Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Free Upcoming Novelette: Progress Report

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

It has been quite a while since I update about my free upcoming novelette, Letters to God. I believe I owe my readers an apology too for not publishing it soon enough. Time is flying and I have to focus more on my PhD studies for the time being. I was an expert at juggling various tasks once but not anymore; at least not in these few months.

Photo credit: SerenaWong

But tonight, I feel compelled to write. I really want to share the current status of this novelette of mine.

Novelette edited but not yet send to beta reader
The editor is a good friend of mine and we lost contact for awhile. Thankfully, I managed to track her down and she finished the work. But the novelette transcript is raw; full of corrections that I haven't been able to address yet. This has caused a major delay for the next stage i.e. sending it to a beta reader to read. But I don't think it will be a long process because my cousin has already agreed to be the beta reader. For your information, the task of a beta reader(s) is to identify whether the story line ties in smoothly. Readers definitely hate haphazard stories.  

Method to attach novelette in subscription email
As is my intention, I would like Letters to God be attach to the confirmation email when a person subscribes to my blog. But as of today, I haven't yet find an application (am I using the right term?) that offers this service. I would appreciate it so much if you can comment some suggestions for me. It will make my task easier :) I thank you in advance!

Don't worry, the novelette is definitely free
There are two reasons for this: (1) recognition and, (2) marketing.

I want people to be able to read my writing and judge whether it is good or bad. If it is bad, at least people won't feel disheartened because they got the novelette for free. Hopefully too, readers will be more willing to give feed backs so that I can improve my writing. I aspire to be a writer of substance where my words can reach the heart of readers and hopefully change their lives for the better.

By making the Letters to God free, I can also gain more followers. When I have followers, there is a high possibility that they will buy the books I sell in the future. You see, I have a dream of retiring early and make an income from being a fiction writer whose words touch lives.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Freedom Fantasy

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers!

Excluding prisoners in jail and those poor souls trapped in modern slavery, everyone has freedom. But that my friend, is a foolhardy assumption. To prove this claim, let's begin with the most basic; the meaning of slave.

Oxford Dictionary defines slave as (especially in the past) a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. This includes:
- A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
- A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
- A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.   

Photo credit: Comfreak

Definition 1: A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
All around the world, we find cases of employees being paid wages that are lower than the inflation rate. In the United States, one of the economic super powers, millions of full time workers still rely on the government to get by due to their low pay. You could say that they get low wages because not much skills are required for the job. The fact of the matter is different, however. According to Low Wage Work, "these jobs require knowledge, patience, care and communication".

Not more repulsive than child labour, though. Amnesty International claim that companies like Samsung, Sony, and Microsoft had workers as young as seven years old working in hazardous environment. This brings memories about the infamous Blood Diamond controversy.

Definition 2: A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
I personally believe that this form of slavery is the most widespread but always ignored.

Have you ever noticed how the media uses certain words to manipulate you? I would like to give you an example that was pointed out by The Patriots from this article piece that they uploaded in their Facebook page:
A normal person would just read this piece and concur that it is beyond a shred of a doubt that Majapahit relics were there in the Malacca river. Not many would notice the word "possibly" and "believed" in the first paragraph which means Majapahit origin hasn't actually been confirmed. Also notice that it was "a group of professional divers" and not archeologists (persons having solid knowledge of history) who had found these relics.

However, one not need go far to see this kind of slavery in action; it can happen within our family circles too. Abused spouses almost always believe that it is their fault for being abused; a classic example of how one can control another. In fact, there are also cases where one just succumb to the abuse because they feel like they can't survive without their partner.

Then there's the case where an individual feels pressured to conform with society's view. A person over 40 can feel dejected when s(he) is still single, a person can feel depressed when s(he) only has a cheap car, a teenager can feel ashamed with his peers for still being a virgin, and multitudes of other examples.

This can result in people becoming a slave to their desires too. To get an expensive car, (s)he would be willing to take bribe and a teenager can resort to rape to satisfy his lust. 

Definition 3: A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.
This definition doesn't concern humans.

Thus the truth is, we are slaves to something or someone. You can deny it all you want.

But remember, we are human beings endowed with freedom of choice; we can choose who our masters are. And it's high time for us to choose. 

In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds -
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path -
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.
(Quran - Chapter 1)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Horror Story

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

From my observation, there are two types of movies that Malaysians like to watch: horror and romantic. I myself loved to watch horror films when I was young. I dared myself to watch the most scary films and trained myself to be calm (I looked calm but inside I was terrified!) during the gripping suspense before the devil shows its face. I also love the ghost stories that my aunt used to tell me when I was small and to read the Malay magazine "Mastika" that had its fair share of people succumbed by black magic.

That was me when I was in primary and a few years into secondary school. But as I get a bit older, I realize that horror movies turned me into someone I was horrified of.

Credit to Comfreak
1. I feared and focused on the wrong things
For one, I became afraid to sleep at my grandparents' house when I was little just because the house looks quite shabby inside. It's pathetic of me not to spend more time with my grandmother (although I was always at her house after school, gobbling down my grandmother's delicious cookings). Now that the house has been renovated into a common city home, I really miss the historic-Malay-village-house facade; especially during Eid ul Fitri. It's true, "you only know a good thing till it's gone" (Kris Allen).

The worst part of it is, I learned and memorized certain chapters and verses of the Quran for the sole purpose of guarding myself from evil spirits. Why? Because I see religious people in movies recite the Quran to get rid of evil spirits! God, I am so sorry for being so shallow and narrow minded before!

Thanks to ALLAH, I come to embrace and understand that the Quran is more than that; it's a book that provokes human to think, it's a book that calms the heart, it's a book that brings glad tidings, and much much more. Bringing the point home, the Quran's purpose is much larger than getting rid of evil spirits.

2. I feared the evil supernatural entity more than I feared God
When I was in secondary school, I really love to go camping in the woods. I was a girl scout, you see. Whenever we set up tents, we were told (I won't give names) that we should ask permission from the spirits that live in the woods. We were told to behave.

I obeyed. Besides, that's what people in the movies do too. But wait, didn't ALLAH say in the Quran:

"HIS is the dominion of the heavens and earth. HE gives life and causes death, and HE is over all things competent". (Surah Al-Hadid: 2)

Yes, the woods belong to God so we should have asked permission from God. I should fear God, not the spirits! Plus do you know what kind of mentality that these movies taught me? That I need to behave only in the woods while elsewhere I can do whatever I want even if it's wrong. Stupid movies. Such a silly girl, I was.

3. I didn't gave much attention to good supernatural entity 
As a Muslim, it is mandatory to believe in the Six Pillars of Iman and the second pillar is to believe in the angels. I didn't realise that angels were also supernatural entities. I mean, I did believe in the angels when I was small (still do), but I didn't acquire more knowledge about them which I was supposed to! Why? Because I was too embroiled with the knowledge of the djinns (why don't you google that yourself) and how to avoid from being the victim of withcraft ! I still can't fathom why I want to know about the dark rather than the light. Oh I know's because of the horror movies (And to be honest, because Malaysian children were made scared of evil spirits so we would behave)!

For him (each person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the command of Allah...” (Surah Ar-Ra'd: 11) 

It is liberating to get personal with the above verse. It makes you feel privileged to have angels near you. I couldn't believe that I was terrified of the devil's slaves. I am so sorry, my Lord.

4. I was unable to appreciate the beauty of nature
In the Malay lore, there's this evil spirit called pontianak which is sort of like a woman vampire (of course there is no such thing as a pontianak, it is a major sin to believe in the existence of this creature). This creature likes to perch on tree branches to scan its victim; wearing all white, red eyes and long eerie black hair. Because of this, I didn't like to see huge trees at night for fear of meeting eyes with it. Again, this was a major defect I had. Let's read this beautiful verse from the Quran:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 164)

It's a shame that I had averted my eyes from the signs of ALLAH. It was a total waste of my time for not using the intellect that ALLAH had bestowed to us.

Were (Are) you a horror movie fan? Have (had) you experience the above horrors?