Alice Soon

My Literary Life & other obsessions…

Back to the Grindstone!

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Well, I’ve returned from vacation to Malaysia, Singapore & Borneo more than a month ago, and I can already say I’m suffering from post-vacation blues.  😦

My purpose for the trip, besides to visit my family, was to hopefully do some research for my second novel and to get “inspired”.  Originally, I had an idea that the setting would be in Singapore, but after visiting the cosmopolitan city and visiting a few museums, I decided I would put my idea on hold…

That was because I journeyed to Sarawak, Borneo, a week later and what I found there truly inspired me.  It is the largest state in Malaysia and Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world, with territories divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.  It is one of the most biodiverse places on earth with some of the oldest rainforests in the world.  Sufficed to say, a story idea drifted into my mind while travelling to Borneo heights and solidified itself after visiting different longhouses, an orangutan sanctuary & crocodile farm, adventures jungle trekking and exposure to real skulls from the now banned practice of head-hunting.  Sarawak is fascinating because it’s home to dozens of various native tribes, Chinese, and Malays all living together in one smorgasbord of culture.  So you can be exposed to an assortment of languages, customs, traditions and tastes.

Mount Santubong

A few weeks after I returned and a week before my birthday, I started to write.  I’m now almost 12,000 words into my second novel and still not sure where it’s going, but I figured I would just write it, via “word vomit” method and see what comes out!

For some reason, I’m finding writing my second book a lot more difficult than the memory of writing my first one, but I think I’m just having selective memory.  I think I’ve managed to block out all of the hard work, countless edits and revisions I did before arriving to the final product the first time round: A finished, polished manuscript.

So now, I’m starting all over again with a new novel concept and finding it challenging to traverse the murky world of building characters, outlining plot, securing a theme, conceptualizing a setting, etc…But I’m doing it anyway…Because why?  Because putting words together in a meaningful story is the best thing in the world! 🙂

On a side note – I’ve been having remarkably good luck with some of the books I’ve read this year.  (Not doing so well on my MUST READ list though.  Only 2 of 7 so far…I think I’m learning I just have to read what I want to read, when the mood strikes me, and not force myself too heavily with a long list of HAVE-TO-READ.) Boooooooooooo….

Here’s my books read so far in 2013:

1)    “The Testament of Mary” – Colm Toibin – 8/10 – One of my fav authors! He does it again, with his eloquent word choice and phrases, and most importantly, showing Jesus’s mother as a real human being and as a mother, not just a venerated saint.

2)    “Anna Karenina” – Leo Tolstoy – 6.5/10 – Finished it just in time for the movie, but did not love it as much as I’d hoped.

3)    “Sutton” – J.R. Moehringer – 6.5-7/10 – Good storytelling, hated the ending.

4)    “The Imposter Bride” – Nancy Richler – 6/10 – Good concept, but didn’t really enjoy the overall story.

5)    “The Bluest Eye” – Toni Morrison – 8.5/10 – A real surprise.  Amazing writing and great characters.  Points off for weird/inconsistent narrative structure.

6)    “The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence ” –Deepak Chopra – 8/10 – Always love his books.  Simple, spiritual, easy to understand & inspiring.

7)    “White Rajah” – Nigel Barley – 8/10 – A biography on the founder of Sarawak, James Brooke.  Well-written.  Purchased in Sarawak.

White Rajah

8)    “Enchantments” – Kathryn Harrison -5/10 – Very disappointing.  Thought it would be better since it made the NYT 100 Best Books of 2012 List.  Didn’t like the characters, storytelling or narrative structure.

9)    “The Cat” – Edeet Ravel – 7/10 – Pretty decent.  A nice book about loss and grieving in a simple, fluid writing style.

10)  “The Constant Gardener” – John Le Carre – 8/10 – A surprise, considering I’d tried to read “Our Kind of Traitor” last year and absolutely hated the writing.  But in this book, the prose is great and the themes (albeit depressing) are also great.

11)  “The Round House” – Louise Erdrich – 7.5/10 – A good book, but a bit too slow towards the middle and some issues with narrative structure (i.e. how she chose to retell native stories).  Good writing.

12)  “To the Lighthouse” – Virginia Woolf – 6/10 – Who am I to question a genius? I just found this one hard to get into to…my mind kept wandering…I liked “Mrs. Dalloway” so much better for some reason??

13)  “The Curious Incident of a Dog at Nighttime” – Mark Haddon – 9/10 – A delightful surprise.  The best part of this book was the author’s ability to write consistently in first person character voice ALL the way through the book.  (A lot of 1st person narratives do not do that…The author’s voice always manages to slip in there, saying something the character would NEVER say, and it irks the crap outta me!)

That’s it for now…Over & Out.  HAPPY READING! And writing.

The Curious Incident

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