Archive | My Stories RSS feed for this section

A couple of belated updates: interview and book giveaway

24 Mar

Interview

Bristol Festival of Literature organiser Peter Sutton posted an interview with me on his blog:

Interview at Bristol Book Blog

I talk about writing, and my plans for conventions and festivals this year, and the fact that I secretly want to be a sort of Power Ranger giant robot combo of Edith Nesbit and Pankaj Mishra. Which is something I had not known until I did the interview, but is now my life mission!

Book giveaway

Anna Tan edited the Fixi Novo short story anthology Love in Penang which I’m in, and she is running a Love in Penang giveaway! I will put the giveaway code at the bottom of this post so you can enter it from here if you would like. She is giving the book away to one person based in Malaysia and one person based elsewhere.

I wrote a bit about my story in my post about the anthology here, but it’s basically a romcom about mistaken assumptions and misunderstandings. As all romcoms are, I guess! There is a happy ending, of course.

Here is the blurb for the book (it’s in English, in case you were wondering):

Penang, with its mix of old world charm and modern bustle, has captured the hearts of many – making it the ideal place for a little bit of romance. Bask in the sweetness of young hearts falling in love and cheer them on when circumstances stand in their way. Walk through the pain of broken relationships and rejoice at unexpected reunions. Whether you prefer it happy or bittersweet, straightforward or a little complicated, LOVE IN PENANG offers you 18 morsels of love in various forms.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The annual awards eligibility post, plus other things

6 Jan

I really didn’t want to make this post this year, which probably means I should. >_< But first, links to other people’s posts!

Aliette de Bodard has done her usual round-up including excellent Asian SFF by other people as well herself. Check out her links and download a free novelette at her post: Awards eligibility and awards recommendations.

Ken Liu has also got a fabulously comprehensive post linking to his favourite (mostly short) fiction of the year, plus his own eligible work (which includes two stories about litigators!): Nominating Stories for Awards.

Short stories I’ve had published this year:

Love in the Time of Utopia in Issue #1 of LONTAR, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg and Kristine Ong Muslim, Math Paper Press (September 2013). 6,200 words.

“You’re missing out. At least love is available to everybody, high station or low. It’s the one thing you can get without having to sit exam.”

The Fish Bowl in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic, ed. Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, Alchemy Press (November 2013). 5,600 words.

The koi’s mouth opened and closed, an intermittent surprised O. Its white skin was so smooth it seemed scaleless. It would feel like silken tofu if you touched it. Seen from above, the fish’s one eye looked heavy-lidded and wise.

“Are you a magical fish or a door-to-door salesman?” Su Yin whispered.

Balik Kampung (Going Back) in End of the Road, ed. Jonathan Oliver, Solaris Books (December 2013). 4,700 words.

Hungry ghosts were the spirits of the unfortunate, unlamented dead: those who were killed violently; who died burdened by unfulfilled longings; who had been greedy or ungenerous in life; who were forgotten by their living. It was obvious to Lydia which category she fell into.

These are all eligible in the short story category, and I’d be happy to provide copies to anyone who’d like to read them for awards — just comment with your email address, or email me. No obligation to nominate after reading, obviously!

(There were two more — Jebat Dies in Esquire Malaysia and Double-Blind in Fixi Novo’s Love in Penang (ed. Anna Tan) — but the first is Hang Tuah fanfic and the second is a totally non-speculative love story, so they don’t really count for these purposes.)

If you have had things published that are eligible, and you are dithering over whether to make this sort of post or not — do it. Do it even if you don’t think anyone reads your blog or follows your Twitter account who even votes for this kind of thing. Do it even if making the post makes you cringe. My blog doesn’t get a lot of pageviews, but I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have got the Campbell nomination if I hadn’t made this post last year.

***

I am going to piggyback off this post to post about two more things!

For some reason Fixi always gotta publish all its calls for submissions in pictorial form. Their English-language imprint is now seeking short stories and creative non-fiction of 2,000-5,000 words for a new anthology called Lost in Putrajaya. Deadline 28 February. See the call for submissions here.

If I were a better and braver writer I would venture out of my comfort zone and write hardbitten crime stories and political satire to submit to Fixi’s English-language anthologies. Sadly I am a wimp + lazy, so I don’t! You should do it for me.

Also, if you go to Google.com.my today, it has a picture of beloved filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad which makes me all misty-eyed — like her work itself. She would’ve been 56 years old today (going by Malaysian time la). Faster go! The art is lovely.

Not very scary stories, plus a spooky 1904 Christmas film

17 Dec

surpassingly asked for ghost/spooky stories and/or urban legends, and I was going to write a post last night but then I decided to wait till morning. >_>

For someone who writes so much about pontianak and dead people, I am really easily scared by supernatural things and so don’t know that many scary stories. Because I actively avoid them! I think I write about death (in Balik Kampung, The First Witch of Damansara, The Terracotta Bride, etc.) as a means of trying to make it safe and familiar, to try to make it less scary, as a way of understanding it. Of course … that doesn’t really work …. So I might write stories that make my mom uncomfortable (she still retains the Chinese horror of ever mentioning death even though she’s now Christian, and as I heartlessly remind her, Christians talk about death all the time), but that doesn’t mean I like spooky stories!

My attitude towards the supernatural is that I don’t really believe in it, but am a little worried that hantu don’t care whether I believe in them or not.

The scariest stories I have heard are ones that could maybe be true? They’re definitely told as true stories. So I have a friend who has a membrane around her brain and so can see ghosts (it runs in the family). She’s very matter of fact about it and doesn’t really even talk about it unless you ask, but when we were at a school housed in an 18th century manor in the English countryside, she used to see things in the music hall and floating around the ruined Abbey that I refused to hear about.

Another friend of mine once told me an awful story about how her mother woke up in the middle of the night and saw a thing at the end of the bed. For a while after being told this story I’d lie in bed every night trying not to look down.

The sister of a schoolmate once refused to enter their house because “there was a man in the living room”. Nobody else could see the man. The sister said he was bald and had red eyes. D:

These are not very interesting stories, are they! You kind of had to be there. You may tell me the spooky stories you know, if you like, and I will peek at the comments through my fingers and decide whether they are too scary for me to read them or not. Oh, and here is something spookier than anything in this post:

The Mistletoe Bough

A short film made in 1904 (!), which you can watch for free on the BFI website. Their description:

An unlucky bride is locked in a trunk during a game of hide and seek in this ghostly early silent film. The tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to the 18th century, and was traditionally recited at Christmas time as a ballad. Its ghostly bride, olde-worlde castle setting and shock discovery of skeletal remains make it a Gothic classic. With new music by Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne, commissioned by the BFI.

It’s pretty cool!

Do you have a favorite character among the ladies you’ve written?

12 Dec

yifu: Do you have a favorite character among the ladies you’ve written?

Yes! Wait, no, two favourites. I suppose the second is more a type of character than an actual character. Er, I should stop waffling and provide a proper answer, shouldn’t I?

Actual favourite character: At this point in time it is the main female character in the novel I am working on. Prunella, my Pru! She’s opportunistic and blunt and bossy and passionately devoted to her own self-interest. Whether anyone else will like her is another matter altogether — the one friend I’ve let read the book disliked her for most of it, I think, and my agent wants me to make her more sympathetic. She delights me, but I acknowledge she can be kind of an asshole. She’s got her reasons, though! And I think female characters should be allowed to be unlikeable assholes more often.

Favourite type of character to write: As you can probably tell from things like The House of Aunts, I love writing aunties and grandmas and stroppy unmanageable old matriarchs in general. My favourite of these so far is probably Nai Nai from The First Witch of Damansara (which appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s anthology Bloody Fabulous), because she is the toughest and meanest of the matriarch characters I’ve written so far.

“You know why I wanted you all to call me Nai Nai?” she said before Vivian closed the coffin. “Even though Hokkien people call their grandmother Ah Ma?”

Vivian paused with her hand on the lid.

“In the movies, Nai Nai is always bad!”

Vivian woke up with her grandmother’s growly cackle in her ears.

I don’t think I will ever get sick of writing incorrigible old ladies. <3 The great thing about them is that they practically write themselves. It saves a lot of work!

Carl Brandon Society Awards 2011

11 Dec

I didn’t win any! But The House of Aunts and 起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows) is on their 2011 Honors List. That is nice! I have never had a story honor-listed before. Presumably it is like waiting for buses and that is why two have come along at once. (It did require a conscious effort to spell “honour” that way, in case you were wondering.)

There are two Carl Brandon Society Awards, one for speculative fiction by non-white people, and one for speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity. This year’s winners are Tenea D. Johnson for her novel Smoketown, and Andrea Hairston for her novel Redwood and Wildfire.

You can nominate works published in 2013 for the Awards now! And you can find out more about the Carl Brandon Society at their website.

On postcolonial fluff for booknerds, made-up genre of my heart

4 Dec

atropinesulfate: I would love to hear about postcolonial fluff for booknerds, and any plans for a sequel to Jade Yeo/her descendants.

O postcolonial fluff for booknerds, made-up genre of my heart! Postcolonial is a big term and maybe not that accurate, but I use it because I think of this imaginary genre as being a reactive one, a thing that I am producing as part of a long slow recovery process. What I am doing with it is, I am processing my childhood reading — all the stuff that was really influential and enjoyable, but also kind of secretly toxic — and I am trying to extract the poison from it while preserving the things I loved. Jade is a reaction to Wodehouse and Daddy-Long-Legs and I Capture The Castle. The novel I am working on is a reaction to Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke.

It is questionable how much you can do to save a trope. There have been times when I have reflected that a Regency novel is going to be dodgy whichever way you slice it. You can’t get away from the fact that the original of this delightful fictionalised polite society was built on the proceeds of slavery and conquest. I think it’s important to recognise that.

But there’s this idea that fiction by or about people who are traditionally underrepresented in Western literature is kind of innately worthy and dull. Things are getting better obviously, but you know how if you are looking for an Asian-American book you’ll get 8 out of 10 that are memoirs of cultural conflict or immigration or whatever, and if you are looking for a LGBT book a lot of them are about coming out and whatnot, and you throw up your hands and say, Can’t I just read about PIRATES?

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading the serious things as well, but PIRATES have their place. I think people constitute themselves through stories and it’s really important to have trashy enjoyable fiction about you, as well as worthy epics. Anyway, that is what postcolonial fluff for booknerds is partly about. It is mostly about having fun!

I probably shouldn’t say too much about sequels to Jade Yeo, because I don’t really know what they will look like yet. But what I’d like to do is write three or four more novellas for self-publication. Each will be romance and revolve around one of her female descendants/relations. I have really only thought about the next one, about her daughter, but I want to use a very similar voice for all of them. I will need to capture that sort of private cackling mood of self-indulgence in which I wrote Jade to do it — but first I’ve got to finish my book!

Dear Author reviewed Jade Yeo!

2 Dec

The-Perilous-Life-of-Jade-Yeo-by-Zen-Cho--187x300I’ve already done some bouncing about this on Twitter, but look at that! Dear Author reviewed The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, and liked it! :D I am profoundly chuffed, and am making this post primarily so I can reblog the cover with RECOMMENDS on it and coo over it forever.

I emailed them ages ago when the ebook was first out, but since I didn’t hear back from them I figured they weren’t interested and forgot about it. So I was astonished to see a pingback from Dear Author in my emails when I was going home from work on Friday.

I dithered a little over whether I should read the review, out of a vague feeling that maybe it would be more polite not to? Maybe I would read it and it would hurt my feelings? (I realised this was unlikely given the link said it was an A minus review, but what can I say.) But of course I succumbed to temptation and read it!

A couple of points:

(1) In case it interests people to know how much difference something like this makes — I noticed after the review was posted that I’d made a couple of new sales on Smashwords, was pleased, and went on with my day. It’s just occurred to me to check Amazon, and there have been around 50 sales. To give context, there were all of 2 sales last month.

Keep in mind that this is a story that is free to read on my website, and the review says so. What this says to me is that you can trust readers to pay for books if they feel they’re gonna get some kind of value and the pricing is reasonable. I believe that readers on the whole want to do right by authors, and all authors/publishers need to do is make that possible — ensure the conditions that enable readers to do what comes natural.

(On a tangent, when I wrote that I felt horribly tempted to tweak the above sentence to make it clear that of course I do not count as an author. Impostor syndrome, my old friend!)

(2) The only thing I would take issue with in that review is the “infidelity” tag. I kind of get it, because I can see that as a reader you might decide that non-monogamy in a romance is not your bag, and you want to avoid that. That is fine, of course. But polyamory is not infidelity. Jade’s Romantic Interest #1 is not unfaithful to his wife in making advances to Jade, because his wife is down with it — he is acting in accordance with their understanding. It is possible to be unfaithful in a polyamorous relationship, but Hardie isn’t.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that! This all reminds me that recently I decided I wanted to write a sequel to Jade, and hopefully I will do that, and self-publish that too. (I want to do a series about Jade’s daughter and grand-daughter and maybe great-granddaughter even, if the dates work.) But this is all for the future. For now, I must focus on my book!

PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON in Spanish + writing about writing

27 Nov

Podéis leer mi cuento PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON traducido al español en Cuentos para Algernon! Aquí:

PRUDENCE Y EL DRAGÓN

Is that mostly right? Tell me if not right k. I actually did Spanish for a year and a half at school (I got A* in the GCSE! And an A for the AS level. Which all goes to show how little standardised testing counts for anything). Tapi semua pun dah lupa. All gone already ….

If I properly remembered all the languages I’ve learnt in my life I’d be impressively multilingual lor. It’s a longish and rather sad list, probably starting with Hakka, which I only ever really had for the first two years of my life. The reason why this is a bit sad is that I actually am Hakka, on both sides of my family.

Anyway, that is a diversion. It is very exciting to see PRUDENCE in another language. It is similar to the feeling you get when you see fanfic of your stuff — that sudden weird knowing that the story really has left your brain and is having an independent life in the world outside. The translator behind Cuentos para Algernon was very patient with the intricacies of translating Manglish, for which I am grateful. She has translated stories by such authors as Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu and others, so do check out the website if that sounds interesting.

Also, I linked this on Twitter, but I did a post on stealing your ideas for Gliphowrimo. I don’t really like doing writing advice — I mean, I write a lot about writing, but mostly to try to explain the process to myself and/or convince myself not to throw in the towel. But I am nervous of giving writing advice because frankly I don’t feel I know what I am doing! I (occasionally) have ideas, I (fairly regularly) arrange words on the screen, and once in a while a story occurs. It’s all very mysterious! But that’s part of the fun of it. As much as I like writing advice that makes the whole thing sound no more mystical than assembling IKEA furniture, there’s a certain appeal in leaving the veil drawn over some parts.

See, that half a paragraph was all just to reassure myself that it’s OK that I don’t know what I am doing. But it is also a digression >:( What I meant to say was, that is why my Gliphowrimo post boils down to a joke about putting in more dragons. orz