Food, Malaysia, Writing

Lunchboxes and literature

I used my Aladdin bento box for the first time today! I’ve got the two-storey version, which comes with a top compartment for soups and a larger bottom compartment, into which you can slot a half moon-shaped container so you can keep your rice and cai separate. It claims to be able to keep your food warm for up to five hours (or cool if that is how you prefer it), which is convenient as we don’t have that many microwaves at work.

I put some edamame in the top compartment, along with a hardboiled egg, and filled up the bottom with kimchi fried rice, giving the rice a blitz in the microwave before I set off. It worked pretty well! The rice wasn’t quite hot, but it was warm, and edible enough. The things I will do differently tomorrow are:

  • cook the edamame in advance and chill them, because when you put them into the lunchbox immediately after cooking they get a bit soggy
  • put the spring onion for garnishing the rice in the edamame compartment and only add it to the rice just before eating, so it doesn’t get wilted by the heat
  • heat up the rice until it is EVEN HOTTER before packing it
  • put in less rice. Wah, very full after lunch today.
  • (perhaps include a piece of delicious banana bread Cephas has just made, by way of dessert)

I am going to buy myself a bento cookbook. :D Perhaps the Just Bento one? Do let me know if you’ve got any recommendations.

***

You may enjoy these Notes on K. S. Maniam’s The New Diaspora in the New Village zine, discovered via hipsterbabas. (The original essay is here — I haven’t read it yet.) K. S. Maniam is a Malaysian Indian novelist and playwright, and the essay “explores the problems of internationalising community literatures, using the multicultural situation in Malaysia as a sort of model”.

I do not understand all of what Maniam is saying, and the notes seem scarcely shorter than the original essay itself lor. But what I have managed to grasp is interesting. I am doubtful about this idea of a new diaspora, an elite minority whose task is to make sense of the problems of multiculturalism and globalisation by somehow rising above its ethnic and cultural origins — but perhaps I misunderstand the argument. Anyway, it is comforting to see discussion of these issues one has been grappling with personally, feeling quite at sea.

***

Today I hit 50,000 words on the novel! My aim was to hit that word count by the end of 2012, so I am a couple of days late, but eh. \o/! I really made this post just to say this, but got distracted by lunchboxes and literature.

The first draft is growing alarmingly fragmented; I am run away with some subplots and don’t know what to do with others — and I think I have written one scene at least twice. But these are things that can be fixed on the next go-round, right? We soldier on.

Standard
About Jade Yeo, Business of Writing, My Stories

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

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

Continue reading

Standard
Books, Other People's Stories, Writing

Writing, adopted tigers, forgotten Jews and a small press

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.)

Standard
My Stories, Writing

Bloody Fabulous and a title poll

Rather belated, but urban fantasy anthology about fashion Bloody Fabulous, ed. Ekaterina Sedia, was out in October. My story is in it! You can get a copy from Amazon or Book Depository, and there’s an ebook version as well. My story THE FIRST WITCH OF DAMANSARA is about annoying family members and pretty dresses.

Vivian’s late grandmother was a witch–which is just a way of saying she was a woman of unusual insight. Vivian, in contrast, had a mind like a hi-tech blender. She was sharp and purposeful, but she did not understand magic.

This used to be a problem. Magic ran in the family. Even her mother’s second cousin who was adopted did small spells on the side. She sold these from a stall in Kota Bharu. Her main wares were various types of fruit fried in batter, but if you bought five pisang or cempedak goreng, she threw in a jampi for free.

Vivian is an accountant. I’ve realised I use accountants too often in my stories, as a sort of symbol of order and rationality. I must diversify. Why should accountants take on all the fictive burden of championing order? Why not plumbers, transfer pricing specialists, fish feed salespeople, corporate communications executives?

***

I am trying to decide what I would call a collection of short stories by me. Awesome Title of Awesomeness is the current working title, but it probably won’t do. What proposed title do you like best?

1) Here, There and Elsewhere (I think this is a bit boring, but Cephas likes it. It’s because the collection would be organised according to setting, with stories set in Malaysia, overseas, and in other places (e.g. the Moon) grouped accordingly.)

2) Between Worlds

3) The House of Aunts

4) One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland

5) First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia

They are none of them too good, are they? I would like something quite hip, but not offensively so. I am open to suggestions! My stories are mostly about sensible girls or women dealing with a puzzling world. Maybe I should call it The Book of Accountants.

Standard
About Jade Yeo, Business of Writing, My Stories, Writing

Self-publishing an ebook

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

 

How to self-publish an ebook

1) Write an unsellably self-indulgent story at an awkward length. (The jabs at colonialism were as much self-indulgence as the swoony romance.)

2) Fail to sell story to romance e-publishers.

3) Self-publish as web serial and ebook.

4) ????

5) PROFIT!!! –> Note: I haven’t actually profited.

Why I did it

I wanted a “proper website” mostly because my bibliography was getting too crowded and messy on my blog sticky post. Also, I’d self-published a couple of short stories which I wanted to make available as ebooks, and I thought having an FTP I could keep ’em on would probably look slightly better than using a free file-sharing site. I figured there was no real reason for people to visit the new website unless I offered something new to look at, and Bloomsbury Girl (previous title of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo) was just sitting around on my hard drive doing nothing, so why not publish that as a web serial?

I also decided to publish the novella as an ebook, on the basis that in the current publishing environment “knowing how to self-publish an ebook” is probably quite a good skill for a writer to have, like taking constructive criticism and refusing to comment on reviews.

I decided to charge for the ebook instead of giving it away for free just to see if anyone would pay for it. I thought people might, because there’s actual value in having an ebook even if the story is free to read online — I mean, I’d pay US$0.99 to be able to carry a story around in my Kindle.

I set the price at US$0.99 because my aim was to get new readers. I’ve seen arguments that books are undervalued at US$0.99, but if you think about it from the perspective of a reader in a world bursting at the seams with books, an unknown book by an unknown author is worth less than US$0.99. Heck, even if it was free I’m not sure it’d be worth the effort of hitting a button so it’ll download direct to my Kindle. That would mean I’d have get up and turn the wireless setting on my Kindle back on! I haven’t even started reading the book I bought yesterday by a massively well-known author whose stories I know for certain will give me pleasure!

So I set it at US$0.99 based on what I’d do if I’d never heard of me.

How I did it

I prioritised a) decent formatting and b) a cover I found aesthetically pleasing. I succeeded on the second point and think I succeeded on the first, but do let me know if you notice anything wonky with the formatting or typos or anything like that.

The formatting

Producing an ebook was no more difficult than uploading a story to ff.net. Continue reading

Standard
About Jade Yeo, My Stories, Writing Process

Afterword to The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo: Influences, Plausibility and Alien Sex Pollen Apologies

Here is an afterword for The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo! Thank you for buying the ebook, reading, reviewing, linking, retweeting and sending feedback if you’ve done any of that, and thanks for your patience with the daily spam if you haven’t. *g*

If you’ve read the story and have a couple of minutes to spare, I’d super appreciate it if you’d add a review to its page on Smashwords, Amazon or GoodReads. I’d appreciate it whether the review was good or bad — candid reviews are the best, right? I generally find reviews pretty useful when trying out an unknown author and you never know, somebody might be looking for cheap Kindle books or something like that and decide to take a punt on Jade.

Anyway, I wanted to do an afterword after the whole thing was posted, so here it is! It will contain spoilers and so it is going under the tag. Oh, and I’m gonna do a separate post about my experience self-publishing an ebook, so look for that tomorrow.

Continue reading

Standard
My Stories

New-old story in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 54

I’m so blur lah — apparently ASIM 54 came out last month and I didn’t even notice. My story is in it! That’s pretty cool. The story is called The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote and is Malaysian fantasy not set in Malaysia (at least not the one we know). Some of you will have read an earlier draft of this lo these many years ago — it’s the one about an earth spirit who moves out of her parents’ place and sets up house, but finds herself having to negotiate with an annoying landlord.

Yeah, my thematic preoccupations are super deep!

The story is told in Manglish. IIRC my main influences were Manglish, hobbits, and the Legolas/Gimli relationship. If those are the kinds of things that interest you too, you can buy a copy in print, pdf, mobi or epub format at their website: Latest Issue (scroll down past ASIM 35).

Table of Contents below.

Continue reading

Standard
My Stories

Fiction: The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life

A sequel to Prudence and the Dragon, published in Crossed Genres Quarterly #1 in February 2011 and reprinted by The World SF Blog in March 2012. You can download an epub of this story here: click here to download ebook.

 

The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life

by Zen Cho

 

Angela was stalking herself.

She was packing for Japan and she had better things to worry about than doppelgangers, so she was trying to pretend her self wasn’t there.

She thought she would probably need one pair of formal shoes, but she couldn’t decide whether she should pack the new fancy shoes—which were beautiful and appropriate, but untried—or the old stalwart black peeptoes. They were a little manky, but they had seen her through May Balls and medsoc dinners alike.

“Bring both,” said her old self.

Her old self could not enter the room without Angela’s permission. She hovered at the window, peering in.

Angela was not going to invite her in. It was a cold night, but the dead don’t feel the cold.

“I’m travelling light,” said Angela. She set the new shoes down and picked up the old pair. What did it matter if they were scuffed? They had never let her down before. “I’m not bringing you also. All the more I shouldn’t be bringing extra shoes.”

“What lah, not bringing me,” said her old self. “I’m part of you what.”

The thaumaturge had confirmed this.

The problem was that Angela’s best friend was dating a dragon. Initially Angela hadn’t noticed any side-effects. Just the usual sort of thing. Outrage that her best friend was no longer as available as she used to be, that Angela was no longer the first person she called when she wanted to watch a musical or go to the park.

But these were ordinary incidents of the readjustment of a best friendship. Angela had got over it in time.

She was having difficulty getting over being split into two people, though.

Continue reading

Standard