Category Archives: Musing

2016, A Reflection

So, yeah. After self-publishing the crazy 5-book series in one year scheme — and suffering one great loss — I needed a year off writing. Things happened far from all good in 2015, and it was time to deal with stuff they don’t teach you at school. “Death is part of life… we all go through that cycle… they’re still with us…” When it happens, you’re still not prepared. Even if you convince yourself that you are, that you knew it was coming, it’s still a shock that never really wears off. Hurt lessens with time, but doesn’t truly goes away. It’s still there, somewhere I try to forget/hide/push.

Then, The Cure announced a massive world tour. Of course they did, since the universe needs to balance itself out. Whenever they’re around, things happen. Good things. Impossible things. And this time was no exception: what happened to me (personally, not in any case globally) in 2016 can only be described as magical, surrealist, and fucking awesome. Life changing, as the impact of The Cure’s concerts.

1996: The Swing Tour. My plans to live in the UK for the first time finalized the same week as The Cure performed in Montreal. The shittiest tickets I’ve ever got to watch a band live – and this is MY BAND – but they were there, breathing the same air, performing in front of me for the first time, so I got over it eventually. Wait. Actually, I still resent sitting at the far end. They were so small on the stage, I needed to squint and even then I could hardly make them out. Seriously bad seats.

2000: The Dream Tour. Two days after seeing them super-close in Toronto (thank you, Lady Karma), I received the course selection to a 5% acceptation rate film school. Faith was sang on a stage drenched in red, I cried at From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea (as I always do), I hummed Another Journey by Train on the way home, and the pattern was set: The Cure brings me luck. Or more likely, the key plot twists of my life are connected to their vicinity.

Curiosa, 2004

Notice my fingers clutching to his shoulder. Me, touching him. Yep, it happened. I. Met. Him.

2004: Curiosa. I met them. I. met. THEM. Thanks to my friend’s DD cleavage (and a very dumb bouncer) we passed through the security check points and VIPs, to land in the presence of Robert Smith and Simon Gallup. I. Met. Them. It’s been more than a decade and I’m still not over it. And to think that I got a phone call that day telling me I was accepted in my Master’s program in the UK…and I was witness to Forever live. Both moments equally unforgettable.

Simon Gallup, Curiosa

Sweet Jesus, right next to me. And I look demented. But still, I. Met. Him.

2008: 4Tour. Sometimes it’s looking back that one realizes small changes snowball to a huge impact. That night, as we ordered the second bottle of wine that made us late for the concert (and I subsequently missed A Strange Day: it still hurts), I told my friend I was switching from filmmaking to writing. Big deal, since I was leaving life-long dreams of directing… and an eight-year education, huge student loans, and the tiny dent I hoped so much to leave behind.

2016: First row, center. Best. Concert. Ever. Like good wine, they only get better with age. They announced the tour less than a week before I bought my first car, and I went to the concert two weeks before getting the keys to my first house. I get how the law of attraction works and when we’re happy good things happen…but come on. The Cure did this, yes they did. They are magical beings sent to make my life better – as they have since I first heard Close to Me in 1987. A simple thank you seems so trivial after being the soundtrack of my life.

***

So yeah, I needed time to do other things than write for a while. I needed a breather, some space to let my mind wander to new projects and other horizons. And believe me, it has. A novel is in the works after finishing off a short story collection. The year off was a good thing, it brought me where I was always meant to be: home. My beautiful house filled with antiques and pets, where The Cure plays loud and proud every day, filling me with such gratitude for their existence in this dark, dark world.

Happy 2017, everyone. May it bring health, books, love…and pleasepleaseplease another Cure tour:)

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Chatting with… Yangsze Choo♥

GhostBrideI fell in love with the cover and then I read the first lines… “One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride. Asked is perhaps not the right word.” That was it – the voice, the premise, the lingering meaning behind those words… And then I finished the book and was so jealous of its writer: Choo is one talented lady, so what else could I do but beg her to answer some of my questions?

1) The story is so rich in folklore, how much comes from your own heritage and did research bring unknown elements to light?
I had heard a lot of these tales as a child from friends and relatives and also as an avid reader. I think many people in Malaysia have some idea of this tradition, although the practice varies tremendously. Later on, when I started writing the book in earnest I found the National Archives in Singapore to be invaluable, as well as Harvard’s Widener library which had lots of out-of-print books written by British colonials. Going down to the stacks to do research was always a bit nerve-wracking, because Widener has these automated book shelves that can move around at the push of a button. There’s always the possibility of getting stuck down there!
2) You make quite a compelling ghost story, but do you believe in ghosts? And if so, how much of the ghost bride tradition do you think is true?
As much as I enjoy reading spooky stories, I’m really quite a chicken. That’s why I prefer books to horror movies, because I can always flip past pages or cover the scary parts with the judicious use of a peanut butter sandwich. I’d prefer not to believe in ghosts if possible (though I do believe in Heaven!) but they add a great deal of literary richness. The older I get, the more I can’t help but wonder what happens to us after death. It puts a lot of things into sober perspective.
3) If you could be anyone’s ghost bride – beside your hubby, obv – whose would you be?
Yipe! I think that I’d rather not be anyone’s ghost bride! The character of Lim Tian Ching in the book is in some ways every woman’s nightmare. When I was a little girl, I heard stories about how pre-WW2 Chinese society thought nothing of arranged marriages, often at heartbreakingly young ages for the girls. Some were taken into families as young as 6 or 7, ostensibly to be groomed as future daughters-in-law, but in reality used as child servants. This happened to one of my mother’s relatives. She was sent from China as a bride and her husband and his family treated her very badly. I was always secretly terrified that such a thing might happen to me, and when I was writing the book, I bundled together a lot of these ideas into Lim Tian Ching – with the added bonus that he’s already dead, so there’s no escape from the relationship even after death.
DSC027474) What are you currently working on? What’s coming out next? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
I’m currently working on my second novel, a mystery also set in colonial Malaya, but this time during the 1930s. Hopefully, there’ll also be a graphic novel adaptation of THE GHOST BRIDE with Eisner-nominated comic book artist Sonny Liew. Sonny is Singaporean and I’m excited to see what he comes up with in terms of character design and setting. As for five years time… I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to write, and if in 5 years I’ve written books that people enjoy, I’d be really happy about that! In the meantime, if you like books and eating, please come visit me at my blog http://yschoo.com/ 
 

The Perfect Cast

So many times I’ve come across the question if you could cast your own characters for the movie version of Girls & Monsters, who would it be? that before starting my thriller for young adult KILLER GIRL, I asked myself: who would I want to cast as my characters? Then I found this poster and almost died under the weight of inspiration.

First, I had to go with one of my favorite actors of all time (and near neurotic devotion): Gary Oldman. Our relationship (one-sided, needless to say) started with Sid & Nancy. Raw, brutal, addicts in love, he got me the second I laid eyes on him… and he looked so much like Sid Vicious that I had to remind myself this wasn’t a documentary but the fictional rendition of the Sex Pistols’ bassist final days. Then, there was Dracula (my one and only) and Harry Potter (oh, to bear the name Black) – The Professional, Romeo’s Bleeding, Immortal Beloved…so many, too many to even remember. And for Killer Girl, he’s my nemesis, he’s my monster: a man named Barnaby who turns kids into killers. Perfection.

Growing up, I wanted to be Winona Ryder. Oh no, not only because she played Mina (Dracula, again. I see a theme, here), Lydia in Beetle Juice or Kim in Edward Scissorhands, but also because she dated Johnny Depp and Christian Slater and was so beautiful and talented. Obsessed by her big doe eyes and that porcelain skin, I so wanted to be her… until what happened happened and the glass around her world shattered, a little. But fear
not, she’s back, she’s creepy (hello, Black Swan) and she’s my Kate: broken, fragile, but never a victim. A reunion with Oldman in my imaginary movie? Yes, please.
Then there’s my kick-ass girl lead: Roe: not afraid to shout about what’s right and wrong, she’s ready to take down the world, especially Barnaby. So I’m thinking Elle Fanning (with the help of Black #1) just because she’s pretty but not candycoated sweet… and she could go dark in the blink of an eye (I’m talking about her soul, now). Also, there’s something about her that screams ‘don’t make me say it twice’ that’s just alluring to me – no Disney or rainbows, but rain and darkness, just the way I like it.
And now I need YOU guys to help me pick my pretty boy, Dev: sensitive but not a wuss, he’s a fighter with an edge – as in you don’t want to mess with him, ever. I’ve settled for black hair/grey eyes combo, but I can’t find anyone matching that description. If you do, please step forward, and who knows, I might thank you in the acknowledgements. ♥

Horse Crazy Kid = Horse Crazy Author

My friend Julie Campbell is one prolific writer: she just published a series of novellas about a ghost-hunting dog, and now her full-length novel Sabaskia’s Tale is coming out today!! I was really touched by the story’s sensitive voice and endearing characters, and wondered why Julie loved horses so much ♥

Sabaska's Tale eBookAnne, thank you for having me here today. I’m going to talk a little about my love of horses and my Sabaska and the inspiration for my novel.

I don’t actually know how the horse bug bit me, but it did. As long as I can remember I’ve been riding horses. My parents let me do pony rides and trail rides as a kid and as soon as I got big enough they let me take lessons relatively frequently. There’s a barn close to where I grew up and I learned to ride English-style on Saddlebreds. I took lessons until I got to high school and then I got too busy and horses kind of went on a back burner. However, when I went to college in Colorado they came flooding back into my life. There were horses everywhere and I was going crazy that I couldn’t ride. Finally I found someone with a few too many horses and she let me ride with her, and learn from her and that’s where I met Sabaska.

She was basically half wild and barely trained. As I worked with her, teaching her that people were kind of cool, and learning from both her and my friend what it was to train a horse, I fell in love. Eventually I decided it was time to have my own horse and I wanted Sabaska. I bought her and moved her closer to my home so I could work with her every day. Progress went quickly. Sabaska had an eager and willing mind and she enjoyed doing things with me. I discovered endurance racing and decided that was the sport for us. This discovery set me and Sabaska on hundreds of miles of trails and adventure, which inspired this story. Sabaska was an amazing horse, as you’ll discover if you read the novel. A lot of her personality comes through in the fictional Sabaska. She was brave and bold and I couldn’t have had a better companion. One day while we were out riding I realized it really felt like we were in a different world and this sparked a story idea. What if I really was traveling to a different world? I wrote this book knowing it was the book I wanted to read when I was a kid, but didn’t exist. Hopefully it will find its way into the hands of horse crazy teens and inspire them to fantastical adventures on their own horses.

I lost Sabaska in 2012 to colic, but our adventures live on in these stories. She’ll never be replaced, but she gave me so many valuable gifts and lessons and the joy of having that special bond with a horse that I’ve never seen matched with any other creature.

 

***

Sabaska’s Tale
Series: Tales of the Travelers

By J. A. Campbell

Genres: Fantasy +  Young Adult, Horses

Published: July 5 2013

Untold Press www.untoldpress.com

Word count: 63 000

Pages: 224

eBook Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sabaskas-Tale-Tales-Travelers-ebook/dp/B00DSOCNWS

Amazon Smart Url: http://bookShow.me/B00DSOCNWS

Goodreads– book link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18134649-sabaska-s-tale

Sabaska's Tale GiveawayPromoBlurb:

To Anna, horses were more than a fascination, they were everything. Luckily, she had the opportunity to spend every summer on her grandmother’s horse ranch in Colorado. Life was perfect, until she received the devastating news that her grandmother had been tragically killed. Anna knew she was the only member of her family who could take over the ranch and hopefully find new homes for her grandmother’s beloved Arabians.
Anna wasn’t alone for long. Her grandmother had hired a local teenage boy to help tend the horses for the summer. Anna didn’t stand a chance against Cody’s quiet charm and the two rapidly become friends. However, even with the responsibilities of the ranch, Anna quickly discovers the secrets her grandmother had been hiding and a legacy that sends her on an adventure she never thought possible. An adventure in the saddle of a horse that wasn’t a horse at all. Sabaska, her grandmother’s favorite Arabian, was a Traveler; a magical being that could travel between worlds. With Anna at the reins, they find themselves trapped in a fight against evil with the highest of stakes… Their very survival.

 

Campbell_authorpic1Author Bio:

J.A. Campbell

Julie has been many things over the last few years, from college student, to bookstore clerk and an over the road trucker. She’s worked as a 911 dispatcher and in computer tech support, but through it all she’s been a writer and when she’s not out riding horses, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, her vampire-hunting dog Kira, her new horse and Traveler-in training, Triska, and her Irish Sailor. She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting Dog stories and the young adult urban fantasy series The Clanless.

Find out more about Julie at  www.writerjacampbell.com  and follow her on twitter @Pfirewolf

Blogs: http://writerjacampbell.wordpress.com/blog/

http://phoenixfirewolf.livejournal.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J.A.Campbell.Author?ref=tn_tnmn

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/j-a-campbell/35/535/b25

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4708012.J_A_Campbell

 

 

 

 


Girls & Ghosts, an inspiration

Here’s one of my not-so-secret secrets:
I have tons of journals filled with ideas and a bunch of half-written
stories dispersed in my computer. Oh no sir, I’m not the type of
writer who leaves projects unfinished, but it happens that after
starting a plot, its complexity or direction isn’t working for me. So
I let go more than abandon, because one day, I’ll come back to it –
and I always do.

Not this time, folks. Only fresh ideas
for this new collection of ghostly stories where girls confront their
deepest fears… and I’m actually scared. Of course I’ve been
thinking about this project for a while, so ideas are slowly growing
into creepy plots, but there’s nothing already written on my plate
like my past collections of novellas, and it makes me jittery.

So what is a girl to do? I’m trying to
grasp as much information as I can, about things we don’t fully
understand with the little evidence out there. Like a junkie, I’m
watching all these ghost hunters shows where people go willingly to
haunted places to poke at spirits and gather EVPs, images of shadow
figures and responsive communication – if any. Sceptic or not, it’s
beginning to form in my mind: girls who are scared, girls who don’t
believe, girls who are trying to help, girls who see dead people, and
girls who won’t confront the truth. And very slowly, they tell me
their stories and how they deal with the fact that in the end we all
die, and that we might become ghosts ourselves.
And then some miracle happens and someone captures such inspiring pictures,
I completely lost my breath – and I’m still trying to catch it. Neil Gaiman posted this
abandoned amusement park on Tumblr

Haunted, much? Seriously, look at the
fog and the plants invading the structures – you can almost hear
the screams of glee as the roller coaster rides down the rusty rails.
But it’s only an echo, because like many other places in New Orleans,
it never got over the catastrophic disaster and it’s slowly dying
after being deserted and forgotten.
I can’t forget, though – a bit like those ghosts who can’t let go of what
they knew and who they loved and how they used to be. So that will be
my inspiration, an homage to
people who are gone, places that are falling apart, and things we
used to believe in.

Wish me luck? I need it, embarking on this Girls & Ghosts quest to give a voice to those who don’t have any. One thing for sure: dark it will be, I
promise.
***
Want an autographed softcover of Girls & Monsters? Giveaway ends June 28th, don’t miss out ♥

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mistral

I’m no fan of French music, but Mistral Gagnant by Renaud always made me so sad…which inspired me for this flash fiction. Enjoy, peeps ♥

Sitting with you on that bench reminds me of a better time, how your little hand used to feel in mine, and your laugh sounded like the sea, peaks and rolls. But then the sky fell down on our heads, on your childish hopes, and everything changed. Even you did, you grew up and I grew old, after we lost everything and everyone.

“I won’t do it,” you say, looking straight ahead just like your mother did before an argument. Before they took her away from us, leaving a kid and her old man, barely able to sustain us both.

“You have to.” I want to scream and shout, but end up breathing out in a whisper. “You have to prove you can, or they’ll end you.” After six years of hell, hiding and scrapping life off dark corners, I thought you’d knew what to do, what would happen if you didn’t.

Dawn stretches before us, hungry birds over head at war, picking at the fresh corpses. Soon, they’ll fly down at me; not fast enough, the bullet will go through my head.

“It’s time, darling.” I stare at your eyes, sad and angry and hungry. “Then you run until you can’t no more.” Something I can’t do anymore, something I used to be best at. But then one of their weapons bit my leg and ate my flesh. It smells, it creeps up, it kills me little by little – like leaving you behind. Or are you leaving me? I can never be sure.

“But we’re the good guys, Dad…” Don’t you dare, not after all this time. Please clear your throat, please wipe your nose and stand proud – I choose when I leave, and I say it’s now. “Why do I have to…”

“Kill me, so they won’t follow.” I’ve told you so many times, weren’t you listening? What can’t you understand? “Kill me, so you will be free.” And live, a vow I can’t keep, anymore. “Do it.”

You raise the gun to my head, place it between my eyes, and cry. But don’t, think of no one depending on you, how your old bastard of a father promised you a good life but gave you trouble, in the end. The end, of a worthless existence: the end of yours, with mine.

I close my eyes, seeing the wind through your hair, the sun blinking your tears of laughter. I hear it, your voice whispering my name, your cold fingers holding tight to my hand, and the promise that soon, we will be together again.


Epiphany (and giveaway winner)

It happens while I’m driving, taking a shower or walking – every darn time I don’t have a pen and piece of paper handy – and it always surprises me with a bucket of ideas with not enough brains to hold them all in. Oh yes, when Epiphany strikes, you better be ready cause she’s not a frequent visitor, not in my neck of the woods, anyway.

This time, it was so unexpected, I almost confused Her with the hallucinogenic side effects from standing so close to potheads in the crowd of an Arcade Fire concert. There I was, enjoying Power Out, when She hit me right in the head.

I’ve been working on this script-turned-novel for a while, now: my own version of Swan Lake, the ballet by Tchaïkovsky. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since I first started taking classical ballet, and it got me into finals at screenwriting contests, but I never really LOVED it – not like I do Rebel, I never connected as much with it. So what’s wrong with it?

I’m not a fan of magic and I hate prince/princess stories, that’s what. My carefully faithful adaptation was full of it, as was my novel’s first draft – but how to change such a big part of the story? How to make it mine without taking out the humans turning into birds and the doomed love story?

Well, thanks to a combination of strong whiffs of marijuana, good music and my old gal Epiphany, I have found it. Swan Lake is about to become Wild Swan, a super-duper dark YA fantasy that deals with unrequited love, a powerful druglord, and learning to fly.

The lesson in this? It hits you when you think you’ll never find a solution and you’re sure to fail.

Congrats to Cherie who won my Tattered Souls V2 copy!!


Chatting with Colin F. Barnes

Fellow writer and friend Colin F. Barnes stops by to chat about influences, old and new…

AM: I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things in music, movies and books, and I often try to remember where, how, when and what started it…but I guess it’s always been a part of me since I can’t recall what triggered my passionate affair with the blackest of nights. What was it for you? Do you have a better memory than me?

Dashing industrial dude - circa 1998

Colin Barnes: Like you it’s quite difficult to remember a specific time or event that triggered my interest in the darker things. I think for me personally, it was a culmination of cultural and personal situations. When I was younger, I was a bit of a rebel and was never interested in the popular media of the time, and being a budding artist and dealing with teenage depression I was naturally attracted to darker music, fiction and art. This fascination with all things dark continued to my adult years where I use writing as a medium.

On the topic of media, what were the standout films, bands or books that made the most impact on you.

AM: I remember being scared out of my wits by the original Amityville Horror and ET (still can’t watch either), and then The Shinning (cannot believe my sister made me watch it so young) probably contributed to my vivid nightmares.

I LOVED historical books until I realized they weren’t fictional and got me worried about Humanity. ‘The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it,’ Elizabeth Bennet said and I couldn’t agree more. I was engulfed into Anne Rice’s vamps world right after and decided I prefer to spent my time with goths:)

With Robert Smith's self-portrait

Music? Let me shout it out: THE CURE! I was ten the first time I heard Close to me and never looked back. The lyrics, the melodies, the voice! I will never get enough of them, and they are an endless source of inspiration. They opened doors for Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Chameleons, James, Skinny Puppy, and a bunch of others that I still listen to. Old school, I’m not good with new bands.

How about you? Which movies, bands, and books triggered your dark side?

Colin Barnes: I think we have a very similar timeline of influences. For me, the standout horror films that got me hooked were The Thing, Amityville & Nightmare On Elm Street. I was probably 9 or 10 when I was home from school ill and I found some of my parents’ VHS tapes. I started watching The Thing and despite being terrified (of the film and of being caught watching it) I was hooked. The next big memory was when I was about the same age, probably the following summer. I was staying at a friend of my parents place in a really seedy part of London. It was an apartment block and we could hear druggies shooting-up outside the bedroom. The kid of the parents decided it would be a good idea to watch Nightmare on Elm Street – I didn’t sleep that night, and had nightmares for weeks, but I still loved it.

Gothic flair right there

As for fiction, that came quite early. I was bored with the books we were reading at school and my reading ability was more advanced than was expected. So while most people were reading books for children (Roald Dahl) I was reading things like Dune, and The Shining and Carrie. Like you I got into Anne Rice and read everything that she wrote. Which was an odd choice for a teenage boy from Essex! But the goth lifestyle appealed to me greatly. I also really got into H.P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith amongst a bunch of other horror writers.

I had two distinct musical tastes growing up that informed my worldview. The first was metal. Metallica and Black Sabbath specifically. And then the more gothic stuff. I was really into Bauhaus, and later Switchblade Symphony, Anathema, Katatonia etc… I too am pretty old-school when it comes to music, there’s very few modern bands that I like as much as my old favourites.

Krueger knows how to accessorize

AM: People used to think I was so weird as a child: Freddy Krueger was my official crush for several years. Then Jason (so tall and dark and mental) and anyone who wasn’t a preppy and popular. And instead of thinking what’s wrong with me, I’ve celebrated my love for the monster, not the hero.

So how does it transpire in your work? When you write a crazy shit scene, do you put a specific band on? Have you ever been so inspired by a book or a movie that you wrote a story from it?

Colin Barnes: I’ve been there with the whole ‘weird’ thing. When I was in secondary school and we first got computers, I started a project to create a Freddy Krueger computer game. The teachers didn’t approve.

Music is a great catalyst for me. To write certain things I have to be in the right frame of mind. I’m usually gloomy most of the time anyway, but I’ll select certain music for certain scenes. Early Metallica is great for action scenes, and the doomy atmospherics of Anathema or Kyuss, for example, are good for slower paced weird stuff.

As for inspiration, I’m inspired on a daily basis by so many things. I think all my work in some manner comes from something else — it can just be something small. For example, I wrote a flash piece called ‘From Dust to Joy’ because my workplace reminded me of the dusty smell of a library carpet. With regards to other books and stories, I think the thing that inspires me the most is my own arrogance in that I think i can do better. When I read a story I like, I instantly think of things that I think would improve it or make it more weird, dark or extreme – and then that melds with other ideas.

How about you? Is there certain media that moves you to write particular types of stories?

Don't look into my red eyes too long...

AM: I get most of my ideas from drifting thoughts, mostly when I’m reading or watching a film. More often than not, it’s the failed opportunity of a plot that gets my mind going, wanting to rectify the situation in my own words. Especially if a story takes the easy way out, I jump on the chance to mess it all up with my own characters struggling in my own worlds. Much like you, some ideas come from the fact that I want to do it better:)

And of course, I always turn the dark notch to the max, because I really don’t want to see a happy fairytale ending when we’re going to die, some sooner than others. Speaking of dying, what do you want the world to remember you by?

Oh, trouble right there

Colin Barnes: I have a bit of a pessimistic outlook to death and legacy. I just see myself as a pretty inconsequential mote of dust floating about. When I die, I don’t expect anything of me to be remembered. Perhaps a few people might pick up a book or something, but I don’t think there’ll be any lasting memory. As to what I want the world to remember me by — well, I suppose as I don’t believe that I will be remembered in a great detail, I suppose being remembered as the finest writer of my generation would be nice – but then again, I won’t be around to be aware of that acknowledgement so it seems kind of moot. In the end, I guess ‘a good guy’ would be enough.

What about your legacy? Do you write to leave a legacy?

AM: Yes. I want to change the world.

Colin F. Barnes blogs, and I highly recommend his #fridayflash:)