Friday, November 6, 2015

Esquire-Malaysia publishes “Seeing the Dead Man”, excerpt from A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit

My short story, “Seeing the Dead Man”, an excerpt from my Penang-based novel A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit, has been published in the November 2015 issue of Esquire Malaysia.  *This is the ninth time, and the fourth story from three chapters (in four countries) that have been published from the former finalist, 2012, and short-list finalist, 2014, of the Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Awards. 

*Originally I posted eight times in three countries but after double checking my records I discovered another story, under a different title, published in India.  (Australia, India, Malaysia, USA)  

A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit (83,950 words)
Expatriates don’t always make smart decisions, especially if they own a gun.

“When living overseas as long as I have,” Michael Graver said from the com­forts of his decaying bungalow, “the question that you always have to ask yourself…is today a perfect day for an expat exit?”
Distraught over catching his wife with an ex-boyfriend, American business­man Steve Bos­ton flees from freezing Wisconsin to the tropical island of Penang, off the west coast of Malay­sia.  En route to the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, a colonial holdover, Boston comes to the aid of a mysterious Eura­sian whose com­plicated life has been made messier by her father’s body wash­ing ashore.  His death is linked to the enigmatic expatriate Michael Graver, who seems to know ev­ery­body’s personal secrets, and his anti-American, opium-addicted British wife, Amanda.
Until he met Graver, Boston merely thought of expatriates as some kind of my­stical creature – a shapeshifter capa­ble of abandoning one culture for another, often living in the sha­dows for the sake of survival; either hiding from their troubled past, seeking some self-indul­gent pleasure, or search­ing for a lost treasure.  Or a little of each as in Graver’s case.
Graver’s life begins to unravel as his past catches up with him.  With little left to live for ex­cept an elusive treasure buried by the Japanese at the end of World War Two, Graver gamely manipulates those around him, including Steve Boston who keeps finding him­self in the wrong place at the wrong time until he’s caught smack in the middle with a gun aimed at his head.

The follow up to this novel Girl in the Bathtub was a finalist in the 2015 Falkner Wisdom

—Borneo Expat Writer

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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Winners of the 2015 William Faulkner - William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

Faulkner Medal.jpg
Congrats to the winners of the 2015 William Faulkner - William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.


Novel:           The Colonel's Son by Daniel Castro
Runners-up:  Horace Edgecomb’s Civil War by Jacob Appel
         Of Light and Violence, Dan Turtel

Narrative Non-Fiction:   Off the Grid, by Randy Denmon
Runner-up:                   My Mother's House by David Armand

Novella:          The Virginal Grip by Paul Negri
Runners-up:   Apple Tree, Michael Caleb, Australia
          Breeding in Stockholm, Stan Kempton, New Orleans, LA
Novel in Progress:  Search a Dark and Empty Place, Emily Capdeville
Runner-up:            An Inventory of Lunatics, Jacob Appel
Tough luck for Jacob Appel who was runner-up in both the Novel and Novel-in-Progress.
As for The Girl in the Bathtub, a sequel to A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit, also set in Penang, Malaysia, it remains as a finalist in the novel category. 

  —Borneo Expat Writer

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

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Featured in POPCLUB, September 2015

Feel proud to be featured in POPCLUB this month, a magazine that's exclusively for Malaysia Popular (bookstore) card members.  I was featured their once before back in 2009, though they had me looking the other way!

Here's a link to the recent KL Bookfest Workshop that I did with several other writers for Popular in July.

Here is also a link to Lovers and Strangers Revisited -- 20 years!

Hmmm...with the 25-year anniversary of the original publication of Lovers and Strangers by Heinemann Asia coming up in 2018, perhaps, with the help of MPH, we can do a big push to get this collection published in other countries and also translated into other languages other than French....The individual stories have been published over 80 times, the last publication being "Dark Blue Thread" in Australia's Westerly 2011.  Then "Home for Hari Raya" was filmed in 2013 by Ohio University.  Would love to have this collection taught in the US and other countries at various Southeast Asia programs.  "Home for Hari Raya and "Only in Malaysia" were taught at Ohio University in 2012, and many of the stories, including the collection has been taught in several universities and private colleges in Malaysia and for six years "Neighbours" was taught for SPM literature.  There has been some interest before, and I just recently revised all of the stories, which I did for the French translation, too, to make them even better, so let's see what happens...

Again I want to thank Popular for inviting me to the Bookfest and for featuring me in this month's issue of POPCLUB and for having the Popular-Star Reader's Choice Awards, which made it possible for Lovers and Strangers Revisited to win back in 2009!

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

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 a link to my first marathon. (2014 Kuching Marathon)
And to my third marathon (2016 Kuching 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!