On meeting Alwyn Hamilton and resisting the siren song of Shiny New Idea

I know. I KNOW it’s been two whole months since I last blogged, and if you actually visit this blog and aren’t in regular contact with me you might have wondered if I died in a ditch somewhere.

No, I just died in my writing cave.

i need help

Because while I wasn’t blogging, I was busy working on that fantasy novel. Once or twice, I did feel guilty for not updating this blog and toyed with the notion of posting something. But I didn’t really have much to say that wouldn’t bore the lights out of everyone anyway. Plus, I feel even MORE guilty for doing anything other than writing that novel. Like, all this time I spend blogging can actually be spent upping my word count! Do I really need to blog?

But now that I’ve hit word count for the day, yes I can and yes I shall. (Need is a very strong word, after all.)

So updates:

  1. Meeting Alwyn Hamilton!!
    The most squeal-worthy one, of course, is that I got to moderate a session with ALWYN HAMILTON, THE ALWYN HAMILTON. Best-selling author of YA fantasy trilogy Rebel of the Sands, which I’ve gushed and swooned over everywhere!!!


Yes, so I got to meet her and pick her brain and she was incredibly sweet and candid as she shared about her writing process and journey to publication and I tried not to wet my pants in excitement.

(If you haven’t read her books yet, DO IT.)




It’s always so inspiring to see other writers living the life I’ve always wanted, and to know that they came from the same place before too (in a job they weren’t entirely committed to because they didn’t see it as their actual career). It makes me that much more determined to get to that place too.

So with that event done and dusted, I promptly went back to work.



I’ll admit. I ALMOST caved in to the YA romance that was calling out to me as I ploughed through LAND.

But then I told myself that if I succumbed to this sexy new project – looking all glorious with its cutesy premise and alluring character arcs – I would be letting LAND down (what, you don’t regard your works-in-progress as actual sentient beings??) and making the mistake that many amateur writers make: write, get stuck, abandon, move to new project, get stuck, abandon… You see where I’m going with this.

And – surprise, surprise – that’s not how writing gets done! The only way to finish a draft is to, well, FINISH THE DAMN DRAFT, no matter how shitty it looks right now.

The current WiP may look like me when I first wake up in the morning with my hair all over my face and my skin blotchy and eyes bleary and basically a giant mess; whereas the Shiny New Idea may look all seductive and make eyes at me from across the room. But I’d be an idiot to follow it out the room when it sidles close to me and asks if I want to go get some air.

prince eric hello.gif

Prince Eric may be hot, but he’s also an idiot easily fooled by an octopus woman. Just saying.

Because guess what? That Shiny New Idea will lose its lustre halfway through LIKE ALL FIRST DRAFTS DO. It will gurgle and splutter and flop like a dying fish on land (WHO’S LOOKING SEXY NOW, HUH?) before you decide to take pity on it and toss it back to the sea.

So no, I’m sticking to the “I woke up like this” WiP, blotchy skin and all. Even if I sometimes feel like stabbing it, even when it blinks innocently back at me when I scream at it to work itself out, even when my brain produces word vomit instead of a stream of lyrical prose like I want it to.

And the good news is, writing has a funny reward system. The more you do it, the less stuck you get. The more word vomit you produce, the more momentum you gain, the less shitty the writing gets.

Oh, the word vomit will still happen from time to time. But eventually, that clears up to become prose that is somewhere between not-too-bad and lyrical. And then, finally, hopefully, one day we might look back on all that drivel we wrote and realise that we’ve actually written our dream book.


HANDS UP, those of you who are resisting “the siren call” (as Alwyn put it) of Shiny New Ideas at the moment! How are you staying loyal to your WiP? 


yet another Shiny New Idea … set in the desert!

Shiny New Idea: a new idea for a creative project that takes root while you are in the middle of a work-in-progress, and doesn’t let go until you devote time and attention to it.

Sometimes it just hits you out of nowhere starts sweeping you away. It would whisper of tantalising characters and settings in your ear, keep you up at night with vivid scenes, and basically distract you from what you’re working on at the moment to steal your attention and enthusiasm. Write me, write me! it will scream, until you are no longer able to resist it and you put your WIP on hold to go work on the Shiny New Idea.

Nooooo! Bad writer. Finish your shit before you move on to the next book!

But … but it’s so pretty. Look how shiny!

NO. You are almost halfway through your WIP. Do NOT abandon it now.

But this is sooo much better! And exciting! And shiny!

You get the gist. So yes, I caved in eventually.

The Shiny New Idea I’ve been obsessing over for days was birthed from this book:

And this drama, Ballad of the Desert:

(It stars Eddie Peng, too – yummm)

These are typically not up my alley at all – I’m not a period-drama person, or big on novels set in exotic settings I know nothing about – but there’s something so alluring and unusual and fresh about the desert that allows for so many possibilities. I’m getting starry-eyed just thinking of it! *__*

The idea took root in my head before I even realised it. I began dreaming of a lone princess in the desert and found myself figuring out her story. I dreamed of a stranger with eyes like danger and skin the colour of sun-warmed sand.

I started seeking out “desert music” like this

I started scribbling ideas into my notebook and plotting the opening scenes.

I started creating characters and diving into their backstory.

I started doing research.

5 Things Googled for Land of Sand and Song (yes, the story has a title already):

1. Atlas Mountains

Credit: Educational Geography
Image from Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Atlas Mountains is a mountain range which stretches across northwestern Africa extending about 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The Atlas ranges separate the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. The population of the Atlas Mountains is mainly Berbers.


2. Berbers

Credit: Samia Dib Benkaci

The Berbers or Amazighs are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. The Berber identity is usually wider than language and ethnicity, and encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa. Berbers are not an entirely homogeneous ethnicity and they encompass a range of phenotypes, societies and ancestries. The unifying forces for the Berber people may be their shared language, belonging to the Berber homeland, or a collective identification with the Berber heritage and history.


3. Numidia

Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC) was an Ancient Berber kingdom in what is now Algeria and a smaller part of Tunisia, in North Africa. Numidia was originally divided between Massylii in the east and Masaesyli in the west. During the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), Massinissa, king of the Massylii, defeated Syphax of the Masaesyli to unify Numidia into one kingdom.

The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later alternated between being a Roman province and a Roman client state. It was bordered by the kingdoms of Mauretania (modern-day Morocco) to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern-day Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south.


4. Mauretania

Mauretania (also spelled Mauritania) was in ancient times a part of North Africa corresponding to the Mediterranean coast of what is today Morocco.

Mauretania originally was an independent tribal Berber kingdom from about the 3rd century BC. It became a client state of theRoman empire in 33 BC, then a full Roman province after the death of its last king Ptolemy of Mauretania in AD 40.


5. River name etymologies

And we are just getting started.

BRB, getting lost in idea-land!

Oh, and if anyone has read that fantastic book or watched the show, I’d be happy to spaz over them with you. I am happily stuck in those worlds, and hope I never have to leave! :0)