Archive | December, 2012

Books books books

29 Dec

What are you reading now?

Patrick O’Brian’s HMS Surprise. I started rereading this during my Malaysian wedding, in that vast dull space in the morning between the departure of the make-up artist and the arrival of the bridegroom. I was immured in my bedroom while my friends were occupied in setting him and his heng dai various challenges, and started rereading O’Brian to pass the time. The groom’s party arrived before I got past the first chapter, though. I am now doing a reread of the first book through to the twentieth — we have passed the debauching of the sloth and are now in Bombay, where Maturin has met Dil and is hanging around waiting for Diana.

As with all the best books, I always notice something different on a reread; this time it was the fact that Stephen’s dealings with Dil are a good metaphor or analogy or, really, example of the disastrous consequences that can attend the well-intentioned meddlings of the privileged in the lives of the less privileged. It’s hard to do good, and easy to mess up ….

This is the main thing I am reading: I am indulging in rereading because it is a holiday and also the Aubreyad is the right period for the novel I’m writing, so I can sort of justify it on those grounds. I am also reading Blue God: A life of Krishna by Ramesh Menon, having finished his retelling of the Mahabharata in two volumes, as well as Daughter of Elysium by Joan Slonczewski, which I downloaded when it was being offered for free a while ago. Daughter of Elysium is old-fashioned science fiction of the anthropological, we all live in giant living cells under the sea sort; it is too early for me to have any strong opinions. Blue God has the same satisfying mythic richness as Menon’s retelling of the Mahabharata, though I confess I am skimming the Bhagavad Gita bits.

What did you just finish reading?

800 Years of Women’s Letters, edited by Olga Kenyon, which was very disappointing — Cephas kindly ordered it off a catalogue of academic-y books he received. The letters are fine, but there is very little variety — she extracts letters from the same writers over and over, grouped under different topic headings — and the commentary is shockingly poor. Also, this was first published in the early ’90s, but there have been a couple of reprints since, and she hasn’t really bothered expanding the selection of letters — her sources are all late ’80s. And a good number of the letters are fiction — as in, extracted from fiction, and on at least one occasion she says, “OK, so the following extract isn’t a letter, but it kind of sounds like a letter ….” Really poor.

Post-Captain by Patrick O’Brian. The new thing I noticed was that Stephen is as much at fault for the parlous state of his relationship with Diana as Diana is — she makes it clear from the very beginning that she is looking for marriage, and then he doesn’t offer. I know she blows hot and cold, but it’s pretty obvious that she’s only doing that because she’s furious at him for being just like all the other dudes who just want to sleep with her and won’t commit.

The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. This was very good, but I found it incredibly brutal reading — it was part of the reason why I started an Aubreyad reread. It was making me so depressed and grumpy that I needed a boost — a spiritual palate cleanser. But it is very good! It is all about broken people and horribleness and survival.

What do you expect to read next?

The Mauritius Command! I’ve also borrowed A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851 by William Gibson, which expires in 21 days, so I’ve got to read it soonish. (My library does ebooks! This is very exciting!)

Self-publishing sales figures: half a year of Jade Yeo

22 Dec

I haven’t been keeping too close an eye on the sales figures for The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo ebook, but fairly recently I ventured into the jungle of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing earnings reports and was intrigued by what I discovered.

As you probably noticed if you were reading my blog then, I self-published Jade as an ebook at the end of May this year and also published the novella for free as a web serial on this very blog, posting a new section a day for 20 days. Even though all the content was free on my blog, I set a price on the ebook of US$0.99 — I figured the different, more portable ebook form was worth something even if its innards were on display for all to see in blog posts.

What I thought would happen

What I figured would happen was that people would buy the ebook within the first week of publication — mostly my friends, and perhaps some people who didn’t know me personally but had read and liked my short stories. Sales might continue as long as I was posting new sections and tweeting about them, since that might draw more attention, and then sales would tail off and eventually peter out.

What actually happened

Contrary to my expectations, my sales haven’t yet died a natural death, and they haven’t been decreasing steadily as I expected. Sales went down after the first two months of publication — but then they went up again, to my great surprise. Apart from the first couple of months (when I sold about 60 copies), I’ve been selling about 20 copies per month, with the ratio being about 15 on Amazon and <5 on Smashwords per month.

I’ve now sold 140 copies in total — 47 via Smashwords (through which ebooks are available on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.), the remaining via Amazon. Now 140 is obviously rather a small number, but given that Booker shortlisted author Tan Twan Eng’s Garden of Evening Mists shifted a grand total of 174 copies before the Booker effect kicked in, I’m rather pleased about it!

The marketing

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A cornucopia of fabulousness

19 Dec

King of All Cosmos bolster held up by me

We have a new roomie here in the House of Cho & Co! He is a gift from my spouse, who is a gentil parfait knight if there ever was one (mmm, parfait). He would be good for cosplaying with, only there are no eye holes. ONLY DREADFUL LASER EYES OF DOOM.

King of All Cosmos bolster chillin' on the sofa

This picture gives you a better idea of His Majesty’s vivid manly colouring. He talks when you hit his nose! Also when you hug him (he is very huggable), or accidentally sit on him. He doesn’t currently show up on Penguinotic Designs, but that is where we got him from, and I agree with that one reviewer who said: “They said money doesn’t buy you happiness. They were wrong.”

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Here is an Economist article about population trends in Britain:

Those who define themselves as “white British” now make up just 81% of the population, down from 88% in 2001, when the last census was conducted. … In 2001 fully 45% of the minority population of England and Wales lived in London. Now, they are more spread out.

(Admittedly that is not the sexiest quote I could have chosen, but I found it interesting.)

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Stupefying Stories is seeking material by 2013 Campbell-qualifying authors for inclusion in an awards pre-reading anthology. Check out the call for submissions for details. They’re only seeking reprints, and are not paying. The anthology will be available as a free download from 1 February through the end of April 2013.

Even if you don’t want to supply fiction for inclusion in the anthology, it’s probably worth getting in touch if you qualify, as they plan to include a full list of known, eligible candidates and details of their eligibility in the finished volume. If you think you might be eligible but aren’t sure, check out the Writertopia Campbell Award page and the Eligibility FAQ in particular (it’s slightly out of date but I assume is accurate if you move all the dates one year up).

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Amir Muhammad’s pulp press Fixi is launching an English-language line, Fixi Novo: see manifesto and call for submissions. They’re seeking pulp novels (“crime, horror, sci-fi and so on”) and are interested in the “urban reality of Malaysia”. (Not as serious as it sounds — well, you can tell from their manifesto, but also Fixi’s Malay-language catalogue includes the novel Zombijaya. Rough translation of the back cover blurb: “Welcome to Malaysia. A country rich with Eastern tradition. But what happens when its people are suddenly surrounded by zombies?“)

Fixi Novo is also seeking short stories between 2,000 and 5,000 words on the theme “KL Noir” for an anthology. Details on their Facebook page. (All Malaysian presses seem to operate primarily out of Facebook — don’t ask me why!)

Writing, adopted tigers, forgotten Jews and a small press

11 Dec

Graceling author Kristin Cashore’s Pictures of a Book Being Made, wherein she chronicles the agonising process of writing her much-garlanded novel Bitterblue, made me feel better about the slow stop-and-start of being a writer on a day when I really needed it. I confess I’ve only read Cashore’s Fire*, but I really liked it, and I really like her blog. I admire her willingness to be vulnerable and her great sincerity.

My friend Katy posted an amusing description of a BBC News fluff piece about a dog adopting tiger cubs. I link to her post rather than directly to the video because I think her description makes the video all the funnier. The “I can’t be fucked”ness of the reporter’s voice is brilliant.

I thought this article about Malaysia’s forgotten Jewish community was very interesting. Thousands of Jewish people! Apparently they are mostly Arab and Chinese (the latter is so unexpected that the Malaysian friend I was talking to about the article initially thought I meant Chinese people who marry white Jewish people, like Amy Chua and her husband).

New Malaysian small press Ianslip books is seeking English-language submissions for publication. They’re interested in “fiction/nonfiction/poetry … dude, whatever it may be”.

*I always start series at some inconvenient middle point — my very first introduction to the wonderful sprawling Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, a 20-book epic which I profoundly love, was the tenth book, The Far Side of the World (great introduction). The first Discworld book I read was The Last Continent (terrible introduction). My first Tori Amos album was From the Choirgirl Hotel — rather challenging; Little Earthquakes would probably have been easier. I basically only got into Tori Amos because I wanted to make full use of the cassette I’d paid good money for, never mind whether I enjoyed the music or not. (I listened to it religiously, frowning in perplexity, until I started enjoying it. I imagine you could train yourself similarly to enjoy opera, or Tibetan throat singing.)