False Hearts Joint Cover Reveal!

I’m pleased to show off the US & UK covers for False Hearts, my near future thriller out next June through Tor. I think they look great side by side, don’t you? This is a book I loved writing and can’t wait for people to read.

The full cover reveals are on Tor.com and Tor UK’s site. You could also add on Goodreads if you fancy or consider preordering. I’ve also pasted the text below:

We’re pleased to reveal both the Tor Books and Tor UK covers for Laura Lam’s upcoming novel, False Hearts. It’s Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult. Learn more about the novel and check out the full cover art for both the US and UK editions below!

False Hearts publishes simultaneously in the US and UK on June 16, 2016. From the catalog copy:

Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, conjoined sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they share begins to fail, the twins escape to San Francisco, where they are surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursue lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.

Ten years later, Tila returns one night to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder—the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Tila is suspected of involvement with the Ratel, a powerful crime syndicate that deals in the flow of Zeal, a drug that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life. But during her investigation Taema discovers disturbing links between the twins’ past and their present. Once unable to keep anything from each other, the sisters now discover the true cost of secrets.

The US cover, designed by Jamie Stafford-Hill:

False Hearts US Cover

Tor Books Editor Marco Palmieri adds:

How do you visually capture a book that, stripped of everything else, is about sharing—a shared heart, shared dreams, shared identities, shared fears, shared dangers? Tor cover designer Jamie Stafford-Hill experimented with numerous approaches for False Hearts, until he hit his eureka moment with the deceptively simple elements he combined so artfully to crystallize the novel’s elegant central idea. Just as importantly, Jamie’s cover depicts Taema and Tila, the remarkable characters at the core of Laura Lam’s amazing near-future thriller. To me, False Hearts reads like a brilliant mashup of Orphan Black and Inception, and this cover captures that perfectly. I can’t wait for people to experience Laura’s new novel for themselves.

And the UK cover, designed by Neil Lang:

False Hearts UK Cover

Bella Pagan, Editor at Tor UK, had this to say:

False Hearts is a thrilling, addictive and action-packed story featuring twins and the ultimate crime. This powerful near-future read needed a cover to match, that would bring out the potent mix of elements to give a real sense of the story within. And I think our UK design department have done a fabulous job, creating a look that I hope will really resonate with our UK and Australian readers and beyond. We’re planning fabulous finishes, such as printing it on scuffed up, cracked, silver foil for a wonderfully tactile look. Red end papers would look gorgeous too for that extra hit of colour.

The starting point was of course the title. We wanted to produce something that resonated with the title but had to be careful we didn’t go down an overly romantic path, possibly signalled by ‘hearts’. Yes, there is a hint of romance, but the book’s sensibility is definitely on the darker side! It has a feel of a near-future Martina Cole, given its gangland elements—with the glamour of Blade Runner and the feel of Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls.

I think that our designer Neil Lang has come up with a really clever solution… We wanted to hint at a struggle for identity, a dash of crime and a certain type of cool gritty-ness. We have the linked hearts, showing the personal story—but the fingerprints give it that crime sensibility to take the edges off a possible softness. We didn’t want to make it look either too science fictional or too ‘crime’, so that it would appeal to a really broad range of readers. Yes, we wanted it all! I’m also hoping that this elegant, simple cover will appeal to those who enjoyed Gillian Glynne’s Gone Girl, with its pared-back but effective look, as well as the authors mentioned above.

We’re really excited about both covers, and we hope you all are, too! Look for False Hearts from Tor Books and Tor UK in June, 2016.

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A 2014 Roundup, or: Well, That was Quite a Year

Well, 2014. That was a year. Here’s a brief roundup.

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Reading from Shadowplay at Borderlands Books in San Francisco

January 2014: This month had a good start. Shadowplay (Micah Grey #2) was released. I was lucky enough to be able to fly back to San Francisco for this, where I did a few events: a book launch at Borderlands Books, a talk at my alma mater, California State University East Bay, a visit to one of my professor’s classes, and another visit at my old high school, Hayward High. I was also able to do some research trips around San Francisco for the book I’d just finished drafting. I found out Pantomime had been listed a Top Ten Title for the American Library Association Rainbow List. The end of January was less pleasant, for I found out there’d be no contract for Masquerade, Micah Grey #3. I was, frankly, beyond devastated.

Favourite book read in January:  either City of Dragons by Robin Hobb or In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.

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Waterstones Aberdeen Launch. Photo credit: Laura Benvie.

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.

Mowgli assisting with the Robin Hobb scavenger hunt.
Mowgli assisting with the Robin Hobb scavenger hunt.

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.

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Laya’s first piece of fan art for the Micah Grey series

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.

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May 2014: Pantomime was listed as a Scottish Book Trust Teen Book of the Month! I shared the first Vestigial Tale cover and blurb, for “The Snake Charm.” I went to my friend Elizabeth May’s wedding in Gretna Green and ran my first race, a 10k. By this point my mental health was a lot better. I’d been accepted into a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen.

Favourite book read in May: Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. I love it so much.

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June 2014: Pantomime WON the Bisexual Book award! I posted my acceptance speech. I released “The Snake Charm,” and it had a great first month! I shared the cover and blurb for “The Fisherman’s Net.” My short story “They Swim Through Sunset Seas,” was accepted in the Solaris Rising 3 anthology. I was nominated for Best Newcomer for the British Fantasy Awards and wrote musings on being a baby writer at the beginning of my career. Strange Chemistry, the publisher of Pantomime & Shadowplay, announced that it was closing down very suddenly. I participated in a rowing competition for work dressed as Princess Leia. Behind the scenes, I’d received and implemented edits from my agent on Bonkers Book and it was getting ready to go out on wide submission.

Favourite book read in June: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

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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.

Best selfie ever: Ewa, Kim, Mahvesh, Me, Anne, Jared. Photocred: Mahvesh Murad
Loncon3. Photo credit: Mahvesh Murad

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.

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Reading from False Hearts at Fantasycon

 

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.

More Laya art! Aenea on the trapeze.
More Laya art! Aenea on the trapeze.

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).

Traffic cone or wizard hat? Glasgow.
Traffic cone or wizard hat? Glasgow.

November 2014: I did my full-time masters. I worked part-time. I stupidly decided I’d do NaNoWriMo because who needs free time, right, though I had to adjust my goals to include blogging and university work. My nephew, Theo, was born on November 5th. Shadowplay was Gay YA’s November Book of the Month and False Hearts sold in Germany to Heyne Verlag. Shadowplay was nominated for the ALA Rainbow List! I posted another hybrid author roundup. I took a weekend trip to Glasgow. I “won” NaNoWriMo by the skin of my teeth and swore I’ll never do it again, but it does mean I wrote a good chunk of Brainfreeze Book, my option book for Tor. Things happened behind the scenes regarding *stuff.*

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.

The double rainbow in Arran.
The double rainbow in Arran.

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.

And that was my year. Let’s see what 2015 brings!

Shadowplay is Gay YA’s November Book of the Month & False Hearts German Deal

Whoohoo! November may be ridiculously insane, but good news so far:

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First, The Gay YA have decided to follow Pantomime as their October Book of the Month with Shadowplay as their November Book of the Month! This is super awesome. I definitely think all the amazing events in October helped Pantomime find some new readers, and now here’s hoping more follow along to the magician’s stage in Shadowplay.

There will be more discussion questions, and probably some other goodies! Yay Gay YA!

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Next up, my 2016 title, False Hearts, has sold in Germany to Heyne Verlag! I took German for two years in high school so I might be able to pick out a little bit here any there. Really excited! So far False Hearts will be out in the UK, US/Canada, Italy, Germany, and more to come. *throws confetti*

This is the first week I’ve been able to really cut down my hours at work–I’ll work around 12 hours this week. But I had an extra lecture at university this week, which made things a bit more hectic. Also, evidently I am allergic to free time, as I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, as I said in this post. We’re almost a week in and I’m on track, at least so far. I’ve also written about 1500 words extra between blogging and uni work, though they don’t count (pout). I’m hoping I can keep up the pace, as I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to focus so entirely on one project, and not find excuses to do something other than put actual new words to actual paper (or screen).  At the end of the month, though, I’ll have more university work to do, though, but even if I tail off, it’s a lot of headway in a book I’ve been thinking about since July.

And now, off to tackle today’s word count…

Recent News and Such

Some news that I’ve announced on Twitter/Facebook, but haven’t put up here on the blog yet.

False Hearts news:

1. False Hearts officially has a US home with Tor. My US editor is Marco Palmieri. I am excited! It’ll be out the same time as the UK – January 2016.

2. False Hearts also has an Italian home with Fanucci Editore! My first-ever translation deal. There’s also another one in the works, yay, but I can’t say which language/foreign publisher yet.

3. False Hearts has its first blurb, from none other than freaking Peter F. Hamilton! He calls it “A smart debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” (I keep feeling the need to qualify that this is my adult debut).

Other news:

4. I’m going to be a full-time student/writer soon, or nearly so. I asked my work if I could go down to 2 days a week, but they couldn’t find anyone to job share with me. They may still keep me on for holiday/busy period cover. So, I’m taking the plunge and giving it a go! This will make things easier as:

5. I’ve started a Masters in Creative Writing at University of Aberdeen. I’m excited to learn some new skills, and the long-term aim is to perhaps get into teaching at the university level. I’m taking poetry and a class on the history of the novel’s form.

6. The third Micah Grey book has a title! I’ve been keeping it semi-under wraps as I’ve felt strangely superstitious about it. I’ve been calling it “Beloved Book” as evidently I like giving books “B” monikers. However, as of today I’ve finished the climax, which was the hardest part, and so now I’m comfortable sharing it. The third book in the Micah Grey series will be called….Masquerade!

7. Kickstarter research for Masquerade is continuing apace. I’m still not exactly sure when it’ll go live. I’m hoping late October/early November. It still feels like such a huge task, but I’m breaking it up into little chunks to tackle one at a time.

Fantasycon 2014

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I’ve succumbed to Instagram so now all my photos are squared and filtered.

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.

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At Cafe Concerto

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.

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Photocredit: Fran Terminiello

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.

Photocredit: Marie O'Regan
Photocredit: Marie O’Regan

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.

Literary London: Loncon3

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.

Corset!
Corset!

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.

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Reading. Photocred: Adam Christopher

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.

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Face painting! Photocred: El Ashfield
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Full effect. Photocred: Nazia
Best selfie ever: Ewa, Kim, Mahvesh, Me, Anne, Jared. Photocred: Mahvesh Murad
Best selfie ever: Ewa, Kim, Mahvesh, Me, Anne, Jared. Photocred: Mahvesh Murad

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.

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Den Patrick looking fetching wearing my elf ears.

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.

Laura and Laure hanging out in the green room. Photocred: Sam Eades.
Laura and Laure hanging out in the green room. Photocred: Sam Eades.

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!

hermitknut
My photo turned out really blurry so here’s a better one I borrowed from Bookpunks – check out their page to see other cosplay photos.

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! 🙂

Literary London: Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014

Last weekend was the 2nd annual Nine Worlds Geekfest at Heathrow in London. Last year I heard nothing but amazing things, so I was glad I was able to go this year with my friend Erica, who was visiting from California.

nineworlds2I arrived Friday morning, with just barely enough time to check into the hotel before my first event. Note to self: don’t do that again. It was a bit stressful as I didn’t get a chance to unwind so I was more nervous. My workshop was writing LGBTQ+ Characters in SFF. I think at least 50 people showed up in the end, which was fantastic. I had people do a brief character sketch at the beginning of the workshop and then went on to discuss the importance of well-rounded characters, what are common stereotypes and how to avoid them, the difficulty of queerbaiting in fandom, and a few other subjects. I tried to have a lot of interaction with the audience so it wasn’t just me yammering on the entire time, plus some people in the audience were able to answer certain questions far better than I could. At the end of the workshop, I had people share some of their character sketches if they wanted, and the ones shared were of many sexualities or gender identities.

Later on I attended to “Looking Forwards” panel with Lauren Beukes, Nick Harkaway, Sarah Lotz, and Fabio Fernandes. It was an excellent panel, discussing what the future holds and what that means for the fiction we read. Superheroes came up, and Lauren mentioned how there was a group of vigilantes in South Africa who would serve justice without concrete proof if they believed the person deserved it, which of course raises a lot of questions of what is justice. Nick Fabio mentioned his native Brazil, and Sarah mentioned being a recent victim of violence and how a surveillance state in certain respects doesn’t scare her–had she been watched by CCTV, perhaps that violence could have been avoided, for instance. Harkaway also mentioned that he’d rather everyone in the world was 1% nicer and more empathetic rather than having a superhero, as that could make a much bigger difference to the world.

Afterwards I had dinner with Team Mushens (authors represented by Juliet Mushens), as there were many of our posse in attendance. The con menu at the hotel restaurant was not the best, and we had the angriest waiter ever. Peter Newman was a brave man, asking for the tap water we ordered three times until we finally received it after about 45 minutes.

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New Voices Reading

Next, I had a reading on the first night of New Voices. Stephanie Saulter had a brilliant idea last year to get a large group of new writers together to do lots of short readings, as it’s difficult as a new writer to 1. fill a room when you’re an unknown 2. read for half an hour or so when you’re still new to this whole reading-in-public thing. So there were a bunch of writers reading for 5 or so minutes. I was planning on reading good old Pantomime, but Juliet told me I should read from my new book, and I listen to her, so I did. It was the first-ever reading of False Hearts and it seemed to go down well. I really enjoyed the other readings as well, especially the Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano, which was just released last Thursday.

Saturday, Erica and I meant to get an early start for some 10am panels…but that didn’t happen. Kim Curran and I went to the Brain Hacking tech demo through the Future Tech track, though, which was brilliant. Two PHd students were discussing the ways we currently map brains and how electrical stimulation can affect learning new tasks. I’ve studied this topic a fair amount for False Hearts so it was relevant to my interests. They also showed how you could make your own brain stimulator, but as soon as they put up the electrical diagrams, I knew it was far beyond my non-engineer capabilities. Maybe I can get someone from my work to help me make one…? 😉

One day I did lazy cosplay adding some ears to my usual outfit. Instant urban fantasy elf.
One day I did lazy cosplay, adding some ears to my usual outfit. Instant urban fantasy elf.

After a brief break for food, it was back to see “Where are the Women in the Creative Industries?” with Kim Curran, Juliet Mushens, Laurie Penny, Shalegh Rowan-Leg, and Dr Will Brooker. The panel looked at women within journalism, film, advertising, and publishing, discussing how strides are being made but there’s still a long way to go for total balance.

The next panel I attended was “Westerns: They’re Your Huckleberry,” which had Jared Shurin moderating Will Hill, Stark Holburn, John Horner Jacobs, and Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame). There was a lot of discussion about how at the moment Westerns have been amalgamated with many other genres, but perhaps there will be a resurgence of straight Westerns again soon.

That evening there was the second New Voices panel, which had plenty of Team Mushens again in attendance. After yet more Cards Against Humanity, Saturday came to a close.

Sunday the first panel we went to see was the African Speculative Fiction Panel. It was interesting, but the entire panel was white. It wasn’t meant to be–one of the panelists was in a car accident on the way in and he was okay, but it meant at the last minute a few more panelists came on. It still meant that there were no black African voices heard on the panel, which I found problematic.

I was meant to have a signing at 1 pm, but I got the times messed up and thought it was 2. So unfortunately I missed my own signing, but at least a few people found me later on and got me to scribble on their books. 🙂

Next, I went to see the Epic Fantasy panel with Scott Lynch, Gaie Sebold, Rebecca Levene, Elizabeth Bear, and moderated by Den Patrick. I particularly enjoyed their discussion of using and subverting tropes to reflect the world we live in today.

At 5 pm, I had my last event, which was participating on the panel for Female Protagonists in Young Adult Literature with Juliet Mushens, Anna Caltabiano, Tom Pollock, and moderated by Rowan Williams-Fletcher. We discussed what do people really mean by “strong” female characters, does strength necessarily have to be physical, or does it mean women taking on more traditionally male characteristics, for instance. It was a great discussion.

champagne1By that time, I was definitely flagging, but I had a nice, lower-key evening. I had dinner with my agent, Juliet, and we toasted my recent deal, and then we played Cards Against Humanity until it was time to sleep and finish the first con.

As so many people have said, Nine Worlds is a particularly special con. It stands out from the rest – it’s overall a younger crowd, it mixes ALL sorts of geekery tracks, cosplay is encouraged. I loved that I could go see things on the future track or crafting panels as well as books and literature. The con itself is very respectful of everyone and it’s a safe space – there were gender neutral bathrooms, quiet rooms if you needed a place to unwind for a bit, and a firm harassment policy was in place. It was my first year going but I think I’m going to make it a priority con for me.

Next post…the events between the two conventions!