Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From my garden...

...just for the heck of it.

Orchids, obviously.

And the next post is from Melbourne.

I wonder how I can be noramlyed this time?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Worldcon stuff...

This time tomorrow I shall be at the airport here in Kuala Lumpur, waiting for an overnight flight. Yuk.

Never mind, it will be worth it.

Couple of things about two delightful people I happen to know - first, there was a bit of a mix-up about Kate Elliott's kaffeeklatsch for the con. As a result she will have it outside the convention area in the Crown Casino at a coffee shop - read the programme in due course for details. Hey, you'll get REAL coffee! The time is 3pm on Saturday. If you go, ask Kate about the wonderful world she has created for her new trilogy. I have read the first book, and it is fabulous. Truly. Imagine steampunk magic Phoenicians...and you'll be halfway there.

The second person is a Malaysian. Now Malaysians at a Worldcon are as scarce as dragons, especially one who is making the trip specifically to get there. Her name is Ika Vanderkoeck, and she was born in Bandung, Indonesia... Her programme includes a reading: Friday / 10:00 am/ Room 207 and a Kaffeeklatsch: on Monday / 3:00 pm/ Room 201.

Why should you drop by her reading and her kaffeeklatsch? Well, because Ika is going places, and didn't you always want to be able to say, "Oh, yeah, I knew X before they were in the least bit famous..."? Well, now's your chance. Ika is 26 and she's already had a short story published in a Tor Daw anthology. And there is other exciting possibilities going on in her writing life too, right now, which I am not at liberty to talk about. Even if nothing comes of that, it is my belief that she is going places, soon.

And she deserves it. She works hard, for a start. She has that drive we writers recognise in one another. I have read the first 40,000 words or so of the first book of her trilogy, and believe me, she is good.

New: Correction re publisher of anthology

More from Fraser's Hill

 
A banded leaf-monkey (aka White-sided Langur) contemplating the mysteries of life.







A mossy forest trail
The mosque ( loudspeakers of which are, alas, very unpopular with tourists)
And one of the many bungalows dating back to colonial times.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The beauty of the rainforest: Fraser's Hill

There are times when I love my job.
The red flowers are the Lipstick Plant; the last pix are some pitcher plants. Rare now, because most have been illegally removed from the Hill by thoughtless people, only to die in the heat of the lowlands.

A place called The Gap. It breaks my heart...

...when folk don't care about the beautiful. Some of my happiest memories include times when the kids were young and we went to the hill resort of Fraser's Hill. The first time I was there was in fact before the kids were born: 1969. The only buildings then were ones which dated back to colonial times, for this was the place where the Brits came to get away from the heat and humidity, to play a round of golf and sit around a fire at night and play bridge or backgammon or whatever.
 
To get to Fraser's in those days you had to go up and down a one-way road (and in fact nowadays too, because the horrendously expensive and ugly new road remains closed). 









Odd hours up, even hours down. And as it was hard to judge just when you'd arrive at the bottom of the one-way road, there was a resthouse there for your comfort. You could stay there - in fact we did, often - and it became a focal point of birders from all around the world. It was called The Gap Resthouse. It ranked up there with places like Martin's Place in Sri Lanka, or the cafe in Cley in Norfolk.


I loved the place. You could get scones and strawberry jam and tea, or fried mee while you were waiting for the gate to open. You could have a dinner of lamb chops, but you had to get to bed early because they turned of the generator...

The lessor kept the place spotlessly clean - even polishing the brass handles of windows and doors until they shone gold. The brass is all stolen now. Vandals are having a field day, ripping out the fittings and drawing graffiti. Even the cement mixer brought in for the renovations lies abandoned.
 
Alas, these pictures are The Gap today.

But never mind, with the money they don't have for the upkeep, or the renovations, they built a hanging bridge to nowhere, which crosses nothing. (The resthouse is on the left of the photo.)

The signs tell it all. When the renovations were due to be completed was 2009, but the actual date has been scrubbed out.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm away...

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...you know, working. The REAL job, as folk say about writers who also do other stuff.


This where I am.

Fraser's Hill, one of the old hill resorts dating back to the colonial days of the Malay States. The road up to this place was started in 1918; by 1921 the hill station was in full swing, complete with a nine hole golf course.

We are staying in the newly renovated Puncak Inn to the left, and just had dinner in the very swank "Scott" cottage, owned by the Smokehouse, the place made of stone to the right of the hotel.

I work so hard in really tough conditions.

This is why I have not been online much lately...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My programme for Worldcon/Aussicon4,
Melbourne Sept 2010

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And if you aren't going to be there, I'm sorry. Really I am.

And for those who are coming:
Remember that this timetable could change,
so you are advised to check your programmes
closer to the date.
_____________________________________________________
THURSDAY
  •     1-2pm launch (no, not mine)
It begins for me when I wander along to Borders Bookshop, for the launch of "Baggage" edited by Gillian Pollack, published by Eneit Press. Borders South Wharf  20 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf. This, I assume, is open to the general public. Everything else below, only open to members of the con.

  •        5-6pm panel: 
Destroying the future to save the planet: the environmental politics of SF/F.
 SF/F has long dealt with environmental concerns, imagining the future impacts of overpopulation, climate change, peak oil, and water shortages. Contemporary writers talk about the importance of ecological themes in their work.
 Tom Moylan, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Clute, Glenda Larke, Jonathan Cowie
______________________________________________________
FRIDAY
  •     9-10am: 
Pure socialising. FB get-together: place as yet unknown.
  •     1-1.30pm reading:
I'm giving a reading. Come along. I shall read from Stormlord's Exile and possibly also the beginning of the next book, set in the Havenstar universe... Last time I gave a reading at a worldcon it was to an audience of two, one of whom was Kate Elliott (bless her), so I am keeping my fingers crossed there'll be at least 3 this time.
____________________________________________________
SATURDAY
  •     4-5pm panel:

Thinking in trilogies
The trilogy seems synonymous with the fantasy story. Why is fantasy so closely tied in with the idea of the three-book story? Is it simply a marketing requirement, or are their structural advantages to the form that are not provided by the single novel. A look at the arguments for and against the trilogy, and whether it’s a tradition that’s here for good or due to be retired.
Glenda Larke, Trudi Canavan, Fiona McIntosh, Russell Kirkpatrick, Kim Falconer

  •    5-6pm panel:

Fantastic females: reworking feminism in women’s fantasy
Is fantasy the new vanguard of feminist politics in specfic? Fantasy authors discuss the role  of gender issues in their work
Delia Sherman (mod), Catherynne M Valente, Gail Carriger,  Alaya Johnson, Glenda Larke, Tansy Rayner Roberts
_____________________________________________________
SUNDAY
  •       11am signing books:
You know, the books of mine you'll be bringing along or buying in the dealers room??*  
*says she hopefully.
  •     12-1pm Kaffeeklatsch*:
 Come and talk to me. Your chance to tell me exactly what you think of my books and ask me "Why the &@# did you do that???"... Over coffee. You'll probably remember more than I do about my books though... It's a roundtable discussion with a handful of readers and me  - remember to book your place. You can try through Andrew  kaffee@aussiecon4.org.au  but I don't know if they are accepting pre-bookings yet.
*Lit coffee-gossip. And it doesn't have an 'e' on the end in the singular

  •     3-4pm panel:
Crowns and swords: The intertwined worlds of fantasy and monarchy
With so many fantasy novels based in a setting drawn from medieval Europe, it’s no surprise to see so many stories based around monarchies - kings and queens, princes and princesses, tyrannical emperors and long-lost heirs to the throne. How much of fantasy’s appeal is grounded in a monarchic setting, and how can this long-standing tradition of genre be updated or refreshed - or abandoned entirely?
Glenda Larke, Fiona McIntosh, Duncan Lay, Kate Forsyth, Mary Victoria
___________________________________________________
MONDAY
  •     10-11am panel:

Where do you get your ideas?
It’s the age-old and widely derided question, and one more often than not dismissed or dodged by authors around the world. Despite this, the question actually deserves answering: where do authors get their ideas? A look at the hunt for inspiration, tricks and tools for stimulating creativity, and - perhaps - the ultimate answer to fiction’s oldest question.
Ellen Kushner, Robert Silverberg, Glenda Larke, Jack Dann
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where to find me today

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My blog post for the day is elsewhere. 
Try here.
You can even win a book if you are an Australian resident...
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Friday, August 20, 2010

And my next book is called...

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...“The Death of the Shadow God’s Magic Blood-Dragon

Why?

Because I want to be part of the trend!
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm over at the Galaxy...

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...Sydney's specialist bookstore. Well, online with them anyway.

You can find me answering some fun questions here.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Women writers in hiding?

 What do you think??
I shall be honest here: I really haven't made up my mind because there are pros and cons, and both are persuasive.
  1. I think most people agree there are quite a few male readers out there who won't read female authors. 
  2. Conversely, there are probably almost no female readers who turn down a book just because it's written by a man. 
  3. So, should a woman writer use a male or androgynous pseudonym in order to increase her sales?
  4. Or should she stick to her feminist guns, use a female name, and say: "I'll show 'em!" so that these prejudiced male readers finally realise being a woman has little to do with writing a readable book? (But...then they'll never read it...)
That's the first way of "hiding" one's gender...and basically it has to do with money and reaching a wider audience. It also has to do with getting published at all. If your sales are too slim, the publisher won't pick up your next book. Publishing is a business, folk. Shouldn't we do whatever we can to sell? (Too late for me...I am committed to my female name, partly because at the time it never crossed my mind that there were 20th century men who wouldn't read women writers!!)

The second concealment of women writers is - some say - by others...
  1. There has been a great deal of blogging over the years about the lack of novels written by women up for major literary prizes, or short stories written by women accepted for anthologies.  Numerous reasons have been given for this and possibly the real reason is a combination of factor all playing a parts: fame, subject matter, prejudice, more male judges, more male writers, ... Perhaps more male judges/editors in the past have regarded "female" family or domestic issues as less worthy when compared to larger "male" issues. This of course presupposes that women don't write so much about large issues and men writers avoid domestic issues.
  2. So, should there be prizes just for "women's" fiction, i.e. by women writers? Such as the Orange Prize? 
No! That implies women aren't as good as males, worthy of competing for the "real" literary prizes, like the Man Booker! Yes! There should be separate prizes for women's fiction in order to get the recognition women deserve for both their issues and their writing! Otherwise we won't be aware of their top-notch work...
     So what do you think?

    Comment here and/or answer on the two poll questions in the sidebar...

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    A Nest in the Ginger

    Another family of Yellow-vented Bulbuls being raised in our garden. Not sure how many young, as I don't want to disturb the surrounding leaves. The first photo shows the back of the head and beak of a fledgling in the nest in the gingers.

    The second photo shows the parent, giving me the eye as I photograph it from the side verandah. These birds are very urban, and often choose nesting sites as close as possible to human contact, perhaps because this offers safety from other predators. I've often had them nest in pot plants.
      The third photo shows how protected the nest is.

    Here is our side verandah from inside, looking at the gingers where the nest is. As you can imagine, I am often hanging clothes within feet of the nest.



    And here, taken from the outside, to the left of the grille behind the palm, is the ginger plant that contains the nest.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Goodbye...

    ...to a wonderful piece of luggage.

    If you have been a follower of this blog for sometime, you will know I am always travelling. To see the kids, to conventions, for my work, because we lived in Borneo for a time, and so on.

    And I had a suitcase. It was made by Citymark. I had it for about ten years, possibly more. It was bashed and battered by every airline from here to Glasgow, Kandy, Sandakan, San Fransciso or Yogyakarta. It was used four or five times a year. And it never flinched. Its handles remained intact, its wheels spun, it stayed shut when it was supposed to, as it travelled around the world with either my husband or myself. It was plastered with travel tags - many of which fell off but others you can see in the photo.


    During those ten years my husband went through an average of one suitcase a year. Usually the wheels snapped off, or the handles. He bought a hideously expensive "Made in America" brandname suitcase, thinking the cost would be worth it. The first time he used it one of the wheels disappeared and the pull-handle could no longer be pulled out. The second time he used it another wheel fell off. The third time he went to use it he didn't even get it out of the house - it wouldn't unlock, even with the correct digits entered. As he had accidentally put his ticket inside, we had to smash open the combination with a hammer, then repack into another suitcase -- all while the taxi was waiting. So much for the expensive suitcase.

    And all the while, my suitcase trundled along happily whenever it was used. Until one day, it finally, finally, expired. Someone managed to put a huge crack in it (even then it refused to fall apart) and the lid was bent out of shape so it was hard to close, and the locks wouldn't align. Still those wheels and those handles were in perfect shape...

    Goodbye Citymark. I wish I could find another like you, with sturdy metal shafts to the wheels...

    I bought another suitcase today. I couldn't find the Citymark brand.

    Hush Puppies: you are under notice: I chose you because you were the only one I could find that didn't have wheels just asking to be snapped off. But if your zips give up on me in under ten years, I shall be very, very unhappy, right?

    And a piece of advice to travellers. Never buy a suitcase made in mainland China. You will be lucky if it gets to the front door intact...on your way out of the house.
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    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Chick Lit - the name that makes me gnash my teeth

     .
    I've always hated the expression "chick lit", even though I'll admit I have used it myself in the past to describe books written in a lighthearted way about modern woman and non-serious issues. Light reading is a better description, and in the past those are the words we used to describe these books; and other books like them that weren't about women. Not particularly deep novels, but fun. Light reading, and who doesn't need that sometimes! (Tell me you only read novels of significance and depth, and I'll tell you to lighten up once in a while.)

    The expression "chick lit", though, has singled out one type of light read and given it a derogatory twist. It's by chicks for chicks. Not by or for women. Chicks. Fluffy little things without stature that look at you with a vacant stare. And the expression is used now by some readers with a sneer, with the implication that these books are worthless reads, beneath the notice of all men, and also beneath the notice of women of substance.

    Here is a marvellous Huffington Post article from Diane Meier, American author of a book about an intelligent middle-aged woman, "The Season of Second Chances".

    As she herself puts it: "Most critics felt the need to talk about how "surprisingly" intelligent the book was. Their tell-tale phrase: how many "notches above Chick Lit" they deemed the book. Or they registered amazement that a book so domestic in tone might have been intended for -- can you imagine -- educated, intelligent readers."

    Later on in the article (and do read the whole thing) she writes:

    "But my concern is larger, for the issue is insidious: the way Chick Lit has been used to denigrate a wide swath of novels about contemporary life that happen to be written by women.

    "If you think it's not affecting our work, not affecting what the publishers are handed, not affecting the legacy we leave for future generations, you're wrong. In The New York Times, the judges of the UK Orange Prize (for women novelists) bemoaned the grim and brutal content offered this year in the submitted manuscripts. Their conclusion: No serious woman writer wanted to be painted with the Women's Lit label, and issues contemporary and domestic, if not presented with violence, are apparently (to academics, to critics and to the general culture -- male and female, alike) seen to have less value."

    She goes on to question the idea of having a prize just for woman novelists, and I'm not sure that I agree with her on that issue, but mostly she is spot on.

    I especially agree with her at this moment...Why this week? Well, because it hit home. (Yeah, I admit it. I wait till things get personal, before I get vocal. Mea culpa.)

    Stormlord Rising is a fantasy novel, but it does deal with issues of war and its effects, especially on the woman and children who are caught up in the battle. Ok, so it's a story, not a treatise, but it touches on things like: how much should a woman do to keep her unborn baby safe? Should a woman use her sexual allure and her body to stay alive? How much should you compromise your principles for those you love?

    Universal themes, one would assume. One Amazon reviewer didn't much like the latter two-thirds of the book - his privilege, of course, and I don't mind that - but he says it's chick lit and therefore automatically disappointing, not worth the read. Pregnancy in war time, love and life and death of loved ones, are chick issues apparently, not universal after all. Chick lit. Light-hearted comedy.

    Let's stop using the expression "chick lit" even if we enjoy the books now so designated. Let's be careful how we use the expression "women's issues" when such issues are usually universal to humanity. If a reader doesn't like a book about what women feel or what happens to them, or the way in which women live and love, let him say so outright, and not hide behind a derogatory dismissal: "It's chick lit".
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    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Another Review

    Buy Stormlord Rising

    Stormlord RisingRead the whole thing here at the Rob Will Review blog.

    "...Then the storm hits.

    "It hits in a blaze of war and blood, steel and sand.  Big events happen, and, more interestingly and more importantly, big changes take place in the minds and souls of the main characters.  One finds he has started becoming a leader, and events only hasten that particular forging.  Several characters find themselves compromising their morals and beliefs, for a number of reasons–one woman to save her unborn child, another to help the man she loves..."
    ...
    "...I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the book’s events, but I do want to make mention of how impressed I am at the evolution of events and relationships within the books.  It’s not always a simple question of defeating the Big Bad who was there from the beginning.  There are victories and losses and new enemies grow out of past events.  The picture changes.

    "It’s exciting.  It’s excellent.

    "It’s Stormlord Rising."
    The Last Stormlord

    Oh, sands. My intermittent medical condition -  a swelled head - has returned. Maybe I should pop over to Good Reads for a cure, and re-read the reviewer who said (of The Last Stormlord): "600+ pages of boring world-building without a plot with a resolution."

    I love reviews. You never know what you'll get! 

    Buy The Last Stormlord
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    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Working again...

    You know, the day job thingy. Not that fun writing stuff that's so easy I can whip up in a book in my spare time in a few weeks...
    I actually thought the second phase of the birding tourism project was never going to take off, but it has, so I have just spent two days back in the rat-race (read: Kuala Lumpur traffic jams) attending meetings and thinking of everything except writing the next book.

    Having a centre core around my heart that is all written words and plot-lines, naturally I want to get started on the next one. I've written a couple of hundred words of what will possibly be a duology called "The Hidden Kingdom". But alas, it will have to wait...

    If I get a reading slot at Worldcon, I probably could be bribed into doing a reading of what I have written so far of this new book. It is set in the Havenstar world of a disintegrating land, peopled by citizens desperately trying to find a way to hold their world together. This time it's a different country with a different solution for keeping the Unmaker at bay, and a different set of characters.
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    Monday, August 09, 2010

    About Book 3, Stormlord's Exile

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    So, no sooner do I hand in Stormlord's Exile on Sunday - updated with editorial input changes - than one of my beta readers (Phill Berrie, bless him) points out a large plot hole towards the end that no one else spotted. Including myself.  Sigh. Thank the magic for someone like Phill. Fortunately, although the plot hole is major in terms of the impossibility of what happens next, the fix will only necessitate a relatively small change: two waterpaintings have to be done where there was only one...

    My delivery of  the book was majorly late. It is book number 10, and it's the first time I have overrun the schedule to the extent that the publication dates have to be changed, for which I apologise to all you readers out there. (And of course, to my wonderful publishers, neither of whom decided to hang, draw and quarter me, but reacted with remarkable restraint and unqualified support; and then -- probably with much teeth gnashing  -- rescheduled and rearranged their publishing list.)

    So what went wrong?

    Who knows? Sometimes creativity to a schedule doesn't work, it's as simple as that. It's not the time put in, it's the quality of what is achieved.

    Once the book was finished in its initial show-someone-this-draft form, I knew something was not right, but couldn't put my finger on what exactly. The two initial readers - Karen Miller and my editor friend and neighbour Alena -- took a look and applied tough love. Basically: Glenda, the beginning is ALL WRONG.

    They were so right. I had to do more than the usual spruce up: I had to rewrite the entire beginning, 30,000 words, and start in a different place with different characters. And then dovetail that to the rest of the book, which is harder than it sounds. Sort of writing something backwards. The way I had written in initially simply didn't push the story forward, but kept looking backwards.

    Anyway, it is re-written now, and my editors are happy. Publication dates will be next year sometime. When they are definite, I will tell you.

    Oh, and I have seen the cover art for the Voyager Oz edition. And no, I am not showing you, yet. :)
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    Thursday, August 05, 2010

    A different kind of fantasy heroine: the pregnant, short-sighted scholar…

    Stormlord Rising Firstly, so far so good. Stormlord Rising has been selling well in US, an indication that readers of The Last Stormlord want to know what happens next. I have my first Amazon reviews, and — as I am totally into watching Amazon ratings because I’m ridiculously pathetic — I am delighted that they are 5 stars; as are the ratings over at Barnes&Noble. (Yeah, I look at those too. Didn’t I just say I’m pathetic?)
    So, for those of you haven’t read it yet, what’s Stormlord Rising all about?
     
    Read the rest of this post at the Orbit site, here.


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    Tuesday, August 03, 2010

    A New Genre??????

     This is either hysterically funny, or excruciatingly wince-making.

    A tweet from Terry of BabelClash fame (see Borders.com) sent me to have a look at the NPR site and Librarian Nancy Pearl talking about "under the radar reads".

    Under HeavenOne of the books she talks about is Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven and one of the things she says is:

    It's a shame this book will be shelved in the fantasy and science-fiction section of bookstores and libraries, because that inevitably makes it highly unlikely that fans of historical fiction will find it on their own. (That's a good example of one of the many reasons that I dislike our reliance on genre divisions in describing fiction)... 

    Which comment I might just shrug off, except that elsewhere in the same article she says she wants to name a new genre:

    I only recently realized that many of the works of fiction that I most enjoy are those that push genre boundaries. I especially like fiction that is mostly realistic, but every once in a while zigs confidently into fantasy. We tend to call such works "magical realism" 
    ...
    I'd love to come up with a one- or two- or possibly three-word label for such works that captures their essence (something other than "unclassifiable"), but so far I've drawn a blank. Anyone care to help? Have at it — I'll give you some examples of books that fit what I have in mind — Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker, Under Heaven or The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

    Yeah. This is where I give a heavy sigh,  as I suspect she wants to rename the fantasy novels - the ones she likes, that is - because well, respectable mainstream readers don't want it known that they (gasp) read fantasy. Because we all know fantasy is trashy.

    Ms Pearl, we have a name for these novels already. We call them fantasy. Or SF. Or, if you must, speculative fiction. We don't need another name to hide the fact that we write fantasy, ok? We aren't ashamed of writing it, why should you be ashamed of reading it? 

    If that's not the reason you want a new genre, I still say forget it. It's fantasy. The moment you start dividing it up into sub-genres, you are going to hit a minefield, and I bet one of the first things you'll do is throw up your hands in horror when someone tells you that urban paranormals fit the definition of your new genre. 

    You, as a reviewer/librarian, can point people in the right direction to get books you think they may like. Come to think of it, you don't have to call them anything except great reads.
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