Insignia Volume 3 released

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insignia cover

My short story “Spirit of Regret” was published this month in volume 3 of Insignia. This is an ebook series of Asian fantasy anthologies. Book 3 focuses on South-East Asian fantasy and also features short stories by Joyce Chng and Celestine Trinidad.

“Spirit of Regret” is set in modern Vietnam and inspired by the endless coffee and yoghurt shops I frequented and people-watched in during my 3 months living in Ho Chi Minh.

Table of Contents:

PART I:  Adventure / Folktales

‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

‘The Third Eye’ by Sheenah Freitas

‘Interlude’ by Eve Shi

‘The Island’ by Melvin Yong

PART II: Adult / Literary Tales

‘Running from Shadows’ by Joyce Chng

‘Never Seen’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

The anthology is currently on Amazon UK for a less than the price of a lottery ticket so go ahead and pick it up. It is also available on other online bookshops.

Sirens TOC

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Sirens_coverI’ve already broken the news but the official table of contents for Sirens was announced this week by editor Rhonda Parrish and World Weaver Press.

Just looked at this stunning cover by Jonathan C Parris! Rhonda did a fascinating blog entry about the breakdow of the slush pile you can read here. Really glad she took on extra water sirens since I didn’t even know airborne sirens were a thing before the submissions call! The artwork of the earlier  books Scarecrow and Corvidae is part of the reason I really wanted to submit to this anthology. It looks like the sort of thing I would pick up in a bookshop.

Rhonda has been an amazing editor to work with so far. Not only did I receive a handwritten acceptance postcard (international postage guys, that’s really touching in this day and age), she had also kept things moving swiftly and efficiently at every step. My only regret is that I don’t live in Canada so I can meet her on the con circuit etc.

Release date for Sirens is 12th July. Preorder your copy at Amazon UK,US and other online bookshops.

Table of Contents:

Siren Seeking by Kelly Sandoval
The Fisherman and the Golem by Amanda Kespohl
We Are Sirens by L.S. Johnson
Moth to an Old Flame by Pat Flewwelling
The Bounty by Gabriel F. Cuellar
The Dolphin Riders by Randall G. Arnold
Is This Seat Taken? by Micheal Leonberger
Nautilus by V. F. LeSann
Siren’s Odyssey by Tamsin Showbrook
Safe Waters by Simon Kewin
 Notefisher by Cat McDonald
Experience by Sandra Wickham
Threshold by K.T. Ivanrest
The Fisherman’s Catch by Adam L. Bealby
One More Song by Eliza Chan
Homecoming by Tabitha Lord
Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Mancunicon!

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Mancunicon

Some of the Manchester Spec Fic group at the con

This time last weekend I was at my first Eastercon, Mancunicon. It wasn’t my first SFF con, I’ve been to Worldcon (Interaction in Glasgow, 2005) and World Fantasy con (Brighton, 2013) but this is the first con I’ve really “got”. (I’m not counting comic cons like MCM and other general SFF entertainment cons like SFX weekender as these are a completely different kettle of fish).

Why is that? Let’s dissect.

In Interaction (Glasgow, 2005) I was 21. I went along because it was in my home city and everyone in my writers’ group (GSFWC) told me it was the bees-knees. I went with my sister , who is a dabbling SFF geek (i.e. she read Dragonlance and David Eddings as a teenager and liked the LotR films). I think we spent the whole time like rabbits in the headlights. Cosplayers, Americans (gasp), dice with more than 6 sides, all these subgenre of SFF that we had never even heard of, were all new and fascinating to us. We were overwhelmed by the huge scale of it all. And to be honest, it was intimidating. I felt like I had walked into a secret society and did not know the handshake. My overall memory of Interaction is seeing Anne McCaffrey and staying in the dealers room to buy dragon-related merchandise.

In World Fantasy con, 8 years later, I was at university in nearby London doing my postgrad so again I did not stay late. I had some vague plan in my head that if I bought a ticket a year in advance, it would give me the motivation to write a novel and network at the event.  I went by myself and attended lots of fascinating panels and saw childhood heroes Susan Cooper and Terry Pratchett (squee). I once again bumped into the good old GSFWC crew who told me that I was missing barcon. Barcon? What is this? But I had to get a train back to London! >.<;  I did ZERO networking. I also had ZERO novels to pitch, so that wasn’t really surprising. I found it quite difficult to start conversations with random strangers and most of them tried to get me to buy their burgeoning novels. Whilst I have no problem with this, when every conversation (which took me minutes to work up the courage to initiate) ended up as a book selling exercise, I soon became too fatigue to even attempt to strike up conversation. My experience was also ruined slightly by being chastised by someone who thought I should have recognised him. I probably should have, but it left me feeling quite upset and frankly I wasn’t sure if I would go to another con after that.

Which brings me to Mancunicon 2016! What changed?

1. Con envy

I  joined Twitter about a year ago and so suddenly I have a greater understanding of cons and the people that go to them. People on my feed who were living nowhere near each other suddenly popped up in photos hanging at the bar at some awesome con. I was very envious of those who went to Fantasycon 2015 as Fox Spirit, who had just accepted my story “Yukizuki” won a British Fantasy Award, and lots of people I admire on Twitter attended. I was determined to go to Mancunicon and had no excuse really, as I am currently living in Manchester.

2. Multiple groups of friends

As well as catching up with GSWFC members, ManSpecFic members were in attendance at Mancunicon. And over and above this I managed to make a few connections via Twitter and codex to get myself invited to so awesome dimsum, have a few drinks at the bar and start conversations with people I have a great admiration for. Hurray. Although I was quite happy to wander alone at times, there was always someone I knew, somewhere, to chat to when I was feeling lonely.

3. Volunteering

I signed up to  do EVERYTHING when Mancunicon was first announced. After some deliberation I realised this was not necessarily the smartest thing to do so I volunteered for a couple of hours on registration. Meeting Martin and the reg crew was great fun as I instantly felt like I was welcomed rather than left on my on. Greeting people with a friendly smile and a bit of banter, meant when I saw them later in the hotel, I felt like could approach them.

4. Being on Panels

I was on my first panels at Mancunicon. On Friday I was on the Diversity in SFF panel. This is a subject which I am very passionate about but is also well-worn. In a way I am very aware that the people who attend diversity panels are the people who are already on board (same with feminism panels) but I also wanted to cut my teeth on something I could talk about. I was shaking under the table, and this was the bigger room of my two panels so we had to use mikes. I soon realised however, that I was just as knowledgeable as the rest of the panelists. No-one was an ‘expert’ on diversity, and no-one has all the answers. I shared a few anecdotes which got appropriate laughs and nods and I didn’t fall over or start speaking gibberish. Bonus.

The on Saturday I was in the anime panel. This was in a tiny room and filled with so many anime aficionados that I immediately thought they would call me out for being a part-time fan. It ended up being a giant fun pub talking discussing the horrors of Sword Art Online and the disappointing tropeish middle of Attack on Titan. I shared my love of Ghibli and Japanese culture with a whole room of strangers. It was so good in fact, that a few of us kept talking about it after the panel finished, and I ended up chatting to these people at other things during the weekend.

I also was involved in the Manchester Speculative Fiction group’s crit workshop on Saturday morning which has a very nice write up by one of the victims, I mean participants, Arthur Chappell. We did our normal Milford rules crit but there was something more energising about doing it at the con amidst the energy of the place.

5. Being a bit more chilled

They say that in you don’t just need to meet the right person, you need to meet them at the right time in your life. I feel this way about cons. I’ve mellowed out a bit, am a bit more confident in myself and I know a few more people. I’m no longer intimidated by older men talking about hard science fiction, I just remove myself from the conversation if I don’t find it interesting and talk about something else. Mancunicon therefore was perfect for me. Being a UK con, it was a bit smaller than the others I’ve previous been too. And suddenly all the comments people had said about cons being friendly and inclusive made sense to me. I don’t think this is an Eastercon only thing, I genuine think it’s about finding the right con at the right time. I was less obssessed with panels and going to everything. Partly this was impossible due to the tight room sizes of some of the panels but also because I enjoyed just soaking in the atmosphere. I also just talked to people. It didn’t matter if they were fans or multiaward winning novelists, everyone was a SFF geek first and foremost.

Highlights I have not yet mentioned include:

Aliette de Bodard and Zen Cho’s comedy duo cooking demonstration. I already knew how to make gỏi cuốn but it was so much more entertaining watching them do it I also learnt about the degrees of fish sauce.

The African SF panel where my eyes were opened to the ongoing influences of colonialism in Africa.

The Strange Horizons tea party because, Strange Horizons. And hanging out in the Presidential Suite like a boss.

Meeting a well-known agent and him telling us anecdotes about his first con and how friendly these big name authors had been at the time. And realising at the beginning he was just a massive fan like the rest of us.

Bar rants about: misogyny in anime, My Little Pony fandom, steampunkers, fantasy art, chocolate slave traders and books, books, books and writing.

SO needless to say, I might be a con-vert.

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Audio Tours, Cons and Blogs

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Hey world

News the FIRST

I am going to my first Eastercon, Mancunicon, next week which is exciting. I’ve been to Worldcon and WorldFantasyCon before but Easter tends to be a busy time of year for me (holidays rather than religion). Luckily this year it’s in Manchester where I am currently living. I do feel like a wee bit of a fraud since most of my writing is more fantasy than science fiction unless you squint at it sideways through a door, but I figured I’ll get to catch up with the GSFWC crew and squeal at my writing idols.

I’ll also be on a panel for the first time! Eek. Thought I’d go ahead and volunteer myself for once. I am by no means an expert on anything but I do like to talk!😀

Friday

Diversity in UK SF: Why are we lagging? (Panel) 19:00 (1 hour) in Room 8&9 Meg Frank (m), Eliza Chan, Christopher Hwang, Tej Turner and Jacq Applebee Genre fiction seems to be lagging behind the mainstream.

Saturday

Anime (Panel) 16:00 (1 hour) in Room 6 Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson (m), Eliza Chan, Tej Turner, Bill Sellers and Mad Elf A hook to hang a conversation on!

Whilst there’s part of my which acknowledges I’m being a complete stereotype, I also want to start on topics that I’m passionate and knowledgeable about. Don’t worry, next con, I’m volunteering myself for board gaming, procrastinating and eating.😛

My writing group Manchester Speculative Fiction are also hoping to run crit workshops on Saturday and Sunday morning. They are a good group of beta readers and we still have space if anyone has a story that needs some feedback.

News the SECOND

My blog post about “Yukizuki” is being hosted on the Fox Spirit website with a bit more detail about the inspiration about the story. Please read it and I hope you are inspired enough to support this great indie press (and me) by buying the Winter Tales book!

New the LAST

And finally. This happened the same time as Winter Tales came out but I was so overwhelmed by having more than one publication that I didn’t blog about it. My short story “The Water Museum” has been published on Holdfast’s website in their Love, Sex and Relationships issues. Holdfast have a British female editing team and you can tell by the powerful voices that shine through. It reminds me of the many diverse US magazines at the moment and I have remind myself that for UK-based speculative fiction magazine, this is still a rarity. A British Fantasy Award winning rarity!😀  I really enjoyed the other stories in this issue and in the magazine as a whole. In my head, I’m also claiming that my work was next to Aliette de Bodard’s even though that’s strictly speaking not true!

Before you read what inspired “The Water Museum”, I suggest you go read it at the Holdfast magazine website for free. It is beautifully illustrated by Luke Spooner and is about a date at the museum.

Okay, read it? Then continue.

“The Water Museum” originally came from a call for Manchester-based stories. At the time I had just recently visited the vast and impressive Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. I love museums. I love the hands-on exhibits they have for children, the glass cabinets and the factoid filled video clips. But I am also as impatient as a five year old. I tend to look at exhibits in the wrong order, zigzag across the room towards whatever takes my fancy and trying to figure out what it is first before succumbing to reading the information panels. I rarely get an audio headset because of this reason. If someone tells me to do something, I’ll often do the opposite. Nonetheless it has always amused me to see people with the headphones in, following each other from display to display, engrossed in the facts and taking their time.

When I was last in Hong Kong we went to the Hong Kong History Museum. Now my parents are for Hong Kong and I’ve been visiting the country for years but it would mainly be to eat and see relatives. And my family celebrate the big Chinese cultural celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and others. But at this museum, for the first time, I learnt about the four major ethnic groups who originated from the area: Hakka, Hoklo, Tanka and Punti. Don’t get me wrong, I had heard of some of them, I just didn’t realise they were the indigenous groups! I shook my head in embarrassment as I discovered all of this and more, much more.  (More includes Kowloon Walled City, with which I am fixated).

If I was to point to anything, I would say these are the inspirational seeds for “The Water Museum”. The audiotour leading the reader through the narrative. The idea of living somewhere without really knowing its history. And why did I made the couple gay? There was no particular reason. It didn’t matter what gender they were at all. But I wanted to highlight a world where no-one even bats an eyelid at a same-sex relationship. It’s the extra dimension that makes them a bit different. And love is love.

In turn, the world of “The Water Museum” has mutated into something else, which you can read about in summer when another of my stories is published in the World Weaver Press Sirens anthology. Or in my novel, which I need to finish.

Details to come, but for now this is what’s going on in my head…

 

Winter Tales anthology now on sale

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Cover by SL Johnson

The much anticipated Fox Spirit anthology Winter Tales has been released today.

Buy it on

Amazon UK 

or Amazon US

My featured story ‘Yukizuki’ was heavily inspired by the long Hokkaido winters during the 3 years I lived in Japan as well as my love of yokai.

Margrét Helgadóttir was a dream editor and a lovely person whom I hope to work with again soon. As well as my Asian-inspired story, there are some brilliant stories and poems from the likes of Ruth Booth, James Bennett and Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Because I’m not the best photographer, I asked my friend, Ross Cole-Hunter, for his best photos of Hokkaido snowboarders to get you all in the mood.

The weather is perfect for snuggling up in a chair with a hot chocolate and a good book.

Full contents of Winter Tales after the photos.

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Winter Tales

Contents:
Mat Joiner: The frost sermon
Su Haddrell: The Bothy
Sharon Kernow: The Wolf Moon
Ruth Booth: The love of a season
Masimba Musodza: When the trees were enchanted
Fiona Clegg: Sunday’s Child
Tim Major: Winter in the Vivarium
Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi: Snow Angel
Amelia Gorman: Under your skin
B. Thomas: Among Wolves
Eliza Chan: Yukizuki
DJ Tyrer: Frose
G.H. Finn: Cold-Hearted
David Sarsfield: Voliday
Kelda Crich: Coldness Waits
K.N. McGrath: The Siege
Jonathan Ward: Spirit of the Season
James Bennett: The Red Lawns
Anne Michaud: Frost Fair
Jan Edwards: Shaman Red
Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Coming of The Cold
Verity Holloway: The Frost of Heaven

Sirens anthology

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Just a quick update. My hardboiled P.I. story ‘One More Song’ has been accepted for the World Weaver Press anthology, Sirens.

Editor Rhonda Parrish has been doing a really interesting series of anthologies called Magic Menageries. The first was Fae, then Corvidae and last year Scarecrow. I only learnt about this through Manchester Speculative Fiction Writing Group coordinator/leader Craig Pay having a story in Scarecrows last year. I bought the anthology and was really impressed by the ideas and quality of writing in it.

Gutted that I had missed the Fae anthology, I got to work straight away when I heard Rhonda was after sirens.

More details once they are available.

In the meantime if you want another water story to keep you going, ‘Under Her Skin‘ is available to read here.

Ripping out the still beating heart of the NHS

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I don’t normally comment on politics, on news, on things outside of my writing life in this blog. But I’ve decided to do something a little different today.

I am not a junior doctor. But I’m married to one.

Like most of the public, I didn’t know that much about doctors’ lives. My mum always wanted me to be one. She saw it as a good steady income, a caring profession, a prestigious job. And that’s what many of us see it as too.

Until I started dating a doctor.

I learnt things that I never knew about before. That junior doctors aren’t allowed to settle down. They are moved from hospital to hospital every year of their (often more than decade long) training. That junior doctors not only pay for their own exams (and yes, that means if they fail it, they pay for the whole thing again), but also for any study courses or other training courses they might want to do. That junior doctors will be on-call for twelve hours at time, but in reality if it’s busy, they will stay because you can’t drop a scalpel mid-operation and hit save. That the medical profession trains doctors to be super competitive and do research, audits and poster presentations in their evenings and weekends in order to further the profession and make their CVs more outstanding. That junior doctors has a responsibility to train up medical students, other junior doctors and also find time to get trained themselves. This can mean making a presentation in their free time, reading journals or going in on their day off to get trained from a particular consultant.

But whilst I stood, incredulously and questioning my husband over and over again- but why– I realised another thing.

Junior doctors don’t mind all this. They knew the profession was going to be hard. They want to be the best doctors they can be and help their colleagues be better too. They have accepted that they will never be able to do a weekly activity, that they will miss friends’ weddings and birthdays, that they will miss a lot of their own children’s lives growing up. They have come to terms with all of this because they are fundamentally nice people. They want to help people.

I have complained many a time to my husband about feeling lonely and that he works to hard. I’ve heard other spouses call themselves “medical widows”. I whinge about doing the lion share of the housework and having to sleep alone at night. But when he calls the hospital on his day off to check up on someone, or gets a thank you card, I know that I can’t complain. That I love him because he is this kind of person. That I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So on Thursday, when Jeremy Hunt imposed the contracts, I just wanted to scream. All of the spinning to make it appear about money. To make him look like he cares about the patients. How much do MPs earn? Has he work three 12 hours shifts in a row? Has he worked all through the weekend? Has he had to make decisions about people’s lives in minutes, pulled out their crying babies, reassured the mums, dealt with the miscarriages, been shouted at in the corridor all without time for a lunch break or even a toilet break.

But what bothered me more is his attempt to turn us against each other. As if the other professionals in the NHS will be jealous because doctors earn more. Honestly? I wouldn’t take the money if I had to make some of the decisions my husband makes. But what we have in common, is our empathy and wanting a job that helps others. That’s what nurses, midwives, OTs, physios, speechies all of us who work here in our NHS have in common. We are in the profession of caring.

And we aren’t stupid. We know he’s coming for us next.

The Tories want to privatise the NHS.

They are too cowardly to say it outright. No, that would be too sensible. If we came out and had a debate, looked at the research and compared the models’ of other countries to see the various advantages and disadvantages. Instead, under the guise of caring, they are making it impossible for the NHS to function. Alongside this junior doctor contract issue, they have cut funding to nursing students (who work proper shifts during the degree making it practically impossible to do part-time work like most other students). They are cutting all NHS funded university places (nursing, midwifery and allied health professional). They are cutting the pharmacy budget. Oh yeah and the highly skilled overseas staff that fill many of these roles? Well they will be asked to leave if they don’t earn over 35k.

I look at the people I know. Every single person in the NHS does more hours than they are paid for. They give above and beyond because they care about people. Most could get better pay and less hours if they went private. But they stay because we serve the people who need it the most. I look at us and I wonder if the Tories even know what we are.  Are we another species to them?

And that’s just the thing. The people we serve, the patients who need it the most, are going to suffer. The vicious cycle of poverty and social deprivation will become deeper. We are already struggling to engage with some families but do this and all we’ll ever see of some people is at A&E when it’s all far far too late.

Fully private healthcare is a moral grey area. Intervention, medication and therapy is often overemphasized because it’s a business rather than what’s best for the person. Where are the checks against unscrupulous professionals? Preventative healthcare is not promoted because why would we want people to stay healthy? It turns away business.

It’s the most awful dystopia I can imagine, happening now, in our lifetimes.

I’ve always been proud of my country. We have our problems but we are a caring nation. We look after our sick, our old, our poor. Now it looks like we are stepping back into medieval times.

It’s breaking my heart.