OK folks, let's make this a quick one. I'm cramming for my final exam (May 4-5, 14-16), so there.
I'm not going to tell you I've always wanted to write since I was a little boy. Well, I did do pages upon pages of squiggly lines in those brown paperback notebooks, and then moved on to creating comic strips and adventure games in said books--different books la. Aiyoh. But I'm not one of those folks who tell others that they've ALWAYS wanted to be a writer.
Heck. If all goes well, I'll be a neurosurgeon soon(ish), insyaAllah, and I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
If I have only one thing I'm passionate about, it's reading. Fiction. If only the passion extends to reading academia, I would have been a star student.
When did I start writing? I wrote and published my first story in Secondary Four, in my school magazine, Garudamas. Our supervising teacher, Puan Prabhalini Brahma, encouraged me to write one. My English teacher, Datin Matilda Toyad, did the pushing as well. Since I only read Fantasy at that time, I wrote a story about a pack of mystical silver wolves and how the mother sacrificed her life to save her cubs. And because I watched Felicity, Jack and Jill and Dawson's Creek, I published a tragic love story in Secondary Five.
Then life happened. Medical school happened. Housemanship/internship happened. I stopped writing because I no longer had the time, the energy, the motivation. I stopped sketching. I stopped painting. I started compiling excuses. But I never stopped reading. Fiction. Aiyoh.
One fine day, a stranger by by the name of Azita Baizura friended me on Friendster. Yup, you heard me right. Friendster. She was intrigued by my profile description. And then she urged me to write for a local competition.
Other than a semester of Creative Writing in university, I did not receive any formal training in writing. I bought books and taught myself the rules. My stories didn't win the competition, but it triggered the dormant love for writing that I thought I had lost. I joined an online writing community, and there I met a most precious gem, a boon from the Muses: Breanna Teintze. She has been pushing me to write and to publish. She screens ALL my stories before I send them off.
I started publishing in 2009. Back then I published FTL--for the love. For the exposure. And then I started getting paid for my stories. Some even appear in hardcover and paperback prints.
I hungered for more.
To date, I have published 26 stories. I think I only have a few collecting dust in my cyberstorage. The ones I wrote before 2009 don't count. Okay? Okay. Some of them have received paragraphs upon paragraphs of awesome reviews (Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Goodreads), while some...not so positive. The only problem is, most of my stories are accessible internationally, but not locally. I want my stories to be read by Malaysians, in Malaysia. Most of the stories I publish are about Malaysia. Not the colonial one, but contemporary Malaysia. Futuristic Malaysia.
I approached several local publishers to see if they were willing to reprint my stories in an anthology. No one bit, at first. Then, one fine day, as I was waiting for my flight back to KL from KB, Amir Muhammad WhatsApped me a link to a small press publisher, Simptomatik Press. Their manifesto is to publish Medical Science Fiction. So I emailed them a query, with links to three of my stories.
And Kushairi Zuraidi replied. He wanted to read more. He wanted to publish my stories.
And now FAITH AND THE MACHINE is available for sale. It even has a proper ISBN. The release comes at the best of times. It comes at the worst of times. I won't be available to promote my book or to meet readers. I won't be able to meet you. Even now I'm feeling guilty for writing this instead of doing last-minute cramming for my BIGGEST EXAM EVER on Monday.
Sorry folks. My education comes first.
So there. I won't be doing promotional stints until after I (hopefully) graduate. I'll be doing some retweeting or something like that, but that's it. This is it. I do appreciate it if you could take the time to check out the book at booth 4171 at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair 2015 (#KLIBF2015/#PBAKL2015), buy the book, and tell me what you think. I do appreciate it if you somehow signal boost this post.
I know I won't be making much from this anthology. It's not about the money. Well, it'll be a bonus, but seriously, for me it's not just about the money. It's about reaching out to local readers and writers. It's about showing them that it is more than possible to write and publish local stories in English. There is a huge market out there, waiting for us. It's about creating awareness on Medicine, and neurosurgery in particular.
More than anything, the stories are part of my on-going journey to reconnect with my Faith.
Even if you don't buy the book, I want you to know that I love you all. And I thank you.
And I also want you to know that this is a dream-come-true for me. To have a book with my name on the spine. To have MY book with an awesome cover.
MY book. Wow. It's only now starting to sink in.
I am humbled.
And since you're at it, please pray for me and my friends (Jon Kooi, Raffiz, Adrian, Jason, Yew Chin and Jachinta) as we sit for our final exam.