Monday, May 31, 2010

Whew.

Sent off the MS to two publishers and agent. Stormlord's Exile is at the moment a few thousand words shorter than the other two.

Now the nail-biting begins. Will they shriek in despair and tell me start all over again??

Am still polishing while awaiting input, which might be several weeks away yet.

And I am looking around to decide what I should do with my supposedly spare time. Answer emails? Revamp my website? Clean the house? Wash the windows? Get my business files in order? Start the next book? Catch up on some reading? Catch up on socialising? Sleep? Exercise? Take some more photos of Four-Lined Tree Frogs that sit on my clothes line and periodically scare the bejeezus out of me by plonking dinner plate feet on my face or skull?

Actually, he's small enough to sit on the palm of my hand, and last night he was sitting on the veranda basking in the sunset light, hence the lovely gold colour. And he has the most glorious bronze eyelids that no photo does justice to.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

So, what should you ask an author??

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I'm busy cleaning up the MS for Stormlord's Exile, if you are wondering about the dearth of posts lately. Almost there. And once it is done, do I sit back basking in the light of my great literary achievement ...?

  1. Ha. Just because I submit the thing doesn't mean it's finished, not by a longshot.
  2. Or, for that matter, that it is a great literary achievement.
  3. There are 400 emails in my inbox needing attention.
  4. There are 300 days of housework not done.
  5. My agent is already asking for the outline of the next one.
And if you need to know what to ask an author in an interview, read this very funny compilation by numerous authors. I had no idea John Banville would be so gloriously combative...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Advance read anyone?

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It's not often you the reader get a chance to have in your hand a completed, polished book 4 or 5 months in advance of publication. The real deal, not a beta-read copy. Plus receiving the two previous books in the series.

No, not mine. But you might like to check this fun competition out at Celine (Moorehawke) Kiernan's website.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wow, really?

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"Three-quarters of readers are not aware of the Amazon Kindle. Three in every five have never even heard of a Sony Reader. The vast majority of consumers (68%) are unlikely or dead set against buying an e-book reader."

Wow. These are the results of a UK online survey of readers. Also:

"Surprisingly perhaps, it is not the youngest readers who are most interested in the idea of an e-reader: it is 41–60-year-olds."

and:

"Fans of serious non-fiction and science fiction are generally most positive about innovative products in general. However, crime fans are most interested in e-readers, and romance and celebrity biography fans in mobile phone-readable books and netbooks."

Interesting stuff. Click on the link above for more.

And below: one of those liquid gold sunsets, from my kitchen window. Ok, so probably a result of pollution, but it sure was pretty.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Covers: Poll results - your preference

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For those of you you who didn't read the Guardian article on book covers, it said booksellers (who sometimes influence publishers in their choice of cover) think that generic mass-market-appeal covers outsell more offbeat covers or striking covers (and this is not just for sf/f books either). The article indicated that what matters is not the actual accuracy of a cover re the story within, but rather that it implies the general type of story - even when it may be quite inaccurate as to theme and atmosphere.

Remember, the question was: which cover would make you pick up the book with a view to buying? In other words, which cover piques that initial interest... The Guardian article suggests that browsers spend a mere .8 of a second glancing at the cover.


And the runaway winner is: Harper Voyager Australia! With artwork by Greg Bridges, design by Gayna Murphy, the cover won an industry award. 61% of you would pick up this book.

The cover is quite truthful: the book is a peek at an island world, there are ships and a bird is important. There is swordplay and sea creatures. In fact the porthole effect is a clever comment on the framing of the story - an outsider, an ethnographer, comes to record the life story of a swordswoman. He's a bit of a biased fellow and sees everything through his rigid point of view and completely misses the thrust of much of her tale.

Second was the German cover from Blanvalet. I don't yet know who the artist is, as I have not yet received the actual book.

Very generic indeed. Lovely design and colour and atmosphere to it, but doesn't tell you much about the story except that swords and magic is involved. There is no magical staff in the book. And I don't think there were any cloaks either, but cloaks are very much the in-thing at the moment. It's not clear if the central figure is a man or a woman.

39% of you would pick this one up. (Remember that those taking part in the poll had the option of picking up more than one title.)

Only a little way behind the German translation above, was this French translation from Pygmalion.36% of you would pick this one up.

Also generic, but it captures more of the essence of the story than the German cover. The heroine does carry a very special sword. The reflection on the sword shows islands and ships, and the background is a manuscript - the scientific reports of the ethnographer, perhaps.

The artist was Alain Brion.



Next is another French cover, from J'ai Lu, a little retro in design. The artist is Arnaud Cremet.

15% of you would pick this one up. It is the first to definitely have a go at portraying the main character, Blaze Halfbreed, who is a brown-skinned islander swordswoman. I did not envision her dressed this way, though...

The background shows a map of an island and navigational aids.


Then comes the U.S. Ace (Penguin) with this representation of Blaze by Scott Grimando and design by Annette Fiore. 5% of you would pick this one up. And every single review it garnered complained that the cover was at complete odds with the feel of the story. Yes, there was a sea creature that could be ridden, but there was something about the half-clad woman in that pose that really rubbed readers up the wrong way.



And last, the Russian cover. I can't tell you the artist because I can't read the cyrillic lettering. Very generic, does show the importance of swords and magic in this story, and there was an elderly man who died.

A bit ironic though, seeing as one of my aims with The Aware was to tell a story that had NONE of the usual tropes apart from swords: no horses and no quests/journeys being at the top of the list. The whole book is set on a small treeless island with one town. There were no pterodactyls, either. Or armour.

This cover didn't do too well with you all, even though it is arguably the most generic of all. It garnered one vote.

The limitations of the poll? There were only 63 people replying, and probably a majority were influenced by having read the book first. Still, it's interesting to see what intrigued most.

Thank you for replying!
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Cover pix


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Remember to vote on the cover poll for The Aware - one more day.

And this Guardian article may interest you if you haven't already read it, on what really counts when it comes to a publisher's decision about a cover picture. "There are some superb designers and jackets out there, covers that need even less than 0.8 seconds for a book buyer to pick them up. But retailers' natural conservatism will mean they always err on the side of the generic..."

And here's my cover photo for the day: Husband and his sister all dressed up on Saturday night for a fancy black-tie do, which I declined to go to. (See what I forgo in order to write a book?)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hey, I'm on the cover of Locus!

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Ok, slight exaggeration.
Um, large exaggeration.
I should have said my book is on the front cover.
Er, inner front cover.
Well, in an advertisement actually...

All right, it may not sound much really, but I'm chuffed! Thanks, Orbit!
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Criminalising consensual sex kills newborns

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Sorry, but that's the truth. And not only babies either, but young people as well.

You may think sex outside of marriage is a sin, and that's your prerogative. You're certainly not alone in this belief - many religions and cultures will agree with you.

Fine, but it seems to me that where there is no victim, the punishment for sin should be up to God, not Man.

If you criminalise the victimless act of sexual congress between consenting adults/young people, you have a problem. And if you don't believe me, read the newspapers here in Malaysia. Not a week passes without someone dying because of this senseless law and its application, and it's usually the young and very often the newborn.

As a journalist in The New Straits Times said yesterday: "Bloody bundled babies have been found everywhere, on the steps of mosques and churches, in garbage bins, the town dump, in buses, orchards and public toilets - dead, alive; with or without their umbilical cords, heads or limbs; riddled with mosquito and ant bites, crushed, mutilated or burnt beyond recognition."

And this: "In his haste to escape punishment from religious officers, a college student who was alone with his girlfriend plunged to his death from the fifth floor of an apartment."
(Read Marina Mahathir's comment here.)

If you are one of those who are governed by this law (and only half the people in Malaysia are), then you can be humiliated, arrested, charged, fined, imprisoned and/or caned for having sex with someone not your spouse. So when a righteous busybody (who never, ever of course commits anything at all that looks like a sin) calls up the religious police, who then start pounding on and/or breaking down doors, young people panic.

It seems every week or two, someone falls to their death trying to escape from the scene of their dreadful crime - sex with someone they aren't married to. Young people mostly, who have succumbed to the most natural drive of all. Their hormones tell them one thing, their religion/culture tells them they mustn't. And faced with shame, imprisonment and whipping, some of them take risks - and die. It saddens me. Given a chance, they probably would have grown up to be useful, considerate God-fearing members of their community. But they didn't get a second chance.

Worse still is what happens when a young girl finds herself pregnant. In fear of the unpleasant legal consequences, she hides the pregnancy, thereby damaging the health of her child, then gives birth in secret (and yes, sometimes either she or the baby dies as a consequence), and then in her confusion and terror, kills or abandons the newborn. Sometimes the baby is found in time (usually covered in ants, and mosquito bites). Sometimes not.

Babies die because men decide to make a crime of the initial victimless sin.

And this is somehow a good thing? This law obviously doesn't deter the sinners, that's obvious from the number of cases. So where's the benefit? Maybe someone can explain it to the baby that died in some shed somewhere...because I sure don't get it.

Of course, Malaysians look for solutions. Let's have places where pregnant mothers can go, let's have places where they can take their newborns: all good ideas. I doubt they will make as much difference as these good people hope, because it will bring the young people who have transgressed to the attention of the law. So these places become places, not of sanctuary, but of identification and ultimately punishment. And anyone protecting the girls who ask for sanctuary could be charged with obstruction if they don't disclose names.

Can we have more Malaysians suggesting out aloud that maybe we should be looking at the law and seeing if it performs what might be its purpose: halting extra-marital sex - and if it doesn't, then dare to suggest it be scrapped?

Of course, if its aim is killing/harming babies, then I guess it's doing just fine. Keep it going, and we'll rid the world of a few more unwanted kids.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Russian cover

The Russian cover is soooo unpopular on the poll, I thought I'd blow up the pix so you can have a better look.

Given that I wrote a book - in fact a whole trilogy - that never had a single horse in it anywhere, don't you just love this? Of course I never had pterodactyls, or strange land beasts either. And Blaze wouldn't be caught dead in an outfit like that. Still, it's not all that bad is it??

So, which cover would make you pick up the book?










Over in the sidebar of the blog, there's a poll. Tell me which of these covers (and you can choose more than one if you like) would be most likely to make you pick up the book (always assuming the language was not an issue) with a view to buying it?
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Stormlord review

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Another review up for The Last Stormlord, from Katherine Keller
You can read it here, at Sequential Tart.

Here's the final paragraph:

For all that it's all about water and the control of water in an arid land, The Last Stormlord is no thinly veiled homage to Dune. It's a unique and multi-layered story that melds plot, politics, and some pretty intense action into a seamless whole. And, as a person who grew up in eastern California and knows well the history of the (vicious and brutal) fight for control of water there, I loved every page of this story.

Water, and control of water is power indeed.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

While I was working...



...this past week, finishing the final* (I hope) major re-write of Stormlord's Exile, husband was off having fun on Sipadan Island, off Borneo, where the world's best diving is to be found. Of course, he calls such perambulations work. Hmph.

Weather was stormy and after one stormy night a rather tired bird decided to take a nap on the beach...
Note his rather bedraggled appearance.

A bird with the (to a non-birder) rather unlikely name Brown Booby.
But then, don't you think it kinda suits the bird?
All's well that end's well - here, with the dawn, it is on its way out to sea again .


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*hah. I should say final- until the editors get hold of it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reading and reminiscing

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Years ago, close to thirty actually, I came across a coastal town on Morecombe Bay in the U.K. I can't be sure exactly which one after so long, but I suspect - after a look at the map - that it was Grange-over-Sands. And I've just come across that place again, thirty years later in books by Paul Magrs. Ok, so he calls it Whitby, which is over in Yorkshire, but I reckon his literary Whitby is my Grange-over-Sands of 1982.

It happened like this. My sister and I were ambling around the U.K. in a very small car on our very first visit to the Europe. We had an itinerary, sort of, but no accommodation booked. It was April - and of course, utterly gorgeous weather, as it always is when I am in the UK. It was also late evening, the light was beginning to fade, and we'd had a strenuous day and were tired. We'd been driving for ages without having any luck at finding accommodation and were beginning to wonder if we'd end up sleeping in the car. That's when we found ourselves in this town.

Wonderful! Looked to be just the place to have lots of B&Bs and happy to see customers mid-week in the off season. It looked delightful, an Edwardian seaside resort. So we starting hunting. To our surprise, every place was either full up or massively overpriced by the standards of the day, as if they really didn't want our custom. We left and went somewhere else.

That's the bare bones of the story.

But there was something else, and I'm not kidding: the place creeped us out. For a start, we felt as though we had stepped through a time-warp. This didn't just look like Edwardian England, it was inhabited by people from a bygone era, all geriatric, a great many of whom appeared to be sipping tea with their little fingers crooked as they sat in drawing rooms with bow windows. You could see them as you walked the street - people out of a costume play. Lady Bracknell, wearing pearls and staring at these weird trouser-clad hobos from the colonies. Colonel Blimp with his military moustache and monocle, eyeing us with disapproval. We were in some kind of whacky twilight zone.

This, we decided, was a place where strange things would go bump in the night, and the exceptionally odd landlady would look you straight in the eye come morning and tell you you really didn't see that body being carried down the stairs in the middle of night. You'd just had a bad dream.

We couldn't get out of there soon enough.

Until this year, I don't know what it was all about. Was it simply that we were over tired? Did we hit the Retired Theatrical Costumers' Association's annual seaside fling? Were we just over-imaginative?

Well, now I know. Now, you see, I've read Never the Bride and Something Borrowed. I swear, somehow thirty years ago, we stepped into Paul Magrs' Whitby, and the Bride of Frankenstein answered one of the B&B doors we knocked at while looking for a room. I'm so glad we fled.

Something Borrowed kept me engrossed for part of a very long airplane flight. Better still, I was smiling. There's no better recommendation than that. If you like your stories whackily insane yet utterly creepy, then try these. Oh, and do be careful in those English seaside resorts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Die Inseln des Ruhms: Die Wissende

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Das perfekte Lesevergnügen für alle, die abenteuerliche und romantische Fantasy mögen!

Von Geburt an ist die Söldnerin Blaze dazu verdammt, rastlos zwischen den Inseln des Ruhms hin und her zu reisen. Für eine Heimat würde sie fast alles tun, und nun hat sich ihre Sehnsucht beinahe erfüllt. Sie muss nur noch eine junge Sklavin an ihre Auftraggeber ausliefern. Doch da geschieht etwas, womit niemand rechnete. Die junge Frau lehrt Blaze, dass Freundschaft mehr wert ist als ein Zuhause. Gerade rechtzeitig, denn nur gemeinsam können sie dem dunklen Magier entgegentreten, der die Inseln des Ruhms zu vernichten droht …

Über Glenda Larke (Autorin)

Die Australierin Glenda Larke lebt in Malaysia, wo sie ihre zwei größten Wünsche verwirklicht: das Verfassen von Fantasy-Romanen und der Vogelwelt des Regenwalds zu lauschen. Sie hat auch bereits in Tunesien und Österreich gelebt. In jeder freien Minute beobachtet sie Vögel.

So, you German speakers out there finally, after a gap of many years since Die Fährte des Blinden, have another book of mine in German. The translation of The Aware will - according to Amazon - be available mid October. From a publisher new to me, and one very enthusiastic about my work, Blanvalet.
I don't know yet you did this cover, but the translator is Susanne Gerold.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

No Nuclear Reactor for Selangor

Some of you may not know that my husband was, for over 6 years, a Deputy Director-General of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, under Dr Hans Blix.

He has just had a paper published by - no less - the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It's in a publication entitled Multinational Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. The paper is titled: Possible International Fuel-cycle Arrangements Attractive to States during the Nuclear Power Renaissance.

This year so far he has been invited to two different high level international meetings overseas on Nuclear Energy, one as the keynote speaker. In other words, he kinda knows the business. (And, you might sense, I am very proud of him.)

Here in Malaysia, there has (sort of) been an announcement that Malaysia is going nuclear. And the fun has begun. For example, here is a report from yesterday's The Star newspaper (7th May) paraphrasing the Chief Minister of the state we live in, Selangor, as saying Selangor will not allow the plant to be built in the state because his govt believes the use of alternative energy sources such as solar energy should be enhanced instead, etc etc.

Other response was equally moronic and uninformed, public and politicians pontificating on things about which they know nothing. And not bothering to find out.

Selangor State has every right to refuse to have the power plant within its boundaries, of course, even though they are the major power consumer of the country. But one wonders - have they done the arithmetic? Looked at the projections? Future trends and costs and pollution indices?
The Chief Minister is our political leader. It is his job to lead, i.e. to know the facts and think about things and make informed decisions. People with the expertise like my husband are just a phone call away.

If the Chief Minister knows of some way that solar power can be used to match the needs of his state in ten years time, why doesn't he tell the rest of the world? Selangor could make a world-wide financial killing! We'd all be rich! Malaysia solves the world's energy problems with the wave of their magic solar-powered wand!

You know you don't have to be a nuclear scientist or an engineer to understand the severe limitations of solar energy. It's simple enough. Just do some reading. Many parts of Australia have desert temperatures, ample unused land and blue skies (unlike Malaysia which has heavy cloud cover). Ask yourselves then: why don't they have solar-energy power plants?

This blog post, btw, is all my own work. My husband does not write or influence or suggest the topic for my posts.
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hay-on-Wye

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No booklover goes to Wales without wanting to go to Hay-on-Wye. I mean, who can resist a very small town that has some 30 or so bookshops and book-related stores?
Add to that, the fact that it is situated in lovely Welsh countryside, and you have a perfect day's outing. In fact, I could have spent a week and a lot of money...
Above: the town carpark
Above: and look what I found! (see last pix below if you don't know what I mean...)
Books are everywhere, and note the inset tiles on Richard Booth's Bookshop. They also had a cat sound asleep in an armchair just inside the door.

View from the Castle Bookstore - note more of the outdoor shelves and the distant view
A few streets winding streets make up this gorgeous town
Above: Richard Booth's - one of the many gorgeous bookstores

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Monday, May 03, 2010

Surfing the tidal bore

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Remember those surfing scenes from The Tainted?
Here is the reality of it, Malaysian style. Which includes crocodiles. Darn it, I never thought of including those...

From the Tainted:

I heard it first. Even above the crash of waves and the howl of wind, I heard it. A roar, unearthly, seemingly unnatural. A swathe of sound that silenced the storm. This was a barricade of water on the move. A wild piece of the ocean, ripped from its place and sent forth as a curtain wall, bearing down on us from shore to shore, sweeping all before it. I glimpsed it as lightning flashed, a tantalizingly frightening second of impending disaster, seen and then obliterated from sight by the blackness of that turbulent night.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Another review of Stormlord Rising

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This one from ASIF (Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus), and the review is written by Tehani Wessely. You can read the whole thing here.

It starts with the words: Stormlord Rising is possibly the best Book Two of a series I have ever read.

And ends:

Written so fluidly that the intertwining plot threads weave seamlessly together as the pages progress, Stormlord Rising is a page turner of classic magnitude. The action leaps off the page, supported by characters so well-drawn you fall in love with them, but in the hands of an author not afraid to kill off her darlings, which is a heart-pounding combination!

I read this book in the bath, in bed, feeding the baby and in the wee hours. I simply could not put it down. While it’s a huge book, it was so well put together that the pages flew by and I can only hope there’s not too long to wait for Book Three!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pictures on the way home & robbed yet again

Above: journey started in the train from Cardiff to Paddington. Snapped on an iPhone by Paul McGuigan from the seat in front.
Below: sunrise over India. Actually more spectacular than this because the dark clouds were alive with lightning flashes...of course, every time I snapped, I missed the lightning!
Below: Early morning light over Sri Lanka


Had 12 hours sleep last night as I did not sleep more than half an hour over the previous 33 hour period! Which I reckon is the best way to deal with jetlag anyway.

And guess what? We were robbed last night. Someone broke into the yard and then into the car. They pinched our Touch 'n' Go card, worth 15 RM, which had about 6 RM on it - about US $6 altogether, plus minor damage to the car. Husband woke up, but didn't see anything. (Our house is comprehensively armed with an alarm system - even the ceiling! - but the car alarm was not on.)

For people coming this way: Crime is rampant in Malaysia because of the huge proportion of drug addicts in the population. Beware. You are far more likely to be robbed here than in London or New York, and the robbery might be with violence too. Take precautions. And here's an odd fact - it is the Muslim males who are the vast majority of addicts here. I wonder why?