Thursday, December 31, 2009

My 2009 in retrospect

Frankly, a damned good year.

  • Started the year writing the book now called Stormlord Rising (and finished the year proofing the publisher's proofs for it) and with the news that Heart of the Mirage had been on the 2008 bestseller list for a specialty bookstore in Perth, my hometown.
  • Went to Yogyakarta, my first trip ever to Java.
  • Had the car broken into which included the loss of my prescription dark glasses. I have been doing without ever since. Thanks, you thieving S.O.B.
  • The Aware and Gilfeather went to reprint in Oz.
  • Two fun weeks at a lighthouse in Malacca, spent watching raptors arrive from Indonesia.
  • Husband finally started to be paid (no backpay though) for the job he had been doing 10 months without pay.
  • Song of the Shiver Barrens went to reprint in the UK
  • Proofed The Last Stormlord
  • Final draft of Stormlord Rising under way.
  • Malaysian govt announced they were going to submit my husband's name for post of DG of the IAEA. Local press almost unanimously ignored this story,
  • which was probably just as well, as the Japanese made some promises and the Malaysian Govt changed their minds.
  • The Aware went to reprint again in Australia
  • Delivered MS of Stormlord Rising to publishers
  • Husband went to meeting in Chicago sponsored by American Academy of Arts and Sciences on nuclear stuff.
  • Went to Tioman Island for the first time, with dear friend visiting from UK.
  • The Tainted went to reprint again in Australia
  • New IAEA DG named, a Japanese. (Connect the dots.)
  • Went to Charlottesville to babysit grandson while parents in China.
  • Saw Iceland (from plane), then stopped over in Princeton and Baltimore en route.
  • Second daughter came to help babysit.
  • Did a bit for book 3, but not much
  • Started Stormlord's Exile in earnest
  • The Last Stormlord was published in Australia. Inital reactions seemed excellent.
  • Blanvalet in Germany bought the rights to the The Isles of Glory
  • Pygmalion bought the French rights to the Mirage Makers
  • Working on two separate copy edits of Stormlord Rising
  • Was interviewed and photographed for Her World magazine.
  • Husband was made Professor Emeritus at the Malaysian National University.
  • Some wonderful reviews of The Last Stormlord
  • Good reviews of The Last Stormlord continued.
  • Got to be one third of the way through Stormlord's Exile
  • Clairvoyante and Guerisseur were published (The Aware and Gilfeather in French)
  • Joined NaNoWriMo for the first time ever and achieved over 53,000 words.
  • More great reviews of The Last Stormlord.
  • Husband went to Houston, met daughter; went to Washington DC, met other daughter, and had talks with govt officials on nuclear safety stuff.
  • The Last Stormlord was shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel of 2009 (Aurealis Awards) and got some more wonderful reviews.
  • The Shadow of Tyr and Song of the Shiver Barrens both went to reprint again, in Australia.
  • Two-thirds of Stormlord's Exile now written
  • Two more publishing houses are showing strong interest in Mirage Makers for translation
  • A scout shows interest in my work after a growing buzz in the UK
  • Daughter and grandson came for two weeks.
  • Had a holiday at a beach resort on Pangkor Island. Spent most of the time checking proofs.
  • Husband went to Abu Dhabi. During the year he has received a great deal of international recognition for his knowledge on nuclear matters. A prophet outside his own country, perhaps? (At home, a certain department in charge continues to make gaffe after gaffe in this field. They could try listening to someone who does know a bit. You know, like a nuclear man with many years experience on the international scene?)
  • Husband made an Visiting* Professor at Uniten, another university. He will spend one day a week over there.
*Not Adjunct Prof as I originally wrote.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books I read in 2009

All 57 of them. Doubtless a few more I neglected to record. I regard reading as one of the fabulous joys of life, plus something essential to my growth as a writer. IMHO, a writer who doesn't read ends up writing things which show that lack.

Major reads this year were: The Last Stormlord and Stormlord them SOOOO many times

Obviously, fantasy is at the top of my list. One of the biggest disappointments were the Julian May books - loved her other series with a deep passion, and these just didn't cut it for me.
..............Conqueror's Moon by Julian May
..............Ironcrown Moon
by Julian May
................Sorcerer's Moon by Julian May

Loved the new Novak, and I am hanging out for the next.

.............Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novak

Karen Miller is always a favourite of mine, delicious dialogue and a rollicking ride of a story:

.............Wizard Squared by K.E.Mills.
.............The Prodigal Mage by Karen Miller
.............Reluctant Mage by Karen Miller

Gaiman and Pratchett - what could possibly be bad?

.............The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
.............Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
.............Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
.............Thud by Terry Pratchett

I tried very, very hard this year to like urban fantasy with lots of zombies, kick-ass females, vampires and werewolves. (For a month, I stayed in a house that was full of the things from ceiling to floor, so I had plenty of opportunity to try the genre.) And not one of them grabbed me. These are the only two I managed to finish. I think the genre is just not for me - not the fault of the authors, it's just me.

.............Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
.............Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Here's 3 new authors (for me) whom I tried and enjoyed:

.............The Turning Tide by Diana Pharoah Francis
.............The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier.............
.............Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear

And here's some epic fantasy I absolutely LOVED:

.............Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
.............Shadowplay by Tad Williams
.............The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
.............Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott
.............Before They are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
.............The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Think I made a mistake trying to read too much of MZB all at once:

.............The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
.............Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley
.............The Winds of Darkover by Marion Zimmer Bradley
.............Sharra's Exile by Marion Zimmer Bradley

And this one - which involves time travel - really belongs more in historical fiction. An interesting read.
.............A Breath of Snow and Ice by Diana Gabaldon

First book of Fiona's new trilogy:

.............Royal Exile by Fiona McIntosh

Didn't read that much SF this year.
.............The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld
.............Air by Geoff Ryman
.............Code Noir by Marianne de Pierres

My favourite non-fantasy read of the year in bold.
.............Always Bells by Winifred Stegar
.............The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
.............Little Hut of Leaping Fishes by Chiew-Siah Tei
.............Secret Scriptures Sebastian Barry
.............The Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw
.............The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
.............Wandering Star by J.N.G. Le Clezio
.............The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakam
.............A Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
.............The Brief and Wondous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
.............Q&A by Vikas Swarup
.............Ethan Frome and selected stories by Edith Wharton
.............A Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
.............Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
.............World Without End by Ken Follett
.............A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Why, oh why do I persist in reading regency romance? No one comes anywhere near Heyer. Especially American authors, who just don't get it. Sigh.
.............The Duke's World by Edith Layton
.............Lord of Dishonour by Edith Layton
.............A Courtesan's Scandal by Julia London

.............O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
.............N is for Noose by Sue Grafton
.............M is for Malice by Sue Grafton
.............The King of Torts by John Grisham

Every one of these was fascinating and memorable for different reasons:
.............Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
.............No Way Home by Carlos Acosta
.............From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth
.............Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Proofing: the joys of...

The proofs (also called galleys or first pages) are the last chance an author gets to alter anything. At this stage you are not expected to rewrite, but merely pounce on the typos or more egregious errors. They are delivered either on real paper, or as a pdf. They look like the untrimmed pages of the unbound book, usually with two pages side by side on the sheet, and the printing is exactly the size it will be in the real thing.

I had delivered to me 1,250 pages of proofs just before my daughter and grandson arrived...two monster sized books to read and correct

And I have just finished them.

It may sound easy. Your own books, right? Zip through them quickly...uh,uh. No. The whole idea is to read them very slowly, word by word, to make sure you catch all the mistakes. (And you still never do.) Depending on the skill of the typesetter, who had to take your copyediting manuscript - which is usually a mess - and make some sense of it, there can be a lot of errors.

And it is the zillionth time you have read those very words over the past year. Quite frankly, by the time you have finished proofing you are:
1. cross-eyed.
2. bored out of your mind.
3. convinced that everyone else will be bored out of their minds.

Worse still you have family arriving for holidays, lovely trip planned to a beach resort and you never get to go for a swim, and Christmas is here...

So what are these photos?
Well, we took grandson and daughter to a place called Genting Highlands, one of the ugliest places ever built (on what used to be one of the world's loveliest cloud forests until the bulldozers moved in). Because it is holiday time, there was a queue for the cable car. A rather long queue. A line-up-for-2-hours queue that snaked itself back and forth through a large room. All those people you see are in the queue. If I look a bit grim, you know why. It was the second hour.

And I proofed some of Stormlord Rising as we inched along. If you find any typos when you read it, remember that and cut me some slack, ok? :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why I should travel more with husband...'s the only way I'll ever get to stay in hotels that have reception areas like this:
and where the rooms have bathrooms like this (actually it's a picture of half the bathroom...):
Remember while I was on Pangkor Island? Well, my husband at the time was taking these photos at his hotel in Abu Dhabi, where he was attending an international meeting as a speaker, sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the University of New York, Abu Dhabi campus.
I think the hotel was sponsored by a local body.

Now that is almost worth risking getting noramlyed* for.

*many years ago the men who married my daughters invented a new passive verb: "To be noramlyed". The meaning: when you travel with any member of the Noramly family, something will go wrong with your plans.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Breakfast, Malaysian style

Who can resist the delights of the local roti chanai shop?

Above: the various stages - from the lumpy handful of dough on the left, through the rising dough to the kneading to the cooking.
Below: Making the bread thin by stretching and throwing and kneading. Note the piles of dough waiting to be thinned out.

Above: Sprinkling sugar on the bananas of Grandson's roti. It is then folded up...
Below: ...and tossed on the hot plate to cook
Below: in the tray at the are some finished roti. Delicious when made without the banana and sugar, and served with dhall curry. Yum.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Taking a 5-yr-old shopping...

. a rather posh furniture/handicraft/art shop in Kuala Lumpur.

Above: the ground floor of the shop in Jalan Maarof, Bangsar
Above: grandson contemplates the fountain

And then turns his attention to a statue of Buddha...

And yes, sometimes shops in Asia request you to take off your shoes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas?

As you can imagine, we don't celebrate it.
However, we are going to the house of some who does, so I imagine we get the best of all worlds - the fun without the work!

All the best to everyone who does celebrate the season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Aurealis Awards: some statistics for Fantasy Novels

I got this info from here (Wapedia). It made me giggle...

Multi-time winners of the award include Sara Douglass (three wins), Juliet Marillier (three wins), Garth Nix(two wins), Jane Routley (two wins), and Sean Williams(two wins). Sara Douglass holds the record for most nominations, and Glenda Larke has the most nominations without winning, having been a losing finalist four times.*

Lol!! It will probably go up this year as The Last Stormlord is my fifth short listing...


* Technically, the use of the word "nomination" is incorrect here. Any book which is eligible can be nominated and usually is. Thus what I have is the most short listings without winning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some final photos from Pangkor Island, Perak...

...especially for those suffering a bad winter.
This is the hotel we stayed at: Pangkor Island Beach Resort
A stroll along the beach - and this is the only hotel on this bay, so it is pretty much a private beach
On the sunset cruise we took (actually just a ride for our family in a small runabout) we passed by Pangkor Laut Island where I once did some bird work while staying in a luxury resort. (The Pavarotti suite runs to $US3000 a night I believe). Yep, sometimes being an environmentalist pays off. Ok, so they didn't give us the Pavarotti suite, but believe me, the rest was pretty good too.
If you look carefully at the photo below you will see one of the benefits of leaving a nice forest cover - a sea eagle nest, zoomed in a bit closer in the next pix.That white spot on the right of the nest is the sea-eagle on guard.
Back on the main island of Pangkor, some picnickers enjoy a private beach.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I don't know what to say

Ian Nichols wrote a brief review of The Last Stormlord for the West Weekend Magazine under the title "Summer Sizzlers".

Which says, among other nice things:

"One of the best was Joe Abercrombie's The Last Argument of Kings... He is a contender for the title of best fantasy writer alive today and if you haven't read the first two books, rush out and buy them. Another contender must be Glenda Larke, with the first book in a new trilogy, The Last Stormlord."

I'm speechless.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More from Pangkor Island ...

Above: Grandson in front of the wild hornbill feeding station at the hotel.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill at the feeding station. That pile of horrible white stuff? It's white bread, possibly about the worst thing you could feed a hornbill. The other orange stuff is papaya. In the wild they are omnivorous - eating fruit, young birds, lizards, insects, etc. But not bread loaded with sugar and white flour. There were easily about 40 birds flying around at feeding time, just feet away from the guests.
Some of the hotel chalets. (Pangkor Island Beach Resort - great place. We stayed in the cheapest rooms, which was a great choice as they were also the quietest, being the furthest away from the swimming pool and night life.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some more sunset pix from Pangkor Island

We went on a sunset cruise on our last evening - just the five of us in a small boat - around the island and a neighbouring island (Pangkor Laut). Spectacular views as the sun set (somewhere over there is Sumatra). The sea eagles were taking their last fishing trips, the fishing boats were setting out for their night fishing, and the sun really was liquid gold...
Doesn't get much better than this. Just as well I didn't know what the return journey was going to be like the following day...
Holiday over.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scary monkeys

I am always puzzled by folk who want to treat wild animals as if they are pets. Feeding monkeys is a no-no, and in fact makes them dangerous. A male Long-tailed Macaque has teeth that make a domestic cat's teeth look like toys. Ditto claws. And we all know how much damage a cat can inflict if they put their mind to it. Wild animals accustomed to being fed get mad when they are not. Macaques are predators and killers in the wild. In close proximity to a human who refuses to feed them, they are vicious.
They are also intelligent. Here is one trying to open the doot to our hotel room. The only reason he didn't succeed was because it was locked as well as closed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Last Stormlord on another bestseller list!!

Galaxy Bookstore in Sydney - doubtless because of the lovely review in their Nexus newsletter. My thanks to Mark and all the staff.

And above some photos of my family on the beach, some things you can find on the sand, and one of the hotel's two swimming pools.

Life is good. Now back to work.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where I am now

View from my room.
Below: Sunset from our dinner table.

Hornbills next to our table. Is it cold where you are? I am sorry. Truly.
However, I am working too.

The 5 a.m. beetle...

...that we were dragged out of bed to look at, by our jet-lagged 5 year old. A female rhinoceros beetle. Is there another family on earth that consults beetle ID books at 5.40 in the morning??

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eat your heart out, you northerners...

...I'm off to a tropical isle for a few days with daughter and grandson.

Dunno what sort of internet connection I will have, but rest assured I shall tell you all about the place when I get back. Y'know, palm trees and cocktails by the pool; corals and warm oceans; balmy breezes and hornbills; breakfast buffets and sunsets over the sea.

See ya!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Art of being noramlyed

My daughter has it down pat, really.
The key to this one was to try to bring her American son into Malaysia for 2 weeks to see his grandparents, complete with return ticket, but on a passport that is only valid for another 4 months. Now, as everyone knows, people with passports that aren't valid for 6 months are able to overstay as illegal immigrants as easy as pie, especially when they are 5 years old. (We were contemplating sending him out to work in the plantations. Darn it, foiled again.)

So the airline refused to let the child board the final leg of the flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. This after a 4 hour drive to Dulles airport, followed by a 14 hour flight to Japan, a couple of hours in transit there, another 6 hours to Singapore, a layover of 9 hours at the airport...that adds up to 37 hours travelling...with a 5 year old.

Don't miss the crunch of all this: grandson is not a Malaysian citizen because he committed the heinous crime of being born abroad instead of in Malaysia. My daughter is - obviously - female, and Malaysia practises blatant and unrepentant sexism, denying citizenship to the children of Malaysian women - but not to the children of Malaysian men born under exactly the same situations. Nice, modern nation, this.

So there you are - denied entry to what ought to be his own country, but isn't. (I am not blaming the airline - they are under instructions from the government. And my daughter should have read all that fine print you need a magnifying glass to see.)

Now here's the second crunch: my daughter was not travelling with her husband. And she cannot extend or get a new passport from what is for her a foreign country, on her own. Her husband was attending a conference away from home. I ended up phoning him in the wee small hours of the morning, his time, to ask him to find a notary who will notarise a form obtained on the internet, granting permission for a new passport to be issued. Needless to say he couldn't find one at 1 a.m.

The other thing required was a copy of child's birth cert. The original of which is in their home - now an empty house, remember, as the whole family is away.

In the meantime, over-tired grandson has lost it and is throwing tantrum in Singapore. I tell daughter by phone to try a more congenial airline, which she does. And finally, after signing loads of promises about how she will pay all fines incurred by the airline for allowing the criminal entry of a 5 year old with a perfectly valid passport, the lovely and intelligent supervisor allows her to buy a ticket for them both on this airline. (The same one I always use if I possibly can...) And they arrive, somewhat lighter in pocket, and many hours late, but at least on the right day.

Problem, after the assembly of all documents by the American embassy, three days later grandson has a brand new passport waiting for him in another country - Singapore - which he cannot fly to. Now what?

And here's the irony. Malaysia has for years been trying to entice its citizens who live abroad back to serve their country. Scientist daughter has degrees from Oxford and Cornell (Pd.D) but does this country really, really think she will return if they won't give her child citizenship? The right to attend a government school? The right to get a job? If she can't get her husband permanent residency? If they won't even give her mother (me) permanent residency?

Dream on, Malaysia. This is how you lose your brightest and best.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Galaxy Bookshop, Sydney: The Last Stormlord Review

Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney, Australia, puts out an excellent newsletter every month for sff readers, called Nexus. Great way to find out what's new in Oz.

Each month they have a Fave Rave. And this month, Issue 259 Nexus December 2009, their new Fave Rave is The Last Stormlord.

I just love the last paragraph!!
Especially cheering is that Mark from Galaxy was one of my beta readers (even though I have never met him!) There were parts of the book he was not happy with; I took his crit of those important sections to heart because I think he was spot on.

Was he happy with the result? Well, you decide. I know that I owe him one, and I don't mean because of the review, but rather because he helped to make the book what it is.

Here's the first and last paragraph of his review (you can read the full thing here):

It’s rare that a fantasy novel sets itself up in a world so obviously influenced by the idea of climate change. Usually such issues are left for science fiction. Yet in her latest blockbuster, Larke sets herself firmly in territory that few fantasy novels have dared to tread. Rather than traipsing through a ‘medieval’ past, she reveals a bold, original world that could possibly be our future, albeit one without technology.

The common link in Larke’s novels is her ability to craft worlds that are vibrant and vivid, immersing us in a world that has depth and substance in a way that few writers can match without bogging down in ‘info dump’. This story is no different and I think is her best work to date. That she can also tell a sweeping saga that runs the gauntlet of human experience, immersing us – quite disturbingly at times – in that white water rapid of joy and despair, unmistakeably marks her as one of Australia’s best
speculative fiction writers and one you should not miss. - Mark

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reprints and covers

One of the nice things about being a HarperVoyager Oz author is that they tend to keep books in print. The last two books of the Mirage Makers have just gone to yet another reprint, and here's what they sent to me...

And then Orbit UK sent me their catalogue for the Spring and Summer 2010, and I got my first glimpse of Larry Rostant's cover for Stormlord Rising. And the rather flattering blurb stuff too...*g*

The end bit reads: The trilogy is "a gripping tale of war and deprivation reaching from the highest throne room to a shallow grave in the sands. This is an epic tale of survival wrapped in politics and and intrigue. Brent Weeks meets Dune in this coming-of-age adventure fantasy set in a desert world where water is the only currency."

Hmm. I'll let you readers be the judge of that. Although I will say that this second book of the trilogy is as much the story of Rainlord Ryka Feldspar - who is in her thirties! - as that of the two young protagonists, Terelle and Shale.

I think what excites me about this book is that several people have told me they think it tops the first book, and is the best thing I have written yet. As it is book number nine of mine to be published, I love the idea of that. I strive to improve all the time...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Aurealis Awards: The Last Stormlord shortlisted

My fifth shortlisting for the Best Fantasy Novel of the year, this time with The Last Stormlord. Every year I've had a book nominated because it was eligible, I've been shortlisted, which doesn't actually encourage me to think I will ever win, but who cares? I am very, very happy!

Others shortlisted:
Peter M. Ball, Horn, Twelfth Planet Press

Trudi Canavan, Magician's Apprentice, Orbit

K.E. Mills, Witches Incorporated, HarperVoyager

K.J. Taylor, The Dark Griffin, HarperVoyager

The only one I've read is the book I beta read - Karen Miller's. (As usual, none of them are available here yet, that I have seen.) Nice to see a small press out there with a novel nomination.

And there's lots of my pals out there in the other categories too.

Now this rates as a very good day.