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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Podcast Episode 13 – In-Betweens

Natasha Sondakh

We are back with the newest podcast episode! It’s a real pleasure to chat with the author of She Smells of Turmeric: Natasha Sondakh. We first met through Mad Tea Book Club meeting discussing Indonesian Literature back in mid 2021. Her book interested me because I had a certain relatable experience with the protagonist, Cece. I bought my copy and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.

Keeping in touch with Tash, I threw out the idea of doing this podcast session with her. So here in this episode Tash shares her reading and writing journey, including what books/authors/poets have impacted her. She also shares an empowering note as someone who grew up between Eastern and Western cultures, and having to navigate through one’s identity in that in-between state.

As always, if you have a topic or idea you’d like me to cover in the podcast, let me know! Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get exclusive content, participate in giveaways, and get special discounts from the shop.

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Book Review: The Stone Sky

The epic conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin snatched 3 awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Award. The Stone Sky was, indeed, grande.

Core Magic

In The Stone Sky, Mother (Essun) and Daughter (Nassun) separately goes into the core of the Earth. There they both experience Earth’s utter power and magic. Only after surviving that can they reach the other side: Corepoint. It’s quite a feat of fantasy and science fiction. What Jemisin pulls off so well is the grand scale of time.

The three books of this series have encompassed between them thousands of years and generations. In this way it reminds me of the Dune series. However, unlike Dune, Jemisin is able to do it while following the lives of mainly two characters: Essun and Nassun.

At the core of the story is how the privileged and powerful of the society treat the marginalized. Jemisin is able to make you feel like you are the one being marginalized, manipulated to benefit the system. Sounds familiar? I am so glad she is writing. As a black woman, her perspective of the human experience is so needed by the world right now.

In her own words: “…a character who is angry at the system, but has learned how to cover that anger in ways that allow him to survive in a system that doesn’t welcome that anger – Lord knows I’ve learned how to do this too.”

Narration

I’ll admit even I got confused several times with the second-person narrative style in The Stone Sky. It’s quite tricky to follow, yet I couldn’t have imagined it told another way, as the impact would not be the same.

Apparently TriStar Pictures has secured rights to adapt the trilogy into a series, with Jemisin herself doing the adaptation! I cannot wait. I think done right, the story has potential to be better than Dune as a film!

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Puppy Mom Life

The end of 2021 ushered in something new for me and hubby. We decided to buy a chow chow puppy (read: fluffies). Yes, it’s puppy mom life for the next couple of months.

Why chow chow, you might ask? Other than the obvious cuteness of this breed’s appearance (their fluffy hair and facial structure makes them look bearish), I actually grew up with two chow chows wayyy back during junior high and high school. My family had Vegas and Venus, two brown babies from the same litter. So it was a bit of nostalgia slash something innate in myself that wanted to have another furry buddy around.

When we found a black chow-chow puppy whose breed and temperament seemed quite to our liking, we decided to bring him home. Thus started my puppy mom life.

Growing up with dogs, I had never really been the one in charge of taking care of the dogs. Even Rimsky, my now 12 years old golden retriever was largely taken care of by my late husband Oky and now by my dad. And it had been a long time since Rimsky was a pup. In a way, I had a lot of learning to do, almost as much as Kofie (the new pup)!

A lot of people say that when you (attempt) to take care of a puppy right, it’s very much like taking care of a baby. The wonderful thing is dogs mature much faster than humans, so puppyhood isn’t half as long. I can now understand this (night time anxiety, constant supervision, etc etc etc) and I think can begin to understand a bit of what my friends’ go through who take care of babies. Goodness. Young moms, you rock.

In the meanwhile, Kofie is about to eat bat poop so I gotta go!

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Book Review: She Smells of Turmeric

Bravo to Natasha Sondakh, the young Indonesian author for this lovely book. I came across She Smells of Turmeric when my book club (Mad Tea Book Club) invited Natasha as one of the guest speakers. The Indonesian-books talk was back in August 2021, and you can find the discussion here. I was glad to finally be able to read the book – and what a ride!

Structure

The author interspersed sections of this book with some great poems. At first hand they might not seem directly related to the prose, especially if you’re not into poetry. I’ve always loved poetry, and for me, the pieces emitted moods and emotions in a way which complimented the narrative. I’m so glad the author decided on this structure. It really added something special to the reading experience.

Vibes

I definitely got Crazy Rich Asians vibes with this book. Since it takes place in Jakarta, it hits home even more. Being someone who has also lived in the United States and Indonesia, I can relate a lot to Cecelia (our main character’s) cultural experiences. Of course, Cece lives the life of the 0,01% of Indonesians, so if there was ever a sequel I’d be very curious to see what happens when Cece experiences more of Indonesia.

Traumas (potential spoiler)

Somethings happen to Cece which is sadly and unfairly common (1 in 3 women globally experience sexual violence), though I wasn’t expecting it at all in this book. It sounds weird, but I’m glad that section was included in She Smells of Turmeric. It shows that sexual assault, domestic violence, and abuse isn’t just rampant in lower economy societies – it happens in middle and higher up strata too. As a survivor myself, I think the author handled writing Cece’s emotions and reactions carefully and responsibly. It was not simplistic but rather fleshed out and empowering at the same time.

I finished She Smells of Turmeric in a day. Bravo to the author and I am looking forward to read more books from her in the future!

PS : Episode 13 of my podcast is going to be an in-depth conversation with Natasha, so stay tuned!

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Marketing Chill Chats: Expectations – Perceptions (Gaps Model)

This video series with Frances Bowden Affandy continues to Part 4, where we talk about the Gap Model of service quality. This segment delves into the difference between customer expectation and perception.

We also offer a personalized counseling session to help you work through your small business and / or personal branding and marketing needs! The 45 minute session will be done via Zoom, and you can take a look at the prices here. We assure you it will be well worth your time and money!

For a bit on Frances’ experiences, visit this page.

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Book Review: She Who Became the Sun

I loved everything about She Who Became the Sun, happy sigh. And General Ouyang? I get that he’s a eunuch and he doesn’t swing my direction, but I’m still swooning over him. Okay, so what’s this book about?

Historical Fantasy

She Who Became the Sun is a historical fantasy retelling of Zhu Yuanzhang, the Emperor who founded the Ming Dynasty, expelled the Mongols, and unified China. The topic is already something I’m incredibly interested in – China’s deliciously dramatic history. Add to that the twist of Zhu being a girl? Automatic read. It does have Mulan vibes but it’s much more – think Mulan slash Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones.

Shelley Parker-Chan‘s writing is gripping from the very first sentence to the very end. One thing I especially like are her analogies – Zhongli village lying in the heat of the sun like a dead dog? Amazing. The book has many such sentences like this, which brings the atmosphere of ancient China alive for me. They way she retells and brings alive the characters: the to-be Empress Ma, General Ouyang, and of course Zhu makes these historical figures into people I won’t forget.

Women Empowerment

Exactly as the title promises, the empowerment narrative is good. As someone with Chinese heritage, I feel Shelley gets the idea so well that it hits home. Girls in the Chinese culture were just so itemized, so unimportant, so…nothing compared to boys. Boys are everything. Girls are meaningless, expendable. I lived this growing up. So I loved that in this fantasy, at least, we can show that we are not meaningless.

Women too can have mandates of heaven, lead armies, and leave a legacy of our names.

If you’re into women empowerment fantasy, check out my Nishaverse series.

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Movie Review: Spencer (2021)

Do yourself a favor and pick up Spencer (2021). Lathered with trigger warnings as it is (eating disorder, self-harm, suicidal thoughts) Kristin Stewart brings to screen a Diana that is still constantly trying to regain control over her life. A Diana who resists the suffocation of totalitarian power. Indeed oppression can have many faces, and one of them is glamour.

Indeed oppression can have many faces, and one of them is glamour.

Eating Disorder Portrayal

As someone that struggled with bulimia for a third of my life up to now (almost 10 years), I thought the portrayal of Diana’s disorder was spot-on. Her dread while her weight was being tallied. Her stress over being forced to eat and appear to enjoy food. The purging followed by binging in the middle of the night. How it all ties in with the breakdown of her psychology. It makes Spencer (2021) is a good resource to understand roughly what people with eating disorders go through. Even that part when Charles mocks her (conveniently and cruelly) about appreciating the hard work of the kitchen staff.

Rebellion and Fighting Spirit

Given Diana’s circumstances in which she had very little choice over anything (all of her clothes are picked for her and labeled for each occasion), Spencer (2021) shows what a powerful spirit she has in fighting back however she can. She’s an independent woman who chooses to drive off on her own. She is a mother who gives her children gifts on Christmas Day so they can experience being “normal people”. She leaves the curtains open while she is dressing – it may seem like behavior that invites concern, but that’s how she fights back.

And till the end, she fights in her own way. Till the end, Diana is constantly trying to claim back a piece of herself, for herself.

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Kalimaya Diving Trip

Cung (hubby) and I went on an “early” holiday on 1-10 December 2021. It was originally going to be a trip with our good friend Jerry and maybe his cousin who is a master instructor. Lo and behold, it developed into a 20 person diving trip to Kalimaya Dive Resort in Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Barat! We really needed this break, and I suppose the others did too.

The Diving

I haven’t ever dived in this area before, so it was completely new terrain. We hope to return because there was some very cool topography down there, with a very special spot for night diving called Black Sand. It was my first night dive and I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty anxious. I mean, on a night dive you can only see as far as your flashlight allows. Everything else, on top, under, all around you, is pitch dark. What an experience.

Once in the water though, it was not too bad because the spot we dived at was shallow (only until about 8 meters deep) with very calm waters and a sandy bottom for the whole spot. And on this sandy bottom, it was really something. There were critters everywhere! Literally where ever you pointed your flashlight there would be octopus, cuttlefish, colorful sea slugs, and many many other cute little thingies.

Sadly to say though, there were also tons of bombs. I have heard before that diving in Flores area had a high number of illegal fish and coral bombing, but this was the first time I experienced it. During the night dive itself, I lost count of how many bombs we heard while we were down there. It was more than ten. That distracted me and definitely detracted from my experience.

The People

A huge part of diving (or, I guess, any trip) are the people you go on the trip with . With such a big group and quite a lot of new faces, I think we lucked out in that it turned out to be a really great bunch of people, from experienced pro divers to those whose last dive was more than a decade ago. I also met some cool people, and this is how you know you get along: our next year diving trips are already booked with the same bunch of people 😀

The Resort

Kalimaya Dive Resort is truly an undiscovered jewel (and I think that’s kind of the best thing about it, the “undiscovered” part) in the middle of nowhere on Sumbawa Island. We couldn’t even get internet unless we went to the edge of the beach or the jetty. Talk about detox opportunity! The staff was super friendly, the rooms cute, simple, and nice, and the hot water was divine.

All in all, this was a great diving trip and we are excited to come back one day to explore more (bomb-free, please) spots.

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Pandemic Reflections, a Poem

I deeply believe

the pandemic saved me

reminded me

that life doesn’t have to be so complicated

that my schedule doesn’t have to be

so suffocated

I quite like

the lazy afternoons

the song of neighborhood birds

nine hours of sleep

honking cars unheard

After all

If I may be coy

Is this not what we work

Our whole lives to enjoy?

(I thought this would be a fun way to start 2022, by reflecting on some of my benefits from the great pandemic – anyway, happy 2022 everyone)

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How I Diversified My Income Streams in 2021

One of my major resolutions this year was diversified income streams. I’m not sure about you, but for the most part I grew up thinking that I had to focus on one main income stream / field. If I work hard and excel, then that would one income would do. Well, hello, enter the pandemic of 2020! One of my takeaways as someone working mainly in the performing arts field was that I need multiple sources of income. Otherwise I would be screwed the next time around. So that’s what I set my mind out to doing this year.

At the end of 2021 I am quite proud to say that I have diversified to 7 different sources of income stream. These range from the most active to passive incomes. I’ll list them out for you and then give you some tips on how you can also diversify your income stream for 2022.

Active Incomes

  1. My main job is CEO of an arts nonprofit that I co-founded – the Bandung Philharmonic. This is still my main source of income at the moment. I did voluntarily slash my salary during the pandemic crisis thus the other sources become necessary.
  2. My other music-related job is with the South East Asia Music Academy Online based in Singapore. I had the pleasure of being invited onboard by Singaporean violinist Gabriel Lee.
  3. An interesting side job opportunity presented itself mid-year via freelance writing for a fantasy blockchain game called Eizper Chain. This came about through some members of Mad Tea Book Club, a completely voluntary book club that I co-host.

Side Business

  1. Since domestic travel reopened, my airBnB listing Villa Gupondoro has been able to start receiving guests again. It was real tough there during lockdown.
  2. Mulberry Jam – there is a patch of land by the Villa on which Oky, my late husband, and I had planted mulberry trees. Though so many things have changed, the trees keep blooming each harvest season! So I still produce and sell fresh mulberry jam twice a year, now with the help of the an awesome assistant Joe Wu.
  3. Online sales of my ebooks and stories from my shop have started to pick up this year – thanks to all the bookstagrammers and book reviewers helping to share the word about my books out there!

Passive Income

  1. I’ve bought / invested in some government bonds – not the highest monthly yield but I’m aiming for security with this investment.

There are other extremely high-risk investments I’m involved in such as robot trading and crypto trading. There are also some initiatives for 2022 building upon what I already have: book launches, Mulberry Tea product, and a small hedge fund opportunity. These are still in the infancy stage (or likely to go bust any minute due to the high level of risk!) so I try not to depend too much on it. I also think risk tolerance is also something very personal for every individual.

Those are pretty good well-rounded diversified income streams, if I may pat myself on the back. So how did this come about?

Tips To Have Diversified Income Streams

  1. First of all, as with everything, start with the why. Do you know why you’re trying to diversify your incomes? Do you really even need to? What is your current position in life and what are your goals? If you don’t have these major answers yet, that’s OKAY. You can always chat with a mentor / advisor and get more in tune with your life and goals. Once you have these, it’s much easier to make an intentional commitment to diversify your income streams.
  2. Throw your intention out there to the world. Get it out there. Tell a friend / family member / work buddy that you want to diversify your income stream somehow (you might not know how yet). You’ll be surprised at what opportunities come your way by just getting your intention out there into the big, big universe.
  3. Understand yourself better – what are your skills? What do you like to do? What are you naturally good at? These will be your assets in finding another source of income. Knowing what you don’t like, what you are not good at, and what will take you longer to learn will also help narrow down choices and opportunities.
  4. Once you’ve chosen something to pursue – it can be as “passive” as buying some government bonds / stocks, or a notch up with starting an online side business, or even applying for side jobs, then don’t give up or change direction too quickly. I would recommend to stay at it for at least a year before deciding it’s not for you and quitting. Some things take time to get used to, and time is also needed for results to really show.
  5. Find good trusted people/partners and find a way to collaborate or work with them on a money making venture that would benefit everyone involved. This is a big point and deserves more elaboration (getting cheated on, etc), but generally I would say it is very difficult to achieve great results if you only work alone.

It’s also really important to keep in mind that nothing is instant (except unhealthy stuff). If you’re impatient like me, find a hobby to distract yourself with. With that, I congratulate you for surviving 2021, and hope the best for the coming 2022.