Monday, June 30, 2008

Reading at Denvention

I forgot to say yesterday that I am also giving a reading at Denvention. I shall probably read something from the new trilogy (Time of Random Rain) and I am going to keep my fingers crossed that SOMEONE turns up to listen.

And I have been writing like mad - all of a sudden back in the groove. I am now half way through the first draft of the second book, Stormshifter (working title). The final book will probably be around 180,000, but I aim to get the first draft to 170,000 because I always like - and invariably need - about 5,000 words more before I complete the second draft, and then another 5,000 between second draft and publication. So here it stands at the moment on picometer halfway to the end of the first draft:

And Hrugaar has pointed out that Interaction Glasgow was 2005, of course (see last post). Plus the fact that the book I was thinking of was Anne McCaffrey's two Dinosaur Planet books. (And he says he has a bad memory. Huh.)

Today was a spend-the-time-at-hospital-clinic day, all re my 2 numb fingers. The good news is that they are SO much better. Not normal, but at least they don't have the feeling of two bananas struck on the end of my hand any more. It has taken 10 months to get to this point.

And the other good news was an email out of the blue from someone I had not heard from in 25 years. I love search engines.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

DENVENTION: my programme

As you will have noticed, there is a red decal thingy to the left of this that links to Denvention. And Denvention (for anyone not into this sf/f stuff) is a world conference of science fiction and fantasy readers, writers, fans, aficionados and gamers, coming up in early August, in Denver Colorado. It's affectionately called simply: Worldcon.

I have been once before, 19952005 Interaction in Glasgow, Scotland, and had such a hugely enjoyable time I swore I would go again. In August, I will be on my way between seeing one daughter (Nashii in LA) and the other over in Virginia (where I'll do my stint of sitting the grandson during the summer holidays). And guess what, Denver sort of falls vaguely in between, so...

I will be arriving in Denver on 5th August around lunchtime and leaving on the morning of the 11th. I'll be staying at the Hyatt Regency. So look me up if you are going too!

Here's my tentative programme for the convention, which I will confirm closer to the date):
I am on three panels:

  • Writing in Spite of Your Environment
This one should be real fun - and it is something close to my heart. I can write anywhere, and I reckon it is an essential aid to writers to have this ability!

  • A World Made of Birds:
    What would the Earth be like if the Dinosaurs Had Lived?
This one I will have to do some research for - obviously I was put on this one because of my ornithological connections. A great "What if-" idea for stories, as numerous filmakers have decided with varying degrees of success. What was that book written about a planet full of dinosaurs, which was actually a created world for endangered species about to become extinct?

  • Using Myths to Kick Off a Fantasy World
I actually don't use myths as inspiration, so I will have to do a bit of chatting about writers who do. Any suggestions anyone? People as disparate as Juliet Marillier, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Guy Gavriel Kay all spring to mind.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm busy today

From the late George Carlin, stand up comedian:

"Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?"

And here is one (also from Carlin) that Islamists might like to think about some time in the future*:

"I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."

*Just to cover all bases, let's replace the word "Church" with "Religion"...

Friday, June 27, 2008

So what don't women read?

The comments on the post below for Wednesday about men readers and cats continues apace.

What I want to know is this: do the majority of women have things that they don't read because the subject matter is perceived as "a male thing"?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Want a villa in Italy ?

Okay, this one is for Donna, who asked me to say hello to George for her.
So here he is, Donna. Well, his cottage anyway, first pix below. No, not the church, the other one, to the left.
And then there's Richard Branson's cottage ...
And another one that was the set of several movies, including Casino Royale...
And then there was the place where the meeting was being held that my husband was attending. Note the lunch tables under the tree...
And the view they had when they looked out of the windows.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Men don't read cats??

I often delve into a blog site called Writer Unboxed. Great place for writers and people who want to be writers and for readers who want to know a bit about the process. The brain child of Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, the site now involves a number of writers, such as Juliet Marillier (who lives in my home town and whom I have recently met for the first, and I hope not the last, time).

Recently Kathleen was asking her mystery-reviewer husband what earns a poor review out of him, and he remarked: "Cats. If you have to put a cat in your book, be aware that most men will not read it."

Okay, you guys out there. I want to know - is this really true? And if so, in heaven's name, why?? Ladies, ask your spouses, partners, brothers, fathers, sons: do they read cats?
Feedback in today's newspapers etc on yesterday's inanity about women's fashion in Kota Bahru seems to indicate that women in the town are going to ignore it all and just wear what they usually do.

Some things are just too childish and silly to heed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Funicular, Como to Brunante

On the edge of Como city there is a funicular railway that goes up the hill to Brunante. From there you can walk to a Lighthouse overlooking the lake. You also get great views of the duomo and the city.
If you look carefully at the next photo, you will see the line of the old city wall, now marked by lines of trees and a broader road. The cathedral, then, was once close to the wall.
And if you look at the next photo you will see there is another church just several blocks to the left of the cathedral (built 1396-1740), which was once also within the city walls. It predates the cathedral, in fact, and is called the Basilica of San Fidele. It was built around the 6th century and rebuilt in the 11th!
And when we came down from Brunante, we stopped to have lunch at the restaurant below (panini - melted cheese and tomato and zuccini on toasted bread). Yum. Why do these things taste so much better in Italy?)
Actually Jo said something about that in her blog recently. Americans, she said, put too much onto their pizzas. She is right. Italian taste relies on freshest ingredients and subtle tastes just done to a turn - and the best of cheeses. And in Como, I think the taste might have had something to do with the scenery too...

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Recently my daughter Nashii (pictured near the top of Mount Kinabalu last year) was asked to compose and record some music for the sound track of a soon to be released Hollywood movie starring Dakota Fanning. Given the way things work in Hollywood, she won't be sure if they actually used it until the film is released...

Anyway, take a look and listen here for what she and Eric Holden have been working on with some friends as a continuation of the music done for the film. Expect an EP release in the Fall...

There are 2 tracks up on the link above, "Teenage Spaceship" and "Ocean". Just push the button on the music player.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now this is a hotel room...

It may have cost the earth (even though I only paid for half of it), but you can't say I didn't do it in style.

And the bathroom was marble from floor to ceiling. Hell, even the fire escape stairs were made of marble.
Does anyone know what the painting is?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chimney pots

Remember when I said that about the only thing I saw of note last time I passed through Como, back in '82, from a train and on a misty day, was the chimney pots?

Well, here's a sample of chimney pots from this 2008 trip.

Little wonder I remember them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The concerned Malaysian politician - the new breed

This from today's The Star newspaper:

"Give us RM 100,000 annually or we chop down all the trees near the water catchment areas in the state." This was the threat Menteri Besar* Azizan Abdul Razak issued to the Federal Government.
He said the state government was losing millions in revenue because they could not chop down the trees for timber. "We know it is prohibited to cut down trees near water catchment areas, but the state is losing a lot in terms of revenue."

You know what words sprang into my mind as I read that?

Blackmail and extortion.
A man who doesn't worry about future generations.
A man who doesn't care if even his own constituents have clean water and clean air.
A man who has never heard of global warming.
A man who has never heard of the value of the biodiversity of the rainforest.
A man who doesn't care if he commits a crime even though he knows what the law says.
A man who doesn't have the faintest idea of how to govern.

The guy is from PAS, a party which is supposed to uphold religious values. Yet his idea of good governance is to threaten to trash his state?

*Translation: Chief Minister - i.e. State Premier or State Governor, in this case, of Kedah State.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How I know I am Home

1. There's no water pressure to speak of, and the shower dribbles like a toothless old man.
2. There's a Plaintive Cuckoo calling in the garden and a Koel (another cuckoo species) trying to drown it out.
3. I sweat sitting under the fan reading.
4. There are loads of bills sitting on the cupboard at the front door, all waiting to be paid.
5. My internet connection is FAST and doesn't cost RM84 cents a minute (79 US cents or 13p a minute) for a connection so slow it made me want to weep.
6. Petrol (gas for you Americans) costs at least one third less, in spite of recent price increases here.

How I know I have been somewhere else:
1. I wake at 2 a.m. and want to get up and start the day.
2. Many of the bills are for astronomical sums of money.
3. I feel guilty because I hardly wrote a word all week.

And did you know that the seat space on KLM is so tight that you can't open a laptop to work on?

I shall continue to post Como photos...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Walk in the Hills

Once upon a time, there were six more or less middle-aged ladies who decided to go for a walk. They were from five different countries - the U.S., Israel, Scotland, Australia and Austria. They lived in five different countries (add Switzerland and Malaysia to the mix) and only one lived in the country of her original nationality. Most of them had never met before that week. And together they had another perfect day...
It was obvious from the first that the weather was going to be co-operative. The first pic was taken from the boat as they steamed up Lake Como...

To the town of Argenio...(second pic)
Where they took a cable car almost vertically up to a town called Pigra (third and fourth pix).

In Pigra those ladies looked into the distance at a town called San Fidele, nestling in a valley and surrounded by hills ...

and decided to walk there.
They didn't actually make it, but along the way were views to die for, and another delightful town called Blessagno...
where the pizza was delicious...
the red wine tangy...
and the home-made tiramisu melted on the tongue into a glorious mix of delicate flavours.

And because one of those ladies (me) is intrigued by the tiny, you also have photos of a few small things along the way...a religious statue set into the wall of a house, some old building techniques and

... the rare and protected Dark Columbine Aquilegia atrata.

And then we returned to Argenio to take the ferry back to our hotel near Como

...with lots of memories.

So, here's to Doris (whose idea it was), Carter, Liz, Elena, Sandy ... and thanks for a lovely day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Amazon sanctions against authors...

I'll take a brief break from Como news just to mention the following. If you haven't read anything about this issue, you ought to, because we authors are among the victims here, as are independent booksellers and ultimately you, the reader. Sure, you can buy cheaper books in the short term, but in the long run the publishing industry suffers and so will you. (Most of this applies to only, and not necessarily - although they have had their own run-ins with authors lately, over publish-on-demand titles...).

The Telegraph talks about sanctions here, in an article published on 13 June 08, that starts like this:
Amazon, the online book seller, could face a strike by authors and publishers in an increasingly bitter battle over book profits. The UK's biggest publisher, Hachette Livre UK, is leading the charge against Amazon, which it claims is squeezing the market and demanding too great a share of sales.

In a very public fallout Amazon stopped selling new copies of about 50 Hachette titles, including books by Kate Mosse, Alexander McCall Smith, James Patterson, Stephen King and Dan Cruickshank, on its British website.

People are still able to buy and sell the books second hand through Amazon but the publishers make no money out of those sales.

Here are some facts, supplied by my UK publisher, Hachette Livre:
  • Larger British book retailers already receive the most generous terms in the English-language world from publishers.
  • Major retailers, including Amazon, generally already receive on average well over 50% of the recommended retail price.
  • Amazon now makes some 16% of all book sales in Britain.
  • At its present rate of growth Amazon could be the largest bookseller in Britain in about three years.
  • Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another making increasing demands.

Hachette Livre has decided to make a stand and resist these demands, and I am right behind them all the way.

Meanwhile, should you have trouble buying any Hachette-Livre titles in UK, uncluding my own (Orbit) books, they are easily available online from,, (UK) and other retailers, as well of course as from bookshops.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Como sights

Here’s some random pix (all mixed up) taken in Como town (first important in Roman times because of its strategic position, now having around 80,000 people).
§ A man scrubbing a window sill;
§ The Basilica of San Fidele, just a street or two away from the cathedral – started in the 6th century and redone in the 11th, and still, apparently not enough for this small town, as they then went on to build the cathedral.
§ A mime standing outside the old Town Hall
§ A shop window – the shop itself had enough different types of pasta to supply a different sort for every day of the year: coloured, plaited, round, flat, shell-shaped, thin, wide, twisted, patterned, long, short, curled, black, flavoured, plain, huge, tiny, utterly humongous – one piece enough for a one-person meal. You name it, they had it.
§ The place with the zig-zag brickwork, projecting out on huge hand-hewn wooden beams, didn’t even rate a mention in the main tourist brochure…

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Duomo Como

I am pretty much ignoring emails and comments for the time being as the cost of internet connection is utterly outrageous, so it I owe you an email, don’t expect to hear from me!
In the meantime, here is the cathedral in Como – a huge edifice, considering how small the town is. The striped building next door is the old town hall, that dates back to 1214 and was partially demolished in 1477 to make way for the cathedral, which was started in 1397 and finished around 1740. So it started as medieval and ended up baroque. Dates like those are completely unreal to an Australian, as you can imagine.

We sat at the café opposite (see second last pic) and had a lunch and gelato, while devouring (in a different fashion) the confectionary decorating the façade…

And I have decided that the way to cope with prices is to look at the price on the menu and decide they are actually talking about Malaysian ringgit, not Euros.

The last pic of the cathedral from above was taken from the funicular railway above the town.