Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Leaf Boat

Okay, so things are finally coming together. It has been a year since I started this blog, and only now are things getting published.

Ah ha! My first children's book.

You can purchase it online here: The Leaf Boat

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Freelance Copywriter

If you are looking for a freelance English copywriter click this link.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I missed this city. It's good to be back.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hitchhiking Up Coastlines

Unfortunate family circumstances have brought me back to Canada. While I won’t go into a lot of detail about this, suffice to say, I have returned to the homeland, at least for the time being.

Freelance has been keeping me fairly busy, and that’s nice, but I would like to find something more permanent. So I’m keeping my ear to the ground and sending out stuff here and there.

However, one great thing about freelance is the mobility it affords me. I can work from just about anywhere. A couple of days ago I hitchhiked up the coastline of Vancouver Island to visit an old friend. In the process I was able to work on assignments and brainstorm between rides on the wide open road.

I’ve hitched across Canada, Mexico, Poland, West Africa and the States, so I’m familiar with the game, and I forgot how exciting it is. You’re out on the road with everything you own on your back and the sun in the sky and the universe is there to play dice with your soul and you never quite know where you’ll go.

I caught rides with logging truck drivers and fishermen and scientists and punks from Montreal. And that was just this trip alone. I can keep anyone talking and that’s what they want: to share their adventures of the road.

And there are some great stories out there.

Everyone I met had hitchhiked before and everyone I met wanted to read my book. So I need to get going and start on Plan B: contacting literary agents en force.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


An interesting week.

I met with a publisher last night and he seemed somewhat interested.

I met another writer who has just been published by Penguin, she told me she could put me in touch with her literary agent in New York, same company that worked with Dan Brown, so that's promising.

I also found out that you are supposed to double-space. So, suddenly my 300 page novel has become a 600 page tome. It looks like I may have a trilogy on my hands. Hmm.

In other, other news. I've found an illustrator for a children's book I wrote: The Leaf Boat. The incredible Rachel Smith has almost finished, so I'll be sending that to publishers soon as well.

I'm still doing freelance at the moment, as well as teaching a writers' workshop. If you want to sign up, talk to Sukin Lee at 9344 5855 (don't forget to mention Mike's blog).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Feline Feedback

From my cranky editor, the marvelous S. Cat:

Here are your book-editing instructions:

Play this song, on repeat. Go through each chapter and look for words that don't need to be there. Assume the
reader understands the ferociously determined character through the story — the adventures — not necessarily the words. If you have to think about whether to delete a word or phrase more than three times, keep it in.

Good luck.


This video is super cool.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I've been mulling over the best way to reach a publisher.

I'm sure a literary agent could help, so I'll contact a few. However, I'm also planning to contact publishers directly. The way I see it, I'll approach this task in the same way I got into advertising in the first place, with lots of phone calls, and a lot of hustle.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

And Out Come the Wolves

I am now gathering feedback. My girlfriend, my mom, my friends, my ex-girlfriend. They all love it.

What I need are critics.

The best website for nasty but often true, tough-love feedback is Copywriters are precise people. At IHAI, you can find some of the best creatives from around the world. And their advice is invaluable, if not a little ruthless.

Either way, we're in the improving stage, so feedback is cool.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The book is finished!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Black Rain

Coming from Vancouver, I know rain. Nothing like this though.

Right now, we're on a Black Rain warning, again. This means everything is shut down and the roads are all flooded. Madness.
It's like a snow day, but with knee-deep water.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Status Update #5

Hmm, I think I pushed myself a bit too hard. I've been working nonstop every day and every night. I didn't sleep for four days and now I'm sick. Ugh.

So, I'm in recovery mode. The last chapter isn't finished yet. That's fine. I'm going to relax and recover for the next three days and rest my mind, then I'll attack this beast one more time.

I need to get a job. Being locked up in this apartment is driving me bananas.

Also, I'm way past deadline. I'm lucky I have a supportive mouse to help me out, but I suspect I am driving her a bit crazy as well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My Favourite Ad from 2007

Last Chapter Blues

I'm stuck.

I don't know how to finish this book.

My back is sore. My body is sore. I'm sick. I'm broke. This book has been the end of me. And it's not even finished yet. I need to go back to work.

On a brighter note: I do have three leads for publishers.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fresh Eyes

It's written. It's edited. The book is almost done. Everything but the final chapter that is.

Now, I plan to set it aside for two days and not think about it. I'll look at it again on the weekend and hopefully it will be a wrap by Sunday night.

Monday, May 26, 2008

One Nocturnal Son of a Gun

My hours have become ridiculous. I do my best work between 9 to 5. The other 9 to 5.

Friday, May 23, 2008


The wind was tearing through his hat, rustling the straw and biting his face. The snow was falling sideways. And there he was freezing: A battered leather briefcase, crummy leather gloves, and a black jacket that he’d scored in Sweden for twenty bucks.

He squared his scaly shoulders and looked around.

He was in France, on a bridge that was covered in snow. To his left was a cavernous drop of hundreds of feet to a frozen river, to the right: same thing. He was in the middle of the road, in the middle of December, at midnight and no one was around. Behind him, the Swiss border was closed.

Jimmy had a briefcase and a bottle of gin. He gnashed his pointed teeth in the chill. He was so tired he was delusional. He had been on the road for over twenty-four hours. Hitchhiking. Blitzing Europe. Trying to migrate from Sweden to Spain in one shot.

They’d dropped him off at the border about an hour earlier, and he started walking across this bridge for a place to catch a ride out of sight of the guards. No cars were coming through, so he turned back, and by the time he got there, the border was locked down.

He was stuck.

This is what you get when you drop all attachments. You never know where you’ll end up. This is what you get when you surrender to the fates, like a sailor at sea. You get adventures. You get a taste of the universe. And sometimes, you get stranded.

He stood there for about an hour. He turned blue. His fingers were freezing. This was no place for our lizard. When, suddenly, a brown delivery truck pulled up. This dude jumped out, in grey trousers, with his urchin hat in his hands, like something out of David Copperfield. He ran sprite-like to the guardhouse and picked something up. He punched in a code on a keypad and the gates slowly opened. Jimmy chased him down in the sleet.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back to the Front

It's all down on paper: Just under one hundred chapters (about 350 pages at this point). I've done a once-over edit.

Now I need to go to back to the beginning and really sift through it for the real gems.

More Sea Monsters

Friday, May 16, 2008

How's It Coming?

I know, I know, it's been a while since a post. I've been busy, but this thing is taking forever. It's soul-wrenching work.

Either way, I'm hoping I can have a first draft ready by the end of the month.

I ran into someone the other day who can put me in touch with a publisher, which is sweet. Also, I'm looking to print a couple hundred of my own to start. If anyone knows a cheap printer in China, let me know.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Status Update #4

Yes. I realize that I am now 11 days into extended time.

The first draft is still not done.

I am editing Chapter 53 as we speak.

All the chapters are written, it's the editing that's tough.
Either way, I'm at 53. I'll work my way up to 100 and then back through the whole thing.

She's coming together nicely.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spidey Senses

W+K are onto something and I want to know what it is.

There is something about their Nike ads that strikes a primal chord.

Every time, around 10 to 15 seconds before they show the logo at the end, you can feel it. Something. They create a physiological reaction through sound and image alone.

They create emotion.

Sometimes it’s a chill up the spine. Sometimes it’s that lump in the stomach, reverberating heartstrings, the sinking crest.

But you feel it. You feel something, every time, in exactly the same spots.

I want to know how they do this. I am dying to know. Hungry. I want to capture the smell of glass.

This one it's the 50-second mark. If you watch it from the beginning with complete focus, you get a cold chill at exactly the same point, every time.

Same deal. If you lose yourself in the character: Chills. Guy Ritchie directed this one, so maybe that's part of it. I love the music.

I always show this one, but it's fantastic. This one you get the tug around 0:23.

0:42. Love this music too.

What's the secret? Our empathy to raw, real human emotion? The choice of music? The editing?

I have to get back to writing. But this is what my writing needs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Freelance English Copywriter in Hong Kong

Life's not all beer and skittles, sometimes we have to work too.

So if you are looking for a freelance English copywriter click this link.

In the meantime, it's been a while since I've posted some ads:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Strange Hours

I do most of my writing between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. It's quiet and I have the place to myself.

It seems like they are always doing construction in Hong Kong. Everywhere you go, it's jackhammers and honking horns. It can drive you nuts. So I work at night, and get woken up early by traffic, and jackhammers, and honking horns.

So, yeah, I never sleep.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Extended Time

This is the first deadline I have ever missed in my life.

Let’s face it: A month to write a book from scratch is tough.

I need a few more weeks.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Status Update #3

I have a cranky editor demanding my first draft.

"Reading! What are you doing reading? You should be writing!"

Today is the 30th.

I have been writing nonstop for 30 days.

No, I'm not quite done yet. I am a third of the way through my first edit. After that I'll need another polish.

This writing a book business, it ain't easy. So many things to think about.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


One thing about being a bum and living at home is all the books you get to read.

Reading is cool. Especially if you’re a writer. I’m amazed at how many ideas are in every book. Polished. Finished. Sold. It’s like a copywriter’s whole portfolio.

I’ve read five books in the last month. That’s more than I usually read in a year. It’s so good for my writing: I should actually keep this a secret. And if I were not about to write a book myself, I would.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sea Monsters

We had heard of these giant creatures lurking under still water, circling and thriving in a cove near Donsol. Their legend had spread, in hushed whispers, to ears pricked for mystery as far as Canada.

My brother flew into Hong Kong from Vancouver. We caught a plane to Legaspi first thing the next morning.

Legaspi is the way a child pictures paradise: Clear blue skies with puffy white clouds, green palm trees and a perfectly conical volcano in the background with an omnipresent single soft plume of grey smoke. The whole town is surrounded by bubbly chocolate hills.

The next thing we knew we were bombing through the jungle in a van with a wild-eyed driver. The sun was beating down. The vegetation was lush and overgrown. The road was smooth and curvy and the locals had rice in tarps lain out on patches right there on the asphalt in front of us. We had to serve to miss them as we swung down the road to this sleepy little town. Here we would come face-to-face with the biggest sharks to ever swim the sea: The Butanding.

Jumping on a catamaran we set out to the open water with a guide and spotter at the helm. The wind billowed in our hair and the hot sun caked our backs. The ocean was still, but our spirits were soaring.

Soon, we spotted something: A huge dark shadow just under the surface. We piled to the side and circled round. And with masks strapped to our faces, snorkels in our teeth, and our hearts beating madly we plunged into the deep sea after the creature.

Bubbles. Thrashing. Someone screamed, “Over here.” And we plunged our heads deeper.

All was darkness. And bleak, until we turned in the crystalline murk to behold: An enormous shark mouth, only a few feet away, closing in on us.

The monster was massive. At least 20 feet long, with a maw the size of boat, a guillotine fin slicing the surface and massive gills on its neck that could suck up the whole sea.

It’s a good thing for us, the Butanding, or whale sharks, have no appetite for humans.

We swam with these gentle giants for minutes on end. Filming them, watching them, and they watched us back. And then they’d dive deep and we’d go back to the boat.

We swam with about a dozen sharks that day, never quite sure who was watching whom.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in Donsol and then booked it back to Legaspi where we spent the night under the eerie clouds and a single gray plume of smoke from the sleeping volcano.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Simple Solution


Yesterday I was confused.

I was so caught up in target markets and reactions, that I completely missed the point.

When deciding what to edit out and what to expand upon, the answer is obvious.

It’s whatever I think is interesting.

Simple. If I like it, it stays, if not, it goes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Edited It

I’m in the editing stage now.

Trying to give this thing some cohesion.

There are so many things to think about when you’re editing a book.

What do you expand upon, what do you not?

How do you keep readers hooked?

Keeping readers hooked, is that always a good thing?

Of course it is. No it isn’t. Hmm.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Internet Cafes

Maria and I have to share a laptop, which means I end up doing a lot of writing in this Internet cafe.

There is always Canto-pop blaring in these places. I blast The Misfits or Ministry and write in the din.

Sometimes all this mania, it gets me going and I'm productive as hell.

Today, for instance, I wrote like crazy. I've gone to the end of my story and now I'm back at the beginning writing forward.

But sometimes these places are just too noisy, even for me. Around 3:30 all the school kids pile in and scream and yell.

That's too much for our poor writer, so I have to go back home and get started all over again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All Work and No Play

I’m a little bit worried that this pace is going to be the end of me.

I’ve been writing like mad: 50 chapters in the last three weeks. Not to mention all the freelance that has been pouring in. (Yes, yes, short chapters, 3-4 pages, but still.)

All I do is write. I write every night until five or six a.m. And I run in the park. That is my life.

Writing. Writing. Writing. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fiction vs Non-fiction

I’m writing a story loosely based on my own adventures. This means that I am somewhat bound by things like um, historical accuracy.

While it may be much easier to write non-fiction in the sense that you already have the story all figured out for you. It is much more difficult in the sense that you have your hands tied by reality. Damn you, reality!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Magnificent Mundane

Years ago I had conversation about advertising with one of my friends. I thought it was a great way to write all day, hone your skills and get paid for it. His concern was that you’d only learn how to make ads and it wouldn’t help your overall writing.

Years later, I disagree. One thing you learn in copywriting is how to make the everyday, unexceptional things around you seem extraordinarily interesting.

This is a good skill for a writer, I figure (I hope).

Justin, Brian's brother, send me this one.

What’s That in the Background?

I bought the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album the other day. Fantastic writing. It’s my theme music at the moment: that and the new Portishead and some old Exploited.

Their Game. His Rules.

We just had the first typhoon of the year.

I went out for a run in Victoria Park and the cops watched me like I was crazy. The black rain was blinding and the track was slick and wet and shin-deep in places.

I did a lot of writing last night. Today, notsomuch.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Infernal Novels

I’ve hit a rut.

I'm pacing the rooftops of Hong Kong at midnight on a Friday because I've hit a rut.

At first, it was simple. I just wrote out the story as it happened: Chapter by chapter.

Now, I need to figure out a way to string it together.

I need to turn a book of short stories into a novel.

The easy part is getting the first draft down. I have a feeling making this coherent and seamless in the second draft might be a little tricky. Hmm.

Back to the roof.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yes Ah

After a few days and nights of feverish writing, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I just went outside to check out the Lion Dance on Paterson Guy. What a crazy city this is sometimes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Status Update #2

The sun is shining after four months of smog. So it's tough to get going today.

Either way, I think I'm roughly halfway though the first draft.

After that, a couple rounds of polish, and then, it's time to find a publisher.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I have insomnia.

I never sleep well.

It’s 4 a.m. now.

At least when you’re toiling from your own little shoebox, you don’t need to wake up in the morning.

New Way? What’s This About a New Way?

Kerouac has a quote, maybe his most famous quote:

“First thought, best thought.”

The idea is that you don’t edit your writing as you go along, you just tap in and flow.

That, I think is cool. I like the flow, and the stream of consciousness. Without going all Jungian, I think there’s something collectively cosmic there.

But still…

I’ve completely changed the way in which I write.

After years of copywriting, I see editing as an absolute necessity.

Advertising is all about the details, and months upon months of revisions.

It’s a crazy business.

Either way, what it’s taught me is that editing is crucial to get a solid, concise, single-minded message through.

Going back through my chapters, I can see places where I’m tapped in, and it’s great. Everything else can use a couple of rounds of intense polish and craft.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Freelance Copywriting

I picked up some freelance work, which is great, but now I'm swamped.

I'll need to put the ol' book on hold for a few days while I make rent.

Friday, April 11, 2008

SEO Copywriting

That was fast.

As I mentioned before, SEO copywriting is a hobby of mine.

Through it, I've managed to snag the first four spots on Google for English copywriter in Hong Kong and three on the first page for English copywriter.

So if nothing else, I'm easy to find. I get tons of freelance leads this way.

I'm hoping to have this book finished by May 1st. So I had better get back at it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

English Copywriter in Asia

Here is my new logo courtesy of Maria the Marvelous Mouse.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

That was a terrible idea. Talk about being paralyzed.

I am going to go back to my original plan. I'll just write, and get tapped in, and let the chips fall where they may.

Then, I'll go back and retro-fit.

I think having structure works wonders with fiction. Non-fiction, it's a nightmare.

The Client has Changed the Brief

Aha! And oh no!

After feverishly writing for the last eight days, I just realized: I need a brief.

It is one thing to write away like a madman, and allow the story to go where it may, and quite another to have some structure, to make it like, you know, readable.

So…I’ve decided to put the ol’ Strategic Planner/Account Guy hat on to figure out how to organize this sucker.

This means I will probably have to rewrite most of what I’ve written, from scratch, again. Argh.

Sure enough, one week from now I’ll probably decide that a brief is stifling and that I was better off with stream-of-consciousness-type beat prose, which is where I was to begin with.

Hmm. It seems the right brain and left brain are back at it.

Either way, a brief can’t hurt. That’s my plan for the day.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Status Update # 1

Right now I am caught up in the spirit of momentum. I have written 20 chapters in the last 6 days. Some of them are incomplete, some of them, I am sure, are nonsense.

This matters not. Flow is key. I will go back to fix and correct afterward.

Between chapters, I am reading Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and Travels by Michael Crichton. I don’t believe there are any two authors who are more contrary in their writing styles.

Miller is all about emotion, and feeling, and the wild rush of being tapped in. He is magic.

Crichton writes like a copywriter. He is methodical and calculating and factual.

My style is somewhere in between. In my prose, there is, and always has been, a mismatched mix of mania and precision.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Rooftop

There are red tiles spattered
With pink and dark paint
Perfectly set in shoddy gore
And smeared with a sludge of smooth concrete
That always looks wet on the floor.

There are clothes hung out on nylon cords
The kind of stuff no one wears
Across the harbour under a cloak of smog
Kowloon is gasping for air.

Ships sail, cars wind, and buildings sprout up like mould
I sit in the sun and drink whisky drys
Reading Henry Miller
Writing what I’m told.

In big blue block letters are sprayed
Directly across the fluorescent SOGO sign
Here come the Filipino maids…

They fill buckets from the hose
Or take down their clothes
I sit on the broken white lawn chairs.

Behind laundry-less lines
On Paterson Guy
In this putrid pink place
Under harsh UV rays
In my knock-off Chanels
Ah, what the hell,
I can’t think of anywhere better.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I was on a pretty good roll there for a while: writing three chapters a day.

But yesterday, I didn't do anything. I wanted to spend some time with my mouse. Now I'm having a hard time getting going again.

Momentum is key, even if it's only a few pages a day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Skeleton

The plan is to write the whole thing as fast as humanly possible. Get the bare bones down and then go back and edit.

When I'm rolling, I'm rolling. So when the flow is right, I have to keep it going.

Everything else, I'll fix up in post.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Beginning

When Henry Miller was starting out, he wrote a letter to his favourite author asking how to begin as a writer.

“By writing,” was the reply he got.

On Bukowski’s tombstone it says, “Don’t try.”

This means, don’t try to be something. Be something.

So here goes. I’m on my way. And I’m writing from scratch.

Sure I had sixty some chapters written before, but I’ve decided to start anew.

But first things first, I had to make sure I can get work when I’m done, as I’m already raiding the change jar.

So, I placed a few ads online. Then, I wrote a story about our trip to the Philippines that I can hopefully sell to a travel magazine (if you are interested, let me know). And I had to nab a bit of freelance to keep the wolves from the door.

Now, I can start.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Writer in Hong Kong

I've been writing since I was six years old.

I always knew I would be a writer. I just needed a few things to get me started.

1. I needed some adventures that I could write about.
2. I needed some skills.

When I was 24 I walked across most of Morocco with everything I owned in a bag on my back. I hitched quite a lot too, actually. But either way, I was in this little town called Barga one night and I realized that if I was going to write for a living I had better find a job that would let me do so. And travel too.

I figured journalism or travel writing would be perfect for me.

I did that for a while, and then I decided I missed the creative element. So I went into advertising to be a copywriter.

Copywriting suited me just fine.

Either way, from Barga, I kept on travelling for the next eight years, having as many adventures as I could.

But I knew I needed to strengthen my craft.

Advertising agencies cut my teeth like you wouldn't believe.

My writing improved tenfold working with Ogilvy and Mather and Publicis here in Hong Kong. And in Vancouver, Diane at Creative Wonders and Rick at TBWA gave me the foundation of marketable flow. And I cannot forget Rem, who also helped me in Brisbane at McCann Erickson.

After years of living and breathing copywriting, I'm ready to write my novel.

It's not a commercial book. It's just a story that needs to be told. It's about my adventures of travelling around the world. And I am going to take the next month to get it down.

So here is my latest blog, and my latest pursuit: To get this book published.

I'll break it down like this:

1. Spend the month of April writing.
2. Find work (hopefully at an advertising agency) May 1st.
3. Keep this blog going as I document my journey into the publishing world.

I want it printed, distributed and on its way, hopefully within the year.

So. If you stumble across this blog looking around for a freelance English copywriter, you are not necessarily in the wrong place. I need to eat. So I need to work. So I'll be taking offers for jobs that start after April.

To keep my teeth sharp, I'm also planning to take over the top ranks for English copywriter on Google.

As my faithful readers will know, I have seized the #1 and #3 spots for "English copywriter" on Google. With this blog, I would like to get another spot on the first page, but we'll see how it goes. It takes a little SEO maneuvering, which has become something of a hobby of mine.

Anyway, here I am, in my little pad in Causeway Bay, writing away. I hope to make this guy exactly 100 chapters, so wish me luck.

And hopefully, one day, writers can stumble across this blog and learn the trials and tribulations of getting their work published, by learning from me, as I smash about from Square One.