Hello 2022 & My Top 5s for 2021

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Happy new year! As is often the case, there is a feeling of expectation for a new year even if the passage of time is constant. We mark time and moments to achieve a sense of order, and if viewed through the right lens, we can appreciate the time given to us. I hope that 2022 brings each of you a sense of fulfilment in whatever shape that may take. Remember deep breaths and enjoy the ride.

A review of 2021 marked the re-boot of my blog, and I hope to continue with my reviews while having the opportunity to share some of my original work and manuscripts that I have in the pipeline. As a writer, the challenge of balancing my blog, manuscripts, day job, and parenthood is an ongoing juggling act. I look forward to continue this writing journey and diving into this slice of life we have on our little blue dot.

For now, I would like to share my top 5s for 2021 in each category I blogged about. Please keep in mind this is based on my published reviews for 2021 (NOT the top 5 of all time in each category).


  1. The Wife and the Widow by Christian White – atmospheric mystery story that had me reeling in its cleverness and filled me with envy that White could write in this way.
  2. Thunderhead (Book 2 of Arc of a Scythe Series) by Neal Shusterman – very rarely do second books in a trilogy exceed the first or final books in the series. Shusterman does just that with Thunderhead.
  3. The Promise Seed by Cass Moriarty – a gem of a novel that captures youth and age. The two main characters develop a bond even though their differences (on the surface) seem to be many.
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – magic is real! The night circus actually feels a part of you by the time you turn the last page.
  5. The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth – the only non-fiction book that made my top 5 for 2021, Forsyth is a master of breaking down the effectiveness of English rhetoric in what could have been a dry topic, but he makes fascinating and funny. A must for any writer’s toolkit.


  1. Free Guy – this was the surprise flick for 2021 for me. Ryan Reynolds has long been typecast and it is no different really in Free Guy, but the concept and story combined with awesome CGI had me laughing and feeling inspired in equal measure. Deserves repeat viewing.
  2. Wolfwalkers – ecstatic that I stumbled on this movie on Apple+ TV. An animated film that captures Irish folklore and imagery with such colour and beauty that every frame has been crafted with love and care.
  3. The Half of It – the relationship triangle depicted in this film is a wonderful coming-of-age comedy drama that surprised me with how emotionally effecting it was.
  4. Nobody – the ending went a bit silly but the build up, and the scene on the bus were beyond brilliant. That alone was worth the price of admission.
  5. Cruella – Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are so good that you could remove every other character in this film and still be riveted.

(honourable mention: The Last Duel – I almost put this in the top 5 over Cruella. Clever story telling, action sequences are brutal and real, and the characters are flawed and interesting)


  1. Cowboy Bebop – the ultimate sci-fi soap opera that has stood the test of time with the best killer jazz/blues soundtrack ever.
  2. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai – ending goes a bit overboard on the emo, but the tale of a group of childhood friends and how they drift apart (due to an incident) but come back together is both uplifting and heart wrenching.
  3. Tonari no Totoro – Miyazaki masterpiece **microphone dropped**
  4. Haikyuu!! Season 1 – this anime series will inspire you to play volleyball, or at least inspire you to follow your passions.
  5. Usagi Drop – slice of life gem of an anime where the child teaches the adult as much as the adult teaches the child about what it means to live life.

(honourable mentions: I could have listed other Miyazaki movies that I published reviews on – Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Laputa: Castle in the Sky – but that would have been a very boring list)

2021 Happy Holidays & Thank You

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In a year that has seen the COVID pandemic carry over, 2021 has been another roller coaster.

For yours truly, there have been many highs and lows. By far the most overwhelming moment was the death of my father, who passed away in March this year due to cancer. In my journey to live a meaningful life and write stories that inspire, he led a life that demonstrated his passions and what was important to him. His family, his friends, and his never-ending love for his homeland Taiwan were demonstrated in his every action and piece of writing. As a professor in political science, my father wrote articles and books (in both English and Mandarin) that created a body of work that is staggering. He encouraged and inspired me to follow my own writing even if it was as far removed from politics as can be (i.e. fantasy/sci-fi and drama fiction). I miss him every day.

Treasuring moments and focusing on what is important to me has never been clearer. Through the miasma of fear and division that our tiny blue dot is suffering from, whether that be due to the pandemic, climate change, or the political and social hatreds that humanity suffers from, I continue to search and discover hope and inspiration in many forms. This is never more obvious to me than through art. Whether that art is in the form of stories/poetry, or music/song, or paintings/sculptures/crafts, or film/tv, each of us has the ability to tap into the creative and that creation expresses emotions that inspire and lift us above the storm clouds of racism, sexism, classism, ageism (and any other prejudicial “-ism” you can think of).

Getting my blog off the ground and exploring the spark generated through books, anime and film that I read and watch has inspired me to continue working on my own manuscripts. I will take a break for the rest of 2021 and spend time with my other sources of inspiration being my wife, kids, family and friends and will return to releasing new blogs in the new year. I hope you have enjoyed the book, anime and movie reviews that I have released these past few months. Rest assured I will continue releasing reviews come 2022, and I will also look to share some WIP (work-in-progress) of stories I’m writing and would welcome feedback.

Before signing off, I wanted to share one last bit of inspiration. In October of this year, one of the greatest songs of all time was released 50 years ago. To celebrate, the artist announced that he will be doing a concert tour starting in Honolulu in January 2022 and will perform throughout the US, UK and Europe culminating in his final concert in November 2022 in Austria. In total he will be performing 69 concerts!

The artist I’m referring to is Don McLean and his song “American Pie” was selected in 2017 for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

To celebrate this iconic song, I found this A Cappella version by Anne Reburn (and her clones). I hope it inspires you to follow whatever dreams you are striving to make a reality. Enjoy!

Wishing you all a joyous and safe break as we wind down to the end of 2021. May it be filled with joy, laughter and good food. Peace to you all and thank you for taking the time to read my blog

The Birth of Freyja*

* or How I came about writing about the Norse goddess and publishing my first book


I have several writing projects in the pipeline. The first is a fantasy trilogy involving a world that I have created from scratch. The first book has been drafted and placed into the metaphorical drawer, collecting metaphorical dust on my hard drive. That story was my first foray into writing seriously, but the first draft is so rough, it’ll take more than sandpaper (more like a grinder) before it is in any fit state to be read.

By contrast, the seed that is “Freyja and the Brisingamen Necklace” came about in an unexpected way. While social platforms have both pros and cons, in this scenario it turned out to be a blessing.

It started with Instagram. Back in 2015, I opened an account. At that time, my goal was purely to use it as a form of expression. I would post short stories and poems/quotes that came into my head. Anyone who liked what I had written was a person I connected with (even if it was that brief second of them casting their eyes over my words and pressing the ‘like’ button); my job was done.

At the same time, I searched for those things that inspire me – other writers, artists, poets, and creative souls sharing their work

Through this platform, I met Elizabeth McKenzie and we began following each other. She was complimentary of my quotes and stories, and I adored her art, which contained a life, a colour, a joy that was unique, and I had not seen before anywhere else. What also astounded me was the sheer volume of her work. Liz generates art at a pace that I am in awe of.

After a time, I asked Liz if I could use some of her work and write a short story based on the artwork and post it on my Instagram feed. She was happy for me to do so, and you will find in my earlier 2015 postings stories such as “Chances” and “The Dance“.

But it was a post by Liz titled “Frida” that sparked a desire inside me to write a full story. The seed was planted.

In Scandinavian countries, this name is derived from the Old Norse name Fríða, which can also be pronounced Freyja.

Being a fantasy writer, I love all forms of mythology and Norse mythology is rich in material. But like most myths, Norse included, the tales were almost always about gods and goddesses who were adults.

I began imagining what they were before their deification was realised. I asked myself, “What was Freyja like before she became a Norse goddess of Asgard? What was Freyja like as a child?”

As with any seed planted, I began to water, nurture and give plenty of sunlight to this question and the story that grew inside my mind.

I wrote to Liz and said that I so loved her Frida illustration that I proposed (half-seriously) that I could write a novel based on that image and perhaps, she could illustrate each chapter.

Little did I know the fire that burned so brightly in Liz would take to my idea like a flame to dry wood! She was all for it, and thus our journey as writer and artist began.

The fruits of three years working together on “Freyja and the Brisingamen Necklace” is now in the Amazon shops, and to be frank, I can hardly believe it’s actually there.

As a writer and story teller, you can only hope that people who read your words will garner some inspiration from it. I know that Liz feels the same way with her art. And as with any creative work, it won’t be to everyone’s liking and that’s okay. But if it inspires one child to read, to write, to pick up a paintbrush then that, to me, is mission accomplished.

To Liz, I wish to say, that it has been a wonderful experience. Even through the challenges and frustrations of going through the publishing process and ensuring every page has the correct margins and every illustration has the right colour, I can say without any doubt that it has all been rewarding. It is the trials that make completing this first book all the more meaningful, and I am filled with a sense of serenity that I was able to do this with you.

It also demonstrates to me that sharing art in this way bridges so many gaps. Liz and I are two people that have never met face to face (she lives in America, I live in Australia). But together we have created something close to our hearts.

Regardless of our cultural background, our race, our colour, our religious and political beliefs, we have made a meaningful connection. It is concrete evidence that creativity, whether that be through stories, art, music or some other creative pursuit, can bridge so many gaps that is ailing our tiny blue dot.

And if young Freyja can make the world a little bit brighter, what more could I ask for?

Achieving Sexy

2017-02-03 Achieving Sexy v1.0

Achieving Sexy

No, this isn’t some vanity piece about fashion, or a fitness article on what exercises will give you the perfect abs. I would be surprised if you reached this blog with that in mind, but who knows what links will present themselves when you do a search on the internet.

This is a writer’s blog. A blog about writing.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense, does it? What has achieving sexy have anything to do with writing? This isn’t some weird sales pitch, I promise you. This is about all of us having a story or stories, and a desire to share them. Many of us have this treasure trove inside of us. This collection of experiences and dreams that makes us want to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard to create something that will evoke emotions, imagination, and thought in another person.

For some of us, it’s about a serious desire to make a profession out of it. To turn our story telling into a career. As soon as that decision has been made, any aspiring author will enter a world that is far more than just putting words to paper, or words to a computer screen as it were.

The business world of publishing is enormous and being able to navigate the other side of book writing will require a sturdy constitution. But regardless of the steps and missteps taken to get a book on the shelf. There is no sense in looking that far ahead without getting the book written in the first place.

So, it all comes back to that treasure trove inside of us.

There are some who say that the first step is the hardest. Forming that idea, and simply having the courage to start writing can be a challenge in itself. I’ve blogged previously about how it’s a trap to wait for the perfect circumstances before you start writing.

It’s a genuine concern for any writer starting out, but it doesn’t end there.

Starting is one thing. Finishing is another.

And finishing is where all manner of obstacles can appear. My last blog talked of the juggling act that we constantly do that is life, and this can easily take away from finishing our manuscript. I’ve attempted in the past to approach my writing with an attitude of squeezing it in when I can. This usually resulted, more often than not, with snippets of time where if I was lucky I could write a few paragraphs. If I happened to be particularly busy with life’s other responsibilities, which would lead into lengthy breaks between writing, I discovered I would spend a lot of time re-reading what I’ve written in order to refresh my memory. This approach is hardly ideal.

There is only one solution. If you genuinely wish to pursue creative writing as a profession then you need to develop a routine.

To hone your craft, to develop your skills, to get better at anything not just writing, requires implementing a routine. As the audience, we often see only the end product. Those that achieve success, regardless of their field of expertise, have done so through going through the grind. The discipline to stick to a routine in order to better themselves, in order to achieve. And if you’re a writer, it’s that routine that will help you finish off that manuscript.

When you have that dedicated time, the sense of purpose is focused. You can delve into that treasure trove and bring forth those jewels. That seemingly mundane act of sticking to that grind will polish your efforts, and you’ll end up with that story with stirring drama, or thrill-seeking mystery, or that sci-fi world in another universe.

Sexy isn’t only about physicality, it’s defined as being exciting or appealing. And through that routine you’ll finish a manuscript that will have an audience somewhere who will be moved by your words and will experience feelings and emotions that will stir their soul.

And that is how you achieve sexy.