Patron of Reading


I’m now available to become a Patron of Reading.

My short bio (which is also on the Patrons Available page): Laura Lam is a writer of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults with Tor/Macmillan. She’s the author of the award-winning Micah Grey series (Pantomime, Shadowplay & Masquerade) for teens and upcoming thrillers False Hearts & Shattered Minds for adults. She’s very interested writing diversity and making sure everyone can see themselves reflected in fiction. She’s available to be a patron for Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, or Edinburgh based schools.

Patrons of Readings are writers who partner with a chosen school for at least one year. Essentially, I would work with a school to foster a love of reading for pleasure, as a sort of antidote to the constant pressure of tests within schools. I’d do occasional visits (most of which are paid), and also coordinate a few other activities (which are volunteer based), such as writing newsletters, making book quizzes, etc. More information can be found on the Patron of Reading website.

So, if you work for a school local to me or know someone who does, please consider getting in touch, either with me directly or via the Patron of Reading website.  If you’re not looking for a Patron of Reading but would still like to invite me for a visit, please see my Visits & Events page for more details.

Monthly Roundup: September 2015

Books Read:

    1. private-life-stately-homesPrivate Life in Britain’s Stately Homes: Masters and Servants in the Golden Age – Michael Paterson

The Victorian and Edwardian eras in the run-up to 1914 marked the golden age of the English country house, when opulence and formality attained a level that would never be matched again. The ease of these perfect settings for flirtation and relaxation was maintained by a large and well-trained staff of servants. Although those ‘in service’ worked very long hours and had little personal freedom, many were proud of their positions and grateful for the relative security these gave. Indeed, the strictly hierarchical world below stairs could be more snobbish than that of a house’s owners. Michael Paterson skilfully and entertainingly explores the myths and realities of this vanished world, both upstairs and down.

2. Lost Highlander – Cassidy Cayman

Grad student and cocktail waitress Evelyn Merkholtz has plenty to deal with. Too much to deal with. So, when her runaway best friend calls with a mysterious and urgent request to join her in Scotland, she is secretly more than happy to drop everything and oblige.

She’s faced with an ancient curse, an adorably hunky villager, and a super hot (but possibly murderous), Highland warrior from the 18th century – and realizes that getting burned at the stake is a really bad way to get out of writing her thesis.

3. Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson

After the Internet, what came next? Enter the Metaverse – cyberspace home to avatars and software daemons, where anything and just about everything goes. Newly available on the Street – the Metaverse’s main drag – is Snow Crash, a cyberdrug. Trouble is Snow Crash is also a computer virus – and something more. Because once taken it infects the person behind the avatar. Snow Crash bleeds into reality. Which is really bad news for Hiro – freelance hacker and the Metaverse’s best swordfighter (he wrote the code) – and Y.T. – skateboard kourier, street imp and mouthy teenage girl – because reality was shitty enough before someone started messing with it …Exploring linguistics, religion, computer science, politics, philosophy, cryptography and the future of pizza delivery, “Snow Crash” is a riveting, brake-neck adventure into the fast-approaching future.

4. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) – Leigh Bardugo (re-read)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

5. Seige and Storm (The Grisha #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

6. Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Chosorcerer-to-crown

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

7. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

I’ve also read about half of a manuscript for a friend and some of a screenplay.

Total: 53


The month started with me finishing up False Hearts copyedits. Then I had to take a few days off because I had LASIK surgery at the beginning of the month! It took me about 5 days to get back to full productivity. At the end of August, the draft of Shattered Minds stood at around 60k. This month my goal was to write at least 20k, and I beat that. The draft at the end of the month was just shy of 85,000 words, and now I’m nearly done (so close. So cloooose). I’m hoping to finish by mid-October at the latest, so I can let it breathe while I do False Hearts page proofs, then go back to edit it so it’s in decent enough shape for beta readers. I’m aiming to have an editor-worthy draft in December or January.

I did a tiny bit of planning of Betwixt Book, but not much. I also started a fun side project in the last week, but won’t say too much about it. This month also saw 2 writing workshops out of 4 at the local Central Library. I’m working with a group of 7 young adults, and I’m enjoying having the chance to develop linked lesson plans.

This month had a lot of admin as well–I emailed all the local Aberdeen schools, introducing myself and gently urging public schools to apply for Scottish Book Trust Live Literature funding, with the hope of additional workshop bookings in the new year. Several private schools have gotten in touch about visits earlier than that. I developed a brochure and flyer to send them. I also did 3 months of tax expenses, which is always so fun.


I spent a weekend in Edinburgh to see Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne. We were actually decently productive and did a mini writing retreat in Elizabeth’s flat.

Goals for next month:

Finish Shattered Minds! Proof False Hearts. Keep playing around with Shiny Project. Finally figure out what property law for castles in the Highlands in 1910 was so I can finish planning Betwixt Book. Do more yoga.

The Micah Grey Series Cover Reveal! Pantomime, Shadowplay & Masquerade

Good afternoon and happy Friday!

I’m pleased to unveil ALL THREE covers for the Micah Grey series. The full cover reveal on Tor UK’s site is right here.

Pantomime & Shadowplay have previously had some very, very gorgeous Tom Bagshaw covers from when they were published by Strange Chemistry. New publisher means new covers. While I’m sad to say goodbye to the older covers, I really adore these new ones designed by Neil Lang as well. Here they are!




I love the two trapeze artists reaching for each other over the circus tent in Pantomime. Shadowplay‘s cover is like the back of a playing card, with occult details, tying nicely into the seances of that book. And Masquerade gets its first cover! Obviously, you might have guessed there’s a masquerade somewhere in that book, and so the mask fits perfectly. I like the fire colour palette of yellow, red, and orange against the dark background. They look very smart, and also tie in some design elements to the UK cover of False Hearts, which should be going live soonish as well.

I can also share the ebook release date for Pantomime & Shadowplay–December 3rd! It’ll be so great to have them available for people to read again in the UK. Hard copy will follow later. Still a bit of a wait until 2017 for Masquerade, but it’ll be here before you know it. I don’t have pre-order links yet, but when I do I’ll update the book pages on my website.

Thanks to everyone who’s said nice things about them–I’m very pleased!

Trans Women Don’t “Owe” Allyship

Alice Domurat Dreger has been one of my favourite non-fiction authors for years. I credit her books on intersex people and conjoined twins as big influences on my work (my Micah Grey series has an intersex protagonist and False Hearts stars formerly conjoined twins) and she always came across as sympathetic to me in her work about people with atypical anatomies. When I saw this post she wrote on “How to be an Ally to Cis-Women,” my heart dropped.

I’m cis (she/her pronouns). I don’t feel trans women “owe” me any sort of allyship. In this article, Dreger is not speaking for me. I don’t need trans women to do these points for me. I’m going to respond to each of her points from the view of a cis woman. I have also reached out and have included quotes from Snow, a trans woman, and Sarah, who is genderfluid. My thanks to them and the other people who read this post.

  1. Don’t make us refer to ourselves as “cis-gendered” if it is irrelevant to what we are talking about. In other words, don’t require us to always label ourselves in opposition to your identity.*

Laura: No one makes people refer to themselves as cis-gendered, do they? It’s an easy way to differentiate from being trans. Some women seem to bristle at it and see cis as some sort of insult when it’s not. It’s a shorthand. It’s like saying straight woman and lesbian woman. It’s a descriptor, not opposition.

Snow: I’ve never made anyone refer to themselves as cis. I’ll ask what pronouns someone prefers, but that’s it. For me, I am a woman first, trans second. It’s how I’d actually prefer it to be listed. It seems less ‘othering’ that way, to me at least.

  1. Allow us to talk about our vaginas, vulvas, clitorises, breasts, periods, menstrual blood, birth experiences, hysterectomies, etc. without claiming that we are oppressing you because you weren’t born with the bodies we were. Allow us, without harassment, to write and perform plays, make jokes, sing songs, and work for clinics that are about women like us.

Laura: This is a hard point to respond to. Not many people do this, at least in my experience. I’ve never had a trans woman try to stop me from discussing my own body. I would think that they don’t want their experiences and their bodies to be discounted, ignored, or excluded. I wouldn’t call that harassment. Example: say I make a post talking about women and periods. If someone says to me: “hey, when you mention periods, just remember that not only women get periods. Trans men who haven’t had hysterectomies or aren’t on T can have periods too, but they’re not women.” then I remember that and try to keep it in mind. It’s not difficult for me to do so. There can be an emphasis of womanhood as being defined by motherhood. There was a transphobic piece about Caitlyn Jenner that popped up in my Facebook feed a few times. The entire article said she could never truly be a woman because she hadn’t experienced periods or physically given birth. That I take issue with; there’s more to being a woman than just giving birth and having periods. There are so many ways to be a woman and being trans is one of them.

Snow: Talk about your body all you want. It’s not oppressing me. In fact, I can probably empathise with some of the things you go through. One of my co-workers was talking about how she hated her period, and said I was lucky I didn’t have to suffer through having one. I started laughing, and told her that although I didn’t get the messy part, I still got the bad skin/acne breakouts, junk food cravings, and foul mood that seem to go hand-in-hand with having your period.

Sarah: Literally the only way this is an attack is if you think that asking to be part of a discussion is taking away your own voice. Which is gross, when you’re the louder party. It’s only an attack if you believe there’s only room for your story. Wanting to be a part of a narrative when you’ve fought – in varying ways and degrees – for the space to do that, as a transwoman (um, I’m obviously extrapolating here, but I think I’m safe to apply it) is natural. And yeah, sometimes other groups adding their ‘but this is my experience’ testimonies to a discussion feels like coopting, but transwomen are women, end of, and their experience is just as valid as any cis experience. And telling a less-heard person/ group to shut up is privileged grossness.

  1. Don’t keep telling us how we are failing specifically to work to further your rights when we are working on advancing the rights of some other group, including our own. We don’t want to oppress you, but we’re also not always working on your issues.

Laura: Feminism should be intersectional. It should not be exclusionary. To be a feminist, you should support all women, trans or cis, from all races, from all educational backgrounds, all abilities. It’s very telling that the phrasing in this has “including our own,” or “we’re not always working on your issues.” It’s distancing and divisive. In the first point it says “don’t require us to label ourselves in opposition” and yet that’s exactly what this point does (Snow & Sarah agree here).

  1. Don’t get upset with straight, bi, and lesbian cis-women who tell stories of having been gender nonconforming as children, and don’t suggest when we tell these stories that we would have turned out transgender if only society had been more accommodating.

Laura: I haven’t come across this before, so I won’t touch on it too much. But it happens the other way, too. People explain away “tomboys,” even if it is trans men early identifying. Or they’re told “you’ll grow out of it” or “it’s just a phase.” It’s a familiar refrain. Sometimes people do, and sometimes they don’t because they are trans. In my opinion, if society were more accommodating, then clothes won’t be as gendered, and people can express how they feel the most comfortable whether they are trans or cis (or nonbinary!). (Snow hasn’t encountered this)

Sarah (in response to the statement about being told they may grow out of being a tomboy etc): Yuuup. All. The. Time. I haven’t seen much of this happening the way that it’s used above (except in very specific conversations) but I’ve definitely experienced the inverse. Also been told that I must be a girl because I do X, or must be a lesbian because of Y. There are so many reasons that people do or don’t conform, and again, one experience doesn’t negate the other.

  1. If you hit on us and we’re not interested, don’t tell us we are transphobic. Who a person is or is not attracted to is generally not under her control. Also know that the absence of attraction may have nothing to do with your bodily history or body type.

Laura: If a trans man or woman hit on me, and I wasn’t feeling it, it wouldn’t be because they were trans but just because I wasn’t attracted to them. If I smile and say “I’m flattered but no thank you,” then I can’t really see them turning around and going “you transphobic hussy!” And even if they do, there are many reasons they may respond that way. It’s not always about me. (Snow and Sarah agree here).

  1. If you start a romantic/sexual relationship with one of us, with you identifying as straight men, and then you come out as lesbian women, don’t tell us that if we leave the relationships, we are transphobic. A cis-gendered woman’s self-identity as a straight woman deserves as much respect as anyone’s self-identity.

Laura: Again, this is a tricky thing that a lot of the time comes down to the individuals. Many relationships do survive transition, some change to become less sexual but still very close (as described in the memoir She’s Not There), or sometimes the relationship ends. Sometimes, it’s transphobic, sometimes it’s not (the relationship might already have been on the outs). It’s a large and complicated issue.

Snow: Was technically in this situation. Started to medically transition a few months after we got together. My partner stayed with me for nearly two years. She was there for me through all of the rough parts of my transition. There were many reasons why it ended, and none of them were transphobic. In fact, she is in a happy relationship with a trans guy now. Each case has to be treated individually. No two couples are ever alike.

  1. If you want advice on make-up, nail polish, or any other typically feminine-identified accoutrement, pick a woman who is into the same stuff as you. Don’t ask those of us who aren’t into those things to get into them.

Laura: I can’t really imagine a trans woman going up to someone who’s not into “feminine” things and going “let’s go get a mani-pedi!” I mean, is this a thing? And honestly, if I had a close friend who was transitioning and wanting to try out these things, even if I wasn’t into it, I’d probably give it a whirl to support them, and I think seeing their joy in discovering who they are would be worth a bit of nail polish or makeup I could wipe off later.

Snow: Why would we ask our friends who we know aren’t into makeup for help? We jump on social media and make a post about needing help with makeup, and get help from those who answer.

Sarah (on my point that I’d go to a salon to support a trans friend): It’s probably the only reason I would ever ever enter a salon for those things, but I totally would.

  1. Don’t tell us you know what it is like to be subject to a lifetime of sexism because you may be experiencing sexism since your transition. While we appreciate you testifying to the reality of sexism, we also feel like we should be believed when we talk about it without you having to add your testimony.

Laura: I think it must be hard for trans women to suddenly confront sexism when they hadn’t had it before in the same way (though they wouldn’t have been oblivious to misogyny then, either–sexism is pervasive). Women should be believed, including trans women. In many arguments, I think it would add validity to discussions of the harmful aspects of the patriarchy for a trans woman to say “I did this thing before my transition, then I did the exact same thing after and had a very different result thanks to sexism.” Women should be believed when they talk about sexism, and they should also be believed when they talk about transphobia and transmisogyny (Sarah agrees).

Snow: You make a very good point here, about the whole “I did this thing before my transition, then I did the exact same thing after and had a very different result thanks to sexism.” I may use that in the future.

  1. If we express confusion when you say “I have always felt female” because we haven’t“always felt female,” understand we may have different concepts of what it means to “feel female,” or we may just have had very different experiences.

Laura: Of the list, this is not terribly controversial to me. Some women haven’t always felt female. Some have, including trans people. Everyone has different experiences. It’s also not a trans woman’s duty to educate cis people about what it’s like for them to be trans; if they’re telling you, it’s because they want you to understand.

Snow: The last time someone asked if I had always felt like I was female, I told them no, that I had always been female. This seemed to answer their question, because they didn’t ask me to clarify anything. I think most of the ‘I have always felt female’ stems from what we have to tell Dr’s in order to get access to HRT and the like. I know in my city, when we find out someone is going to a certain Dr for the first time, we coach them on what to say, so they don’t encounter any issues, or get told no. So when people ask, we trot out the same lines, so they don’t ask awkward questions, or judge us as not being trans enough if we said that we felt like we were female when we were 25, as opposed to 5.

Sarah: I think it’s maybe less controversial/less of an issue (because obviously everyone experiences gender differently, and the original comment is simply asking for understanding of that rather than anything…more excluding/gross). But that ‘I have always felt female’ (or not) is often used as a key determining factor in a person’s transition or in having their ID otherwise recognised, and in working it out on a personal level. Which makes it feel really important/ like something you have to defend.

I’ve had to stop myself defending random parts of myself a lot lately, and I think it’s because there’s this animal-brain part of me that fiercely wants to assert the newly-public parts of my identity now that they have a name. It’s weird. And I imagine it’s a whole lot stronger for some people.

  1. Stop labeling as “TERF”s (“trans-exclusionary radical feminists”) every cis-woman who asks for these kinds of things.

Laura: Well, if people are consistently doing TERFy things, they might be called a TERF. Perhaps, instead of telling trans women not to call them TERFs, cis women could examine what they’re doing and see if there are ways to be more welcoming.

Snow: If you are going to do dumb things, I’ll call you and idiot, and tell you why you shouldn’t do them, so you know not to do them. If you are going to do TERFy things, I’ll call you a TERF, so you (hopefully) realise, and stop doing them.

Sarah: Also, maybe instead of being on the offensive all the time, cis folks should stop and think about how transfolks are treated a lot of the time and like, create the (safe, open) space for them to be part of conversations, and maybe some of the having-to-assert-ourselves stuff would lessen… why do transwomen have to understand the cis perspective here, but it isn’t extended the other way in return?

All in all, this is a lot of “do nots.” Altogether it reads like the only way to be a “cis ally” as a trans woman is to shut up and sit down. Another cis reader I sent this to said, “What really bothered me personally about the list was that it felt like a ‘how not to be an asshole’ list but directed solely at trans people, which in turn felt like the assumption was that *trans people are assholes.* The framing is insulting.”

As a cis woman, I have a lot more privilege than trans people. My chances of getting beaten or murdered are lower. As a cis woman I have a high risk of being sexually assaulted or raped, but it’s still higher for trans people. I’m at a lower risk of suicide. Let’s say this together: cis women are not oppressed by trans women.

Once more for the people in the back: cis women are not oppressed by trans women.

So no, trans women don’t owe me allyship. I owe them allyship far more, and will keep doing my best to support them and listen to what they are telling me.

Another good article:

Let’s Stop Exercising our Gender Anxieties on the Backs of Trans People by Stephanie Zvan (this specifically makes good responses to some of the issues raised in the original points. A particularly good quote: ‘“People are being silenced!” Yes, trans activists are silencing cis people just like black activists are silencing white people just like feminists are silencing men’).

Books Read in August + Monthly Roundup

Books Read in August:

  1. poppetPoppet (Jack Cafferey #6) – Mo Hayder. I was partly through this before I realised I’ve skipped 3 volumes of this, whoops. But these are written as mostly standalones anyway, so I was able to enjoy Hayder’s horror blended detective thriller easily. The Devil of Nanking is still my favourite book by her and you should definitely read that. It’s one of the books I think about the most.
  2. Grimspace (Sirantha Jax #1) – Ann Aguirre. I’ve been meaning to read Ann for ages and this was such a fun book. A little bit like Firefly in that there’s a group of ragtag people on a spaceship up to somewhat illegal stuff. Really fun and also touches on some deep themes like grief and loss.
  3. Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2) – Robin Hobb. Impossible to talk coherently about this book. Hobb’s my favourite author and this book was a whirlwind and arrrgh, the ending! If you haven’t read her yet, get Assassin’s Apprentice and thank me later.
  4. Fools-QuestLuckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll. Another one of the thrillers with potentially unlikeable female protagonists/characters, like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train (though I’m increasingly annoyed by the title trend–these are not girls, they are fully grown women–stop infantilizing them!). The protagonist of this book is like the really awful undercurrent of your thoughts you try to suppress, yet by the end of the book, you root for her. I ended up mentioning this book in my dissertation
  5. Love Beyond Time (Morna’s Legacy #1) – Bethany Claire. I decided to read some time travel romances as a bit of inspiration for a book idea percolating in the background. This was free on Kindle for Prime users so I gave it a go. Was entertaining, but the characters felt thin to me, and the Scottish accents not quite right.

I also beta read most of a manuscript.

Total books: 46 or so.

Monthly Roundup:

I decided I’d start doing a little monthly round up of what I’ve been up to work-wise and life-wise.

August was a busy month. My friend Erica was still out visiting from California. We went to Glamis Castle and Kirriemuir, birthplace of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, with my husband’s parents, brother, and twin nephews, which was a great day out (and more research for that same book idea). I had my birthday on the 4th and had a nice celebration with Lorna and Hannah. Then it was some down to Nine Worlds to participate on panels and have fun (see round up post). I also ended up going to Edinburgh for a weekend a few weeks later. Shouldn’t be too much travel over the next few months, so my productivity should bump up.

Over the month, my main writing project was Shattered Minds, the next book I have under contract after False Hearts. In June/July I hand wrote a lot of the book to force me to move forward with the story, and so this month was typing it up, aka rewriting most of it and significantly expanding it. By the end of the month, the book’s draft was up to 60k, so it’s a decent chunk. I also had to edit the first 10k and make sure it was super smooth, as I submitted it as my dissertation for my MLitt in Creative Writing, along with a 3,500 word essay on my process of writing it.

Last month, I proofed Pantomime to make some small text-level changes before the re-release, and this month I did the same for Shadowplay. Though re-reading them yet again was a challenge (I have read them over a dozen times at least), it was good to notice a few things to integrate into the Masquerade edit, when I get to that.  I did some research and planning for the book I hope to write after Shattered Minds, though there’s no rush so I’m taking my time. I’ll give it the code name Betwixt Book. Near the end of the month, False Hearts copyedits landed, and I did a good chunk of that. In addition, I applied for a few part-time jobs in the arts for some stability, which always takes awhile, and also worked on an information pamphlet to send to local schools and community centres in the hopes of receiving more visit bookings (obligatory link to my Visits & Events page).

Plans for next month: make more headway in Shattered Minds, hopefully reaching at least 80k in the draft, send out information pamphlets, finish copyedits, do more Betwixt Book planning, and read more screenplays. I’m not sure when Masquerade edits or page proofs for False Hearts are landing, either, so if either of those come on my desk, I’ll shift gears.

Save the Children and the Refugees



Yesterday Patrick Ness started a charity page for Save the Children, pledging to match £10k of donations. Long story short, they smashed that goal, then other authors stepped in to match more: John Green, Derek Landy, Jojo Moyes, Hank Green, Rainbow Rowell, Brendan Reichs, Ally Carter, Margaret Stohl, Jenny Han, Shannon Hale, Siobhan Vivian, Richelle Mead, Gayle Forman, Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, Melissa de la Cruz, Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, Lauren DeStefano, Pseudonymous Bosch, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Lauren Oliver, Jacqueline Woodson, Alexandra Bracken, IW Gregorio, Stacey Lee, Maureen Johnson, and I’m sure there’s lots more as well–I nabbed these names from the page.

At the moment of this writing they’ve raised almost £200k. In a day they raised the price of a 2 bedroom house in Aberdeen! Think how much good that could do for the Syrian refugee crisis in particular–tents and other shelter, food, warm clothing, legal fees–so much.

I’ve given some and I hope you consider doing the same!

Other things you can do:

See if your local town or city has a drop off point for supplies–you can donate canned goods, warm clothing, camping gear, etc.

There was an Amazon wishlist but it’s frozen for the moment because they received enough donations for the time being and have to process before asking for more! But you can still donate here.

Lots of existing charities will also be helping, such as Amnesty International, Shelter, and more. This Telegraph article has a good roundup of all you can do, including petitioning your government to do more to help.

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

Geekdom and fandom and cosplay, oh my!

This year was my second time heading down to Heathrow in London for Nine Worlds Geekfest. Last year it was my favourite con, and though this is likely my only con this year, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I flew down with my friend, Erica, and it was the tail end of her trip to Europe this summer. I saw another girl I know from Aberdeen after we landed, Siân, and it was her first Nine Worlds. We settled into the hotel, and then Erica and I met up with some authors to take a taxi to Goldsboro Books for Fantasy in the Court. My eternal gratitude for Stephen Aryan for having the foresight to arrange transport to avoid the worst of the tube strike traffic.

Despite the strike, the bookstore was packed with authors, publishing folks, and readers. I caught up with lots of people and ended up meeting Diana Sousa, who I know from Twitter, in person for the first time. A bunch of us went to Byron Burger after the event before we clambered back in the taxi to head back to Heathrow. Thanks to Goldsboro Books and Hodderscape for arranging the event!

Cuz females are strong as hell. I had blinkers on my shoes, and fuzzy cats on my socks. My shirt wasn’t quite right, but eh, it was £1.50 at a charity shop. It’ll do.

For Friday, I did a lazy cosplay of Kimmy Schmidt. I’m a fan of low effort, stealth cosplays. It means I still feel comfortable wearing clothes similar to my everyday wear, but I feel like I’m joining in the cosplay community. In the morning, I hung around mostly, and I had my first panel, “Beyond the Binary,” at 1.30, which was part of the LGBTQAI+ and YA tracks. Marieke Nijkamp was an excellent moderator, and I enjoyed chatting gender and sexuality in YA with Tom Pollock, Sarah Benwell, Lauren E James, and James Dawson. Afterwards I wanted to go to other panels, but ended up in the bar, per usual. One of the chats, with Julie Crisp and Lucy Hounsom, proved to be good prep for my evening panel, as we talked about our favourite books we read in our youth. At 5, I moderated the “Childhood Influences” panel, and grilled Kim Curran, Taran Matharu, Alex Lamb, Ed Cox, and Frances Hardinge about their favourite books they read as children.

My top tip for moderating: Come up with far more questions than you need. I had 11, but I think I only asked about 7 in the end. I was able to then ask a more natural follow on question, or find ways to combine two. It meant I had some in reserve in case audience questions ended early. It seemed to go well, mostly because I had clever and lovely panellists.

Friday evening I had a meal with the other Team Mushens authors and Ms Mushens herself. We’re quite the squad at any SFF event—there were something like 15 of us! We went to the Steak & Lobster place in the con hotel. Last year it was called the Trunk restaurant, and it was disappointing then. Even though the name changed, service hadn’t. Juliet got a cold lobster, most other people got lukewarm ones (you’d think when they now only serve lobster, steak, or risotto, they’d have gotten cooking them down pat), and they seem to seriously have a grudge against giving people tap water. Peter Newman had to ask 3 times before they finally brought it—another flashback to last year. My veggie risotto was perfectly edible, but not particularly exciting. But the company was good. :-D

#teammushens from bottom left: Stephen Aryan, Jen Williams, Taran Matharu, Sarah Manning, Peter newman, Liz de Jager, me, Amy Alward, James Oswald, Francesca Haig, Den Patrick, Hannah Kaner, Erin Claiborne & Richard Kellum. Photo by Juliet Mushens.

Then it was back to the bar for more chatting. I ended up staying up far too late on the Friday, but I enjoyed sitting with Lorna, my friend from Aberdeen who met us down there, and Tom Hunter and Del Lakin-Smith, until about 1.45 am.

Saturday was, unsurprisingly, another long day. I wore my favourite stealth cosplay that I’d been really looking forward to: hipster Ariel! I wore my old Ray ban frames (everything was somewhat blurry in my right eye), a tank that said “Life’s a beach,” the most incredible green scaled leggings, and my doc martens. I wish I could wear these leggings every day. Erica went as hipster Belle, and Lorna went as Arnold Rimmer in the “Quarantine” episode of Red Dwarf. It was a huge hit and she got more than 50 cosplay tokens!

Ariel doing a ridiculous mermaid pose and Belle reading a book.
Mr Flibble’s very cross.

On Saturday I managed a few panels that weren’t only my own. I wanted to go a panel at 10…that didn’t happen. I went to the Max Max panel of “We Are Not Things” with Naomi Alderman, Laurie Penny, and Ludi Valentine. If anyone has spoken to me in the last few months, they’ve probably heard me banging on about this film. I saw it three times in the cinema. I very nearly cosplayed Capable. Big fan. So it was fun to listen to a lively discussion about what it does well, what it doesn’t do quite right, and all the issues it raises. What a lovely day! Favourite quote: “Unbelievably entertaining, which is what you want from your feminist propaganda” – Laurie Penny.

After a bit more hanging about, I went to a workshop at 2 pm by David Monteith, an actor and one of the runners of the Geek Syndicate website. It was tips for reading your work aloud and it was SO helpful. I’m okay at readings, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, and so I’m going to practice the tips I learned from David. He does private sessions if you’re in the London area, which would be money well spent. He’s also in a New Orleans voodoo-flavoured production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Arts Theatre West End, which I wish I could have had time to go to.

After more bopping about and then going for dinner at the much better restaurant in the Marriott, I had my evening panel, which was about girl characters in YA. People can be very quick to slap labels on girl characters; that they’re Manic Pixie Dream Girls or Mary Sues or Strong Female Characters, so we spent some time de-constructing that. My favourite moment was Mel Salisbury saying things would be much easier for girls in YA (and society) by getting rid of all the old white men in power, hehe. Saturday was another late night, which is par for the course at these cons. It’s sort of a blur. I spoke to a lot of people, including a nice catch up with Ro Smith. I went to bed at around half three, after I said goodbye to Erica, who had a godawfully early flight at 6 am to head back to California.

Sunday, by some miracle, I was up, packed, checked out, and breakfasted by the 10 am Super Relaxed Fantasy Club meetup. This is a group that meets fairly often in London, and it’s run by two Team Mushens authors: Den Patrick and Jen Williams. Last Fantasycon they had a con meetup and it went really well, so they repeated it at Nine Worlds. There was cake, tea, coffee, and reading by James Oswald, Anna Caltabiano, Charlie Fletcher (who is GREAT at readings), and a short one from Julia Knight’s upcoming book. It was packed, which is always a good sign!

Afterwards, I went with Lorna to Laurie Penny’s workshop of writing columns, which I found very useful. I’ve been interested in writing articles and pitching them, but haven’t really known how to get started. By this point of the con, I was flagging badly. I hung around, had some afternoon tea with friends, and then flew home to collapse into my bed at 11 pm.

Nine Worlds does so much right. They are super inclusive and welcome diversity. They had badges for preferred pronouns and to signpost whether or not you were comfortable speaking with strangers. There were lots of panels on diversity, and many different tracks. Even if your main interest wasn’t books (general books or the new YA track), there’s a fanfic track, or an academia track, star trek, geek feminism, video games, comics…basically whatever your little geeky heart desires. There was a blanket fort workshop! Brochures list the best local places to cater to dietary requirements. They have a quiet room if you’re a little overwhelmed, and many newbie meetups. There’s a very clear harassment policy in place. What many cons struggle to get right, Nine Worlds is 100% for. It’s very refreshing.

As with pretty much everyone at the con, though, I was pretty unimpressed with the hotel. I’ve been to at least four or five cons at the Radisson Blu at Heathrow, and they’re always very understaffed, but this time was the worst. Service went at a glacial pace, everything was terribly expensive, the staff were either nice but run off their feet or run off their feet and very surly. Some staff evidently misgendered people despite the pronoun badges, which is unfortunate when the organisers put in so much effort to make the con a safe space. They put someone on the lobby cafe by herself on her first day and the place was super busy with a con. As Immortan Joe would say: mediocre. Here’s hoping Radisson either promises significant improvements or we can find another venue.

TLDR; Nine Worlds is a great con. You should consider going to it.