Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Of homicidal waitresses and sadistic dentists

So much for promises, eh? I have been offline for a couple of days, thanks to a faulty computer which won't connect to cyberspace. Not sure when things will be back to normal.

In the meantime, the Noramly family adventures continue. A diabolical dentist tortured my daughter, more of which in a moment.

As for me, I suffered the ultimate in restaurant poor service last night, and was lucky to emerge unscathed. I kid you not: a waitress pulled the chair away as I went to sit down, with the result that I came an almighty and inelegant cropper spreadeagled under the table. Honestly, service these days...

As I have on separate occasions fractured two vertebrae in very minor incidents, I consider myself lucky that I had no more than a bruise.

Believe me, we didn't tip.

As for my daughter, she went to have the nerve removed from a tooth (in Melbourne) and ended up in a dermatologist's office being treated for a severe burn that removed 2 cm long x half cm wide of skin from her face and is probably going to leave a scar near her mouth. The lip was also affected, but seems to have healed ok. The dentist shrugged it off and said she must have been allergic to something. (Huh? To what? They put things in your mouth that take the skin off your face?) He paid for the dermatologist consultation, so I guess that is some kind of acknowledgement that he was to blame. The dermatologist said, nope, that's a burn. Because of my daughter's skin colour, scarring is usually very noticeable. Moreover, she has flawless skin.

I am in two minds what to advise. I am not one of these people who immediately jump up and down and say, Sue! Sue! when someone makes a mistake. No one is perfect, and we should go through life accepting that sometimes people eff up, just as we do ourselves.

But firstly, it sounds to me as if she was not told the truth about what happened. Her cheek and mouth were numb, so she really didn't know what was going on, but she did feel that something was not right at the time. Secondly, the only thing that I can think of that might conceivably have done this kind of damage is that they used something out of the autoclave that was too hot and when pressed against her skin for a prolonged period, produced a burn mark of those dimensions. Which sounds more like torture than a normal dental procedure.

Is there anyone out there who has any other theories? Anyone heard of anything similar?

In the meantime, I'm looking behind me. People are out to get us....

Monday, January 29, 2007

More on fitting in

There have been some interesting replies to the blog on "Fitting In" . I shall blog some more about being a square peg in a round hole, or an orang putih* in a Malaysian world, tomorrow.

This pix (my American son-in-law fitting in down in the kampung in Melaka) is for Hrugaar, who thinks, quite rightly, that doing the dishes is a great way to start...

* lit: white person

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Third time not lucky...

Well the Aurealis best fantasy went to a West Australian author - unfortunately not me! Sigh. I shall try again.

Congrats to Juliet Marillier and the other category winners, especially Shaun Tan for an extraordinary work, "The Arrival". If you have not seen this, take a look. Buy it for your kids. Buy it for your friends. Keep one for yourself. It is a very special work.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Another case detected...

My sister set off to come visit and was promptly Noramlyed. She lost her credit cards on the way to the airport in Perth.

And can anyone tell me how a 40 minute flight (Brunei to Kota Kinabalu) can be 25 minutes early? Because it was...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fitting in: how hard should you try?

In Heart of Mirage, the main protagonist grows up thinking she fits in to her adopted world. She is well educated, wealthy, respected. Yet she is also aware that she is different – not the kind of person you would want marrying into your family, for example. She is not looked down upon because of her skin colour and appearance so much as because of the work she does. In fact, she chooses to live on the fringe of her society because of it.

When she returns to the land of her birth, she finds herself an outsider again. Here, she looks right, but is culturally different. She tries to fit in, but finds it tough. She starts to question all the things she had once believed were admirable…

I grew up in a small farming community on the outskirts of Perth, Australia. The primary school I attended had two grades to a classroom, it was that small. And not far away, the government built a migrant camp (as they were called in those days) where immigrants lived until such time as they found work and homes. The year I started school was 1950, and my classmates had names like Ludwiga, Tosia, Gunter or Vladimir. Many had been born in DP camps at the end of the war, and had never known a proper home life. Their parents had lived through hell. I remember my mother’s Country Women’s Association made a visit to the camp to make the first batch of women feel at home – and all the women ran away and locked themselves inside the Nissen huts. Who knows what fears they had…

I remember a girl called Elisabet. She must have been about six. Every day she stole the little iced biscuits my mother used to pack in my brown paper bag for my school lunch, until I complained that my sister had biscuits, why didn’t I? I was very indignant when I found out what had been happening to them, until my mother – who was a wise woman – told me that Elisabet had never had anything sweet to eat until she came to Australia. That sounded so awful, I was prepared to give her all my biscuits thereafter.

I remember how we Australians used to giggle because in winter some of the migrant girls used to wear trousers under their dresses, or tights, which we thought was very odd. They did their hair differently too. And wore earrings in pierced ears! No dinky-di Aussie did that. They had weird food in their lunch bags. Sometimes they themselves smelled funny. (We were proudly fifties-Australian and never ate garlic….)

Were we cruel? No, not intentionally, but I doubt that we were exactly kind, either. Like most kids, we were uninterested in those who didn’t conform, and quite willing to poke fun at them. As they grew older and became more Australian, we were also willing to be best friends. We embraced them because they changed, not because we embraced the difference.

Australia did alter because of them. We all eat garlic now! And they changed because of us. I remember meeting Ludwiga when we were both in our twenties. She was Louisa then, and completely indistinguishable from any Oz-born woman of her generation. Her children would never speak Polish, or eat Polish sausage, or have Polish names. She’d learned her lesson young.

How much should an immigrant change to fit in? How much should they hang on to their cultural integrity? Does Ligea in Heart of the Mirage betray herself, her adoptive country or her birth nation? Or all three? Does she fit in anywhere?

Come to think of it, do I?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Back in KK

I came back to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, yesterday.

And today my husband went back to Kuala Lumpur, Peninsula Malaysia.

I've been Noramled obviously.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On making a point – in the text but not on the cover?

When I write, I often do have a point to make.
But the point about having a point is that it should never become too pointed…

In other words, the story’s the thing, and if a fiction writer starts preaching, everyone loses interest – even those who agree with the point..

One of the points Ursula LeGuin made in her Earthsea trilogy (now the Earthsea quartet), with a quiet subtlety, was that heroes didn’t have to be white. Ged, the protagonist, is brown-skinned. The curious thing is that as a (white) reader, I hardly noticed and didn’t care. But LeGuin feels that it did indeed make a difference to non-white readers – here at last was someone they could identify with.

I believe I read somewhere that one of LeGuin’s beefs about the mini series (haven’t seen it myself) was that it ignored this. Even more odd is the fact that her original publishing house refused for many years to put a brown-skinned protagonist on the covers.


As I mentioned in a blog a day or two ago, several of my main characters in several of my books are brown-skinned. Was I making a point? Of course. [But never at the expense of the story, I hope.]

Look at my gorgeous daughters if you want a very personal reason.

My Oz covers haven’t put people on the covers, except as distant figures, which seems to be an inhouse style common in Australia. Certainly, it would never have crossed their minds to do what LeGuin’s Earthsea publishers did 40 years ago.

I have found, btw, that my Oz publishers (HarperCollins Voyager) are happy to discuss covers with me, and to make changes at my suggestion. Bless ‘em. Not all publishers do that. My Russian and US and German publishers presented me with a fait accompli – here’s your cover, you better like it because it’s gone to the printers!

I haven’t seen the German or UK covers yet, but the Russian covers, see here, happily made Blaze brown-skinned.

So did the US covers. Well, sort-of…

The only comment I ever had from a reader about Blaze’s skin colour was from a US reader, something along the lines that they seemed to have made her more Mediterranean in looks than South Sea Island. They understated the colour, or so that reader felt. I wonder if that was deliberate? A sort of colour-androgynization in order to make her more universal – for marketing purposes? I personally think it a nice sign of the times that it has aroused so little comment – maybe we have learned a lot since LeGuin published her first Earthsea book (1968).
However, the real idea I was trying to put across was this: that Blaze’s skin colour was only an issue in the Isles of Glory because of what it (in combination with her green eyes) implied about her. Making another point? Of course.

And how many of us are guilty of this type of extrapolation? Eh? Eh? Come on, admit it! See that guy wearing robes and and a turban walking down a Sydney street looking like a terrorist - can he possibly be an upright Australian citizen who loves his country and know as much about cricket as you do? Or what about that middle-aged white woman driving through Kuala Lumpur - she can't possibly be a Malaysian who cares deeply for her nation, and loves to listen to classical Malay songs on her car radio, can she?

Blaze loses out because of her appearance, yet in the end, she is crucial to making the Isles of Glory a better place. So my story was making this point: outward appearances mean nothing, and we are ridiculous to penalise/judge/dislike/generalize/jump to conclusions on that basis. In the Isles of Glory, they had even incorporated the concept of outward appearance and race into the legal framework and the basis for citizenship.

We would never do anything as silly as that in today’s world, um, would we…..?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Want a review, anyone?

Amazon now has a Print On Demand division, called Booksurge. and Booksurge offers - for a mere a $US 399, a wonderful book review. It doesn't matter what your book is like, the review is gonna be great. (For that price, it had better be.)

Of course, I immediately thought "Just what I need". I mean, how could one resist such deathless prose as this:

"We are drawn into this seaboard existence, seeing the stars pronging the sails at night, the flying fish that land on deck, and even the birds that fly, unaware, into the mast," offered by the reviewer about a book called The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin.

Now let me think. If I was a POD author, just how many copies of my book would I have to think such a review would sell in order for me to get my $399 back?

And readers, if you buy a book based on a paid-for review, then I have a lovely set of twin-towers for sale, situated at the present moment in downtown Kuala Lumpur, but easily portable to a new location, bargain price...drop me an email. Don't be put off by the fact that I live in Nigeria.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Skin deep - or one reason why I write fantasy

This is a picture of a Black Panther. It was taken by a friend of mine, Lim Kim Chye, when we were on a project together over in the Pahang Peat Swamps.

(Acknowledgement: UNDP/GEF Peat Swamp Forest Project Mal/99/G31)

It is also a picture of a leopard.

That right, this is exactly the same animal, the yellow one all covered in spots, that you see drooping over the branches in an African thorn tree. In fact, it is perfectly possible for a leopard to have a twin cubs, one black and one yellow. And if you look very carefully at a Black Panther (as I did at this fellow when we tumbled out of the 4WD to take a look) y0u can actually see the black spots superimposed on a grey-black background.

When I was a kid, a long, long time back, I went through a stage of reading a lot of American/Canadian "boys' own" style stories - you know the sort of thing, frontier stories, Indians and Mountain Men and the French wars and so on, Last of the Mohican type tales. And in almost every book there seemed to figure a shifty figure, dishonest to the bone, called the "half-breed" who absolutely couldn't be trusted, apparently for no other reason than that he was a half-breed. No other reason seemed to be needed.

Which struck me as a little odd, but I didn't lose any sleep over it; that type of book was considered suitable fare for a school library back then.

But somehow, the niggle must have stayed. Because one day I wrote a book about a halfbreed*. Who wasn't shifty, and who showed herself to possess far more integrity and courage than some of the other characters who had impeccable lineages and genteel backgrounds. I guess I had something to say.

What point am I making?

When people ask me "why do you write fantasy?" in a tone that suggests I am throwing away my talent because I should obviously be writing "literary" works of great merit, this is one answer I give: So that I can make a point about things that matter, like tolerance - or point out things that don't matter. Like skin colour.

I could do that with a mainstream novel of course, but one is constrained by reality. Moreover, when you live in someone else's country, in another culture, it is all too easy to upset someone. [What the hell is that foreigner doing coming here and telling us what we can and cannot do?] Genre fiction is a superb vehicle for making a point, making people think, without being crudely obvious.

Any idea how many times I was asked how or where I had adopted my kids?

*The Aware

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The magic of modern technology

Exploring the byways of Langkawi by boat

Years ago, when I first arrived in Vienna to live, I was unsettled to see quite a few swastikas spray-painted on to public structures, along with some anti-Jewish sentiments that were as vicious as they were puerile. Geez, I thought, am I coming to live in a land where everyone hankers back to the glories of the Anschluss?

Then I realised that was an unfair thought. Every single one of those graffiti might well have been painted by a single idiot. Modern technology - in the form of a good transport system and a few cans of spray paint, and a modern economic system that gives us disposable excess income, had made indeed made it perfectly possible for one person to do irreparable damage to the good name of a whole city.

I was struck by several things just lately that illustrate that thought all over again.

An irate Australian from the Islamic Council of Western Australia remarked (about a series of video lectures made by a racist-religious bigot calling children to martyrdom and jihad): "Some lousy guy stands up and calls himself a leader of the Muslims, calls himself a cleric because he can read the Quran. Why do people like me have to sit here and give an interview because every Tom, Dick and Harry gets up and makes some studid comments - and then we are called to account?" (From yesterday's "The New Straits Times")

And I wonder if anyone called the Pope to account, every time a Catholic bombed someone in Ireland...hmmm.

Then, over on Dec 29th's Baghdad's Burning, (a blog by a young Iraqui woman who has had her life ruined by the invasion), outlining a situation I predicted way, way back at the beginning of the Iraq war:

Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

And I think: all it takes nowadays is a few young men with a bomb instead of a spray can. So very few can make life hell on earth for all of us. Or if you want to go a bit further back: all it takes is a few irresponsible or moronic politicians to make a mess of things, and we all suffer.

And when will humanity learn the difference between being strong and being violent?

Sure, building a good fence can keep the peace. But build a wall and lob bombs over the top, and you end up with a lot of angry people and a lot more than a spray can in mind...

I saw this so clearly back at the beginning of the war. I am still flummoxed as to why it has taken so many people so long to see what I saw so long ago.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A word on the Aurealis Awards

It's just a week to the presentation of this year's Aurealis awards for Australian spec fic, taking place in Queensland.

Every time any award winners are announced, there's always talk of how unpredictable these things are, how little they mean etc, etc. Inevitable, I suppose, because it's not ever a first past the post thing. Book awards are not a race with a clear winner. Judges are basing their decisions on their own personal preferences and the judges of the books for 2006 would doubtless have selected different winners for the books entered 2005 which were judged by another group of people.

The one thing that makes the Aurealis Awards a tad different from many such awards is that the judges of a section (in my case fantasy novels) read pretty much every book eligible in that category (books published that year by Australians and Australian permanent residents anywhere in the world are eligible). In many other awards the books submitted are weeded long before the judges see then, simply because there are too many.

William Boyd, the latest winner of the Whitbread Award, now called the Costa Award, remarked that it was "the equivalent of a win on the horses or the lottery", which is true - lovely to have, but don't let winning put your nose too far up in the air, or feel that a loss is a kick in the pants.

So why then bother with awards at all?

Well, Boyd also said, "I think they're a good thing because they encourage readers and that's what all writers want." I agree with that, but I also think it encourages writers. Not because we write to win or to be short listed, or because we can live on the prize money (the Aurealis has none) but because it means that there are people out there who care enough about what we are doing to have organised this prize in the first place, and others who do the work involved year after year, without remuneration, whether it be organization or judging. I find that encouraging; morale-boosting, if you like.

I don't know who will win this year. There are books by four other very talented writers short listed (in my category, Juliet Marillier, Grace Dugan, Sean McMullen and Michael Pryor) but I do want to say thank you anyway. Thank you to all the people who have had a hand in this award. To all those who put in the work. I appreciate it and I'd appreciate it even if I wasn't shortlisted.

And to all those who are going to the prize giving next Saturday, I wish I could be there, just to see you all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Was it possible to have a feminist society?

Another photo from the Langkawi holiday
I had a radio interview with Grant Stone on Faster Than Light today. (That's in Western Australia). I don't think I was very coherent on one question he asked, which arose out of my portrayal of the main protagonist in Heart of Mirage as a strong, powerful woman.

The point I was trying to make is this, that if a writer wants to portray a society where women have equal opportunity (not a particular accurate definition of a "feminist" society, I realise), and the work is a fantasy set in a pre-industrial world, they said author is going to run into problems of believability.

I'm not saying it can't be done - but the writer has to understand the dynamics of such a world and adjust their plot accordingly.

Think about a pre-industrial world and this:
  • Muscular power is exceedingly important in any non-industrial world (as anyone who has tried to mend something without proper tools knows)
  • Physical protection probably involves physical strength to a large degree.
  • You have to have some kind of birth control. Women can't be equal if they are forever pregnant or lactating or child caring. They find it hard to be the explorers and adventurers, too, if they have a toddler clinging to their skirts - yeah, I just got reintroduced to the curtailing effect of a two-year-old.
  • If she doesn't have access to really good health care, a woman is at a disadvantage because she is childbearing and often dying as a consequence.
  • If there is any basic inequality in a society, who is usually the loser - the group that is the inherently physically stronger? Not in my book...
Probably the only way you could achieve a truly equal opportunity land, would be to develop the magic to even things up.

Of course, women did achieve power in non-technological societies, but they were the exceptions, not the rules.

And women often did achieve a certain level of cultural and social and even financial clout in some societies, for a variety of reasons - sometimes religious, sometimes because of the way men worked or warred (when men marched away to fight, they could be gone for years). It's an interesting exercise to consider just why women achieved high status. (Often it was at the expense of other women - i.e. the servants or slaves.)

And interestingly enough, my husband was born into a matriarchal society. That's right, even in today's Muslim world such things exist. Property is passed down the female line. A man moved
into his wife's house, not the other way around. Just to make it even more curious, the head of the clan, of which my husband's family is a part, is always a man. In fact, it would have passed to my husband, except he didn't want it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shadow of Tyr review

There is a truly wonderful review of the second book of The Mirage Makers, The Shadow of Tyr up at Specusphere, the Queensland site for "fans, users and creators of speculative fiction industries". You can find the full review here.

In part:

"Her writing is smooth, easy to read and consistent in its excellence, as we expect of an established writer."

"Larke writes this sometimes tragic tale with great sensitivity. Many years and many locations have been shoe-horned into this volume: it is epic fantasy on the grand scale. The characters are well-drawn and differentiated and the tale sweeps us along with the grandeur of its purpose."

I just love it when a reader understand what I have trying to say, and loves the book at the same time. My thanks to the lovely Satima Flavell.

BTW, if you are an Australian resident, there's a simple competition to win one of 5 copies of the first book, Heart of the Mirage up for grabs here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

How much notice do you take of Amazon reviews?

Ok, so we established the other day that we writers are totally pathetic, and we look at our Amazon reviews with obsessive regularity to glean whatever drops of approbation we can find to feed our voracious egos...

But I am wondering: just how much notice do READERS actually take of those reviews? Now I know this is probably an extreme case, but just consider this example:

A book, Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton, sits at 3,590 on the rankings after publication in June 2006. That's over 6 months ago, it's a hardcover and the paperback is not out till March 2007, so that's a pretty good ranking. It has 533 reviews. Wow. But it has been almost universally rubbished by those reviewers - it has 2 stars.
WTF? People are still snapping up the book, reading it, and then writing a review about how lousy they think it is. There are already 9 reviews for January. Don't any of them read the reviews first, and wonder whether they really ought to buy it in the first place? Apparently not. Or not enough to give the author a lousy ranking.

Interesting, eh?
From a writer's point of view, I guess the moral is: if you get a bad review, don't worry. Perversely, it might even sell more books...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

What kind of book ending do you really, really hate?

I am still deep in messing around with Song of the Shiver Barrens, so here are some Langkawi Island photos to look at, all taken from the cable car. Want to see what a rainforest looks like from above? Langkawi is the place to go. Click on the photos if you want a better look.

Plus a question. What type of book ending do you deeply dislike.

I am particularly interested in sff of course, but no need to confine your comments to that...and note, I am not asking what you like, but what you hate. And I am thinking of the real ending, i.e., the end of the trilogy not Book 1.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Beware holidaying with the Noramlys

Langkawi Islands

(This post is for you, E. Be warned...)

When the Noramlys travel, you can almost guarantee that things will not go as planned. Over the years, we have, between us:

had a passport stolen in a foreign country (daughter and me on separate occasions), been in a traffic accident that totalled a 4WD (me), broken a collarbone (me), missed planes and trains (lots of us), been robbed and dragged behind a car (me), narrowly escaped arrest for immigration violations (me), been involved in a massive airline strike and stranded for hours at airports and spent days trying to get home (all of us), been booked on a flight out of Beijing that didn't exist and consequently had to commuter hop across China to Ulan Bator (husband), arrived without luggage (all of us, but particularly husband who actually rarely arrives with his luggage), been on a plane that turned back twice over the Pacific for mechanical failure (husband; on the third try he was almost the only passenger on a huge PanAm jet), been refused entry to Italy and narrowly escaped deportation (daughter), been caught in the middle of revolutions (husband and me, several times in different countries), been turned back by floods (husband and me), been on a plane that suddenly aborted a landing into Caracas in a rainstorm at the last moment, without explanation (husband and me), had someone take her bag by mistake at the airport and take it to his hotel (daughter), have a bag stolen at the airport (me), had numerous bags rifled by airport employees (all of us), spent a holiday in the Sahara in December on the only days of the year it rained (husband and me), been lost trekking in the Sahara (daughter), had the boat we were on start to sink (husband and me). I could go on and on.

So how did my daughter's visit compare this time? Here's the list:

Luggage didn't arrive, even though they were arriving on different flights from different places.
Luggage had been broken into and camera memory stolen.
On way back, a sculpture was broken.
Daughter - bad cough and not up to par for the first week.
Son-in-law - very bad food poisoning.
Grandson - broke his forearm.
Sis-in-law who came with us to Langkawi broke blood vessel in foot and couldn't walk.
Daughter suddenly realised that her passport contained a stamp that said she couldn't use it again, just before she was due to leave for Australia. This necessitated frantic gathering of necessary documentation, waiting in queues etc, only to be told that she needed a new Identity Card first, which meant more frantic scurrying around and waiting - great way to spend a holiday. And don't forget, there's a two year old involved here.

Yep, we all had a great time.

But if you ever travel with the Noramlys, be careful. Be very careful.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The kind of day a writer dreams of having...

But first let me show you the answer to yesterday's wildlife trivia. The answer is a Colugo. Also known (erroneously) as a flying lemur. It's a herbivore mammal that flies (well, glides actually) using a membrane that stretches from the tail via back and front legs to the sides of the neck.

And now for the nice things that happened today. Well, first I realised someone posted 3 rave 5-star reviews on Amazon for the 3 books of The Isles of Glory, which is always nice.

(OK, I know one is not supposed to put any store by Amazon reviews - they are all supposed to be written by one's mother or best friend or something, right? And I promise you, once I am hugely famous and no longer need the reassurance that someone out there likes my work, I'll stop reading them... Until then, bless you, you Amazon reviewers. I love you all. )

Next my Australian editor, wanting something to put in the 2007 sampler, read the new first chapter of The Song of Shiver Barrens (the old first chapter was totally scrapped) and seemed to like it enough to use. I'm a little embarrassed as it is only a day or two old and not polished, let alone copy edited! Still, I feel I must be on the right track.

And just a few minutes ago, my lovely agent (may she be showered with blessings in 2007) sent me an email detailing another offer for yet another foreign language version of The Isles of Glory to be published 2008.

In Trade first, then Mass Paperback. My first TRADE!! Eureka!

Major publisher in a major language. (Having once had an serious offer from a Big English Language Publisher that later fell through before signing, through no fault of either mine or my agent, I am not saying more than that, but believe me, I am already grinning from ear to ear on this one. ) Yay!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wildlife trivia: what's this?

What's that greyish thing on the tree trunk that looks like a bit of curled-up rabbit skin? (Taken outside our chalet on Langkawi.)
Clue: It's about 24" or 600mm long.

Answer tomorrow...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Langkawi Island and the writer

Langkawi is on the west coast, up near the Thai border, a scatter of islands across a green sea. It's supposedly named after the Brahminy Kite or Helang Kawi. Hence the statue.

Here's the hotel and the chalet where we stayed; the other photo is me hard at that's desperation. Er, dedication.

My agent and my editor both want changes to The Song of the Shiver Barrens. Which means I am going to be flat out for the next month. Don't expect too much civility from me for a while...I have a deadline. They call 'em that for a reason - ultimately, if you don't meet the final one, you're dead.

This is actually a new process for me. Usually my MSS are accepted with a minimum of changes, so I have been spoiled. But this book suffered from being written in too short a time.

For the curious - how much notice does an author tale of editorial suggestions?
Answer: a lot, if you are wise. They know a lot more than you do about what appeals and what doesn't work, believe me.
What if you don't agree?
You discuss it. And you listen. Hard. Ultimately, if you already have a contract, your decision will be the final say, and what you write will be published. An author can't - or shouldn't - compromise their integrity, that I do believe, but I also believe that an author who won't at least listen and think about requested changes is an idiot.

I have usually found this: when an editor says something needs changing, they are probably right. However, when they suggest HOW it should be changed, they don't necessarily proffer the best solution. You are the writer; solutions are your job.

And right now, I'm hunting solutions. So if I don't write over much on the blog, or don't comment on the comments, you'll know why - but never fear; I always read everything everyone says, and I appreciate the time you all take to say stuff.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Are writers a self-absorbed, whiny lot?

I've just said goodbye to daughter, son-in-law and grandson, so I am feeling a bit bereft.

One interesting thing Daughter said while she was here was that she really doesn't like to read writer blogs/websites. 'When I read a good book, I am transported to another world, I live there for a time, inside the mind of others, in another place - and I think what a wonderful person this author must be to be able to write like that.

'And so often when I have gone to their blog or website, what do I find? A self-absorbed, whining individual, full of themselves, totally unattractive, sometimes seriously peculiar - and I think to myself, "This is the person who wrote that wonderful book?" Nope, I'd rather not know.'

Oops. Here we writer-bloggers are, madly blogging away and fondly imagining ourselves to be promoting our books by showing how articulate and witty and wild we are - and all the time we come across as a mob of whingeing meglomaniacs?

I shall now post a couple of photos taken during our holiday on Langkawi Island - neither of which show me. Just to be sure you all realise I am not totally self-absorbed. Proving I am not peculiar might be harder.

Ending the year...

So why no blog for so long? Well, this slow internet speed because of the overloaded undersea cables (the ones that aren't broken) just drove me up the wall. I still haven't received all my emails. And then we went away to Langkawi Island - more about that soon.

So let me start at the beginning - the end of 2006.

Hari Raya Haji - That's what the celebration for the climax of the period of the Haj is called in Malaysia. And we always go back to Malacca for a family reunion - and, of course, a big feast with lots of festive food. And if there is something Malaysians do well, it is cook. This year the feast fell on the last day of the month - so this is what we spent the last day of 2006 doing. Eating.

The photo shows us trying to get the whole extended family, all dressed in festive finery, in the one place at the one time for the family photo - and there's always one kid who has other ideas...!

If you look hard at Grandson, you will see that he has his arm in a sling. Yep, he spent his time back in the kampung breaking an arm by jumping off the sofa.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hi, I'm back, sort of...

I'm still alive, never fear. Will have a proper blog on Monday. Have been lazing away on a tropical isle with family, exhausting myself by eating too much, sleeping too much, and doing the occasional run-after-the-two-year-old thing, just to keep fit.