Monthly Archives: April 2013

Saturday morning

Things I did instead of writing or reading or replying to an email I should really reply to:

  • Read Tumblr. Made breakfast galettes on a whim after seeing them on my dashboard. (I ate them with melted cheese and the egg yolk you don’t use for the batter, plus a mug of milky coffee.)
  • Meandered down to library, stopping by the small market on the way to goggle at semi-precious jewellery. Mystic topazes are very pretty! They are like the fangirl red hair of gemstones.
  • Took five books out of library: London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City by Sukhdev Sandhu, Ghosts of Empire by Kwasi Kwarteng, Captain Gronow’s Regency Recollections, Out in the Midday Sun: The British in Malaya 1880-1960 by Margaret Shennan, and Divine Endurance by Gwyneth Jones.
  • Went into local grocery to stare wistfully at blackberries and raspberries. I have, relatively late in life, reconciled with blackberries and raspberries. Berries are now my favourite non-tropical fruit, but unfortunately they are more expensive than other fruit … I thought of buying some, but refrained out of a sense that it would be needlessly extravagant. We have some perfectly good oranges and apples here at home.
  • Stopped by charity shop on the way home to try on a mustard dress and mint green lace cardigan. They would have made an attractive outfit together, but unfortunately neither was particularly flattering on me.
  • Wrote this blog post!

What does a typical Saturday look like for you? You should tell me so I don’t have to write! :D

On a nice review of Jade Yeo

Coffeeandink very kindly sent me the link to this nice review of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Aishwarya Subramaniam, and I wanted to say something about it. A bit awkward linking to reviews of your own things, but I wanted to flag it because it is such an enormous pleasure to — um — it is going to sound pompous to say “find readers who get what I am trying to do”, but I can’t think of a better way of saying it. It’s not like Jade is very hard to get like that, that’s not what I mean. It’s just that it’s nice when people who know and love exactly the sources you’re riffing off of — and who have similarly conflicted feelings about those sources — think you pulled it off.

For many of us who grew up on a steady diet of very light ‘English’ fluff, the lack of non-white people is something we very carefully do not think about — I’d rather not know what P.G. Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer would make of someone like me. But with this novella, Cho writes us into the period in ways that are politically astute, affirmative, and above all joyous.

*fists of determination* I shall keep trying my best!

Many cakey returns

It was my birthday yesterday! Some people wished me many cakey returns. It is for these people that I post the following pictures.

Cake #1: a Japanese strawberry green tea shortcake, made using this recipe + a healthy heaping of matcha. I made it myself! The advantages of this are a) you can make precisely the sort of cake you would want as a birthday cake and b) when Skyping with your parents you can lament that you are so badly off, so neglected by your spouse and all your loved ones, that it is necessary for you to make your OWN birthday cake. Alas! Alack!

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Wiscon 2013 final schedule

Since I am going to Wiscon this year and do not know when I will ever be going again, I have signed up for panels! Apparently assignments are now final (I don’t know how people know this, or how they have figured out what other panels there are — most of the information I glean about Wiscon is from other people’s Dreamwidth posts).

I shall be on the following panels:

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Short story sales

End of the Road

I sold a couple of short stories!

Balik Kampung will be appearing in Solaris Books’ End of the Road, edited by Jonathan Oliver. It’s a New Weird road trip anthology, and (I gather from Twitter) will feature stories by Lavie Tidhar, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Benjanun Sriduangkaew, among others. My story is about a ghost who, while heading home during the Hungry Ghost Festival, a) discovers things she didn’t know about her life, and b) eats Kampar curry chicken bread.

(I haven’t had Kampar curry chicken bread — I put it in just because it sounded intriguing. Nice ah?)

And The Fish Bowl will be in The Alchemy Press Book of  Urban Mythic, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber — an urban fantasy anthology “blending modern life with the traditions of folklore from around the world”. The Fish Bowl is a grim story about maths tuition and being sixteen.

I think both anthologies are due out in autumn 2013. I will post when they are available for purchase!

Weekly reading meme: w/c 8 April 2013

About half a week ago I was happily outlining revisions to my novel when I realised that I had failed to make any reference to the European medieval witch trials … in a book where restrictions on women’s practice of magic is a major strand. (It lets me write about earnest educational reformer characters. You know how much I like earnest reformers!) So off I rushed to the library to find some books about the witch trials.

Unsurprisingly there is a vast amount of writing on the topic, and I had to be quite strict about how many books I took out. Anyway, this explains why my reading has suddenly gone off in another direction.

What are you reading now?

Wizards: A History by P. G. Maxwell-Stuart. This is not relevant to the subject of witch trials; it was just on the same shelf at the library, and seemed interesting. (Deceptively so! >:( ) It’s a fairly short historical account of “ritual magicians” in the European tradition – particularly the kind that attempted to communicate with spirits – and given its subject matter it is surprisingly boring. I think the author and I are just interested in different things? I also think it is a little odd how he doesn’t quite make it clear whether he believes in magic or not, but perhaps I am just being narrow-minded here. (I am mostly a skeptic, but my attitude towards magic and ghosts and that sort of thing is that I don’t believe in them but am a little worried that they believe in me. I am also like my mom’s Malay ex-coworker who was really superstitious but went to UK and happily visited a graveyard there, and when questioned about this said, “Oh, the Mat Salleh ghosts won’t be interested in me.”)

What did you just finish reading?

Witch, Wicce, Mother Goose by Robert Thurston. A compact academic review of the European and American witch trials. Again, it wasn’t quite what I wanted, as the author and I have different concerns — basically this guy is making an argument in response to all the other academic writing about the witch trials. (He argues that the trials weren’t primarily motivated by misogyny, but resulted from the circumstances of the specific locations where the trials arose and, in particular, the pressures and fears to which these communities were subject — though I don’t think he denies that the deeply embedded misogyny of the culture affected who got persecuted as witches.) But it was useful to give an idea of what went on.

Interesting factoids:

Both this book and the boring wizards book distinguish between sorcerers or magicians or cunning folk and witches. The former might not be wholly approved of, but they weren’t straight-out evil, and in any case their practices were viewed as being distinct from witchcraft.

Witches were people (mostly but not exclusively female) who made a pact with the Devil, but as Thurston points out, the pact kind of sucked for the witch. You had to have sex with the Devil and his demons, and the sex was not enjoyable; he might pay you, but the gold usually turned out to be leaves or poop; the rewards were usually something like the ability to kill and eat babies. Also to show your allegiance you had to kiss the Devil’s butt. Altogether kind of a crappy job lor!

What do you expect to read next?

Another of the witch trial books I got out of the library, I guess, though I might just skim and return. I don’t think I’ll make more than a passing reference to them, after all.

Ooh, I should also read The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams – oyceter kindly pointed out a rec for this to me, and it is a handbook for servants by a servant that also looks like a useful guide to Regency period details. It’s free on Google Books, but as my main options for reading it on Google Books are a) my phone and b) my computer screen, I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth paying 82p to call the hard copy up from the public library reserves. Banyaknya buku, singkatnya masa.

Jade Yeo free again

Just a brief note that my historical romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo is now available again on my website, and can be read for free online at the following link: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. I private-locked the posts on my website and took the ebook off Smashwords while Jade was enrolled in the KDP Select programme (I enrolled it so I could make it free on Amazon, as I explained in this post).

I have no complaint with KDP Select in respect of sales (one person borrowed the ebook! That was exciting). But it was always my intention that the story should be free to read online as well as available for purchase as an ebook, and the KDP Select terms don’t allow for that. Also I am opposed to monopolies and like myself to be able to buy EPUBs of ebooks I want to read, so here we are again.

Weekly reading meme: w/c 1 April 2013

I must start to have some system for titling these posts — they can’t all be “Weekly reading meme! :D” or “Books books books”.

What are you reading now?

Jane Austen’s letters (the set edited by Deirdre Le Faye – she ought to write romance novels with such a name). I was meant to finish these a couple of posts ago, but … I didn’t …. To be fair, the book and I were in different countries for about ten days since I last mentioned it! It’s a wee bit of a slog despite Jane’s delightful style, because it is, of course, all about people you don’t know and incidents you haven’t been told about. (And the juiciest letters have been destroyed! Cassandra >:( ) There are footnotes, but sometimes you flip to the back of the book and it obligingly tells you about how the reference to Capt H and Mrs S is about a scandalous elopement gossiped about in the papers, but sometimes you flip back and it’s just like “Mrs D D probably stands for Mrs Dean Dundas”. Yeah. Thanks, footnotes.

I am also rereading Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. My ostensible reason is that it’s prep for my space minuet, but my real reason is that I love it. Lucy Snowe is so creepy and judgmental! (She has good reasons for the former, but not really for the latter.) I can’t work out what her feelings for Dr John are. I dislike Dr John but am impressed by how Bronte pulls out a romantic dark horse from apparently nowhere. But he’s been lurking in the background all along.

The problem of M Paul is that one struggles to envision a retelling of him that doesn’t have creepy racist overtones. Because his portrayal is so racialised!

I had forgotten how everyone in the novel is connected to everyone in some way. It’s like there’s only three families in total in England and fake-Belgium combined. I mean, I know in expat communities you do tend to know everyone, and that guy you see at karaoke sessions always does turn out to be dating your colleague’s roommate, but still, Villette takes it a bit far.

What did you just finish reading?

The Third Miss Symons by F. M. Mayor, because I read this list in the Guardian of best books set in East Anglia and the description of Mayor’s book The Rector’s Daughter (“heartbreaking and acute 1924 tale of Mary Jocelyn, high-minded daughter of the rector of Dedmayne”) made me think it would be right up my alley, but I couldn’t find that novel on Gutenberg. But I was right, because The Third Miss Symons totally is right up my alley. It’s about the problem of being unhappy and not really having anything in your life that makes it worth living – the problem of not being significant to yourself. (Spoiler: it’s kind of depressing.) It made me think of this recent letter to Captain Awkward, Help me stop being mean, where the letter-writer talks about being mean because of their jerkbrain.

The opposite of The Third Miss Symons is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. There is no such escape for Miss Symons as is granted to Miss Pettigrew. I’m glad Miss S gets a kind of happy ending, and it works in the context of the book and the characters’ and author’s likely beliefs. But because it’s not really a happy ending unless you are Christian and/or believe in that sort of thing, I don’t feel it is copping out, and respect Mayor for taking the story to its logical conclusion and not giving Miss S some unexpected windfall of love and happiness.

Oh, and I finished Tales of Ogonshoto (the English translation of Naratif Ogonshoto) by Anwar Ridhwan before I left Malaysia. It was OK, not bad — some it very clever. I think the translation would have benefited from some copyediting — the translation was on the whole serviceable, and I think gave a flavour of what the original text must be like, but there was a lot of tense confusion which unfortunately detracted from the polish of the prose.

What do you expect to read next?

Hmm, dunno wor! Oh, I guess I will read Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs, which I’ve had out from the library for a good while. I’ve already read a bit of the beginning, and it is both funny and really sad. (Harriette Wilson was a well-known Regency courtesan – and she was kind of sold to her first dude at age 15.)

It is no good that my reading is so white at the moment, but it is a side-effect of the fact that I am trying to read things that will be helpful for my current and future writing projects. Though ooh ooh ooh – I got Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds for £1.19 on the Kindle (alas, the sale is now over). So I will get to reward myself with that at some point! \o/