Friday, December 31, 2010

Spirit of Malaysia - a first look at the new cover

Here's the first look at Spirit of Malaysia, an Editions Didier Millet book that I was asked to write the text for, a state-by-state overview of modern Malaysia, a good learning experience for me and a pleasant opportunity to revisit all of Malaysia, if only from my computer and via stacks of guide and reference books, after living here for twenty-five years.  Amazing how much I learned, which is often the case with every book that you write.

The copyright holder of the series provided the photographs, and the layout was already done for me.  Just needed to come up with the text for each section and for the photos, too.  Sounds easy, but initially when writing this it gave me fits -- I was fighting it!  But then I found a way to break down each section, from the economy to transportation, from background history and heritage to diving sites and tourist resorts and just stuck with it.  The problem was always an overload of information from far too many sources and finding a way to distill it all down to a few paragraphs here and there.  Having a deadline and a signed contract helps!

The book will make a perfect gift for those wishing to know more about Malaysia, a happy balance between fascinating and well-chosen photographs (three or four per page) and just enough background information and depth to keep it interesting, without weighing you down.  At 80 pages, it's portable too, in a soft cover, so it's easy to slip into your luggage or backpack or mail overseas to your family and friends.

For advance orders you can go to Amazon.  In the US it sells for $15. In Malaysia RM49.90

Finally, I'm on Amazon, if you don't count some old copies of Lovers and Strangers from the Heinemann Asia Writing Series(1993):  two used from $75.23 and one collectible (an autographed copy) from $49.95.

Let's share the Spirit of Malaysia with the world.

*Here's an updated link with an e-book view of some of the photos.
** Here's also the first review.

***Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia.

****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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The rise of Maui Inner Circle…and the demise of Maui Writer’s Conference

This is one of those good news, bad news scenarios.

The good news is that the Maui Inner Circle gets a mention as “notable authors” in Graham Brown's latest interview, dated 12 November 2010. Eight of us met at the Maui Writer’s Conference back in 2006, which I blogged about earlier this year, after three of us had published at least one book.  Of course the big breakout news then was Graham Brown’s thriller Black Rain published in January 2010, followed up by his latest book Black Sun in August.  He has also recently signed with Random House for a third book in his series.  Way to go, Graham!

Graham Brown Author Black Rain

Now the pressure is on for the rest of us at Maui Inner Circle to do our part.  For me, my fingers are crossed for a French translation deal for Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my award-winning collection of short stories set in Malaysia.  I also have a new book coming out with Didier, Spirit of Malaysia.  Other than some publications in literary magazines by Eric Paul Shaffer, author of Burn & Learn, Drew Tollman is in post-production for the film Hop, coming out Easter 2011.  She’s also starting to make deals for her pre-school show.  Her company is called Beach Plum Media and a web site is in the works. All the best, Drew!

The bad news is that the Maui Writer’s Conference where we all met is no more.  After a run of 17 amazingly successful years, with its auspicious beginning documented by director John Tullius in Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, the conference switched its name to Hawaii Writer's Conference and its location to Waikiki.  A victim of the downturn in the economy and poor ticket sales for a fundraising event headed by Nora Jones (along with some contractual disputes over the $50,000 that she was paid in guarantee money—there are two sides to this story, so let’s not be too quick to blame her), the conference, unless it's part phoenix, is sadly no more as reported by Lee Cataluna in the Honolulu Star Advertisers.

Our year at the Maui conference is notable not only for Bobby Moresco (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) and Ron Powers (Flags of Our Fathers) but also the West Maui Mountain fire (above).  Now the Maui Inner Circle is looking to set the world on fire with our writing!  Rather appropriate since Graham Brown is writing about the Mayans and its apocalyptic year 2012, with the tag line, “forget everything you think you know.”

So forget everything you think you know about the Maui Inner Circle.  Our story is just getting started…wish us luck! And let's wish John Tullius some luck with his conference, too. Without it, we would never have met.

*As an update, Lovers and Strangers Revisited is now being translated into French!
                                                          -Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

**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, December 12, 2010

Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a French connection?

Looks like Lovers and Strangers Revisited might have a French connection.  A publisher in France with an interest in South East Asia has expressed an interest in translating Lovers and Strangers Revisited into French, after reading two of my stories, “Neighbours” from my website and “On Fridays” in Cha.  Nothing is official, but they just ordered two copies of the collection to explore that very possibility.  That’s a good start.  Now they need to know the details of my contract with MPH so we can work out a solution, a win-win for all three of us.

Two of the stories from collection have already been published in France, though in English. “Sister’s Room” was published in the French literary journal, Paris Transcontinental back in 1992 the year before Heinemann Asia brought out the original Lovers and Strangers in Singapore.
Then in 2003, “On Fridays” was published in Frank as a joint publication with The Literary Review after Frank’s editor, David Applefield was their guest editor for the Expat Writing issue.

Is this the start of my European period?  Last month Dr Rashidi, a friend who teaches Lovers and Strangers Revisited at USM here in Malaysia saw one of my short stories in Silverfish anthology at a German university, and then I was contacted from The Netherlands, when the Expatriate Archive Centre at The Hague requested a copy of Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia for their library.  And now France. 

*Here's an update - it's official Lovers and Strangers Revisited is going French!

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in,,, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.

 ****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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Crossing the Bridge of Action

Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.  Action is the bridge that links them together.  On the other side of that bridge are the results that you want.  Knowing what to do can only take you so far.  You still have to roll up your sleeves and cross that bridge.  You probably have to do it every day, too, so get used to it.  Assuming, of course, you really want those results that are waiting for you.

Do you?

I know, I do.  I’m a great to-do list maker, by the way.  I can make those to-do lists in my sleep.  I’m not bad at getting stuff done.  Nor am I that good.  Hey, it’s on my list, even prioritized, but for some reason I never quite get around to the important stuff.  I keep putting it off.  Then I notice, week after week, month after month as I update my to-do lists, that quite a few of those to-do items—usually the important ones—gets repeated over and over.  Sound familiar?

Again, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.  We want the results, so what’s holding us back?  Yeah, I know, procrastination, but why are you procrastinating?  What are you afraid of?  Fear is usually the culprit.  Do you fear that you’re not good enough to complete the job, or not good enough to receive the rewards on the other side of that bridge?

I admit, at times, I fear both of these.

One of those items on my list that I’ve been procrastinating on is selling my screenplays.  Hey, I did the hard part, I actually wrote them!  But I still have to cross that bridge by selling what I wrote.  Sure LA agents won’t take a look at me, this writer living in Borneo.  LA agents, I’m finding out, won’t take a look at anyone, even if you’re living in LA and knocking on their office door—they don’t have time to deal with you and your movie dreams!  They are too busy making deals for their proven clients.

Book agents and script agents operate differently!  I can submit directly to a book agent who have clear guidelines for submissions stated in their websites or in other listings.  For screenplays you need a script manager, and then, even before they peek at your script, you’ve got to sign a release form (to protect them and everyone in the industry from being sued by you for “stealing” your ideas).  After they’ve determined that the script is as good as you hope it is, they can start knocking on those doors for you.  Since LA agents have worked with these managers before, they trust them.  Together they can put deals together, pulling in actors and producers along the way, to get your script optioned or sold and hopefully, produced.

OK, I know all this, a recent discovery after procrastinating on sending out my screenplays for years (they needed rewritten!), so after rewriting them why am I still standing at the bridge of action, waiting and waiting?  Waiting for what?  For snow to fall in Borneo?

A good question to ask yourself—how bad do you really want those results?  Yeah, I know, really, really bad!  Just because you really, really want it is not—and never will be—good enough.  You need a powerful enough reason. a big why.  If not, you’ll give up the very first time that troll who lives under the bridge says “Boo!”  See, you really don’t want it as bad as you claim!

Now let’s say your spouse or loved one or even your child is on the other side of that bridge and you need to get across it to save them from the trolls.  Are you going to give up this time?  No way!  You’ll fight those trolls off, or find a way to outwit them!  You’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.

So let’s pretend that these screenplays that I’ve written—all five of them—are my children and if I don’t cross that bridge to contact that script manager then I’ll never be able to save them from those evil trolls.  Do I want that guilt hanging over my head for the rest of my life?  What about you, got a good reason to cross the bridge and get on with your own life?   What's at stake?  Your family?  Your financial future?  Both?

Your family, your loved ones, your children (even your friends) all want you to succeed, but you can only succeed when you cross that bridge.  And maybe you’ll get lucky, too.  Maybe all the trolls are asleep, so the only troll around is the one inside your head telling you all the reasons why you’re not good enough, why you’ll fail, why you should crawl back home and hide under the covers.

So find an important why, a really, really good reason why it’s imperative for you to succeed in crossing that bridge of action.  Trust me; this will not be the only bridge you’ll face.  In fact, you’ll probably face several bridges a day, some bigger than others.  But after awhile, you’ll get pretty good at crossing those bridges and reaping those rewards on the other side

And your to-do lists might get smaller, too.
                                                             - Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

***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.