Published! New Short Stories in “Remang” and “The Tudung Anthology”

I am back and bearing gifts! This August, there will not be one but TWO separate short story anthologies with my name on them! My short story “Restless” is published in Terrerbooks’ Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales whereas another short story, “Shame”, is published in Matahari Books’ The Tudung Anthology.

 

 

It just occurred to me that both of these short stories are wildly different from each other. “Restless” is a horror/fantasy story that revolves around repetitive dreams, guilt and a national tragedy. “Shame” is a literary fiction about two young women handling our society’s heavy expectations against Malay Muslim women with wearing and not wearing the hijab. On the other hand, both stories handle much darker and heavier themes than my first published short story, “Beloved”, which is a fluffy coming-of-age romance! So, honestly, I have no idea how people are going to respond to either of my new short stories. But I think these two stories do show what I’m currently interested in writing, which are horror, fantasy and literary fiction.

To say that I’m excited is an understatement. Sure, every chance in getting published is a great moment for any new writer. However, last year, not only was I not published in anything else, following my debut short story in 2015, I was hardly writing, too. In fact, I was almost convinced that I will never see my name in print again, thinking that “Beloved” was just a lucky break. Having one published short story does not guarantee that you will have another one. In fact, the pressure is even higher for me to follow up that success and to show I have what it takes.

I had to clamber over a lot of insecurities and simply fall in love with writing fiction again without any expectations for public recognition. That took a while, I have to admit, but everything takes time. You have to trust the process. Also, I had to learn the art of facing rejections and rewrites. I mean, “Shame” was initially written for and subsequently rejected by Fixi Novo’s Flesh anthology. Looking back, I’m glad that happened because The Tudung Anthology is the perfect home for this short story! With “Restless”, this short story almost didn’t see the light of day at all, mainly because of the indie publisher’s newly minted status. After a few hurdles here and there, the book is finally published almost two years later. Heck, I heard that Remang is already in stores today! Both short stories went through more rewrites than I could count.

Now, I just want to celebrate! So, I hope you could join me and my fellow other writers for the book launch of these anthologies in the next coming weeks! Below are some details that you can check out:

Launch of The Tudung Anthology

19 August 2017

2 – 3pm

Publika, Kuala Lumpur

The launch for The Tudung Anthology coincides with the KL Alternative Bookfest 2017 and Arts for Grabs weekend so there are other book-related events there as well! I will be a part of a panel of 10 other writers from the anthology for book signing and discussion.

Launch of Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales

26 August 2017

3pm

Silverfish Books, Bangsar

Although this is not necessarily a book launch, mainly because Remang has already been distributed to all major stores including Kinokuniya and MPH, this is the first event with all the writers involved! I’m in good company with the likes of Tunku Halim, Heidi Shamsuddin, Terence Toh, Rumaizah Abu Bakar and many other familiar names in the local short story publishing scene. You can also read my two cents about writing horror and interviews of other writers on Remang‘s main website.

I hope to see you there!

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The Waterproof Bible

shareWhen I first chanced upon the title of this book, after I ripped it out of a mail package a friend from Germany sent me, my first reaction was to pause.

“Did he… did he give me a Christian missionary book? Is that why he wants to send me a care package?”. Now, I know that the word “Bible” doesn’t necessarily means it’s the Bible. It could literally refer to any other book – just like this one.

The reason why I jumped on the word “Bible” is because there’s literally no indication of what this book is about on the cover at all. In fact, it’s confusing. There’s a big frog illustration at the front, no idea how that relates to the title, and the oddest blurb I’ve read so far:

“At the wheel of a stolen Honda Civic is Aberystwyth, aka Aby, driving across Canada to save the soul of her dying mother. She is green, gill-necked, and very uncomfortable out of the water.

An unexpected encounter with Aby sets off a chain of events which sends each of them on a personal quest. Can Rebecca, Lewis and Aby find redemption before a terrible flood destroys their chance of happiness?”

Excuse me?

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Carrie

Is there ever a book that literally makes you feel physically uncomfortable? I was squirming in my place with every page. I borrowed this book from a friend since I’m going through Stephen King’s work one by one.

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Stephen King’s debut novel “Carrie” started from a dare. A reader told off King and said, “… you can’t write about women. You’re scared of women”. Is it a real surprise then that this book basically launched from the moment Carrie had her first period, the first day she became a woman?

I think the reason why I was uncomfortable with the book is the way King wrote about the female characters. I think we are all used to women being described as beautiful, sensual or sexual – all appealing traits. And if a woman is not physically-appealing, then her traits would be limited to a word or two. But not King – he went very creative in describing Carrie, the unattractive loner with the religious psychopath of a mother. He used the word “bovine” for Carrie at least twice. Back acne. Pubic hair. Dirtypillows. Her frumpy figure. In a way, her body is possibly one of the most realistic portrayals of a female protagonist ever. As a woman, is having my period a source of a bone-chilling nightmare? No, but King went as far as to make these realistic attributes and intimate details grotesque . We are not used to that. Female bodies are expected to be flawless, slender, hairless, etc. Hell, they picked Chloe Grace Moretz in the 2013 film remake of Carrie. They couldn’t pick a more attractive and popular actress to play the role of Carrie.

And of course, the horrors of all horror about the female body: menstrual blood. Hence, the title of this post. I understand that puberty does unsavoury things to a person but the amount of times menstrual blood came up in this book… I think the reader is right; on some level, Stephen King is afraid of women.

As a book in itself, it’s great. The book was written in such a way that it shifts between the regular narration of Carrie’s life, the discovery of her powers and the upcoming prom, and excerpts from fictional books, interviews, court sessions about events after the prom. So you are getting two perspectives – one anticipating The Prom and one dealing with observations regarding The Prom. The book is a mockumentary of itself! Stephen King always has this ability to surprise.

There are some bits that I didn’t like, however. To me, the stretch from the climax to the ending was surprisingly long. I was expecting the adrenaline rush from The Prom to push the story headlong to the ending. But King somehow managed to squeeze in a number of subplots in between that I don’t care much for. I think a less patient reader would have been really annoyed.

Overall, it’s an awesome book that kept me on my toes. But would I read this book for a relaxing entertainment? Nope.