All posts by Tina

Kuala Lumpur & Malaysia

I travelled by taxi in Singapore a few months back and got into a conversation with my driver. We conversed in English the entire time and, while negotiating the best traffic route to take me to my destination, the taxi driver uttered surprise when I explained I was not local so I’d have to trust him to take the most efficient path.

“But you speak English so well. And you’re cultured. Like a Singaporean!” the taxi driver exclaimed.

“Uh, yeah…” I replied, “Many Malaysians do. We don’t live in trees, you know? You’ll be pleased to know your neighbours drive cars, work professional jobs and live in brick houses!” I added, tongue in cheek.

That was a comical situation alright, but not as uncommon as you’d think. This was in our neighbouring country, Singapore. What kind of reaction do you think I get from folks I meet in Europe and America?

When I lived in UK in the 80s, the only English locals who’d heard of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia were those who followed the news because some unfortunate Brit sod had got himself arrested in Kuala Lumpur on drug possession, and everyone in the Western World was debating the mandatory death sentence that Malaysia imposes on convicted drug traffickers. More recently, the reason my friends in Florida are familiar with Malaysia is due to the unfortunate series of flight disasters involving Malaysian-owned airlines.

So, I thought for today’s post, I’d give those unfamiliar with Malaysia and considering a visit a brief introduction about my country, and Kuala Lumpur, it’s capital city, my place of birth and residence.

In a nutshell, Malaysia is a country of almost 30 million citizens (demographics as at 2015), geographically situated in South East Asia. Malaysia’s main body of lands are the Malaysian Peninsula (just below the tip of Thailand) which houses 11 of its 13 states, of which the federal and commercial capital is Kuala Lumpur and administrative hub Putrajaya, and the two states Sabah and Sarawak sit at the northern part of Kalimantan island. Neighbouring nations are Thailand, Burma (aka Myanmar), Cambodia and Vietnam to the north; Indonesia, Singapore and Australia to the south; and Philippines to the north-east. 

Due to its historical significance as a commercial meeting place for trade in the 18th century, Malaysia is a hodge-podge of cultures. Its population is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, consisting of Malays (approx. 45%), Chinese (approx. 43%), Indians (approx. 10%) with many other ethnicities making up the rest. The official religion is Islam, although many citizens practice other faiths; the most common, after Islam, are Buddism, Christianity and Hinduism.

The name “Kuala Lumpur” originates from the Malay words ‘Kuala’ (which means confluence) and ‘Lumpur’ (which means mud), thus signifying the geographical confluence or meeting of two rivers that run through in the city: Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang (you guessed it, ‘Sungai’ means river). Malay is the country’s official and national language, although many other languages are spoken amongst natives including English and dialects of Chinese and Indian. 

Those who keep track of global architectural developments would know that the Petronas Twin Towers, which looms over the Kuala Lumpur skyline, was recognized as the world’s tallest building from 1998 to 2004. Kuala Lumpur is quite the center for retail, with over 70 large shopping malls and thousand of smaller retailer outlets offering the latest haute couture to the most intricate handicraft. Malaysians are also known for our warm hospitality and love for food. Because of the blend of cultures, you’ll find delicacies from all the main ethnic groups and other nations here, including Malaysianized versions of these too.

Apart from the Kuala Lumpur metropolis, our country is home to the most beautiful rainforests and beaches. Western tourists regard Malaysia as a one-stop center for world travels since we have a bit of all Asian cultures in one melting-pot. Plus, currency exchange with major Western currencies is decent AND the majority of our people speak English.

So, that’s a quick introduction to my beloved capital city and country. We are a civilized society. And, I assure you, we don’t live on trees unless we’re on a bird-watching stint.

My apologies for not having any of my own pictures of the Kuala Lumpur skyline to show you at this point. Instead (because I’m a foodie) I append below a few pictures of Malaysian delicacies to whet your appetite!

Just do a simple Internet search to find out more! And I hope you’ll consider visiting our land of beauty and multi-culturalism!




Jogging The Inner Procrastinator

by Tina Isaacs

Everyone suffers from a procrastination problem to some degree or another. It’s very tempting to push a task that is difficult or time-consuming to later, but delaying the inevitable can cause other problems such as missed deadlines or worse, absolute non-completion. When the work doesn’t get done at all, this can cause unnecessary expense and even cost money if a penalty is involved, perhaps leading to other legal ramifications and consequences.

With writers, the dilemma of the inner procrastinator becomes particularly disturbing (crossing over into an utterly pathological condition!), because writers are governed by their own time management issues and constraints. Often, writing is forced to be squeezed into whatever leftover time after juggling the day job and family obligations.


For established writers facing strict deadlines (such as a timetable fixed by a publisher), this problem is less obvious. The real expectation of prospective publication, looming cut-off dates for submission, contractual and financial implications for not complying is enough motivation to crack the toughest cookie. 

But what about writers working on a debut project or simply struggling to get that ‘smashing idea’ from their heads onto paper or typed out? The uncertainty of whether their work will ever be able to be published will constantly feed the inner procrastinator.

How do these aspiring writers get into a routine of consistent and habitual writing? How do they ‘jog’ their inner procrastinator into rhythm?

I’d like to share a few ways I’ve forced myself to overcome this problem: 

  • Being active within my local writers community, surrounded by other committed writers who constantly share their practical experiences and successes, talk about their soon-to-be-published books and launches, immerses me in an environment where writing is not relegated the status of a mere pastime. These writers treat their vocation as a full-time occupation capable of generating a livelihood. I find this one of the greatest motivators for me to get my act together.*
  • Signing up for a writing course. In my case, I signed up to the mother of them all, a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program. The costs alone (money, time and hardship) was certainly enough to push me in the right direction!**
  • Keeping a close ear to online/social media networks involving the literary industry for the same reason eg. befriending other writers on social media, joining writers groups on Facebook, following Twitter accounts of writers, publishers and literary agents, and keeping abreast of book launches and reviews on Goodreads;
  • Subscription of online and print periodicals or literary magazines to keep me reading and constantly in touch with goings-on in the industry;
  • Keeping abreast of short story contests or literary submission invites, noting their deadlines in my diary and working towards them within a reasonable timeframe. This keeps my writing varied (which eases boredom, one of the worst enemies of a fiction writer’s mind) and constantly reaching towards an attainable goal. Participating in writing competitions can only go towards improving your writing, because the more you write, the more you develop your writing voice. In the writing industry, this also helps towards improving and developing a writers’ resume and presence in the industry;
  • Participating regularly in Writers’ Readings, Write-Ins, Exhibitions, Conferences and Writing Retreats within my local vicinity that have me thinking about writing and ‘walking the talk’ all the time;
  • Within the past year I have begun collaborating with a few writing partners. We beta-read and critique each others’ work on a quid pro quo basis. This not only cost effective, it also allows both parties to provide frank feedback on each other’s work (an impartial second-view of your manuscript helps tremendously towards the improvement of your writing), in addition to creating an external motivating factor through the mutually agreed deadlines for completion of set chapters. This arrangement requires trustworthiness, open communication, similar or comparable writing levels, and a lot of discipline;
  • For the first time in 2014, I took part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This annual worldwide campaign/movement challenges fiction writers from across the globe, from any genre or language to write and complete a 50,000-word novel within the timespan of 30 days, i.e. during the entire month of November. The deadline of completing 50,000 words (broken down to a daily word count of approximately 1,667 words) forced myself through excuses, self-imposed obstacles, distractions, beating my horrible habit of re-editing and second-guessing my writing. It also helped me compartmentalize my thoughts and focus my attention quickly (a technique I’d used for my work, but never for writing). Although I can’t say whether I am able to partake in the challenge annually, I am proud to say I did achieve a NaNoWriMo win in 2014 (i.e. completing that 50k challenge) and gained the epiphany that I could push myself through anything if I forced myself to it a constant daily habit. Read about the campaign from the campaign website and at;
  • Participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge organized by this April. Similar to NaNoWriMo, but for bloggers, this campaign invites bloggers to make daily posts on topics in alphabetical order during the month of April every year, with rests every Sunday. The challenge is to complete posts bearing letters of the alphabet, with the letter “A” in Day 1, letter “B” in Day 2 and so on until all 26 alphabets are exhausted. I decided to utilize this campaign to develop each chapter of the books I been meaning to write (you’ll see these chapters as ‘Pages’ of my website above). On slower days, when I’m bogged down with other work or cannot afford the time for my chapter research, I write short anecdotes and musings as ‘blogposts’ (in the Ramblings section of my website) as a way of keeping my writing habit churning. This is a great way to keep my mind active too, because the challenge of coming up with a topic which fits the alphabet of the day is akin to a writing prompt for fiction. In fact, this very post is my submission for the letter “J” (clever, huh?)


These techniques have helped me in the past few years to get my act together – I’m now working on my debut fiction novel and a non-fiction project – and are some of the lengths I have gone through to jog and beat my inner procrastinator. I’m happy to say that, because of these numerous techniques, the so-called “writers block” has yet to cast its claws into me.

For those aspiring writers amongst you who lack the motivation to get cracking on that novel, I urge you to try these (or any similar methods better suited to your personal circumstances) to motivate yourself to keep writing. 

I mean, that brilliant book isn’t going to write itself!

Coupled with the right attitude, the passion and determination, I assure you it works! The idea is to keep the writing momentum going. By force of inertia alone, you would become a successful writer in no time.

Remember the saying: A professional is an amateur who never quit – Richard Bach

Happy writing!

*This writer is founder and moderator/administrator of the Malaysian Writers Facebook group, which is described as “A platform and community for writers of fiction, non-fiction or poetry of Malaysian citizenship/permanent residence or non-Malaysians who write and work in/from Malaysia; who are published or aspiring; writing in any genre, via any medium and in ANY language (includes short story writers, columnists, journalists, bloggers, editors, copywriters, scriptwriters and literary translators).”

**This writer is a candidate for the MFA at the University of Tampa, Florida, due to graduate in 2016. Read more about her experience in Why The US MFA Works For Me.


Inside A Fool’s Paradise

by Tina Isaacs

(Lyrics for Antero)

He’s just a boy, lost to the world

With a heart, empty with no soul

Drifting aimlessly with the wind

Wonderin’ how, wonderin’ where to begin


Like a candle brightening an empty room

No destiny, no purpose in mind

(And he’s) Searching for a beacon along the way

To lead and guide him through life’s pain



And maybe, just maybe, he’ll make it out

Perhaps (one day) when he’s had enough



Maybe one day he’ll turn to the next page

The light will shine the way

Leave it all behind and he will stay away

Wishing that someone would care


– guitar solo –


He makes a wish, hope against hope

For that someone who’ll light his way

For some meaning, reason to go on

He’s been long lost, inside a fool’s paradise


Something tells him he’s not alone

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

There’s no choice, maybe no way out

But he must toil to the end



Wondering’ if there’s someone who cares



He makes a wish, hope against hope

For that someone who’ll light his way

For some meaning, reason to go on

He’s been long lost, inside a fool’s paradise

– Repeat Chorus –



*Lyrics of a track from the album written and recorded by my alternative rock band, Antero, in 1997




Human Nature – Caution and Distrust

 by Tina Isaacs


I got talking with one of the writers in my #MYWriters community – both of us moderate an online community on a voluntary basis – about how distrustful and unnecessarily suspicious some people are.

When organizing a meeting to facilitate the exchange of books, she has people approach her with comments like: “How much you charge? Nothing ah? Sure there is a catch wan…” Like they’re waiting for a surprise drawback whenever someone does something genuinely kind for them.

It got me thinking about my own voluntary work, both within the legal community – I reckon lawyers are a privileged bunch who should spread their knowledge to those who have little or no access to legal representation – and within the writing community (a writer friend roped me in to mentor and motivate either new writers who lack the basic writing knowledge or those who need the external push to make sure they achieve progress on their manuscripts – like a gym buddy). This got me musing about how some people had looked at me with surprise when I speak of the voluntary work I do, like “what does this girl want out of this?“. 

Yes, I don’t charge a fee. No, I don’t expect you to buy me dinner either. No, I don’t intend to sell you life insurance once we know each other better. I definitely have no plans whatsoever to sign you up as my Multi-Level-Marketing downline. And I have no expectations that you buy box-loads of my books once they are released.

I just genuinely want to help you because I know what it’s like to be alone, with no one to turn to, with no one to motivate me in this lonely path I’ve set for myself. And heck, why not spread this positive spirit around? The more good writers there are out there, the better the state of our publishing industry, isn’t it?

Same goes for providing legal assistance. Isn’t it good that people don’t wander around acting to their detriment just because they don’t know what their rights are? Isn’t that better for our country, for the human race in general? And NO, I’m not going to surreptitiously send you a bill for legal fees somewhere down the line. When I say I’m helping, I’m just helping, y’all. We lawyers call it pro bono work, look it up!

Well, as my friend and I discussed, there is such a sad state of distrust out there.

I wonder, is this caution a natural part of human nature?

Is it the deplorable state of human relations and crime statistics that causes people to second-guess every offer for assistance, to think that every Good Samaritan has something up their sleeve?

I know there’s the saying that “Nothing is Free”. And I agree that in this day and age, it pays to be cautious. I’m a lawyer, for f-s sake.

But, I wonder what is wrong with a person who cast doubt against the whole world? Like my friend said, she doesn’t know whether to pity, feel sad for them, or get outraged at the whole situation.

Le Sigh…

Well, to all the Good Samaritans out there, my kudos to you for trying to make the world a better place. Don’t worry too much about the nay-sayers and the second-guessers. Just keep at it because you believe it should be done, and because it fulfills your spirit and soul to give something back.

Keep calm and spread positivism, my friends…


Getting Your Groove

A mom’s advice to the teenager

 by Tina Isaacs


It’s very easy to be caught up in the things that happen around you – people who seem important enough for you to emulate or hang around with (they say you are who you mingle with, rite?), ideals that need to be chased, clothes need to be worn, words needed to be said – so much so that it’s sometimes difficult to find yourself amongst the utter mess of everything. 

You can fake it with most of the people around you but not so much with your closest friends (if you can, perhaps they’re not that close after all?) or your family who has known you all your life. Most importantly, you cannot lie to yourself.

Another thing: if you lie about yourself to others, this becomes obvious to anyone who spends enough time around you, you slip up, you act inconsistently to the situations and events that occur around you, you end up resenting having to keep up the falsity – because it is not natural to you – and you cause pain to yourself, the ones you love and those who love or care about you.

Remember that, although life feels absolutely momentous right now, your teenage years are a transitional period of the life of an average person who lives till their mid-70s. No matter what hardship and sacrifices you make now, these are TEMPORARY. That means if you don’t quite fit in with ‘cool crowd’, are hated by the bullies in school, this is only a temporary phase in your life which will go away once you leave school, become an adult and build a life for yourself.

Getting or achieving your groove is important because it is the beat that takes you on your life’s journey, it is the song that accompanies your every step, it’s the rhythm that swings you through your life. Your GROOVE is what allows you to live your life at its calmness, happiest, most serene and positive.

In order for you to achieve your groove, you need to ask yourself: what rings true to you? What’s true in your heart, what does not hurt or cause you harm, what provides for your long-term wellbeing, and nurtures you as a person, a soul, a spirit?

Find it and be true to yourself. 

If you love yourself absolutely and find that groove, regardless of the temporary occurrences around you, it will take you into a happy adulthood, and give you the strength to forge through the building of a strong personal life, and a successful professional life too.

And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. What I mean by that is not to throw caution to the wind (trying everything and anything merely for the purpose of gaining experience in your life). No. That’s wrong. Because, you musn’t forget that some life experiences can scar you FOREVER and some scars can never be taken away from your physical or mental being.  What I mean by not being afraid of making mistakes is that when you don’t get it right the first few times, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, don’t be afraid to say “this is not me”, and walk on to forge a new you. Never be afraid to say I’m sorry, especially to the people that you hurt. And never be afraid to say sorry to yourself.

Find your groove.

I wish you a happy journey into adulthood.