rediscovering joy in solitude + current reads

I feel like the world entered 2021 with cautious (if a little beleaguered) hope. With more vaccines being developed and distributed around the world, a certain orange man on his way out, and businesses starting to rehire again, it seemed like things might be starting to pick up.

Then the 7 Jan Capitol Hill insurgence happened (seriously, what the actual fuck – the audacity and lawlessness and injustice is unbelievable) and we’re seeing a couple of Covid-19 cases in the local community again (after months of zero community cases) and it feels like 2021 is just 2020 part two. I had to take a break from the news for a bit and find my inner peace again.

And really, that’s the goal these days. Just inner peace. Trying not to let external things, events and people upset the balance. Keeping the optimism alive.

On a personal note, it’s been a good first week of the year for me. Projects lined up that I’m genuinely excited about, daily progress being made, new plans and collaborations with people, spending time with friends and family. I feel like I’m coming home to myself again, slowly but surely sliding back into equilibrium. Silence doesn’t feel daunting or empty; it just feels peaceful now, and my head is no longer preoccupied with anxious thoughts. There’s a quiet power that comes with being comfortable and happy in your own company, when you don’t feel like you’re lacking anything and you’ve got everything you need to keep you fulfilled, busy, and happy. I’m learning to enjoy that again.

Most notably, I’ve been getting a lot more reading and writing done. I’m currently working on four books (three novels and one book of poetry and prose. I know some of you want me to disclose more about my current works-in-progress, but I generally prefer not to divulge too much or make it public before I’m at least done with the first draft. I like my projects to belong completely to me until I at least have a semblance of a thing to show. So this is all I’ll share for now), and I’m reading three books concurrently (more on that in a bit), on top of juggling assignments, painting, working out, and dreaming up new scenes for my novels and new tales to tell.

So when people ask me what I’ve been up to and I say “keeping busy”, that’s the long answer.

Currently Reading:

  1. Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey
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There’s murder, a school for teenage mages (think Hogwarts as an American high school), and a private investigator struggling to take on a task too big for her to handle. I do enjoy the voice and the premise, but I also wish the pace would pick up a bit. There’s a lot to uncover here, and so far (133 pages in), the protagonist has just been wrestling with her insecurity issues, rekindling her relationship with her estranged sister, and wandering around the school observing people. I’ll keep going, though, just to see if things build up.

2. By All the Saints and Stars, by my incredible friend and critique partner Meredith Crosbie

Image by: Meredith Crosbie

When Meredith first told Nicole (another fantastic writer and fellow Tolkien lover) and I that she was writing a book set in ancient Venice, I was immediately stoked. And it did not disappoint. I practically flew through the first four chapters in one sitting, and am consistently impressed by the world-building and characterisation. You guys, this book will definitely be on the shelves one day, and I’m so honoured to be one of the first few people to read it.

3. Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

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I knowww. I started reading this book in 2019 and I’m still not done with it. Similarly, I took more than a year to finish King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, so the fact that I take ages to finish a book is in no way a testament to the quality of the book. Laini and Leigh are stellar writers – I just have terrible a attention span these days (again, I blame social media). But Strange the Dreamer is a hefty book, and there’s a lot of world-building involved so it takes a while to fully immerse in the book.

4. I’ve also been seeking out more poetry.

It’s funny – I never used to be into poetry very much, but maybe that was because I’d never really found poems that resonated with me. My last (cringe-inducing) attempt at poetry was when I was 17: I went everywhere with a black notebook and pen, and sat in dark corners scribbling away in it. I don’t dare to promise that the poems I’m attempting to write now are cringe-free, but I like to think they’re marginally less awful than the ones I wrote as a teenager.

Anyway, here are some much, much better poems others have written that I absolutely adore:

mary oliver
I met Marla back in 2016, when we sat on the same panel at a writers conference, and discovered what an amazing poet she is. Been trying to get my hands on her poetry anthologies but they seem to be out of stock everywhere 😦

Hope you’re having a good start to 2021 (and if not, that you hold faith that things WILL get better)!

when life crowds out everything else

don't put your dream in your pocket

You know how when you get too caught up in the daily grind and its nitty-gritty demands that everything else falls by the wayside and suddenly you glance at the calendar and realise weeks have passed and your brain is still stuck in two weeks ago — no, 2015?

Yeah, that just happened. Again. Actually, it’s happened too many times before. And weeks, months, YEARS can pass just like that. When you stop to take a breather and realise that all this time has fled and you’ve done pretty much nothing that you can show for.

2016 was like that for me. A year where everything was a blur, weeks blended into each other and I had no idea when one ended and another started. My calendar was full of deadlines, and the to-do list for work jostled for the most space on my phone and desktop.

We get caught up the snare of day-to-day life unwittingly. It creeps in, slow and insidious, beginning as just regular ol’ anticipation for the weekend, when we have some alone time, some room to breathe, at last. We try to survive through the week, and then anticipate the next weekend.

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Pretty soon, the brief reprieve offered by weekends is the only thing that’s keeping us afloat.

Weeks can fly by when we’re counting them down like that. We can lose grasp of our time, our goals, our dreams, when we let real life rob us day by day. Commitments like the day job, socialising, chores, errands… Something’s got to give, and more often than not it’s the thing that asks the least of us that gets sacrificed. The thing that asks the least of us, but gives us the most joy.

For artists, it’s our art.

It sounds frivolous and indulgent, but it isn’t. Living isn’t just about survival. On top of that, it’s about finding a purpose, a calling, a reason for being, what the Japanese call ikigai.


Everyone would have, by my age, typically found theirs by now. Otherwise, we’d all just stay in bed and wonder what we exist for.

For artists — at least, for this artist — the drive to create is what keeps me going. I can’t break down yet, I can’t give in yet, not until I publish another book, reach one more reader, finish writing another novel.


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When there is no space in our lives to create, or at least (in Liz Gilbert’s words) pursue our curiosity, life dims into a dreary pool of watery light. When our minds are so preoccupied with keeping up with the demands of everyday life to venture into the realms of creativity, we become ravenous, mercurial beasts, snapping at everything in our way and not understanding why. We grow heavy and lethargic in our hearts, to the point where we can’t seem to breathe, or where everything comes out in tears.

What Laini Taylor said in this blog post (which I keep going back to) was right:

You can be convinced you’re following your dream, or that you’re going to start tomorrow, and years can pass like that. Years.

The thing is, there will be pressure to adjust your expectations, always shrinking them, shrinking, shrinking, until they fit in your pocket like a folded slip of paper, and you know what happens to folded slips of paper in your pocket. They go through the wash and get ruined. Don’t ever put your dream in your pocket.

I let 2016 pass me by. I’m not going to let real life rob me of my time this year, I’m not going to put my dream in my pocket any longer. I will unfold it. I will find the time and space for it, if only because it is growing too restless sitting in my pocket and sitting in my heart and it’s manifesting itself as tears, despondency, night-time despair, and a bone-deep restlessness that is crowding out every other thought in my head.

But I don’t have time to go insane. I don’t have time for a mental breakdown (although physically I have, what with a high fever, sore throat, and the flu I’m just slowly recovering from). I don’t want to be lost and depressed anymore. Because there’s work to be done, and only I can get it done.

If nothing, I can at least say I tried, and it was all worth the effort.

I think the passion for an extraordinary life, and the courage to pursue it, is what makes us special. And I don’t even think of it as an “extraordinary life” anymore so much as simple happiness. It’s rarer than it should be, and I believe it comes from creating a life that fits you perfectly, not taking what’s already there, but making your own from scratch.

~ Laini Taylor



The Liebster Award


So there’s this thing called the Liebster Award, which is apparently something bloggers can tag each other for. It allows those nominated to share more about themselves and connect with their online friends, and those nominees in turn have to pick others to do the same. The whole objective is to foster a sense of community among bloggers and help little-known blogs be discovered.

I was nominated by Nicole over at Thoughts Stained With Ink to do this (thanks, Nicole!). She’s a fantastic girl, so honest and candid about her struggles in her blog posts, but always encouraging, especially to writers. I feel like she’d be a great person to have a heart-to-heart talk with and connect with on a deep, personal level even though I have never met her in real life. She’s a young twenty-something writer who is just starting out on her road to publication, and her determination and passion for writing is always a huge dose of inspiration for me. I have no doubt we will see her works on bookshelves real soon.

So, the Liebster Award.


  1. Write about a favourite blog that is not yours.
  2. Share 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  4. Nominate up to 11 bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer.



It’s hard to pick just ONE favourite blog. Nathan Bransford, Maggie Stiefvater, Victoria Schwab and more keep fantastic blogs that are so helpful and candid, and that foster warm, encouraging communities.

But if I had to pick just one, it’ll have to be Laini Taylor’s (though she’s fallen off the blogging bandwagon lately as she’s hard at work on her manuscript).



Aside from her beautiful art to her drool-worthy travels and home decor pictures to her adorable daughter, the bestselling author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, also shares inspiring advice and motivational quotes for writers. It’s a treasure trove for all creative types, and her blog posts are natural mood-boosters.

This post is one of my favourites – I even printed it out and stuck it in my notebook so I can re-read it every time I feel demoralised during my creative journey:

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out Not For Robots, another site that Laini created years ago where she shared all her writing wisdom.



1. I walk really fast. Like, really fast. People always tell me to slow down, but eventually they give up and let me speed off into the sunset.

2. I once fell on my tailbone. Hard. Had to work from home for three months. The pain is real, guys.

3. I listen to the same song(s) over and over again all day errday when writing a novel, so I can get into and sustain the momentum.

4. I’m a hermit, and I write best when I’m in a cold, dark room with a cup of warm green tea by my side.


5. The fastest I ever wrote a book was one month: I pounded out the first draft of Lambs for Dinner by writing an average of 3,000 words a day without fail. I can’t seem to find that kind of discipline (or uninterrupted stretch of time) anymore 😦

6. I have never been in love. Crushes, yes. But love for an actual guy, no.

7. I need space. Lots of space. A lot of people don’t understand my need for alone time.

8. I am terrible at 1-on-1  interaction. It stresses me out to have to sustain a social interaction alone with someone, so I often choose to hang out in a group.

9. I’m afraid of cats.

10. I had anorexia when I was 17.

11. But I’m over that now. My happy food is roasted/baked pumpkins 🙂



1. If you could choose one author to be your best friend (we’re talking giggling at sleepovers and having brunch on Sundays to talk about the latest tabloids kind of best friend), who would you choose and why?


Laini Taylor. Regular readers of this blog would know that I completely adore her. She is so incredibly charming and personable, and her family is equally endearing (how adorable is Clementine Pie!). I’ve been stalking her blog since 2014 (and read every one of her old posts too), and it always puts me in a good mood because she is so inspiring and upbeat and artistic and free-spirited ugh I just LOVE her. I want her charmed life.

2. Favorite kind of cheese?


3. This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of question. Path A: What book series should be adapted into a video game and why (I’m thinking a la Witcher here)? Path B: If you don’t play video games and thus can’t travel down Path A, please tell me how you function without such soul-sucking enjoyment in your life?

Ummmm. What the hell, Nicole. LOL. I don’t play video games, but I’m going to pick Laini Taylor’s DOSAB trilogy to be adapted into a video game, because imagine all the costumes and LARP-ing that it will inspire!

4. If it were my birthday and you were buying me a puppy, what kind of puppy would you get me (pictures preferred)?


A golden retriever because it is just the cutest.

5. What are you most excited about, writing-wise, right now?

Getting started on the two Shiny New Ideas brewing in my head right now! Also, finishing this damn WIP already. It’s in first-draft mode and making me want to tear my hair out.

6. What is the plot of the ultimate dream story you want to write (or have written or are too afraid to write)?

Something that spans generations, where the follies and foibles of the last generation affect the lives of the next. Or something really twisty and delicious like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. But I don’t think I have the brain capacity to take that on!


7. How do you plan to better the world?

I wouldn’t assume that I have the power to, but the only way I know how is by writing stories that people can relate to and characters they can empathise or connect with so that they don’t feel alone in the world. Because that’s exactly what reading other people’s stories have done for me.

8. What “rule” do you break in writing (purposefully or otherwise)?

A lot of writers advise knowing your ending before you actually get started on the writing. I plan a general skeleton, then leave room for the story to meander and find itself. Sometimes, that works – I get pleasantly surprised by where the story takes me. Other times, I have to go back and change a number of things before I manage to reach the end finally.

9. Which fictional characters make you question whether you’re actually ficto-sexual, i.e., whom can I swoon over?


Michael Moscovitz (from Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries) was my very first fictional crush. But lately I’ve been very taken by Nikolai Lantsov from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. That charismatic rogue prince/ship captain is quite a charmer!

10. What fictional language do you wish was actually commonplace?

Tolkien’s Elvish! Imagine how dramatic and grand everything would sound. Even something like, “I’m going to the store to buy bread.”

11. Lurtz (see below if you’re not on a first-name basis) is about to kill you. What do you do?


To quote Hermione, “That thing has a name?!” Guess I’ll just use Boromir as a human shield. (What? He dies in the show, anyway.)



Compared to Nicole, who really puts in 101% effort into maintaining relationships with all the friends she meets online, I don’t have that many writer friends that I keep in constant contact with. Maybe just a handful that I exchange text messages and emails back and forth. And since I’m blogging less frequently now compared to a couple of years back (thanks to work and life and everything in between), I don’t have many followers or e-meet many other bloggers. So I’m just going to nominate the following whom I’m closest to:

  1. Becky Donahue
  2. Jenna Villforth Veazey
  3. JF Koh
  4. Joyce Chng
  5. Meredith Crosbie



  1. What is your strangest writing habit/routine?
  2. What is your biggest regret in life?
  3. What kind of music do you listen to, especially when you’re writing?
  4. What is one skill you have always wanted to learn?
  5. Who’s your biggest writing inspiration?
  6. What was your favorite book or series as a child?
  7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
  8. If you were stranded on a desert island with three books/series, what would they be? (“How to Build a Raft” and the like don’t count!)
  9. What is your biggest fear?
  10. What is one author quote that you identify with the most? (It can be about writing per se or life in general.)
  11. What made you decide to be a writer and where do you see yourself in five years?


Well, this has been fun! Thanks again for the nomination, Nicole! Nominees, you know what to do 😉

The Value of Dreams in a Numbers-Driven World

A friend and I caught up over coffee the other day, where we talked about how jaded we were doing work that wasn’t what we fully believed in or what fuelled our actual dreams, and how our creative efforts were being overshadowed by the demand for tangible returns.

Basically, in the corporate world everything comes down to profits. Revenue. Sales. Site traffic. Everything quantifiable in numbers, in other words. But what if you’re someone creating things that can’t or shouldn’t be quantified with numbers, how then do you measure success or worth?

Sometimes it seems like you just can’t win. That art will always come secondary to profits. What good is an ad or campaign if it’s not going to generate sales? What’s the point of an article if it doesn’t resonate with X number of people and they’re not sharing it on social media? We’re told that dreams are worthless until they can be realised, that our art is only as valuable as the amount of money it can be traded for. We start to internalise this yardstick and whip it out when deciding if what we’re creating is good enough.

And I think that’s the reason people give up on their creative dreams. Nobody sees the value in what they produce, so they think it’s pointless to pursue it.

But really:

It’s such a waste when people give up on their creative dreams because they think their dreams have no place in their environment or society they live in. My dad, for instance, gave up on art school because he thought it was more important to seek gainful employment to help the family. Till this day, he wonders how things might have worked out differently if he had studied design communication like he wanted to.

There is always a place for our art. For more art. And there are people out there who might actually need it, or at least enjoy it. I think as artists (I’m defining this word here as anyone with dreams of creation), we tend to forget that. We think that being in a numbers-driven world what we can offer is of little or no value, or that what we do will always be under-appreciated.

But as long as there is one person out there who believes in your art and your creation and your dreams, then it is your duty to keep producing work to sustain not just them but also – and more importantly – yourself.

This post by Laini Taylor bears re-sharing. Seriously, read it. It will change your life.

We artists are needy! We need constant reminders to keep fighting the good fight. It’s why most artists I know have motivational messages stuck all over their computer screens or walls

This is what’s on my wall.
Or occasionally turn to books like


To reignite that spark in themselves.


Sometimes, I think it might be easier if I were an analytical, logical ENTJ. But then I think, Nah, I wouldn’t give up my penchant to dream or any part of my creative life just so things would be easier. Being an INFP may be more complex, but it is also very rewarding.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for numbers and weekly reports. They are the most straightforward way to assess the merit of a project, or track the performance and growth of a channel.

But the world also needs artists. People who dream. People who create. It’s the only way humanity can move forward. Sounds grandiose, but I do believe artists, innovators, creators and dreamers are the ones who ask the “right” questions. Not “how much”, but “what if” and “why”.

So if you’re asking those questions and constantly thinking of new ways to tell your stories – be it in a novel, a poem, a song, a dance, a painting, a photo, an ad, whatever – just remember that the world needs your stories, and you owe it to yourself to make your voice heard.

And if you think no one out there appreciates or cares about your art, for what it’s worth there’s always me, rooting for all the artists dreaming big and fighting to leave their fingerprints on the world.
So go forth and unleash your art, and guard it with your life!

#ReadingList for October!

To read:


1. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie

Is this magical realism from Salman Rushdie? FINALLY.

2. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

If you haven’t read the Grisha trilogy by this amazing author, do yourself a favour and pick it up from the bookstore today. Aside from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, it was one of the most richly imagined, vividly narrated YA fantasy stories I have ever read.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard of this spinoff set in the Grishaverse, I wasted no time in adding it to my to-read list. High-stakes heist? Sign me on! Plus, I read the sneak preview chapters of the book the Leigh shared, and it was everything I expected AND MORE. It’s just mind-blowing, how she manages to come up with such intricate plots supported by stellar writing.

3. The Demon in the Wood, by Leigh Bardugo

Speaking of the Grisha trilogy, here’s another story set in the Grishaverse. This prequel reveals the Darkling’s past – back when Grishas were reviled and persecuted – that shaped him into the misunderstood villain he later became.

I can’t say I have a soft spot for the Darkling, unlike a lot of other fans of the series (the cocky but charming Nikolai is more my cup of tea, along with sweet romantic Mal). But the Darkling isn’t evil for the sake of being evil. He believed in his cause, and for that his backstory is worth reading. Besides, more from the Grishaverse – what’s not to like?
4. Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard


While I wouldn’t say I was completely, incorrigibly and incoherently smitten with it like I was with the Grisha trilogy of the DOSAB one (Laini Taylor is indomitable), this series by Victoria Aveyard is definitely a masterfully written piece of work. I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction by any stretch (which is why I’m not on the Hunger Games or Divergent bandwagon, sorry!), but this one drew me in with its high-stakes plot and unusual premise. All those twists! Be prepared to have the rug pulled from under you at any time.

So yes, sign me up for the sequel.

Currently reading: 

Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley

I’ve always been entranced by stories set in the sky, among the clouds. It’s why I love Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle (the latter a movie adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s book) so much. And how dreamy does Magonia seem! Can I sail away to that kingdom in the sky already?

And speaking of books in general, here’s the loot from the National Library book sale today!

I know, I know. As an author myself, I should be supporting other writers by buying their book first-hand and not at these secondhand book sales because none of the proceeds go to the writers for all their efforts. But in my defence, some of these, like Silksinger by Laini Taylor, are already out of print (trust me, I’ve looked everywhere for it).

And, you know, as long as people are reading and getting to know new authors, this is not an entirely bad thing. Right??

So Round Two tomorrow! Hope your weekend is a bountiful one too! :0)

Were you at the NLB book sale today? What titles did you get? Share your loot here – I’d love to hear from you!

Post-CNY Book Updates and Writing Links

Happy Lunar New Year!
It’s been a whole week (and more) of preparations (who knew one good meal with your family involved so much effort?) and spring cleaning and general merry-making that involves too much grilled honeyed meat jerkies (physically impossible to resist), pineapple tarts, cashew nut cookies, sashimi salads (I know I’m not doing the food much justice with these descriptions, but just know that they are basically the reason why the clean eating programme is going out the window this festive period), and mandarin oranges. Many, many mandarin oranges.
But it’s Monday again, so here’s an update on No Room in Neverland, and some great links to share:
1. Sophie Kinsella’s advice for writing a book:

Everybody, no matter who they are gets to the middle of a book and thinks crikey, I’ve had enough of this. You get bored with your story and your characters, you hate them all, you can’t think why you started this wretched story in the first place.

The truth is, every book is hard to write, everybody reaches a wall, whether it is a plot hole or a scene that you can’t get past. So you’ve just got to get to the end. Even if it’s not the greatest draft, if it needs rewriting fine, at least you have a book to rewrite.


So this is me trying to put one word after another towards the end. I’m at page 220 now, which may not seem like much, but between Lunar New Year and spring-cleaning and hosting a party and trying to prolong reading Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta and watching this Korean drama called Pinocchio so they won’t end so soon (which, of course, requires Herculean effort, because that book oh god that book and that drama oh god that drama I need to rave about them soon!), I think any progress is good progress.

At least what I’ve written so far for Neverland doesn’t make me want to barf, which is more than I can say for the first draft.
2. How wild is it that Harper Lee is writing another novel, “a sequel of sorts” to her breakout To Kill a Mockingbird
half a century after it was published? It’s called Go Set a Watchman, and she wrote it in the 1950s before setting it aside. Just goes to show that it is never too late to pick up that figurative pen and revisit a novel that didn’t quite work out.

3. As you may know, I’ve been caught up in this fantastic fantasy trilogy lately. The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo is set in ancient Russia, and the plot and characters and writing just gets better and better with each installment. I’m on the final book, Ruin and Rising, now and am trying as hard as I can to read as slowly as humanly possible.
Here’s an interview she did with The Midnight Garden, a book review blog that features a gorgeous whimsical layout and thoughtful reviews on young adult books. In the interview, Leigh reveals her upcoming book, Six of Crows, which she describes as an “Oceans 11, Inglourious Basterds, ragtag band of misfits, impossible heist story” that stars a supporting character from the Grisha trilogy. Big yay for more stories in the Grishaverse!

4. Another old post from ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford, where he offers some advice for young writers:

Don’t judge your writing success by whether you’re able to find publication immediately. Instead, write to get better, write for catharsis and practice and fun. Your future self will be thankful for the time well spent.

I’ll admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole publishing game (not sure if game is the right word here, but let’s go with it for now). It’s easier to fire out query letters to literary agents than writing that book, but it just distracts from the whole point of writing a book in the first place. You end up worrying too much about whether the book will be worth the time and effort, and worrying about whether people will like it, and forget to enjoy the process of writing it, and forget to write the story that you will like.

quote by Timothy Zahn

5. And more great advice from the inimitable Laini Taylor:

Daydreaming, however awesome it is, is passive. It happens in your head. Learning to make dreams real is another matter, and I think it should be the work of your life.

Enough said, really.
Okay, back to working on Neverland now! For the first time since I started writing it in November/December 2013, I’m actually properly psyched about it. Because I see the end in sight and I’m making my way there, one word at a time.
Hope the year of the goat is kinder to you than the horse has been! :0)

Clocked 30K for NaNo – and that’s okay

So we’re done with NaNoWriMo! One crazy month of uncensored writing, manic word churning, and getting lost in the labyrinth of the world you created.

My word count stands at 30,300. But oh, who cares. I’m having too much fun right now to obsess over word count! With a structure I’ve never dared to try before but am experimenting with now because what the hell it’s NaNoWriMo and there’s no better time to write without fear or judgement.
Here is an excerpt from No Room in Neverland (it’s a flashback from one of Gemma and Cole’s imaginary adventures to Neverland when they were kids):



Captain Storm was one of those people who guarded their ship so zealously they barely ever made port. He believed that the sea was his one true home, and to be on land was as unnatural as the hooked metal arm of his nemesis, Captain Hook.
When he first caught sight of the two children, it was on the southern island of Almeta, where he had just gathered enough supplies for another voyage to the Silver Cape. He never stayed overnight on land, even in terrible storms that tore ships apart. But as his men loaded the ship with bags and bags of flour and potatoes, seasoned meat and produce, Captain Storm stepped off his ship.
His crew stared. But the captain’s attention was fixed on the pair of children. They shouldn’t look so out of place in Neverland, where Lost Children made their home. But the two weren’t inhabitants. No, they were just visitors. Port Almeta host vagrants and visitors alike, and these drifters were from the Otherworld.
They were hardy little things, the captain could tell right away even from afar, no more than a day older than eight years of age. Hand in hand, they approached Storm with a steely determination that was absent in the Lost Children around here.
“We would like to cross the Silver Sea with you,” were the girl’s first words to him. Storm could tell she was a lot more nervous than she sounded, mostly because she was plucking at a loose thread in her jeans. The boy nudged her, and she added, “Sir.”
“Captain,” the boy corrected, and the girl nodded.
The captain was being very un-captainlike so far. He cleared his throat and growled, “You want to cross the Silver Sea?”
The pair nodded, their dark eyes too grave for Almeta in daytime.
“We want to know what’s on the other shore.” Tourists, the captain thought irritably. There was no other way to the gilded Hinterlands but sea passage – flight was impossible because of the air sprites out for flesh. Many stubborn visitors have plunged into the watery depths of the tumultuous Silver Sea because of those greedy little bastards.
These children have no idea what they were in for.
“So hitch a ferry. I don’t take passengers,” Captain Storm said.
“You don’t understand. We’re on a mission,” the girl said with enough passion to make the captain’s brows slide up past the shadow cast by his hat. “To save Neverland.”
Storm narrowed his eyes. “Save it how?”
The children shared a brief look before the boy offered, “We know our way around. We’ve studied the maps and everything.”
“We’re not just visitors,” the girl added with an eye roll.
A procession of sailors traipsed by with more bags of ration, staring at their captain and the two children he was entertaining. In the time it took for his men to pass, Storm understood.
“You’re hunting the fool’s treasure, aren’t you? It’s a myth, kids. There is no treasure. Just an old cave and a treacherous jungle.”
“We won’t know for sure until we see it for ourselves.”
Yes, Otherworld children all right. Only they could be this stubborn.
“Neverland is not yours to save,” said Storm. There had been others who tried. Eventually, they gave up after failing too many times, moved on and left Neverland for good. The others ended up as Lost Children, drifting through the days for eternity.
“We don’t know until we try.” The girl possessed a sense of purposefulness and solemnity uncharacteristic of children her age. Not that Captain Storm would know, seeing how few children he came into actual contact with.
How then was he going to have two of them on his ship?
Yet, he looked at the pair of them standing before him now, and heard himself say, “Get on board, then. And try not to fall over. I won’t bother doubling back for either of you.”


There is so much to explore for Neverland! So many possibilities, and it reminds me of how fun writing can be if you don’t second-guess yourself or let yourself stop writing. It’s so easy to make excuses and get overly critical of your writing (and wonder if this is all worth the effort and heartache in the end), but this is exactly how stories end up discarded when all they need is a little more thought and an extra push.


20130114 Laini Taylor writing advice
And who cares if I’m having more fun writing the Neverland Chronicles than present day scenes. I’m just happy to go where the story takes me. Because like Chuck Wendig said, “a finished thing is imperfect – but fixable.”
NaNo-ers, any retrospective thoughts about the experience? Hope NaNoWriMo 2014 was just as fulfilling for you! :0)

It’s NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month entails copious cups of green tea, manic pounding of the keyboard, dreaming up scenes, talking to your characters, considering what they’d do in your shoes as you go about your life, and basically being taken over by this snarling, squalling, blossoming thing called the Work In Progress. Anything that helps churn out that 50K-word manuscript in a month.

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WIP is going relatively well so far, considering how it had bucked and stalled like a horse that needs to poop for the first couple of drafts before I decided to take a break from it (let it, um, poop, so to speak).

Page 198 was where it succeeded in boring the brains out of me, so now I’m giving it another try, this time with a structure I’ve never quite dared to attempt before. Narrative within a narrative. Flashbacks (always risky). Non-linear chronology. Something like what Karen Foxlee did with The Midnight Dress.

Once I decided on this structure, it’s like things finally clicked into place. This is what gets me fired up and excited to write the story! This is what’s missing in the first two attempts! This is what makes me dig deeper into my characters!

Okay. *cracks knuckles* *flexes fingers* Let’s do this.

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Just so we’re clear, I’m probably not going to finish 50K in one month. I’m not going to embrace that kind of insanity. But I’ll just try my best and log in the daily word count and see where this takes me.

For my fellow NaNo-ers, here’s some wisdom from best-selling author Chuck Wendig on the writing process:

“We wish the best for our stories. We want them to be great. We want them to win awards and climb to the top of the bestseller mountain and maybe they’ll change somebody’s life and earn us a giant sack of cash which will allow us to buy a jet-boat or an oil drum full of that very rare civet-poop coffee. Maybe a jet boat fueled by civet-shit coffee.”

Yup, that’s Chuck.

“… go forth and write.

Without pressure, without fear, without the expectation of doing anything but crossing the finish line.”


And some civet shit-free wisdom from Laini Taylor (please update your blog, Laini – I’m dying for some snippet of your life!):

“Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a jungle in, let’s say, Borneo (because I have a fascination with Borneo). You have a rough idea of how big this jungle is — you’ve flown over it in a helicopter and seen dense green treecover, and you know what’s on the other side. You know where you want to get to, and you have a very vague idea of what’s IN the jungle, but you have no map, and as of yet there is no trail. What you do have is a machete, a blank roll of paper, and a grease pencil.

There’s only one way to get to the other side of the jungle: take out your machete and start whacking. Carve your way forward and forward, sometimes sideways and sometimes back, until you get to the other side. That first time through, you’re going to come across ravines, swamps, viper nests, rivers, all sorts of things you didn’t expect and you’ll deal with them and get around them, over them, through them, in all manner of resourceful ways. And when you step out of the jungle on the far side, what you’ll have in your hand is a sprawling, wrinkled, sweat-stained mess of a map of the territory you’ve just discovered. It might not look very pretty, but it is a glorious thing, a document of discovery. You clutch it to you, and after you’ve rested and healed for a while, you go back to the far side of the jungle and. . . you start again.

This time, with your messy map in hand, you’ll know where to go and where not to go. Some of the things you discovered your first time in, you’ll want to avoid like the plague; others will be perfect, serendipitous things that make the journey richer than you could have imagined when you set out. You’ll know your jungle/story intimately, the good and the bad, from ground level. Outlines, I think, are kind of the equivalent of aerial photography — you get some idea, but you can’t really see what it’s like down below — not until you’re walking through it. And when you find things to be not exactly as they had seemed from the air, you have to adapt.

Be nimble.

The second time through, your passage will be much more elegant than the first, and it will also be less exciting. Nothing will ever be so miserable or so thrilling as that first bushwhack. . . that first exploratory draft. The misery and the thrill are intertwined — that’s exploration for you, taking the leeches and fevers with the discovery and getting to name islands and swamps after yourself! The second time, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll be refining your map. It will get more perfect and less exciting with each pass, and then one day you’ll be done. Done with that jungle and ready for a new one.”

Yes, this analogy is perfect.

Yes, Laini Taylor is perfect.

Yes, I wish I could write like her.

Speaking of whom, yay for more Laini goodness: her short story, which is collected in this anthology called My True Love Gave to Me, has just been released!

Image from GoodReads

Laini’s in good company too: Holly Black, Kelly Link, Stephanie Perkins, Myra McEntire, and more!

And you guys, the UK version has HOT PINK pages:

SO grabbing this from the bookstore.

May the writing gods be with you this NaNoWriMo! :0)

Book Review: A Little Wanting Song

So after the magic that was Graffiti Moon, I reached for another Cath Crowley book, A Little Wanting Song.

It was everything I hoped it would be – sweet, funny, poignant, with beautiful, heart-breaking prose, characters you fall in love with and find a bit of yourself in, and music (pun intended) woven between the lines.

Graffiti Moon, which I raved about a while back, is a quiet, funny, and bittersweet contemporary novel about two people trying to find a place for themselves and their art. It inspired me to write Until Morning, and now I’m a die-hard Cath Crowley fan. I’d read ANYTHING she writes, including those strange, beautiful prose and poems on her blog.

The premise for A Little Wanting Song is music instead. It’s about how shy Charlie Duskin, who lost her mother seven years ago and is still reeling in the aftermath of her loss, relies on her music to get her through life with her emotionally distant father.

Love and loss are themes done to death before, and by so many fantastic authors like Sarah Dessen and Christie Hodgen, but the thing about Cath Crowley’s writing is that she leaves a lot of things unsaid. So it seems like a very simple YA story told from a teenage narrator’s POV, but there are so many emotions and layers you can get to if you know where to look.


*insert incoherent babbling and flapping here*

I want to do that too, with my writing. I want to reduce my readers to a sobbing, laughing puddle of emotions and incoherent thoughts.

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I’m convinced there’s something in that Australian soil that produces writers like Cath Crowley, Vikki Wakefield, Karen Foxlee, Lucy Christopher and Melina Marchetta. How can I ever write like thaaaaaat.


Okay, I set out partly to talk about that beautiful book, and also to complain this writing rut I’m in (NOT writer’s block – I refuse to fall back on that excuse), about how I can’t find anything that makes me want to write and lose myself in the magic of words again. But then I headed over to Laini Taylor’s blog, like I always do when I need something reassuring and uplifting, and it’s helped LOADS.

Seriously, just reading one of her blog posts (she updates less regularly now, alas!) puts me in the happy, hopeful mood. And it makes me want to write! HOW is that possible?! It’s not even a post about writing, but about a friend, Kiersten White’s book (which, by the way, now I’m DYING to read).

But yes, the problem still stands. I still don’t believe in No Room in Neverland enough to write it. And I’m afraid to work all the way to 289 pages before I realise it’s not working again. Okay, time to re-read THIS POST!

Also, this little pep talk from best-selling author, and writer of this hysterically funny and on-point post, couldn’t be more timely. I SPURTED OUT MY TEA READING THIS, CHUCK WENDIG, THANKS FOR THAT.

Have a lovely weekend! :0)

Book review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters



So I’ve finally finished reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters, dammit.



I’d been trying to stave off the ending for as long as I could, but I guess no story lasts forever.



DOGAM, of course, was amazing. It was a beautiful conclusion to an epic trilogy. I remember how the first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, got me hooked, with its gritty premise (bones! teeth! exotic places like Morocco!), vivid characters and scenes (Brimstone the ram-headed resurrectionist! Razgut the foul, bloated fallen angel! the masquerade ball where Akiva magicked a living shawl of moths for Karou! *swoon swoon dies*)


What a ride it’s been.



What I loved about DOGAM:


1. THE STELIANS. HOLY SHIT, THE STELIANS. They had me the minute the Stelian queen, Scarab, bared her teeth at the prisoners and offered them the flesh fruit grown of the prisoners’ comrades. So deliciously disturbing. (Not sure what that says about my mental state.)


2. The antagonists. Jael, Razgut, Morgan Toth, and Esther Van de Vloet. They are vile. Which makes their comeuppance that much more gratifying.


3. Zuzana and Mik. Let’s face it: who can NOT love them? Zuzana, the feisty little marionette girl from book 1, is just as adorable in book 3, but twice deadly and awesome now. And Mik, Violin Boy, is as sweet and romantic and crazy in love with Zuze. Together, they brought some semblance of normalcy and levity to all the doom and gloom and chaos of war.


4. As always, the prose. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read and re-read and re-read and taken a screenshot of a sentence or passage I loved. These are just the tip of the iceberg of gorgeous, swoon-worthy moments in the story:


When this passage made me really want to live in the Far Isles:


When I felt Liraz’s guilt gnawing at me too:


When I marvelled at the stuff Laini’s brain could come up with:


When I whooped with joy at Violin Boy’s romantic (and impossible) proposal:


When I imagined the film version of the book (all that makeup!):


When my heart almost stopped at this moment (thanks, Laini):


WHAT is in Laini Taylor’s food? No seriously, what. I need to know, so I can produce prose as insanely beautiful as hers.


And come up with plot ideas as original and daring as hers.


And be able to weave it all together as flawlessly as she does.


One thing, though.


What DOGAM could stand to lose: 

I would gush over the perfection that is DOGAM, but I couldn’t help but think that the story could be a little bit shorter. I mean, do we need so much description of Karou and Akiva’s attraction to each other? I get it, the two of you are in love and it’s earth-shattering and the cosmos align every time your eyes meet and the space between you two is electric and all that. Now get on with business already. You’ve got a world to rebuild.


So if I were being nitpicky, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars.


But who am I kidding. This is the closest to perfection YA fantasy can get. So 5 out of 5 stars.