Author Archives: Zen

About Zen

I'm a Malaysian writer living in London.

Link roundup: SORCERER TO THE CROWN &c.

Sorcerer to the Crown UK cover Sorcerer to the Crown US cover

I was interviewed by Australian fantasy blog Smash Dragons! I talk about Sorcerer to the Crown, explain what measures I’d institute as Empress of the Earth, and quote Diana Wynne Jones and S. I. Rosenbaum on historical novels and writing respectively.

Smash Dragons interview – Zen Cho

A couple of nice mentions of Sorcerer to the Crown in the book press:

It was one of Publishers Weekly’s top 10 SFF picks for Fall 2015, along with such fabulous books as Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings and Fran Wilde’s exciting-sounding Updraft. You need a PW subscription to read the piece, but it calls Sorcerer a “glorious debut”. :D

And it showed up in Kirkus‘s feature on What to Read in the Second Half of 2015. Again, Sorcerer is in fabulous company, cited alongside, among others, Cindy Pon’s Serpentine and Kate Elliott’s two (!) new books this year, The Black Wolves and her YA debut Court of Fives.

An excerpt of Sorcerer will also be included in Apex Magazine’s special world-themed issue this September, guest-edited by Cristina Jurado. There’ll be interviews with me and Escape from Baghdad author Saad Hossain.

Finally, a new pro-rate SFF magazine from the fine folks behind Rosarium Publishing: Shattered Prism will open to submissions in August for its first issue, due out in November. Check it out! Write! Submit!

My publishing journey: Writing with a day job, part 2 — work/work balance

In Part 1 of “Writing with a day job”, I explained why I do it. This post is about the how.

I have a fairly simple rule, which I started when I broke the hold of writer’s block and figured out how to write regularly. I decided I would write a little bit every day — a single sentence would do if I didn’t have time for more — but I would take one day off from writing every week. This was usually Friday, because I’d get to the end of my working week and feel very tired and want to mess around on the Internet or read stuff instead of writing.

I’ve more or less stuck to that basic rule since then. When I have a project that I’d like to get finished by a specific deadline, I’ll work out how many words I need per day in order to finish it and then do that, so there are times I might have a specific daily word count target (usually around 1,000 words/day). Other times I might decide I’m relaxing and just do a bit each day instead of having a specific word count I’m aiming for. Sometimes I’ll decide that editing or proofreading or preparing a story for submission will count as my writing work for the day, but I don’t let myself do that too much as actual writing is the hardest thing for me, so I’m a little worried I’ll just keep coming up for excuses for not doing it.

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SORCERER TO THE CROWN UK cover reveal!

I’m thrilled to be able to share the gorgeous UK cover for SORCERER TO THE CROWN! Here is a teaser:

smallpiece
 

You can view the whole at the Tor UK post:

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – UK Cover Reveal!

It’s so pretty and shiny and ornate. *_*

The UK edition is available for pre-order now at all the usual book retailers:

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

And of course, don’t forget your friendly local indie bookstore, if that’s an option! Big Green Bookshop is a nice one in North London. The book’s out in September.

My publishing journey: Writing with a day job, part 1 — why I don’t write full-time

Like many writers, I have a day job. I’ve been asked a few times whether I’d like to write full-time or (put it another way) why I haven’t given up the job now I’ve got a book deal. The answer varies a fair bit depending on my mood and the time of day, but the three main reasons why I don’t write full-time are:

1) I’m quite risk-averse. (I’m a lawyer by day. This is very common amongst bookish Malaysians whose parents want them to be able to cari makan.) Sadly, having one book deal is no guarantee that I would ever get another.

2) I quite like having a day job. Mine is interesting, well-paid and well-regarded, jokes about killing all the lawyers aside. I am good at it and like my colleagues.

3) I’m not sure I’d actually like writing full-time.

That last might need some explanation, given how maniacally invested “passionate” I am about writing. (I’m not an obsessed loser! I’m a passionate millennial!)

To be happy in your career you need three things.

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Aliens vs. cyborgs

The days have been such a blur* since I arrived in Malaysia that I forgot to post about this article I wrote for Poskod.MY sempena Cooler Lumpur:

What being an alien taught me about stories

I am eight years old, a new pupil at SRJK (C) Kwang Hwa.

“This is my new friend from England,” chirps my classmate when she introduces me. I have never been to England in my life, but why should she know the difference between USA and England? Here in Penang both countries seem equally distant and unreal.

My family moved from Malaysia to the US for a couple of years when I was a kid, so by that age I already knew what it was to be an alien.

Basically it’s me wondering aloud “what is the proper subject of the Asian/Malaysian writer?”

Don’t forget I’m running two giveaways for my anthology CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA. Enter for free, win a book that is both shiny and chrome!

 

* I haven’t really been busy, unless you count “sleeping only three hours a night” and “obsessing over the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell BBC series” as being busy. I do, but I admit there may be legitimate differences upon the point …

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA launch and giveaway

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA is out in the world! I’m really excited about this anthology and hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

(Although I am never editing another anthology. It is TOO MUCH WORK. Hats off to the editors of the world.)

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Intro / Zen Cho
Underneath Her Tudung / Angeline Woon
Codes / Anna Tan
Personal / Sharmilla Ganesan
Attack of The Spambots / Terence Toh
ONE HUNDRED YEARS: Machine / Rafil Elyas
What the Andromaid Reads at Night / Ted Mahsun
KAKAK / William Tham Wai Liang
The Wall That Wasn’t a Wall / Kris Williamson
The Twins / Adiwijaya Iskandar
October 11 / Chin Ai-May
Undercover in Tanah Firdaus / Tina Isaacs
Unusual Suspects / Tariq Kamal
The White Mask / Zedeck Siew

We launched the book at Cooler Lumpur to a standing room only audience, with most of the authors in attendance:

Photo of Cyberpunk: Malaysia authors at launch

L to R: Sharmilla Ganesan, Foo Sek Han, Chin Ai-May, me, Ted Mahsun, Tina Isaacs, Terence Toh, Zedeck Siew, Anna Tan, Tariq Kamal

The cover of the book was also revealed for the first time at the launch. In a first for a Fixi book (er, apart from mine), the paperback and ebook have different covers, though the content is the same.

Cyberpunk Malaysia paperback

The paperback

Cyberpunk Malaysia ebook cover

The ebook

Cool, right? Here’s what the publisher says about the covers:

The print cover is simply a mirror. Why? Because our cyber experience is increasingly customised — at its simplest level, the ads and promoted posts you see are based on your own browsing history. So when you look directly at the cover, you will see your face leh.

The ebook cover is “Cyberpunk Malaysia” spelt out several times in binary.

The contents are exactly the same.

And here’s the blurb on the back of the book:

Cyberpunk as you’ve never seen it before…

Science fiction is all about outrageous ideas. Nice Malay girls breaking the rules. Censorship. Brain drain. Moral policing. Migrant exploitation. All the stuff of fiction, obviously.

But these 14 short stories take it one step further. The nice Malay girls are cyborgs. The spambots are people. The brains have drained into cyberspace, and the censorship is inside your head.

Welcome to CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA.

You can buy the ebook now for US$3.90 on Google Play and Smashwords (other vendors to follow). If you prefer dead tree books, you can buy the print version from Fixi if you’re in Malaysia, or pre-order from Amazon.com if you’re outside Malaysia. And/or you can enter a couple of giveaways for a chance to win the print version!

I’m giving away 1 copy via Rafflecopter — you can sign up RIGHT HERE (no geographical limitations):

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Edited to add: I am also giving away 2 copies via GoodReads — enter below! Open worldwide. You’ll need a GoodReads account.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

 

CYBERPUNK by Zen Cho

 

CYBERPUNK

 

by Zen Cho

 

Giveaway ends June 22, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

 

 

Enter Giveaway

 

Note that the giveaway copies are the print version with the reflective cover. Both giveaways close on 22 June — enter and tell all your friends!

My publishing journey: How I published a short story collection

Spirits Abroad

I have been meaning to write a post about this ever since I spoke with an author friend about how I got my short story collection Spirits Abroad published and realised how opaque the process is. This is an author who is way more established than me and has published a bazillion short stories, and yet I don’t think it had occurred to them to do what I’d done.

Mind you, this is because they operate in the US/UK market and I was focused on another market altogether. After I broke through the Block, I wrote about 20 short stories, felt I’d got a bit of a handle on how to do them, and decided I wanted to shift my focus. What I really like in stories is character, and short stories don’t give you a whole lot of space to explore your characters. I wanted to write novels: it was the one thing I felt I couldn’t do, and it was the one thing I felt I had to do in order to be a Real Writer.

I know this is a complete lie and directly contradicts #1 of my mission statement. (The thing that really drove in the fact that it is a lie for me, by the way, was reading a Dorothy Parker biography and finding out that she felt the same about novel-writing — that she had to do it, or she wouldn’t count as a writer. But the novel just didn’t seem to be her form. Like so many others, I’ve rejoiced in Parker’s scathing wit and perfect turns of phrase, and she didn’t need a novel to persuade me she was a writer for the ages.)

Unfortunately I have yet to work out how to make my feelings line up 100% with my opinions, and anyway I did want to know how to write novels for the sake of it, leaving aside all status-related insecurities. So I decided I’d try to get rid of my short stories at one go, as a collection, so I wouldn’t be worrying about editing them, submitting them, etc. while focusing on the longer-form stuff. At least I would be getting rejections at much longer intervals!

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