Sunday, August 23, 2015

Girl in the Bathtub Finalist 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Awards

My latest novel Girl in the Bathtub has been named a finalist 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Award.  Girl in the Bath­tub is a companion novel to A Per­fect Day for an Expat Exit, which was a short-list finalist in 2014 and a finalist 2012.  Both novels are set in Penang, Malaysia, part of an Expats in Southeast Asia series.   

Previously, Girl in the Bathtub was a finalist for 2012 Novel-in-Progress category.  I completed the novel in 2013, a gift from my past, and then followed my own advice by reading it out loud as I rewrote it several times in 2014 and 2015.

Girl in the Bathtub is now the fourth novel to either be a finalist or short list finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Awards.  The other two are The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady a short-list finalist in the 2014 Faulkner-Wis­dom Novel contest (and Quarter-finalist in 2012 Amazon Breakthrough) and An Unex­pected Gift from a Growling Fool, a short-list finalist in 2013.

Last year, my novella The Act of Theft, was also a finalist (and a short-list finalist in the previous year).  So four novels and a novella have either been a finalist or short-list finalist in the last three years.  Not a bad track record.

So when you throw in a marathon, August has been a pretty good month so far, considering it’s also my birthday month.  Now if only an agent would take a chance on this American writer living in Borneo, and sell one of these novels it would make 2015 a pretty darn good if not a great one.

Meanwhile, I just adapted a screenplay into a novel and have two other screenplays I plan to adapt as well, so I can churn out some more for next year.

    —Borneo Expat Writer

A link to my website, to MPH online for three of my books, and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Kuching Marathon – Repeat Performance

2015 Kuching Marathon with Jason and Justin

You would think a second marathon would be easier to run than the first, but last year, I was so na├»ve.  I over-estimated my abilities and under-estimated how much time it would take a normal person, let alone a writer who hardly trained, to run 42.195km, or 26 miles, 385 yards.  Unlike last year, I knew firsthand the pain that awaited me.  The aches and pains during the run, the post race cramps, the bigger pains climbing up and down those horrible stairs at home, not to mention the various blisters and losing three toenails.

After last year’s race, I did buy a better pair of shoes with an extra thumb width for the toes.  I also vowed to train harder, but well, alas, it’s hot over here in Borneo, and if you don’t run first thing in the morning, chances are you won’t run before sunset either, especially since I rotate cooking duties with my wife, look after the boys, and, by the way, doesn’t that look like a torrential downpour a brewing?  I know, excuses…

When I told my brother Bill two weeks ago that I was running a second marathon but I wasn’t really ready for it, he scolded me.  “I would be training!”  That’s what he did when he ran his marathons in the 90s, but then he was living in Southern California where the weather is nice and often breezy, so he could run at any time of the day, especially on weekends.  I know, more excuses… 

Still, I took the scolding albeit pep talk in a positive way – I mean he is my brother.  So the follow­ing week­end I ran to Quop, my wife’s village, and back in one hour and twenty minutes with­out stopping.  I found that encouraging, despite the two dozen roadkills, includ­ing three snakes, a scorpion, some birds, frogs, you name it, and a freshly killed white-breasted water-hen.  Unless I wanted to be roadkill myself, I needed to take these marathons a little more serious­ly.  I’m not as young or as fit as I was twenty years ago.  Then again, who is?

I sneaked in a second, shorter run before supper one evening, but the following day my left knee felt iffy, if not a little painful.  For days, I applied generous doses of various muscu­lar salves and kept my fingers crossed that the knee would hold up.  What didn’t hold up, on the eve of the run, was my running watch.  Who remembers to change the battery before a mara­thon?  I added that to my checklist for next year.  Instead I had to wear my regular watch, a present from my wife, and watch it get doused in sweat.  Then I found out that the organizers had changed the cut-off time from seven hours to six and a half!  That meant my time last year (6:42) would not have qualified.  So now I had to focus on running a new personal best just to get a darn metal!

Maybe that was why I couldn’t sleep, despite trying all afternoon and evening until about 10:30 pm.  Then it was rise and shine at 1:40 am!  Last year, I got up at 1am, but I knew I needed that extra sleep.  Did lack of sleep bother the Kenyans or the 3am starting time?  Naturally the Kenyans swept the first six places in both the men and women’s races (and half-marathon, too).  The winning time was 2:26.39, or about four hours faster that I needed to run.  The winning time for Veterans (my category), also by a Kenyan, was 2:56.50.

To make up some of that time, I made sure I started near the front.  Last year, stuck some­where toward the back, with thousands of runners ahead of me, it took us about 10 minutes of inching forward just to get to the starting line where we could finally run.  And run I did, determined to get off to a brisk start.  Unfortunately, weighed down by a pair of bananas that I couldn’t finish and didn’t want to toss, my shorts started slip­ping, so I slipped between a pair of parked cars and tightened them.  Those who saw me assumed I was taking a leak.

Compared to last year, gone were the hordes of spectators at the beginning of the run and along the way, cheering us on.  There were some, but the party-like atmosphere, the first date magic, was not there.  Sort of like a second date.  Gone were the roadkill, too, since they had recently paved several of the roads.  However, there was a crashed car with the driver’s door left wide open; no doubt the driver had to be helped out.  I hope he or she survived as I kept on running, counting my blessings.

I also counted Water Stations (16), grateful for the volunteers who provided us cupfuls of water or isotonic drinks and kept us entertained by bang­ing empty bottles and chanting, “Faster, faster!  You can run faster!”  Every three kilo­meters, they posted the kilometer markers.  I thanked each one as I passed by.  At 15K, I told myself only 6K to the half-way mark!  At 24K, only 6K to 30K!  Playing these mental games helps.  At 27K, I played a different game by announcing I was winning 9-5!  9 kilometer signs down, 5 more to go.  At 30K, 10-4; 33K, 11-3.  In my mind I was winning the race.  Not against the Kenyans who had long since collected their prize money and gone back to bed.

Running has always been more mental than physical, especially once you pass the 36K mark.  By then, many runners were hobbling more than running; not a pretty sight as they willed their bodies forward, almost crablike, their necks jutting out, their arms or elbows flailing, their hands twitching, hoping their wobbly legs would follow so they didn’t fall flat on their faces.

I knew I was well ahead of last year’s pace and thought for sure I could break six hours.  Of course, had I properly trained like you’re supposed to (like my brother told me), this wouldn’t be a problem, but, alas, fatigue set in, compounded by lack of sleep.  I woke up laughing when I spotted a runner’s t-shirt that asked, “Where the f**k is the finish line?”  I knew that feel­ing.  Having run in last year’s marathon, I also knew I could finish this one, too.  That’s what mara­thons do; they give you that extra self-confidence.  No matter how bad or painful things look, if you keep at it, putting one foot in front of the other, and vow you will never quit, you will make it.  I apply this to writing novels, too.  Success was merely waiting for me at the finish line.
Also waiting was my wife and sons Jason and Justin.  The boys kept asking her, “What’s taking Daddy so long?”  She didn’t know, nor did she think, I was going to make the cut-off time based on my lack of training, lack of sleep.  But then she saw me rounding the cor­ner, looking like her sweaty, exhausted marathon man from last year.  To me, she looked like heaven.

“Did it rain?” the boys kept asking me, since I was thoroughly drenched.  “No,” I replied, but it did several hours before the race began, cooling down the temperature and providing us a nice breeze throughout the race.  A runner from Kuala Lumpur told me the Kuching Mara­thon has a great reputation for running your personal best time, since it’s mostly flat.  I flat out agreed and ran a personal best time, 6:14.55, nearly half an hour better than last year.  With a little more training, I might even be able to compete with the Kenyans – I know, in my dreams…

Other than some bleeding around one of the toenails, I was fine.  No blisters!  No lost toe­nails!  I was even spared those dreadful cramps.  More importantly, I had once again sucked it up (my mantra from last year) and persevered.  This repeat performance will surely come in handy next year.  The question is…will you be joining me?  Just add running a marathon to your bucket list or your New Year’s Resolutions, then you can happily add it to your list of achievements

I know, in your dreams…

Here’s another link to my first marathon.

        —Borneo Expat Writer

A link to my website, to MPH online for three of my books, and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Popular-Star Readers’ Choice Awards: "The Merdeka Miracle" – a Hat Trick of Winners!

Congrats to all of the recent nominees and winners of the 2015 Popular-Star Readers’ Choice Awards, Cheeming Boey for nonfiction for his book When I was a Kid 3, and especially to Tunku Halim for his winning book Horror Stories! He had been nominated several times and this year he finally won.  The award makes it a hat trick for “The Merdeka Miracle!”  

Back in 2009 Tunku Halim, Lydia Teh (who had already won the Reader’s Choice Award in 2008 for her bestselling Honk if You’re a Malaysian) and I were asked by our publisher MPH and the editor for Going Places to write a joint short story about 2020 for their Merdeka, August issue.

They gave us less than one month to write it!  At the time I had never met Tunku Halim or Lydia Teh, though I finally got to meet Lydia  at the 2010 Bookfest where our books were again nominated, though neither of us won.)
At the time of our unusual request, I was in Kuching (on the island of Borneo), Lydia in Kuala Lumpur, and Tunku Halim on vacation with his family, traveling between Paris and London.  I quickly got an idea and the opening of the story; then we would rotate among us until we completed a draft. We continued to do so, draft after draft, frantically sending emails back and forth until we were relatively satisfied and out of time!

That same month when “The Merdeka Miracle” appeared in the August issue of Going Places, I won the 2009 Reader’s Choice Award for Lovers and Strangers Revisited  for fiction. 
On my MAS flight to KL for the award ceremony, not knowing I had won, I picked up some copies of "The Merdeka Miracle".  I picked up some more on the return flight later that day while carrying my award home.  I’m sure I was beaming with pride, itching to tell the other passengers, “Hey, open up Going Places to page…”  If only a stewardess would announce it over the PA system, “Ladies and Gentlemen on board we are privileged to have one of the authors of ‘The Mereka Miracle’ featured in our current issue of Going Places.  Please open to page…”  

Of course I was too shy to mention it to anyone, except maybe the little girl across the aisle who kept staring at me, perhaps wondering, why the color of my skin was different from the other passengers or why my nose was so...

Again, congrats to Tunku Halim for winning and for completing our version of a hat trick!  Lydia and I couldn’t have written “The Merdeka Miracle” without you!  Here’s a toast to more awards in our writing future!  

           —Borneo Expat Writer 

*Links to my website, to MPH online for orders for my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and to the French translation of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, Trois autres Malaisie.  Thanks! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

POPULAR Supports Local Authors - Writing Workshop

POPULAR Supports Local Authors - Writing Workshop
13 Jul 2015
BookFest @ Malaysia 2015, KLCC, Hospitality Lounge 5
HAVE you ever dreamt of being a writer? Have ever you thought of following in ink-trails of iconic authors such as Ernest Hemingway, George R.R. Martin, or Agatha Christie? Does the thought of having your name on the spine of a book fill you with delight?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you should definitely attend the Popular Supports Local Authors Writing Workshop on 13 July.

If you’re interested, get the RM50 participation ticket from selected Popular Bookstores outlets in the Klang Valley, and then confirm your registration at htp:// The ticket includes a BookFest@Malaysia entry pass, a Staedler-sponsored stationery goodie bag worth RM30, a notebook, and notes from the speakers. The selected Popular outlets are at Sunway Pyramid, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Empire Shopping Gallery, The Ikano Power Centre, Avenue K, Ampang Point, and Aeon Bukit Tinggi.

For registration, please log on to

About the Speakers
Speakers Biography
Robert Raymer – The 1st Prize Winner of Readers’ Choice Award 2009
Named as one of the “50 Expats You Should Know in Malaysia” by Expatriate Life¬¬style, Sarawak-based American Robert Raymer has taught creative writing for 13 years at two Malaysian universities and been published over 500 times.  His stories have appeared in The Literary Review, London Magazine, Descant, Thema, The Writer and Reader’s Digest.  Lovers and Strangers Revisited (MPH), a collection of short stories set in Malaysia, won the 2009 Popular-The Star Readers Choice Awards, has been taught overseas and throughout Malaysia (and in SPM literature, “Neighbours”, translated into French, and one of the stories ("Home for Hari Raya") filmed by Ohio University.  His other books are Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat's Life in Malaysia, Spirit of Malaysia, and he was the editor for Silverfish New Writings 4.  He has a blog on writing and a website

Dr Lee Su Kim, The 1st Prize Winner of Fiction Category in Readers’ Choice Award 2011
Lee Su Kim is a full-time writer and language consultant. Formerly Associate Professor of English at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Su Kim s research interests are in language, culture and identity. She holds a Doctorate in Education from the University of Houston and a Masters degree from the University of Malaya. She is the founding President of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor. She was a speaker at the Ubud Writers Festival, 2010, and a previous columnist with The Star.
Shamilla Ganesan, Chief Reporter from Malaysia No 1 English Papers The Star 
Literary Coordinator and Columnist responsible for planning and assigning feature stories, interviews and reviews on books. Also writes the fortnightly literary column 'Booked Out', which aims to read, discuss and write about the books listed in '1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die'. Also includes creating a vibrant social media presence and following for the column.

Kris Williamson
Kris Williamson is a publishing consultant and writer. Born and raised in Florida's Tampa Bay Area, he fled America when the neo-cons took over, choosing to continue his studies in Australia. Eventually he found his way to Malaysia and has been tolerated there despite the lack of itinerant mat salleh in the 1Malaysia agenda. He has written professionally for a decade but only turned to writing for fun over the last few years. He founded the Southeast Asian-themed e-zine Anak Sastra in 2010 and still edits its quarterly issues. When not writing about himself in the third person, he talks about other people in the third person.

For registration, please log on to

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Season’s Greeting…Season’s Cleaning

It started with a rat . . . . A rat visited us last Christmas, too, came up through the drain in our bathroom, but I caught that one.  This is a relative that lives in the ceiling and ate its way through a couple of wires, thus darkening our kitchen.  Since we needed to call an electrician, we thought, well, what else can the electrician do?  The boys ceiling fan needed fixed or replaced and my wife has been hinting (for years) that our living room is too dull, so when the electrician arrived we asked for a quote on some down lights. 

While shifting furniture to make room for the electrician and his ladder, I noticed a lot of dust; then the electrician created a mess under each down light, so I furiously swept and mopped the living room and the dining room for good measure (the kitchen, too).  Just in time for some Christ­mas carolers from my wife’s village in Quop. 

After wishing us a Merry Christmas, the carolers left and moved onto the next house, and my wife hinted at the next project . . . . We really needed to do something with our wall that separated our property from the neighbors.  The lower half was fine, but the upper metal grille was rusty and looked horrible.  We had it painted two years ago by a contractor friend.  His bid was rather unfriendly, so we asked the contractor who recently completed the back wall at my sister-in-law’s house.  We’re glad we did. 

Impressed with their work, I got the idea of turning our upstairs balcony that we rarely use into a separate room for our exercise equipment, since keeping fit is one of our resolutions for 2015 (as is running a second marathon).  After doing some furious tape measuring, I could see the possibilities, so I got a quote.  It was reasonable if we opted not to knock out the wall separating it from the master bedroom since that would affect the ceiling, the floor and substantially increase the cost.  We’ll remove the door and shift the existing window out to the balcony and leave the windowless space empty, giving the balcony room a sense of spacious­ness and making it easier for my wife and me to talk while the other works out.  (Good for encouragement!)

As soon as they finished plastering the back wall (and the front, too, since we were at it), they got to work on the balcony.  Initially I had agreed to paint the back and front walls to save on costs, but the more we talked to the contractors about that, we thought it might be wiser to let the experts do that, since they knew how to seal it properly before painting (something I never considered) so the paint won’t come off during the first torrential downpour.  (We live in the tropics.)  Besides, my wife wasn’t convinced that I would get around to it as quickly as she wanted it done.  While we were at it (famous last words), we had them paint the side walls, too.

While rearranging some furniture in our master bedroom so nothing got damaged, my wife noticed that our ceiling fan was dusty.  Once we started cleaning that, it naturally led to other things that were equally dusty like our floor, our curtains, so before you know it, she has me vacuuming the curtains in every room of the house including the living room drapes, some­thing we haven’t done in years.  Who has time to vacuum curtains?

In the midst of vacuuming, my wife asked me what I wanted to do with the door that they removed from the balcony.  Knowing it’d come in handy the moment we tossed it, I thought of storing it in the back room where we do our laundry.  But first I had to move every­thing out so it wouldn’t be in the way of everything else.  Then I swept, dusted, mopped and tossed stuff; while I was at it, I did some serious rearranging to make it more pleasing to the eye.     

Once the balcony room is ready, we’ll call the electrician again to add an outlet and replace the light.  Before he comes we’ll take another look around the place to see if anything else needs repaired or replaced.  In the meantime, we’re taking down the Christmas decorations, but before putting it back into storage, I’ll clean out that storage room, too, since it’s looking fairly cluttered . . . . That happens when you have children, boys especially.

Hopefully, that will be the end of this year’s Season’s Cleaning, so I can finally relax and get back to revising my novel . . . . But already my wife is eyeing the boy’s room and subtly remind­ing me about my promise to paint it.  So for 2015, I see more work in my future, though I’ll probably procrastinate until another Christmas rat comes around . . . . By the way, when I was a kid, they were called Christmas mice, but everything back then was smaller.

Now on New Year’s Day, when many people around the world, including our neighbors, wake up with a hangover, we’ll be waking up to a clean, uncluttered house with a new exercise room and freshly painted outer walls . . . . Not a bad way to start the New Year.

And how is your own Season’s Cleaning coming along?  Good luck with that, or perhaps wait until next year . . . . Cheers.
              —Borneo Expat Writer 

*Links to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and to the French translation of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, Trois autres Malaisie.  Thanks! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Congrats to the Winners and Finalists of the 2014 Faulkner-Wisdom

Although my novella The Act of Theft came up short as a finalist in the 2014 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, and two of my novels A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit (finalist 2012) and The Lonely Affair (The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady) were short-list finalists for the 2014 Novel category, congrats to the winners and the other finalists and all those who took part. 

Again, this was the fourth time that one of my works has made it the Faulkner-Wisdom finals in four categories:  novel, novel-in-progress, novella and short story (“Malaysian Games”,  runner up in 2007).

Winners for the Novella:
1st place:  Give Me You by Kay Sloan, Cincinnati, OH
2nd place:  Tickfaw to Shongaloo by Dixon Hearne, Madison, MS

A Different Life by Philip Erickson, St. Paul, MN
Cold War by Farah Halime, Brooklyn, NY
Further by Deborah Jannerson, New Orleans, LA
Juanita by Kent Dixon, Springfield, OH
Not the Usual Sleep by Tim Knowles, Brewster, NY
Resistance by Amina Gautier, Chicago, IL
Tansy by William Thrift, Columbia, SC
The Act of Theft by Robert Raymer, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
The Little Girls by Lori Fennell, Lake in the Hills, IL 
The Year We Froze by Stan Kempton, New Orleans, LA
Witness by Melanie Naphine, Frankston, Victoria, Australia
Yankees Angels by Robert H. Cox, New York, NY

        Winners for the novel
1st place:  Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradel, Los Angeles, CA
2nd place:  The Talented Tenth by Ladee Hubbard, Champaign, ILL
3rd place:  The Invention of Violet by Amy Boutell, Santa Barbara, CA
4th place:   Sunrise for Asphodel by Dan Turtel, New York, NY

Advice for the Wicked by Glen Pitre, New Orleans, LA
A Stone for Bread by Miriam Herin, Greensboro, NC
Mask of Sanity by Jacob Appel, New York, NY
Scoop the Loop by Charles Holdefer, Brussels, Belgium
The Lenin Plot by Barnes Carr, Houston, TX
The Truth Project by Tad Bartlett, New Orleans and L. Ed Marston, Chattanooga, TN

                —Borneo Expat Writer 

*Links to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and to the French translation of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, Trois autres Malaisie.  Thanks!