I’m back in Scotland after my five weeks in California. I have mostly gotten over my jetlag, and have plenty of work to keep me busy. I’ve been taking a brief social media break the last few days, which has been nice. I made it so I could only use Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for 5 minutes (combined) before it blocked on my laptop. I deleted the shortcuts and turned off all notifications on my phone. So the only way to really lurk, which I did do a few times, was to physically go into my list of apps and click on them. Just that extra barrier meant my procrastination-via-social-media went way down. I have done more work the past few days, but I also found myself procrastinating in more productive ways–cooking, cleaning, practising French via Duolingo. I’ll probably start going back on more often soon because when I work from home it is my chatting-around-the-water-cooler, but I’ll keep the notifications off my phone and increase total allowance on my laptop to say, 30 minutes.
It is also…con and festival season! I’m not doing all that much con-wise this year, but I’m going to Nine Worlds next month, which is one of my favourite cons. Here is my schedule:
Emma Trevayne, Tom Pollock, Lauren E James, Laura Lam, Sarah Benwell, James Dawson, Marieke Nijkamp
More and more non-traditional characters enter the YA stage. Characters who defy gender norms and gender binaries. Characters who fall somewhere along the LGBTQIA* spectrum. Characters who kick ass and take names. How does YA explore these new stories, who are the characters we should be paying attention to, and what is there still to come?
Childhood Influences – I Want to be a Wild Thing When I Grow Up
Room 38, 5:00pm – 6:15pm (All of the Books)
Taran Matharu, Ed Cox, Frances Harding, Kim Curran, Laura Lam (Moderator)
From the fantasy worlds of Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree to whizz-poppers and marvellous medicines of Roald Dahl, how important are childrens stories on us as adults and do they shape what authors write when they grow up?
Saturday (August 8):
From MPDG to SFC: the Girls of YA
Royal B, 8:30pm – 9:45pm (Geek Feminism, Young Adult)
Liz de Jager, Laura Lam, Tom Pollock, Amy Alward
Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Strong Female Characters. Girls in YA literature are often labeled and boxed in. But who are the girl characters behind and beyond the tropes? And what are the characteristics of the modern YA heroine?
Also, as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, I’m doing a creative writing workshop for youth at the Lemon Tree on July 26th at 1.30-2.30 pm. Tickets are FREE, you just need to book! I think you have to be under 25, but it might also be flexible. There’s lots of other great events on at the festival, and I hope to go to some other events with my friend Erica, who will be out visiting from CA.
Favourite book read in January: either City of Dragons by Robin Hobb or In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.
February 2014: Licked my wounds, battled depression and anxiety, and kept promoting Pantomime & Shadowplay. I went down to Newcastle for the North East Teen Book Awards, which ended up being very, very timely. I’d been tempted to take a writing hiatus (because I knew I could never quit completely), and here were teens saying my books were some of their favourites of all time, wanting to take photos and have my sign things, and just in general being so sweet and so enthusiastic about books and reading. I came back and threw myself into the new project I’d been editing. I’d finished the first draft at the end of November 2013, and after some great beta reader comments, I was working on turning it into a workable draft. I called it Bonkers Book on social media. I also announced the Vestigial Tales, or my plan to self-publish some short stories/novellas set in the same world as the Micah Grey series. I also had an Aberdeen launch at Waterstones for Shadowplay, and was really touched by how many people came out for it. I seemed pretty on top of things. Behind the scenes, I was still a mess, though I was getting myself together.
Favourite book read in February: Unteachable by Leah Raeder.
March 2014: I’d been approached to write a short story for an anthology and in March I was able to announce it as Fablecroft Press did a funding drive for the Cranky Ladies of History, which blasted through its goals. I also got to participate in Robin Hobb’s worldwide scavenger hunt (post with pictures illustrating the clues), and am now friends with the girl who found my present, Louise, and we meet for coffee occasionally. I found out Pantomime had been nominated for the Bisexual Book Award—yay! I went to my friend Rhona McKinnon’s wedding and danced at my first-ever ceilidh.
Favourite book read in March: The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.
April 2014: There were some good events for #LGBTApril I participated in. I went to my first convention of the year—Eastercon, in Glasgow. As the conventions are usually in England, it was nice to only have to travel 2 hours to get to one, for once! I was on my first panel. I had fun but it was also a difficult convention, as my mental health was still patchy. There was more ceilidh dancing. I finished editing Bonkers Book and was working on the Vestigial Tales. Laya drew her first (of what proved to since be many) fan art pieces, and I also received some fan mail. I was so touched I wrote an emotional thank you to readers. I finished editing Bonkers Book & sent it to my agent and worked on the Vestigial Tales.
Favourite book read in April: This was a good reading month so I had three: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, and Cress by Marissa Meyer.
Favourite book read in June: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
July 2014 aka THE MONTH MY LIFE CHANGED: Vestigial Tales: I posted a roundup of “The Snake Charm” and its first month sales, launched “The Fisherman’s Net,” shared “The Tarot Reader’s” blurb and cover, and went on the local radio. Tor/Macmillan offered pre-emptively on Bonkers Book aka False Hearts, changing my life. It was right before a big work audit and I was trying to concentrate on spreadsheets while internally screaming with glee. The press release went live on July 25th. I told work I wanted to stop working full-time. My friend Erica came out to visit from California.
Favourite book read in July: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier and Natural Causes by James Oswald.
August 2014 aka THE MONTH OF ALL THE CONS: Vestigial Tales: I posted my month 2 roundup of being a hybrid author, launched “The Tarot Reader,” and unveiled the cover and blurb for “The Card Sharp.” Erica and I took a day trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. I went to Nine Worlds in London and had a great time—definitely my favourite con of the year. I went to some other London events such as the Broken Monsters launch for Lauren Beukes and the Fantasy in the Court event at Goldsboro Books, where I got to meet some people from my new publisher, like my editor Julie Crisp, for the first time. Then it was time for another convention, Loncon3. I went back to Aberdeen, exhausted.
Favourite book read in August: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
September 2014: Vestigial Tales: another monthly roundup and launching the last of the Tales (for now), “The Card Sharp.” The cons weren’t over! I journeyed down to York for Fantasycon. My husband and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary/10 years of being together. I did some events for #WriteCity in Aberdeen, doing both public events and school visits throughout the city. I started my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and began reducing my hours slightly at work. I was able to announce that False Hearts will be published in the US through Tor/Forge and in Italy through Fanucci Editore. Peter F. Hamilton blurbed the book (!), calling it: “A smart debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” I went down to Winchester for Amy Alward’s beautiful wedding. I became a British citizen!
Favourite book read in September: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.
October 2014, or THE MONTH OF NO FREE TIME: I did my full-time masters. I did more school visits. I worked around 30 hours a week at the day job. I tried to write, but that didn’t really happen. Pantomime was listed as Gay YA’s October Book of the Month and they did lots of great promotion. I managed to post another Vestigial Tale monthly roundup. I really missed sleep and free time, but by the end of the month, my replacement had started and been trained and I dropped down to around 12 hours a week for work. I finished the first draft of Masquerade, finally.
Favourite book read in October: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (for uni).
Favourite book read in November: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, with an honourable mention to the Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather.
December 2014: I finished up the first semester of my Masters degree. I went to London for my agent’s Christmas party. I went to the Isle of Arran on my first-ever writing retreat with Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne, editing Masquerade for beta readers. I waited to hear about *stuff* and tried to be patient (and failed). I was called back into the day job almost full-time for a little bit. Stress. Stress. Stress. Aaaaand relax. Got ready for Christmas. Ate all the food. Now: reading, watching a lot of TV and slowly editing what I wrote of Brainfreeze Book and sorting through Masquerade beta comments.
Favourite book read in December: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
Here’s the link to the roundup of my last Fantasycon, and my first con in the UK. It was my third post on this blog. Re-reading that made me smile. It’s where I met Adam Christopher, who is still a good friend, and many of the people I met at that first con I know much better now.
It’s also crazy to think how much things can change. Three years ago my first novel was under consideration with Angry Robot. I went to the masterclass and wondered if I’d ever find an agent. Now I’ve two books out and more to come and I’m going part-time at my job. I have the best agent and ten of her other authors were at the con, too. The Mushens Cabal. If you’d told me that all that was to come in 2011 I’d have had to sit down.
Nostalgia out of the way, I did enjoy Fantasycon 2014. I was still worn out from the Loncon cons. Usually there’s all the excitement of seeing people you’ve not seen in months, but this time it was like “oh, hello! I saw you three weeks ago.” I took it a lot easier this con. I arrived at 3 pm on the Friday, taking the train down from Aberdeen. I checked in and hung about briefly, then Craig and I snuck off into town because it was our five year anniversary.
After dinner I headed back to the hotel and went to the karaoke. I made a very poor song choice in California Dreaming and messed it up. Juliet impressed everyone with as the killed “9 to 5” and then “Fat Lip” and lastly did a moving debut with Andrew Reid. Around 11, I called it a night.
The next morning I had all my programming back to back, which was actually nice as it means I sort of stayed in “professional author” mode. I had a signing, where I mainly hung out with the other authors, then my two panels. The dystopia panel was great, with everyone having great points to contribute and Guy Adams moderating very well. The main point I took away from it was that teen dystopia is often an escape because it’s teens potentially taking back control of the poor decisions their parents made. Right after that I had to dash to my next panel, about the lack of parents in YA. Mainly, it’s because parents can be inconvenient to stories. They cant very well nag about homework when the world is at stake.
After my panels, I snuck away for a few hours to see more of York. It’s such a beautiful town.
Afterward I saw Tea and Jeopardy live with Emma Newman and Peter Newman. I have never laughed so hard as when I heard a room of grown men and women clucking the Doctor Who theme as chickens. And to those who weren’t there: I shall not put that in context.
Later on was the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which normally is held in London, and is co-run by Den Patrick and Jen Williams (moar Team Mushens authors. We’re in ur genre, writing ur bookz etc). Simon Spanton of Gollancz was interviewed by James Barclay, and it was an excellent look into life as an editor in SFF. Then I had to read! Luckily, the opening of False Hearts seemed to go down well.
After me, it was readings from Edward Cox, Emma Newman, and Niel Bushnell. After that it was the disco, where I chatted with people and then boogied a little.
Sunday was another somewhat relaxed day. After breakfast I went back into York for a bit to do some work in a coffeeshop. The Cafe W in the Waterstones is adorable! Then in the afternoon was the British Fantasy Awards. I was up for Best Newcomer, and unsurprisingly lost to Ann Leckie, which I was fully expecting 🙂 I still got to go up on stage and accept the award for Lauren Beukes and The Shining Girls for Best Horror Novel, so that was fun.
And then it was pretty much time to head back. Thanks to everyone I chatted with. I’m not going to list everyone by name because it’s late and I’ll forget someone and then feel rubbish. It was a nice, sun-filled weekend.
And so my cons for this year are finished. Thank you to Creative Scotland for the Professional Development Bursary, which will have made it much, much easier to go to these events.
Next Friday, I’ll be venturing down to York for my last convention of the year, Fantasycon. Fantasycon 2011 was my first ever convention in the UK (in Brighton), so I’m rather fond of it. Crazy to think how much things have changed in 3 years.
I have a couple of panels and one reading at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club.
11.00am – It’s the End of the World as we Know It – And I Feel Unsurprised
Does the popularity of dystopia in YA reflect a generation’s expectation of living in a nightmarish future? Guy Adams (m), Janet Edwards, Leila Abu el Hawa, Jonathan Oliver, Laura Lam
12.00 Noon – Dead Parents, Burned Homesteads and Wicked Stepmothers
Is it essential to write out the parents before youthful characters can head out on adventures? Are adult figures always unhelpful or malign? Should writers search for ways to keep parents around — or do fantasies of a world without parents fulfil a real need? Marc Gascoigne (m), Edward Cox, Emma Newman, Sophia McDougall, Glenda Larke, Laura Lam
9.00pm – Super Relaxed Fantasy Club
I’ll also definitely be at the banquet on Sunday, as I’m up for the British Fantasy Society for Best Newcomer and possibly accepting for Lauren Beukes in horror.
I’m excited to go to York for the first time, and plan to nip out from the con a bit to explore.
The last of the conventions! Until Fantasycon in a few weeks…
By the start of the convention, I was already pretty tired. I didn’t end up packing my schedule quite as full as I did for NineWorlds, because otherwise I’d collapse. But even so, I still managed to see and do a fair amount.
On Thursday I had a panel at 11, which was “Reimagining Families” with Cherry Potts, Jed Hartman, David D Levine & Rosanne Rabinowitz. I didn’t anticipate the Queue of Doom, but I was able to use the panel to jump it, which I felt vaguely guilty about. As it was so early on the first day, I wasn’t sure how many people would arrive, but the room was packed. In the panel, we discussed polyamory in SFF, the prevalence of chosen families, and other books that look at non-normative families. While more and more in our world, people live in different types of families, there’s still that expectation of the default nuclear family. It was a great discussion.
I saw a bit of the opening ceremony with my friend (Hugo nominee!) Foz Meadows, and wandered about some more. At 1.30, I went to the panel on “The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic,” with Paul Cornell, Robin Hobb, Freda Warrington, Liz Bourke & Sophia McDougall. During the panel there was a brief but furious storm, with rain lashing against the windows and thunder echoing the panellist’s words.
Afterwards, there was a lot of greeting old friends and getting lost in the airport hangar of the Excel Centre. I bought a corset in the dealer’s room and proceeded to wear it over my normal outfit, and it looked quite cool, if I do say so myself. In the evening I went to the YA Set in London panel, moderated by Tom Pollock and featuring Edward James, Ian McDonald, Gillian Polack, and Liesel Schwarz, which was interesting though it featured more on London and why it’s such a strong location in fiction versus YA especially. I stayed around for a bit more before making the trek back to Kim’s house, where I was still staying. I was really starting to crash at this point, and felt grumpy most of the evening. A half-decent night’s sleep helped me ready myself to do it all over again…
Friday I also had to trek back fairly early to get to the Excel Centre for my 11 am signing slot. It was really nice to see the Hobblings, who are a group of people who post on the Robin Hobb yuku board. I used to post on there a lot a few years ago, though I don’t as much anymore. I still interact with a lot of them on Twitter/Facebook etc. I was touched that they came to keep me company, for I didn’t have a large queue of signers by any stretch. I also had one fan come and I signed her Kindle case! Louise Buckley of Tor also came to hang out so I wasn’t sitting there alone, which I really appreciated.
Again, not too many panels, though I was able to not only go to listen to Kim Curran read from her awesome book, GLAZE, she was kind enough to let me jump on and read a bit of FALSE HEARTS. I did have a reading on the Monday, but it was too close to my flight so I wouldn’t be able to make it. Afterwards we stayed in the room to listen to Lauren Beukes read from BROKEN MONSTERS before she had to head to the airport and fly back to South Africa.
I hung about in the fan village for a little while, and then Marieke Nijkamp, Sarah Benwell and I snuck into the “Trouble with Teens” panel a little late. This panel featured Julia Rios, Suzanne van Rooyen, Amy McCulloch, Eric Senabre & Janet Edwards, examining the obstacles with writing a teen-centric story. One thing I really appreciated was that they made sure to ask the actual teens in the audience what they thought.
I think at that point I went back to the hotel room and hung out for a bit, and then went to the party at the Fox bar, thrown by Tor UK, Jo Fletcher, SFX, and, in the upstairs bit, Titan books. Total squee moment: I got to see a bit of FALSE HEARTS in print in the Tor samplers!
There was face painting! And a magician! Tom Pollock didn’t end up getting his face painted, so I accommodated him by drawing the London skyline across his brow. At one point, I tried to be sensible and go to bed and a half-decent time, but before I knew it, I was at the ceilidh. And so I stumbled to bed quite late once again.
Saturday morning, I went to Amy McCulloch’s kaffeeklatsch, and then afterwards wandered around the dealer’s room for a bit. I spied Robin Hobb and said hi, and managed not to go pink and stammer like the first time I met her. There was an exhibition of Darwin’s pigeons for one of Robin’s earlier works as Megan Lindholm, so we got to pet a pretty curly-haired pigeon.
At 1, I had my own kaffeeklatsch, and was pleasantly surprised when seven people ended up turning up! I’m still not exactly sure what you’re meant to do for a kaffeeklatsch (which didn’t have coffee). I ended up doing a short reading of FALSE HEARTS and then rambling on about different things for a while. Afterwards I think I hung around for a little while and then went back to the hotel room. I read while my roomie Kim napped, then nodded off myself when she headed out. A few hours later, I staggered out of the hotel room to the Gollancz evening party, and stayed up chatting until 2.30 am.
Sunday was the last day of the con for me. I was feeling worn pretty thin by this point. I queued for the Robin Hobb interview with some fellow Hobblings, which was lovely. Jane Johnson did a great job asking the right questions, and since they’ve worked together for 27 years on many different books, it’s clear they’re comfortable and have such a mutual respect for each other.
In the evening, I was able to go to the Hugo pre-party as Foz Meadow’s +1, and felt super cool. But I had to duck out pretty soon because at 7 I had my last panel, which was “There are no New Stories, But…” with John Hornor Jacobs, Pierre Pevel, Jon Wallace & Kari Sperring. This was a bilingual panel! Our moderator Kerri translated for Pierre, who spoke in French. I was quite proud of how much of the French I could follow. We discussed tropes and how often if you reach for them time and time again, it can be a product of laziness and result in poor storytelling. Yet, at the same time, we all recognized that certain tropes speak to us and there’s a reason they’re so perennial.
Afterwards, I chatted with another Hobbling Skywolf and awesome Hermitknut cosplaying as the Fool!
I stayed for most of the Hugo ceremony, and near the end realized that I was about four feet from David Tennant! That was cool, but by then, I had no more fuel in the tank. I went back to Kim’s and the next day flew home.
I’ve come down with a bad case of “con crud,” and the head cold is only just now going away. Must now get back into the swing of writing! 🙂
My Loncon report is still in progress. In the meantime…
While at the con, I found out I am on a Buzzfeed List. Initially it was called “21 of the Best British Sci Fi and Fantasy Writers you Should be Reading” but then it changed to the more clickbaity headline of “21 of the Best British Sci Fi and Fantasy Writers You’ve Probably Never Heard of.” Aww yeah. Damien Walter, the compiler of the list, said on twitter it had about 60,000 views though, which is roughly the total amount of views of this blog over the past 3 or so years I’ve been running it. *blinks*
At Nine Worlds, I ran a workshop on writing LGBTQI characters in SFF. A few days before this, I put out a call on Twitter for character portrayals in SFF that were either positive, negative, or conflicted. I collated most of them into a table. Initially I was going to print them out for attendees, but I had no idea how many people would show up. I probably would have printed about 20, which wouldn’t have been enough–about 50 or so people came to my workshop! So here’s the list. There’s plenty on here I haven’t read. Feel free to comment with thoughts, additional examples, spark debate, etc. If I have time, I’ll come back and update the table now and again to reflect the comments.
Otherbound, Corinne Duyvis
Baron Harkonnen, Dune
The Last Herald Mage Series, Mercedes Lackey
Characters in Mark Charan Newton’s books (transgender, gay, etc)
Illario, Mary Gentle
Austin & Robby in Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Bonnie in Rapture of the Nerds by Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow
Jack Randall in the Outlander series
The Steel Remains, Richard Morgan
The Culture Novels, Iain M. Banks
Problematic portrayal of a gay man in Windrose Chronicles, Barbara Hambly
Andrew in Buffy
Malinda Lo’s work
Riddick at one point offers to turn a lesbian character straight in the latest film.
Cutter and Judah in the Iron Council by China Mieville
Transgender character in Shadows on the Moon, Zoe Marriott
Izana from Knights of Sidonia
Transgender character in Eon/Eona, Allison Goodman (plus crossdressing-but-straight protagonist)
Orson Scott Card
Vintage: A Ghost Story, Steve Berman
Willow in Buffy (bi-erasure)
Daja in Will of the Empress, Tamora Pierce
Anne McCaffrey (blue and green dragonriders)
Anthem in Coda, by Emma Trevayne
Darwin in The Four Realms by Adrian Faulkner
Nick in The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Kylie Chan novels
Lord John Grey in the Outlander series
Havemercy & sequels by Jones & Bennett.
Susan Ivanova and Talia Winters from Babylon 5
Okha Soyan in Bloodhouse, Tamora Pierce
Pen in the Skyscraper Throne series, Tom Pollock
Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Ro in Owl Stretching by K.A. Laity
Makaria and Hypatia in Romanitas by Sophia McDougall
In between the two cons I’ve attended in August were some additional events. Last Tuesday was the Fantasy in the Court event at Goldsboro books, presented by Tor UK and Harper Voyager Books. I was rather excited as it meant meeting my new publisher for the first time! So as the bookstore and street out front filled with genre people, I met my editor, Julie Crisp, my publicist, Sam Eades, and plenty of other people from Tor. I flitted through the crowds, seeing faces I’d just seen at NineWorlds and others I’d see again at Loncon.
After a few hours, we went out for dinner and chatted some more! I was able to meet Lauren Beukes for the first time and she’s the absolute nicest.
The next day, Kim and I managed to escape the insanity and had a much-needed massage. Then it was off for more socialising! Wednesday there were about five publishing things on throughout London: The Gollancz Fest, an Orion party, Lauren Beukes’ launch, Titan/Angry Robot signing…and I think something else? Spoilt for choice, I decided on Lauren Beukes’ launch for her new thriller, Broken Monsters, and it was so awesome! I didn’t manage to take any photos of the actual venue, but you can see a bunch here on the Killer Reads blog. There was an app you could use to analyse your tweets to see what sort of monster you are: I had psychopath. The gallery was full of evocative photos of Detroit, where the novel was set, and Monster Munch was a thematically-linked snack provided. The coolest part was writing down a secret on a tag with UV ink, and then pulling back the false wall to the UV lit room behind, where you hung up your secret to reveal it. My secret’s in this photo, but I won’t tell you which one is mine…
It was such a cool event. Lauren did a reading and had a short presentation about her research to Detroit for the book. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into Broken Monsters.
After that was more dinner and then tottering off back to Kim’s to face plant into bed.