This is a view of Bako National Park in Kuching, Borneo, home to millions of flora and fauna many of which are still undiscovered and unknown to humans. It seems the opposite of the Hong Kong in the photo below, yet both of these places are where Cry of the Flying Rhino was born.
Check out my SHOP where you can purchase SIGNED FIRST LIMITED EDITIONS of Cry of the Flying Rhino. Find out why this book won outright for the first time in 9 years of the International Proverse Prize competition.
Heart of Glass: Front cover done. Back blurb in progress.
Some delays in August because I was torn between two cover options both of which I liked. Now we’re done being torn. Very exciting. Clue: 1980s! Yes! In sports news, Cry of the Flying Rhino: Hong Kong – the prize giving ceremony and launch is now only 4 weeks away!
I have been living in Hong Kong time and refuelling on carbs, waking at 2 or 3 am to do live edits and emails in order to not lose a day each time an email comes from the publishers. The 4 rounds of edits are done now. I’ve designed the cover, prepared a Sino-Malay glossary, a map of South East Asia (aside: after Illustrator crashed at 5 am, had to have a go in Photoshop). You don’t realise what goes on backstage. Months and months of prep, and before that, years and years of writing.
Forget the lip gloss. This is the harsh terrain of pre-press. I climb a small mountain every day.
Before you say Mazel Tov, this book has some history because it was written 12 years ago, been through 14 drafts, and “many” rejections and you know why? It is a bit controversial. Not very, just a bit. Many, many times I wanted to delete it from my hard drive and throw the damn thing away. What saved me from doing it was the voice over my shoulder. Cry raises uneasy themes like race, religion, class struggle, colonisation, diversity, poverty, capitalism, exploitation. All my pet topics, all-in-one. They are under-represented in English fiction, especially by non-English writers for whom English is a second language. The themes in Heart of Glass are: imprisonment, greed, displacement, cultural identity. I only speak the truth, dressed up in fiction. I express myself best through music and fiction.
Some inciting images. These fascinating images sparked off a million ideas before one or two story threads led to writing Cry. I first saw this image of girls tattooing girls and also a photo of this sign on my one trip to Borneo:
I am thrilled that the judges of the prize can see the truth and my point. That is actually the real prize for me, not the prize itself. There’s a door I’ve opened. Through Heart of Glass, I have gained your support and my voice may at last be heard. The next update on Heart of Glass will be very soon. As usual your comments are welcome.
So you have pitched and now you are wondering how the hell did I do?
1. On the pitching letter. Make it pithy and make each one the best letter you ever wrote. If you know them v well, aim for the heart. Go deeper. Ask how Anna’s Grade V piano exam went and how James’ operation in July went for instance. This is to show you have a very good memory. A pitch is not a friendly email and a friendly email is not a pitch. Each pitch has to be tailor-made. The hello how are you is very impersonal and could be cut and pasted from another pitch. If you are close to them, then show them that this project is close to you by being specific. If you don’t know them very well, see this other post, Your Crowdfunding Pitch Letter.
2. On being ignored. Do not take it personally. It’s sales so it’s irritating for both seller and buyer. I understand what you’re going through, it’s very hard to stomach it. We have all suffered. “A moment of optimism will save you a hundred days of sorrow”- Chinese proverb
3. On rejections- it’s to do with courses for horses – naturally your own project is close to you but literally no one cares and no one is thinking about it.. E.g. 1 More than half of my close family on my mother’s side are all born again serious religious types. Why would/should they support my book about immorality and the life of excess in the west?! I respect them for that.
E.g. 2 You may have made the best banana cake in the world but if they don’t like bananas and/or they don’t like cake they will just not buy your product. There is no try before you buy. Therefore in your pitch you have to work out why they need to fund this project. It could be as simple as they like you and they want to support you. In fact I recall many instances where I end up buying some beauty product I don’t even want or like because I really like the seller and I bonded with her/him. Also eco, yes, sustainable, yes, ok whatever, I’ll just shut up and hand over my credit card. What usually sounds good is probably good.
4. It’s just statistics or a numbers game. If you ask 100 people to a party and thirty say yes then that’s not a bad return. If you increase that to a thousand and three hundred say yes then you’ve got it! It’s a party!
5. There is no 5. Just go back to the Thing about the moment of optimism.
The letter needs to be pithy and to the point. Short direct pitches work better cos firstly people have no time and secondly they have no patience. It should be in three paragraphs only.
The first paragraph:
Introduce your product and what it is. Learn to cut out all that “how are you hope you’re well” nonsense. I was told that unless you can be specific about people’s children’s names, get straight to the point. They will sniff out the sales pitch so you might as well pitch. “Hi, I’ve written this book called “I am Dying Here” about blah blah and I’m crowdfunding it with my publisher So and So.. etc ”
The second paragraph:
Explain why they should support you. It could be you know them or can find some connection between you as the seller and them as the buyer. It could be you don’t know them but you share an interest. You are identifying them as your tribe. Here is where creative writing is useful. You can say, I am poor, I am new. I have never done this but I am trying. There are so many reasons and you just have to be straightforward and honest and just pick maximum three. I am poor and I am new at this counts as two. You like banana cake? You like cake? Well I am selling banana cake. It is the best. You like post-punk clothes and accessories? Well actually I am selling post-punk clothes and accessories. Whatever it is that they are into, you must find it and tap in. Don’t think about yourself. Don’t think what you are into. Think what they are into.
The third paragraph:
Explain how they can support you. Give them the cheapest way they can support you and easily. Tell them that it starts at 10£ (as in my case crowdfunding my book). Forget the rest of the reward levels. Just forget it. Don’t try to upsell people when this is simply a consumer item. You are trying to get numbers as it is a numbers game. You are not selling a single luxury handbag for £6,000. This is a cheap thing. Most people I know have no money so why worry them that there are levels. If they have more than 10£ then great. They will give more once they trust you and your tactics. Trust is worth more than love. They don’t have to love you or your product but they must trust you in order to hand over cold hard cash or card.
Lastly, it’s not very obvious but think and write clearly. The clearer you think before you write the better your writing will be (this is true of all writing). Do not ever wander out of the context of the pitch. See also Your Crowdfunding Pitch De-Brief.
If you want me to check over your pitch, I will be happy to do so. Of course, I am no expert. No one is. They all learn from experience. Those who say they are experts are charlatans. They are selling snake oil. How can anyone be an expert when I just explained to you every single pitch is tailor-made, customised for each customer? No two customers are alike. Unless you are selling phone covers, no two creative products are alike. Would you think that as a customer you are exactly like someone else of a different age, gender, from somewhere else in the world? No! We are all unique. Therefore every pitch must be made unique and hit the heart and the mind of your intended customer with utmost precision.
I have been working on the cover design with the graphic designer who has designed bestsellers like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. As a designer myself, I find it both easy and hard to take the back seat and let someone do the driving. I’ve even done a moodboard, see below, as the designer inside me always kicks in when you don’t want it to, like at 5 am. The last update I wrote was 24 May just before half term break. I seem to be making updates just before the end of term. Today is the last week of term. Subliminally I don’t know if I will survive school holidays. That is why I have to do my updates just before school breaks up. Question time: “Where’s. Me. Book. Where’s. Your. Book. Where’s. OUR. book.” Answer: It will be out soon – follow these updates closely from now. The clock is ticking. Baby will arrive soon. Parents, be brave! Writers, be braver!
Dude, I am not allowed to complain because I was and am a writer therefore I am already a masochist. In fact I am hanging upside down now flogging myself. It took me more than a decade (I think 13 years and still counting) to write both these books. They are at last both being published the TRADITIONAL way which was what I wanted. It’s a dream come true so that is why I am not allowed to complain. Headache, backache, finger pain, joint and wrist pain, hangover, insomnia, stress, hives, hypertension, hyperventilation, just hyper, overeating, undereating, sick or feeling sick, nauseous, tired, exhaustion, not enough sleep, too much sleep, over caffeinated, under caffeinated, not enough guitar-playing, too much guitar-playing. A Tale of Two Books in Two Months. If I complain, somebody please give me a slap.
And this is caused by?
Myself. Over the last five weeks I have been feeling very stressed, not only were there three disasters in succession in London – the London Bridge attack, Grenfell Tower fire, and the Finsbury Park mosque attack, I have had to handle the most crucial process of the fantasy world of writing and art. Turning them from ideas to reality. There were actually real disasters going on out there that I just could not ignore. My own writing and art have suffered delays because I am in that crazy living-the-dream situation of having two books out this year and at any one point, one has to be ignored (usually “one” means me, but this time it means one of the books). It’s called sibling rivalry and I cannot give attention to both at the same time. I am a mum so I know this for sure.
What have you been doing all this time?
Well first I wrote the books. That’s when all the trouble began. Then I crowdfunded one of them and sent one to an international competition. More trouble. Now that’s all over and this timeline begins:
Thursday 30 March 2017 – Submit Heart of Glass MS for structural editing. Finished editing Cry of the Flying Rhino and sent back to Hong Kong.
Friday 12 May 2017 – Received HoG MS with commentary back and Unbound editor’s crib sheet (London)
Tuesday 16 May 2017 – First round HoGstructural edit begins. Work with publisher closely. Start building and compiling international network of writer, blogger, journalist, lecturer contacts for Cry of the Flying Rhino (London, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore… so far) PR later on.
Tuesday 6 June 2017 – First round HoG completed and handed back to Unbound. Start on Cry cover designs.
Friday 9 June 2017 – Heart of GlassEditor pleased. Replied with another sheet of minor comments.
Monday 12 June 2017 – Second round begins. Hand in the Cry of the Flying Rhino cover designs for publisher’s comments
Wednesday 21 June 2017 – Received news that the launch date of Cry is Thursday 16 November 2017 in Hong Kong where I will be travelling to to receive my prize and to do the launch. I am not sure what that entails.
Thursday 22 June 2017– Handed back HoG(this is where we are at). Revise Cry cover designs. Go to printer shop, print and test 300 DPI resolution OK or not. If not OK, must re-do at 600 DPI. Received email that two Hong Kong authors/lecturers have written their advanced comments for Cry back cover text.
Why did you undertake the design of the Cry book cover?
Note: Although the publisher in Hong Kong, Proverse, has a designer to hand, I am actually a designer myself and have been for the last 22 or 24 years (lost track myself) though not a print designer. I know the software backwards. I laid out my school newsletters, Uni journals etc. Since then I have designed countless artwork for my architectural business, band promotional material, posters, CD covers, leaflets, coffee morning artwork for the school, piano lesson artwork etc. Therefore I felt roughly competent and being the OCD control freak that I was, I felt compelled to undertake it. To see the two draft designs click here.
What’s your plan now?
To keep juggling the two as I don’t know how to do a book launch for one book let alone two. Hold that thought. Check back soon. The juggler will be back on the circuit once the traffic congestion eases.
“Do not enter when light is on!” Structural edit: that means blasting, incision, internal tissue re-organisation and cosmetic surgery. But of course, I am not talking metaphorically at all. I am talking about the body of work. Words. I’ve created strict exam conditions in the attic AKA the cutting room. There’s no furniture. I sit on the floor monk-like so it’s not very comfortable and I cannot fall asleep. The only distractions I am surrounding myself with are:
Junk food, some “guilt-free”, if you believe the wrappers;
Only two musical instruments for when the going gets tougher (limited to only two, otherwise it will turn into a party);
Vintage Sennheiser headphones to listen to the music from the book to remind myself of the great songs which inspired the story. Playlist? Yes? A musical? Maybe?!
My editor, who has worked in top publishing houses such as Orion, Hodder & Stoughton, Headline and Bantam in New York, is a specialist in this genre and has editted bestselling authors such as Linwood Barclay, Tess Gerritsen et al. We are in this together, me, you and him, and we are going to make Heart of Glass the best that it can be. And a tight deadline. I started on this process 10 days ago. I should be done with this edit in another two weeks. 79,000 words in three weeks, right? What do you mean “Vitamin D deficiency”? OK. Until then…
There has got to be a thrill to be subjected to a six hour wait to get one’s new passport in this day and age. And that thrill is Dapur, a Malaysian diner about three minutes’ walk from the visa and consular office at the Malaysian High Commission in London.
Dapur means kitchen. It’s perfect for those who want an honest no frills lunch street food treat. And I seem to have had this same meal twice in the two times I’ve been here – nasi lemak. Also on the menu is lamb kurma and butter chicken, see the blackboard menu. But I really just like a simple meal. Actually except for the cardboard box it came in, it is very authentic but I do miss the pyramidal banana leaf package that it SHOULD traditionally come in. As I have a loyalty card I will definitely be back!
A trip to Dapur helps to break up the staggeringly mind-numbing six hour wait at the immigration office and you really cannot get cross with them because they are all, the adiks, kaks, enciks, all the officers, clerks whoever they are, very sweet and kind. Service with the Malaysian smile so you might have to forgive them the terrible system issues and errors and delays.
Crowdfunding. Is. Over. The three big little words. 100% in 100 days. And the last 3%? Was the longest, shortest journey in the world (I used to say that about giving birth: new person travelling down 62mm birth canal takes what? Anything from about 2 to 20 hours.) But what a push. What a journey. Made me laugh, made me cry, made me wait, made me cry some more, made me eat carbs. The congratulations have been pouring in from y’all. Since last post, Stephen McGowan, Mary Fivey, Gemma Lloyd-Jones, Jessica Duchen, Lisa Radoje, Lulu Allison, Johari Ismail (my repeat patron!), Jacqueline Sardinas, Nicole Vatanavimlakul have come on board the Heart of Glass cruise and others previously named. 100 days is not long for someone who has been writing for 40 years. So many, many thanks to you. Supporters, apparently you get a top quality, first edition, limited edition paperback, months ahead of the shops – which I did not know before. That’s a bonus, right? A surprise!
If you would like to become a patron, you can! Up to the point where in some factory they press print, you can still have your name listed. Head over here.
Next step: editorial team will be in touch with me in the next week or so to introduce me to my developmental editor and start the editorial process. More news to follow very soon! I love to hear from you. Please leave me your feedback or comments. If you liked the vlog, please share.
You can’t get more post-colonial, vintage and ironic than this! This photo was taken on my fifth birthday in Segamat, a little railway town in Johor, where we lived for a couple of years. It is on the line from Singapore to Bangkok via KL. We lived in a colonial bungalow which was the staff quarters of the hospital where my dad worked. The grounds were huge. There were fruit trees and frangipanni trees where my dad had made a makeshift swing using a couple of ropes and a short plank (with drill holes, naturally, to keep the seat dry). I knew all train time tables by heart. I waited for them each day, the whistles, the chink-chink, the bells. They were my friends. Even now I find the sound of trains very timeless and soothing. Beyond all trains, is the world. But first, the plantations. Rubber, pineapple, coffee. Segamat was all plantation.
I remember wearing the Scottish kilt, waistcoat and my first wristwatch that my dad bought on his trip to Edinburgh. It was probably the smartest outfit any child had ever worn in the entirety of Johor. Two years after this photo, I first started writing. The reason I know it was two years after was because I used a new unused diary and it had the year on it. Oral storytelling came first. I was only trying to entertain my toddler brothers. ‘And then what happened?’, ‘But who was the first girl?’ Once the stories were too long to tell, I had to write them down, with illustrations of course.
Subsequently, about twelve years ago, I wrote my first novel Cry of the Flying Rhino which was set in Segamat.
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