Newsletter sign-up


Just a heads up that I now have a newsletter, aka “irregularly I will tell you about new stuff and extras on the Xuya/Shattered Wings universes, and also about events I attend, etc.” You can sign up directly below, or here.

The first one is going out tomorrow, and has an excerpt from a new Xuya universe story, “In Blue Lily’s Wake”.

“The Lonely Heart” in Lightspeed Magazine


A belated heads-up, because it’s been one of those weeks…

My short story “The Lonely Heart” has been reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine. You can find it here.

A heads-up that it’s a very dark story (it’s a retelling of “The Painted Skin” in Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio), and it gets very graphic (as in “explicit violence and gore, and please don’t blame me if you get nightmares” :p). I also answer questions here.

You can buy the entire issue at the Lightspeed Magazine website, too–please consider doing so? Magazines like Lightspeed need subscribers and issue buyers if they’re to make money.


It was towards mid-afternoon that Chen became aware of the girl. She stood before Chen’s stall, watching the fake-jade effigies of the Buddha and the coloured incense sticks, her eyes wide in the sunlight — she was no more than thirteen or fourteen, with the gangly unease of that age. To her left, children shrieked as they passed the Bridge of Impossibility, holding each other’s hands, and went into the temple complex.

The girl’s hand reached towards a small statue of a demon, touched it — setting off a coloured lightstrobe which illuminated the statue from within.

Normally, Chen should have snatched the statue away, and pointed out to her, in a firm voice, that you didn’t touch the wares unless you paid. But the girl was so young: skeletally thin, her skin taut over high cheekbones, her eyes wide with fear.

“The House of Shattered Wings” and a sequel to be published by Roc


“The House of Shattered Wings” and a sequel to be published by Roc

So… remember my novel that is going to be published by Gollancz on August 20th, 2015? The one set in a post-apocalyptic Paris ruled by Fallen angels–featuring a Vietnamese immortal with a grudge, a washed-out alchemist and a naive and idealistic Fallen?

People have been asking me about a US release; and I’m quite pleased to announce that it’s happening! (*squee*). The fabulous Jessica Wade at Roc has picked up The House of Shattered Wings (along with its unnamed sequel): it will be published in hardcover in August 2015 (more squee. My first two hardcover editions. There’s something special about hardcovers and I can’t wait to hold these in my hands).

Among other squee-worthy things, I get to share a publisher with the fabulous Zen Cho (whose own book I’m very much looking forward to); and other people whose books I read as a child/teen (I’ll actually always associate Roc with Guy Gavriel Kay, which makes me feel… very outclassed).

You can find the press release by Zeno here.

A reminder of the cover copy:

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Magicians War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

So. Belle Epoque aesthetic (swallowtail coats! Top hats!). Political intrigues. Magical Houses in Parisian landmarks, from Notre-Dame to Saint-Lazare Station to La Samaritaine. Dead bodies. What are you waiting for?

Oh, right. The pre-order link (pre-orders are good for authors. And for editors :)). The book is available for pre-order here on amazon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go jump up and down for joy…

(picture credits: Kirkstall Abbey by Rick Harrison. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License).

Awards consideration post


Awards consideration post

2014 was a busy year, but mostly because I spent it taking care of the infant (and running after him in the last quarter of 2014)!

It’s very appropriate that out of all the stuff I published in 2014, my favourite is “The Breath of War”, my science fantasy story with spaceships, stone people and pregnancy. It was, hum, heavily inspired by September 2013 experiences, although of course I didn’t give birth in the middle of a space war :p
(if you read this blog, you’ll already know my position on the presence of women and positive depictions of pregnancies in fiction, so I won’t belabour it here–but it is part of why I’m putting this particular story forward).
It was on Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List for 2014, and you can read it here at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, where it was first published; there are also ebook versions [EPUB|MOBI|PDF|RTF]. And an audio version read by Tina Connolly if audio’s more your thing!

And now onto other people’s fiction: I’ll direct you to my Book Smugglers Smugglivius post for the fiction I loved this year, but here are a few additional things I forgot.

Ahead of everything (which is a lot this year), I’ll just put in a strong recommendation for Xia Jia? She’s been publishing a lot of good fiction (an excellent novelette in Clarkesworld about the festivals of the future, and another one in Upgraded on old age and technology), and I think it’s a shame she’s not getting the recognition she deserves in the West. Here’s an interview with her done by Ken Liu, too.

From my Smugglivius post:
-Zen Cho, Spirits Abroad. A series of wonderfully light and funny stories, from the troubles of getting a boyfriend when you’re a pontianak (Malaysian vampire), to the changes wrought on a family by generations of immigration.

(plenty more behind the cut)
Continue reading →

Some of the references in the names of Xuya mindships


Some of the references in the names of Xuya mindships

I shared this on twitter recently, but I thought I’d repost here for those who weren’t around on Sunday.
A few years ago, I started the custom of naming Xuya mindships after literary allusions or metaphors–because, in a society where literary culture is still very important and scholars drive the creation of mindships, it felt like a natural process. Of course, if you’re not familiar with Chinese/Vietnamese culture, a lot of these probably fall flat–so accordingly, I’ve provided a summary of those references I can remember.

“The Frost on Jade Buds” (in “The Frost on Jade Buds” in Solaris Rising 3) comes from a proverb that I can’t remember exactly. I think it’s beauty cold enough to shatter jade.
“The Tiger in the Banyan” (in “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”): the tiger in the tale of Cuội, who uses banyan leaves to heal her dead cub (in the version I remember, the tiger lays her dead cub in the hollow of the banyan tree, which always made more sense to me when you consider what a banyan looks like
“The Dream of Millet” (in “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”): a dream Lã Động Tân/Lü Dongbin had while his millet cooked, which convinced him to renounce the world and become an Immortal.
“The Sea and Mulberry” (in “A Slow Unfurling of Truth”, in Carbide-Tipped Pens: in Vietnamese, “sea and mulberry” means a big upheaval in the affairs of men (from a Chinese legend where every thirty years, the sea turned to mulberry fields, and the mulberry fields to the sea).
“The Turtle’s Citadel” (from “The Waiting Stars” in The Other Half of the Sky): Âu Lạc, a citadel that was built with the help of the Golden Turtle Spirit (the walls kept collapsing until the king called for the help of the Golden Turtle, who led him to an evil spirit nearby). The citadel was also defended by a magical crossbow made with one of the claws of the Golden Turtle, and could not fall so long as the crossbow remained there (there’s another reference to this tale in “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls”, where a mindship is called “The Turtle’s Golden Claw”).
“The Cinnabar Mansions”(from “The Waiting Stars” in The Other Half of the Sky): basically a creative English translation of 紅樓 “Red Chamber” (from “Dream of the Red Chamber”).
“The Fisherman’s Song” (from “Ship’s Brother” in Clarkesworld Magazine): the song of Trương Chi, which earned him the love of a mandarin’s daughter, and later her tears after his death. I was this close to making it “The Fisherman’s Lament”, but I thought it was a bit pessimistic a name to give a midship :)

NB: In On a Red Station, Drifting, of course all the stations are named after the Three Blessings in Vietnamese/Chinese: Longevity, Prosper(ity) and Felicity (Good Fortune).

Best of 2014 and 2015 lists


Best of 2014 and 2015 lists

Shameless self-promo post:
-Very happy to see that three stories of mine made the Tangent Online Recommended Reading list (along with many, many other friends’ stories): “The Breath of War” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, “A Slow Unfurling of Truth” in Carbide-Tipped Pens, and “The Frost on Jade Buds” in Solaris Rising 3. Particularly proud about “The Breath of War”, which got two stars from the reviewer.

-Meanwhile, The House of Shattered Wings, my forthcoming novel from Gollancz about Fallen angels, political struggles and a Vietnamese immortal with a grudge, has made several “Most Anticipated of 2015″ lists: most recently at Cheryl Morgan‘s blog, Ana Grilo’s list at Kirkus, Lady Business, Fantasy Cafe, D. Franklin at Intellectus Speculativus, and Mihai Adascalitei’s Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews. Aka, wow, very humbled. Thank you everyone!

De Buyer mineral B omelette pan


De Buyer mineral B omelette pan

And it’s recipe Wednesday again! Except we don’t exactly have recipes, but I figured it was time I did something for this part of the blog. So instead of recipes, we’re going to talk kitchen utensils today.

My idea of a shopping trip for kitchen utensils is Kawa, 89 rue de Choisy in the 13th District. Kawa sells to individuals, but the primary audience is for restaurant owners and cooks, and the kitchen stuff they sell is heavy duty indeed. In addition to crockery, they have woks, rice cookers, spatulas, etc. I got my (very handy) garlic press from them, and their spatulas and wok spatulas are way handier than anything I’ve seen in high-end cookshops (not to mention cheaper).
When I dropped by Kawa last time, I was in need of a frying pan to replace our nonstick one after its untimely death; and they had a whole row of carbon steel de Buyer pans.

I’ve never cooked with carbon steel, and all I’ve heard (mostly from cooking boards) made it sound really fiddly–which is a thing I don’t really do (fiddly and fragile are two things I handle badly in a kitchen), but I was also tired of having to replace a frying pan every few years when the teflon died on me. What the heck, I figured. They’re reasonably affordable, and if it doesn’t work out I can always change my mind next go-around.

Turns out I was needlessly worried. The pan is great: it’s a bit heavy (but not as heavy as cast-iron–the one cast-iron pan we do have, a big Le Creuset thing, I almost never use because it’s too much work getting it out onto the stove). It has to be seasoned first, which basically consists of heating up oil just below smoking point on it (the instructions come with the frying pan), and carefully wiping it dry. That’s the start of your patina, which is then developed further by cooking greasy things in it until the entire bottom of the pan turns black.

I found the pan seasoned pretty well: I’m not at the stage where I’ll cook an omelette with just a smidgeon of oil on it, but it’s noticeably slicker already, after just a few uses. Because it’s thin and it’s metal, it also heats up quite fast: it’s a great pan for searing meat. It’s not a pan for cooking without fat, or for frying anything fragile (like, whole fish is out); but for  searing or omelettes or anything that requires high temps it’s superb (and because it seizes at truly high temps the meat tastes really good, too).

There’s a bunch of instructions on this that theoretically make it a hassle to handle: do not use an abrasive sponge on it, and clean it with very hot water (and rub with coarse salt if anything gets stuck to it); and dry it and oil it before putting it away. I have to admit neither the H nor I could be bothered to follow these, and the pan has still survived pretty well :) We use a sponge with the green scratchy back, use a moderate amount of soap, and the seasoning has reasonably stuck around so far. For putting it away, I follow advice I’ve seen on the net for carbon steel woks, and dry the pan on a warm stove before putting it away (basically, you want to make sure there’s no humidity on the pan. It might be a problem not to oil it in warmer climes, but in our very dry kitchen it never was an issue).

And, best of all, this is a pan that lasts–no Tefal coating that can flake away, and I know families that still use the ones that belonged to grandmothers. It’s pretty cheap for that price (I got it for 30 euros with a slight discount, normally I think it’s 40). Just be careful: as with all frying pans, the diameter is the outer edge: we got a 24cm-omelet pan, but in reality, the cooking surface is closer to 21cm.

Would I recommend this? I’d definitely get at least one for the kitchen; and see if you like it. It’s a bit fiddly but well worth it.