Sunday, November 30, 2008

“The Station Hotel”: The Story Behind the Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

When I entered my room at The Station Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, I had this overwhelming feeling of déjà vu; I was sure that I had stayed there before, in the same room. I can’t actually recall ever staying at the hotel before that (although I may have), but I did transfer that strong feeling I had to my character Michele Yeap. (I gave her my groggy feeling of spending a night on the train, too!) Right away, I knew that the hotel would make a great setting for a short story and began taking photographs and describing everything inside the room.

My original characters were a married couple who had stayed there years before, but now their marriage was falling apart. The story wasn’t working. I hated the characters and tossed them out, but I kept the setting! So I brought in two more characters, one of whom had spend a night there en route to her honeymoon in Hong Kong; this time she’s here with her lover from Penang. She was only joking when she suggested they stay at The Station Hotel but the joke backfired.

Although my original working title was "The Station Hotel", I switched it to “Inevitable" and then to "The Joke” which was the title of this story when it appeared in Her World (Oct ‘89). Back then Michele’s last name was Loo. I changed the title again to “Joking” when it appeared in Northern Perspective (Australia, 1992) and kept it for the first Lovers and Strangers collection (but dropped the name Loo – it reminded me too much of a toilet! Names, and their connotations, are important.) Later, while revisiting the story for the Silverfish collection, I changed the title back to “The Station Hotel” (and added Yeap to Michele’s name).

This story was about contrasting moods and I was careful in choosing the details to highlight this: Michele’s mood when she first entered the hotel with her lover and then later, when she returned to the hotel that evening. It was the same physical place but she saw it all differently because her mood was totally different. Everything that she saw was no longer the same: the bell desk clerk, a young man eager to please, and then the grumpy old woman; the long, high-ceiling corridor, and then an endless tunnel; the spacious room and freshly painted bathroom, and then the dull, simple room and the poor paint job; a flock of swallows and palm trees, and then the cluster of cars and trash strewn everywhere).

To make the characters seem more real, I modeled Michele and Lee on a pair of friends from Penang, neither of whom were married. Recognizing themselves in the book, they brought it to my attention. They were ok with it, but felt odd – like, how in the world did I know so much about them? Several other friends thought I was writing about them, too, and I couldn’t convince them otherwise, so I must’ve done a really good job!

One couple thought I wrote about the husband because he wore glasses, hid behind his smile and his name was “Lee”. He’s American, and in the original version it was clearly stated that Lee was Chinese. (Later, I dropped the reference so readers could picture him as they wished.) The wife was quite upset with me (and suspicious of him!) until I dug up the original Her World story written years before I had met them (to the relief of the husband!). Another lady, whom I didn’t know very well, thought I was writing about her because she fit the general description and worked in the hotel line. So did another woman, also in the hotel line. Since this was a story about a woman having an affair with a married man, I kept wondering, oh, so who are you having an affair with?

While revisiting the stories for the Silverfish collection I had to go to KL for a book launch/reading at Silverfish, and I thought it might be interesting to stay at the refurbished (and renamed) The Heritage Station Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. I hadn’t touched the story, “The Station Hotel”, in a dozen years and was having some problems with it, so I brought along a working draft of the story. After wandering around the hotel and taking copious notes to give the story more depth, I began to edit it. There’s nothing like being at the physical setting of a story to get the juices flowing. In fact, the ideas were coming fast and I stayed up half the night scribbling away, adding all this new material.

I had always felt that the ending was rushed, and it needed to be a bigger moment. So I played with it and expanded the last two paragraphs to two and a half pages! Throughout the story, I added in more details about Michele’s first marriage to Barry. This was an important counterpoint to Lee, whom she was having an affair with. By the end the story, and rather ironically, Barry was becoming the solution. In order for this to be convincing, I needed to introduce a lot more backstory about this early marriage, how they had met, why they got married, why they separated and why they remained close friends. Prior to this, the marriage had merely been mentioned a couple of times in passing.

After I had given my reading at Silverfish, I woman came late and when she found out that I had already read, expressed her disappointment.

“I do have another story with me that I’ve been rewriting,” I said, but added that it’s full of handwritten notes. The others also wanted me to read it, so I did. I was taking a big risk because the story was getting to be rather long and my hand-written notes, squeezed in here and there, with arrows all over the place, were hard to read. Nevertheless, I persevered.

The reception was much better than I had imagined. In fact, one woman I didn’t know gushed, “Oh, I wish my friend was here. She stayed at the Station Hotel for six months and she would’ve loved it! Is this going to be in your book? I’ll make sure she gets a copy!”

I knew I was on the right track. With all these new additions, I ended up doubling the length of the original story. I was glad that I had decided to stay at The Station Hotel that first (and possibly second) time and definitely while revisiting the story!

Lovers and Strangers Revisited is now getting translated into French as Trois autres Malaisie.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie. 

Here are three reviews of Lovers and Strangers Revisited: The Star (MPH), The Expat (Silverfish), and NST (Silverfish) and a link to the other story behind the stories for Lovers and Strangers Revisited.

Review of Lovers and Strangers Revisited in The Star, 30 November 2008

The Star Review, 30 November 2008
Sweetly Sad by Dzireena Mahadzir

Publisher: MPH Publishing, 228 pages ISBN 978-9833698813

THERE’S a rather desolate feeling about Robert Raymer’s Lovers and Strangers Revisited. You feel the isolation, the sadness, the frustration. The characters seem trapped in their own little world, some so self-absorbed that they’re incapable of seeing anything beyond themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: the stories are interesting. But they’re sad! There seems to be no happiness in these characters’ worlds. You’d recognise most of them, though I wouldn’t say they’re stereotypes; they’re familiar characters that you might have come across somewhere, somehow, though you might not have given any of them a second thought until they appear in this strangely appealing book.

That, actually, is one of the book’s main points of appeal for me: its overall Malaysianess. I don’t read many books by Malaysian (or Malaysia-based) authors, so I’m not really able to compare; I just liked that I could recognise the people in the stories and could relate to some of them.

The Smooth Stones, for example. It’s such a Malaysian thing to believe that a holy-looking man must be a good person, so paying RM500 for magical stones makes sense. But the tale doesn’t quite end in the way all those newspaper reports of conned people do because Raymer gives it an interesting twist that makes you wonder ... what if?

Then, in Sister’s Room, there’s his description of a child’s jealousy of an older sister who receives special treatment. Through the child’s eyes, it’s all so innocent, but Raymer subtly but effectively implies that there’s more to it than that, and tragically so.

On Fridays is one of my favourites. The characters come to life to well, I could almost see and hear them. It is very descriptive, and sums up the different races in a way that I would have previously thought only Malaysians would understand.

The protagonist tries so hard to read his fellow passenger, a Malay women. He wants so much to know what’s in her mind. During that one, short taxi ride, emotions build up so intensely that they spawn an obsession. Except it’s too late, and the moment is gone, and it won’t return. If only.

There are a lot of “If only’s” in this book....

Some of the stories feature expat characters, some of whom feel displaced in Malaysia where everything seems so foreign and alien. Half the time, Raymer’s describing behaviour we’ve all seen around us or that we’ve even acted out ourselves, but he does an effective job of making us step outside ourselves and look back in through a stranger’s eyes.

Mat Salleh, the story of a Malay woman who takes her American husband back to her hometown demonstrates this best.
Another mixed marriage story, Only in Malaysia (one of two new additions to this edition; the other is Transactions in Thai), tells of a foreigner who follows his Malaysian wife back here, only to have things fall apart, leaving him stranded in a country that no longer seems friendly, and that he has no way of leaving. Sad!
The title story, however, has a happier ending, though it also has some uneasy undertones. It’s quite interesting how one man can meet and be attracted to the same kind of destructive woman without realising how he’s hurting himself. But the end result is somewhat happier than the rest of the stories, at least!
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed Lovers and Strangers, even if I did feel a little melancholic after finishing it. Perhaps the melancholy is somehow cathartic....

Update: Lovers and Strangers Revisited wins 2009 Popular-The Star Reader's Choice Award.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited
**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

“Teh-O in K.L.”: The Story Behind The Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

Teh-O in K.L.” was my first piece of writing (to my knowledge) that had an impact on someone’s life when it first came out in Her World (Oct 1992), six months before the publication of the original Lovers and Strangers. A British woman who had read the story, unaware that I was a writer since we had just met, told me that she had insisted that her Malay husband read it, so he would understand what she had been going through as a Western woman married to a Malaysian living in Malaysia. When she told me what the story was about, I had this strong feeling of déjà vu.

“I wrote that,” I said, and she gave me this look: No-way!

The teh-o in the title is tea without condensed milk and K.L., of course, is Kuala Lumpur. The story, which is more of a vignette, is based on a true incident. I was trying to capture what I had been feeling as a Westerner in Malaysia, this fish-out-of-water experience, whereby opposites do attract, yet there is this sense of longing, a yearning, as an expat, to be with someone from your own culture. Too often we try to deny this, or even go out of our way to avoid other expats, especially those of us married to Malaysians, who (rightly or wrongly) see ourselves outside the typical expat community who come and go.

I wrote this story in the present tense, one of three in the original collection, and chose to use Jeya’s actual name (with her permission). She was quite thrilled! At the time that I met her, she was in an unhappy marriage to a much-older Indian national, whom she later divorced and then married a Brit and moved to the UK where she now lives with four children.

“Do you miss being around whites?” This was Jeya’s real-life blunt question about race that prompted me to think that there’s a story here, especially after the entrance of two Western women, backpackers, “wearing sleeveless loose tops, short shorts and no bras” that suddenly attracted every male’s attention, including my own. Jeya quickly noted this, thus catching me in a white lie about my missing being around “whites”, or white women in particular.

Despite “Teh-O in K.L.” being published six times in five countries and translated into Japanese, the editor for Silverfish didn’t think I should include it. Then I remembered that encounter with the Brit as well as other expats, particularly women, who often cited this story as one of their favorites since they can strongly relate to it. It was even published in The Expat (Feb. 2004), so I argued for its inclusion. I also agreed to do another overhaul of the story (while on vacation in the US), whereby I flushed out more of the details and heightened some of the contrasts that I was going after. For the MPH version I toned down some of the excesses since they had been written in a rush.

An editor in the US, who had read an early version of the story, mentioned that they all really liked the line “…stir the thick white milk into her dark tea until the opposing colors become one.” From the beginning this was story of opposites, and that was reflected in the opening paragraph, which didn’t change other than deleting one needless fragment.

“Call it a black and white thing, though Jeya isn’t black. Not African black. She’s Ceylonese, but born in Malaysia. Yet her skin in blacker than the night.”

What did change the most was the ending. The original version focused on Jeya and me, on our new friendship, and on our respective spouses. This seemed to drag out over several paragraphs and away from the story itself. When I revisited the story in 2005, I opted to focus on the two women who had just left, on the race issue, on this sense of longing, and on the tea itself, all compacted into one paragraph.

“As I look down at my tea, I’m wishing they’re still here, so I’m not the only white person left. Jeya is saying something, but I’m no longer listening. For a long moment, I’m wishing I were back in my own country with someone from my own race. But then the moment passes, and I finish my tea.”

Recently a French expat living in Sarawak, emailed me and said that "Teh-O in KL" was one of her favorite stories “because it touches me personally and because it tells me that we both feel the same beyond the gender ‘thing’.”

So I’m glad I left the story in the collection.

Lovers and Strangers Revisited is now getting translated into French as Trois autres Malaisie.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie. 

Here are three reviews of Lovers and Strangers Revisited: The Star (MPH), The Expat (Silverfish), and NST (Silverfish) and a link to the other story behind the stories for Lovers and Strangers Revisited.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review of Lovers and Strangers Revisited in Borneo Talk, Oct-Dec 2008



Borneo Talk, Oct-Dec 2008:

Lovers and Strangers Revisited
MPH (228 pages) Paperback RM32.90

Robert Raymer lives in Sarawak where he teaches creative writing at University Malaysia Sarawak. The American-born Raymer likes to write short stories that give people a truly personal glimpses of Malaysia. With his keen observation to detail he is able to capture the nuances of the locals from a foreign perspective, and in doing so he helps Malaysian readers
understand what the "Mat Salleh" sees in us and our country. There are 17 stories that deal with love, family, and culture with a few being semi-autobiographical in nature.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

“Home for Hari Raya”: The Story Behind the Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

After experiencing Hari Raya several times in Malaysia, I decided to write a short story about it, so I took my writing notebook with me to Parit, Perak and immediately started taking notes, describing all that I could, and observing my relatives, particularly my nieces and nephews. Since there were nineteen of them, spread between two houses across the street from each other, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t know what the story was going to be about; I just wanted to capture the whole experience, the essence of a traditional kampong-based Hari Raya. I also wanted to leave me completely out of the story (though years later, after a request from a magazine, I was asked to write about my own personal Hari Raya experience).

Then I got the idea to focus the story on three sisters, the elder two loosely based on my nieces, who were in fact cousins, and at the time, none of them were married. The younger, Ida, who I made the viewpoint character, would be a USM student where I taught creative writing. I made her embittered over the fact that her father, who had recently passed away, had taken a second wife. This was the heart of the story, an unresolved issue among the sisters that was threatening to tear the family apart.

I wanted to show how the three sisters viewed their father differently, and how the youngest, know-it-all-Ida couldn’t accept her sister’s views, let alone her mother’s complacency with the whole situation. Since Hari Raya is a time for asking for forgiveness, I knew this would play an integral part in the story and in its resolution.

In my ex-wife’s immediate family there were no one (at least not verified) who had more than one wife, although when my ex-wife was in primary school, another girl saw a picture of her father and told her, that was her father, too, and this deeply disturbed her. She also told me about a neighbor, who would bicycle back and forth between his two wives, and her classmates whose father’s had taken more than one wife. Among Malays, who are Muslim, this is quite common, an acceptable fact of life, but still problematic and often leads to divorce. My ex-wife, who was a reporter, was often involved in court cases and women forums, and she would tell me what was going on in these-multiple-marriage-gone-wrong cases.

Having a setting that I was already familiar with, and having first hand personal experience helping with the chores of cleaning up the house and the various rituals of preparing for Hari Raya year after year was a bonus. Also it’s an advantage to have real people to act as models, like my describing the antics of my nephews who were a lot younger than my nieces and who would go out of their way to irritate the girls. The scene with the three sisters on the motorcycles and bicycle happened, though I had no idea what they were discussing since they spoke in Malay. I felt the scene would work in the story by showing another side of their character, that although all three were young ladies, they were still close to being children.

After the story was originally published in Her World, but before it came out in Lovers and Strangers, I switched the names of the two elder sisters. I felt the name Sharifah seemed more mature than Mira, who at times in the story acted immature.

Later, while revisiting the story for the Silverfish collection, I showed it to a lecturer at USM who was the second wife of my colleague and, after she read the story, agreed to answer my questions as to why she decided to be a second wife. Her answers were quite helpful and gave me the confidence that I was on the right track.

It was important for Ida, as a strong-willed, independent, modern university student, to keep bringing up the unfairness of men taking a second wife. But the other sisters didn’t see it that way and I wanted their views known, too, to give the story balance. In the original version, Sharifah said, “Lots of men take second wives.” This I expanded in the first revisited version by adding, “It’s a fact of life. It’s better than them sneaking around and having affairs or visiting prostitutes, isn’t it? At least you know where they are.”

This only makes Ida more frustrated, who saw nothing except the men’s double standards. In the MPH version, I added in her mother’s typical kampong view, which I’ve personally heard countless times over the years. As if to defend her husband, she reminded Ida that Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, had four wives. But Ida quickly countered, that it was only after his first wife had died.

A pivotal scene was having this second wife visit them during Hari Raya. This was a big moment, but I didn’t want to overdo it. What I was trying to avoid was a come-to-realize-that-the-second-wife-wasn’t-a-bad-person-afterall end to the story. I needed a stronger, more emotional ending, a bonding among all three sisters which I was able to achieve in the revised story, where I purposely underplayed it.

I tried different versions before I settled on just the right ending. Since the story is about asking for forgiveness, it was important for Ida to go to the graveyard to be at her father’s grave, an important part of Hari Raya, which she had refused to do earlier in the story. She wanted to sneak off on her own, but she needed her sister’s car, so she reluctantly agreed to let her sisters join her. Putting their differences behind them, at least for now, Ida instinctively reached out for sister’s hands. From the comments I got from readers, including expats, it works.

In May 2011, "Home for Hari Raya" was published in Istanbul Literary ReviewBy then I had already changed Ida’s name to Rina; it seemed to fit her better, after meeting some outspoken Rina’s while teaching and several quiet Ida’s.  In December 2011, Frederick Lewis, professor of film/video at Ohio University contacted me about turning “Homefor Hari Raya” into a film.  Initially, he was interested in “Mat Salleh” because one thing he was looking for was a strong Muslim female.  Thinking of the Rina/Ida character, I suggested “Home for Hari Raya” and sent him the Istanbul Literary Review link since his reference was the 1993 Heinemann Asia version of Lovers and Strangers.   

His team loved the story and after they got the financing approved by the university, they began putting together a screenplay.  In December 2012, Lewis led a team of 14 students to Malaysia who liaised with the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation at UiTM Shah Alam to turn "Home for Hari Raya" into a film.   

I find it fascinating that a short story I wrote over twenty years ago and first published in the May 1993 issue of Her World about three Malay sisters is now being turned into a film.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Malay Mail, 5 November 2008


Revisiting tales
By GABEY GOH November 05, 2008 Categories: Blogspot

When expatriate Robert Raymer (during a moment of weakness) did a Google search on himself last year to gauge the buzz surrounding his book, what he discovered was a unique take on the old adage: "Never judge a book by its cover".

"A blog entry caught my eye and caught me by surprise, so that's what people are thinking about my book!" writes the American-born author of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a collection of short stories set in Malaysia.

The post in question, was that of a student who shared a conversation with the book store cashier, about the misconstrued stigma attached to book titles – while picking up a copy of Raymer's book.

"After reading this blog entry, I had to smile – so that's why the book wasn’t selling well at USM bookstore! People were too embarrassed by the title. Sounds like others would stare or glare at them for even picking up the book, let alone trying to buy it," he continued.

The biggest boon of blogging for writers has been its role, not only as a launching pad to promote their works, but also as an evolving workbook and diary for their ideas. Along with his musings about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, visitors to his blog ( borneoexpatwriter.blogspot.com ) will get to delve into his current project.

"Now I’m doing a series of posts, as part of my writing blog, called The Story Behind the Story: Lovers and Strangers Revisited , whereby I blog about how the various stories came to be written," says Raymer, who noted it would be interesting for readers to see how much the stories, over a span of 20 years, have evolved.

How and when did you start your blog?

When blogging was first recommended to me by several writers, it didn’t make any sense, plus it sounded like it would eat into my limited writing time, since I teach full time and have small children at home. Then Krista Goon ( redboxstudio.com/blog ), whom I taught creative writing to at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), kept sending me links to various writers, mostly Malaysian, who have blogs. One was Lydia Teh ( lydiateh.wordpress.com ), she was reacting to a blog post by Sharon Bakar ( thebookaholic.blogspot.com ), about the realities of publishing books in Malaysia. It struck a chord with me and I shot off a reply to Lydia’s blog, which turned out to be a rather lengthy comment. In fact, it was a full length article because I had a lot to say on the matter based on my years of experience publishing books in Malaysia and Singapore.

Having written this article, I thought, why not start my own blog on writing with the same article (and on the same day), which I did on May 19, 2007. The hardest decision was deciding what to call it. I came up with BorneoExpatWriter: Borneo, since I was moving there, Expat, since that is what I am, and Writer, because that is what I do.

Has your blogging changed your life?

Blogging hasn’t changed my life, just my writing life, or how I view writing. Before, I would write or pitch articles for publications, but now I write posts on writing to help inspire other writers. Then later, I think some of these would make pretty good articles, so I would rewrite them and submit them for publication. This is a recent development, but so far one has already been published. So blogging in this sense serves a new purpose for me, it gets me to write articles that I may not have written in the first place, plus they become fodder for paying articles and workshops.

It’s also nice when readers of my stories and former writing students stumble across my website or blog and contact me. Also the website/blog is invaluable for editors, agents, publishers and reviewers to get more information about me and to read samples of my writing. So far I’ve got one US$500 writing assignment from the US, one full page interview and book review ( Borneo Post ), and one workshop presentation (in Miri) from strangers who came across my website.

Any regrets?

I only wished I had started blogging sooner, before there were a billion other bloggers out there.

What in "Cybersphere" amazes you?

How quickly unfounded rumors can spread and how much damage one person with a perceived grievance or a grudge (or just because he can), can humiliate or destroy someone’s life by posting malicious gossip or doctored photographs or stealing their identity and their money! Scary!

If you really had to choose one website to interact with?

Your Success Store ( http://www.yoursuccessstore.com/ ) and its weekly Your Achievement Ezine because of all the great advice that you get from leading success experts on all aspects of your life, from people like Jim Rohn, Denis Waitley, John Gray, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, you name it. It’s not just one person’s point of view; it’s dozens of the most successful people on this planet, those who’ve walked the walk for years, for decades, before they begin to talk.

What would you really like to achieve through Cyberspace communication?

I would like to find an agent who then finds an international publisher for my novels, someone who has the wisdom and the persistence to attract readers from all over the globe so I can stop teaching and write full time to achieve my goal of publishing 20 bestselling books in 20 years.

If there were someone you could influence to take up blogging, who would it be?

I would like to see a joint blog with Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (with Buddha as a special guest), so they can tell us in their own words what they really said, what they really meant, how we got it all wrong (assuming we did), and how we can start to make it all right before it’s too late. There’s too much anger, hate, wars in this world, and most of it caused by misunderstanding or misinterpreting what those original words really mean.

Memorable incidents?

Blogging from Borneo proves that the world is smaller. A French woman visiting her son in Australia stumbled on my blog and as it turns out she lives 15 minutes from us here in Sarawak, so she invited us over to her lovely house for some appetizers, one of which was smoked salmon from a Dutch man, who does this as a hobby. Oh, that salmon was unbelievable good!

Then a man from Canada contacted me and said he used to take ballroom dancing lessons from this woman in her house in the Bidayuh village, Quop, here in Sarawak. As it turns out, that woman is my wife’s mother. And I didn’t even know that she taught dancing! Maybe I should ask her to teach me, it’s been a while since I last danced the tango.

*There's also a side bar that says: Over at the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) website a forum discussion thread has been set up for Raymer's short story “Neighbours” from Lovers and Strangers Revisited, which is being taught for SMP literature as part of their 6th Cycle. So far it has 9814 hits, 289 replies and 29 pages of comments. To join in ior have a look head to http://www.melta.org.my/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=510&forum=5&jump=1 If you enter from the Special Interest Group, it’s free.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Review of Lovers and Strangers Revisited in Cleo, November '08

On Thursday, 30 October, I had heard about the review in Cleo from Shirley at MPH, and that afternoon while getting lunch at Unimas, I noticed that the lady I was to pay money to was reading a magazine. I thought what are the odds that she's reading Cleo and the latest issue? But curiosity got the best of me and I asked what she was reading. Cleo. Then I noticed the month. November! This must be The Secret -- The Law of Attraction -- at work. I mumbled something incoherent about wanting to look through the magazine to see the review for my book and she gave me this, "Huh?" look. Finally on page 283 I found it and showed her the review. "That's me," I said, and pointed out my name, paid for my food, and left.

I have a feeling the next time I go back there, she's going to have a copy of my book, waiting for me to sign, and that's all right by me!



What the Cleo review says:
Lovers and Strangers Revisited
Robert Raymer
(MPH Publishing)
After chalking up more than 20 years as a resident of melting pot Malaysia, transplanted American Raymer merges observation and personal experiences in his latest book, which is really the third revised editon of his collection of short stories Lovers and Strangers Revisited. With two new stories, Raymer has revised the earlier written tales to give them a timeless feel. Ours is a unique scenario - various races living next to one another, interacting daily, each with its own endearing and most certainly annoying idiosyncrasies; it's no wonder we captured this Mat Salleh's imagination. Raymer's stories remind us that, nosely or nice, Malaysians are an undeniably colourful bunch!

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.