Mi Vida

New Books

Every time I write a new post, WordPress is updating something. Either the panels are suddenly on the right and then on the left and then it’s everywhere. It’s confusing. That’s how long I’ve been doing other stuffs besides blogging.

I’ve been working hard to the point that my hand isn’t what it used to be. The tiny bones around my middle knuckle is not happy each time I grab a pen or typing something. It aches like a mother. It’s my fault probably. I punched a wooden cupboard in fits of anger and now I’m paying it with my unworthy fist.

I finished an English book about 56 K unedited words. A paranormal thing that I thought a lot about. I’m letting it stew for about a month before I have another go at it. I sent the 3 first chapters to my old publisher because one of the workers told me back in 2014 that they were looking for English manuscripts but it came back with ‘we no longer publish English books’ in my inbox. That’s a shame. They published a few, I think. I have to find another publisher who does. I’m nervous when I think about book agents and international bestseller with my name but it would be so cool to break out from this maze.

I finished a travelogue with about 60 K, edited without mercy. I thought it was one of my most emotional works. I put a lot of effort into it. Sent the 3 first chapters to the same publisher and it was rejected after miserable 2 months. The long manuscript queue almost drove me insane. One should never advertise to give one’s feedback after 3 weeks when one only have time after 8 weeks. The panels (there were 9 people judging me, most of them writers of the same company) said that the 3 chapters don’t have enough ‘hook’ to bait the readers. I admit that’s true. I moved it back to chapter four because I need to say something important (and boring) in chapter three. 4 people agreed to publish it. 5 said it sucked big time. I accept defeat and try to connect with another publisher.

I wrote to him in fits of anger. Maybe this dude could help. I followed his rants on Facebook. He seemed cool and fearless and just absolutely sincere to the point that he was banned from giving speeches in universities and some public places. He didn’t reply. I was desperate. 2 down. I have to search for other people and I’m running out of lists.

I sent to another publisher, a relatively new name with 12 books under its belt. It was a scary mail. I was terrified of another rejection mail. 4 days later they said yes. We want your full manuscript. I was over the moon. It’s been a month after they asked me for it. I hope it went well. I really do. The manuscript is important to me. It contained half of my precious life. I was hoping to publish it since the past 10 years and when I’m ready, I hope to do it as swiftly as I could.

Meanwhile, I found another publisher who publishes English, Malay and even short stories. Interesting. I worked on several short stories (sucky ones, I’ve been told but this is when I didn’t know much about short stories) and sent it to them on their website. The CEO liked it. Sent me a mail on the same day saying that it caught his attention. The 10 stories was about 13 K, a meager meal way below the company’s requirement of 20 K words for short stories. He said he had forwarded the stories to their English editor and it has been a week that I’ve been waiting for that bloody girl to write me something. No word.

I have two pending works and I am going crazy because I can’t do anything about it. Now I’m working on a love story. It should be about 70 K but that was not the most terrifying thing about it. I didn’t know much about love but I’m lying about it anyway. I’m up to chapter 5 (out of 35) when suddenly I thought it would be a great idea to write a series of Malay short stories. Now I have three. Needs seven more before I could send it off.

My thoughts are everywhere. I hope my babies are all alright. I’m paranoid. My hand hurts. I hope things will get better soon. I really do.

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Mi Vida

1/365

It’s another year. Yay!

Another chapter is being written. Honestly, I find 2014 filled with disasters and innumerable deaths. Stories died. Things forgotten. People holding so many promises faded into shadows. Gloom. I don’t know if I should feel terrified or this is the very reason why I should step up and be fearless.

Fearless. Or is it brave? What’s the difference? Should I put courage in the same equation? Sometimes during desperate times I wonder what’s it like to be the daughter of Ares, the God of War. Can I slay the drakon, like Clarisse?

I have no idea.

I guess I got what I wanted. I’ve written a book and published one. I translated another book and finally I have written an English short story despite of having so many doubts and fear that I’m not good enough. I’m the only one who can slay my monsters and I constantly need to do that, on a daily basis and especially when I write.

Before Ryan came, I didn’t think it was a big deal.

He’s American. About 26 years old. I always have this fantasy that I’m able to host a stranger. My house is quite comfortable and those ‘surfers’ can sleep in my brother’s room. A guy (a Czech) from Global Freeloader, another site not unlike Couchsurfing (CS) wrote to me and asked if he could stay. That’s why I updated my profile on CS. I think it’s a brilliant idea. You register as a host for fellow traveler, they stay with you for a couple of days much like a guest, you show them around and then they leave. You’re like a small, private, cheap hostel. It’s wonderful. Those foreigners will learn the real deal, not the tourist aimed activities and of course, keep much of their money for the important stuffs, like airplane tickets or food.

The catch is you don’t know them and vice versa. My sister did not like the idea. Ryan could be a serial rapist or a kidnapper or a thief but I went out with some of couchsurfers when I was in the U.K and they are the very image of a universal language of motion and I understood them.

So I told him that I would pick him up at the jetty.

He’s clean, empathetic and passionate. Worthy of many legends. When I told him I was a writer, his face beamed like the sun. He said he wished that he could be like me. Not as a writer but as a person who follows their dreams. His calling is music.

We talked a lot. He was an English teacher in China for almost a year. When he finished his contract, he thought that his Christmas and New Year is going to be somewhere nearer to the sun (nothing with snow like Omaha, Nebraska) and though his mother didn’t approve of his decision (I can relate to that) I swear, I saw a lot of younger me in his journey. Temperamental, rash and just about had it with routine. Nothing is more lethal than a comfortable life without progress, or what you call routine.

I wanted to help him because I remember how clueless I was. How confused. I spent years wandering and looking for inspiration. Some sort of clue. I want to be the protagonist of my own personal legend and looking around, I felt like a salmon swimming against the current. Fighting something impossible, like gravity.

They would say, everything is enough. Be grateful. Conform in society. Agree with majority. Get a real job. Get married. Get paid doing something you hate because it’s necessary. And many times, I thought these people were right.

I can’t do that to Ryan. I hate it when people lie to my face because they’re too scared to seek something they truly want.

I know some journeys you just have to walk alone. Ponder all the important questions and hopefully find some answers. I feel like Chiron, trying to teach Hercules all that the hero needs to remember in a sword fight but the fight is never mine. I can’t fight the monsters for him. I realized that I came so far. I suffered so much and yet fulfilled in so many ways. It’s funny that I passed this level of difficulty. I never thought I would be able to do something that made me truly happy.

And then the weirdest thing happened. The lost boy, Ryan, the one trying to figure out life one step at a time, finding courage and luck, missing his family and tirelessly asked me the same question over and over again ‘how did you know this is what you want?’ actually helped me more than I originally wanted.

My problem was solved in 2 hugs.

I mean, I always crave physical contact but my family don’t do hugs. We do handshakes but nothing more than a playful pecks on the cheeks. No hugs, no touching. I got this crave when I started learning Spanish and getting along with Spanish speakers. They touch, they kiss, they hug and those are my cure. I love our long conversations. Our lunch or dinner. Sitting before an array of food. Talking about everything. We would laugh and joke. I would tell them how awful my day was and there is always a gift in return; an advice, an apologetic smile, a warm enveloping hug, a gentle squeeze on my hand or just a touch on the knee.

I can’t tell you how I missed those days. The days when I was not alone. The days when someone in my life listens and cared. And I wanted a hug.

I favored a hug from a husband of an ex-colleague. He’s a bit younger than my father and always have good things to say about other people. That booming laughter. The couple has always been my favourite. Please take note that I’m not a creepy person but his hug is something that I think about from time to time. I felt like my life had been the longest winter night and his hug is the first ray of sunlight. Warm and melting. It was so good, like almost frozen toes near the furnace kind of good. I even thought of the worst hugger of all; my ex-boss. He would be the one that I suspect the reincarnation of a boa constrictor. He surrounded me like a vice. Almost like a torture device. I would sweat in his arms, have trouble breathing and hyperventilates when he let go. The craving was that bad, it seemed that I even want him to hug me again.

And Ryan’s hug was somewhere between the two.

He stayed about 2 days and then bought a ticket to KL and later to Siem Riep. The Air Asia news spooked him a bit but he insisted that he should go. Death does not scare him because he couldn’t stand the ‘what ifs’.

That was my answer for his questions. The What Ifs. The Road Not Taken. The Other Maybe.

And I told him, ‘it would be so much better, if you could channel the same faith with your music career’ and for the first time, he was speechless.

It seemed that we both got what we wanted. I got my hug and he got a bag of words that strike the loneliest chords of his soul.

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Mi Vida

8 Hours

It was the best 8 hours I had this year.

I was really hoping that this trip would be better than the last trip to Kuala Lumpur. My book was launched in March and it did not quite go along the lines. I regretted ever having made that trip, to be honest. It’s the kind of journey that made sick people sicker. But it’s my first ever experience meeting other writers and some artsy people in KL and I guess it’s kinda awesome seeing Asian people pretending to be as hip as they could with their dreads and sarong pants with cotton sling bag stamped with elephant designs. I bet they must feel in the zone.

I cannot say the same for my part.

Well this time I felt better, not really out of space. I saw normal people around me and speaking the same language as I do (My English is not very good, speaking-wise and I have no intention of speaking English with people I knew whose mother tongue is Malay) The first day I was in Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair (KLIBF) was on the 1st of May. I chose the date because I knew for a fact that there would be a lot of people as it was Labour Day but until that day came that I realized it was deemed more that I could ever handle. Statistically, it was about 800,000 people. The enormous hall was cramped and though the air conditioner was in full blast, I was sweating though my blouse. It was hot and sticky affair.

Although there were so many people, I did not expect to have that many fans. My session was from 10 a.m until 12 noon and all I did was smile and signed and took selfies with them. It was indescribable, that feeling. I did not picture that some random strangers would put aside allotted time, some effort and money to reach out to me and honor my writing. It’s the most wonderful feeling.

The next day I have another 2 hours before another writer takes their turn. There were less people but a girl about 15 and her mother came at 10 sharp. They told me they drove 5 hours just to see me but yesterday I went back early (I have a lunch date with an old ex-colleague and her family and for the record I waited 15 minutes for the queue to clear) so they stayed another night in KL to catch me the next day. If I were them, I would have gone back yesterday because I would not have the determination of waiting another 24 hours for someone like me. The girl is a very fortunate child.

I think that gesture made my life, however insignificant I felt before this. Someone values me that much.

The last day I stayed for 4 hours along with other writers (an editor complained that maybe I overstayed my welcome) and did the same thing all over again. I quite enjoyed it though before this I find a lot of excuses to not take selfies or pictures in general. Something in the air made me wants to relieve the moment. I did not care how I looked or what I wore. I just want to commemorate the moment with a flash and a pose, like a proper youth obsessing her life with infinity of pixels.

I remembered not long ago, probably about less than a year ago I was shaking and anxious inside a bookstore. I went in because it’s a habit of mine not being able to pass Waterstone’s or WHSmith without browsing some things on the first floor but that particular day I went inside with a purpose. I saw the banner for weeks and I had this curiosity that cannot be quenched until I see it with my own eyes. There was an elderly guy with his three piece uniform, sitting next to a banner near the entrance. His face was all over it and his books were stacked like a DNA helix model in front of him. He was sitting alone and waiting. A fountain pen ready just in case.

I passed him by several times but I did not have the courage to ask him for his autograph. The task was overwhelming. I couldn’t do it.

I wonder how did my fans did it.

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Mi Vida

My Book Launch

I am already nervous since last week, when my editor mailed me and casually mentioned about my book launching party.

Was it necessary? And she laughed. She probably thought it was a joke but that, coming from a person who has yet to speak in front of public eyes for several years was really fear manifesting in a stupid question.

We were given 2 hours to talk about ourselves, me and other 2 writers. So I guess the torture won’t be as bad as I thought it would be. The guys already published several books under their belt. I am the rookie. They have the experience and I could pretty much ask them whatever things they went through all these while. I am anxious though. I wish someone I knew would come, someone I could call a friend but I have to remind myself that I have none and prefer to not have such high hopes on anyone because people leave and they are whole. I am mostly broken.

I have been playing my dreams over and over again in my head and none of the consequences of being an author involved in a book launching party. I must have had forgotten about that while preparing for my Nobel Prize speech. But I do remember some fantasy about some radio interviews and magazine spread and talk shows and even a moving speech in front of bright-eyed students writing everything inspirational that came out of my mouth. It seemed so bright and beautiful future I have for myself. Nothing like I am now; helpless and quite unhappy with my life.

But I must go on and to be honest I hope to gain a new perspective from this short journey to Kuala Lumpur.

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Mi Vida
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Mi Vida

My Book Cover (Draft)

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