Last year, as I said in my previous end-of-year review, I landed a full-time, permanent job, which I am still in and I work for a great company with nice coworkers. In non-writing life, that gave me some much-needed stability. I was able to travel more this year, and I went to London a few times, Edinburgh, Chicago, home to San Francisco, and right now I’m in the Czech Republic and will go to Germany in a few days. I also made some lasting friendships, and though I definitely had some obstacles, non-writing life was pretty good.
Writing-wise, last year was a big deal for me because I started sharing my work with others. 2012 continued that trajectory in a very big way.
At the end of 2011 I had a rewrite request with Strange Chemistry and was working on revisions for Pantomime. I was a little over halfway, I think, and had no idea if my new version would land me an agent and a book deal. I finished the rewrite at the end of February. By the end of March I had both an agent a book deal, and had my own path to publication.
2012 was a year of firsts. First book deal, first ISBN numbers, first professional edit, first cover, first ARC that I held in my hands, first book reviews (and oh my word, it took some time to get used to the fact that people were actually reading my book. I felt so oddly exposed), first everything. Every small step was a milestone.
2012 was also the year where I wrote almost every day. I edited Pantomime several times, wrote the first draft of the sequel, and the rough 1/3 of another project, plus a few short stories. I also had to start marketing and doing interviews and guest posts, plus trying to keep this blog active. It was hard to balance with full-time work and other obligations, but I managed, more or less.
Now, at the end of 2012, my baby book is all grown up and edited and has almost 100 ratings on Goodreads, mainly from strangers. I feel like I’m holding my breath a little now at the tail end of 2012. Just 36 to 38 days into next year, my book will be out on the shelves and it’ll be the moment of truth: how will it be received? I’ll be on the other side, able to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelves, something I’ve dreamed about since I was fourteen.
I will also be having a book launch closer to home in Aberdeen: details to follow.
Please come, one and all! I won’t have the stage presence that R.H. Ragona, the Ringmaster of the Circus of Magic has, but I’ll do my best. If you’re London-based and free that day, please feel free to bring anyone you think might be interested, or pass along the relevant information to Londoners. Fun for all ages!
Second order of business: I provided my first blurb, for Amy McCulloch’s wonderful desert fantasy debut, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. Think YA Dune meets Avatar: The Last Airbender, and that gives you a good flavour of this rich world.
InThe Oathbreaker’s Shadow, Amy McCulloch weaves an intricate coming-of-age tale of the consequences of broken promises and betrayal, set in a rich world of magic, desert sands, and hidden cities. A page-turning debut from a talented new author.
And lastly, I have a few Pantomime links to share (there’s been a fair amount of reviews as we get closer to release, so here’s a sampling. For more, see my Facebook author page:
Niko on about.com says: “Laura Lam makes the circus magical once more, and I was captivated from the first page.” (Note: this one has a spoiler in the last paragraph but it’s clearly marked)
The Twins Read say: “Pantomime is an impossible reality, it’s like watching every whimsical and eerily beautiful dream we’ve had about the circus come to life. Dreamlike and surreal, Pantomime manages to evoke visions and paint images in the reader’s mind that make it easy to believe that a world like this could actually exist.”
Becca @ Lost in Thought says: “Why did this book have to end? Seriously, why? As I came to the last page I felt as if I was coming to the end of a whirlwind romance and I would never feel the enjoyment and amazement that I experienced at first sight again. Pantomime blew me away, under, over and afar, and is most definitely a contender for my favourite book of the year.”
I have also featured on a few bloggers’ best of 2012 lists, even though I’m not out until 2013! I had to pinch myself a fair few times.
I’m thrilled to welcome Andrea Stewart to the blog today. We met via AbsoluteWrite, as she was a hopeful through this year’s Angry Robot Open Door month, and so she joined our online writing group. I’m even more thrilled to say that Andrea has just won FIRST PLACE in the quarter finals of this year’s Writers of the Future contest, having her work judged anonymously by the likes of Time Powers & Larry Niven. Please welcome Andrea to the blog as she discusses perseverance.
Sometimes I think you have to be a little bit crazy to want to be a writer. Instead of spending your spare time playing video games, running around parks, or going out with friends, you type words on a keyboard. These words, taken together, may or may not be any good. And even if they’re good, they may not reach the level of great, and may or may not ever get published. Or read. It’s a lot of time and emotion to invest in something that might not pan out.
I ended up trunking my first manuscript, after a long period of querying. About a year ago, as I was working on my second manuscript (about a young woman who must balance her addiction to blood magic with saving a country and the people that she loves), I came up with an ill-conceived plan.
I like to write epic fantasy, and I like the sweeping, globe-trotting aspect of it, which means I tend to write long. Although I got partial and full requests for my first manuscript, agents expressed misgivings about the length. I thought if I could sell a couple short stories to pro markets before I started submitting my second manuscript, then I could put those credits on my query letter and ease those misgivings. It made sense to me at the time!
What I didn’t realize was that there aren’t a lot of professional markets out there for short speculative fiction. And since I was writing stories that stretched past the 5,000 word mark, I had even fewer to submit to.
I tried them anyways and was summarily rejected. Each time I wrote a new story, I thought it would be the one to get published, only to be proven wrong. And then I wrote The Story—the one that my writers’ group loved, the one that just seemed to have the right flow and rhythm. I submitted it to F&SF, and received a kind personal rejection. Clarkesworld: form reject, two days. Daily Science Fiction: another kind personal rejection, expressing that it was a hard decision.
The Writers of the Future contest was always on my peripherals, but I never submitted there. There was something intimidating about the contest aspect of it. But I submitted the story in June, not expecting much after the prior rejections, and resolved to self-publish it if I didn’t hear back.
In November, I got the call that my story was a finalist. On December 10, I got the call that my story had won first place.
I can’t completely express how overwhelmingly exciting this is for me (so exciting that I’m abusing adverbs!). This is the first time something I’ve written will be available in bookstores. It will be published this summer. It will be read.
So maybe writers are just a little bit crazy. The kind of crazy that doesn’t care as much about the piles of unread writing, about the time and the emotional investment, the long nights and frenzied drafting. Because getting that one “yes” can make it all worth it. It did for me.
Andrea is by day a contract specialist for California and by night a speculative fiction writer. We haven’t bullied her into getting a Twitter (yet), but you can find out more about her and her writing on her website. I have no doubt we’ll see plenty more from Andrea in the future!
Not-so-recently (in 2005 in fact), a racist asshat sent a letter to fantasy author Scott Lynch, offended that he had included a black, female, mother-of-two as a competent pirate in the second of his Gentleman Bastard books, Red Seas under Red Skies. To see Lynch give the writer of a letter a smackdown, please go here. It recently was picked up on Tumblr and has made the rounds.
Still here? Cool. Firstly, applause to Scott Lynch.
I wanted to reply to the section where said asshat states:
“Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits [sic] and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man’s world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment [sic] for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!”
I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit of information about the real, historical, badass lady pirates, many of whom where not white.
1. Ching Shih or Cheng I Sao
This was one badass lady pirate. You can listen to a podcast about her here, which is where I first learned about her. “A brilliant Cantonese pirate, she commanded 1800 ships and more than 80,000 pirates — men, women, and even children. She challenged the world superpower empires at the time such as the British, Portuguese and the Qing dynasty. Undefeated, she would become one of China and Asia’s strongest pirates, and one of world history’s most powerful pirates. She was also one of the few pirate captains to retire from piracy.” You can get a brief overview of her life on Wikipedia, the source of the quote.
And yeah, she was so badass that governments paid her a lot of money to stop pirating.”The Red Flag Fleet under Ching Shih’s rule could not be defeated — not by Qing dynasty Chinese officials, not by the Portuguese navy, not by the British. But in 1810, amnesty was offered to all pirates, and Ching Shih took advantage of it. She ended her career in 1810, accepting an amnesty offer from the Chinese government. She kept her loot, married her lieutenant and adoptive son Cheung Po Tsai, and opened a gambling house” (Wikipedia). And hey, look, she was a mother, too! Although married him, which is a bit weird.
Basically her motto was: “Can’t touch this.”
According to the Gesta Danorum (book 7), Alfhid was super hot, and so her dad put her in a bedroom guarded by snakes so no one tried to use their one-eyed snake on her. Alf was not deterred by this, and impales the snakes with red-hot pokers to get to Alfhild.
Alf was all “so, where’s my sexeh new bride?” but Alfhid’s mum was like “I dunno about this dude” and so “Alfhild was led to despise the young Dane; whereupon she exchanged woman’s for man’s attire, and, no longer the most modest of maidens, began the life of a warlike rover” (source: Gesta Danorum book 7).
Alfhild goes off and does pirate lady things like raiding the coasts of the Baltic Sea with other pirate ladies, and Alf pursues her.
The Danes, led my Alf, started fighting these pirates, though they were “wondered whence their enemies got such grace of bodily beauty and such supple limbs.” Alf knocks off Alfhild’s helmet and sees she’s the hot lady she wants to marry, and she decided she’d pillaged enough and became queen instead.
3. Jeanne de Clisson aka the Lionness of Brittany
Jean-Louise was married at 12 but her first husband died. She married a second time, and this was for love. But her husband, Olivier III de Clisson, was beheaded for treason.
Jeanne de Clisson’s reaction? OH HELL NAW.
She swore revenge on the king, sold off her possessions, bought three warships, and became a badass lady pirate.
“The ships that Clisson purchased were painted all black on her command, and the sails dyed red. The ‘Black Fleet’ took to the waters and began hunting down and destroying the ships of King Philip VI, and were merciless with the crews. But Clisson would always leave two or three of Philip’s sailors alive, so that the message would get back to the King that the “Lioness of Brittany” had struck once again. Jeanne and her fleet also assisted in keeping the English Channel free of French warships, and it is very likely that as a privateer she had a hand in keeping supplies available to the English forces for the Battle of Crécy in 1346. When King Philip VI died in 1350, it was not the end to Jeanne’s revenge. She continued to wreak havoc among French shipping, and it was reported that she took particular joy in hunting down and capturing the ships of French noblemen, as long as they were aboard. She would then personally behead the aristocrats with an axe, tossing their lifeless bodies overboard” (Wikipedia).
After 13 years of piracy, her anger finally abated and she hid in England and married again. Also? She had seven kids between her first two husbands. SEVEN.
4. Anne Bonney & Mary Read
Anne abandoned her husband when she fell for the pirate Captain “Calico Jack” Rackham and they went about as pirates together. She had a baby and left it with friends in the Caribbean so she could go back to pirating. Not the mothering type.
She soon partnered with Mary Read, who for many years disguised herself as a boy. She fell in love with another sailor and told him her true sex and they bought an inn together, but then he died. She went back on the ships as a boy and fell into Anne Bonney’s company. They both had reputations for being badass and bloodthirsty, even more so than the men.
One day they were overwhelmed by the British Navy, and the men went below deck and hid, either because they were too drunk or cowardly. Anne and Mary fought them off as long as they could.
“Captain Jack and the male members of his crew were tried on November 16, 1720, and were sentenced to hang. Anne was allowed to visit her lover in his cell before his execution, and instead of the consoling, loving words he was undoubtedly expecting, her scathing comments live on throughout history: “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”
Anne and Mary were tried one week after Rackham’s death and were also found guilty. But at their sentencing, when asked by the judge if they had anything to say, they replied, “Mi’lord, we plead our bellies.” Both were pregnant, and since British law forbade killing an unborn child, their sentences were stayed temporarily.
Mary is said to have died of a violent fever in the Spanish Town prison in 1721, before the birth of her child. Other reports say she feigned death and was sneaked out of the prison under a shroud.
No record of Anne’s execution has ever been found. Some say that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of her child and she settled down to a quiet family life on a small Caribbean island. Others believe that she lived out her life in the south of England, owning a tavern where she regaled the locals with tales of her exploits.
And yet others say Anne and Mary moved to Louisiana where they raised their children together and were friends to the ends of their lives.” (Source: The Legend of Anne & Mary)
5. Sayyida al Hurra
Sayyid was an Islamic pirate queen of the 16th century.
“Perhaps because of the memory of being forced to flee her home in childhood, Sayyida, like many other Muslims in the area, turned to piracy against her Christian enemy. She reached out to Barbarossa of Algiers, who controlled the eastern Mediterranean Sea while she controlled the west, and assembled her own fleet. She wreaked havoc on Spanish and Portuguese shipping lines, and was the undisputed leader of the pirates in the region.”
Later, she remarried the King of Morocco. But she wanted to let him know who was boss, and “to show that she had no intention of giving up her power and position, she refused to leave Tétouan for the marriage, forcing the king to come to her. This is the only time in Moroccan history that a king married away from the capital.” (Source: Amazing Women in History)
Eventually, her son (yet another pirate mother!) overthrew her, and people don’t know what happened to her after that.
So there you go. Plenty of awesome lady pirates were able to wrangle both other male pirates and have babies and do whatever they wanted. So, booyah to your sexist preconceptions, Mr. Asshat.
Cordingly, David Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors’ Wives
Druett, Joan (2000) She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea. Simon & Schuster
Lorimer, Sara (2002) Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas. Chronicle Books
If you haven’t read Scott Lynch, you should pick up his books, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, which are some of the best books in the fantasy genre.
For another sassy lady pirate, try reading The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke.
Quite a lot of my blog traffic is people on the hunt for info about my agent, so I thought it would be worth posting that I’m no longer a client of Peters, Fraser & Dunlop, but have followed my agent, Juliet Mushens, to the new London literary branch of The Agency Group.
The Agency Group is primarily one of the biggest music agencies around, representing the likes of Pink Floyd, Death Cab for Cutie, The Black Keys, Dolly Parton, 50 Cent, and basically loads of other well-known names. It’s a little surreal! Everyone and their mother must be asking Juliet if she can hook them up with gig tickets now.
Juliet is still open for queries and is interested in the same sort of fiction and non-fiction she was before: YA and adult fantasy, literary fiction, crime, horror, and uh, other stuff I forget. Her new agent page can be found here (and to get a feel for how awesome she is, you should follow her on Twitter, where she sometimes does #askagent sessions), and I have an artists’ page here that will at some point have my face rather than a rockstar!