Friday, 21 October 2011

Those stately homes and I

You will see them wherever you go in this world be it in India, USA, UK, Russia or Malaysia. You can't help noticing them for they are imposing structures. They were, and still are,  men's way of announcing to the world at large,'I have made it!' These are the stately homes belonging to the rich and the maybe not so famous. We stare and gawk at them, 'ooh' and 'aah' should their owners allow us to enter them but generally I think we all baulk at the idea of managing these huge structures. In Margaret Mitchell's epic novel "Gone with the Wind" we learn how Ellen managed Tara, the sprawling majestic home she took over when she married her husband.

In Kuching, we have our fair share of such structures. I am particularly taken with those with some history behind them like the one above. Unfortunately these buildings especially the wooden ones do not last long. Many were taken down to make way for more modern ones, a few are dilapidated and a number have been converted into enterprises like the ones below.

Since young, I listened to the tales and intrigues that invariably come about when large families totaling 20 to 30 members try to stay together under one roof. Sometimes as many as five generations attempted to do that. The Chinese especially loved big families and considered it a badge of prosperity to be able to produce one. Needless to say it takes an imposing character, usually the patriarch or matriarch to keep the whole brood together. Either by nature or design, these characters had one trait in common - they were able to hold their families together through sheer strength of personality. They might look ancient, small in stature or gentle in manner but these alpha beings would not counter any resistance to their commands. Just take a look at the line-up in the first picture and I think you can easily pick out such a character.

As time goes by, living together under one roof becomes more of a hassle than a convenience. This is especially so when women folk start receiving proper education and working outside the family circle. Hence many of these big families break up to stay on their own. My story 'For Want of Better Things to come' deals with the the dying throes of one such family.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

My first short story and I

Just released my first short story entitled 'For Want of Better Things to come' on Smashwords this morning. It was a breeze! Thank God. I had the jitters because this is the first time I did my own formatting and despite going through the Smashwords Style Guide countless times and following its instructions religiously as recommended by all the other authors who used it, I confess I still had butterflies in my tummy when I pressed the 'Publish' button. Oh, and I was quite sure those butterflies were going round and round inside my tummy as I held my breath and watched the circular thingy rotating on my computer screen as my manuscript was converted into the different formats. that it's done with, I can grin impishly and say, 'Well, as they say, it was quite easy.' Believe me, it is easy. I just thought it was hard and as we all know, when we think something is difficult, it will automatically be DIFFICULT.

For a few hours one Sunday evening, my hubby and I converted our living room into a makeshift studio (pix above) in order to take photos for the book cover. Jewellery both fake and real, was taken out for use. Earlier on, I had approached my Mum to borrow one of her heirloom pieces to make the cover more realistic. She dug the one I wanted out of hiding (Even I do not know where she hid it) and handed it over to me with some misgivings. I swore on my Girl Guide's honour that I would guard it with my life and return it pronto.

Many thanks to my hubby for taking time out to design the book cover for this story. He relished the task so much that there were many versions of it. I really had to put my foot down when he came up with one with my name encrusted with diamonds.(pix below) It made my book too much of a chick flick, I complained.

The hands on the cover are my daughter's. Thanks, Melissa, for your patience in putting up with your exacting parents. Hubby took heaps of pictures before I finally decided on the one I like.

This short story is greatly influenced by  renowned author Roald Dahl. A few years ago I read a collection of his short stories and was impressed enough to try my hand at emulating his style. In this story, the reader will have to decide what happens exactly at the end. Hence I decided to conduct a contest at the end of the story. The participants will have to figure out who the woman in the epilogue was and why she behaved as she did. I'm putting up USD5.00 as prize money. The result is to be announced on Chinese New Year day next year on this blog and my facebook account.

This short story was initially scheduled for release around 9 October but as I mulled over the idea of holding a contest based on it, I thought it wiser to ask Smashwords whether it is permissible to do so. An email from Smashwords came on 14 October stating the idea was fine as long as I kept the contest out of the descriptive metadata. So I went ahead with it on 15 October.