50,000 for the 9th Time

I’ve hit 50,000 words for the 9th time in my life. That means I’ve written 9 novels. Not sure how many people in the world could ever say that, so that’s pretty cool, I guess.

Here’s the proof:

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That was last week, actually. It’s now over 77,000, probably on its way to 80k to finish up the novel. I’m working on the last chapter as I take a break here.

I’ve said this before, but it’s always a big deal to make a long enough, coherent enough story that it qualifies as a novel.  I remember watching the word count of my first novel like a mindful hawk. The words seem to climb so slowly and the story seemed to be culminating too early. I thought it would peak at 30K in depressing novella territory. I didn’t ever think I would reach 50k. Eventually, I did, and the story ended at about 60.

I’ve always been a concise writer, but my stories have grown longer. WHICH HALF DAVID was my longest at about 100k. Well, unless you count my trilogy as one long novel then which clocks in at around 230 thousand.

Of course, word counts mean nothing to story. Great stories come at any and all lengths. But accomplishments should be celebrated.

Now for the hard part: writing draft 2, and 3, and then the editing process.

And then, after that, the hardest part of all: getting people to read it.

This story is about five teenagers in a band in Penang, Malaysia. Into their lives step Mr. Musa Marbun, a poor and crippled 67-year-old who has lived a horribly difficult life. What would a group of teens ever have in common with a person like that? It is precisely what this novel is all about.

Coming in 2020. Please stay tuned.

And don’t forget to try my trilogy:

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Penang. It’s official. The setting of my new novel.

I’ve been contemplating using Penang in one of my novels for years. I lived there from 2006-2017, so I got to know the place well. But for some reason, I don’t like to write about places where I currently live. So two years after the fact, my first Malaysian-based novel is happening. It’s a curious little novel for me – an unexpected one for many reasons. Once I finished my trilogy, I had fully expected to write a alternative history novel about the Vietnam War of which I have already written the first chapter. I will get back to it at some point. But, as ideas often do, the muse paid no attention to my intentions and planted in me a seed for a completely different story. A story of music, of teenagers, and an old man. No, don’t worry, nothing like the old man of my trilogy series. (insert chuckle)

Since the story centers around four teens, it is, in a way, my first YA novel, and I’m a little excited about that. Nervous, also. My protagonists have mainly been older adults in most of my stories, so hitting up the teen years is a little challenging. Thankfully, I work in a profession where I deal with teens on a daily basis, so that helps.

It’s natural for me to use exotic settings for my stories because I’ve been fortunate enough to live in many exotic places. So it just comes out from experience. I hope I can do Penang justice. Long way to go on this one, and I will definitely keep you posted. But here’s an overview of the main settings of my novels so far.

  1. Beauty Rising – northern Vietnam & Pennsylvania
  2. The Recluse Storyteller – nondescript USA and several other settings like Vietnam, and time settings like the USA of the 1800s
  3. The Reach of the Banyan Tree – Vietnam  (1945 & 2000)
  4. A Love Story for a Nation – a fictitious nation
  5. Which Half David – the fictitious nation of Sulu in Southeast Asia
  6. 7. 8. The Forgotten Child Trilogy – Manhattan, Scotland, Romania, Cambodia, South Pacific, Rwanda, and nearly out of this world

9. TITLE STILL UNDER WRAPS – PENANG, MALAYSIA

In future posts, I’ll revisit what makes Penang so great! And, by the way, I miss it.

 

Boh on Bose, Tea & Music

I have concluded this: Boh Tea is my favorite in the world.

Boh is grown in the lush Malaysian Cameron Highlands, and I started drinking it when I lived in Penang.  I eventually was hooked on unsweetened Boh black tea.  Smooth and flavorful.

I really started missing Boh tea when I moved to Saudi Arabia. I tried a wide variety of teas and eventually settled on a brand name Ahmad tea based out of London. I liked it, and I was happy.

One day, I discovered on Amazon that they sell Boh tea. I was ecstatic and told my kids that’s what I wanted for Christmas. So, sure enough, I unwrapped a bunch of Boh tea boxes which were under the Christmas tree.  I ended up bringing back 16 boxes of Boh tea.

The first thing I did was a taste test – Ahmad Tea beside Boh Tea.

I tried Ahmad. “Okay, that’s good.”

And then I tried the Boh again for the first time. “Wow! Oh my goodness. Throw out the Ahmad!”

Boh blew it away. Flavor – rich & smooth with hints of green tea – so much flavor and I finally remembered why I liked it so much.

The smooth rich flavors of the tea mix so perfectly well with the smooth rich sounds of the Bose, so whether I’m punching out words on my computer or cooking in the kitchen, the Boh and Bose tandem are there to keep me company.

If you are a tea lover, give Boh a try. I am not a paid endorser. I buy the stuff by the Boht load.

So here they are, the perfect pair:

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Boh Sitting on Top its Buddy Bose

 

 

And here’s a photo I took of the Boh plantation in Malaysia when I visited a few years back.

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Enjoy!

The and Teh: How My Brain Teases Me

I spend a lot of time punching out words on a keyboard. I am a fairly fast and accurate typist, thankfully. It was the best skill I ever learned in high school, and the only one I still remember. I took a business class and during one six-week period we studied typing on those lovely old electric typewriters. I never would have suspected that the burgeoning era of personal computering was right around the corner, but when it arrived, I already knew how to type. I couldn’t be happier especially after I’ve seen my fair share of hunt and peckers throughout my days.

But, even on a good day, any typist will make mistakes. One mistake which I have been making a lot lately is I’ve been typing TEH for the THE. Now any general observer might thing that’s a just a mistaken switch of two letters rendering a meaningless word that I must swiftly correct. However, if you have ever visited Malaysia, you will know that ‘teh’ is not a random word. It means ‘tea’ and it forms the beginning of one of my favorite drinks in the world – a drink so luscious and rich that I think about it all the time – now literally all the time when my ‘the’ becomes ‘teh.’ What is this lusciousness called? teh ais

Literal translation is ‘tea ice’ but this is not your standard ice tea of America. Ha. I scoff. It is the wonderful Malaysian pulled-tea (teh tarik) with ice added to it. It is a tempting blend of black tea, ice, and sweetened condensed milk, blended to an incredibly satisfying concoction which couldn’t be a better compliment to the spicy and fragrant dishes which used to accompany me every lunch in Malaysia.

Every typing mistake ‘teh’ brings me back to the hold and smoldering lunch stalls with fans buzzing wickedly overhead and so much sizzle and smoke in the air that it was sometimes hard to breathe. Ah, I miss it!

I don’t know whether to thank or scold my typing skills. Are my mistakes trying to taunt me, or are they bringing back the good memories for me to savor?

Ah, teh ais. Here’s to you:

A Teh Tarik Master

 

Living Without Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish (no more)

When I lived in Vietnam, back in the meager years after the U.S. lifted its embargo in 1994, I would, on occasion, have my neck snap while doing a double-take as I noticed an orange-colored package at a small shop. It was the Halloween orange, possibly better known as the Reeses’ orange, the type of orange that makes one’s mouth water with chocolate and peanut butter forlorn dreams for the luscious treats I missed so much. Every time, I mean every time, the turn of my neck meant nothing. It was a pumpkin-colored red herring – nothing more than a local treat which included no chocolate and no peanut butter.

I lived in Vietnam for ten years and NEVER once saw a Reeses product, forced to stock up on summer break.

And it wasn’t confined to Reeses. When I arrived in Vietnam is was still B.C. — before Coke. When we had our mid-year trip to Thailand, we would gorge on all the treats we couldn’t get there — McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, and the like of which my insides will never forgive me.

When we moved to Malaysia, it all felt so easy. All the fast food that wasn’t in Vietnam was readily available. The amount of available western products rose exponentially, except for those particular items like Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish.

In the last couple years of my time in Malaysia, Reeses started showing up in stores on occasion. I remember seeing the orange package one day but scoffed at the idea, not willing to be fooled into believing the impossible. But as I came closer, sure enough, Reeses Peanut Butter cups. I inconspicuously swatted the entire stack into my cart. I had them all! And that became the problem. I think other expats would buy out the stack every time a small shipment would arrive. Of course, the store wouldn’t buy more. Who are they to want to make a bigger profit.

But in all my years in Malaysia, they still never had Corn Chex or Swedish Fish.

Well, now I live in Saudia Arabia, among the Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish. All the simple pleasures. All the forgotten delicacies are forgotten no longer. I’m living in the land of milk and honey. The land of plenty. The land of too much. Long gone are the days of scrounging the shelves for any special treats from my childhood.

Now that I can have them, anytime I want, I find that I don’t buy them.  I find the old wisdom to be true: the less you have of something, the more you will appreciate it.

Ohhhh, the good old days, when Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish fish guarded the lore-ridden gate of the mythical Xanadu. Now they live on my grocer’s shelves. How mundane!

Farewell, Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac)! I will miss you!

Farewell, Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac)! I will miss you!

At the conclusion of my last show at penangpac yesterday, I was highly honored by my friends there with this amazing parting gift. This was completely unexpected. I was bowled over by their thoughtfulness. I have grown my theatre arts background and experience at their famous stage 1 and stage 2 venues. So I thought, as a way of reminiscing, I’d list all the shows I had a part in since penangpac opened in 2011. It’s quite a list, and I completely enjoyed everyone of them.  But first a look at this amazing gift – a commemorative pewter Malaysian kris (asymmetrical dagger). It’s so awesome!

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So here’s my chronological, penangpac drama/musical list. I’m so grateful for everything.

  • November 2011 – Stage 2 – “Romans on the Couch-INTERACTIVE” (writer, director, producer)
  • November 2011 – Stage 1 – “Romans on the Couch” (writer, director, producer)
  • December 2011  – Stage 2 – “RLT Players’ present The Road Less Traveled” (first RLT show ever! – writer, director, producer)
  • May 2012 – Stage 1 – “Life with Stewart” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2012 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer)
  • November 2012 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Drive All Night) (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2013 – Stage 1 – “Grandparents’ War” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2013 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • November 2013 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Captured in Time & Space”
  • May 2014 – Stage 1 – “Boardwalk Melody: A Musical” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2014 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • November 2014 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “For All Generations” (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2015 – Stage 1 – “A Tad of Trouble: A Musical” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2015 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • December 2015 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Tales of Wonder”
  • May 2016 – Stage 1 – “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2016 – Stage 2 – penangpac Black Box Experiments “How to Build a Dictator” (writer, actor, producer)
  • November 2016 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • December 2016 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Tales of Wonder II” (writer, director, producer”
  • January 2017 – Stage 2 – “The Last Bastion: A Staged Reading” (writer, actor)
  • May 2017 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “A Collection of Our Best” (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2017 – Stage 1 – “RLT Musical Revue” (writer, director, producer)

Wow! That’s 22 theatrical productions I had the privilege of being part of at penangpac. I shall miss it all very much.

Thank you, penangpac! Hopefully we shall see each again one day.

 

 

The World Crashing Down: AKA – “My Show is This Week”

I’m a writer. I love writing.

I’m a director. I really enjoying directing.

I’m a producer. I like producing.

Yes, there’s a distinct step-down there. Writing and directing unleashes the creative demon inside me in very different ways. Producing, well, that’s where the stress comes from.

And this week, four and a half months  of preparation comes to fruition, which really feels like the world crashing down around me. Actually, I’m sitting by the ocean as I type and each of those waves reminds me of something else I must get done before the show date.

Here’s a last minute list:

seating arrrangment – in a black box modular setting and we are still working on configuration.

Promotion – yes, must sell those remaining seats. But  luckily, tickets are going quickly.

FOH – Front of House – oh, this reminds me that I need to arrange front of house staff for each shows. Oops! Forgot this one.

Wednesday is bump-in day. All props, set pieces need to be transported. Then the massive task of rigging and focusing following our lighting plan. Then mic set-up and sound check. Then cues! NO! CUES!!!! It takes so long. Then adjust lights because the director wasn’t thinking ahead and got a new idea once he saw the lights.

Arrange food for the team. This is important.

Transport too!

And then technical rehearsal, and then our ONE CHANCE on-site dress rehearsal. Yes, we only get to perform in the venue once before the show date. It’s a massive challenge.

This, and more, is what I’m staring at this week, thus world-crashing-in felt appropriate.

Producing drama is the most work I’ve ever in any one task. But don’t get me wrong. It’s also the most rewarding. I love it all.

It’s going to be a great week!

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