Friday, 30 June 2006

Lydia Teh Reveals Secrets of the Amazon!

If you've read the Snapshots! webpage mentioned earlier on, Aneeta mentions how she can't get her book on Amazon because her book is not published by a publisher based in the US. She's still got hope, however, because Lydia Teh explains how a book can be listed on Amazon.

To add a bit into this, if Aneeta used Lulu's services, would it help? If I remember correctly, they have a package that lets you sell your book on Amazon (you keep all rights, unlike iUniverse), with the caveat being that your publisher would actually be listed as Lulu (which might not be so cool, because actually you're self-publishing through your own label).

Thursday, 29 June 2006

"Must" read? Bah!

You may have come across 1001 Books You Must Read, edited by Peter Boxall (or at the very least, read about it on Sharon's blog). Patrick T. Reardon from the Chicago Tribune did, and he came away feeling rather miffed:
What got me was the word "must" in the title. I see that, and I feel guilty. I mean, I read a lot -- a lot -- but all I have to do is open this book, and I find hundreds of works whose covers I've never cracked.

"Roxana" by Daniel Defoe, "The Thinking Reed" by Rebecca West, "The Judge and His Hangman" by Friedrich Durrenmatt, "Blood and Guts in High School" by Kathy Acker

-- I've never even heard of these, much less read them.
So he decided to make his own list.

Tintin and the Secret of Literature.

I suppose when a popular book gets old enough, someone out there will start asking the inevitable question: "Is this literature?"

I, for one, grew up with a healthy dose of Tintin (along with that other illustrated character from the French-speaking world, Asterix), but I never thought to stop and ponder that what I was reading, these sublime adventures by Hergé, were actually literature.

Tom McCarthy, however, has. In fact, he's not only stopped and pondered, he also did some good ol'-fashioned Tintin-esque detective work, then proceeded to write a book about it, entitled "Tintin and the Secret of Literature":
McCarthy takes a cue from Tintin himself, who spends much of his time tracking down illicit radio signals, entering crypts and decoding puzzles and suggests that we too need to 'tune in' and decode if we want to capture what's going on in Hergé's work. What emerges is a remarkable story of hushed-up royal descent, in both Hergé's work and his own family history.
The Economist, though, thinks McCarthy's effort is rather bleh.

A Perfect Day for Kangaroos by Haruki Murakami.

Seems like there's a free Murakami story up online every other day, doesn't it? The Times gets some kangaroo lovin'.

As a side note, I notice in the July edition of Kinokuniya's newsletter that they have "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" in stock already. Hooray!

Hari Kunzru Interview in The Sun.

Jacqueline Ann Surin has an interesting and lengthy interview with Hari Kunzru in today's Sun. (A bit late if you consider that Mr. Kunzru dropped by KL back in early May, but what the hey.) I'd link to it, but there seems to be no online version up yet. If you have a copy, it's in the centrespread.

UPDATE:
They finally uploaded the interview on their website.

Snapshots!

Malaysian writers Aneeta Sundararaj, Saradha Narayanan and A. Jessie Michael have teamed up to write and self-publish a collection of short stories entitled "Snapshots!".

Blurb from the website:
... a collection of mainstream literary stories designed to appeal to both men and women. They are as varied as the authors themselves - A. Jessie Michael retired as an Associate Professor of English. She is the author of several prize winning stories. Saradha trained as a physician and cardiologist but now pursues her dream of writing full time. Similarly, Aneeta, who trained and previously practised as a medico-legal lawyer, now also writes full time – she is the author of The Banana Leaf Men and also manages How To Tell A Great Story.
Hmm. "Designed to appeal to both men and women"? So I guess that leaves the gay community out? Hahaha, sorry. I kid, I kid.

Anyways, the interesting story behind this book is that the three authors used to attend a creative writing workshop together, and their editor, Craig Cormick, ran the workshop. After the workshop they combined their efforts to produce this book. That's pretty cool to hear. Interested about the book? Info about purchasing it at How To Tell A Great Story.

A review can be found over at Lotus Reads.

Via Bibliobibuli. (Thanks, Sharon!)

UPDATE:
Changed the bit about the book being self-published. My bad. Sorry, Aneeta.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Beloved in the West, scorned by Japanese literati.

Not Murakami again! I hear you say, but I like Murakami so whatcha gonna do?

The Age has an interesting article on the author, and it includes some titbits that I was previously unaware of:
Despite what Japan's most hidebound pundits argue, Murakami's writing has always been closer to his homeland than the fictional universes of Fitzgerald, Carver and Chandler. Occidental critics ritually compare Murakami with postmodernists such as Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. But in Japan, as Murakami tells it, "people do not think my stories are postmodern". In Japanese spirituality, the divide between the real and the fantastic is permeable, so his tales of unicorn skulls, six-foot frogs, star-patterned sheep and Colonel Sanders are "very natural".
Ah, gotta love Japanese surrealism.

Jill Monroe on Rejection.

Jill Monroe, Harlequin author, writes on rejection and what happened when she sent in her very first manuscript to a contest:
In a word: AWFUL. In fact, one of the judges said I should spring for the Tylenol since my writing gave her a headache. That comment really hurt, and I actually didn't write for a while. (I'm sure this judge thinks that's a good thing.)

I also had another judge write B/S in the margins of my contest entry, but that's another story.

This is a business filled with rejections, and yes, hurtful comments.
Ouch.

Rare Harper Lee Letter Published in O Magazine.

Using her supernatural powers, Oprah manages to coax Harper Lee into telling how she got into writing. It's no surprise she has always treasured books, and still does:
"Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books," she writes.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

J.K. Rowling drops hints about Harry Potter VII.

I love Ms. Rowling for writing her Harry Potter series, but I hate it whenever she does something like this. Stop teasing us, dammit!

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik.

I don't normally read fantasy. It's quite funny though when my friends come up to me and ask what's my favourite fantasy book or when they hear I'm writing fiction, they automatically assume I'm writing fantasy. Let me come clean. The only fantasy books I have read are the Chronicles of Narnia (read them when I was 7ish), The Faraway Tree collection (12ish) and the Lord of the Rings (read them right before the first movie came out). Oh, and Harry Potter. And perhaps a little Pratchett now and again.

So you can't really say I'm a huge fantasy fan. I know friends who devour much more fantasy than me. They're the real fantasy fans. Not me. One thing that always turns me off is how fantasy novels always comes in series and almost never stand-alone. No way I'm going to sell my soul to the likes of Robert Jordan.

But! I am willing to commit myself to fantasy series if the setting is a unique take on things. Take Naomi Novik's Temeraire Series. An English captain, during Napoleonic times, finds a Chinese dragon egg on a captured French ship. I was sold when I read that premise.

Blogcritics has a review of the first book in the trilogy:
The book is a rousing and entertaining fusion of historical realities with one of the most enduring mythic images. The interjection of dragons and aerial combat into the Napoleonic Wars is just bizarre enough that it works; Novik's deft development of her characters, especially that of Laurence himself, is largely responsible for this. In many respects the book seems historically accurate, and in keeping with the tradition of writers such as Patrick O'Brian. The fantasy aspects of the story are handled responsibly, and developed with a similar sense of authenticity.
Oh dear! More books to add to the shel... erm... floor. I have no shelf space left.

Additional reading:

Monday, 26 June 2006

Free Philip K. Dick story... in audio.

Wonder Audiobooks is offering the short story, Beyond Lies the Wub by Philip K. Dick, and read by Mac Kelly, in audio form as a free download:
Originally appeared in the July '52 issue of Planet Stories.

Planet Stories was the pulpiest of the pulps, concentrating on adventure stories. Many could be described as pirate stories in space. Despite this limitation, many good stories appeared in it. Authors like Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, and Poul Anderson were frequently featured.

"Beyond Lies the Wub" was Philip K. Dick’s first published story, and it encompasses and transcends the scope of the magazine’s content.
It's pulp all right, but it is still a fun read listen, nevertheless. Listen for yourself.

Friday, 23 June 2006

Rejected by Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.

And speaking of rejection slips, here's one I received in the mail when I came home from work this evening (click on image to enlarge):

Please excuse the quality of the scan--the letter was wet when I found it in my mailbox. What's heartening about this is it's actually a personalised rejection slip... and the editor says my story has "nice writing", so there's hope! Yay!

All I have to do now is to figure out which magazine to submit to next.

Rejection Slips.

What do rejections look like? Debra Schwartz shows us her slips. I like the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly ones, personally.

The Most Anticipated Books of 2006 (and 2007 too).

There is a list over at The Millions of the most anticipated books of 2006, compiled by C Max Magee (the list includes some picks from 2007 too), and I think I can see some I know I'll be interested in, such as:
And of course,
Right, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to rebudget my finances.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Speaking of Haruki Murakami, The Times has a review of his latest short story collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, on their website:
These stories span 25 years of Murakami’s writing life. He claims: “My short stories are like soft shadows I’ve set out in the world, faint footprints I’ve left behind . . . like guideposts to my heart.” It is indeed an intimate pleasure to read them.
I think I've mentioned before that I loved Murakami's previous short story collection, The Elephant Vanishes. Looks like this book won't disappoint either. Can't wait to get my filthy mitts on it!

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami.

I've only got a minute to blog this so let me ask you one question: How much do you like Murakami? Are you the type that itches to get your hands on every single thing he publishes? If so, then you may like the novella, Tony Takitani.

But if you think the price of this 45-page book when it reaches Malaysia will be prohibitive (I estimate it'll be around RM60-70), then perhaps you can look elsewhere for your Murakami fix.

Via Conversational Reading.

Don't touch that dial!

I apologise for not blogging more often. Life has demanded I invest more time in it, and thus the neglected state of this blog. So let me now point you elsewhere, specifically to a post on Sharon's blog, which also points you elsewhere.

*cough*

I shall be back soon. Promise!

Friday, 16 June 2006

GPS Aids Author in Book Tour.

Most people use GPS to help them find their way, but J.A. Konrath, author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series, used it to help find more bookstores to promote his books in:
To promote the first book, Konrath's publisher sent him out on an 11-bookstore tour. But by utilizing the GPS device in his rental car, he ended up visiting 106 bookstores on that tour.

His ability to use the technology to find more places to promote his book impressed his publisher enough that this summer, Hyperion is sending Konrath out for a two-month, 500 bookstore tour.
Via Wired News.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

John Updike's Rules of Reviewing.

So you want to review a book? Perhaps you could follow John Updike's pointers (first published over 30 years ago):
1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.

4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants' revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks the volume at random from a library shelf.)
Check out the the whole list of rules at Critical Mass.

Lydia Teh Needs a Title!

Lydia Teh, author of Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life needs a catchy title for her new book:
I need a catchy title that will help it whiz off the bookshelves but I’m a bit short on ideas now. That’s where you come in. Suggest a title for my book. It can be wacky. It can be a metaphor with a twist. It can be short. It can be long, but not too long. It can be something that zaps into your mind or one that reveals itself after some thoughts. There are only two no-nos: it musn’t be crude and it shouldn’t have any reference to food (eg. Malaysian Morsels.)
Suggest a title, and you might find yourself with an autographed copy of her new book! Visit her blog to catch the rest of the details.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Jules Verne: Father of Science Fiction?

Does Jules Verne deserve the title of "Father of Science Fiction"? John Derbyshire tackles this question in his essay, published in The New Atlantis:
Though a gifted storyteller, certainly in his early years, Verne had not sufficient powers of imagination, or scientific understanding, to rise to true science fiction. Here the contrast with his much younger (by 39 years) competitor for the “father of science fiction” title, H. G. Wells, is most striking. The concept of a fourth dimension, for example, first took mathematical form in the 1840s. By 1870 it was, according to the mathematician Felix Klein, part of “the general property of the advancing young generation [of mathematicians].” Wells grasped the imaginative power of this notion and used it to produce one of the greatest of all science fiction stories, The Time Machine (1895). Verne never used it at all, and would probably have found the notion of a fourth dimension absurd

Saturday, 10 June 2006

Dark City.

The author of the recently published Dark City (you may have seen it being displayed prominently in bookstores), Xeus AKA Lynette Kwan, has set up a blog. The first post (also published in today's edition of The Star) is an insightful look into her attempts at researching for her stories.

Lynette shares with us some funny anecdotes, like this:
“How do you kill someone with cyanide?” I asked a doctor friend.

He looked suitably alarmed. “Why, do you want to kill someone with cyanide?”
And this:
Still more suspect is my insistence on visiting the back alleys of red light districts, where ladies of questionable virtue prowl and call out to customers in droves.

“Come on,” I urged my doctor friend. “Let’s go talk to them. You can make like a customer and I’ll take down notes.”
There is also some cool trivia you may not have known about Malaysian prisons. It's a great start for a blog, and I hope Lynette keeps up the good work and posts constantly.

A Portrait of Harper Lee.

My introduction to To Kill a Mockingbird was in an English Literature class I took in university. Most people come to hate the books they had to read in class (I had started to hate a Roald Dahl short story in a class discussion once, and he's my favourite author!), but that certainly didn't happen with me and To Kill a Mockingbird. And how could I not? It was brilliant.

Now I'm toying around with the idea of buying the recently released Mockingbird : A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields, but it's only available in hard cover for now, and I can't afford to buy hard covers nowadays. (And besides, I love paperbacks, they're much easier to transport.) The book promises a glimpse into the life of Nelle Harper Lee and her family, and how her life and experiences led to her writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Information in the book was compiled from interviews with over 500 people who knew Harper Lee. In fact, there were so much information, Shields says he had to cut out a lot of stuff from his book, something very painful he had to do:
As I worked on Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, I had to be merciless about self-editing. There was so much that was colorful about the South in the 1930s, I could have included dozens of anecdotes about Harper Lee’s upbringing in Monroeville, Alabama. Especially when an incident would be otherwise lost to the historical record, I dreaded drawing my pen like a scalpel across a passage and excising it from the narrative.
From the reviews I've read, the book doesn't reveal why Harper Lee didn't write more novels (and how could it, Harper Lee didn't grant the author an interview), but it does shed some insight on why she keeps herself away from the limelight. Certainly one to add to the bookshelf. Just have to wait for the paperback version first.

Additional reading:

Monday, 5 June 2006

Aftermath.

I should feel so proud of myself! This weekend, I actually wrote about 4000 words. Unfortunately--aha! there's always a catch, isn't there?--they don't contribute to my novel, which seems to be in a temporary stasis.

Ah well, at least I am writing. The 4000 words (plus, plus), are actually two short stories: one completed, and one almost to be completed. The completed story is for Raja Ahmad, but because I only had two days to hammer it out, I'm not entirely sure of its quality. I'll probably find out--cringing--in about a week or so when I decide to take another look at it. In the meantime, I'd better finish that other story I've been working on.

Friday, 2 June 2006

Writing Weekend.

I met Raja Ahmad at the Payless Warehouse Sale (you never fail to at any book warehouse sale) and he asked me to contribute a story for the latest book he's going to publish. He wanted a story with a travel theme, and I said it was no biggie... until he mentioned the deadline was this Monday.

Well, that's just great... I was planning on sleeping through the weekend while I let the gaping wound where my wisdom tooth was heal. Looks like I'll have to axe that and actually do some writing. Oh well, nothing like pressure to spur you into creativity.

Now then, anyone up for a story set in Kuala Kangsar?

At the Payless Warehouse Sale.

Have been quite busy lately, so it was a blessing in disguise when my wisdom tooth decided it was time to come out. I thanked any diety that was willing to listen to me that I was given a chance to rest. I took the day off, let the wisdom tooth out at a dentist's in USJ, then went to the Payless Warehouse Sale at the 3K Inn in Subang.

The selections weren't half bad. These are what I walked away with (my wallet RM63.50 lighter than it had been):

Fiction
  • Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
  • Dark Star by Alan Furst
  • Valis by Philip K. Dick
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupuin
  • Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
  • A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton
  • The Information by Martin Amis
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lowell Bair
  • Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard
  • Postcards by E. Annie Proulx
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Non-Fiction
  • What to Read by Mickey Pearlman, PH.D.
  • Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
  • Star Trek Memories by William Shatner with Chris Kreski
Miscellaneous
  • The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash
Pretty cool, huh? Probably the only time you'll see me buy a book of poetry too :p

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