Introduction

10 May

Hi! I’m a Malaysian living in London. Sometimes I write stories!

You can find out more about me at About, or read, download and purchase my stories via Stories. Feel free to comment or otherwise contact me if you’ve got any questions.

My publishing journey: Ten things I believe about writing

29 May

I guess I’m getting to the stage where people look at my writing career and think, “That person must know what she’s doing”, because I am starting to get messages from people who are keen to talk to me about publishing.

I am reluctant to disillusion them. I do not like to explain that I know bupkis about publishing. To me it is a mysterious opaque world, the landscape of which is only occasionally illuminated by emails from my agent and editors, and tipsy conversations with other writers.

However, it seems a little ungracious to send people away with “Google Absolute Write, good luck”. So since this blog could do with some actual regular content, I thought I would do a series of blog posts — not on how to do it (“it” being “get a book deal”), but how I did it. It’s not only going to be about selling my novel, though: since it is a journey, I’ll talk about what’s happened since I first prevailed upon someone to give me money for my fiction.

I plan to do posts on:

  • Selling short stories
  • How I published a short story collection
  • Signing with a literary agent
  • How I figured out how to write a novel
  • Going on submission
  • Selling the novel

But also:

  • Self-publishing
  • Conventions and festivals
  • Social media and networking
  • Other stuff!

My focus will not be advice. There is sufficient writing/publishing advice on the Internet to equal even the cat photos and pornography. It’ll be what I did and why it worked for me (or why it didn’t). But the big thing to remember about writing is that there are a lot of different ways to do it; there are lots of different paths to publication; and you only have to do what works for you, which might be different from what works for other people.

Which leads quite nicely into the meat of this post! Here are

Ten things I believe about writing

A sort of mission statement

(This is not advice. It is stuff I tell myself. It might SOUND like advice, but all the “you”s in this post are really me.)

[…]

ARCs, giveaways, reviews, conversations

28 May

I’m sure the title of this post is terrible for SEO (search engine minimisation??) but it is going to be a grab-bag of things I’m catching up on. If you would like to get updates on writing stuff in REAL TIME, Twitter is generally my first port of call for reporting book news (I am zenaldehyde!) and I cross-post to Facebook as well nowadays, though the posts aren’t identical because Facebook permits me to be as verbose as I naturally am. I can be found here on Facebook: my profile is public so anyone can follow it, but if you’d like to be friended do drop me a message to let me know who you are.

On to the news!

Sorcerer to the Crown: galleys, giveaways and more!

Ace/Roc sent me galleys of the book! My gosh. It looks like a REAL BOOK. And it is covered with quotes by authors I admire hugely!

SorcererGalley

Naomi Novik! Ann Leckie! Courtney Milan! Karen Lord! Charles Stross! Kate Elliott (on the other side with the dragon, you can’t see it in this picture)!

And as of today, awardwinning YA author Justine Larbalestier, who says Sorcerer is:

Georgette Heyer meets Anthony Trollope with some Edward Said and a very big dash of feminism. Romance, magic, frocks, intrigue and lots of politics … I was in heaven. More please!

If you’re in the US, you can enter the Penguin BEA 2015 sweepstakes for a chance to win five new releases from Penguin Random House, which just might include Sorcerer to the Crown and/or Aliette de Bodard’s fabulous new novel The House of Shattered Wings. You don’t have to be at BEA to sign up — you just have to be resident in the States. (If you’re not in the US and want Aliette’s book, you can join the 500 people jostling for a free copy over at her own ARC giveaway!)

Otherwise, watch this space, because I am going to do a galley giveaway here soon. Subscribers to my mailing list will get a MAGICAL ADVANTAGE, so sign up now! It’s a new release mailing list so you don’t get regular news when you’re on it — I just send out an email when I’ve got new fiction out that you can read or order. Here’s a previous example.

The House of Aunts and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted

Speaking of writers I admire hugely, Naomi Novik wrote a really kind post about The House of Aunts on Tor.com:

A New Reality: The Optimism of Zen Cho

You feel as you read that the author wants you to be happy, even if she is not going to lie to you to make you feel more comfortable. … As a reader, when I feel a writer has those goals, it creates a kind of trust that carries me along with them. Even when they take me to difficult or uncomfortable or sad places, I still feel they are doing so because it’s where the story belongs, and even then still with the underlying desire to give satisfaction.

Naomi links this to fanfic writers and writing, and I thought it was interesting because it’s precisely this quality that I like in Naomi’s work. (This must sound like the most sickening logrolling! But long-term fandom friends will vouch for the fact that I was reading and squealing over Naomi’s stories since I was 16. (I actually went to look at the earliest story by her that I remember reading when it was being posted, and that was in 2000, so I was actually 14. 14 years old.))

I spent most of her newest book Uprooted with every part of me clenched in terror lest everything would not turn out OK, but I also simultaneously knew that everything would not only be OK but more than OK — marvellously, eucatastrophically more-than-OK. And the author saw me through, as I knew she would. You should read Uprooted.

Interviews and roundtables

The Star interviewed me, KL Noir: Yellow editor and Cyberpunk: Malaysia writer Kris Williamson, and romance author RodieR about the increasing popularity of genre fiction in Malaysia:

Is genre fiction picking up steam with Malaysian readers?

Our books are all finalists in the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards. Voting closes on 31 May so you still have a couple of days to vote for the winners!

And I spoke with Charles Tan, Aliette de Bodard, M Sereno, Bogi Takács and JY Yang for a roundtable on “diversity” and the kind of conversations we’d like to have for the Book Smugglers’ SFF in Conversation feature:

On Diversity

Actual fiction (kind of)

Finally, my new post went up at Where Ghost Words Dwell today! This is a group project I’m doing with a bunch of other cool SFF writers, where we string our discarded writing together on a blog, along with links and images. Today’s contribution is a piece of lost text from The House of Aunts:

At age 16, in Lubuk Udang

You can check out this explanation to get an idea of what the project is about, or better yet, read the whole blog through.

Get Jade Yeo for free

18 May

And help young Bulgarian writer Haralambi Markov get to World Fantasy Con!

The World SF Travel Fund has set up a Kickstarter to fund Haralambi’s attendance at WFC, along with next year’s recipient. It’s a great initiative that has so far sent international SFF readers/writers/editors/fans Charles Tan (Philippines), Karin Tidbeck and Nene Ormes (Sweden), Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines/Netherland) and Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary) to conventions.

I’m donating the ebook of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo as a reward, which you’ll get if you back the fundraiser at any level. Put the world in World Fantasy Con and get a free ebook! \o/ I am going to fix some typos in it (thanks, Punk!), so you know it is a great deal.

And there are some other rewards, too, I guess, like copies of The Apex Book of World SF 1, 2 and 3, and ebook bundles from Angry Robot, Solaris, Prime Books and Twelfth Planet Press. Check it out!

SPIRITS ABROAD is a Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards finalist!

4 May

SpiritsAbroad-final-faceonlyEvery year Popular, jointly with The Star, picks out its 10 bestselling titles for fiction and nonfiction respectively and lets readers vote for their three favourites for the Readers’ Choice Awards. This year Spirits Abroad is on the list!

You can read The Star‘s coverage of the English-language nominees list here:

Support local books by voting in the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards

and vote for the winners online here:

Click to vote in the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards

You can also check out and vote on the Malay-language nominees.

There doesn’t appear to be any express restriction on voters’ backgrounds, but I’d think you’d want to be a Malaysian or someone living in Malaysia really! It’s to encourage local support for local books ma.

The awards will be presented on 11 July at BookFest 2015 in KL.

SORCERER TO THE CROWN cover reveal and guest blog post!

28 Apr

I’m super excited that we can now show off the US cover for SORCERER TO THE CROWN! It’s grand and auspicious and has got a dragon on it. *___* Here’s a teaser image:

sorcerer_front mech.indd

Check out the full cover art on the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog:

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

(They link to the ebook of Spirits Abroad with Likhain‘s cover! \o/)

I also wrote a guest post for B&N about why the main players of SORCERER TO THE CROWN are who they are, and what I was trying to do with the book. I felt a bit like I was peeling off my skin writing it, so I tried to make it less personal, but it’s probably still pretty personal. -_- I’m worried it makes the book sound really serious, when it really isn’t! You can hop on over to read here:

Giving Power to the Powerless in Sorcerer to the Crown

And if the cover and post provoke any interest, you can pre-order SORCERER TO THE CROWN from all sorts of places!

US edition
Penguin Random House (links to all major US retailers, print and digital — click on the orange “pre-order” button!)
Indiebound
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)
Amazon.com

UK edition
Pan Macmillan (links to all major UK retailers, print and digital — click on “Other sellers”)
Foyles
Blackwell’s
Waterstones
WH Smith
Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)
Amazon UK

Do try to order from your local indie bookshop if you can — Big Green Bookshop is a nice one in North London!

(I have to admit, I never really got pre-orders as a reader, but here’s a blog post by author Brian McClellan that explains why writers are so keen on it. It’s basically a particularly potent form of support. But you don’t have to, obviously. Just in case you want to!)

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA Table of Contents

21 Apr

I’m really excited to finally be able to talk about the Table of Contents for CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA! Here’s the line-up:

“Underneath Her Tudung” by Angeline Woon
“Codes” by Anna Tan
“Personal” by Sharmilla Ganesan
“Attack of the Spambots” by Terence Toh
“ONE HUNDRED YEARS: Machine” by Rafil Elyas
“What The Andromaid Reads at Night” by Ted Mahsun
“KAKAK” by William Tham Wai Liang
“The Wall That Wasn’t A Wall” by Kris Williamson
“The Twins” by Adiwijaya Iskandar
“October 11″ by Chin Ai-May
“Undercover in Tanah Firdaus” by Syamsuriatina Ishak writing as Tina Isaacs
“Unusual Suspects” by Tariq Kamal
“The White Mask” by Zedeck Siew
“Extracts from DMZINE #13 (January 2115)” by Foo Sek Han

So there are a number of Fixi stalwarts in the list, but this is also the first SF story sale for some of the writers, and the first fiction sale for at least one. Which is awesome!

It was really tough winnowing down the 100 odd submissions to this final selection, and there were great stories that I ultimately wasn’t able to include for fairly random reasons. I did a first slush read and narrowed the list down to a group of “maybes” that ended up being the length of two novels. And then I had to refine that down to “yeses plus maybes that are really very close to yes, but I need to think more about how the stories fit together”, which eventually went through the fire to become the final ToC. So by now I have read every story that has ended up in the anthology 5-6 times each, and I’m not sick of them yet — which I think is a good sign!

(I was also the pickiest editor Fixi has probably ever had, and can only be grateful to the authors for not telling me to bleep off, but instead doing sterling work on their stories.)

Recurring themes in the anthology: the war of the rich on the poor, religion (duh), moral policing, migrant labour, the multiple purposes of art, cities. It’s a very urban anthology; it’s a very Malaysian anthology. It’s skeptical but it’s also optimistic. I think people will enjoy reading it. I hope they find it as entertaining and heartening as I did, pulling it together.

It’s launching at the Cooler Lumpur Festival, whose theme this year is Dangerous Ideas — quite zhun because the anthology is full of dangerous ideas. The festival’s taking place this year from 12-14 June and I’m going to be doing a couple of things for them, and will of course be turning up to the launch if jet lag permits. So do come if you are around, and come say hello!

SORCERER TO THE CROWN mentioned in The Guardian

13 Apr

I spoke to Sarah Hughes last month for her article for The Guardian on female fantasy authors, and it’s out!

Feeding the Hunger – female writers are storming the citadel of sci-fi

I am quoted describing SORCERER TO THE CROWN as “Edward Said meets Georgette Heyer”, a hubristic line I originally came up with at a book launch while spilling red wine on Frances Hardinge. Not my best moment. /o\

There are two things that seem to be annoying for genre fans about this article, the first being that it has “sci-fi” in the headline even though it’s all about fantasy, and the second being the suggestion that female-authored fantasy is a new thing. I think the article does acknowledge that Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Le Guin et al existed; it seems to be speaking more to a presumed mainstream stereotype that fantasy is wall-to-wall George R. R. Martins. Anyway, since we’re on the subject, here’s a random selection of fiction by female SFF writers who have been occupying the citadel for so long that their work is now out of copyright and available to read for free online.

Stella Benson, Living Alone

This is not a real book. It does not deal with real people, nor should it be read by real people. But there are in the world so many real books already written for the benefit of real people, and there are still so many to be written, that I cannot believe that a little alien book such as this, written for the magically-inclined minority, can be considered too assertive a trespasser.

(I can’t remember how I found Stella Benson, but I stumbled over her strange, marvellous book about a witch a while ago and recognised it immediately as a friend. It’s not really replicable; still, I would like to write something just like it.)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. The original!

And three female-authored utopias:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Sultana’s Dream

Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, The Blazing World

New short story: “Monkey King, Faerie Queen” at Kaleidotrope

6 Apr

My Monkey God story is up at Kaleidotrope!

“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho

It’s the story of that one time Sun Wukong went to Fairyland and busted stuff up. I read it at New Voices at Nine Worlds 2013, and wrote it a couple of years before that, so it’s not really new at all. It took a while to sell, even though it’s one of my favourite of my stories. Here’s how it starts.

Now to be fair, Sun Wukong was already in a bad mood when he arrived at the Faerie Court.

You don’t know who Sun Wukong is? You’re kidding! You haven’t heard of the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, the one who is Mindful of Emptiness, the Exquisite and Most Satisfactory Prince of Monkeys, defier of gods and Buddhas alike, scorner of other people’s dignity and personal inspiration to little monkeys everywhere?

One day a stone cracked and he jumped out: that was the miracle that was his birth. His fur is as silken as your favorite shirt and as golden as the midday sun. He has eyes of fire and the biggest ears anyone ever saw on a monkey. And if you want to look up his name in the Book of Life and Death, forget about it, because he went down to Hell and wiped that shit out himself!

You know who he is? Why didn’t you say so? You didn’t know his name? That’s okay. All gods have more than one name, to give the mortals more chances to swear. You can call him the Monkey God or Monkey King or just plain Monkey, whatever you like. It’s the same simian in the end.

This was in the pre-Enlightenment days, you understand, before Sun Wukong mended his ways and became a Buddha. In the days when Sun Wukong was still naughty, and enjoyed the occasional punch-up.

Read the rest at Kaleidotrope.