I sort of disappeared longer than intended because quite a few things cropped up after which resulted in me rushing to get a website done for my portfolio, and then writing the last 20,000 words of my almost-finished book Angel Slayer over the period of 7 days.

That was exhausting. On the fifth day I basically sat at the computer smashing the keyboard in the morning until late afternoon, with only a half-hour lunch break, but I churned out 13 pages and finished the book. That’s like 6 or 7,000 words. So yeah, that was quite the experience, but nothing beat the satisfaction of knowing that I finished a second book. So why did I have to rush so much to finish this book? Harper Voyager opened its doors to unagented submissions for a limited period of 2 weeks, ending on Oct 14. I decided to take advantage of the opened doors, so I finished the book and submitted it.

In all honesty, I’ve learned to keep my expectations as low as humanly possible, so I really don’t expect to hear from them 3 months later–if they do, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. While there are many benefits to self-publishing, there are some things that a traditional publisher can do more easily. In any case, if there’s an opportunity, I take it.

The free promo for Three Deals with Death wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t abysmal either. I did manage to get a 5-star review out of it, however. I just have to figure out how to keep marketing because I’m guessing nobody knows it exists at the moment.

I don’t think I’ll be able to do anything with Angel Slayer until the 3-month waiting period is over. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep working on The Great Reversal, Cornelius’s second adventure after Three Deals with Death. The plot is more action-oriented this time around, Corn can actually defend himself and there are demons. And best of all it was 72 pages done already. The only thing left is to finish it.

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Three Two One

Promotion DayThis week I spent all my “working hours” heading to a huge list of indie promo sites that I dug up, and filling out submission forms and in some cases repeatedly coughing up money. And all for good reason because Three Deals with Death will be available for free from September 21 to 23 (that’s this Friday to Sunday) as part of the free promo days from the KDP Select program.

I’m still managing to squeak out at least 1000 words a night on my current project – when I’m not feeling too tired, that is. But holy gee promotion week is exhausting. And I can expect to do more work over the weekend – I have dozens of forums and Facebook groups to post to and tweets to do.

I’ll probably make a report of my experience with the KDP Select free days when it’s all over. I expect to disappear for the next three days.

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Three Deals with Death

At long last, my debut novel will be on sale exclusively at Amazon’s Kindle store in about 12 hours. Well, more like 10 or so now. I’ll be back to update this post tomorrow morning.

Three Deals with Death CoverSo here it is. Doing the cover art and the ebook formatting myself was quite the adventure. I’m a very DIY kind of person, so it was most satisfying for me to be able to put my book through the whole process. I learned quite a few things too, especially on the formatting side. I wasn’t exactly aware of the fact that ebooks are rendered using HTML. Fortunately, I’m quite savvy with programming so it wasn’t a problem.

This release means that I’ve finally updated the My Books section of the site. You can find a synopsis there. Here’s the Amazon product page link, you can look at the sample chapters from there. You may also notice a Making-Of link, where I will be adding design notes and other trivia about the book as soon as I can scrounge all the materials together into a presentable fashion. This book was at least ten years in the making, after all, and went through many revisions before I finally knew it was ready.

So the book will be up, now what? Well, no rest for the wicked, as they say. It’s back to my current day job of finishing another manuscript that’s been in the works for some time. The current project is about 50,000 words complete but I expect it may be about 70,000 by the time I’m done. So, 20,000 words. Shouldn’t take long, hopefully.

For today, and maybe tomorrow, I shall be taking a well-deserved break.

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If You’re Canadian and Self-Publishing Ebooks

No doubt you’ve got a list of ebook markets that you plan to (or are already) uploading to. Unfortunately, most of them will be in the US. Somehow, yesterday I wondered if there were any restrictions to international authors publishing things on places like, Smashwords, and others. After some Googling, yes, I found out that if you’re an international author, you need to contact the IRS in Philadelphia and apply for an EIN (that’s an Employer Identification Number) as a foreign entity. Or else due to tax laws Amazon (and other companies) will withhold 30% of your earnings from you. Getting the EIN will help circumvent the problem, because you can use it to fill out a W8-BEN form to send to Amazon so that they don’t withhold your precious money.

I’m not really sure if this issue has gotten the attention it deserves, so I’d just like to let more people know about this. It came as a rather unpleasant surprise to me. I got most of my help from this incredibly useful post here from Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog. I strongly suggest you check it out as the complete instructions are there.

It sounds like a pain but it has to be done. We slowpoke Canadians don’t have a Kindle ebook store yet on Fortunately it’s a relatively quick process. I actually called the IRS just moments ago and didn’t even have to wait after I hit 2 to get through to an operator. The call probably took all of 20 minutes…if you don’t count the employee’s computer crashing right before she was about to give me my number! Well, I guess that’s a prime example of good plotting in real life–don’t let the main character get what she wants so easily!


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Video Games as Inspiration

When I first started writing this article, I got two paragraphs in and then had to scrap all of it and start over. Somewhere along the way I strayed into defending video games as a creative medium that matches the intellectual level of film and novels (in other words, art). That’s a whole other article, however; my focus today is how video games might actually aid us in our writing.

Video games are an interesting medium. They have qualities of film, since they are very visual and deliver their narrative in a cinematic fashion, usually through cutscenes. And they also have qualities of novels, since some games (especially role-playing games and those that are in the science fiction and/or fantasy realm) have a very well-developed universe, lore, and other essentials that are there in the game world for the player to peruse.

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The Journey Begins Again

Oh, finally. After about 2 weeks of wrangling WordPress code into submission, I’m here with a completely new site. And I also have a new sense of purpose. After being on hiatus for a loooong time, I’ll be blogging regularly from now on. Circumstances have finally allowed me to pursue (again) what is closest to my heart: writing books for a living. Now that the site is working like it should, I can finally get back to work on revising my young adult fantasy novel, which hopefully I shall be able to release as an ebook before the end of the month.

Before anyone asks, yes, I am self-publishing. I’ve read a lot of opinions about the matter, and decided that it’s the best way to go for me. I believe that the current technologies have finally given writers the opportunity and outlets to push their work into the world, rather than trying to win the approval of fabled gatekeepers. I don’t have the time or the patience anymore to wait months and months until I know whether or not one of those aforementioned gatekeepers will accept my work. There are many self-published authors right now who are doing quite well for themselves, and that’s reason enough for me to do my best too.

I’ve got my opinion, but I’m not an evangelist. I have an intolerance of jerks, after all.

As this site is quite new, I’m afraid there may not be much to look at right now except for the basic stuff, but I’ll be adding to the other sections on a regular basis. So. Keep checking back. I’ll be chronicling my journey as a new author every step of the way.


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Return of the Dragon

After ungracefully dropping into the land of hiatus-dom, I have plans to start updating this blog again (got some ideas for a lineup of articles) but it still won’t be for a while. I’m currently preoccupied with academics so that’s part of the reason why.

Because I’m adventurous and have an entrepreneurial bent, I’ve decided that self-pubbing ebooks will be the way to go for me. Besides, I’ve got nothing to lose, and I’m interested to see where technology will take me if I choose to ride the wave. So yes, should be an interesting adventure.

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SCBWI New York Conference Writeup

My tolerance for lengthy plane rides is getting worse, I think. Flying to Toronto takes 4 hours and I was already complaining. How on earth did I fly back to Hong Kong with a flight time of 13 hours?

Anyway, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt where the conference was taking place. The room wasn’t so grand. In fact, it was squished and the bathroom felt like a closet. Not to mention the tub didn’t have an anti-slip bottom. Yikes. There wasn’t a coffee maker or water, either, unlike in Surrey where they gave you everything and more.

Once again you’ll be faced with paragraph after paragraph of text, as I neglected to take a camera. So, Day One for me was the writer’s intensive. We had pre-assigned seating at the tables in one of the giant ballrooms (held up to at least 200 people) and each table had 9 writers and one editor or agent. How it worked: one writer gets the spotlight for 12 minutes. The writer passes out copies of his/her first 500 words, reads it aloud, and everyone else comments or writes remarks on their copy. The editors usually reserved their opinions for last. I read a lot of vibrant and creative stories and it was such a nice experience to have so many different opinions on my work. Most of all, I was able to learn from other people as well (one lady had an absolutely gripping 500 words, I just wish I asked for her contact information). My only gripe with the intensive was the sheer lack of time, as we only got 5 minutes to ask the editor questions at the end of each session.

I find that the New York conference is more oriented towards industry information, rather than improving your craft, so it was much different than the one in Surrey. In any case, the keynotes were awesome: I got to hear THE Lois Lowry, THE Jane Yolen and THE R. L. Stine speak, among others. It was a really wacky experience–I read their books as a kid and it felt unreal to see them in person!

I’ve collected some interesting tidbits from the break-out workshops that I attended (boy that was a long day). The difficulties in the industry right now stem from a lack of places to sell books. This resulted in a hard time for everyone involved, and it forced publishers to adopt high standards. Everyone’s looking for something that’s a cut above the rest. However, publishers are more willing to take risks and look for innovation. The word “fresh” was repeated a lot.

Not much has changed in terms of what they’re looking for: they want good storytelling, and despite what the trends are, to tell a story that matters to you. There are even higher expectations now that authors will take the time to establish an online presence.

Trend-wise, according to one agent 2009-2010 was angel season, and another editor reported having a lot of angel, fallen angel, twisted fairy tales and fairy tale retelling manuscripts crossing her desk. Dystopian seems to be in as well, so if your current project has anything to do with the above, take care to set yourself apart from the crowd. Personally I don’t follow trends, but I was surprised that everyone seemed to be writing about angels. Who sent out that brainwave anyway? My current work involves them so I guess I’ll have to be careful about how I pitch now. *insert shameless self-centered grumbling here*

If you’re worried about the good old printed book disappearing, worry not–kids are still finding books to be friendlier than e-books (giving a physical book to a friend as a gift is much better than an intangible file, a sentiment I agree with). Also, teens are suffering from something called “digital fatigue”–they spend so much time staring at screens already that they would actually prefer reading a physical book instead of reading it on yet another screen. So it seems the printed book will be around for a long time to come. There’s simply too much sentimental value attached to them.

Overall the conference was another inspiring experience. On the last day, the opening keynote was done by Sara Zarr, who gave a wonderful speech on persevering through the journey of getting published (a speech so good, in fact, that she got a standing ovation from everyone). Needless to say, I got the encouragement injection that I needed. So on that note, this concludes my conference writeup.

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Interview with Arthur Slade

I had the opportunity to interview author Arthur Slade over email. We talked about the writing process and his recent series, The Hunchback Assignments.


Q: What inspired you to become an author?

A: I was always a voracious reader so it seemed natural to begin writing stories. When I was sixteen I received 100% on a short story project I handed in for class. That really got me thinking about writing more and about eventually writing full time.


Q: What’s your workflow like for a new project? Do you prefer laying down a plotline first, or are you the type who has a general idea of where the story should go and you let the characters decide?

A: My workflow is very much out of the top of my head. I don’t plot out my novels, though I do have an “idea” page where I will write down things that I think will happen later in the novel. I literally start writing the first chapter and let the story unfold from there. That said I usually have an idea about how the story will end by the time I’ve written the first few chapters.


Q: Have you ever had a nightmarish revision experience (as in, having to toss out a considerable amount of pages or rewrite whole sections)?

A: Yes. With my novel Jolted I had three major rewrites before I finally found the tone and the characters that were right for the story.


Q: How “dark” are you as an author? Do you have a morbid streak or do you prefer the lighter side of things?

A: I think my writing can be very dark at times. But I also like to laugh. So I try and combine both at once.


Q: Let’s talk about The Hunchback Assignments. Why did you choose steampunk?

A: I didn’t necessarily choose steampunk. Instead I started writing a Victorian spy series that, almost immediately began to have some interesting gadgets and machines that weren’t from the real world. From there the book started to become more and more steampunkish.


Q: I’ve always been curious about Modo’s character design. Why did you choose his physical appearance?

A: Modo really is inspired by the original Hunchback of Notre Dame. In many ways I’m imagining what that hunchback’s life was like when he was younger. Especially his appearance. I liked the idea of having a hero that wasn’t beautiful and perfect, who instead was ugly…at least to the outside world.


Q: How do you decide on the locations for Modo and Octavia’s adventures?

A: The locations are mostly me just looking at the map of the British Empire in Victorian times and wondering where I should send them next.


Q: If The Hunchback Assignments were to be adapted into a film, who would you want to be in charge of the project?

A: Hmmm. Well, if I had to choose anyone it would be Peter Jackson, who directed The Lord of the Rings. He did an excellent job with that.


Thank you, Arthur, for letting me interview you!

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Surrey International Writer’s Conference – Part Two

Continuing with Part 2 of my SiWC writeup, here’s all the useful tidbits I picked up from some of the workshops I attended. Some are more quick and dirty than others. Warning: there is a serious wall of text ahead.

Successful Horror Stories (Luke Ryan)

“Sizzling Sex Scenes” was right next door and occasionally people started howling with laughter, fortunately not during the clips from horror movies that were shown. I digress. This workshop focused more on film than books, but some of the concepts still apply. Even if you don’t plan on writing horror, random knowledge is still good to have. You never know when you might need to use it.

  • Morality vs. mortality is the core of horror.
  • The things we fear most are death, being harmed/impaired, and that which is not human. The best horror blends all these together.
  • Where does fear come from? The awareness of our vulnerability. We are most vulnerable when we feel most safe. So you may want to reconsider the next time you sit down at your computer to plug away at your WIP…
  • The famous residual effect: this remains long after people have left the theatre/finished playing the game/reading the story. This is what makes them afraid of the dark for the next couple weeks.
  • The space where confrontations between the protagonist and the villain take place shrinks over the course of the story. You may start in the neighbourhood and then be confined to a house, and then confined to a closet.
  • Traditionally “good” is broken down and reverted to a more animalistic state. The protagonist becomes the killer in order to survive.
  • The villain is the one most equipped to bring physical and psychological devastation to the protagonist. The villain is captivating and creepy, is durable, and embodies the things we fear. The conflict between the villain and the protagonist should be likened to an amazing tennis match–each move forces the other to raise the game.

Is There Really Any Money in Writing? (Arthur Slade)

Rejoice, there are other ways to make money rather than royalties, school visits, and book signings. You can apply for an access copyright, which is basically a photocopying fee, and you get a lump sum for that. This would be useful if you have a published article. You can also apply for a public lending right, so that you are paid for your books being in libraries.

On a somewhat related note, getting an agent can help boost your $$ considerably.

Multi-Level Excellence (James Scott Bell)

Last but definitely not least. This workshop covered everything from conflict structure to drafting to some excellent revision tips.

  • First of all, write. Finish what you write, and learn your craft as you write.
  • Should you revise as you write? You should only revise yesterday’s pages. Mr. Bell also suggested the 20,000-word step-back, in which you stop at 20,000 words and ask yourself if it works as a story. If it does, then you keep going.
  • Whenever they are in an important situation, let your characters make the best choices based on what they know. Makes sense, because none of the characters should act stupid to favour another character.
  • The Worry Factor: at what point would someone be able to put down your book? Cut out the weak bits. If it’s too dull, bring in anything that would pose an immediate threat.
  • Watch out for slow opening scenes. Your book should begin with a disturbance. You also want to avoid dumping too much backstory in the opening at once–instead, mix it in with the opening chapters. Drop in bits of backstory here and there.
  • You want action first, and then bonding with your characters later. Mr. Bell said something interesting–that readers will wait until the action is over to find out more about your characters and what’s happening.

Whew. Oh, there was one thing I forgot to mention. I attended the “Writing for Kids: An Inside Look” panel, and one of the main topics that came up was censorship in children’s books. It primarily had to do with violence or disturbing images and worried parents. I think it merits a post of its own, so be sure to check back later.



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