Category Archives: My Stories

SORCERER TO THE CROWN on the Tiptree Award longlist

I’ve already squeaked about this on social media, but I’m thrilled that Sorcerer to the Crown is on the 2015 Tiptree Award longlist! The Tiptree is the coolest SFF award IMO, and they’ve highlighted an awesome range of novels, short stories, comics and nonfiction this year.

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I’m particularly delighted to see the shout-out for Kuzhali Manickavel’s Things We Found During The Autopsy.

The winners and honor list look very cool. You can find out more about them at the Tiptree Award website here: 2015 Winners, Honor List and Long List.

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My publishing journey: The Year of No

I’ve been fairly quiet on the Publishing Journey front as I’ve been busy, er, journeying. But epic fantasy author Juliet McKenna kindly invited me to write a guest post for her blog, so I wrote about identifying with Jonathan Strange for the first time and learning to say no:

My year of saying no

It’s nice to be wanted, of course, and it was a refreshing novelty. As with most writers, rejection is the backing track of my life, so it was nice for once to hear “please will you?” instead of no, thank you”. But it meant I had more demands on my time than ever before, when I had less time than ever before.

Come to think of it, it follows on quite nicely from my last Publishing Journey post on love and resource. Unplanned thematic continuity \o/

On a totally separate note, Sorcerer to the Crown is in the first round of DABWAHA! If you vote for it it might WIN and BEAT THE OTHER BOOKS (or at least it may not FLAME OUT and DIE A DEATH instantly). Vote, vote!

Fantasy novelette THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE out now!

I’m self-publishing an ebook reprint of my novelette THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE, which first appeared in Torquere Press’s Steampowered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk. Check out the gorgeous cover, commissioned from Likhain!

z-terracotta-azI love the vivid colours, the interplay of light and dark, the red hellscape, the melancholy white chrysanthemums, and Yonghua’s face, beautiful and stark. If you were to accuse me of self-publishing THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE largely to have an excuse to commission art from Likhain … well, I won’t deny it!

As for the story, it takes place in the Chinese afterlife and was a good faith but unsuccessful attempt at writing steampunk in a setting that isn’t Victorian England. (It’s really a vaguely gothic queer fantasy with retrofuturistic flourishes.) It’s one of my coming of age stories where the protagonist is already dead. It’s mostly about loneliness and love. Here’s the summary:

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

It’s 11,000 words, so a quick but not insubstantial read. Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Smashwords
Kobo
Apple/iTunes
Nook
Google Play

SORCERER TO THE CROWN UK paperback cover reveal

My UK publisher Macmillan/Tor UK have just put up the UK paperback cover of SORCERER TO THE CROWN! It’s like the hardcover, but also different: much more red, just as foiled.

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Admire it in its full glory at the Tor Books blog:

Crowning Glory: Unveiling Zen Cho’s paperback cover

The paperback is out on 28 July 2016 and you can pre-order now (link to Amazon, but you can ask your friendly local indie for it too!). I’ll put up other purchase links closer to the time.

Rambling about writing at Kinokuniya KL: a report

As I mentioned in my previous post about my event at Kinokuniya KL last Saturday, Kino is the bookshop of my teenage years, because it was so huge and had what was at the time an unmatchable selection — not only of SFF, but YA/MG, manga, Asian literature, etc. etc. etc.

Then later a giant Borders or two opened closer to home in PJ, rendering the long trek to KLCC unnecessary, so my memories of Kino are really crystallised in time. It was nice to go back, especially as I got to admire the World SF table they’d kindly let me curate in person. (I didn’t put my own books on the list lah obviously. They added those themselves.)

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To my left (your right) there used to be an excellent Japanese stationery section. I didn’t go there that often because I’d’ve spent all my money on books by the time I got there.

A closer look at the selection, from Nigerians in space through Paris in the wake of a magical war to Hitler as a PI!

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As for the event itself, it was really fun! I’d planned to fill up one hour but ended up taking around two. It was nice of Kino not to chase us out!

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Here’s me holding forth

I was really worried that people would do that Malaysian thing of being too shy to raise their hands, and then only creeping round to ask questions afterwards one-on-one. (I mean, I can raise my hand as one of the people who does this. Except I wouldn’t raise my hand, of course.) I even prepped a friend to keep the chat going if no one volunteered questions: “Ask me about law! I can tell them about EU directives!”

But fortunately everyone was awesome and there were lots of questions! Thanks to everyone who asked — you are my hero and I am eternally grateful.

The only specific thing I remember saying was my explanation of the importance of plot. It goes like this: I used to think I didn’t really care about plot as a reader, but I’ve since learnt a bit more about how stories are made, and I now think that plot is to story like bones are to a person you fancy. You might say, “I’m not attracted to people based on their bones, I’m really more interested in their personality or whether they have a full head of lush hair.” But if you met someone who had no bones, at all, whatsoever, you might rapidly reconsider how important bones are to their attractiveness.

Anyway, so I’m still trying to figure out the bones of story.

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My Stormtrooper ring is so photogenic! Nowadays I pretend John Boyega is secretly inside it.

The highlight of the event for me was meeting readers, obvs, but a close runner-up is the fact that illustrator Charis Loke gave me what, as far as I know, is the first piece of fanart for Sorcerer to the Crown!

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I love it. I am so happy.

A close-up:

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There really is nothing like seeing the figments of your imagination being brought to life by another so sympathetically. I’m going to sleep with it under my pillow eat it so it becomes a part of me frame it and put it on my wall and admire it forever.

I also signed some stock for Kino, so if you missed the event you can still pick up an autographed copy there! If you’re not that fussed about autographed copies or a 20% discount on your second item (also available in-store), you can buy the books online: they stock the US hardcover and the trade paperback with the UK cover, both RM75.

Photos are by me, Daphne Lee, Aaron Lim and my BFF Maxine Lim, who combines with all other ideal qualities of a best friend that of taking only flattering pictures of me.

Publications in 2015

I generally manage to avoid reading discussion of my writing, but one time I did see someone describe me as “not prolific”. I was all indignant: how can?! I write so many words, OK, all things considered!

But the melancholy truth is that I’m not very prolific. Given sufficient time I can crank out a decent number of words, but a fairly low percentage is fit for human consumption. Still, in 2015 my list of publications was short but satisfying.

Short fiction: Monkey King, Faerie Queen in Kaleidotrope (April 2015)

This was a hard story to sell, which puzzled me because it’s one of my favourite of my short stories. It’s about Sun Wukong wreaking havoc in Fairyland. What’s not to love? I’m pleased it found a great home in the end.

Anthology (editor): Cyberpunk: Malaysia, Fixi Novo (June 2015)

CyberpunkMalaysiaebookcoverwithtitleI edited Cyberpunk: Malaysia, which was a great experience but way too much hard work for me to want to repeat it! I’m really proud of it — it’s a great collection of stories and as good an introduction to urban Malaysia as you can get anywhere else.

Novel: Sorcerer to the Crown, Ace/Macmillan (September 2015)

IMG_0668My first published novel! It’s been wild having it out in the world. Currently it’s out in hardcover in the US, UK and elsewhere, and I never get tired of wandering into bookshops and seeing it on shelves. I find it even more exciting seeing it in libraries and seeing holds (!!) on the book. There’s also an audiobook, which I’m told is well done: US | UK (it’s the same audiobook, just different versions of Audible). Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it, reviewed it, posted about it on social media, and told me they enjoyed it. I’m very grateful.

Nonfiction: It’s sort of overegging it to call it nonfiction, but I did write a lot of guest posts, email interviews and the like this year, and people seemed to enjoy my Publishing Journey series of blog posts. I plan to write more! But must finish book 2 first. >:| <– this is my determined face

The list will be even shorter this year as the follow-up to Sorcerer to the Crown isn’t scheduled for publication till 2017, but I do have at least one thing planned. You can sign up to my new release mailing list if you want to hear about new publications as they happen! It’s very low volume — I just send out an email when there’s something new by me that can be bought/read.