In the build up to the ebook re-release of Pantomime & Shadowplay on December 3rd (they are available for pre-order), I am reposting some of the articles I wrote in 2012/2013 for the initial blog tours.
Content note: genital surgery.
Before writing Pantomime &Shadowplay, I was interested in gender, but now I’m passionate about it. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I was always surrounded by different sexualities, races, abilities, and gender presentation. But for all of that, when I decided to write about a character who fell between genders, I knew I needed to learn more. I am always consciously aware that, as a cis-gendered woman, I am very much an outsider looking in, and my goal is to tread carefully and with respect. I’m not sure I always succeed, but I do always try.
I read a few books on gender theory, and then started researching intersex especially. What I found made me cry. I had no idea that babies a few days old were operated upon to make their genitals look “more normal,” even though that can take away a lot of sensation and, of course, the doctors half a 50/50 chance of choosing the sex that the child’s gender identity won’t identify with. I didn’t realise that a lot of the time, those surgeries can later have complications, resulting in many other surgeries.
In the build up to the ebook re-release of Pantomime & Shadowplay next month, I thought I would repost some of the articles I wrote for the initial blog tours onto this site. This is a piece about winter holidays in Ellada that originally appeared on Starmetal Oak’s blog in late 2012, which closed down not long after.
The holidays are upon us. In the country of Ellada in the world of the Archipelago, the pseudo-Victorian world where my debut Pantomime is set, the winter holidays are both similar yet different to ours. Pantomime is set in spring and summer, so these holidays don’t appear until Pantomime’s sequel, Shadowplay.
There are two main autumn and winter holidays. The night before the longest night of the year is called The Night of the Dead. It’s slightly similar to our Halloween in that many feel the barrier between the living and the dead grows thinner. Many people hold dinner parties with séances for entertainment. Others who are more superstitious will stay inside, windows shut tight, so that the dead cannot come to haunt them.
The longest night of the year is known as the Lady’s Long Night or the Long Night of the Lady. Elladans and most others in the Archipelago worship two deities—the Lord of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon. The longest day of the year is, coincidentally, the Day of the Lord, but it’s not as largely celebrated, at least not among the common people. Micah Grey doesn’t celebrate it in the circus, for instance. After all, they already spend most of their waking hours in daylight.
But the Lady’s Long Night is a lavish affair, when people celebrate that the worst of the winter and darkness is over. A huge procession twines through downtown Imachara, the capital of Ellada, with floats topped with people dressed as the Chimaera out of myth dressed all in white. Many go to the cathedrals to listen to choirs and pray to the Lady of the Moon. Gifts are exchanged. It’s a time of hope and cheer to remind them of the good in life, just after they were reminded of the sinister in the Night of the Dead.
Micah Grey has had an interesting journey over the past few years. I first dreamt up Micah in 2007 and started a book with the character 10 years older in 2008. At the end of 2009, I was having trouble with it, so I decided to write a “short story” of Micah as a teen joining the circus. That expanded into novella length and then I finally admitted it was a novel. I submitted an early draft of it in March 2011 to Angry Robot’s Open Door month. In November of that year, I had a revision request because it definitely needed work, and I gutted and rearranged it and it found a publisher in Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s new YA imprint. PANTOMIME was released in February 2013, and the sequel, SHADOWPLAY, in 2014. Sadly, in June 2014, Strange Chemistry closed. I wasn’t sure initially what the next step for Micah was going to be. I knew I wanted to finish the story with the third volume, MASQUERADE. I set it aside for a bit and I wrote and sold FALSE HEARTS to Tor, which made my dreams come true. Self-publishing seemed the most likely option for the 3rd Micah book, so I researched it and even made a whole draft of a Kickstarter. I self-published the Vestigial Tales last summer to learn about the process. I knew I’d be able to do it, but the idea of publishing on my own was also anxiety-inducing.
Then I discovered self-publishing wasn’t my only option. When I received the rights back for the first two books, my agent pitched my existing publisher. To my absolute delight, Tor UK has bought all three books of the Micah Grey series!
When my agent told me the news, I cried really ugly tears. I sobbed, I hiccoughed. I was a total, happy mess. MASQUERADE (and Micah’s) fate has been up in the air since April 2013. It’s a long time not to be sure of things, and I love this series so much. I’m so glad I’m able to share it with you and that my books starring an intersex protagonist will have the support of a mainstream publisher.
At the moment, this is a UK-only deal, but hopefully other publishers will follow. 🙂
It’s still a bit of a wait for MASQUERADE (a little over a year) but PANTOMIME & SHADOWPLAY will be back up soon.
Thank you to my agent, Juliet Mushens, for selling this series twice now! Thank you to everyone at Tor for supporting my fantasy as well as my sci fi. And, finally, thank you to my readers: I really appreciate your patience and enthusiasm for the series. You kept word of mouth alive. You helped give it this second chance. Thank you, everyone who read my books and told others about them, whether on social media, by leaving reviews, or just physically shoving the book into someone else’s hands. You’re all awesome.
PAN MACMILLAN BUYS DARK CIRCUS SERIES BY LAURA LAM
Pan Macmillan is very happy to announce that it has acquired world rights in PANTOMIME, SHADOWPLAY and MASQUERADE by Laura Lam, from Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group.
These enthralling books are set within a circus in a world somewhat like our own – but where wonders and magic really exist. A young runaway seeks escape from a life of injustice and secrets, and the circus promises freedom. There, Micah will become who she was meant to be, yet the future also holds conflict and dangerous mysteries.
PANTOMIME and SHADOWPLAY were originally published by Osprey Publishing’s Strange Chemistry, before the imprint closed its doors in 2014. But MASQUERADE, the final book in the Micah Grey trilogy, will be published by Pan Macmillan for the first time. Unlike Lam’s upcoming near-future thriller FALSE HEARTS, this series is written for young adults and adults alike.
Laura Lam said: ‘When I found out that the Micah Grey series would be re-released and completed by Pan Macmillan, I was so relieved and absolutely ecstatic. It’s been an interesting journey for Micah, and I’m extremely honoured and grateful to have the support of everyone at Macmillan for both my fantasy and my near-future thrillers.’
Senior Commissioning editor Bella Pagan commented: ‘I absolutely adored Laura’s False Hearts and am so delighted we’ll also be publishing her captivating first series too. These books also show off Laura’s huge talent and I just can’t wait for a new army of readers to discover this for themselves.’
Pan Macmillan plans to release PANTOMIME AND SHADOWPLAY in ebook this autumn. Physical reissues will follow from summer 2016, ending with MASQUERADE, the new book.
ABOUT PAN MACMILLAN Pan Macmillan UK is one of the largest general book publishers in the UK, with imprints including Macmillan, Mantle, Pan, Picador, Boxtree, Sidgwick & Jackson, Bello, Tor, Macmillan Children’s Books, Campbell Books, Macmillan New Writing and Macmillan Digital Audio. Pan Macmillan is part of the Macmillan Publishing Group which operates in over 70 countries. www.panmacmillan.com
As of today, the rights to Pantomime & Shadowplay have reverted to me. They’re no longer offered in e-book. It does look like there’s a few print copies still on Amazon and a few other retailers. My guess is that they’ll sell out this stock and that’s it. So you could still grab them in print over the next few days.
When will they be back up again? I’m sorry, but I don’t know just yet, but hopefully it won’t be too long. I’ll let you guys know as soon as I can.
Thank you again to all the readers who have enjoyed the series and told others about it. Word of mouth was all the series had to go on, and kept it ticking along and finding new readers.
It feels a little strange to technically be unpublished again; I’ve no books available for sale. But this is a transitional phase. These will be back up at some point, along with the third book, Masquerade. And there’s False Hearts to come in January 2016 (now only 1 year away!), which I’m very excited to share with you.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the world of Ellada, the four Vestigial Tales are still up, and they’re all off Amazon exclusivity. The novellas star secondary characters in the series and the last is a short fable.
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.
Last week was my first proper week off in…a long time. Except it wasn’t really a week off–I went to the Isle of Arran with Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne for a writing retreat. But it was the first week in so long where I wasn’t going to the day job, or going to a convention, or going to class or doing homework, or on holiday somewhere where you explore all day. I sat on my butt, didn’t move off of it much, and was a proper full time writer for one whole glorious week.
It did have a bit of drama: the day after we arrived the weather worsened, to the point where we were technically trapped on the island for two days as the ferries weren’t running. Due to the microclimates on the island, it’d be sunny one minute and furiously hailing the next. Wednesday night, lightning flashed and thunder shook the Retreat Cottage of Wonder (and Whisky). Because it was cold and we had the heating up high, a few wasps came out of hibernation. Only queen wasps hibernate. They were the size of small birds (slight exaggeration) and we had to vanquish them with a hoover.
Aside from that, it was a lot of writing and eating a lot of cheese.
What I did:
– Finished re-reading Pantomime (to refresh myself for Masquerade‘s edits. And whoo man, it was really weird reading a book I wrote in 2010-2012. In general I still like it, but there’s also plenty I’d change, and I can tell my writing’s grown and matured)
– Re-read Shadowplay (because this was written in 2012-2013, it wasn’t as painful to read)
– Edit Masquerade into a readable draft, as that first draft was most definitely not. This was what took most of the week. It’s now out with the first round of betas.
– Edit my short story, “The Lioness,” which will be released in the Cranky Ladies of History anthology from Fablecroft Press next year. It’s about a badass lady pirate who killed a lot of people (Jeanne de Clisson).
– Read 1 book for the Bisexual Book Award I’m helping judge (in the general fiction category).
– Finish my research book on corporate espionage for Brainfreeze Book (my option book for Tor).
– I also managed some fun reading: most of The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig and some of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
The morning we left, the rain cleared up a little, and a perfect, marvelous double rainbow bid us farewell.
This week I’ve been thrown back into day job stress, but as of next week that calms down and then there’s the Christmas break. I’ll either actually take the break off work entirely, or I’ll start drafting Brainfreeze Book again (which I’m currently 40k through).
It was a marvelous week, and I think I’m going to have to find a way to go on more writing retreats.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages, but over the last few months I’ve done some school visits around Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen City Council / Central Library were awarded funding for visits as part of their event #WriteCity. I visited:
– Tilly Youth Centre for their LGBT youth group
– Northfield Library for an open to the public event
– Kincorth Academy
– Harlaw Academy
– St. Machar Academy (this one was part of the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature project rather than #WriteCity)
– California State University East Bay (this was a Skype visit for my mom’s class, who’s a lecturer there. She’s been teaching Pantomime in a composition class that focuses on the theme of gender and identity for the last two quarters.)
I spoke to all the groups about my writing, both the books themselves and my publishing journey. Some of them were more discussion groups, some with a heavy emphasis on Q&A, and for others I led writing workshops and had them do some exercises. As a warm up, I made them write a 6 word story, made famous by Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”). Another exercise I did that worked quite well was bringing in three or so objects and asking them to write something about them. Some of the things I brought: a crystal ball, a key, a small elephant figurine, a paper pantomime stage (technically the card Kim Curran gave me for Pantomime’s publication!), a spanner. It would be really interesting to see what was most popular (crystal ball and key) and what wasn’t particularly (the spanner). And also, even though say 10 people would write about the crystal ball, all the stories would be different. The people attending the events were anywhere from around 14 at the youngest, up to retired people at the public event.
Sometimes the group would share their results, and sometimes they wouldn’t. I never force them to read aloud as I know that could be detrimental to their writing confidence. Sharing your work with others is hard at the best of times, especially when it’s a first draft you’ve been asked to craft on the spot.
I am so glad Aberdeen City Council Libraries approached me, and that I’ve been approved for a few visits via the Scottish Book Trust. I have one school visit lined up next year, but now that I’m not working as much, I have time for more. If you know any teachers or librarians in Scotland interested in bringing in an author for a school visit, take a look at the Live Literature database. And, if you’d like me to come, here’s my page. The Scottish Book Trust pays half of the school fees and the travel, which makes it a lot easier for budget-strapped schools to bring in speakers. I’m hoping the students and people I spoke to enjoyed the events, as I sure did.