Saturday, November 29, 2008

Great Afternoon

I always approach readings with more than a modicum of trepidation, and this one with probably more than most.

Literary oriented groups can -- in the west -- be horribly anti-sf&fantasy, you see, with the attitude that if it's good, then it can't possibly be fantasy. It must be magical realism or a satire or a neosurrealism or something equally literary.
I need not have worried. The people who turned up at Seksan's were just great.

In fact, they started out by buying almost all the books I brought with me before I had even given the reading, which showed a remarkable faith! Thanks you guys.

I wasn't actually the star of the show. That had to go to Kam Raslan, Kee Thuan Chye and Animah Kosai the contributors of Kee's book, March 8th, The Day Malaysia Woke Up. (That's him in the blue T-shirt above).

The story/music group called the Happy Unicorn Collective (see photo above) were great fun, and a reading about Malaysian ghosts was fascinating, from Danny Lim.

I also had a lovely surreal moment when two old friends (and boss) turned up from my working environmental life of the late 90s and early 2000s. I was so thrown that I must have spent a full minute looking at Ligea and thinking to myself, well I know that looks like Ligea but it can't be because she wouldn't be here. Sorry, guys for being so idiotically gobsmacked. It was absolutely great to see you.

{Lesson, Glenda -- hey, people do read your blog. }

Noramlyed* again

My husband is off travelling. He is now trying to return. Given the state of the world at the moment, you can guess what happened.

Well, at least he wasn't headed for Mumbai, but he was routed from Europe through Bangkok...



*The myriad disasters that happen to members of the Noramly family (or those that travel with them) when they undertake major travel. Coined by two victims (sons-in-law).

Friday, November 28, 2008

We progress!

Some sense on the yoga matter. The P.M. and some religious leaders and some of the royalty (who are the religious heads of the state - as in Britain) have said that they can't see what harm there is in Muslims doing yoga as long as the classes don't include religious chanting and such. Nice to see that indignant protest from Muslims can result in good sense prevailing.

I doubt whether the fatwa is going to get far, as it has to be passed at state level before becoming law for Muslims within the state.

And here is Book Two of Random Rain:

Now all we have to do is introduce some good sense into the ridiculous book-banning that is still going on in Malaysia - but only at certain bookshops, mind you. (Quick, buy your copy elsewhere now!)

And before my overseas readers start muttering about silly Malaysia, what about the American writer who got kicked out of his church for writing a vampire novel, because writing about something is committing the sins contained in it? Wow, now there's some good folks who really don't understand the concept of fiction...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A reading on Saturday

I shall be giving a reading on Saturday in Bangsar from the new book, STORM QUEST (out in September). The reading is free (of course); in fact they usually have drinks and nibbles as well, also free. You can read more about who else is reading here.

The address and time is as follows:

Date: 29th November, 2008
Time: 3.30pm
Place: Seksan's, 67, Jalan Tempinis Satu, Lucky Garden, Bangsar

More about Seksan's here.
Map of how to get there here. (Note that Sekan's is on the inner loop road, not the road leading to the roundabout - the map is not all that clear on that point).
These gatherings are great fun: do come along if you live in the right part of the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Publishing news

Well, there's bad news and there's good news....
Bad news first.

There is a delay in the publishing of Guérisseur, the French translation of "Gilfeather", and therefore also of the third book in Les Iles Glorieuses trilogy as well. My apologies to my French readers. The books will come, just not yet a while.
They will now be published under the Pygmalion imprint of J'ai Lu, I believe; look for Guérisseur late next year.

Je suis si désolé. Mes excuses.

And now the good news.

I have been sitting on this for some time now, waiting for contracts and such - you know, never quite sure of anything until things are signed, sealed and delivered. That has not yet happened, so I was quite (delightfully) startled to see this on the UK Amazon site...


Storm Quest (Paperback)
by Glenda Larke (author)

Product details
  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1841498114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841498119

It has an ISBN already!!
So I guess it really is a done deal.

You are looking at one very, very happy author.
I love Orbit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas presents, holiday reading...

Around about this time of the year, I write a blog on this subject which goes something like this:

Many of you found my blog because you are readers, or both writers and readers. In other words, you have a vested interest in a healthy publishing industry producing lots of wonderful books, whether they be e-books, paper books, audio books, or whatever.

This will only happen if you pay them money. Libraries are great, and so are secondhand book stores. BUT, they don't bring money in to those people who actually write or produce or print or record the books.
For them to benefit, you have to actually give them money.

And the Christmas/holiday season is a great time to do this. If you support the industry, then you will get more great books to read in the future. If you are a writer, then publishers will have more money to pay you an advance...

This time of year is also a great time to introduce others to reading for pleasure. It is a great time to give kids something that has been a source of great enjoyment to you: a book. It is a great time to share your discoveries with someone else.

Perhaps you remember the first time you discovered - as an adult - the wonder of reading a fantasy or science fiction book and realised that those great challenging stories are not just for kids.

Right now, times are dark, and this is where fantasy comes into its own: escape this world for another. Get away from your troubles into a world where ordinary people can be heroes. Give others books and a way to leave the real world behind over the holidays.

If you don't know what to buy, well, try a book token or gift certificate, available from any bookstore, which can be ordered and delivered to your recipient online.

Pix: Books I have read this year, or will be reading soon.

We read to know we are not alone.
-- C.S. Lewis

The greatest gift is a passion for reading.
-- Elizabeth Hardwick

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

-- Groucho Marx

I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set,
I go into the other room and read a book.

-- Groucho Marx

Saturday, November 22, 2008

10th Annual Day of Remembrance

I didn't realise that not only was the 20th November Children's Day, but it was also the 10th Annual Day of Remembrance for transgendered folk who have died ... simply because they are transgendered. It is staggering that this still happens, even in this day and age.

Reminds me of Middle Ages up to 17th century witch hunts actually.

There is a memorial list here, of names, just some of those people who died so tragically for no good reason, because of hate crimes.

As Cheryl Morgan says over on her Mewsings:
"It isn’t obvious from that list as few of the entries give more than the basic cause of death, but many of those killings were executions. And I don’t mean state executions like the one in Iraq, I mean vigilante executions carried out in cold blood by people who believe that transgender people do not deserve to live."

So even though I am a couple of days late, this is my way of saying: Remember them. And speak out against the bigots who would condemn those who are different from themselves, and preach the hatred that brings others to commit crimes of hatred and intolerance.

If your faith preaches such intolerance and ignorance, then question ask yourself if that sounds right to you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Romance versus Fantasy

Harping back to the Bujold GoH speech at Denvention , she made some really interesting comments about romance readers versus fantasy readers, and how she could tell from their remarks re stories they had read (the same stories), which side of the fence they were coming from.

Below: some of her insightful comments, in no particular order - do read the whole speech! Remember, she uses SF to mean both fantasy and science fiction:

The SF crowd seemed tone-deaf to the emotional developments so important to the Romance crowd, and the Romance readers in turn seemed to be blind to the world-building concerns of the SF readers. ...

For any plot to stay central, nothing else in the book can be allowed to be more important. So romance books carefully control the scope of any attending plot, so as not to overshadow its central concern, that of building a relationship between the key couple...

In fact, if romances are fantasies of love...I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency...

Romance and SF -- would seem to be arm-wrestling about the relative importance of the personal and the political.

She then goes on to say that literature is an escape from the chores of life, and "book heroes don't usually spend a lot of time doing chores. Not on the page, at least."

And she noted with some bemusement that her books "with upper-class casts of characters sell better than my books with middle-class protagonists."

So that set me thinking about two separate issues:
Firstly, do I think that the central backbone of fantasy (let's not include science fiction for a moment) is usually political agency? (I don't think anyone would argue that the relationship of the two key characters is the backbone of any romance).

And secondly, does the need for escapism for a fantasy reader also lead them into loving stories of the upper-class better than others - perhaps because there is less of an element of mundane things - like chores - in such tales?

So my question to you is this:
  • do you think the politics and political system of most fantasies is the all important backbone of the story which must take precedence?
  • do you prefer stories about rulers and/or the rich and influential, to stories of the more mundane folk? Do we only like the goatherder because he ends up being the long lost prince?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mixed bag

Younger Daughter arrives for a week's visit. Yay!
Civets are having another family in the roof. Argumentive kids, squeaking nonstop. Darn.
House needs cleaning. Yuk.
Mosque imans over in Terengganu state are to give sermons on protecting endangered species, especially turtles. Overdue, but great news!

Oh, and do you think we could have a fatwa against eating turtle eggs, instead of one against doing yoga? After all, if your activities are sending something into extinction, aren't you saying something derogatory about God and his ideas of creation and biodiversity?

Yeah, well, I think I am ahead of my time on that one.

Pix: Black Swans on a bird reserve near Esperance, West Australia. Taken April 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baby done and despatched

Yep, the new offspring is bathed, powdered, prettied up and delivered. Wordy little fellow - the longest yet, with a count of 183,000. I don't think Baby Next is going to be quite that long, but can't be sure at this point.

So what do I think of the new offspring, eighth in the family to leave home?

Well, there were times when I hated the little horror... yet .... you know ... it's the offspring and so I kept trying to shape it into a respectable being that can go out into the world and make Mum* proud. And in the end, in spite of the occasional burp that needed to be dealt with this past week, I am proud of this one. Yep, this doting Mum thinks number 8 is the best thing since movable type...

But then, I thought the same things about babies 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 when I send them off into the world, too. That's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid.

*Or Mom to you Americans out there.Pix: Lake Cowan near Norseman.
Western Australia: where lakes usually don't have water.
Pix taken April this year

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baby still getting attention

...the fellow is still resisting perfection. Keeps coughing up typos for a start. And occasionally is terribly long-winded, so that I have to keep burping him by hitting the delete key.

Not talking to anyone until I send him off to the caregivers tomorrow...

Saturday, November 15, 2008 to be delivered on Monday

Book 1 of Random Rain goes off to the publisher on Monday. (Hey, that's two weeks before its due!)

So how's your weekend?

And here's Book 2:

And here's a photo from San Francisco. Love that city!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slaughtering Malaysia's most wonderful assets

Take a look at either this site or this one.
And sign this petition here. Please. My signature is number 107. I have seen some of these things with my own eyes, and it breaks my heart. Rarely can I spend a week in the forest and not see evidence of poaching.

And here is a letter I just wrote to a local newspaper, The Star.


Yesterday saw the announcement of a major haul of slaughtered Malaysian wildlife – over 8,000 animals and birds dead, including 13 protected species. Congratulations to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) on uncovering the crime and capturing one of the alleged criminals to blame for this horrendous butchery.

Unfortunately, we have already started to see the courts undermine the Department’s good work by allowing the alleged poacher out on bail for a meagre 19,000 RM. This was a theft of Malaysia’s living assets – not to mention an appalling cruelty to our wildlife. I hope we do not again soon see perpetrators of such a crime given a slap across the wrist and a meagre fine. If we do, then we will wonder if the Malaysian legal system regards our living assets as virtually valueless and has only contempt for the work of another government department. The bail money was nothing to someone who makes millions out of stealing from us; the market value of what PERHILITAN found was more than $3 million.

They stole from me, from every Malaysian, from our children, from the future health of our biodiversity. They stole from our travel industry and all those who bring tourists into our country to see these wonders of nature. They stole not just these birds and animals, but the young they would have given birth to, ensuring the continuity of their species. We are all victims of this crime. Please see that justice is served.

I have already heard people say that there is nothing much that the courts can do because the updated Wildlife Act has not been passed into law. Why not? It has been 15 years of more in the making! I am tired of reading about politicians jockeying for power and position within their various political parties. Enough talk - do something! Impressing me means passing that act, and soon.

In the meantime, let the courts show us they mean business under the limits of the present act. This man was a repeat offender. He paid a fine last time and doubtless laughed at the paltry amount. Selling Malaysia’s living assets earns poachers millions, and they don’t pay a cent in tax on it either.

Why not file charges separately on each of the 13 counts of killing a protected animal? And impose the maximum fine ($RM 15,000) for each protected species on anyone convicted? At least a fine of RM$195,000 might hurt a little. Better still, the law also allows up to 10 years in prison. A long prison sentence will show others who do this that they can no longer treat our wildlife and our laws with contempt while they get rich ― and get away with it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How not to become a writer

If you couldn't get to Denvention back in August, but want to read the excellent Guest of Honour speech, it is up on the internet and you can read it here. (The GoH was the wonderfully talented and lovely lady, Lois McMaster Bujold, btw).

There were a number of things she said that resonated with me.
Here is my comments on one of them:

LMB: "...the notion of the writer as the heroic lone creator, a picture held and advanced by many non-writers, which is an outright lie, and evil insofar as it is taught to children. I know of no writer or other artist anywhere who hasn't come out of some context of other artists and a supporting community, with its own conversation -- or argument -- even though those contexts are usually edited out of the historical picture for simplicity."

I think I must be the exception, then.
  • No one supported me in an artistic sense, until after I had an agent. (My husband was supportive, in that he encouraged me, but he never read my work.)
  • I never met other writers, or editors, or fans.
  • I knew four people who read sf/f for pleasure, and they were all members of my immediate family. They did not read my work until after I had an agent. Two of them lived in another country.
  • No one else read my work at all (except to reject it, sometimes with a comment).
  • No one offered input until my agent read the book "The Aware" and took me on as an author.
  • I never told anyone I was writing anything, except my immediate family, until I was published.
  • Back in those days, there was no internet.
  • I had no access to writing classes, courses, or even libraries full of books on how to write.
Yeah, I was the lone creator, making mistakes and learning all by myself. Dunno about "heroic" though; I think "bloody stupid" is probably more accurate. There must have been a better way to do it, even in Malaysia in the 1970s and 80s.

But I did it. I just took longer than I should have... This post is really the quintessential essay on how not to become a writer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book 2 of Random Rain

Yeah, I'm writing, folk. Don't interrupt...

And Book 1, STORMQUEST gets delivered to HarperCollins Voyager Australia next Monday.

He who commands a stormlord, commands the water of a nation…

Monday, November 10, 2008


I found a new word. I have been looking for this one all my life...and now that I have found it I love it. I want to use it.

Horripilation. It rolls off the tongue. It sends shivers up my spine. It suggest exactly what it means. It sounds right. What a glorious, delicious, chocolate-rich meaningful word is horripilation!

Back where I come from in Australia, we used the ghastly expression "goose pimples." Now that sounds like a bad case of avian acne, when it actually means that frisson of hair-raised skin-roughening that comes with fear. Write "goose pimples" in the middle of your scary scene and your reader has visions of complexion-challenged teenaged waterfowl.

The rest of the world uses "goose bumps" which still has barnyard overtones, and still doesn't produce the feeling of delicious spine-tingling fear.

But oh, horripilation. That does it.
Why, oh, why have writers been settling for goose-bumps??? Why have I lived so long without ever coming across this perfect expression, when I have been looking for it for decades?

First person who reads a book of mine containing this word and tells me, gets a free copy of the next book thereafter...

P.S. I haven't forgotten about the bad-news on yoga. Really. It will have its blog soon.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What the world thought

Satima Flavell (on Satima's Blogspot) pointed the way to this website ( which asked people from all over the world how they would vote in the US presidential elections.

Result (very unscientific of course, but wonderfully interesting) was overwhelming for Obama...

Except for Macedonia. The once Yugoslavian Macedonia.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Come to Malaysia, guys...

On the last day of the ecotourism conference (at which I was speaking on the potential of birdwatching in mangrove areas) we had dinner by the swimming pool under the moon and stars...and watched cultural dances (Malay in the bright colours, Orang Asli - aboriginal- in the browns and gold with the raffia and mask). Nice evening.Lots of people were talking about the US election - I haven't yet met anyone who wanted the Republicans to win. Not one.

Amazing how much music you can make using nothing more than a few pieces of wood...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


America, I sincerely, sincerely thank you.
And congratulations to McCain for a gracious conceding speech.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Good news, bad news....

This post is a long one, so I won't post tomorrow. I have a paper to write for an ecotourism conference instead... Besides, I am sure that most people will have something else to think about tomorrow. Right? Yanno, like elections?

The last week has been kind of peculiar - but the good news is decidedly good and outweighs the bad.

Really, really good news:
I can't tell you. Yet.

Really, really bad news
Discovered bad infestation of termites in the wood flooring of the family room. Much damage and very difficult to eradicate.

Encouraging good news:
Had a lovely email from a reader back in Western Australia who said,
"As for the Mirage series … I have read many series now from a wide variety of authors and this really hit the mark with me. One of the best reads I have had for a long time..."
Somehow it always means more when it comes from my home state. Thanks, Tony.

Scary bad news:
Found out someone tried to break into my next door neighbour's house while we were in Fraser's. The thievery continues unabated. Luckily they didn't succeed.

Warm and fuzzy good news:
From great Australian writers and friends who lend a helping hand to their fellow writers with no thought of rivalry. I love my fellow Australian genre authors. You couldn't ask for a nicer bunch.
Trudi Canavan's blog sends more people to my blog and website than any other personal site - and on a regular basis, too. Thanks, Trudi.
Jennifer Fallon's blog this month was singly responsible for one of the biggest spikes ever in my blog hits.
Russell Kirkpatrick - well, actually he's a New Zealander* but he's such a great chap we tend to think of him as Australian - touched me with a comment in an interview. Listing which authors he thinks are really worth reading, he named C.S.Lewis, Julian May, Dan Simmons, Alasdair Reynolds, Guy Gavriel Kay, Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett...and me. He said that I write
"with unparalleled acuity, and she knows how to make the most of a novel-sized idea.
It’s a tragedy she’s not more widely known."
Thanks, Russell. I am totally humbled at being up there with the names you mention.
Marianne de Pierres has put up the first chapter of Heart of the Mirage on her "Parrish's Patch" - do check out this site, and Marianne's kick ass books if you haven't already done so. What a great lady.
And my pal Karen Miller has been having a ball as a guest at a con in France...she works incredibly hard and deserves the break.

Worryingly bad and sucky news:
Actually I shall blog about this separately, probably over the weekend. It is to do with yoga. Yep, you'd think that would be harmless enough, wouldn't you? Wait and see...

Happy-making good news:
I was approached to do an interview in the afternoon newspaper, The Malay Mail, mostly about blogging - and bless their heart, today they did a magnificent spread (see above pix) - a whole page! - with a great advert for my books 'n' all. Thank you Gabey Goh!

Aggravating bad news:
Our water woes continue with unpredictable cuts, dirty water and lots of air blocks.

Lovely look-forward-to good news:
Younger daughter Nashii is coming to visit this month.

And just plain NEWS:
Which will be either very very good or utterly terrifying: we will shortly have a new President of the USA.

And by the way, did you all see that interesting blog post comment on one of my posts here on why some people still vote for a Republican candidate?
* To any Americans or Canadians reading this, just think Canada-US to explain the NZ-Oz relationship...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bucket and shovel versus... devastation

Once, there was only a narrow winding road going up to Fraser's Hill - 9 kms of it, and nowhere to pass. You went up on the odd hours until 40 mins past the hour, and people at the top came down on the even hours until 40 mins past the hour.

Worked well for 100 years or so, and was charming. One stopped and had tea at the resthouse (called The Gap) at the bottom gate while waiting for the time to go up...all part of the Fraser's Hill experience. From what I have heard, the locals who lived on the hill didn't want another road.

Some twenty years ago, someone had a bright idea that Fraser's Hill needed another access road. (Who knows, he might have had an eye on all those lovely rainforest trees where the road would be built - green gold going to waste? Oh dear, I wonder why I am SUCH a cynic???).

The first pix below is the old road. It was built with shovels and buckets and donkeys (or maybe mules?). Occasionally it has a small landslide - the main range is very friable and ancient, the rains are heavy and frequent. But the road survives and looks lovely. I have walked it many times.
But they went and built a new road anyway, for no good reason. (Well, they might have thought green gold was a very good reason...) They used dynamite and huge earthmovers and trucks. Instead of gently winding a route around the hillslopes, they bulldozed and blasted a barren swathe through the forest and fragile slopes.

The road took four years longer than expected to build, because - er, well, actually the slopes kept on falling down into the valleys. I wonder why.

The new road was opened after much expense. You could drive up it and never come closer to the forest than several hundred metres, because all the forest along the road was, um...missing. (Look again at how pretty the old road is.)

And fairly promptly the new road was closed because of landslides. And stayed that way for a looooooooooong time. After much rebuilding, it was opened again. For a bit. Then it closed again last December. And it is still closed.

Pix below shows why.

If you look carefully - just to get an idea of scale - right in the centre of the picture are some red dots in the middle of a slide of reddish earth. Those red dots are people wearing red work clothes.

And I just wonder - who benefited from the new road and all the timber that came out of there?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fraser's Hill

I love writing, but there are times when other things call to me...
So when my husband had to go to Fraser's Hill last week for a couple of days, I couldn't resist.
And below is why - with apologies to John Masefield.
I must go up to the hills again, to the forest green, and the sky,
And all I ask is a pair of 'bins and a scope to see birds by,
And the crow's cry and the wind's song and the white mist's snaking,
And a cuckoo on the tree branch and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go up to the hills again, for the drongo's call in the pine
Is a wild call and a clear call that to me is so divine;
And all I ask is a sunny day with the high clouds flying,
Where the swifts fly and the jays fight, and the eagle's crying.

I must go up to the hills again, to the vagrant birding life,
To the owl's hole and the hornbill tree where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a birding tale from a fellow bird-lover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long list's over.


Ok, so it doesn't quite scan - I'm no poet! The photo was taken on the way up to Fraser's. And yes, I wrote while there.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Who you are

This month I had visitors from 67 different countries, from Bhutan to Azerbaijan and the Virgin Islands. USA led the field, considerably ahead of Malaysia, Australia, UK and Canada, all of which provided 3 figure hits. More than half of you (55%) are return visitors.

And there are an amazing number of people out there who come to my blog by googling some variation of "beating a wife".