Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reviews of The Pacific Between

Thank you, Joanne and Dawno, for your kind and generous reviews (1, 2). [Honest to God, I didn't strong-arm them or threaten their lives...] I'm just glad that you enjoyed the book and thought it meant something to you. What more could a writer ask for? [OK, fame and fortune and groupies! I want to be the next Dan Brown...]

I am still bracing myself for the harsh reviews, hopefully one from Publisher Weekly or Kirkus. But most likely they will ignore my book completely, which is okay. [No, it's not. Review my book, dammit!]

I do hope that my readers would enjoy the book and find it meaningful, and that's good enough for me.


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Sunday, December 25, 2005

It Is Looking A Lot Like Christmas...

Today is Christmas, so Merry Christmas everyone. And if you don't celebrate Christmas, happy whatever-your-heart-desires. It's a day for joy, family, and personal reflection. It also means there's only one more week to go before we say goodbye to 2005.

It's time for me to post my New Year's resolutions. In the last two years, almost every one of my resolutions came to fruitation. So, in many ways, I have to say that 2004 and 2005 have been great years for me. In 2004, I found a publisher. And in 2005, the book went through the publishing process and I finally got to hold the book (galleys and ARCs) in my oily, sweaty hands. It's a personal triumph, even though there were times when I told myself, "Is that it? All that hard work comes down to this little book that costs a few bucks to make and buy, then toss into the recycle bin?"

Of course it's more than that. This whole blog (and its sister blog, Road to Publication) came to be for one reason -- my odyssey to becoming a published novelist. I need to remind myself, and give myself a pat on the back, for achieving that goal in less time than I allowed myself. I have to stop telling myself, "Yeah, yeah, but it's not Random House or St. Martin's." There are many roads to success. I do understand that because I'm with a small press, there will be a long road ahead, and I won't be able to just sit there and let things happen. I'll have to make things happen. In a way, it's very exciting. In another way, it's very nerve-racking.

I think there's always fear of failure. Then maybe there's also that fear of success, too.

Then again, there's fear itself.

This coming year, I'd like to pledge to myself to be rid of my own fears and self-doubts, to fully embrace my achievements and to fully charge ahead, to know that while I can't predict the future, I can certainly trust myself and do my best and let the experiences take me places. Maybe this book will succeed; maybe it won't. But damn it, I'm going to enjoy this experiece.

Then there's something called "Life."

And here are my resolutions and wishes for 2006:

On a more global level:
  • The Iraq War would end and our troops return home to their loved ones
  • Congress would start acting responsibly and working for the people, and not only for select interest groups
  • Congress would stop mucking with medicare and social security, and start taking care of the elderly and those who are truly in need
  • America would mend its relationship with the rest of the world and gain back its credibility and earn back the people's trust; the world will start to respect the Americans again
  • End poverty, hunger, AIDS, and global warming

On a personal level:

  • Devote myself in marketing and publicizing The Pacific Between (get myself more radio and TV interviews, reviews, etc.)
  • Enjoy the ride
  • Be less harsh on myself and stop being a fuddy-duddy. Dammit, I am a published novelist and should be proud of myself
  • Finish my second book -- good or bad, I need to finish it
  • Continue to get published: short stories, essays, poetry, etc.
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Get in better shape; eat healthier; exercise more
  • Give more
  • Live life and be happy

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Excerpt: The Pacific Between

David, Choy, Martin and I got wasted here a few dozen times. Martin first took us to Bulldog’s for some carousing after our win in the soccer tournament. We’d sit by the big gas pipe next to the bathroom and not mind the stench. We’d put a few dollars in the jukebox and listen to Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen and the Who and Pink Floyd, break a few glasses and manage to have a grand time being young and obnoxious. No one seemed to mind. I felt comfortable here, where everyone had an intimate relationship with cold beer and hard liquor.

(From the novel The Pacific Between)

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Is My Life, Rated

This is kind of interesting. Of course, self-assessment is kind of an oxymoron. The more distressed you are, the worse you'd rate your life. Still, I think something like this tells you more about how you see your life (your mindset) than how your life really is...

Here's my result:

This Is My Life, Rated
Life:
8.1
Mind:
8.6
Body:
8.6
Spirit:
7.8
Friends/Family:
5.5
Love:
7.3
Finance:
8
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Here's the comparison: Statistics.

It looks like I see my life as way above average. Am I delusional?

Pre-Release Promotion

THE FOLLOWING IS A PAID ADVERTISEMENT

I'm so new to this concept of self-promotion... but here it goes.

I'm running a pre-release promotion/contest for The Pacific Between. Prizes include a $50 Barnes & Noble gift certificate, signed copies of my CD or the movie Roommates (in which I played a speaking role), or a personalized manuscript critique (up to 50 pages).

So come on over and check it out: Pre-Release Promotion.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

100 Reviews

I just realized I have crossed the 100th mark with my reviews. I've just published the 101th review (The Family Stone). The Chronicles of Narnia was my 100th.


Yay!

(The original reviews appeared in Actors Ink)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday Meme - December 19

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want - good or bad - BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

As always, I'd love it if you'd use the 's tag.


Last year during our retreat, Mac and I got into some trouble. Nothing really crazy or shocking. But you see, I was drunk, had a glass or three of Maker's Mark too many. So Mac took advantage of me -- no, not that way; Mac and I have a purely platonic relationship. Anyway, she took me to town and sneaked me into a Chippendale show on ladies' night. Obviously, I was astounded by the horde of horny women surrounding me. But I was drunk, remember? So I don't remember anything except that Mac kept stuffing dollar bills in my hand and I kept feeling these oily, sweaty bodies rubbing all over me. I don't remember seeing any boobs, but definitely things were flopping around. Then they announced it was 'amateur' night and Mac pushed me on stage. I was drunk, remember? And I forgot that I was a bald man with a 200lb gut and a gun (I've gained a lot of weight -- my profile picture looks nothing like me now). Anyway, I did my thang and before I knew it, women were shoving dollar bills in my underpants (or what was left of 'em). I don't know what happened next, but the following morning, I woke up with a throbbing... headache, and $83 beside my bed, next to Mac who'd totally passed out. I never told anyone until now.

Farewell Mr. Kong

I've been exchanging email with friends in HK, surfed the web for information, and contributed to a site that was set up just to pay tribute to Mr. Kong. I am amazed by the shock and outpour of emotions and the effort to organize the memorial services. If Mr. Kong is watching us now, he would have been pleased. It gets to show how one person can touch and shape so many people. Over the last 45 years, Mr. Kong has touched tens of thousands of students and their parents and colleagues. Young and old, from 15 to 65, his students are all in mourning. It truly is amazing. Mr. Kong has left a legacy. A true legacy among us.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Tribute To A Great Teacher: Mr. Francis Kong

I just received an email from a dear old friend that my old English teacher in Hong Kong, Mr. Francis Kong, had passed away on December 12. I feel an immense sadness because Mr. Kong had dedicated his life in teaching for over 45 years. His influence was tremendous and he had taken so many young minds under his wings and opened our eyes to the beauty of the English language and the world. Mr. Kong was (and still is, after his passing) very well loved among his peers and his students. Many "old boys" would return to our alma mater just to have lunch with him. Great teachers are so hard to come by, and Mr. Kong was definitely the best of the best.

On a personal note, Mr. Kong had a great influence on me. Of all the students in my class, he took notice of me and helped turn me into a writer. I remember one time during class, he singled me out and praised me for a performance I did at a school concert, and I was so embarrassed by the sudden attention. Later, he and another teacher recommended me to the English debate team. That made me feel privileged and confident -- before then I didn't think my command of English was any good. Mr. Kong represented the elite group of scholars at Wah Yan College, past and present, and I felt validated when he personally recommended me. There was certainly hero worshipping going on, for Mr. Kong was very much revered. So to hear my name coming out of his mouth (and in a good way) meant a world to me.

My friend King-Wai just reminded me of another incident. One time, Mr. Kong related to us a story about the small exercise book with a blue cover we used to use to prepare of our exams. Then he digressed as another student requested some extra "blue sheets" to supplement the book. I bursted out laughing, loud. His "blue sheet" sounded like "bullshit" to me.

Great memories.

Mr. Kong had taught me a lot: to appreciate English and to speak and write with confidence. But there were also his zest for life, his sense of humor, his passion for teaching, and his compassion for others.

A few years ago when I returned to Hong Kong, I visited my alma mater, and Mr. Kong was waiting for an "old boy" to take him to lunch. We chatted for a bit and he remembered me. He remembered exactly where I sat in class and he remembered my performance at the concert. What a great memory.

I would safely say that without him, I might not have had the confidence and skills to pass my immigration interview and come to the US. I would certainly say that his influence and teaching planted a seed in my being a writer. I would certainly say that without him, there might not have been a book called The Pacific Between, after all. In fact, a part of my story was dedicated to him (you would have no problem finding it in the book). I am glad I did that, but I am sorry that he would never get to read it.

Last year I had the opportunity to return to Hong Kong and attend the 80th anniversary of my alma mater. That would be the last time I saw Mr. Kong, dashing in his blue (yes, blue) suit. Mr. Kong had always been very debonaire, very gentlemanly, very distinguished-looking with his unique flair. My dear friend King-Wai and I pondered whether we should bother Mr. Kong for a chat and a photo, and at the last minute we chickened out. Now I regret that I never got to take a picture with him on that joyous occasion. It made me realize that sometimes we just need to do something when we feel like it, because it might very well be our last chance.

Mr. Kong was a great teacher, and even a greater human being. We should all be so lucky to have a teacher like him. I was lucky. And with affection I bid farewell to Mr. Kong. To Sir, with love.

May you rest in peace.

(Here's the obituary)

(Please say a prayer and observe a moment of silence in his honor)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Family Values (Take 2)?

The American Family ASSociation is at it again, this time boycotting Ford Motors Co. because Ford started to advertise in gay publications again.

Do these bozos just sit around and ponder, "Hmmm, who should we boycott next? How about Christian-unfriendly corporations like Target? How about gay-friendly businesses like Ford or Apple? Why not Rap artists? Oh, there are so many people we could boycott, we can't conceal the delight in our value-oriented tender hearts."

If this is American family value, count me out.

If I were Ford, I'd say, Good fucking riddance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On the First Day of Christmas...

(reprinted from Writers Post Journal)

My mother and I arrived on Christmas Eve. Snow piled high on the streets of Pittsburgh. A white Christmas. Such incredible sight for a southern boy who had never seen or touched snow before.

After we settled in at my mother’s friend’s apartment, we strolled across the street to my new school, a private, Catholic university in downtown. We’d called earlier to make sure someone would be there to greet us. As we approached the Administrative building, Father Bryant, one of the Deans of the school, welcomed us at the door with a warm and broad smile.

“Good evening,” he said, shaking my hand. “Welcome to Duquesne.”

He offered us a tour of the school and the dormitories, even though much of the campus was closed for the holidays. The library, the gymnasium, the student lounges -- all deserted, like a ghost town. I followed Fr. Bryant like a kid being led through a candy store, my mother and her friend by my side, . This had been my first visit to the city, and would have been my first year in college. My first year as an adult. My first year away from home.

After we had a less-than-satisfying cafeteria dinner (for me, a Coke and a soggy ham sandwich), Fr. Bryant took us to the dormitory, to check out the room to which I was assigned.

“Your room is on the first floor,” he said as we entered the building. “It’s the freshmen floor. The boys on one side of the building, and the girls on the other.”

My mother glanced at me. I knew what she was thinking. Girls. I can’t wait.

“Your roommate is a good boy,” Fr. Bryant explained. “His name is Eric, and he’s from Oklahoma. A real nice, quiet, country boy. I think you’ll like him.”

We stopped at a door around the corner close to the elevator. Fr. Bryant took out a set of keys and, after about a minute trying to find the right one, unlocked the door. Like a horde of tourists, my mother, her friend and I followed him into the room, excited about the place I was going to call home for the next year.

And what a home.

Plastered all over the left wall were pictures of naked women in extremely suggestive poses. The myriad of words like “Playboy,” “Cherries,” “Penthouse,” and “Hustlers” popped up here and there. Fr. Bryant took a quick turn, left the room in less than ten seconds, and my mother and her friend did the same. I lingered long enough to take in some of the more hardcore, pornographic pictures depicting various sex acts. At that time, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at exactly -- I was that naive. But I was sure my mother knew.

As I exited the room, dragging my feet, lingering, wanting to take another look, Fr. Bryant said, “I hope you like it here.” He seemed cheerful, all grin and squinty eyes, but his face was plump and red like a giant tomato.

The day after Christmas, I officially moved into the dorm, and into another room on the same floor: bland walls with nothing on it but a school calendar. My roommate was Tim from Sewickley Height. A real nice, all-American boy. Or so Fr. Bryant thought (more stories later).

Eric from Oklahoma turned out to be really nice, indeed. I learned a few things from him.

What a Christmas Eve to remember: first time in a city, first year in college, first snow, first dormitory room, and first pornographic pictures, a Catholic priest and my mother by my side.


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

The LA Film Critics Award

The results are in. The LA Film Critics Association has picked this year's winners. The award officially kicked off annual award season. In a year when mainstream goes conservative and is filled with lame big studio films, the Indies really shine. The LACA heavily favors Independent films this year. I'm fortunate to have seen most of the winning films.

Best Picture - Brokeback Mountain (Focus)
Best Director - Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Best Actress - Vera Farmiga (Down to the Bone)
Best Supporting Actor - William Hurt (A History of Violence)
Best Supporting Actress - Catherine Keener (Capote)
Best screenplay - (Tie) Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Dan Futterman (Capote)
Best Foreign Film - Caché (Hidden) by Michael Haneke
Best Documentary - Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog
Best Animated Feature - Wallace & Gromit:The Curse ofthe Were-Rabbit
Best score - Howl's Moving Castle (Joe Hisaishi)
Best Cinematography - Robert Elswit (Good Night and Good Luck.)
Best Production Design - William Chang Suk-Ping (2046)

Friday, December 9, 2005

The Pacific Between - Novel Excerpt

The rain has stopped. We find the Pacific Inn on Lai Ling Street, a grim alley about two blocks from the restaurant. A decrepit three-story row house with four small, wretched windows behind iron bars, and blotchy yellow cloth curtains. Water-stained walls. A shopworn sign with two overized red Chinese characters -- Tai Ping -- in a corner. Through the translucence of the curtains, a dim red glow.

Straight out of a Dickens novel, had Dickens been Chinese.

(from the novel The Pacific Between)

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Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Family values?

Is "boycott" a family value? Arguably. It depends on what we're boycotting against, I suppose. Boycotting Company X because they operate sweat shops full of child laborers? Yes. But boycotting Target because they wish their customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?" Give me a break.

I'm usually not a hostile or mean person, but I have to say, The American Family Association is a bunch of self-disillusioned, self-righteous, idiotic ****** (it rhymes with "bricks"). Their motto is "we promote traditional family values." Whose?

Chances are, if Jesus were alive today, he would smite those bastards.

And I can't believe I'm here defending Mr. George W. Bush. Seems like the AFA are not pleased with Mr. Bush because in his annual holiday cards he did not say "Merry Christmas," but "Season's Greetings" instead. Phooey, Mr. President. Have you abandoned your faith? Have you deserted your fellow Christians? Have you forgotten to drink your Kool-Aid this morning?

Give the guy a break. He is the President of the United States, a country made up of all races and creeds, people of all religions; not to mention the cards go to heads of state from other countries who don't share the Christian faith. I for one celebrate Christmas even though I'm not religious, but I sure don't mind if others (Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists...) simply wish me "Happy Holidays."

Whatever happened to compassion and good will to men? Where is the holiday spirit?

I'm now convinced that the AFA is really a bunch of whining babies. And whatever small sliver or crumb of respect I have (I had to look between the cushions of my couch) for them is now gone. Bye bye. Poof.

And Mr. President, Happy Holidays to you, too.

Is Writing a skill or art or both?

Ah, the age-old debate: Is writing a skill, art, or both? I think part of the problem is that writing is a basic skill and part of our education. Let's, first, assume that we're all intelligent and are capable of learning and retaining knowledge and wisdom. We learn grammar, vocabulary, and how to communicate with each other by stringing sentences and paragraphs together. To put forth an article or essay or story that is logical and well thought out, it requires skills beyond writing: critical thinking, logic, basic communication skills such as conveyance of ideas and structure. So let's face it, writing is a skill. A craft. Someone who is diligent to learn the skills could become a very competent craftsperson.

On the other hand, not everyone can be a "great" writer. As Stephen King said in On Writing, you can teach a competent writer to be a good writer, but you cannot teach a good writer to be a great writer. I agree with that. I think great writers, like great scientists or politicians or painters or musicians, have more than just skills. Obviously, skills and hard work are important -- what would Mozart have been had he not studied and practiced diligently? -- but "greatness" requires talent, immense talent. And talent can't be taught. You either have "it," or you don't.

Talent doesn't require skills. I believe Mozart was a musical genius even without his training. But skills and hard work would polish raw talents like making stones into diamonds. Without the skills, Mozart might have gone nowhere, except maybe insanity.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people think they could become "great writers" simply because they know how to put sentences together. You need both talent and skills. With talent and no skill, you're just a potential. With skills but no talent, you can only achieve a certain level of competency. And competency isn't bad -- most people could comfortably settle for being competent. It's those who are merely competent but think they're great that we should watch out for.

Thanks to Mac, here's an interesting article on how we can all be so self-deillusioned.

By "we" I don't mean you or me. I'm fortunate to know many greatly talented AND skilled writers -- some make me envious, even. But I admire talent. And I admire hard work. And when someone has both, there's no stopping them.

I think we should all get to know ourselves, know our strengths and nurture them. It's a waste of time to pretend to be or trying to emulate something we're not. Then again, who am I to say someone's not a great writer? Are we good judges?

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Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Bibliophil Org

I've been enjoying cataloging my book collection (so far, I'm only working on organizing my novels). One of the cool things is (for me anyway) that if you click on my name, then "go to author's website," it really goes to my website. That's neat. A little stroke of ego there.

Random Picture...

The lone road reached deep into the soul of the mountains, the brilliance of which guarded the sacred truth of our being. To be alone.

© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

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Random Picture...

The layers of white and gray shredded the deep sky. In the cradle of the valley, the rest of the colors, dapples and splashes and shades of red and green and yellow and sometimes purple, spread from end to end, a full garden of past and future -- remembrance of a lost summer, fortelling of the bleakness ahead.

© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

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Random Picture...



Mourn for the twilight, as the sun has risen
shining its light on the waking earth
Be still
With each breath, I take in the scents
of a world so frail
of silence and beauty
of death and sorrow
to be laid side by side
with my forgiving heart
For each second and breath
remind me of the days yet to dawn

© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

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Monday, December 5, 2005

Random Picture...



Fog...
© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

Random Picture...



Into the woods...
© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

Random Picture...

















La Roche College...
© 2005 Raymond K. Wong

Bibliophil

I just found a great site: Bibliophil.org. It allows you to catalogue your books, review them, sharing your library with others (to view), and connect with other users to build an online community of book lovers. It's really cool. And the coolest thing is that it's free -- they do appreciate donations and I think it's worth it. You can see each other's libraries and get to learn more about books you've never heard of... So great!

My user ID is maestrowork. Once you register, we should add each other to our buddy list. Also, don't forget to add my book to your wishlist :) (the ISBN is 1-933016-32-9).

Happy reading and sharing!

Crash

My website design software crashed and it corrupted my files. So my whole site is a mess now (not the one published on the Net, thank goodness!) I'll have to reconstruct the project before I could revise my site. What a pain.

AWMondayMemes

Dawno started the , which I think is a great idea. I don't know how often I could participate...

This week's Meme: list 10 books I'd like to find under the Christmas tree this year.

1. A complete, leather-bound collection of Agatha Christie's mysteries

2. A renewed subscription to Cinefex

3. A renewed subscription to Entertainment Weekly

4. The complete Harry Potter paperback box set

5. First Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, preferrably signed (yeah, right, you said...)

6. A complete collection of Behler's books

7. Frank McCourt's new memoir, Teacher Man

8. The David Sedaris Box Set (audio CDs)

9. A signed copy of A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

10. Why Do Men Have Nipples?

,

Saturday, December 3, 2005

The Pacific Between - An Excerpt A Week

She was sixteen, a fine blossom with short black hair and glasses, smitten with a fourteen-year-old Eurasian boy who spoke little Chinese but knew a thing or two about slow dancing. There were chocolate ice cream and lemon cakes. Paper stars and moons on the ceiling. Elvis Presley.

I don't remember her name.

(from the novel The Pacific Between)



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Friday, December 2, 2005

MEME -- 15 things about books

I've just been memed by Matt. Bastige. OK, the meme is: list 15 personal facts or preferences about books. Fifteen? Did I tell you I don't read that much?

Fifteen?

OK, here you go:

1. I dislike hardcovers. I don't like the fact that I can't really lie in bed and curl the pages and snuggle with the book. The covers are so stiff, and it's hard to hold the book when I'm lying in bed or flip the pages. I also don't like dealing with the cover jackets but if I take them off, I'll lose or ruin them. Besides, paperbacks are so much cheaper.

2. I don't usually read books more than once. However, there are times when I just LOVE the book -- the characters are so vivid and the story touches me so much -- that I want visit the book again, time to time. Very few books made me feel that way.

3. I've read Jurassic Park 4 times.

4. I have about ten Stephen King novels, but I never finished one.

5. I read mostly mainstream novels, some thrillers and mystery, and a lot of non-fiction.

6. All these years... I have just discovered bargain half-price book stores. I could get a pretty recent $16.95 book for $4.99. Groovy.

7. I love touching a book, and the look and feel and typefaces and paper texture of a book really turn me on... Not much into smelling them, though.

8. I am a slow reader. It's hard for me to get into a book -- I usually stall at about chapter 5. If the book doesn't grab me by Chapter 5, I will usually give up. If, however, I get through the hump, and the story really gets me going, I usually don't like to put the book down. I like to keep reading until my eyes could open no more. The only exception was John Grisham's A Painted House -- I couldn't get into it at first. I gave it five or six tries, and gave up. Then a few days later I picked it up again and "forced" myself to read it, then I was hooked by page 60 or so!

9. I've been known to stay up all night and all day to finish reading a book.

10. My first book was a Winnie the Pooh picture book, I believe. I was 2 years old. The first English word I remember learning was "Mountain," from a picture book -- I was 3 years old.

11. I haven't read any work of fiction from the age of 17 to 25. I haven't been to a public library since college.

12. I hate those cheaply made, jaggedly cut book club hardcovers they sell for $25.

13. Although English is not my first language, my first "real" book (not picture books) was written in English and I've been reading in English ever since.

14. I tend to read more male authors than female. The four books on my night stand now were all written by men.

15. I'm very picky when it comes to books, just because I have so many books already and I'm such a slow reader. I have a backlog of books to read. So it's not unusual that I go to a book store and browse for a few hours and come home with nothing.


I'm now tagging Mac and Joanne.

The Economy

I find it interesting that on the same day Greenspan said the US economy would be in severe trouble if we don't alleviate our budget deficit problems, the President tried to paint a rosy picture using job data.

He said, he said.

I think I'll put my money on Greenspan (pun intended).

Thursday, December 1, 2005

I have an idea...

Let's make this post interactive. Let's post the verification word thingy in a comment!

I'll go first...