Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sustainable Artistic Pursuits with Astute Financial Management.

Today I just to share my ideas on pursuing one's interest in the Arts.

There are quite a lot of friends around me who want to be artists. Many want to publish a book of fiction, some like to draw, others want to pursue photography. A common grouse is that Singapore as a society does not respect the Arts and someone's dreams cannot be fulfilled because of other Singaporeans and their pragmatism.

We're currently in the middle of dividends season, and I just had an insight that I am probably closer to living a life of a writer than many of my peers.

Passive income is a "no-brainer" for artists. Steady cash flow is a welcome addition if you have a creative pursuit and may have to suffer an unpredictable cash flow if you choose to make it your primary income.

In fact, in Singapore, I may even argue that passive income is a pre-requisite for proper pursuit in the creative arts. If I do not have any fear of my family starving while I write my book or do my painting, I may be able to devote more time to my pursuits and take on bigger risks. This will buy time for me to practise and really become the best in my field.

As it stands, I have an opportunity to try something I'm really not particularly good at. I can spend my extra time to create a small piece of fiction, pay for writing lessons, pay for editing and float it into the book-stores.

It can sell zero copies, I won't be destroyed by my attempt if it fails. The next round of dividends can pay for my next version and so on...

Anyway, these are my plans I have brewing in the background. Next step is to pay for all the workshop events in the Singapore Writers festival and keep up the pressure to become a decent writer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's next ? Some random thoughts.

Here are some random thoughts on writing, passive income and financial independence.

a) A financially independent employee/entrepreneur is better off than just simply being financially independent.

Just yesterday, most investors would have had a major pay-off from their dividends. There was enough for me to sustain myself for the next 1.5 months until my next set of dividend income which comes in on September.

Coupled with the recent downturn, I am pretty grateful for my work in the unions these days because it has become easier to use earned income to pick up some bargains on a market downturn, something which someone who is simply unemployed but comfortable is unable to do. ( Unless he is so rich he lives on the dividends of his dividends, something I hope to achieve before I die. )

Of course I can write an entire book on how staying employed gives a person the ability to achieve a state of flow and hang out with a nice bunch of colleagues.

b) Passive income from writing is something worth fighting for.

I have no illusions about how hard is it to make money by writing. It sucks ! Only a crazy moron would quit a job to write full time in Singapore. While its entirely possible to succeed, you can jeopardise your family by indulging your fantasies about having a book out on the shelves.

That aside, I get about $100 from all my books every month. Cheques come in twice a year and I make $3 USD every month on my $0.99 Kindle publication per month. The power of royalty income is that it does'nt really correlate with the markets. My books will probably sell in bad times or good times even though they always sell pretty badly.

When your day job is done and your investments are humming, building your passive royalty income will be really slow but can be personally satisfying.

c) Very few avenues to sharpen writing skills in Singapore

If you want to pick up fiction-writing, Felix Cheong is the Man!

NUS Extension Writing Class

I've done the classes and even read a book on an MFA ( What is CFA and MBA of the Arts ). My next step is to engage very aggressively the Singapore Writer's Festival, plonking $140 bucks into paid workshops and attending the talk by Steven Levitt.

Who knows, maybe in two years time in 2013, I'll be doing the talking and others will be paying me to understand how I write my books. ( One can always dream. )

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Final Writing Lesson - Quick tour of the Singapore Literary landscape.

Friday was the last writing lesson for me. Most of us in the class felt rather sad. By the time the course ended, class participants have just gotten into the groove of making fiction submissions, it is too bad that this has to stop.

In the last lesson, Felix walked us through the literature landscape with some books to read. I will not spoil the full list here but I did see three familiar titles which I have read.

a) Gone Case - Dave Chua.
b) The proper care of foxes - Wena Poon.
c) If we dream too long - Goh Poh Seng ( By far my favourite )

Of particular is that some upcoming books were passed around the class. I was able to feel the book and assess the quality of the paper and art.

Anyway, I'm posting my final submission here. My classmates commented that the story opened well but I should have expanded on the first half instead of coming up with the morbid second half.


Boris' nipples hurt – a lot. To him, nipples are not quite different from an elected president, both are used for ceremonial purposes.

But he can only blame himself as his freshly installed nipple-ring scraped against his bear outfit. It has swollen to the point of becoming red. Perhaps Boris might end up with an infection on the wrong part his chest. But in a few moments, the pain would have been considered all worthwhile. Boris has been waiting for this event to happen all his life.

It started with an Internet Chat-Room called #bearyland, Boris has been lurking and participating in the chatroom for many years. #bearyland was a a very special chatroom, instead of the normal IT geeks and chicks who frequent the Internet, #bearyland is a chatroom that caters to furries, people who have a kink or personal attraction to other people dressed as furry stuffed animals. While amateurs dismiss furries as just people are into Sesame street or the Muppets, a true furry can spend thousands of dollars on an outfit, complete with flaps placed strategically at different parts of their bodies, to facilitate acts that only a furry would know and understand.

Boris has spent years asking for a meet-up with fellow furries, but most of them were quite shy. A lot of furries are a little ashamed of their own inclinations and having an actual meet-up would be the last thing on their minds.

But not today. The folks who frequent #bearyland now have a way to meet without making the public feel at ease. Today is the cosplay convention at Singapore Expo and this is Boris' chance to meet his other friends who has his own interests.

Boris likes the colour pink. He gets turned on by other furries who dress in that colour. You might say that Boris wants something feminine but Boris would argue that it does'nt matter who is behind the outfit, the outfit is the real deal. The outfit allows the furry to express himself as how he genuinely saw himself. Besides, sexual orientation and gender are concepts that are so 20th Century.

Boris walks into the crowds of cosplayers who are reveling in all that attention from an eager group of photographers. Some girls walked by were wearing Sailor Moon outfits ( Tramps ! ). Seconds later, a section of Stormtroopers marched by (Fascists !). Boris ignores them all and begins to look for other furries just like himself.

He is soon in luck. Pink paw gestures to Boris from the corner of his eye.The paw belongs to a creature that looks like a cat in all it's pink glory. The cat has a sweet smile and adorable disposition.

As Boris got nearer, the enigmatic Pink Cat placed a tiny card on his brown furry paws and then waved goodbye to him and danced away.

The condominium is located on the East Coast. Boris could change into his outfit at the fitting room on the ground floor before taking the lift to the unit where the party takes place.

The condominium unit that Boris walks into is not something that he has expected. The rooms looks dilapidated and gives an eerie feeling to Boris that he cannot explain. The television is on, playing some creepy horror movie that involves zombies.

As Boris trundles into the center of the living room, the door slams shut and Boris can hear a click as the locks become. activated.

Emerging from the shadows is the Cat in Pink, the expression on the costume looked somewhat different from the cheerful expression what greeted Boris in the Expo. The Pink Cat looked a lot more feral and what used to be a smile now looked like a scowl. Boris swears that the Pink Cat's eyes are glowing red.

The flaps on the Pink Cat costume opened. To Boris' horror, a stream of what could be thousands of tiny rodents with glowing red eyes began to scurry down from the Pink Cat's opened flap at its groin region, they raced towards Boris who is too stunned to react.

Boris began to scream and stomp as the gerbils started to surround him, driven insane by the cacophony of chittering noises.

It felt ironic that throughout his entire life, Boris wanted to be surrounded by furries. Now thousands of furries are surrounding him, trying to squirm and wiggle into his costume. Before he blacked out, he could feel something small and furry dive crawl up his rear-end.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fiction Writing #7 : Opportunities, Scholarships and Competitions.

This update is going to be really short. For folks like me, writing is an attempt to build a third source of passive income. It's slow, has a ridiculous low ROI, but writing creates cash flows that do not vary with the prevailing economic situation.

With books at $0.99 in Kindle, you'll likely make the same amount of money during a downturn. If your book actually describes what to do in a downturn, then it'll probably peak during times of economic distress.

It may take someone like me 10 years to pay off my electrical bills with my book royalties, but hey, you'll never know if you'll luck out and have a bestseller in your hands if you just keep on trying.

I won't really go into detail into this lesson because I think interested folks should give Felix Cheong, my instructor, some business. This one lesson itself is worth the price of the entire course fee.

Anyway, today's lesson is the most important one for the product creator:

a) It lists our the key local publishers that a writer can approach to get his book out on the bookshelves.
b) It discusses some sources of funding from the government as well as scholarships.
c) It provides a list of writing competitions to keep the deliberate practice going. ( And thought the Golden was the only thing which I can participate in. )

Anyway, we're almost to the end of the course so the last write-up will be next week.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fiction writing lesson #6 : Genres

The last lesson had almost no theory. We spent the greater part of the day going through the works of other writers and coming up with a criticism of their work.

Genres can be thought of as imaginative or realistic.

Imaginative genres include fantasy, science fiction or even wuxia. Law of physics can be bent and it's normally expected that wizards can cast spells.

Realistic genres include detective, romance or historical genre. Even though the events are fictional, they can possibly happen in the real world.

Authors write within genres because it's easier to ease the reader into their world. Bestselling ideas often involve mixing and matching different genres. For example, teenage vampire fiction like the Twilight series mixes the horror and romance genres.

My own personal project which resulted in a Golden Point submission this year is sort of Harry Potter meets Song of Ice and Fire in the Singapore school system.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Fiction Writing Lesson #5 : Perspectives

Writing class is now starting to become interesting. As the homework submissions become larger, we now spend more than half the time reading and critiquing other people's writing which I think is really good because it shows us how to sharpen our own writing skills.

In a good writing class, theory should be thin and to the point. The rest of the time should be spent on critique and writing fiction itself.

Today's lesson is on perspectives.

When writing in first person perspective, we write from the point of view of one person. Sherlock Holmes stories are written from the perspective of Dr. Watson. This form of writing is fairly common. This form of writing gets especially interesting when you write from the point of view of an evil character. You may have to introduce a long stream of rationalizations into your writing and narrations can be unreliable as well. George R R Martin's Song of Fire and Ice divides his chapters into multiple first person narratives and is a good showcase on the power of using this technique for writing.

When writing in third person perspective, you become some sort of godly being that can move from different points of view from multiple characters. Dragonlance, Lord of the Rings employ this approach. This is the most common perspective found in fantasy fiction and most plot driven narratives.

The hardest perspective to write with is the second person perspective. The book addresses the reader as the protagonist of the story. Uncommon in literature, the second person perspective has spawned the gamebooks genre like Choose your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy series where you get to be the fantasy hero of the story.

" You step into the Dungeon of Chaos and find an orc eating a pie. He draws his sword and charges towards you. If you strike him down turn to page 69."

Unfortunately for all of us students, we would have to write a story based on second person perspective and submit by next Friday. Fortunately, my many years as a Dungeon Master will be useful for this exercise as it is the primary mode which I narrate a game to my players.