Friday, February 26, 2010

2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – Second Round

The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady, one of three novels that I had entered for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, has made the Second Round! They had 5000 entries for each category and cut that down to 1000 (I know still a long way to go!). The First Round judging was based solely on the 300-word pitch, which is a lot harder to write than you think! Every word has to count and has to entice the reader to want to read the novel. Think of a back of the book blurb – if that doesn’t convince you to open the book in a few seconds, then you will set it aside and pick up the next book.

Here was my pitch:


All it took was one look through a rearview mirror to convince Jonathan Brady that Cabrina Chaval loves him like no woman before has ever loved a man. Twenty-two years ago, during her debut in The Magic Flute, she picked him out of the audience. He was sixteen at the time, too young to understand the implications of that look – the way she poured out her heart, her soul to him. Now she’s contacting him again. This time, it’ll be different. This time, he’ll be ready to accept her outpouring of love.

Through a series of coincidences, Jonathan Brady, an economics professor who paints houses during the summer, convinces himself that Cabrina Chaval, a former opera singer and well-known socialite, is in love with him. This is reinforced when she sits beside him at a funeral and later invites him to paint her house. Because of her prominent position in society and since she’s still married, he accepts that their love must be kept secret. The only person Jonathan shares this secret with is his mother, who after taking him to see The Magic Flute, blackmailed him into breaking up with his girlfriend shortly before she died.

While recapturing the innocent love of two sixteen year olds and coming to terms with the incestuous love between a mother and child, Jonathan Brady passes through the five stages of love – from heightened awareness, to playful pursuit, to courtship and romance, to jealousy and suspicion, to reconciliation and acceptance – all unbeknown to Cabrina Chaval.

The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady is a story about love and betrayal, about second chances and believing in something with your entire heart despite all the evidence to the contrary.
* * *

Since entering the contest, while pitching the novel to agents, I have already amended this, by cutting out the line: "The only person...she died."  

The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady, was an "almost finalist" for the 2008 Wisdom-Faulkner Novel contest.

*Update:  A revised version with a new title, The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady, just advanced to Round Two 2012.  Compare the two pitches. The novel was also short listed for the 2011 Wisdom-Faulkner Novel contest. 
**Update: The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady just advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012!

***For 2011, another novel The Boy Who Shot Santa also made Round Two.

The judging for Round Two will be from February 25-March 14 and will be based on the 3000-5000 word excerpt, starting on page one of your novel. My excerpt is 4,089 words. Anything past that I felt was not an effective place to stop since it’s in the middle of a scene that's building to a climax. You have to end it at the right place, so the reader wants to know what’s going to happen next.  (** for 2012 I went further and it was 4,987 and that made it the the Quarterfinals; it was also heavily revised 4 more times!)

So do I, as I anxiously await for the results that could take me to Round Three. Not bad for an expat writer based in Borneo! But can The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady go all the way? For now I’m taking one round at a time and keeping my fingers crossed.

*Here are six lessons I learned from joining Amazon competition.

****Here's 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, February 20, 2010

The Star 29 January 2010 Reading Room Review of Tropical Affairs

Lifestyle: Bookshelf
Reading Room book reviews

***Here's 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, February 14, 2010

Finding inspiration in the movie Julie & Julia

Last night I watched Julie & Julia, a delightful movie about cooking, about pursuing your passion, and about writing. The film parallels the lives of Julie Powell and Julia Child. While Julie was writing her blog, The Julie/Julia Project, my friend Lucy kept me abreast here in Malaysia about how this blogger had a massive following around the world as she cooked her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. This led to a book deal, whereby she rewrote her blog into a memoir and then this memoir, along with a memoir by Julia Child, was made into a film by Nora Ephron starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

What struck me the most about this film was how you never know how close you are to success. This applies to everyone, especially those who undertake to follow their dreams. It’s about taking stock of your life and deciding where your passions truly lie. It’s about not giving up and seeing the project through to the end.

Writers know this especially, spending years writing a book, not knowing whether you’ve wasted your life at the expense of a book that no one will ever read, if it never gets published; or even if it does get published, will it make its way into the reader’s hand. And can it affect others in a way that you could never have imagined, thus making it all worthwhile, if not financially, then emotionally satisfying, so at the end of your life, as you look back, you would do it all over again. This is what we strive for, validation. Fame is too fleeting, but financial success would be nice, too.

Like a lot of writers I am at a crossroads, as my three-year contract teaching creative writing at Unimas comes to an end in about six weeks. I have felt for a long time, for over a year now, that I did not wish to renew my contract, since in the long run, it will do me very little good; and in the short run, despite the obvious merits of having a regular paycheck, it takes away from the time I need to write and to sell my work and hinders writing opportunities that may come my way.

This is a harsh reality of writing. It’s not just about writing; it’s about selling what you wrote, and the selling is a job in itself and the cumulative effect of rejections does affect you, if not your writing, then your enthusiasm for writing, if you choose to let it! This is a business, so we need to separate the two, but in reality, at times, you can feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill every day only to watch it roll back down again. If only we persisted until we reach the top of the hill so it can roll down the other side to success . . . . That’s what happened to both Julie Powell and Julia Child. That can happen to us, too!

I do know, that my making this decision, that because of it, it will force me to make other decisions that I would not be forced to make -- there would not be the same urgency (for example, getting an agent and selling my novels), and because of that, this is the year that will make all the difference. I just know it, when I look back five, ten years from now, this will be the crossroads and I had made a wise, though a difficult choice; but I stuck with it and it sure paid off! Sometimes it's all about the momentum and the time you put into something -- you never know just how close you really are...

Yes, success happens. We see it all around us, so focus your attention on the success, yours and others and keep plugging away. Keep your passion; at times that may be all that we have; at times, that may be just enough to keep us going. Be persistent, and keep on writing and keep on selling what you write. Keep on knocking on those doors. Sooner or later one will open. Just be ready for it when it does.

***Here's 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.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writing is a Little of This and a Little of That

Writing, for me, has always been a little of this and a little of that, and this past week was the perfect example. While finishing up the revising of my novel A Season for Fools for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, (a short listed finalist for the 2009 Wisdom-Faulkner contest), I also checked the proofs for my short story, “The Future Barrister” which will be appearing in an upcoming edition of Descant, a literary journal in Canada.

Then May Lee, the editor of Quill, requested a rewrite of the article “Writing about Your Adventures and Misadventures” based on my book, Tropical Affairs: Episodes of Expat’s Life in Malaysia for their April-June 2010 issue. She offered some helpful suggestions and I did some additional cutting and adding where necessary, glad to have another look.

Penang Players contacted me and are interested in putting on my comedy One Drink Too Many, which I had adapted from my short story “Neighbours” from Lovers and Strangers Revisited. I went through the play a few times, revising where necessary. Previously they had play-read it twice (once the whole thing, then about half of it in 2006 as part of my book launch) and are now considering a full production in 2010, something I’m naturally looking forward too – my first play!

I also drafted an abstract for a Creative Writing workshop for a conference here in Kuching and pitched a proposal for another workshop in Miri. Then I followed up on an interview for International Living, a US magazine for expatriates, by sending some suggestions and catchy photos, including one of me holding a crocodile on the set of Anna and the King.

In addition to teaching at Unimas and writing in my journal, I also took notes on an article ideas, pondered a few rejections, finished reading Perrine’s Story and Structure (11th edition, a college textbook anthology of short stories while re-educating myself to take my writing to the next level) and did the preliminary work for judging the Azam-Petronas Writers Awards. (I’m one of the judges for the Media section.)

Even now I’m posting this blog.

Yes, writing is a little of this and a little of that.
            -Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

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

**Here's 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.