Thursday, July 31, 2008

A peek into The Mirage Makers...

Jennifer Fallon has pointed out that Harper Collins Australia website now has the"browse inside the book" facility. You can now take a peek inside each of the Mirage Maker titles here by clicking on the title of each book. Be warned though, the pages they offer you are not entirely consecutive - they are the first 3 pages of each chapter! Enough, I guess, for you to decide whether you will like the story. One thing for sure, there are a lot more pages there than you get with Amazon.

They have not done the same thing yet for the Isles of Glory, although you can read extracts of The Aware and The Tainted.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

International Times for Virtual Conflux

Aah, Hrugaar tells me I have got the International times for the Virtual Conflux sff convention wrong. Let me check. I always am lousy at this!

Yep, here are the correct times for my appearance:

Malaysia/Perth: 10 a.m. Saturday
Canberra/Sydney: 12 noon Saturday
Los Angeles: 7 p.m. Friday
New York: 10 p.m. Friday
London: 3 a.m. Saturday
Paris: 4 a.m. Saturday

Thanks Hrugaar. My apologies to everyone. Bet I don't get many from UK or Europe...but do look at some of the other writers instead who will be online at hours more compatible.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Come chat with me!!

CONFLUX is the science fiction/fantasy convention held in Canberra. This year, prior to the convention they are repeating what they did last year: having a Virtual Convention. Next weekend.

So even if you can't go to the real thing, you can come and chat online to some authors including myself, guests at the real con, editors and others in the business.

Here's how:
Log on to this address* - find the section devoted to the author/celeb you want at the time scheduled for them - and chat!
Each has an hour allotted to them. You can throw them tough questions, tell them how much you loathed loved their books, ask what they are doing next, tell them how to write....whatever.

Here's when:
Next Saturday and Sunday, Oz time. I start the programme at 12 noon Eastern Australian time on Saturday. (That's 10 a.m. Saturday Western Australian/Malaysian time; 10 p.m. Friday night in New York; 7 p.m. Friday night in Los Angeles; 7 a.m. 3 a.m. Saturday in London - if I have my international dateline worked out properly. (Sorry about the original incorrect time for London.)

Here's the programme and the participants:
Saturday August 2

12 noon – Glenda Larke

1pm – Chris Barnes
2pm – Gillian Polack
3pm – Bruce Gillespie
4pm – Phill Berrie
5pm – Stephen Hunt
6pm – Peter Strong
7pm – Karen Miller
8pm – Fiona McLennan
9pm – Maxine McArthur
10pm – Sharyn Lilley
11pm – Karen Herkes
12 midnight – Ellen Datlow

Sunday August 3rd

1am to 6am – break
7am – Sherwood Smith
8am – Nicole R Murphy
9am – Jonathan Strahan
10am – Kaaron Warren
11am – Sean Williams
12pm – Kevin J Anderson
1pm – Cat Sparks
2pm – Jackie French
3pm – Jack Dann
4pm – Simon Haynes
5pm – Marianne de Pierres


Monday, July 28, 2008

Getting your priorities right

{I've decided to put the post on overwriting up on my blog - when I finish it}

In the meantime, it's wonderful to know that the authorities over in Kelantan State have their priorities right in the fight for justice. In this world of increasing crime and rising prices, of incompetent contractors, of people who steal the metal manhole covers and endanger our lives, of violence and corruption, rape, child murder by paedophiles - the authorities home straight in on dastardly crime and criminals who devastate the - um, well, let me see.

Er, just who was the victim again? Just who suffered from their crime? Er, what was the crime?

Never mind, it doesn't matter. I am sure that we will all sleep more soundly knowing that 4 transvestites are now in jail for 7 days, after paying fines of $1000 rm and pleading guilty to (dare I mention it?) the heinous crime of crossdressing.
Oh, and one wonders just how some of these desperadoes (there are actually 16 of them; the others have not appeared in court yet) are going to pay their fines. At least one is being sacked or suspended from his government job.

Really impressive, you enforcement guys over there in Kelantan. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done, keeping the world safe from the attack of the sarong and evening gown.

Next time I'm over there, I shall wear my shirt and trousers and lace-up shoes. I'll borrow a tie from my husband. Will you arrest me too?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rogue Rainlord

I have just finished another run through of the manuscript of Rogue Rainlord - or whatever this book 1 will finally be called - and I still found some examples of overwriting. (In early drafts, I invariably underwrite.)

I didn't forget any dogs this time - but I did forget one important detail. I sent a character off to get help, and then failed to mention what happened to him. Rather an important omission at this late stage! Fortunately, easily fixed.

Anyway, at last, I am happy with Rogue Rainlord. In fact, I think it is a brilliant book. Yep, I am at the peak of my love affair with this story. There is adventure and battle and war; excitement and despair and hope, a deeply touching love story, two very different men so consumed with hubris and their own agendas that they do not not recognise the evil they do, or in fact care. Generally lots of big things at stake in a world gone awry.

There were times when I knew it was terrible, and I thought I would never wrestle it into shape. But - with considerable help from my beta readers - I have arrived at a story that I am proud to have written. And possibly because it gave me so much trouble, I think it is one of the best things I have ever done.

Tomorrow I will say more about overwriting and underwriting. In the meantime, here's the very beginning of ...

Chapter One.

It was the last night of her childhood.

Terril, unknowing, thought it just another busy evening in Opal’s Snuggery, crowded and noisy and hot. Rooms were hazed with the fumes from the keproot pipes of the addicted and fuggy with the smell of the resins smouldering in the censers. Smoky blue tendrils curled through the archways, encouraging a lively lack of restraint as they blurred the air.

Everything as usual.

Terril's job was to collect the dirty plates and mugs and return them to the kitchen, in an endless round from sunset until the dark dissolved under the first cold fingering of dawn.

Her desire was to be unnoticed at the task.

Her dream was to escape her future as one of Madam Opal’s girls.

Once she’d thought the snuggery a happy place, the outer courtyard always alive with boisterous chatter and laughter as friends met on entry, the reception rooms bustling with servants fetching food from the kitchens or amber from the barrels in the cellar, the stairs cluttered with handmaidens as they giggled and flirted and smiled, arm in arm with their clients. She’d thought the snuggery’s inhabitants lived each night adrift on laughter and joy and friendship. But she had only been seven then, and newly purchased. She was twelve now, old enough to realise the laughter and the smiles and the banter were part of a larger game, and what underlay it was much sadder. She still didn’t understand everything, not really, even though she knew now what went on between the customers and women like her half-sister, Vivie, in the upstairs rooms.

She knew enough to see the joy was a sham.

She knew enough to know she didn’t want any part of it.

And so she scurried through the reception rooms with her laden tray, hugging the walls on her way to the kitchen, a drab girl with brown tunic, brown skin, brown hair so dark it had the rich depth of rubies; a timid pebblemouse on its way back to its lair with a pouch-load of detritus to pile around its burrow entrance, hoping to keep a hostile world at bay. She kept her gaze downcast, instinctively aware that her eyes, green and intelligent, told another story.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Distractions and writing

When I am working, there are times when I am easily distracted. Sunbirds will do the trick, anytime. When they come and perch on the gingers outside my study and start chirping and sipping the nectar, the novel gets temporarily ditched... I mean, who can resist a peek?

Unfortunately they are never still and are very hard to photograph. Still, that can make for an arty photo shoot, right?

Plain-throated (aka Brown-throated) Sunbird. Think of them as Asia's answer to the hummingbird (which is not found outside of the Americas).

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Bestselling Books of all Time! *

*Well, in Fantastic Planet since they opened shop in 2005....

This sf/f bookstore in my hometown (Perth, Australia) has just published a list of their top 100 bestsellers. And there is Heart of the Mirage at number 74. You can see the whole list here, but before you look, see if you can guess any of the top ten and let us know in the comments section! Two of the ten are Australian authors.

71...Where's My Cow?, by Terry Pratchett
72...Iron Council, by China Mieville
73...Blue Dragon, by Kylie Chan
74...Heart of the Mirage, by Glenda Larke
75...The Rabbits, by Shaun Tan and John Marsden
76...Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds
77...Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
78...Geodesica Descent, by Sean Williams
79...The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi
80...Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Thursday, July 24, 2008

So where do you come from?

Here's the map of one year's visits. Everywhere from Papua to Nome, by the look of it - taking in Outer Mongolia, Samoa (or is it Tonga?), Cape Verde Island, Iceland, the Sahara and the Maldives along the way.

Three weeks ago I registered with Google Analytics, which supplies a great deal more info.
The highest number of visitors were Australian, followed by in order by Malaysia, United States and U.K. Rather lower came Canada, China and France, then a whole list with just a handful of hits. In the States, there were more hits from California than anywhere else; in Australia, Perth headed the list. In the UK, it was St Helier. In Malaysia - the folk from Ipoh beat Kuala Lumpur, but when you include all the Klang Valley, Ipoh falls well behind.

Anyway, all of you, for whatever reason, thanks for dropping in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yep, I live in the midst of a jungle...

...and it's called our garden.

No prizes for guessing which is our house (googled from outer space, heh). Or for guessing why we have a lot of birds - I've racked up a list of over 70 species in the 18 years we've lived here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flower picking rage in Taman Cempaka

This morning, as usual, I went for a walk in out local park, Taman Cempaka. It is named after a popular local flowering tree, and a number of them are planted there.

The sweet scented flower is used in aromic oils, garlands and in Malay traditional medicines. In Bali it is used in offerings to the gods. Of course, there are always a few people who steal the flowers from the park trees, apparently believing that the word "public" means they have a right to help themselves, in spite of signs to the contrary.

(Like-minded people go fishing in the river that flows through the park, sitting right next to the signs that say: NO FISHING. Malaysians are very good at pretending laws either don't exist or aren't intended to include them.)

I usually walk with my husband, but he was busy this morning, so I was alone. I did stop to talk to one of our neighbours, though. While chatting, a couple near us were stealing flowers from a cempaka tree. Some people jogging past them made some remark in passing, which I didn't catch, about what they were doing. The gentleman I was speaking to - who is 70 years old - explained to the couple that one wasn't supposed to pick flowers growing in parks. He was polite and non-confrontational.

At which the man can charging at him like a pit-bull, his fist clenched into a fist, drawn back in a way that suggested he was going to let fly any moment. I was so astonished at this unwarranted attack, I thought he must be joking. He wasn't. My neighbour attempted to be conciliatory. Mistake. This enraged the man still further. Nice fellow this one. His wife made ineffectual noises in the background.

It looked like escalating into an attempt to inflict real physical conflict, so I stepped in front of him. He continued to pour out venom and threaten my neighbour with bodily harm for, apparently, daring to suggest that he wasn't allowed to steal flowers. I wouldn't let him past. His fist, clenched tight, waved in the air past my ear, shaken at my neighbour as he pushed against me in his eagerness to get at his target. (He really did remind me of a dog straining on a leash at this stage - he paid me no attention whatsoever, any more than a dog listens when it's riled.) My neighbour, without actually apologising for speaking the absolute truth, remained calm and softly spoken, suggesting that they shake hands and go on their way.

That enraged him still further. "We weren't breaking the branches," the wife said, "just picking the flowers." As if that excused anything, least of all his aggression.

In the end, I grabbed my neighbour by the arm and turned away.

If I knew the name of the man, I'd write it here, but I don't. Stealing is stealing, mate. Read the signs if you don't believe me.

And I am left wondering if he beats his wife. I wouldn't be surprised. Or maybe he just has early Alzheimer's and the personality changes that go with it.

A violent man or a sick one, he certainly enlivened my morning walk.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Are you a writer who needs help?

If you are, then one of the avenues open to you is to seek professional help - which, of course, comes with a price tag. If you are debating where you need this kind of help then you could do worse that read first the piece that Bibliobibuli has up on her excellent blog today, written by just such a free-lance editor, Rob Redman.

The editor also has an excellent blog here.

I hasten to say that I have no personal knowledge of how good or otherwise this particular editor is at editing, but his advice is definitely good.

To whet your appetite, here's the beginning of the article:

This is how the story goes. Freelance fiction editing began to bloom a couple of decades back, when downsizing publishers sacked many of their in-house editors. Publishers were now more reluctant to take on manuscripts that were in need of development, and there were dozens of experienced fiction editors in need of work. It was only a matter of time before those editors began to advertise their services directly to hopeful writers. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where more prospective authors than ever before compete for the attentions of fewer publishing houses, hiring an editor is seen as one way to increase the chances of success.

I think this has led to a slight misconception regarding the role of freelance editors, and it's one that the less scrupulous editors are all too ready to exploit. You see, editors aren't really there to help you sell your book, but rather to help you improve it, to develop your abilities as a writer, and progress towards that point where you can sell your book for yourself. Personally, I'd say that 90% of the critiques I do are about helping writers in the early stages of their development, rather than polishing almost-perfect manuscripts before they're submitted to agents.

It's best to think of an editor is as a writing coach, and the process of the critique as a focussed writing course, based around your novel.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Don't Forget the Dog!

At the end of The Aware, Blaze has a dog, a marsh dog with webbed feet.

At the beginning of the second book of that trilogy, Gilfeather, the dog was still with her. Then, for a part of the story, Blaze the character was not around. When she returned to the story line, the dog was missing and I blithely wrote on to the end. Only when I went back to re-read, it struck me: what happened to the dog?????

So one of the things I had to do in the second draft of Gilfeather was bring back the dog...

Needless to say, now that I am writing the second book of this Random Rain trilogy and re-reading Book 1 at the same time, I am looking for missing dogs, cats, tics, accents, mysteriously changing eye colour and a whole heap of other stuff. Trying to keep a whole world and fifty characters straight in one's head is, well, a headache sometimes.

So as I re-read Book 1, I am jotting down things on a white card with the title:


Here are just a few of the items I have put on the list:
  • Gibber rush comes twice a year
  • Reduner women do not drive pedes
  • Embroidery on carapace Baster pedes is red
  • Burnish - inlaid with mica
  • Ryka has freckles
  • Pede carving - done by sons
  • The piece of jasper!
  • Sandmasters can take zigger water
  • No ginger hair in the Quartern
  • Two days ride between Scarcleft and Breccia
...and so on.
Let' s hope this time I don't forget the jasper. It's important.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Went to the movies...

_ And saw The Dark Knight. Brilliant. Loved it. Harrowing, but superb.

And Heath Ledger was outstanding, and I am not just saying that because he died so young, or because he's from my home town. He deserves every bit of the praise he will get for this performance. Especially since acting through a mask of make-up must be difficult.

Yet why, oh why, does that seem to make his unnecessary death seem even more poignant?

Vale, Heath. I hope, somewhere deep inside, you knew you had turned in a performance people would remember for a long, long time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Poetry in SF notion...

This from Jim Hines, author of Goblin Quest, etc. You can see the whole poem here.

I am the Very Model of a Modern SF Novelist

I am the very model of a modern SF novelist,
I've manuscripts space opera, anime, and fantasist,
I know the kings of fandom and the best flamewars historical
From Andrew Burt to LiveJournal, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted too, with matters editorial,
I keep my cover letters brief and never too suctorial,
About rejection etiquette I'm teeming with propriety,
With many cheerful facts about your online notoriety,
I'm very good at worldbuilding and proper use of ansibles;
I know the hyphenated names of beings unpronounceable:
In short, in matters space opera, anime, and fantasist,
I am the very model of a modern SF novelist.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dark Side of the Force

World Youth Day, Australia.

Photo credit here. (via Jenny Fallon)

The Dark Side

Given yet another controversy in Australia about whether the Catholic Church is truly sorry for the sexual abuse meted out to children under the pastoral care of its priests, maybe the photo is doubly appropriate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rejection Letter

Last Friday was apparently "post a rejection letter" day, which started here with Shaun K.Green. Ok, so I'm rather late.

I opened up a file, and here is an extract from the first one I came across, sent to my agent back in 2000.

"I couldn't persuade our sales people that it was strong enough for us to make the right sort of commitment to it. Of course, they want the next top-of-the-bestsellers fantasy, and Noramly doesn't attempt the formulaic big-big fantasy that's seen as the answer. She's very interesting, thoughtful, provocative, politically aware; but the first person narrative of (The Heart of the Mirage) offers a different perspective on a fantasy world, and though very well wrought, the world is not made available to the reader in the same way as it is in an epic fantasy."

That's a lovely rejection letter.
Five years later I met the author of that letter, and she was just as nice as it suggests. And it's all moot now anyway as the book has been published (by another publisher in the same country)!

Persistence. So much of the road to success is persistence. Ok, sheer stubborn, pig-headed bloody-mindedness. My luck was in finding an agent who was just as obstinately dogged as I am.

[Ah but that whole first person thing - no matter how good the book, the first person narrative puts some people off, even though the story would in fact be less effective if the third person narrative was used.]

Now you see one of the reasons I have not written a first person book since The Mirage Makers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In my garden

Orchids, gingers, ferns and bees...

The bird's nest fern on the stand is a big problem for us at the moment, because wild honey bees have built a nest in the stand.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Writing progress

Getting there, getting there. If I think of the target for the first draft as being 170,000 then the picometer looks like this which is even better:

However, I am taking a bit of a break for a few days, and going back to book one instead. There are a few minor mistakes in continuity and a bit of tweaking that needs to be done; besides, I need to check that I remember what happened in the first book...yeah, my memory is that bad!

Anyway, here's a bit of description from Book One, if you feel like a peek.

Davim the Drover, Sandmaster, sat on his pede at the top of the dune they called the Watergatherer. To the east and west, the red line of the dune humped away as far as he could see. To the north, it fell sharply to the plains. This, the front edge of the Watergatherer, was a wall of fine red dust unsullied by any plants or growth, a slope steep enough to have made walking difficult. Its top edge, towering a few hundred paces up, was as sharp as a sword cut. An occasional playful gust of wind tore grains away from the cut in flurries.

The back side of the dune was different. There were gullies and dips and hollows, but mostly it slipped gently down to the plain in a long slope of several miles. The red sand was dotted with vegetation: a prickly bush here, a sand-creeper there; a clump of smoke-bush behind that. Bare surface showed through, but the plants maintained a precarious existence, oblivious to the slow inching of the dune that carried them forward.

The red dunes of the quarter
were waves swallowing up the land in front only to discard it behind two or three decades later, leaving it lifeless, the skeletal remains of a masticated meal. The Red Quarter had sixteen such dunes, each spaced equidistant from the next, each on its inexorable slither northwards to extinction, death being a long slow demise as they eased themselves into the expanse of the Burning Sand-Sea, a desert so hot and vast that not even a pede ventured there.

They were birthed in the south, those dunes, perhaps by the eroded red rock of the Warthago Range, or the red earth of The Spindlings.
The plain they traversed was also red, although the earth was coarser and its vegetation sealed it tight against the depredations of the wind. It was covered with low bushes, rocks, the odd waterhole — until the next parallel hill line of sand ten or fifteen miles away.

Davim scanned the country carefully from his vantage point, watching for the man he expected. His fellow conspirator, he supposed, but he preferred to think of the man as the Traitor, for such he was to his own kind. Once Davim had respected him, though not now. Conspirators they might be, but Davim despised the treachery, useful as it was, that was bringing the Scarperman to him again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Synopsis nightmare

I love it the way my agent blithely says: Send me a synopsis, will you? - as if I can churn one out in ten minutes. I'd rather write a 5,000 word chapter than one synopsis for a single book, and I'd make a better job of it, too.

And this one is for a whole trilogy.
We are talking summarizing half a million words down into something that makes sense and sounds interesting. For a fantasy. Right. Aaaaargh!

So I sacrificed a whole day of novel writing to write a synopsis instead...and I still think it sounds like the lunatic ravings of someone on hallucinogens. I had actually done this before, a year and a half ago, but at the time the books were unwritten and the trilogy was actually going to be a quartet, so it needed changing drastically now that it is only 3 books and one and a half of them have already been written.

Imagine an arid, ancient land where it no longer rains without magical intervention.

Such is the Quartern, where rainlords sense and move water and cloudmasters make and break clouds to bring rain. Their abilities bring them unlimited wealth and power, as well as a burdensome responsibility.

When potential new cloudmasters are murdered and the land is left short of water, a boy with the ability to move clouds becomes a pawn in a power struggle that leads to war, and two squabbling rainlords are forced to marry in order to produce more cloudmasters. In the meantime, in a poverty-stricken Quartern city, a girl able to depict the future on the surface of water is trapped in a painted destiny, not knowing that her skills will one day be crucial to the survival of the land.

The three books follow the story of these four characters in a time of drought and war, when men and women governed by greed seek to rule, and honour means risking all to stop them.

If only I could stop there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blaze Halfbreed

My niece has sent me a link to a picture of Blaze Halfbreed (with a VERY large sword) done by a reader (InusyashaRaven) and uploaded at Deviant Art. Thanks Abby...

Still writing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I am writing,
and writing...


The man beneath her was dead.
His eyes stared upwards past her shoulder, sightless, sad, the vividness of their blue already fading. For a while his blood had seeped from his wounded chest into her tunic, but that had slowed, then stopped. She did not know his name, although she knew him by sight. He’d been a guard at Breccia Hall. Younger than she was. Eighteen, twenty? Too young to die.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Inhouse mystery

Before and after pix:

When my friend Hrugaar was coming to stay, I cleaned the spare bedroom. And I noticed that there were two items missing from the walls. Which was a bit freaky. Someone been sneaking into the house to pinch items from the bedrooms?

I turned the place upsidedown, wondering if this was the first signs of senile dementia or Alzheimer's in yours truly. Perhaps in some unremembered moment of scattiness, I had tucked them away in the freezer or washing machine or something.

Commonsense prevailed. The room gets periodically used by visitors. One of my guests just didn't like what was on the walls and took them down and hid them. They were eventually found - after Hrugaar had long gone - tucked away under all the items in a storage drawer of the room.

I'm afraid this just strikes me as weird. They were carvings made of wood, collected by my husband on his travels. Wood, you know. Dead trees. They aren't emitting radiation. They don't contain hidden cameras or microphones. They are harmless bits of wood, lovingly and beautifully carved for tourists, by not-very-wealthy artisans trying to make a living out of travellers coming to their country to gawk at them.
Yeah, I am intolerant of superstition. Very. Call it cultural differences if you like; I tend to think of it as the kind of thinking that keeps people poor and backward, that makes a women suffering from cancer seek out a witchdoctor or traditional medicine man, and end up dead as a result. The kind of thinking that makes someone gullible to conmen. The kind of thinking that makes conservation students too scared to go into the forest because of the "spirits" there. The kind of thinking that makes people try to find easy substitutes for hard work and commonsense, you know, "think positively and you'll end up rich". And before you laugh at that, think of the wild success that feng shui proponents have had, or that ghastly book called "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne.

Maybe she was right at that - guess who made a fortune by believing she could write and market a book about wealth and health through positive thinking, positive that hundreds of thousands of the gullible public would buy it? Now there's proof for you!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Who wants a politician who never changes their mind?

One of the things that has struck me about US presidential elections (not just this one, but the previous ones as well) is the hysteria with which any evidence of a change of opinion by a candidate is greeted. A new take on any issue from an individual is called everything from a flip-flop (with its connotations of floppiness and indecision and unreliability) to words like betrayal and lack of principles. The press and the opposition scour the voting records of candidates to find inconsistencies and then treat them with scorn.

True, a politician who blows this way and that depending on a political wind is a bit of a useless reed, with no backbone and adhering to no principles because he doesn't actually have any. But let's not go overboard on this.

A politician who changes his mind is not necessarily an unprincipled idiot. Quite frankly, when it comes to a job like the President of the USA, I'd appreciate knowing that the world has in it a president of a powerful country who actually was capable of weighing up an issue and deciding that new developments warranted new directions. That seems like wisdom to me, not a lack of principles.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

An Interview in Specusphere

The lovely Satima has interviewed moi here, on Specusphere.

And in the meantime, here's progress on Book Two (Stormshifter) of The Time of Random Rain trilogy. Zinging along now, with over 1,500 new words of immortal prose a day...

And here's another photo from Como. Because I can.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Responsible journalism. Or not.

One of the many problems besetting Malaysian politics at the moment is the extraordinary propensity of many Malaysians to believe what they are told. Any theory, no matter how outrageous or unlikely the senario, is going to get instant believers. Possibly this is an outcome of having raised generations of meek children educated to believe all they are told and never question their betters (i.e. parents and teachers). If there is one thing the Malaysian education system has not done well, it is to create citizens who have a basic grasp of critical thinking. But that is by the way.

Two burning issues claim the public's attention at the moment, taking precedence even over the sharp rise in fuel prices. The first is the gruesome murder two years ago of a Mongolian model with a family name that would look right at home in a fantasy novel. She was shot, then blown up, allegedly by two highly connected policemen - the real issue as far as the public is concerned being who (if anyone) told them to do it, rather than did they do it at all.

This case supposedly has everything - sex, money, arms dealing (submarines actually), beautiful Oriental women, a private eye chasing the women even as he was on the case, allegedly crooked cops and corrupt politicians, stolen C4 explosives, a scheming wife allegedly attending a murder for nefarious reasons - this one is about as ridiculous as you can get, innocent fall guys, conspiracy in high places,, what did I leave out? Oh yes, diamonds. I'm surprised there's not black magic in there somewhere as well. Maybe I missed that one. Bloggers, of course, are having a field day.

The second issue hogging the airspace is whether a certain married opposition politician does in fact hanker after getting his sex in places he shouldn't (according to the archaic criminal laws of the country) as well as hanker after being the Prime Minister (supposedly to take place by September 15th). Even the United States had something to say about this one.

And honestly, no fantasy-cum-mystery-cum-whodunit writer could possibly have thought up all the theories being bandied about at the moment to account for the few facts known about either of the cases. And this being Malaysia, it was inevitable that the gossip was going to link the two cases, which has happened.

What really riled me this morning was a sentence or two on the front page of The Star newspaper, as follows:

The private investigator(...)has made a statutory declaration alleging that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had a relationship with murdered Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

That statement, directly under the newspaper's main headline, is untrue. The private investigator made no such allegation. In his declaration he said he was told (by one of the men charged with the murder, who had employed him as a PI) that there was such a relationship.

What kind of reporter/newspaper doesn't see the difference between saying:
"X is true" and "I was told X"??

To make the writer's misstatement even more obvious, the same newspaper quotes (on p12) the private investigator's lawyer stressing that the statutory declaration was "not a statement of truth" but rather what had been said to the private investigator. "Whether true or not - he doesn't know for sure. He just told what was told to him."

So, was this a slip of the pen or a deliberate distortion on the part of the newspaper? It is the kind of thing that adds to the wild tales circulating in Malaysia at the moment.

I haven't linked to anything in this post. Mostly because there is just so much out there and I have no idea which versions are closest to the truth. Take your pick.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Medieval Bookstore Selling Books

You might remember I mentioned this basilica in Como before - San Fidele. It was started in the 6th Century and in its heyday in the 11th, when the cathedral was started a couple of streets away, to eventually dwarf it. And on the Piazza of San Fidele there were these very old buildings jutting out onto the square, their wooden beams cut a mere 1,200 years before...
So then I found that one of them was a bookstore. A working bookstore. With books.
Happily the beams have been reinforced with steel. (Believe me, if you could have seen the state of some of those beams, you'd be glad too...deathwatch beetles or something similar had had a medieval feast for several hundred years.) And in the fantasy section, I found at least one Australian author. Yep, Trudi Canavan is for sale in a medieval bookstore.
Ok, to be strictly accurate, the place - started in the 6th century was actually the baptistry of the basilica, not a bookstore, way back when. At least, that's what I think it said on the blurb in the store. Unfortunately, it was all in Italian...
Nonetheless, I wanna be sold in a shop as delightful as this one!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No emails going out

My server is up to its old tricks. I can't send emails. So if I owe you one, be patient...

Who has the most sense?

Unfortunately, not often where one would most like to find it. The best remark to come out of the latest shenanigans (Is he or isn't he? Did he or didn't he?) involving our one time Deputy P.M. was in the letters to the editor in The Star newspaper.

Writes one Sim Wee Lee of Kuala Lumpur:

"Instead of asking what Anwar did in his bedroom, we should be asking whether the government has the right to impose legislation concerning sex between consenting citizens of legal age in private.

As we aspire to become a developed nation, we have to improve on many aspects we find lacking - government transparency, freedom of the press and, lately, courteous taxi drivers - but nary a word has been said regarding our criminal code which still categorises sodomy as a criminal offence."

Hooray for a bit of sanity, and someone who has the guts to go to the heart of the matter and put it in perspective.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My editor speaks...

Check here for an SFX interview with Darren Nash, Editorial Director of Orbit UK. Not to be missed if you are an aspiring writer and want some hints at how one of the top editors in the field views the business.

And here are some more random photos taken around the small towns of Lake Como. The first one was taken from a boat in the rain - we were chased for some 20 minutes by a large rainbow. Gorgeous.

Note the waterfall in photo 5.