Books Read in July

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1. Learning from the Voices in my Head – Eleanor Longden. A short memoir about suffering from schizophrenia and coming back from it. Yet she did not get rid of her voices; rather, she learned to get along with them.

2. Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier. Wonderful fantasy. Why haven’t I read her before?! Will continue with the series.

3. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer. I enjoyed it – light regency romance.

4. The Red Necklace – Sally Gardner. I listened to the audiobook of this, which was narrated by Tom Hiddleston. It was a book meant for me – French Revolution, a magician, some magical realism, romance, lush language. Enjoyed it a lot.

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5. Natural Causes – James Oswald. A member of #TeamMushens. James is the nicest guy, which is quite a disconnect when you read his very gory crime! I enjoyed this a lot and plan to pick up the rest of the series.

6. The Girl who Would be King – Kelly Thompson. I found this book while researching successful Kickstaters and picked it up. I’m glad I did, and even gladder to discover it’s recently been optioned for film! I also love, love, love this cover.

Total books this year: 42. If I’m to make my 80 book goal, I need to hustle. I’m 4 books behind schedule.

 

New Book Deal! False Hearts – coming from Macmillan in 2016

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that I’ve sold two books to Macmillan in a six figure pre-emptive deal. The first is called False Hearts and is a near-future thriller set in San Francisco which the publisher is pitching as ‘Minority Report meets Gone Girl’. You know, no pressure or anything.

Six months ago, I’d never have dreamed this would happen. I’ve published two previous books, Pantomime & Shadowplay. They received very nice reviews and won an award and appeared on some ALA lists. I got really, really wonderful notes from readers. But then Strange Chemistry folded. There I was, out of contract, wondering if I’d ever sell another book. I felt a little jaded and tired. I was tempted to put aside the keyboard for a while and spend my evenings watching TV and reading and maybe actually cleaning my flat more often.

But in the meantime, I’d been writing this other book. It was the polar opposite of my other work. This was for adults rather than teens, it was in a near-future world, and it was a pacy thriller. Because it was so very different, I started giving it the nickname of Bonkers Book when I talked about it on social media, though it isn’t actually that bonkers.

Writing this book was a joy. I’ve never had more fun drafting and editing. Sure, I whinged and complained a bit (I’m a writer, it’s what we do), but overall I had a blast. I loved the characters and the world. I wrote faster than I ever had before. I edited it and sent it to my beta readers. And though of course they had suggestions, I had amazingly positive feedback, more so than ever before. One beta reader said “If this doesn’t find a publisher, I’ll eat my big, navy felt hat.” I tried not to get my hopes up too much. Yet even if nothing happened, I knew it was my lifeline book, and that I couldn’t give up writing.

A few months later, after edits with my agent, Juliet, False Hearts went on submission. I’d never been on wide submission before, since Pantomime was picked up from Angry Robot’s open door. I wish I could say I was calm and collected and got on with things, but that’d be a lie. I was a mess. I played a lot of solitaire. I mean a LOT. I really loved this book, but I had no idea if it would sell.

It went out, and within 9 days I got that phone call from my agent: Julie Crisp at Pan Macmillan wanted to offer pre-emptively for the book. After nervously waiting for the details to be agreed, when Juliet phoned me and told me I had a deal, my knees actually buckled. It was a much better conversation than the one she’d had to give me six months before, where I’d sobbed a lot. Okay, I still sobbed, but it was happy tears this time.

I’m so deliriously happy. A huge, gigantic thank you to everyone at Pan Macmillian, especially Julie Crisp. They’ve been so enthusiastic so far and I can’t wait to work with them. And thank you to Juliet, my wonderful agent, for believing in me and being my fairy godsister. Thank you to everyone who read the various drafts and offered invaluable feedback. I can’t wait to share False Hearts with the world!

Here’s the press release:

Tor UK’s Julie Crisp has pre-empted World English Language rights for a new novel called False Hearts and an untitled novel by Laura Lam from Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group in a six figure deal.

Crisp, editorial director at Pan Macmillan, said: “I was completely hooked from the first page by Laura’s writing. To me it was like reading Hunger Games meets “Blade Runner” meets The Shining Girls. Thrilling, addictive and completely page-turning.”

The novel begins in Mana’s Hearth, a retreat that’s closed off from the rest of society and denied access to technology or modern medicine, where twin sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When their lives are threatened they finally manage escape to San Francisco and a life that’s beyond anything they could have imagined. Ten years later, Tila returns to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder in the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life.

Mushens described the book as “an adrenaline-fuelled thriller, packed full of twists and turns with a compelling heroine at its heart”.

Lam was raised near San Francisco, California. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She said of the deal: “This year has been a rollercoaster, and this is definitely one of the highest highs.”

Macmillan will publish False Hearts in January 2016.

NineWorlds, Loncon & General London Upcoming Events

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I’m going to London in a few weeks! It will be a whirlwind of geeky goodness:

NineWorlds:

Friday:
3.15pm – 4.30pm
Writing LGBTQ+ Characters in SFF
Laura Lam, author of the award winning Pantomime & Shadowplay (which has an intersex, bisexual and genderqueer protagonist) shares her insights and experiences of writing characters from the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Sunday:
“Strong Female Protagonists” in YA
5.00pm – 6.15pm Connaught A
The term “Strong Female Protagonist” in Young Adult fiction seems to be gaining popularity following the success of The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, who shoots arrows with pinpoint accuracy while defying the corrupt system. But what does the term mean? Why do we use it? And do we need it at all? Is it a promising trend in exciting new female role models for young people? Or just a way of praising masculine traits in fictional heroines? A panel of writers and reviewers will invite a discussion on the ins and outs of this emerging attitude towards female characters in YA fiction, and where the future of the genre lies.
Rowan Williams-Fletcher, Juliet Mushens, Laura Lam, Tom Pollock, Anna Caltabiano

In Between:

I’m not a part of these but I’m hoping to attend:

August 12: Fantasy in the Court: Goldsboro Books, 6-9PM (by Tor Books & Harper Voyager)

August 13: The Gollancz Festival: Waterstones Piccadilly

Anything else on I should know about?

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Thursday:
Reimagining Families
11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)
In a 2013 column for Tor.com, Alex Dally MacFarlane called for a greater diversity in the way SF and fantasy represent families, pointing out that in the real world, “People of all sexualities and genders join together in twos, threes, or more. Family-strong friendships, auntie networks, global families… The ways we live together are endless.” Which stories centre non-normative family structures? What are the challenges of doing this in an SF context, and what are the advantages? How does representing a wider range of family types change the stories that are told?
Alice Hedenlund (M), Jed Hartman, David D Levine, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Laura Lam

Friday:
Autograph Session
11:00 – 12:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)
Please come so I’m not sitting there on my lonesome looking sad! ;-)

Saturday:
Kaffeeklatsch
13:00 – 14:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)
Please also come to this. There might be coffee and biscuits?!
Tony Ballantyne, Laura Lam

Sunday:
There Are No New Stories, But…
19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)
What are some of the characters and narratives we’ve seen enough of? Is it time for the assassin with the heart of gold to take a break? Should the farmer keep farming and stop exchanging his rake for a broadsword? Could the squabbling will-they-won’t-they couple just get a room already? More generally, why are tropes used, and what are their structural, stylistic and political implications?
Kari Sperring (M), John Hornor Jacobs, Laura Lam, Pierre Pevel, Jon Wallace

Monday:
Reading: Laura Lam
14:00 – 14:30, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

I’m also gutted that I’m flying back to Aberdeen before the Robin Hobb & George R.R. Martin event on the 19th. :'(

Vestigial Tales: “The Tarot Reader” Blurb and Cover! (+Radio Appearance)

“The Tarot Reader” is the third story in the Vestigial Tales series. The previous two stories, “The Snake Charm” and the “The Fisherman’s Net” are already available.

This story stars Cyan, the girl on the cover of Shadowplay. It stands on its own all right, but you’d probably get much more out of the story if you’ve already read Shadowplay and met Cyan (and Jasper Maske, who makes an appearance). This story doesn’t focus on Vestige quite as much as the first two stories, but a Vestige crystal ball still makes an appearance.

Without further ado…

the-tarot-reader-cover

Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Tarot Reader

“Cyan didn’t want to read fortunes.”

Cyan Zhu is the best tarot reader Riley & Batheo’s Circus of Curiosities has ever seen. Too good, some say. She reads the cards, but she can also tell more about her customers than they could ever suspect. Two people walk into Cyan’s cart to have their fortunes told and change her life forever: Oliver, a sailor with a pretty grin, and a mysterious man with a blurred face, who sends her terrible visions that might come true.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…

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I love this cover so much. Dianna Walla of Paper Tiger has done such an amazing, amazing job. This design is based on the “Moon” card of the Rider Waite series, which is important to the story, yet it also has elements of the “Strength” card, which is also important.

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This is my longest story, at 25,000 words. It’ll be $2.99. I’m still debating whether or not I’ll go exclusive with Amazon this time around. I’m leaning towards yes, as I do like having the ability for people with Prime to borrow for free, and one of my friends had really good success with the Kindle Countdown deal. I’m aiming to have this up sometime in early to mid-August.

I can’t wait for you to read this story, as I had a lot of fun writing it.

NEWS: I’m going to be on the local radio (SCHMU FM) this Saturday at 6pm UK time. It’ll be streamed live on the web, so you can listen from anywhere. They will be monitoring the Facebook page, so you can ask me questions and I’ll answer live! I was on the show last year so it’s great that they asked me back.

The Second Vestigial Tale: “The Fisherman’s Net” is now Live!

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And the hybrid author journey continues.

Info about “The Fisherman’s Net”:

This is a story set in Ellada, but otherwise has no overlapping characters with Pantomime or Shadowplay, so it is completely standalone. As the intro of the short story says:

This is a fable adapted by the noblewoman Lady Emilia Weatherwood. Her calling was to take Hestia’s Fables and to expand them into longer, richer stories that worked for a more contemporary audience. Her work is still much beloved amongst men and women throughout Ellada. Like the original stories, each has a message, but not every reader receives the same one.”

Professor Mildred Acacia, “Retellings of Hestia’s Fables,” Royal Snakewood University

For this story, I decided not to go exclusive with Amazon for three months. It’s currently up on Amazon and Smashwords. Once it’s approved into the Prime Catalog, Smashwords will distribute to most retailers (iBooks, Kobo, etc). I’m in the process of uploading it to B&N’s Nook Press. Amazon has been getting such bad press lately, and I wanted to make it available to as many people as possible. It means this one can’t be borrowed for free if you have Prime membership, but as it’s cheaper than “The Snake Charm,” I’m hoping that won’t affect things too much.

Speaking of “The Snake Charm,” I’ve lowered the price to $1.99 for at least the next two weeks to see if it results in an uptick of sales.

There will be at least 4 stories/novellas in total, and more if these prove reasonably popular.

If you would consider buying this short story and then perhaps leaving a review, I’d be very grateful. It’s 3.5k long. All profits from these stories are being earmarked for self-publishing the third Micah Grey book, should that be the way that book is released.

You can read the first 20% or so on both Smashwords and Amazon. I’ll come back and update this with more links as they go live.

Cover artwork is by Dianna Walla / Paper Tiger.

the-fishermans-net-cover

Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Fisherman’s Net

A humble fisherman in a village of the coast of the island of Linde buys a trinket at the market, which he discovers is Vestige. The poor man soon becomes the best fisherman in the village and marvels at his newfound wealth. One day, he ensnares a most unusual catch: a Chimaera sea maiden that isn’t meant to exist. And he’s not sure if he can let her go.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…

Add on Goodreads!

PURCHASE:

Smashwords / Amazon US / Amazon UK Amazon Canada / Amazon India / Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia

ISBN (Kindle): 978-0-9929428-2-3

Tales of a Hybrid Author: Month 1: “The Snake Charm”

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I’ll be writing once-monthly updates on the process of being a hybrid author. I know many trade published authors who are also interested in dipping their toes into the world of self-publishing, or self-published authors who are also thinking about what trade publishing can offer. This month focuses on the self-published side.

Background if you’re new to my blog: I’m self-publishing some short stories/novellas set in the same world as my Micah Grey series (Pantomime & Shadowplay). Those two books are traditionally published, though now Strange Chemistry has closed so the fate of my third book is up in the air. I uploaded the first story, “The Snake Charm,” a prequel story starring a secondary character from the series, on June 4, and it went live late that evening. I started promoting it the next day. I uploaded this to Kindle Direct Publishing, meaning it’ll be exclusive with Amazon for 3 months, before I put it up on other distributors.

Sales:
Paid: 88
Borrowed: 7 (as part of KDP, Prime members can borrow my story for free, but I still get paid. So, hey, if you have a Prime membership, please borrow even if you have no desire to read it :-D)
Total: 95

Total Gross Income: £106.05

So far my costs have been £132 for 10 ISBNs. So you can either say I’m still about £26 in the red, or, if you factor in I only used 2 ISBNs so far, I made about £80 in profit this month. That’s about equal to what you’d get paid for a short story in plenty of magazines and anthologies, and this is only one month.

Location: Most of my sales were split between the US and the UK, but I also had 2 sales from Canada, 1 from Germany, and 1 from Australia.

I’m quite happy with my first month. I did no marketing aside from putting that it was up on my social media a few times. I didn’t do a blog tour, as I figured there’s not much point for a short story. I might do a few posts once all four stories are up.

The last 6 days I’ve had no sales, which is a bit worrying. I was hoping it would stay steady with a sale or two a day, meaning at least a little money would trickle in. But maybe it’ll pick up again. Perhaps $2.99 is too much for a 10k story and I should drop the price. That means going from 70% royalty down to 35%, but if means more sales then it’d be worth it. What do you think?

Has it impacted sales of Pantomime and/or Shadowplay?: No idea. I think so far the readers are mainly people who have already read my books, though at least one person read it before reading the books. I think those books had a little boost because June was Pride month and my books are LGBT, and Strange Chemistry shut so a few people picked up the books.

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Here is the graph of sales from my KDP dashboard, where I mapped out what caused certain boosts. I had a boost the day Strange Chemistry closed, as I mentioned that any money gained will be ear marked for possibly self-publishing the third Micah Grey book. Still planning on that by the way – the £80 is duly earmarked.

Reviews: Right now I have 21 ratings on Goodreads and 12 reviews. On Amazon UK, I have 6 reviews, and on Amazon US, I have 5. I received one review on VADA Magazine. If anyone has read the story and not reviewed it, please consider leaving a couple of words on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews really help self-published titles be noticed. I also got some fan art from Laya.

Plans for the next month: Putting up the second story, “The Fisherman’s Net.” I’ve decided to not go exclusive with Amazon and upload to Amazon and B&N myself and use Smashwords for the other retailers. This should go up in the next week. I’ll also hopefully be revealing the cover of the third Vestigial Tale, “The Tarot Reader,” and finishing final edits for that, as well as editing the last Vestigial Tale, “The Card Sharp.”

Concerns: That not as many people will pick up the second story, though it will be far cheaper – 0.99c or 0.70p. I’d have to sell around 4x as many copies to make the same amount. Only one way to find out, though.

Other news this month:
My short story, “They Swim Through Sunset Seas,” will be released in the Anthology, Solaris Rising 3, from Solaris Books, in August.
I released the cover for the second Vestigial Tale, “The Fisherman’s Net.”
I was nominated for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Newcomer for Pantomime.

So, that’s all for now. Thank you so much to everyone who bought/borrowed my first Vestigial Tale. It made me excited to share the other stories with you.

I’ll leave you with the cover and blurb of “The Snake Charm.” Please consider picking it up if it captures your fancy.

the-snake-charm-cover

Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Snake Charm

“To most, Drystan was just another buffoon in the collective of clowns. But behind the inane grin, he saw everything, keeping the secrets he discovered close, like precious gems to barter.”

Mutiny is brewing in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic. When Linden, the leader of the clowns steals one of the ringmaster’s most prized possessions, Drystan, the white clown, finds himself caught in the middle. Tasked with retrieving the Lethe, he’s forced to betray Linden or risk his troubled past coming to light. But the Vestige artifact has its own history and its own power. Drystan will learn what it can really do, and who it can hurt.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…

Add on Goodreads!

PURCHASE:

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon Canada / Amazon India / Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil / Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia

Books Read in June

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Not that much reading again this month. Haven’t been able to concentrate on much.

intothewoods1. Beauty Queens – Libba Bray. I couldn’t quite get into this one. I think satire is not my thing. It was clever but the characters were all so clearly archetypes being subverted I couldn’t connect with them. Others might feel differently.

2. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell. I started and abandoned a few books until I found this one. Fell right into it and read it over a day.

3. Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey into Story - John Yorke. It’s been ages since I read a book on writing. I picked this up as it focuses a bit more on screenwriting. I found it fascinating and would highly recommend. It was interesting to look at my latest WIP and see that it perfectly fit the 5 act structure through no conscious effort on my part. I also really like how stark and simple the cover is.

Total: 34 books

Rowing on the River

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Last Saturday I had an Intercompany Rowing Competition with a few colleagues from work. After the 10k I did recently, I thought it’d be a different sort of challenge. And it was! Though as our coach says, we’re supposed to use mostly our legs, I still feel like I built up some more upper body strength.

The fun part of the competition is that everyone’s in fancy dress. My favourite costumes were “The Coffin Dodgers” – everyone dressed up as old men and the cox (coach) was the Grim Reaper. We dressed up as Star Wars characters – A Jedi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, a Stormtrooper, and Princess Leia. In the first race, we lost to a group of physiotherapists dressed as Where’s Wallys (Waldos to Americans). In the second race, we beat some minions from Despicable Me 2. In the third race, we won against a group in yellow shirts. We won our group, but in the knock out rounds, we were up against the physiotherapists again and we were thrashed.

It was still fun, though the weather wasn’t the greatest. Don’t think I’ll keep up rowing, but it was a good experience and something different.

First photo is from my camera, and other photos are courtesy of Kevin, an engineer from work.

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Me as Princess Leia!

Created with Nokia Camera

The first race!

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Racing away.

Created with Nokia Camera

Onward!

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Yes! We’re winning! Take that, minions.

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Group shot of “Use the Oars”

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Coming into the jetty after our win during the 5 minutes of sunshine we had all day.

Created with Nokia Camera

This guy was a champ, helping load and unload people from their boats all day.

 

 

“They Swim Through Sunset Seas” – Coming Soon in Solaris Rising 3

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solarisrising3Whee, a bit of good news – I have a short story called “They Swim Through Sunset Seas” out in the Solaris Rising 3 anthology, which will be released in August, I believe. It’s about a husband and wife team who are sent to an underwater science facility on a planet called Anthemusa. They’ve been sent to study the indigenous aliens, the Nyxi, which basically look like giant tardigrades, but multi-coloured and with wings. Things don’t go according to plan.

I quite like this story – I wrote it a few years ago and gave it a re-edit this year, and I’m so glad it found a home. A huge thanks to Ian Whates for commissioning it.

Here’s the first line:

“I thought I would write and tell you what happened after you died.”

It’s such a pretty cover. And my name’s on the front!

It’s on Goodreads!

It’s also on Netgalley! (Request please, bloggers!)

I’m sharing the table of contents with lots of great folks, and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories slated to appear. There’ll be a release at Foyles I believe, and I’ll actually be in London then!

Blurb:

Following the exceptionally well received, Solaris Rising 1 and and the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Solaris Rising 2 series editor Ian Whates brings even more best-selling and cutting edge SF authors together for the latest extraordinary volume of new original ground-breaking stories.

These stories are guaranteed to surprise, thrill and delight, and continue our mission to demonstrate why science fiction remains the most exiting, varied and inspiring of all fiction genres. In Solaris Rising 1 and 2 we showed both the quality and variety that modern science fiction can produce. In Solaris Rising 3, we’ll be taking SF into the outer reaches of the universe. Nina Allan, Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Julie Czerneda, Ken Liu, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Ian R MacLeod & Martin Sketchley, Gareth L Powell, Adam Roberts, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Cat Sparks, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Ian Watson and Seam Williams are just some of the names set to appear.

Sad News About Strange Chemistry + Giveaway

Laura Lam:

Another lovely giveaway in response to Strange Chemistry’s news. There’s also a chance to win Cracked by Eliza Crewe.

Originally posted on Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup:

17345314I’ve heard sad news from all over the blogosphere that Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot is officially no more as a publisher. What breaks my heart moreover is yesterday I posted a review for the second Soul Eater book by Eliza Crewe and none of you will likely be able to read it unless it gets saved or self-published.

My friend Katharine @ Ventureadlaxre is hosting a giveaway where you can win copies of Laura Lam’s fantastic novels, Pantomime and its sequel Shadowplay. I decided I’m going to join her in this endeavour. These were my two favourite books published by Strange Chemistry and while I am sad about the publisher being no more, I want people to still read these books.15797050

So I am offering up to one winner a paperback copy of both Cracked & Pantomime. This giveaway is open Internationally as long as the Book Depository ships to your…

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