9am – 6pm: Work
6.30pm: Reach home
7pm: Dinner
10pm: Lights out

I know. It’s the control freak in me. I need routine, I need structure, I need control. That feeling of letting go and cutting yourself some slack? Freaks me out. As long as I have a standard daily schedule, which involves (most importantly) my morning swim, I’m a happy girl ready to take on whatever faces me at work.

And work. Here we are, at last, one foot in the industry I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was 17 and was advised to start thinking about my future. And Cosmopolitan is one of my favourite magazines – along with Glamour and CLEO – so where better to work than here?

Day One of my internship was almost crushingly dull, since I was just expected to read past issues of the magazine as well as the Cosmo blog to familiarise myself with the writing style. But since I’m a regular reader of the magazine and the blog, I found myself re-reading old articles. Which was fine, I suppose, since I can’t expect much of my first day. I’d just been building up all this anticipation in me. There are two other interns – W, who’s been around for three weeks, and S, who started a day before me – as well as a new beauty writer C, who started a day before me too. Good thing I’m not the only newbie around because in this environment full of smart and beautiful go-getting women, it can seem a little daunting at times.

Day Two got better, since I was tasked to write the Cosmo Weekend Guide, a weekly section on the Cosmo blog that recommends places to eat, drink and play for the weekend. I was given a quick tutorial on editorials, advertorials and advertisements, too, and gained access to the interns’ shared email, which I studied to understand the sort of events Cosmo gets invited to and the products she has access to and is asked to write about. There are hair product launches, wine and food tastings, Kenzo perfume testings, clothe-sourcings (for the fashion interns – sadly, I can’t go along since I’m an editorial intern), and on and on. The fashion interns are out every afternoon to go sourcing for clothings that fit a theme the fashion editor sets. Then they come back (with bags and bags of borrowed clothings) and review the clothings, look for images of celebrities wearing a certain trend.

Since Cosmo’s office is shared with other Singapore Press Holdings magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, CLEO, Shape, and the like, I get to experience not just what it’s like in Cosmo, but also these other magazines. Yeah, no earth-shattering revelations, since everyone’s just busy at work in their cubby-holes, but I can hear the conversations amongst Harper’s Bazaar writers (HB is right next to Cosmo), and boy are they an energetic bunch.

Tomorrow, I have to attend a hair product launch at Swissotel the Stamford at 10am, in place of the editorial assistant. I know this industry isn’t all glitz and glamour – I mean, sure, they get beauty product samples and go for tastings and meet pretty people occasionally, but some of them work long hours and are always rushing everywhere for this event and that and sometimes have to eat lunch at their desks – but this is what I’ve always wanted (apart, of course, from being a full-time author) and this is what I signed up for, so I’d just like to say: this is the start of something good.

In other news, I’ve met up with my editor, Geraldine, who’s going to work with me on my manuscript LAMBS FOR DINNER all the way till publication in December. It’s planned to hit the shelves in January next year, if all goes well. I’ll post more details about it as we go along! And a big thank you to those who’ve messaged me regarding this! I appreciate your support. Basically, for now, what might change is the title, since Geraldine thought the link between the story and the title is a little tenuous. I just need to clean up my manuscript and submit the draft by the end of this month, then send it to Straits Times Press for further editing. Given my packed schedule now, though, with driving lessons and the tuition lessons I’m giving on weekends, I can only squeeze in pockets of time for editing while I’m on the bus home or to and from the pool. Still, I can’t complain. This is everything I’ve ever wanted.

Yesterday and today morning, I went for my morning swim earlier than I’ve ever been. I used to swim at 8am, but because of work I have to swim earlier (I don’t like swimming in the evenings because the water’s too warm for comfort and because the pool is packed). And between 6.30am and 7.30am, that’s when day breaks. I start out when the stars are still hanging in the sky, and I can still see the full moon and Venus, the morning star, and Mercury, steady and constant – and by the time I’m done with my 40 laps, the sky is a gentle shade of pink and orange. The air is cool and crisp, and it’s simple beautiful moments like these that make me so thankful I can enjoy all this.

Like I said, give me my morning swim and I’m a happy girl.