Archives for category: Imperfect Writer

The mysterious Xeus just emailed me for a blurb about me to go on her about-to-be published twisty short story sequel Dark City 2 because two of my stories will be in it.

OMG I’m going to be published!!

There she is again, leaning over her balcony, pretending to take in the laundry. Even from here, I can see her eyes sweep around for me.

She is wearing the white shirt of her school pinafore. Not exactly the most enticing but she is not wearing much else below that. A pair of dark blue shorts and red wooden clogs. In between rusty stilts of steel, I see long, fair legs, unblemished by misadventure. She is a bookworm.

As the girl struggles to haul in an awful pink bed sheet with daffodils, her eyes never leave my verandah. Disappointment slowly spreads over her face. She does not see me because I’m watching her from the shadows of the coffee shop’s kitchen.

Someone calls. Sharp irritation takes over and she answers loudly. She scans hopefully once more, and takes in a small boulder of laundry.

I return to skinning potatoes before Old Chin discovers my little voyeur. Newly naked and pale yellow, they fall into a bucket of cloudy salt water, ready to be sliced and diced for a variety of tomorrow’s offerings of ‘economy rice’ at the stall, a staple among the working masses in our town. Three ringgit for a plate of rice, a meat dish and a vegetable dish. If they knew how much of each day’s leftovers went into the next day’s cooking, nobody would eat it, much less pay three ringgit. Old Chin is a miserly bastard. Why else would he hire me?

This is my fifth general fiction story, originally written for nanotales but sadly, it did not get picked up.

Read the full story at A Tale A Day, my stories blog, and tell me what you think. I can take it!

Just got clued in by Literary Mama that Common Ties, a story site, is looking for PAID submissions (if picked).

I excerpt:

Typical payment is between $100 and $200 and in some cases, can reach up to $1,000. Stories should be between 750 and 3,000 words.

I submitted a 2,700-word short story version of Small Mother, a tale I’d wanted to write for a long time about my Koo Ma, a modern-day concubine (I know!).

It was originally desired to be a novella but too bad, I don’t have the time to research the story in detail, so a short version will have to do.

Common Ties also accepts non-motherhood stories. This is the mail I got from their editor, Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, in response to my submission:

Thanks for submitting your story to Common Ties! Due to the large volume of submissions we receive, we are not able to send rejection letters or provide feedback. We do consider all submissions sent to us, and if we accept your story we will notify you based on the following schedule:  

Under the Influence:  May 3

Mothers and Motherhood: May 10

Open Themes: May 17

Confessions: May 24

Turning Points: May 31

Fathers and Fatherhood: June 14

Feel free to browse and comment on stories on the following themes: addiction adolescence, cancer, camp, chance encounters, college, crime, dating, divorce , family secrets, gay and lesbian, humor, the Holocaust, lucky breaks, marriage, quirks, religion, sex abuse, teaching, travel, war, work.

If you have any questions, please review our FAQs on our Submit a story page.

I’m gonna try writing for some of the other categories as well.

Good luck, writers!

An excerpt from SecondLife, a new short story up at A Tale A Day:

Perhaps she should’ve waited a while before having sex. It was, after all, their first date. At least she should’ve waited until she got all her nerves back.

Still, it was nice. But nice was not nice for Saul.

Alice giggled.

“What is it?” asked Saul worriedly, bringing her thigh up to his under the sheets, stroking it.

“I can’t wait for my next medical. You know, they’d injected some sort of device in me to check my stats constantly. I’m guessing it shows I had sex.”

Saul frowned.

“Is it bad?”

“Don’t worry, it’s not infectious, Saul.”

“Not very appropriate after-sex talk, baby.”

They laughed softly and kissed and pretty soon, Saul was in her.

“You don’t feel anything?” he asked, moving gently.

“Oh I do. Like I said, I feel every little thing. Just that, it’s a little intense.”

Alice kissed the beautiful man in front of her.

“Is it painful?” he inquired.

“No, it’s not. Like I said, it blocks out all those kinds of sensations. Which is why you have to be gentle with me,” she smiled lazily.

“My pleasure,” Saul said, before taking her into his arms.

This is my first attempt at writing for a genre that’s caught my interest thanks to The Time Traveler’s Wife, a category of creative writing that mixes science fiction with literature.

Let me know what you think!

What happened between Leroy and me proved, beyond a doubt, that belief alone is futile.

That no matter how much one wanted some things to be true, those things can remain as unchangeable as ever.

And you know how obsessive teenagers can be about these things. No one in the entire world wanted this to be true more than me.

Of course, to everyone else, it was doomed from the start. Even to me, although I chose not to see it. I believed it. I just didn’t want to look at it. It’s like having a dream you don’t want to wake up from. Have you ever tried attempting to stay asleep during a good dream? It’s impossible. You’re approaching the end of your last sleep cycle. You’re peeling back the phases. Your body temperature’s rising.  Your heart beat picks up. Somewhere, an alarm starts to ring.

It becomes just a matter of time.

The first time I noticed a crack in the illusion of my little coup was when Leroy and David decided to visit me at home.

Perhaps that was the last straw.

Back then, we lived in a small brick and wood cottage-like house built probably in the ’50s, which sat in the middle of a huge piece of land.

Our garden was gigantic. Mom never planted anything if she could help it, but at the very least kept the grass mowed regularly and the two papaya trees out back alive. Running around were my three dogs, an alsation named Milo, a cross-breed spitz named Mickey and a maltese terrier named Snowball.

It was a clean, mediocre house. And yet, I knew, in my 16-year old head, my little abode with its shining black cement floors buffed from daily moppings, and its cheap mismatched furniture from the ’70s, had somehow started the whole descent of Leroy’s supposed fondness for me.

He had not even tried to hide it, the disappointment on his face that I was not secretly some rich girl. Not even averagely so, he’d seemed to think, nodding and uttering lowly with that rich voice of his the words ‘aunty’ at my mother, who peered at him over her glasses as though he was one of the exercise books she was marking, and my Koo Ma, who happily brought biscuits and root beer cordial as though I’d just brought home a couple of marriage prospects.

David, who was ironically the filthy rich one, didn’t seem to mind the squalor in which, by the look on Leroy’s face, my family was living. It chafed, that look. I think I might’ve even winced.

And yet, again, I refused to see.

The very next day, it had all gone to hell. He didn’t call and I’d refused to call because I was afraid of what he might say. The next day went by and I’d stubbornly stayed my no-call course. And then it was a week before I’d heard from a sniffling Corinna that David had broken things off with her. That sort of sealed my doom, since David was Leroy’s wing boy and ‘financier’, for David was always the one forking out for the KFC lunches and pool tables and beers.

The week that was the end of Leroy and me started with a call from Andrea. Like a death knell, it rang somberly one afternoon.

“Jenn? Andrea.”

Surprise.

“Hi Andrea. What’s up?”

“Are you free this afternoon?”

Hesitation.

“Er…sure. What’s up?”

“Wanna go for ice cream?”

This was bad. Had Leroy finally drummed up the courage to ask his bitch to break things off with me?

“Sure.”

“I’ll pick you up in half an hour.”

I hung up. Somewhere, a whimper escaped. I looked around the house that had betrayed me, and it stared silently back. My eyes started to sting with tears. Bitterly, I brushed them off and got dressed.

 

It was perhaps the worst breakup in the history of breakups. More so since the person that was breaking up with me wasn’t even there. He had, supposedly gone to the city looking for work, which was why he had not even called me the week before.

And he wasn’t coming back.

We sat in the restaurant with ice cream David, once again, paid for. So Leroy had both his bitches doing his dirty work. Perhaps that counted for something.

“You knew it was just a matter of time, right?” Andrea asked matter-of-factly. She showed concern that at the same time seemed to mock me.

“We could still hang out, you know?” said David, lighting up a cigarette. He looked at me for a moment, and in his eyes, I saw pity. He’d quickly averted his eyes, and instead watched traffic pass silently outside through tacky one-way glass panes .

I said very little that afternoon. Andrea talked most of the time, criticising Leroy’s heartlessness one moment and extolling his ‘virtues’ the next, going on and on about how people like him were just not practical for ‘people like us’. The whole time, I thought of nothing but going home and curling in bed with a good book. But there was still something I had to do.

From my left pocket, I drew out a little purse. It was bulging with shiny one-cent coins. I had been collecting these for a while because Leroy had told me that he was looking for a coin from a certain year which he said was very rare. This was a slice of Leroy that had remained from the battle Leroy, the boy, had lost to Leroy, the man. A memory of the guy who’d cheered me on at the pool four years ago. A memory I would hold on to for the rest of my life.

“Here. This is his.”

I handed the purse to Andrea. At once, she looked up at me, surprised. She glanced over at the men’s room, where David had gone. Deftly, she opened her backpack, and brought out a plastic bag.

Swimming in it were a million one-cent coins.

It was then that I realised how much of a fool I’d been. I stared at the gleaming pile, and then at Andrea. It was the first time in the two hours we’d been there that I’d actually looked at her. And saw her for what she was. Someone who was even more in trouble than me.

“I’ll give these to him when he comes back,” she said quietly, tucking the coins into their secret compartment in her backpack. It must’ve weighed a ton.

The burden of hope.

 

This is a story I’ve wanted to write for almost 20 years.

I remember trying once, on my dad’s Wordstar, a month after this happened. I started, and stopped at Page 17. The manuscript is perhaps still somewhere in a box in Batu Gajah, where my parents live now.

Why has this memory stayed with me for so long? It was the first time, I believe, that I’d ever fallen in love, brief as the whole experience might’ve been.

As for Leroy, we met briefly over a year ago at a club in KL, but as strangers. My girl friend Janice and her brother Clarence (incidentally people Leroy and I went to church with) dragged me dancing after the birth of my second child Skyler, lactating boobs and all. And there he was, in the throbbing darkness, gyrating to the pulse of the music – against another man.

So maybe it really wasn’t about the house!

 

For tales like this and more, visit http://ataleaday.wordpress.com

I should’ve suspected something was wrong from the beginning. But I was 16. And hopeful that I was, in all my 16-year old wisdom, wrong.

That the Leroy in KFC that afternoon was not the boy who offered his hand to me at the pool four years ago should’ve set off the bells like it was Sunday morning at Vatican City. From the strapping and wholesome boy-man, the president of a church youth club, he’d become Bad Boy Leroy Chan, lighting up a Salem and using the name of the Lord in vain more than a couple of times. 

When he blew smoke at me, he’d chuckled and pushed me playfully with his shoulder. I’d coughed and coyly averted my eyes, all the while wondering if I was dreaming. I’d ended up giving Corinna and hew new boyfriend death stares for no reason.

Leroy wasn’t the only one who’d transformed. Joanne had morphed into an ‘ah lian’ (Malaysian Chinese slang for a girl who tries too hard) version of Girl, Interrupted‘s Susanna Kaysen. But she’d seemed unsure of her ‘new status’. Stealing drags from her brother, she’d give me side glances as though I was going to report her to the headmistress, and at the same time challenging me to do so. She was most definitely not the stamp-collecting, junkfood-eating, giggly girl Eunice had adored from four years ago.

And yet, sitting there, swathed in cigarette smoke, the arrogant me wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that all these years, Leroy Chan had against hordes of crazy teenage girls who, if rumours can be trusted, kept the family phone so busy his parents had to change their number, cradled a fondness for me. Who knew? Perhaps it was the way I laughed. Perhaps it was how I’d made him laugh. I knew my winning personality would come in handy one day.

I needed to believe.

 

I should’ve known something was wrong when Andrea called me.

Ah Andrea, Victor’s older sis. Big-boned, boisterous, plainer than even me Andrea, who had the bad fortune to always end up as someone’s big sister in school, particularly boys she liked. We’d hung out back when I was still attending church. It was the unspoken rule then that Leroy was hers. No one disputed that fact, not even Leroy. No one dared to.

When Andrea identified herself on the phone, I’d almost hung up, afraid that she would somehow jump out of the phone and beat me up for sitting next to her boyfriend. Was Leroy still her boyfriend? Was he ever?

And then I’d caught myself. I was 16. I was older. She might’ve been bigger than ever but I felt I had the chops to stand up to her.

The fact she sounded friendly did not make me drop my guard. Nice Andrea was scary, because she was well known for being crudely honest.

“So I heard you are going out with Leroy Chan?”

“Wow. From Victor?”

“Who else?”

A polite laugh, and then silence.

“We’re just friendslah,” I said quickly.

“You’re going out with him again tomorrow right?”

“A bunch of us are. I’m just accompanying my friend Corinna and that David guy. Are you co-“

“I need to tell you something, Jenn,” Andrea cut in

Another pause.

“Yeaa?”

“What if I were to tell you that Leroy is…he likes you?”

The room was suddenly very hot.

“Who told you that?” I turned on the standing fan. It started to whir loudly and I quickly switched it off.

More pausing.

“Leroy.”

She sounded disappointed.

“Er,…” I sat down noisily at my dad’s computer.

“Anyway, he wants to know how you feel about him. Before he, you know…tries.”

A part of me was jumping for joy. The other was holding that part down with one hand, and trying to continue the conversation coherently.

“I dunno.”

My best ‘blur’ act. 

Silence, and then a sigh.

“Do you like him?”

Eunice’s head appeared through the door. I held up a finger but was grinning so widely she frowned and came in.

“I dunno, Andrea. I haven’t seen him in so long,” I tried to sound all cool and reasonable.

“Well. It’s Leroy Chan, Jennifer. Everyone has a crush on him.”

I laughed politely.

“Maybe,” I said uncomfortably. And then “I dunno, man.”

“Well have fun this Saturday,” Andrea answered curtly.

“Okay. Thanks, Andrea.”

I spent the next 15 minutes jumping on my bed, shouting “he likes me!” while Eunice watched, rolling her eyes.

It was the happiest day of my life.

 

Leroy and I went out for approximately two months. We held hands. We snuggled. We looked into each other’s eyes.

On Valentine’s Day 1989, he took me for dinner with Corinna and David and then he drove around town.

The highlight of the evening was when we bumped into one of my seniors at school, Pauline, who’d proceeded to call the whole world after that to inform them of my undeserving good news. The next day, I went to school as the Girl Who Snagged Leroy. At recess, all the cool seniors came to sit by me, assessing me from top to bottom, suddenly very interested in the music I liked and the sports I played, while my friends ate their mid-morning meals gingerly, quaking in their canvas shoes, stealing reverent sidelong glances at my new best friends. These were people who never even looked at us before today. Only Corinna knew what was going on, and she’d sat chewing her fish balls happily as the Girl Who Introduced Leroy to the Girl Who Snagged Leroy.

THAT became the happiest day of my life.

 

This tale can also be found at A Tale A Day.

The first time I saw him, he was naked.

Except for two Speedos. One covering his unmentionables, and another his head.

Only 13, he was already a six-foot Greek God, with a voice like liquid wood. A lifeguard at the school pool, Leroy was tall, dark and handsome, exactly how women on TV said handsome men ought to look.

“You can do it, c’mon!” he shouted encouragingly from the other end of the pool, grinning at 12-year old me.

I don’t need your encouragement. I can swim fine, I thought indignantly before ducking into the water and kicking off. Five feet out, I broke the surface and freestyled across 25 metres of gradually deepening water.

A little over two minutes, I touched tile. Someone dived in over me, splashing my emerging head. A hand appeared, and then a face. Pristine white teeth and dark, black eyes.

“That was good!” Leroy said, that smile sending all kinds of nerves off.

I took his hand, lean and sinewy, and proceeded to hoist myself clumsily up. I almost slipped back into the water. And as though it was his fault that I was an oaf, walked off without a word.

That was my first encounter with Leroy Chan, the first boy who’d break my heart four years later.

*****

I had a principle about dating good-looking guys even when I was just a teenager. Because I was only an average-looking girl, popular boys were out of my league. It was a fact I accepted because it was fair. I wasn’t Teen Princess material, so why should I expect Teen Prince boyfriends?

This principle involved a very sobering sub-principle: that if a good-looking boy did look at me, he actually wanted something other than to ask me out.

Usually, I was the go-to for my pretty friends.

If not, I was the ‘go-through’.

Either way, I was being used.

And I did not like being used.

Still, teenage life was a difficult time. As we all know, teens are not tactful creatures. All I cared about was how cool I was, being friendly with all these popular guys who were boyfriends of my popular friends. I was ‘in’ and that was all that mattered. I knew my time would come when someone would like me for who I was, not how I looked.

Which was why I was an idiot to think that Leroy was such a boy.

*****

When I turned 16, just one more year shy of a Form Five senior, I had dated several guys. 16 is a good age for a Malaysian girl. It is the honeymoon year in school terms. Just after SRP (The First Exam) and a year before SPM, aka The Big Exam. I had aced my SRP and earned my place as being cool AND smart. It was a great time.

By dated, of course I mean hold hands for two weeks while you get groped in the dark and chat on the phone ’til the cows come home or at least until your mom yanks the telephone cable off the wall. There was Andrew, who I sort of outgrew, literally. The last time I saw him in 1993, I was half a head taller. And Zam, who just wasn’t good for me because he’d dropped out of school and very clearly was in for the sex. In Malaysian Islamic law, if you’re caught having sex with a Muslim, you’d have to get married or pay $500. I didn’t have $500 nor did I want to get married just for the sex, so I declined less than politely and we broke up.

As for Leroy, we saw each other very rarely. For a year after the swim meet, we’d become church friends. He was the youth club president and I was a youth club member. It was a cordial acquaintance and he turned out to be quite a cool person, not at all the jerk I thought all good-looking guys were. His sister Joanne and my sister Eunice became best friends but fell out after a couple of years for some reason. And then we simply stopped going to church and I focused on my exams. We’d simply lost touch.

*****

The next time I saw Leroy was four years after the swim meet. I was 16, and had agreed to go with my friend Corinna to a group date because she was nervous about meeting someone named David and needed moral support. It was for lunch, after school, and we were going for ice cream or something at the spanking new KFC in town.

When we walked into the post-lunch almost-empty restaurant, on a table in the middle of the floor were four people. A chubby guy who was feeding his face. Another girl still in uniform with her back to us, holding hands with some guy still in uniform, staring romantically into each other’s eyes.

And Leroy Chan.

Wearing a loud floral shirt. And dark green school pants. Eating a banana split.

He looks up, sees me and his mouth curves into a languid grin, like the Cheshire cat welcoming its prey.

“Well oh my God if it isn’t Jennifer Tai.”

There’s that deep timbre of a voice again. I am awestruck. Is it possible but has he become even more good-looking? How fair is that?

I tug consciously on the straps of my turquoise school uniform, regretting the two noodles I had for recess.

“Do you KNOW him?” Corinna whispers, clearly shocked, her eyes never leaving the chubby boy, who takes a minute from the biggest bowl of ice cream in the world, and gives me a cursory nod. The girl sitting next to him turns around. It is Joanne. Her boyfriend is Victor, an old friend from church.

“Wow. Long time no see, guys,” I say meekly, sitting down on my designated seat in between Leroy and Victor. ”

Corinna has clearly forgotten about the coincidence as she snuggles, giggling, into the-boy-who-must-be-David’s ready arm. She wipes chocolate from his smudged mouth affectionately. I smile at nobody.

Leroy playfully bumps his shoulders at me. Joanne gives me an uncomfortable look. She wonders if I’m going to ask why she’s not been visiting Eunice. I do the right thing and keep quiet.

“So how have you been? Fancy seeing you here today.”

Leroy is flirting with me. I am awkwardly flattered, and suddenly aware that I am not exactly looking my best.

“Okaylah. How are you guys? How’s church?” I ask politely.

We talk about old friends and make plans for the weekend. Suddenly, I am one of them. And then I realise that I may be set up. Am I to be Leroy’s girlfriend in this little group threesome? Oh Shit. Me.

It is when I reach home that day that I am able to digest the afternoon. I mention to Eunice that I’d been hanging out with Joanne Chan, and she waves her off.

“She’s not my friend anymore,” she says casually. I can see it hurts her but she is also not someone who dwells on her feelings.

“She’s like all boy-crazy and everything. I don’t need her.”

“Well, we’re sort of hanging out this weekend. Going to see a movie.”

“You and Joanne Chan? Why?”

“Not me and Joanne Chan. Me and her brother Leroy, my friend Corinna and this new guy called David. Joanne and Victor. Remember Victor Aw?”

“No?” Eunice is being mean.

“Well, we‘re going out.”

“None of my business since I never get to go anywhere.” She goes out of the room and slams the door.

The phone rings. It stops.

“Fer! Phone!” my mother yells from the study. We pass each other and she smiles, “It’s a boy. But I don’t recognise the voice?”

I shrug.

I pick up the phone. It is Leroy. Holy crap. Corinna must’ve given him my number.

We talk about the afternoon and this weekend, and nothing important. I try to sound casual and nonchalant, a trick I thought I had down pat but it is hard to breathe thinking that Leroy Chan is actually talking to me on the phone VOLUNTARILY. Eunice comes in and stares at me, crossing her arms, rolling her eyes. I shoo her away and spend the next 20 minutes trying to sound uninterested.

In a few hours, I will be lying in bed, unable to sleep. I will be staring at my asbestos ceiling and listening to the loud whir of our floor fan, grinning into the darkness.

If this is a dream, don’t let it end.

(to be continued)

This tale can also be found at A Tale A Day.

One of the many things I’ve got fractions of my thumbs into are contests listed in this year’s 2007 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market and boy, there are just too many.

Anyway, here are four I may try (emphasis) to enter this year:

Eaton Literary Agency’s Annual Awards Program
www.eatonliterary.com

The Greensboro Review Literary Award in Fiction and Poetry
http://www.uncg.edu/eng/mfa/gr/index.html

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest
www.writersofthefuture.com

The Iowa Short Fiction Award
www.uiowapress.org

Join me and lets conquer the world one re-re-re-revised story at a time!

ps. Also, I found a site that actually lists contests not worth joining, particularly those that charge entry fees. Awesome lists there.

pss. I also found this superb literary e-zine called Toasted Cheese. Has writing prompts, forums and contests. Very very nice.

Now I really need to have more thumbs. Arggh!