Gong Xi Fa Cai / Kong Hee Fatt Choy / Happy CNY! #OTT

Well, we just celebrated the second of several New Years for 2016. We had the Gregorian new year on 1st January and the Chinese New Year on 8th February, just two days ago. (Teh fireworx, they do not stop.) Thankfully, our pets are so used to it that it only elicits a round of barking from Sausage if it’s too close.

It seems that the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac originated from a Buddha legend. For some obscure reason (he was leaving Earth, he was celebrating the start of the new lunar year, something else), Buddha invited all the animals of the world to come to him, but only a dozen sprang for the transport costs and turned up. The years were named in the order of their approach: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. In addition, the Five Elements (Water, Air, Fire, Metal, Earth) are associated, hence this year is the year of the Fire Monkey.

A Fire Monkey year begins with a bang and is typified by innovation, energy, technology…basically eye-catching, headline-grabbing initiatives. There may be weather upheavals, violence, assassinations; basically, a politically and culturally volatile period. People will win a lot and lose a lot. Regardless, not a year you will able to ignore.

I see that Western mainstream media has picked up on the Fire Monkey lunar year and have even seen Polish newspaper headlines about it. Seems China is a lot more relevant nowadays than, say, ten years ago. With this in mind, I thought I’d do a quick newspaper “horoscope” for each of the twelve animals in this, a most volatile year.

(If you don’t know what year you were born in, use the order of the animal approaches that I outlined, in conjunction with the following shortcuts: 1960 was the year of the Rat; 1970 was the year of the Dog; 1980 was the year of the Monkey; 1990 was the year of the Horse; and 2000 was the year of the Dragon. If you’re born in January or early-to-mid February, however, you’re going to have to search on your specific year, as the start of the lunar new year shifts.)


Rat: You will need to be focused and avoid distractions, but there will be opportunity for promotion, advancement. A good “money” year. Look for opportunities.

Ox: An exhausting year near the end. Work situation will be volatile but, as is usual in a Monkey year, there will also be opportunities for those who are clear-eyed enough to see them. Quick decisions will need to be made, which will not make you happy, but which are necessary.

Tiger: A time for consolidation and steady progress. No hasty decisions! Get support from others and don’t be too independent. You may lose some old friends, but gain new ones.

Rabbit: Your innate geniality may save you from some problems. Check any financial paperwork you need to fill out. You may not get the position you’re after, but make the most of what you do achieve.

Dragon: A very encouraging year for Dragons looking for work. Prepare to leverage skills in unexpected ways. You will cultivate new hobbies or interests. Some unexpected travel opportunities.

Snake: Be alert to new opportunities and move quickly. Be careful of your personal safety this year. You may find yourself tired, preoccupied or distracted. Make time for friends and family.

Horse: A good year for the Horse, but don’t get scatter your energy too widely. Major home improvement projects are indicated. If you’ve had plans on the back burner, now’s the year to put them in action.

Goat/ Sheep (like they’re the same thing, but just go with it): A good enough year, but don’t push your luck. Things you might have got away with last year won’t work this year. If you can be flexible, you’ll be astonished by how much you’ll achieve by year’s end.

Monkey: A turning point for many Monkeys who’ve faced disappointment in previous years. Grab the opportunity to change jobs, start a new business or add to existing skills. Lots of activity on work and home fronts.

Rooster: A confusing time, with more chaos than you are normally happy with. Any raises or promotions will be modest, and money could be lost if you’re not careful. Try to relax your way through the year.

Dog: Use your instincts, and you stand to gain this year. You will get support from unexpected sources. Travel is strongly indicated. Look after your health.

Pig: An okay year, but you’ll need to exert yourself to get anywhere. Be careful and don’t make assumptions about people. Your preoccupation with work may make your family feel neglected.


What do you think? Will the Year of the Fire Monkey be kind or chaotic for you?

#Resolutions, I haz them #2016 #writing

(The photo above, sans fireworks, is one of the Johor State Administrative buildings. The entire complex is a lovely agglomeration of Islamic architecture, and is an inviting place to while away a late afternoon.)

Actually, I’m not much of a person for resolutions but, as part of SFRQ’s editorial team, I thought I should *ahem* Set A Good Example. And so, here I am. 😉 Bear with me as I try to come up with a list that will, no doubt, splinter into a thousand pieces when it hits the immovable object called Life!

Before I continue, I’d like to add that we are all not “one” person. To different people, and even to ourselves, we fill or exhibit different roles, so I thought it would make more sense if I make one firm resolution for each of the “roles” I normally play, rather than coming up with something more generic and, to be honest, more useless.

As a writer, I have been mulling over an anthology of stories, as well as a couple of books. So, for 2016, I commit to writing two at-least-novella-length books and an anthology. That doesn’t sound like much but, if you read last month’s post, you’d see that I already have a pretty busy year set out.

As a reader, I will resolve to read more SFRs. I always make that promise, and time always seems to get away from me. But I have now declared this publicly, so we’ll see how that pans out.

As a Linux user, I have made donations to my favourite development teams in the past and I commit to doing that again this year. All of my work is built on the time and effort of hundreds of developers from all over the world, and it’s only right that I make my appreciation known.

As a small business owner, I will stop moaning about how much I hate marketing and promotion and actually Do Something. Preferably, several somethings, and not in an irritating, tweet-every-hour-about-it kinda way, which only pisses people off.

As a wife, I will tell my husband how much I love him on a more frequent basis. I wouldn’t get half the writing I do done if it wasn’t for him supplying me with copious mugs of tea, family breakfasts and lunches, and the timely medicinal whisky, and I should express my gratitude more often.

As a mother, I will be a little less relaxed around the kids, and lay down the law more strictly than I have been. I will also find time to work in the darndest kind of things in homeschool, because the kids never know when they might be required to do some sewing, make jam, explain mortgage-backed securities and the upcoming crash of junk bonds to someone, or pack a suitcase efficiently.

As a pet owner, I will trim Sausage’s nails more regularly and pay more attention to the cats. Yea, even the Evil One (Fluffy).

There! Whew, what a list. What about you? Anyone want to share any of their resolutions?

New ventures #NoTimeToWrite

As my first post to The Galaxy Express 2.0, I knew I could write about lots of things: SF romance, recent releases, and how I seem to be in a time crunch at the moment. Hmmm, that’s interesting. I think I’ll write about not being able to write! 🙂

What I like about self-publishing is the amount of control I have over everything. I pick the cover, the editors, the length and, when done and corrected (and sanity-edited one more time), send the manuscript off to my handy-dandy Tech Department for coding. I check the result a few times before signing off on it and it goes back to the Tech Department (now called “The Backend”; we multitask a lot) for distribution. Being an anally-retentive, Type A personality, I love that level of oversight.

What I don’t love, however, is how quickly self-publishing becomes a h-u-g-e time sink. There’s always something that needs tinkering, which is bad news for a compulsive tinkerer like me. A friend of mine once remarked that I never seem happier than when I’ve deliberately upgraded my system to something experimental and KDE (my favourite Linux desktop environment) doesn’t want to play ball. So that’s Problem #1, The Self-Publisher’s Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone Syndrome (TSPCLWEAS). Yes, that’s the medical term for it. You’re welcome.

Problem #2 is Sandal Press. When J and I founded Sandal Press back in 2011, it was an, ahem, somewhat hurried decision. We were all afire to get things up and running and, thinking back on it over the past couple of months, we’ve come to the conclusion that it could have been handled much better. For a start, we came up with the name “Sandal” from the Native American saying, “never criticise a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” Unfortunately, a moccasin isn’t a sandal, and the icon of a walking jug didn’t help matters. So last month, we decided to phase out Sandal Press and phase in a new venture called Challis Tower. There are things we’re planning in the future that will make the name a little less head-scratchy but, after more thought than we gave it back in 2011, it’s now there. All Sandal Press books over the next year will be transferred across and will be known as Challis Tower books. And, in fact, that’s the new url: www.ChallisTowerBooks.com

Problem #3 is our son, The Wast. Four years ago, we made the decision to pull both kids from their (private) school and begin homeschooling them. This was due to problems of drug and pornography distribution on campus, and hypocrisy, inexperience and lack of discipline on the part of staff. And now it’s almost time for the rubber to hit the road. In six months, TW will be sitting for seven IGCSEs/O-levels. To my American readers, this is the qualification you need to enter pre-U. Seven IGCSEs isn’t onerous, but it’s a decent workload.

TW wants to do a degree in Computer Science, so we’re hitting the technical stuff pretty hard. And this will be an independent validation of the past four years. Did I do a good enough job? How will he cope with a series of exams in an unfamiliar environment? Did we make the right decision four years ago? In addition, Little Dinosaur is also working her way through Form 3, before she, too, has to tackle her upcoming IGCSEs. The difference is that TW is now learning in one year what will take LD two years of study. I think he’s up to it, but we’ll see. And I’ll worry until the results finally come through from the UK.

It therefore comes as no surprise that my writing has taken a beating. That’s not to say I don’t have stories to write! I have several synopses, chapter-by-chapter summaries, character sheets, diagrams, mindmaps, blurbs, cover art. All that’s missing is the time to plonk arse in chair and actually write!

As we face the end of the year, and I look—exhausted—at everything that still needs to be done, I hope you take some advice from a frenzied publisher/writer/teacher/mother/wife.

Remember everything you managed to achieve this year. If you spend a few minutes writing down your 2015 achievements (and I hope you do), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long the list is. See all that? You did that. Give yourself a big pat on the back, put your feet up, spoil yourself with a little something. And gather your energy, because, you know what? Next year is already waiting for you. 😉

Merry Christmas…look, while we’re on this subject, can I just go off on a tangent? The fact is, we even wish strangers a Merry Christmas in Muslim Malaysia. I’m not sure I know what the problem is regarding the current “political correctness” akin to banning Christmas in the United States/Europe for fear of “offending” anyone. I live in a country where I am surrounded by millions of Muslims and hundreds of thousands of others from a bewildering variety of faiths. Shopping malls get decorated for all the major religious festivals throughout the year and nobody faints from horror or brings down a fatwa on the mall management. So take it from me, nobody—least of all the Muslim population—gets offended if you exchange Christmas greetings with them ::eyeroll:: Personally, I think an awful lot of otherwise well-meaning people are being played here. Don’t fall for it.

So, as I was saying, MERRY CHRISTMAS! If I don’t catch you in SFRQs #9 Editorial, I’ll touch base early in January.