Category: Dragon Empire

May Update

I am trying to work on the edits for ‘Dawn of Empire’ but it’s obviously only with permission from the Feline Overlord.


May Newsletter
Apologies for the delay on this, I’m working on the edits for ‘Dawn’ (as you can see the attempt above) and I had to contact customer service in the US about the planned giveaway of the audiobook version of ‘White Tiger’.
The codes my publisher gave me weren’t working for me, so I contacted about it. Dealing with someone in the US by email is an interesting experience: their day is my night, and they’re one day behind Australia. So I emailed them at noon Friday, and didn’t receive a reply until Tuesday morning. I tried out their suggested solution, and emailed them back during the day, and again didn’t hear back until the next morning.
And of course the problem was me: I use a VPN (virtual private network) to set my IP address to a US one, to fake that my computer is in the US, to work around regional restrictions.
In Australia, you will only see this audiobook version of ‘White Tiger’, read by Jennifer Vuletic:

In the United States (and hopefully the rest of the world), you’ll only see this version, read by Cindy Kay:

The book you see when you search, or Amazon, depends entirely on the IP address your computer shares with the online shop. A VPN allows you to change your address to one in a different country.
The giveaway is to subscribers to my newsletter, so go to the ‘Newsletter’ tab and subscribe there if you’d like to enter.
Corona Virus
This is so weird. I left Hong Kong just before SARS went through in 2002, and people are looking to me for advice about COVID. My ex was on the front lines in the Hospital Authority during SARS, so I had something of an inside look into how that virus worked. When the Wuhan thing blew up, I had a strong feeling of ‘here we go again’, and when the China borders weren’t closed, and China ignored the problem instead of locking down in those first few weeks, it turned to genuine concern.
I watched with amusement as Hong Kong people did a run on toilet paper, not thinking for a minute that it would happen here. I suppose it says something about my Hong Kong experience that I always have WAY too much toilet paper (and basic food items) in the house.
Locking down and going into quarantine is the right thing to do. It is really the only way to deal with something like this: corona viruses mutate quickly and vaccination can quickly drop behind the changes. If the population locks down and goes in quarantine, as Hong Kong did with SARS, the lack of transmission makes it, as one dumbass President says, ‘disappear’. (He was quoting from a briefing where I sincerely believe he didn’t understand most of it). If nobody is giving the virus to anyone else, the patients recover and it does really go away. SARS took six months to clear from Hong Kong (it wasn’t nearly as contagious as COVID which is why COVID has spread so quickly).
There are two major differences between SARS and COVID. SARS was a lot less contagious: this is why COVID has spread so quickly around the world. SARS was also a LOT more lethal. The death rate (from memory) was something like 15%, even with young and healthy patients. So COVID is more contagious and less dangerous than SARS was.
With sensible quarantine and lockdown, COVID should disappear like SARS did. That’s been the situation here in Australia, and in New Zealand, and most of Europe.
It isn’t happening in the US. I am genuinely fearful that it WILL mutate in the US into something with a SARS level of danger while remaining as badly contagious.
So: This is 100% my non-epidemiological take on this, purely speaking from experience of being close to health workers on the front line in a similar situation. Believe the scientists before you listen to me.
For me, personally, not much has changed.  As a writer, I work from home. All my workshops have been cancelled, and this is my main source of income (much more so than royalties from the books). Conventions are very iffy, and Oz Comic-Con has just changed ownership. JobKeeper has been a godsend to keep me going, and I’m using this time to be as creative as possible. The Simone spinoff (going up on the Patreon), a new cyberpunk thriller, and the story of Hien the dragon from Dark Heavens has been tapping on my brain while I potter around at home thinking about storylines.
I’ll keep everyone updated as things progress with the audiobooks, and I’m hoping to have the edits for ‘Dawn of Empire’ back to the publishers tomorrow. We have a release date of September, delayed by the virus, but I’m very happy with this one. It’s up for pre-order on all the usual places (Australia only, no US publishers are interested)  and I’ll provide links in the next newsletter.

April Update

I went back through my March photos looking for one that represented March for me – I had yum cha with a family member on March 7th. That seems like a lifetime ago.

April Update
Hi everyone, I hope you’re coping. Are you receiving as many ‘during these troubled times’ emails as I am? I just miss going for yum cha with my family.
Red Phoenix Audiobook (US/UK)
Harper-Collins US have just contacted me to approve the audiobook cover for Red Phoenix, and here it is:

Absolutely glorious, I love it. I don’t have a release date for it yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I have one.

‘Guardian of Empire’ Smaller Format
If you were waiting for ‘Guardian of Empire’ to be released in B (smaller) format, I just received my author copies, so it’s out! This is good news for everybody who likes having all their books the same size on the shelf and were waiting for it.

All Patreon Posts Are Now $1
I’ve revised my Patreon tiers so that all new posts are available to everybody for the minimal cost of $1. This is for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown, and I’ll raise the tiers again after it’s gone (this may be months, though).
One post of interest that I’ve just put up on Patreon is my draft from 2015, of ‘Shen UN’. A number of people have asked me about this and I finally found it when I was clearing out old files. I had some really wrong predictions there – some of them even of where my own stories were going.
‘Rage Against the Virus’
Home of the Arts Gold Coast is doing a fantastic initiative to support local artists, and I couldn’t wait to be part of it. I’ve started writing a really wild cyberpunk AI wars adventure and I’ve shared the first three chapters with HOTA.
The PDF of the story will be up shortly and I’ll let you know on my Facebook page when it’s posted.

Audiobook Giveaway
Next month I’ll give everybody a chance to win a digital copy of the US version of the ‘White Tiger’ audiobook. Keep an eye out for the May newsletter where I’ll include the details. If you don’t already receive the monthly newsletter (which has 100% of the content in this post), you can subscribe here.
That’s all for April, isn’t it quiet? I’m getting a lot of writing done, and now that ‘Dawn of Empire’ is complete, I’m working hard on the Simone spinoff that I’ve been sharing on my Patreon.

March Update

There it is, ‘Dawn of Empire’ all complete, and ready to send to the publishers. I printed it out, read through it, and then emailed it through. Mika, you are awesome and I cannot thank you enough for your help in translating ‘Dark Heavens’ to Japanese – and for dinner in Kyoto. I hope you all enjoy this final chapter to Jian, Miko and Haruka’s story.
March Newsletter
‘White Tiger’ Audiobook Fixed
Many thanks again to John Bieleny who contacted me to let me know that Audible have arranged for him to re-download ‘White Tiger’ and the audiobook has been fixed.
‘Red Phoenix’ Audiobook Has Been Released (in Australia)

When a new book is released in Australia, I receive an author copy and it’s the best feeling in the world to open the envelope and see those shiny new things with my name on them. ‘Red Phoenix’ is out on audible (here) and ‘Blue Dragon’ has a release date of April 20th.
As soon as I receive my author copies I send signed copies out to my highest level patrons and that is an even better feeling.
‘Red Phoenix’ Audiobook in the US/rest of the world
I thought I’d passed the ‘When is the next one coming out’ stage – and here it is again. Lovely fans in the US are emailing me and contacting me through my website about the release date of the ‘Red Phoenix’ audiobook in the US. The answer is: I don’t know, I’m not as close with my US publishers as I am with my Australian ones, and they don’t give me much information (or author copies). Keep an eye on the Audible page, and let me know if you see it!
2020 Conventions and Corona Virus
This feels weird. I left Hong Kong just before SARS was a thing, and here we are again. Corona (SARS was a corona-type as well) is way more contagious than SARS was (hence the world-wide spread).
The ownership and administration of Oz Comic-Con is still in flux, so I haven’t heard anything from them. I wasn’t invited to either Melbourne or Gold Coast Supanovas this month, so I didn’t attend them either.
With the pandemic situation as it is, and mass gatherings a bad idea, I’ll keep you updated on future plans as they occur.
If you’re stuck at home in quarantine, all my best wishes (I spend most of my time alone at home anyway, that’s a writer’s life). I hope my books help to ease the boredom.
Stay safe, everyone.

February Update

FINALLY. Thirteen years after it was released in print, ‘White Tiger’ is now an audiobook (only available in Australia – see below for the US version.) And of course there is a problem with it, and they’re working on it. More below.

February Newsletter
Thank you so much Gladstone! What a terrific bunch of people, you were enthusiastic, aware, and very welcoming. Here’s a photo of the group with the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, Lori-Jay Ellis, who gave them a fantastic workshop on reaching practical goals as a writer.

The Audiobook Issue
Special thanks to reader John Bieleny who not only brought the issue to my attention, but also provided concrete examples of the problem.
So here’s what happened: the audiobook of ‘White Tiger’ was released on December 26, 2019, and John contacted me shortly after to let me know that there were problems. After about Chapter 20, words drop off the ends of sentences.
This is a problem I’ve never even heard of before!
It’s in the digital versions, (the photo above is of the author copies of the CDs I received yesterday, ready to be sent out to top-level patrons) and the CD versions, so all of them, so in the master copy.
Here’s an example of a sentence with the words dropping out.
I have contacted both Bolinda (who made the audiobook) and Audible (who are distributing it) and they’re working on it. (I contacted them yesterday to follow up and they said they’re ‘making sure all errors are fixed’.)
So: I assume that if you buy the digital version of the book, when it’s fixed there will be a new download (there had better be!) and if you buy the CD copies – you can return them? I’ll follow up again when the issues are fixed.
And… well isn’t this totally infuriating. At this stage I would absolutely not blame you if you held off buying the audiobook (if you’re interested) until I’m sure it’s fixed. I’ll put out a newsletter and Facebook post when I’m sure.
US Audiobook
For readers outside Australia, there will be a different version, read by Cindy Kay. The US publishers have sent me the cover art for it, so keep an eye out for the overseas version! (Hopefully this one won’t have any issues.)

Apart from that, I am furiously working on finishing the final ‘Dragon Empire’ book (we have a cover already and it’s gorgeous and I’m not allowed to share it with you which is terrible, particularly since it’s being referred to in the office as ‘hot and broody’!). When it’s done – which will be in the next few weeks – I need to make a decision about where to go next. A great deal has happened in the South China region that could easily lead to a thrilling story.
Watch my facebook for updates on the audiobook thing!

January Update

Summer means WATER SPINACH (Ong Choy)! Details and recipe (sort of) below.

January Update
Welcome to 2020 and I hope we all have a really great year!
The summer holidays are in full swing, the pool is full of screaming kids, and thank the heavens that it’s raining. If the fires affected you I hope you recover soon and that our government can face these issues without running away (for a change).
For me personally this is a mad rush to complete the third book of the Dragon Empire Trilogy, ‘Dawn of Empire’, which is due in March. Stuff will go down! I’m having a bunch of fun doing what I love to do – revealing all those secrets that I’ve been hinting at throughout the first two books. I know there were some big reveals in the first two but really: everything will change. This is the best part of being a writer.
Gladstone February
I’ve been invited to the Gladstone Library to present a half-day workshop as well as a Q&A with the wonderful Lori-Jay Ellis of the Queensland Writers Centre. Many thanks to the Gladstone Area Writers Group and the QWC for making this happen!
The workshop is on February 8th in the morning, and I’ll cover the basics of writing and editing, held at Gladstone Regional Library.
Facebook Event Details
2020 Convention Plans

Oz Comic-Con has changed hands (again) and is now under different (corporate) ownership. I’ve reached out to the new owners but at this stage they’re still in the establishment phase so: I really don’t know what’s going to happen there. I hope things continue as usual, and they were happy to hear from me.
I haven’t investigated Supanovas yet, although I know for sure that Adelaide and Perth are still happening this year (whew!). I haven’t been invited to Gold Coast Nova, and I doubt that it would be worth it to buy a table when there’s no Sunday show in Gold Coast, and Brisbane is bigger and closer.
Keep an eye on the newsletter and my Facebook for more details as they emerge. Number One priority right now is to finish ‘Dawn’ and give it to Harper-Collins.
Water Spinach
Here’s a wikipedia article about water spinach which has everything you need to know about this delicious summer treat.
It’s called ‘ong choy’ in Cantonese, and ‘kangkong’ throughout Southeast Asia. It has hollow stems, long spade-shaped leaves, and only comes out in the summer. It bruises really easily and doesn’t keep well in the fridge for more than a couple of days.
Preparing Water Spinach
I was inspired to share this recipe because a bunch of us writers had a dish of water spinach in Sydney at a convention and Marianne de Pierres had never seen it before and fell madly in love with it. So Marianne, this one’s for you. It’s not really much of a recipe anyway.

I bought this at the local Chinese grocery. It was in a plastic florist’s sleeve to stop the leaves from bruising – they bruise really easily. This is younger than I usually buy – the stalks are really tender and small – and so fresh that I couldn’t not get it. Here it is after I dumped it into the sink to break it into smaller pieces for cooking, and check for snails and other creepy crawlies in it, and just generally wash off the dirt.
In Hong  Kong all veggies had to be soaked in water for an hour before cooking because they were grown in China where pesticide laws are really slack and ignored anyway. People in HK had died of pesticide poisoning on vegetables. I’m glad I’m here sometimes.

Here’s the spinach opened up and while I’m breaking it into 10cm pieces. I find it quicker with Chinese veg just to wash each stalk separately, break it into pieces, and toss them into my trusty colander rather than cutting them up Western-style. You can see the hollow stalks: the thicker stalks are woody and tough, so I break off about the bottom 5cm.

This is a single stem/leaf from the plant. The dark marks on it are bruising. This bruising quickly (in 24 hours or so) spreads and turns the whole leaf into a soggy inedible mess. I was very lucky with this bunch that it’s so fresh there weren’t many losses.

My trusty colander with the washed and broken veg ready to cook. See that photo at the top of the newsletter? That’s how much it shrinks, which makes it very spinach..y.

What I discarded. Bruised leaves, brown icky bits, tough woody stems, yellowed leaves or leaves with holes in them. There’s also weeds present that were caught up in the harvesting process. Preparing them only took about 2 minutes.

Cooking! I have a mild steel wok that will rust like anything – but is much less sticky than a stainless steel one. (I can still remember the guy in the Chinese grocery when we went to look at them … ‘Stainless steel sticks like bloody hell! Get a mild steel wok and it’ll last forever’. They do.No non-stick to degrade, they’re like cast iron.) This is chopped garlic cloves in peanut oil. Chinese cooking is almost always cooked in peanut or corn oil. Olive oil tastes weird and canola has a smoke point too low. You can really make peanut oil sizzle.

Tossing the garlic in my $10 wok with my $2 spatula until it’s toasty brown and the entire apartment smells awesome. I’m not going to send  you off to buy expensive branded cooking gear. Go me.

Spinach is in! Steel thing on the left of the wok is my vitally important espresso machine. Writers turn coffee into books.

Tossing it through the oil and garlic. You need extra oil (you can see I used quite a lot above) because this stuff just drinks it up. Peanut oil is  a monounsaturated and extremely healthy oil. This is exactly one minute later.

Forty-five seconds later. I’m just tossing it around in the oil, and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok. It shrinks a lot, doesn’t it?

Thirty seconds later: that’s done. Thicker veggies like bak choy and choy sum need a lid on them to steam them soft, but these ones cook so quickly it’s not really necessary. Sauce time! (You could definitely just serve them bare like this, they’re delicious, same as English spinach.)

My kids: how much sauce do you use?
Me: Uhh… enough?
I put the soy in to give it umami, only about a tablespoon (I just shake the bottle over the veg, and never measure). I use Pearl River Bridge because it’s the definitive soy sauce. It’s been around since it was produced by the China Guangzhou Meat Products Grain and Livestock Import Export Corporation Ltd, a branch of the Chinese government.
Note that this is LIGHT soy. There are two types of soy sauce (actually many but let’s just say two at this point). Light soy hasn’t been fermented as long, it adds flavour without much colour and is not very salty.
DARK soy adds a LOT of colour to dishes and is REALLY salty. Use very sparingly if at all : I mostly use it for stewing dishes. It’s the vegemite of soy sauce.
Kikkoman and Pandaroo etc soy sauces are a mix of dark and light, or a light soy only. I’d prefer to know which one I’m getting, so I buy light and dark separately.
Singaporean Yeo’s light soy is a little lighter than Pearl River Bridge.
The fish sauce is special. My husband was Teochew (Chiu Chow) and they share a lot with South East Asian cuisine, particularly Thai and Malay. Fish sauce is more a Thai thing, but Teochew people use it a lot and I guess I’ve inherited that. It smells vile when you first put it in the wok (again a tablespoon? I dunno, enough to taste good I suppose?) but when you toss it through and it toasts, the aroma changes to savory and nutty and just overall wonderful. It’s a terrific addition to this dish.
You can also add a splash (?) of oyster sauce and a couple of drops of sesame oil (no more than that it’s very strong!) to this if you’re feeling fancy.
If you really want to go truly authentic, add some pink shrimp paste. It’s mashed up … shrimp. That one also has a very strong smell but toasts up to something delightful. You only need about a teaspoon of that, and I haven’t used it because it’s a bit smelly in a small apartment.

Final result: the taste of summer.
That’s it for January! I’ll keep everybody updated on upcoming conventions etc, it’s still a little early for all the bookings to start.