Thursday, January 30, 2014


I was at the beach near where I live to take sunset pictures, 
and look what happened... 

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Lascar's Dagger: maps

This is a look at one of the preliminary versions of the maps for The Lascar's Dagger, done -- as usual -- by Perdita Phillips, artist. (Take a look at her website here.) 

To see the final expanded versions, you'll have to buy the book...

Coming out March 15th 2014
Ready for pre-order!  (Australia: ebook only)
Book depository (worldwide)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Final Orbit U.K. Cover of "The Lascar's Dagger"

Less than two months away now, in mid-March, the first book of a new trilogy from Glenda Larke will be on the shelves. It is being published worldwide by Orbit.

The Lascar's Dagger is the Book 1 of The Forsaken Lands.

The idea for this trilogy came to me in a flash one day ...

Er, no. As for all my books, there's no one idea, but dozens, some of them larger than others, and they came from all over the place, and not all at once. 

I suppose the main inspiration originated from my desire to write a book that drew on my experiences living in South-east Asia, something evocative of a period and a place not usually touched upon in fantasy epics. And so this trilogy is set in a fantasy world of two hemispheres, east and west, where western countries are setting out to trade with the other side of the world--and their main desire is to procure tropical spices. Think 17th-18th century Europe; think the rivalry between the British and Dutch East India Companies; think the Spice Islands of Indonesia and the impact of this contact between two hemispheres. And then think: but what if...

What if the Spice Islands had magic?

And so, being a fantasy, it's not just about a clash of cultures, but about a clash in religious/magic systems...The trilogy's protagonists come from both hemispheres.

"Lascar" is a term that is not very specific in its application. The word is Persian/Arabic in origin, meaning guard, soldier or more generally pertaining to military, but later came to mean a militiaman or seaman from the southern Asian region (i.e. not Chinese/Korean/Japanese). 

"Lascars" came to mean those serving on British naval ships under so-called  "lascar" agreements. The first British East India merchantmen sailing to India had lascar sailors on board. 

Many of these lascars never returned to the countries of their birth after their period of service. They became the first wave of Asian migration to Britain. Intermarriage was common. Most of these British lascar's were from the Indian sub-continent--whereas the lascar of my book comes from the tropical spice islands of my fantasy world, a place I call Chenderawasi. 

As a sidebar: My husband's ancestry is, in part, Minangkabau. These people have their origins in western Sumatra, Indonesia. They were often traders and sea-faring folk. It is logical to assume that among my husband's forebears there may well have been one at least who ended up as a lascar!

Watch this site for the maps to come...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Unidentified and flying and ... er, something

I may write fantasy, but basically I am a very scientifically oriented person who believes nothing absolutely until it's proven to be true. And one thing I have always been sceptical about is UFOs. (Another is ghosts). I reckon both are pretty much just people seeing something out of the ordinary and jumping to conclusions -- when in fact there is an explanation that is rooted in science, not the supernatural.

So when I see something that is unidentified and flying through the air, I reckon there has to be an explanation, ok? I just don't know what it is yet...

I do know it wasn't in my head because the person I was with saw it just as clearly as I did.

We were driving out to the airport last night at about 12.30 a.m. It was a clear night after a very hot day (about 36C/98F). No clouds at all. The temperature at that hour was about 25C/77F and there was a gusty wind. We were in a van, one of those ones with a big wide windscreen which gives a great view of the sky, travelling down a 4-lane highway just out of Mandurah. No lights anywhere as we were passing through an area that is a bit rural -- low bush, some trees. There's a wide median strip with very low vegetation, and no cars on the other side of the road at that particular moment, one sedan not far behind us (love to know what they saw).

It appeared as a light. My immediate thought -- and my companion's -- was that it was a shooting star, i.e. a meteor, but we both pretty much dismissed that immediately. Meteors present as streaks through the sky, this was a ball of light travelling more or less parallel to us in the same direction, but getting lower all the time, and didn't give the impression of being in the sky at all, but a whole lot closer.  It kept pace with us (at  somewhere around a 45 angle up), then vanished. And when I say vanish, that's what it did. It didn't pass out of sight, or travel behind something, or fade, or explode. It was an intensely bright white light growing slightly larger over the period it was in view (possibly because our routes were converging and it was getting closer--which was the way it felt)--and then it wasn't there any more. We had it on view for maybe half a minute.

With something like this is very hard to judge just how far away it was. (A huge light a long way off or something the size of a beach ball over the far lane of the highway?) My impression was that by the time it vanished it was less than 50m away, but I could be completely wrong.

My companion suggested (without conviction!) a helicopter searchlight that was abruptly switched off. Well, if that was so, the helicopter was flying without navigation lights, and we certainly didn't hear anything, and I think that, if that's what it was, we would have seen the outline. It would have been close enough. The light did not appear to illuminate anything around it the way a helicopter searchlight would have. It was a light without illumination of anything nearby.

My feeling is that we were privileged enough to see a Min Min light.  And yes, there may be a scientific explanation for them. Doesn't matter: it was an experience I'm so glad I had. I've seen an unidentified flying ... um ... light. A UFL.

Don't you dare tell me it was a helicopter or a weather balloon. I want it to be a Min Min light!
 UPDATE: I was sent this link by Barb Holten, and I must admit the photos there -- of the lab-made ball lightning and the accidentally filmed ball lightning in China -- really do resemble what I saw. A lot.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Downton Abbey--sadistic in its treatment of women?

"Downton Abbey Continues Its Sadistic Streak Against Women" is the title of an article in Slate Magazine by June Thomas, and I'm afraid it annoyed me. Perhaps I'm not qualified to comment, as I haven't seen the latest episodes of that TV series. In fact, I stopped watching about halfway through the second season. 

But I wonder if the reason for the trauma of Downton Abbey women is perhaps this: 

Almost every culture throughout history has been stacked against women. One could argue that the writer of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, is just telling it as it was (taking into consideration that any drama is going to up the trauma beyond the norms of most normal lives, for both men and women). 

 Life was often particularly nasty to those women who didn't conform, and to women who were the first to step away from cultural restrictions. If they were backed by money, or possessed power in their own right, or were protected by the power of the men in their life, they could get away with it. Otherwise? There were unpleasant consequences. 

Portraying women in fiction as perpetual victims is annoying, especially if they are always being saved by a man--but we can also go too far if we are critical because fictional women have a tough time. I don't want to see writers making women too powerful and confident to fit their culture and upbringing and influences. I don't want to see writers making the repercussions of rebellion too mild for their historical or cultural setting. I don't want to see writers glossing over how tough it was to be female, how careful you had to be, and how painful if you were unlucky. 

June Thomas ends with these words:
A woman loses a baby, sister, daughter, or husband, or is humiliated in front of her family and friends, and we get to watch them recover. Raping a beloved character is just latest of the show’s experiments in sadism. 

 Er, what? When a woman loses a loved one, isn't someone else usually just as traumatised by the death, like...a husband or a father by the death of a child? And when a husband, isn't he a man? He just lost his life ...and nothing bad happened to that character? And if a woman is raped--well, you know what? It still happens! 

It seems to me that when we underplay the traumatic events in the lives of women, we are ignoring historical (or present day) truths. Where we as writers can excel is in showing how strong women can be when confronted with trauma. We can portray our fictional women characters as survivors and heroes. But if we downplay the kind of horrors that happen to fictional women simply because they are women, then we are pretending something that's not true in the real world. 

Historically women do have it harder. In many, many parts of the world, even in our own societies, they still do. Let's not gloss over it.