2014 Rainbow List

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Earlier last year Pantomime was nominated for the 2014 Rainbow List. I was super excited to be on it, and didn’t know if I’d make the final list. Well, turns out I did, and that I’m one of the top ten titles, as well! *cue excited jumping*

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Some of the committee with the top ten titles! (Source)

@MagpieLibrarian, on the left, wrote this awesome review of Pantomime, and @MZ_Christie, to her right, wrote this one.

You can see the full 2014 Rainbow List here.

I’m really honoured to be on the list. It was the first thing I was nominated for and the first thing I “won.” I’m so happy people decided my book was worthy of the list, and I hope it helps Pantomime become present in more libraries across the US so more teens can possibly connect with Micah Grey and his/her adventures.

I moved around a lot as a child, and one of the first places I went in each new town was the library. I remember my mom taking me to the bookmobile in my neighbourhood and me stumbling out with books from my elbows to my chin. So to be recognised by the American Library Association is really, really awesome.

I have celebrated with cheesecake.

Free Fiction Friday: “Safe Haven”

Every now and again I put up one of my old bits of writing. Most of these were written for university for my creative writing classes.

For this one I remember seeing the Safe Haven placard on the wall of the fire station by my house in California. I was thinking about how terrible it must be to give up your child but feel you had no choice, so I wrote a little story about it. This was in 2009, a little bit before I graduated university.

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“Safe Haven”

by Laura Lam

“There, there,” the tired young woman crooned to her baby, St. Petersburg coloring her voice.

It was four thirty a.m. and the sky was just beginning to lighten into a blurred watercolor painting. The woman tucked the yellow blanket more firmly about the baby and adjusted the cap with the bear on it. She hugged the child to her, smelling milk, baby powder, and new skin. The baby gurgled and she smiled and touched the baby on the nose. The smile faded.

Glancing about nervously, she crossed the street and stood in front of the fire station of white, rose, and yellow stone. A bronze bell hung proudly on outside the main door, flanked by flags.

She wandered around the fire station. She had searched for it on the internet at the library, and this was supposed to be the place. The woman had started walking the wrong way—she circled almost the entire building before she saw the blue and white placard. Such an innocent looking sign, she thought in Russian. The baby gurgled again, and she looked down.

He was looking at her. The eyes were still impossibly blue, but they should darken soon and look like her father’s. So dark they were almost black. The baby felt so heavy in her arm, but her chest, sore with milk, was warmed by the tiny body. The woman pressed her lips together and stared at the placard, a blue house and a blue hand cradling a blue baby that kicked and waved its arms. The hand was not supporting the baby’s head.

She had to do it. Her American boyfriend had left when her stomach had begun to swell, leaving her visa to expire. No one had ever told her where babies came from; her mother had died when she was nine. Now she knew only too well. She wanted to go home, but she didn’t know where home was.

She had just turned sixteen. There was nothing she could give the baby in her arms that was as perfect as the smallest figure in a Matryroshka doll set. She shook her head. Someone would see her. The young woman set the baby down under the blue and white placard.

“Safe . . . haven,” she read slowly in English, carefully, rolling the sound around on her tongue. She closed her eyes and willed her eyes to stay dry. One hand rested on her stomach, still swollen and distended from the pregnancy. The little thing in the bundle had been inside of her not forty-eight hours before, wrapped up just as carefully in her womb.

If she looked at the bundle again, she’d lose her nerve. She gave one last look at the placard and turned, crossing her arms over her stomach and chest, trying to keep the lingering warmth.

When she was halfway across the street, the baby gave a cry. The sound was so pure and piercing it drove thought from her mind. She spun and looked back at the bundle. A tiny fist had worked its way from its swaddling and waved, just like the blue baby in the placard, either in anger, fear, or farewell. The woman let out a tiny cry of her own and stood frozen in the middle of the street, one foot slightly raised above the tarmac.

She took a step forward and froze again. The door by the placard opened and a fireman peeked out, a collection of a bald pate, hairy arms, black shirt, red suspenders, and yellow trousers. He crouched and picked up the child. He looked up and saw her. She couldn’t read his eyes from the distance.

She turned and fled.

2014 Releases: LGBTQ Young Adult Literature

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Queer characters and stories are underrepresented in YA fiction. Though many YA novels featuring LGBTQ characters and themes are award-winning, there are not enough being published, which makes it all the more important to recognize those books that are actually hitting shelves.

I’ve always been interested in yound adult literature with LGBTQ themes or characters. Here’s a look at the 2014 releases in YA that feature lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer characters that I’ve been able to find so far.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kiklan

This is nonfiction—interviews and portraits of six transgender or gender-neutral teens, due out in February.

Shadowplay by Laura Lam

This is the follow up to last year’s Pantomine, available now.

Changers, Book One: Drew by T. Cooper and Allison Glock

This is a paranormal book in which certain members of the population change genders each year. It got a good…

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Would you like me to visit your school or library in Scotland?

schoolvisitA few months ago, I signed up for the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature Database. My profile is here. Applications for school visits have the following deadlines:

End of January- for visits to be made between 1st April and 30th November
End of September- for visits to be made between 1st December and 31st March

Basically, if approved, then this programme will fund half of my speaking fee and travel costs. So it’s a very good deal for places who don’t have a big budget for speaking fees, which is understandable with so many budget cuts.

I’d really like to do more school or library visits this year, so if you’re a librarian/teacher from a school anywhere in Scotland, please consider booking me through that website. If you’re a student or you know someone who might be interested in booking visits, please send them the link to this post or to that profile. Or, of course, book any other many fine authors on the database.

If you’d like to know more about past visits:

Hayward High School, Hayward, California, USA – 7 September 2012 (blog post)
MA Creative Writing, Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland – 22 February 2013 (blog post)
Dollar Academy, Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland – 13 June 2013 (blog post)
Keith Grammar, Keith, Moray, Scotland – 19 June 2013 (blog post)
Gordonstoun School, Elgin, Moray, Scotland – 19 June 2013 (blog post)
California State University East Bay, Hayward, California, USA – 8 January 2014 (blog post)
Hayward High School, Hayward, California – 10 January 2014 (blog post)

I also have more information on my Visits & Events page.

Testimonials:

“Laura did a Skype author visit to our Florida library, and despite being thousands of miles away, engaged our teen group with her reading and sharing of her experiences. She even listened to their work and gave valuable feedback! One of our best author visits to date.”

– Alexandra Phillips, SJCPL Librarian

“Laura spoke to my AP Literature classes at Hayward High in the fall and did an amazing job engaging a roomful of students and answering their questions. I had many students eagerly anticipating Pantomime’s release after her reading. Months later, several students informed me that they were not disappointed! We look forward to Ms. Lam returning next fall and connecting with even more students at Hayward High School. “

– Ms. Campbell, Hayward High School

“Laura spoke to a group of our Form 1 pupils and did a great job of engaging all the pupils and answering their questions. The visit was very popular and we’ll be sure to have Laura back to speak at the school again soon.”

– Tara Hepburn, Dollar Academy Librarian

“A fantastically well-written novel dealing with a sensitive subject in a uniquely creative way. Both my daughter and I can’t wait for the next book. We just need to know…”

– A Dollar Academy parent

“Laura was a guest speaker for our postgraduate creative writing programme, talking about the experience of writing her wonderful first novel, Pantomime. She was engaging, passionate and thoughtful – just like her prose. Highly recommended!”

– David Bishop, lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University

Hayward High Visit and Heading Home

Giving a presentation at the Hayward High Library
Giving a presentation at the Hayward High Library

Yesterday I went to my old high school and had a school visit with about 120 students over the course of two periods. I kept comparing it to my last visit to Hayward High, which was in September 2012, before the book was out and my first ever school visit. I can tell that now I’ve grown a lot – I know what to expect, how to tailor my approach to different age groups, how to try and keep the audience engaged. Before my first visit in 2012 I was terrified. Now, I still get nervous before it starts, then once it gets going the nerves fade away and I’m pretty comfortable.

I showed them the presentation I’ve shown a couple of schools now (Gordonstoun and Keith Academy), which looks at my process of writing – through coming up with the initial idea, outlining, researching, drafting, sending to betas, editing, and eventual publication. It’s not very long, as I know it’s difficult to lecture at people for much longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, tops, before they get antsy. I forgot to do a reading in the first group, but during the second I read the first chapters of both Pantomime & Shadowplay, which are both very short. I then opened it up to the usual Q&A. This is my favourite part because the questions are always different from group to group. Teenagers seem to be more interested in me – moving to Scotland, how I met my husband, when I started writing, whereas at the CSUEB event they were more interested in the mechanics of writing (understandable, as a lot of them were creative writing students). There were a few teens there from the Hayward High creative writing group, and they came up after and asked me for tips on research.

It’s always so strange to be back at my high school. The memories of me being there are overlaid with the present. I was so different in high school – super quiet and shy, basically hiding in a classroom and reading every lunch time, or going on the computers at the library at lunch to chat with Craig before he went to sleep. I always end up ruminating about how much I’ve grown and yet how I’m still in many ways the same person. I do know that if little teenage me saw me present in the library like I did yesterday, I think she’d be very proud of what I’ve done and who I am, and that makes me feel very good.

Today is my last day in California. In about three hours, I’ll be heading back to the airport to begin the long trek home. Life will settle down again and I’ll be back in my usual routine of work and writing. Launch excitement will die down and that’s fine. It’s been such a great trip back, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my family and managed to see lots of friends. Between my various events I’ve signed around 110 copies of Pantomime and 90 copies of Shadowplay. I do miss California, much as I love Scotland. It is hard being an ex-pat, though. I can’t help but feel I’m missing so much by no longer being here.

I’ve gotten a fair few notes through my contact this week of people telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my work and asking about the third book in the Micah Grey series. Thanks so much for them – I do try to respond to every one, and I hope I’ll have more information for you soon.

Shadowplay Launch: CSUEB Edition

Yesterday I had another event at California State University East Bay (CSUEB) as part of the English Department’s Distinguished Writers’ Series. I graduated from there with a BA in English with a Creative Writing option in 2009. And it was so, so, so cool. I’m still buzzing from it today. I thought there’d maybe be around the same amount of people as the SF launch, or a few more – maybe 35, 40 tops. There were over 75 people and it was even standing room only at the back. Just before going up I was understandably freaked out. It was so many more faces to stand in front of, and because two classes met there, it wasn’t mostly people I knew like the previous event.

But it went really well, or so I hope. Because I’d gone through the steps at Borderlands, I expanded on that, also reading from the start of Pantomime, putting both books in context, explaining my path to publication, and reading from Shadowplay. I opened it to questions as usual, and since it was a lot of English majors there were some really good questions. There were a few familiar faces of students because on Monday I went to one of my former professor’s senior seminar class to talk about the professional side of being a writer (and urging them not to quit their day jobs right out of university, heh):

After the event, there was a reception at my mom’s house. My mom teaches at the university I went to, so I met a lot of her colleagues that I hadn’t had classes with when I went through the programme. Overall, I sold around 45 books yesterday. I felt so thankful to my alma mater and how supportive so many people were. It was such a great night.

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The room! More people arrived after this.
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Waiting to go up.
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Reading.
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Posing with my books.
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Shows how full the room was! This was right after it finished.
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At the signing table.
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Cheesy photo with one of my best friends, Shawn.
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Signing.

Shadowplay is Out Now!

pantomime-shadowplayShadowplay is now officially, officially released! It should be available from your local retailer, and it’s on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, etc. I’m so excited that the next installment of Micah Grey’s story is now available for anyone to read.

I’ll do a roundup of all the links etc that have happened lately. Launch day is always such a flurry – but within a day or two, things will be mostly back to normal and I’ll get that weird come-down post-book-release.

Tomorrow I have an event at my alma mater, California State University East Bay, in the Biella Room of the library at 6 pm. It’s being thrown by the English Department as part of their Distinguished Writers series. Here is more information on the Facebook event page. If you’re in the area, please come!

Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to help sophomore authors.

My Shadowplay Blog Tour Post is all up to date, if you’d like to keep up with the guest posts and interviews I’ve been doing.

There’s an extract of the first two chapters over at Tor.com (spoilers for Pantomime)

Max Edwards wrote an academic essay about Pantomime, Malinda Lo’s Ash, and Patrick Ness’s More Than This. It’s called Normal People, Abnormal Worlds: Young Adult Speculative Fiction as a normalising force for queer adolescents.

Today’s stop is My Favorite Bit at Mary Robinette Kowal’s site where I talk about Shadowplay.

There have been some really lovely reviews recently:

SoSoGay Magazine says: “We freakin’ LOVE THIS BOOK! . . . Shadowplay is a fantastic novel because it is gripping and bold, with characters that are inclusive and stories that are non-judgemental. As it closes, you can really feel the fantasy elements drawing in, and so the third book in her trilogy, unnamed as of yet, is going to be spectacular – we can feel it.”

Me on Books says: “Shadowplay is a mysterious and haunting continuation of a series cloaked in magic and secrets.”

A & P have reviews by Ashley & Paul: Ashley says: “Shadowplay definitely does NOT have that second-book syndrome, and is a must read for fans of Pantomime! I would also recommend this series to anyone looking for an excellent YA fantasy full of magic and intrigue and secrets and world-building and basically just a fantastic series. You don’t want to miss these books.” Paul says: “This is a wonderful sequel to an amazing novel. What Pantomime did with the circus, Shadowplay does with stage magic. ”

Lastly, here’s all the relevant order links. Please do pick up the book if it’s your thing, and if it’s not, then please help spread the word to people who may enjoy them.

UK: Amazon – The Book Depository – Hive
US: Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound – Powell’s
Canada: Amazon – Indigo
Australia: BookAdda
NZ: Fishpond

Shadowplay’s San Francisco Launch

Yesterday was my launch at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. If you haven’t been to this lovely independent store, I highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area. It’s beautiful, bright and airy, with a brilliant selection, a lovely cafe, and really wonderful staff.

There was a good amount of people, and it was so nice to see some familiar faces after several years. I always feel so thankful standing up there in front of people who gave up their time to come see me. I read from the start of Shadowplay and then answered questions before signing copies. An especially huge thank you to Jude from Borderlands for organising such a fantastic event.

Launching the second book in a series is interesting. I’m still excited, but I also know more what to expect. It’s more fun and less scary. Fly, little Shadowplay!

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Craig and me in front of the Borderlands Cafe
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Window display
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Always have to point cheesily at my book in the window.
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Pantomime and Shadowplay in the shop
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The awkwardest part is sitting up there waiting for everyone to arrive.
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Reading from Shadowplay
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Signing books.
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With Erica, my best friend and often my first beta – she sees my books when they’re really ugly.
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With Natalie, who was a close friend when I was a kid, and now SHE has a kid!
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Afterwards celebrating with Thai food with friends and family: me, my brother Ian, his girlfriend Tiara, my mom, my mom’s boyfriend Bob, my high school friend Teresa, my super close friend Shawn, and my bestie Erica.

Books Read in December (plus a 2013 roundup)

And so 2013 is gone. Here’s what I read in its last month:

1. Fables Vol 7: Arabian Nights – Bill Willingham

2. Fables Vol 8: Wolves – Bill Willingham

3. Fables Vol 9: Sons of Empire – Bill Willingham

mapping the mind4. Mapping the Mind – Rita Carter. I really recommend this book if you have an interest in neuroscience. Engagingly written and understandable to people with a limited scientific background. The human mind is an extraordinary thing.

5. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon. A strong follow up to the first book. At some point I’ll continue the series.

6. Fables Vol 10: The Good Prince – Bill Willingham

7. Fables Vol 11: War and Pieces – Bill Willingham

8. Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages – Bill Willingham

9. Fables Vol 13: The Great Fables Crossover – Bill Willingham. Obviously I’m continuing my Fables re-read, though now I’ve reached the part of the series I haven’t read before. This volume crosses over with Unwritten (which I’ve read) and Jack of Fables (which I’m behind on)

10. About a Boy – Nick Hornby. As cute as the film.

conjoinedtwins11. Conjoined Twins: An Historical, Biological and Ethical Issues Encyclopedia – Christine Quigley. Research book – another very good one. I’ve had consistently good luck with non-fiction this year.

12. The Elites – Natasha Ngan. An engaging dystopia in Neo-Babel, starring a girl who discovers that everything she’s been lead to believe is a lie.

13. The Ghost of the Citadel (part 1 of The Copper Promise) – Jen Williams. Jen is a Team Mushens agency sister. I really enjoyed the first bit and love the idea in general of serialised e-fiction. Part 2 is out imminently, so I’ll pick that up too.

Totals for 2013:

82 books
26,078 pages (according to Goodreads), which is about 71 pages a day. But it’s probably less as I think Goodreads accounts for all of the pages, even if it’s copyright info, etc.

I started doing some OCD analytics to figure out how many YA versus fantasy versus nonfiction etc I read, but…I can’t really be bothered, and to be honest I don’t think anyone really cares! Goodreads does have a neat little pie chart, though:

Here’s the previous months’ recaps:

Books Read in November

Books Read in October

Books Read in September

Books Read in August

Books Read in July

Books Read in June

Books Read in May

Books Read in April

Books Read in March

Books Read in January & February

As a bonus, when looking through really old photos on my mom’s computer, I found my TBR list from 2004…ah, before Goodreads! I’ve read quite a number of these by now.