Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The writing life... transected with peaks and gullies.

In the past 24 hours, I have:
  • received my first copy of "The Shadow of Tyr" with its lovely comment from Karen Miller - a superb writer and a bestseller herself - and I just love it. I keep stroking the cover...
  • been told by my agent that my German contract has been cancelled. I'd signed the contract, and been paid the initial advance - and then the editor involved left and no one has picked up the baton. Sigh. Especially distressing as the German reading public loved "Havenstar" and were very supportive.
  • received my Voyager diary for 2008 which is just gorgeous and full of zany quotes and idiocies from the Voyager-Australia authors, including myself. Buy a load of Voyager books in December in Oz and you will probably get a free copy...
  • seen a stack of copies of "Heart of Mirage" Orbit edition on sale in MPH MidValley Kuala Lumpur. Hey, I am still kid enough to be thrilled by things like that. (So whaddya waiting for, KLites? Get down there!! I suspect it is also available in Borders and Kinokuniya, but I haven't looked.)
  • received my Russian contract for "The Tainted". They have a 5,000 initial hardback print run too. I am dying to see the cover.
  • received my Russian advance.
Actually that's a lot of peaks to only one gully.

I am a lucky son of a gun.
And, oh yeah, another gully - most of the photos on my Cameron Highlands post have mysteriously vanished. Huh? How did that happen? I shall put them up again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10 Mysteries about Writing and Publishing

One unfortunate thing about living in Malaysia is the way I am so cut off from other sff* writers and from the vibrant sff community one finds in so many other countries. So it was great to have Donna – an editor and writer – staying with me, even if it was only for a few days.

I probably talked her to death.

Among other things we chatted about were some of the unanswerable questions about writing and publishing. I’ve been thinking this some more and here is my list of 10 (unanswerable) Mysteries about Publishing and Writing:

1. Why poorly crafted books sometimes hit bestseller lists and make a fortune for their authors

2. Why well-written, entertaining, thoughtful books sometimes flop catastrophically

3. Why writers/agents/publishers can’t figure out the answer to the above two questions after all these years…

4. Why so many people think that:

a) writing a book is easy
b) getting it published is only hard because “you have to know someone in the business”
c) writing is lucrative

5. Why many wannabe writers:

a) don’t read
b) don’t buy books and support the industry they hope will support them

6. When a struggling writer, trying unsuccessfully to get published, should give up trying

7. Why genre is so despised, sometimes even by those who write it

8. Why many sf writers/readers look down on fantasy (and occasionally vice versa)

9. Whether books will survive the computer/visual media age

10. And why on earth do I spend most of my days sitting at a computer writing anyway, when I could be out there earning twice as much doing other things?

*science fiction and fantasy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend in Camerons

We took Donna up into the highlands this weekend. Not exactly a hardship as we rather do like poking about the tea plantations.

I shall let the photos speak for themselves, but if someone can explain to me why there were twelve Lotus cars and two Porsches also poking around over those rough tea plantation tracks, I'd be interested to know.

Two other wondrous things happened too: I walked up several very steep hills (first time after 3 months of enforced rest) and I wasn't shattered afterwards. I think I am back to normal. See photo of me against the skyline going "YAY!"

And I went away for a weekend without my laptop. No writing. I blame Donna, or course. She's too interesting and we talked all the time.

Photos: Boh tea plantation; rows of tea plants; Donna and me at the top of the hill; Boh Tea plantation; Donna in a contemplative mood; me on the way to the top of the hill; Cameron Fruit and vegies

Friday, October 26, 2007

While we were gone...

...the squatters moved in.

I am now back in the Klang Valley. That is, back home at our house in Selangor. No more little apartment in Sabah with views of Mt Kinabalu and those sunsets...


The house in Selangor was flooded the day before my husband returned, and all the carpets soaked, so the house smells like - well, like wet wool and mould. I returned Wednesday night, and then spent most of Thursday at the hospital for an appointment with the rheumatoid arthritis clinic. So far, the osteoarthritis clinic say my problem is probably rheumatoid and the rheumatoid docs say, no sounds more like osteo, and the gynae says no, it's torn muscles, and in the meantime I get better all by myself without any treatment except rest, while everyone argues. I'm ok with that.

Anyway Thursday night I had a houseguest arrive (Donna of mushroom soup fame), so poor thing has to put up with being a guest in a place that smells like rotting rainforest leaf litter and which hasn't been thoroughly cleaned in months.

And we have other guests, like the squirrel that as built a nest in our bathroom.

Don't you just love the tropics?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Do authors really have the right to gossip about their characters behind their backs?

There's a lovely pix here of a suitably mystified Dumbledore asking the above question.

And I am mystified. Just what is the big deal?

As one indignant reader said on another forum:

Is it ok for a children's author to bring up a potentially age inappropriate issue, after the fact (and after the receipts are in), for no apparent reason (except perhaps a bit of grandstanding)? Doesn't this constitute a breach of trust toward parents of young children who bought the book for their kids (the primary market for the books)?

To be quite honest, I am puzzled that the appropriateness of an author making a comment about their own book should ever be questioned. (Free speech anyone?) But quite apart from that, the book is exactly the same as it ever was. You buy the printed word, not the author's right to voice her thoughts, or to answer a question. A "breach of trust"? How? The book did not change. You bought the book, not what people say about it after the fact.

And what is "age inappropriate" about the words "Dumbledore is gay" anyway?
It is hardly a pornographic statement. How is it different to saying "Cinderella married the prince"?

If a child then asks you: "What does married mean?" do you blush and curse Hans Christian Andersen, or whoever wrote the fairytale? No, you make an age appropriate remark to explain the word to their level of readiness.

For the life of me, I can't understand the problem.

People are weird. Or is it me?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ah, we progress. I have gone from error 678 "couldn't find the remote computer" - that is, the computer of my Internet Provider, yes, the IP that I pay money to for the privilege of a connection supposedly whenever I want it - to error 718 "the remote computer did not reply in a timely manner".

You know what? I wouldn't mind even if it replied in an untimely manner. If only it would reply.

In the meantime, I go on paying double what I should, and TMnet laughs all the way to the bank as they scam another trapped customer in a land that has only one IP.

Tonight is my last night in Sabah. It is raining. I am surrounded by boxes and packing mayhem. Maybe when we are back on the mainland my computer will slip under their radar and be able to make a connection. I'm a hopeful sort of person.

The pix is dawn from our room on Pulau Banggi last week. See what you miss when you don't get up with the sun?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chatting to my IP - on a daily basis

Ever since I returned from the islands, 5 days back, there has been something wrong with my internet connection.

So every day I have to schedule time on the phone with my IP.

And every day they make me jump through some hoops in an endeavour to show me that it is the fault of my computer or my phone line, and not their fault. (Today I had to dial the connection number on my phone line to make sure it sounded like a fax number. It did.
Usually it's much more complicated than that, and takes a big chunk out of my day.)

And every day I finally convince them that there is nothing wrong with my computer, my connection, my modem, my phone line.

And every day nothing happens to make it better.

It's a plot - I have to use their back up number, and it costs twice as much, so they are making money out of me at the moment.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where to buy GILFEATHER in the UK

In the wild and wonderful way that publishers sometimes have of doing mysterious deeds, my US publisher of the Isles of Glory trilogy decided to remainder the middle book, Gilfeather. Which has meant that it has quickly become unavailable in some places.

And it has lead to the inevitable - indignant fans who bought book one and now want to read on... I do apologise.

Fortunately, it is still available at odd places in the USA for a reasonable price, although you may have to hunt a bit or buy online, so matters aren't urgent there, but over in UK (where the books have never been published) the price of Gilfeather is now over 16 pounds sterling on, or $33 USD - over 4 times what they sold for new in the USA.

So where can you buy them in the UK without paying a ridiculous sum? Try this online store:
It is run by a friend of my daughter, situated in Glasgow.

In addition, all the books are still available in Australia, where they are still in print and can be found in or ordered from any Australian bookstore, or they can be bought online from Australian bookstores.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saying goodbye

On Wednesday I leave Sabah.

We give up our little apartment and go home, to where we have a house on the outskirts of Greater Kuala Lumpur.

My husband will be working at his old university (where he was one of the first academic staff recruited) which is just down the road from our house.

At least he won't have much of a commute.

There will be lots of good things about being back on the mainland, but oh - I shall SO miss Sabah.

Here are a few of the reasons why: taken at the beach last week, just north of Kota Belud on the west coast.

That's the Bajau Horsemen area, so of course one photo has to include a Bajau horseman.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Beauty and heroines

Sometimes an email comes along that makes everything worthwhile. And I have had one such from a man who just made my day.

He begins:

"I have read Havenstar now for the 20th time. This book still manages to surprise me, even shock me and I still cheer for the characters even though I know what will happen. It is by far my favourite book of all time. I only wish it would have been a trilogy, with each book having more than 800 pages. "

How cool is that?

Thank you, Daniel.

He then asks an interesting question, which I thought I would answer here. He was wondering what prompted me to make the heroine rather plain in looks.

And here's my answer.

For a start, not being pretty myself, I have a natural dislike of the idea that someone has to look good in order to be heroine. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my favourite novel when I was about thirteen was Jane Eyre.

Beauty is something we are granted if we happen to be lucky; it’s not something we earn. I wanted to say that other things are much more important: courage, standing up for what you believe is right, loving wholeheartedly and being prepared to make sacrifices for those we love, never giving up even when things look bleak, working hard to achieve a better world, and so on.

Those are the things that made the main character in Havenstar heroic, and in the end, the other characters forgot all about the fact that she was rather mousy and insignificant in appearance – and in fact, I rather think than when Davron Storre looked at Keris, he thought she was beautiful.

And speaking of beauty, here is a sunrise this time, as seen from our accommodation on the island of Banggi, Sabah.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More pix from Kudat

Here are some more pix from the northern town of Kudat - a part of their water village, and a Chinese temple/Hokkien clan association complex. Had to take a photo of the dragons, right? (Love those claws). I'm a fantasy writer and all fantasy writers put dragons in their...

Well, no they don't. But some people think we do.

We actually had to go to 5 different hotels in Kudat to find one that could offer us a room. In the morning we went down to the quay to buy tickets to Banggi Island. It was bedlam, as tickets cannot be bought in advance, and the company is not allowed to put on more trips during festivals or peak periods. It was therefore overloaded.

That night, watching TV as we had dinner, we heard about the ferry that caught fire and sank on the way to Tioman Island, with loss of life. Can't say I was surprised...

More about our trip tomorrow, if I can get internet connection. I am now having a coffee in The Coffee Bean in Kota Kinabalu just to get online. At home, with dear, all I get is "the remote computer is not answering..." Funny thing that. It always seems to happen during the holiday season. Do they perhaps turn off their server computers when they go on holiday...???

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sabah sunsets

We have been away a couple of days, up north from Kota Kinabalu, to the island of Banggi.

What is it about sunsets in Sabah? They seldom seem to fail us. This one is in Kudat, where we stayed for a night before taking the ferry across to the island.

We are now on our way back, staying overnight in a small town called Kota Belud. Pleasant little hotel which has internet connection! Yay! The whole of Banggi Island has no fact, electricity is only 6pm to 6am...more about the trip later. Right now I am downloading into my inbox 250 offers to improve the size of an appendage I don't even possess. Sigh.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Interview and review

Selamat Hari Raya / Happy Id Fitr to all Muslim readers.

Over at Falcata Times, Gareth Wilson has done both an interview with me and a review of Heart of the Mirage. If you don't know this site - take a look. I am mightily impressed by the amount of work that goes into creating this printable PDF file. The cover may not be quite my thing (it's, um, not exactly aimed at my gender, at least not for someone of my orientation...) but the zine is absolutely worth reading and keeping just for the stacks of reviews, let alone all the other goodies within.

Says the review: "...full of intrigue, mystery and perhaps best of all, subterfuge, with the principle character learning to come to terms with their own heritage in a "Nature vs Nurture" battle from the very beginning.
"Truly memorable and a tale that has the second installment flagged for an immediate read... "

I think he liked it.

P.S. I may not have internet connection for some days this week...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mabul again

Mabul Island, a speck of coral and sand and palm trees in the Sulawesi Sea, is divided between the holiday dive resorts and the local inhabitants.

Between rich and poor, if you like. I couldn't afford to stay in those resorts, quite frankly, not without feeling the pinch.

So what do I feel about these photos? Are we looking at a way the local people can share in the luck of their wealthy visitors? (And it is a kind of luck - luck that Mr Diver X was born in Sydney and not Sipadan, or Tokyo and not Tawau, or Madison and not Mabul.)

Or are we looking at a way in which the locals are plundering the natural wealth of their environment and leaving behind a desert that will bring no money to the future generations? And at tourists who buy what ought never be bought?

Is it plunder or produce? Sharing wealth or encouraging stupidity? Good for everyone or good for no one?

What do you think?

P.S. Mabul is not a marine park; it is not protected in the way that Sipadan is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thinking of the reader: a post for writers generally

I had an email from someone who enjoyed Heart of the Mirage this week. [Thanks A.B.] However, he pointed something out that I had not realised before.

He is dyslexic and had problems because quite a few of my proper nouns started with the letter 'S', which gave him a problem (Solad, Shiver Barrens, Stalwarts etc.). I am usually pretty careful about naming people with names that can be muddled up, e.g. it's not a good idea to use both Eric and Elric, or both Selena and Serena in the same story, but I had not realised that just having the same beginning letter for many unfamiliar names can cause a problem. in fact, I had not realised that in this trilogy at least I seem to have developed a passion for the letter 'S'!

I am going to be much more careful about this in the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Toes are handy things

I was in one of the more upmarket shops in Kota Kinabalu this morning. There was a cleaner at work mopping the floor when she came across a piece of plastic string. Rather than bend down to pick it up, she slipped off her slipper and picked it up with her toes.

Only in K.K.

Love this place.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All at sea without an engine in a typhoon

No, not really. But there was a typhoon to the north and heavy seas when we headed away from the Semporna Islands towards the south. And something went wrong with one engine, and then the other. We ended up bobbing around in the Sulawesi Sea like a coconut.

When the engines did work, we were slamming into waves and getting thoroughly wet. We ended up heading into Mabul Island, instead of going straight to Sipadan. Which was a bit of a "let's see how the other half lives" exercise.

The resorts were built here after the Filipino pirates kidnapped divers and staff from Sipadan Island. Sipadan no longer has a resort; instead it has an army presence. Mabul already had villagers and is close to the mainland, and was thus considered a safer option for tourists.

And what you ended up with was what you see in the photos.

My question is: (1) What do those people in their fancy chalets think when they walk through the village? And (2) what do those villagers think when they walk through those fancy resorts? But, ah, maybe they aren't allowed to...
One wonders.

P.S. I can't afford to stay there. If you look carefully, you will however see me trying to pretend I belong (in the red Tshirt) . Rather difficult, seeing as I was fully clothed but dripping wet at the time.

P.P.S. Doesn't the sea look calm? But the moment we set out for Sipadan again, we had to turn back when we hit the open sea. It was rough. Noramlyed again*.

P.P.S. Remember that any of these blog photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. Note the flowers grown by the villagers in the most difficult of places to grow anything besides coconuts. The island is tiny - we walked around it, ambling, in half an hour.

*A term invented by my daughters long-suffering men to cover everything that happens to you when you travel with the Noramly family.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Life's Like That

Ever had one of those days...?
I received an SMS on my handphone on to say that my flight the next day would be delayed by over two hours, and if I had any further questions to ring this number...

The following morning, just to doublecheck, I rang the number. And spoke to a machine.

For English, please press 1. For Malay, please press...
I press 1.
For Flight information, please press 1. For Bookings, please...
I press 1
For flight times please press 1. For...
I press 1
Please enter the date of your flight, day, month, year.
I key in the date.
Please enter your flight number.
I key in the flight number.
(Long pause). I am sorry, we cannot find your booking. To return to the beginning, please press...
What? What booking? I never even gave you my name! You weren't looking for my booking!!

Which is how I ended up arguing with a machine.

Anyway, I caught the flight, and we left on the rescheduled time.

I get up bright and early this morning, and leave for my meeting. Followed by an hour in K.L. traffic jams, just to remind me what it is going to be like living here again. I pay out $3.40 in tolls, plus petrol.

Meeting starts, and two minutes into it, the decision is taken to postpone it until the beginning of November, because certain key participants did not turn up.


Saturday, October 06, 2007


I had a pleasant dinner tonight with the people who live in the apartment above me. We went down to the waterfront, ate kuey teow at a table under a tree as the sun set over the bay and the water lapped a few feet away from our feet. Oh, how I am going to miss this place.

Tomorrow I have to fly back to Kuala Lumpur for a one day meeting at a Federal Ministry to present a project paper - the project that took me gallivanting to all those national parks, remember? On Tuesday, I return to Sabah. Which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. Five hours flying time there and back, just to attend one meeting.

The photo was taken underwater by my husband at Sipadan Island. I was going to post one of me snorkelling, taken from below, but he deleted it first...hmmm. Was it really that bad?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Semporna Islands Park: more photos

Don't you just wish you were me?

Alas though, this month sees the end of our 18 month sojourn in Sabah. My husband has taken another job, at the National University this time. We are returning to our home in the Peninsula, far from the sea (sob).

Back to rush hours that last all day and traffic jams that never end. Back to the heat of a city and the dust of endless construction.

Back to where sunsets are never like these.

Sabah, I love you.

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! First draft down, only 20 more to go...

Zokutou word meter
172,700 / 172,700

And I came in well under 180,000 words. That's great.

I don't actually know how many drafts it will take to get it right, but it will be a good few.
This it the fun part. I just LOVE tweaking, polishing, cutting, expanding, moving...