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.

When I Grow Up

Laura Lam:

A perfect blog from Lou Morgan on the term “writer” vs. “author,” the urge to undermine the work we do out of fear. Writing is hard work, but it’s easy to demure. I’m comfortable saying “I’m an author,” or “I’m a novelist,” but it took a long time. At the beginning, when I was working just as hard (hell, harder because I had more to balance), I stuck that sneaky word “aspiring” in front of everything. Yes, I was hoping to be published, but I was doing it all, even if the pieces hadn’t yet fallen into place. I prefer the term “prepublished” to “unpublished” for the same reason–it hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

Great post, Lou.

Originally posted on Lou Morgan:

I was watching an interview on YouTube a few days ago; an interview with an actor who is my age. There might be a year or so in his favour, but put it this way: we’d have been in close enough classes at school to have known each other.

He was – as many actors I know are wont to be – very serious about his work, his profession. His craft. Passionate about it, believing in it, expecting others to take it equally seriously.

A cog started to turn somewhere in my head.

Yesterday, my son’s drum tutor rolled out that phrase we tell children to make them keep going when they don’t want to. Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. Work hard. You want something? Be prepared to do what it takes to get it, to give what it takes. It won’t fall into your lap. Earn it. A…

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Windows and Doors to Our Worlds: Writing LGBTQIA Literature

Laura Lam:

A post I wrote for Author Allsorts:

Originally posted on AUTHOR ALLSORTS:

Windows_and_Mirrors Photo credit: Joseph D. Lipka

This past weekend I was at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to go—I love libraries. I grew up in them, and I worked at one as an assistant for about 8 months, contemplated becoming a school librarian, and was essentially a corporate librarian for 3.5 years. The fact that it was over Pride weekend was extra awesome, as it meant I could also experience one of the biggest LGBTQIA celebrations ever right after the SCOTUS win for marriage equality (Jim Obergefell’s happy, tear-streaked face was my best memory. Such joy, gratitude, lingering grief, and pride).

My photo. Loads more photos of SF Pride on my Instagram. My photo. Loads more photos of SF Pride on my Instagram.

weneeddiversebooksA very welcome overarching trend that weekend was diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks group was there in force, and I saw a great panel—probably one of the best I’ve ever seen—yesterday with Marie…

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Books Read in April

I’ve been slack on the blog, but here’s the books I read last month:

Jennifer_Finney_Boylan_Shes_Not_There_sm1. She’s not There: A Life in Two Genders – Jennifer Finney Boylan. My mom lent this to me, as it was the Freshman Read at my alma mater last year. It was a wonderful memoir of a MTF trans woman and her experiences. Funny and moving.

2. The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black. Holly Black is one of my authors I go to for a comfort read.They always have characters you root for, a great atmosphere, and tight plots. This one is set in a small town of Fairfold where the fae are always nearby and have a way with meddling with lives.

3. The Martian – Andy Weir. I listened to this on audiobook. It was an interesting book, and how if I’m ever trapped on Mars, I’ll know how to grow potatoes.

4. In the Woods – Tana Franch. I loved this book. Excellently written and a great mystery. Detective Andrew Ryan is in some ways frustrating and unlikeable (though understandable considering the massive amount of stress he’s under in this book), but his partner Cassie Maddox is the real star of the show. Really want to read The Likeness now, as it stars her.

5. Waverley – Walter Scott. Re-read for an essay for uni, plus about a book’s worth of articles and excerpts of analysis. I’m writing about the supernatural and Gothic allusions in the book.

6. Loose Changeling – A.G. Stewart. Andrea is in one of my writing groups and she came to my Shadowplay launch in SF. I was excited to read her first book and it was fun, fast-paced urban fantasy with fae. A perfect palette cleanser after the rather dark In the Woods and the very dense prose of Waverley.

7. Second Position – Katherine Locke. If you love ballet films with Center Stage, do yourself a favour and read this book. It’s a romance about two ballet dancers whose lives have fallen apart. After four years, they run into each other again and wonder if they can ever hope to pick up the pieces.

8. Turning Pointe – Katherine Locke. Technically this is a novella, but I’ll count it anyway. It’s a prequel novella for Second Position and was just as lovely, and very sad as it’s set around the events that drove Zed and Aly apart four years before the book.

Total books in 2015: 25

A Quote on Failure & Success

Laura Lam:

I wrote a blog post on the Author Allsorts blog about failure & success.

Originally posted on AUTHOR ALLSORTS:

L’échec est le fondement de la réussite.”

I bought a bag from a charity shop with those words on them when I was fifteen. I knew enough french to know what “est le fondement de la réussite” meant, but not the first word. I showed my French teacher on the Monday.

“Failure,” she said. “It means failure.”

At fifteen, I didn’t really get it. I was such a Type A personality as a teen. I mean, I still am, but back then an A- would make me cry for an hour. I’m not joking. Perfectionism had caused problems for me–overworking myself in school, acute anxiety, an eating disorder, and a constant, internal refrain that I wasn’t good enough. How was failing even an option, much less a foundation for success?

The original quote is a paradox by Lao-Tzu, and the full saying is: “Failure is the…

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2015: Here We Go

Goodbye, 2014. Hello, 2015.

These are my goals for the next year. I suppose they’re resolutions, but I don’t often make very detailed goals these days.

1. Concrete writing stuff: Finish Brainfreeze Book. Edit False Hearts. Finish editing Masquerade. Finish my Masters. Let the two book ideas clamouring in my head percolate, then outline and write samples, perhaps. I’d like to write more short stories and novellas, too.

2. Less concrete writing stuff: Try to write most days, but don’t worry if life gets in the way for a bit. Don’t worry so much about word count. There’s more to writing than how many words get on the page per day. I spent over an hour the other day researching Los Angeles to try and discover a good setting for a secret base, and then went back to my original idea anyway. Who cares–some of those other settings might show up later in the book. Write the best books you can. Try not to stress out so much about the business side of publishing.

3. Fitness and health: Keep exercising. I did a lot in 2014: ran my first 10k race, did some pole fitness classes, which was super fun though I have a shoulder injury from it that doesn’t seem to want to heal. I did a rowing event for work. Did yoga, Pilates, and other fitness classes. My arms have some definition and I have the slightest hint of actual abs for the first time ever, whoohoo. I might try to do two races in 2015, and keep doing the other stuff. As for diet, I’m trying to cut down slightly on sweets and things (my sugar addiction is strong) and eat more homecooked meals, but I don’t plan to actually diet or aim to lose x amount of weight.

4. Work/life balance: this is my main goal. Seriously, my biggest “resolution” I’m determined to do is to do less. Last year I tried to do way too much. I managed, barely, but I’m excited that this year, I don’t have to always work about 60 hours a week. I don’t have to work full-time at an office anymore, at least for a few years. I’m going to take full advantage of that. I’ll still be writing plenty, but I’ll also be making time for actual life: cooking more, exploring more, cleaning my flat, seeing friends, sitting on my butt on the sofa and watching a lot of TV and films and reading. It’ll be great.

Tales of a Hybrid Author: Month 1: “The Snake Charm”


I’ll be writing once-monthly updates on the process of being a hybrid author. I know many trade published authors who are also interested in dipping their toes into the world of self-publishing, or self-published authors who are also thinking about what trade publishing can offer. This month focuses on the self-published side.

Background if you’re new to my blog: I’m self-publishing some short stories/novellas set in the same world as my Micah Grey series (Pantomime & Shadowplay). Those two books are traditionally published, though now Strange Chemistry has closed so the fate of my third book is up in the air. I uploaded the first story, “The Snake Charm,” a prequel story starring a secondary character from the series, on June 4, and it went live late that evening. I started promoting it the next day. I uploaded this to Kindle Direct Publishing, meaning it’ll be exclusive with Amazon for 3 months, before I put it up on other distributors.

Paid: 88
Borrowed: 7 (as part of KDP, Prime members can borrow my story for free, but I still get paid. So, hey, if you have a Prime membership, please borrow even if you have no desire to read it :-D)
Total: 95

Total Gross Income: £106.05

So far my costs have been £132 for 10 ISBNs. So you can either say I’m still about £26 in the red, or, if you factor in I only used 2 ISBNs so far, I made about £80 in profit this month. That’s about equal to what you’d get paid for a short story in plenty of magazines and anthologies, and this is only one month.

Location: Most of my sales were split between the US and the UK, but I also had 2 sales from Canada, 1 from Germany, and 1 from Australia.

I’m quite happy with my first month. I did no marketing aside from putting that it was up on my social media a few times. I didn’t do a blog tour, as I figured there’s not much point for a short story. I might do a few posts once all four stories are up.

The last 6 days I’ve had no sales, which is a bit worrying. I was hoping it would stay steady with a sale or two a day, meaning at least a little money would trickle in. But maybe it’ll pick up again. Perhaps $2.99 is too much for a 10k story and I should drop the price. That means going from 70% royalty down to 35%, but if means more sales then it’d be worth it. What do you think?

Has it impacted sales of Pantomime and/or Shadowplay?: No idea. I think so far the readers are mainly people who have already read my books, though at least one person read it before reading the books. I think those books had a little boost because June was Pride month and my books are LGBT, and Strange Chemistry shut so a few people picked up the books.

Here is the graph of sales from my KDP dashboard, where I mapped out what caused certain boosts. I had a boost the day Strange Chemistry closed, as I mentioned that any money gained will be ear marked for possibly self-publishing the third Micah Grey book. Still planning on that by the way – the £80 is duly earmarked.

Reviews: Right now I have 21 ratings on Goodreads and 12 reviews. On Amazon UK, I have 6 reviews, and on Amazon US, I have 5. I received one review on VADA Magazine. If anyone has read the story and not reviewed it, please consider leaving a couple of words on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews really help self-published titles be noticed. I also got some fan art from Laya.

Plans for the next month: Putting up the second story, “The Fisherman’s Net.” I’ve decided to not go exclusive with Amazon and upload to Amazon and B&N myself and use Smashwords for the other retailers. This should go up in the next week. I’ll also hopefully be revealing the cover of the third Vestigial Tale, “The Tarot Reader,” and finishing final edits for that, as well as editing the last Vestigial Tale, “The Card Sharp.”

Concerns: That not as many people will pick up the second story, though it will be far cheaper – 0.99c or 0.70p. I’d have to sell around 4x as many copies to make the same amount. Only one way to find out, though.

Other news this month:
My short story, “They Swim Through Sunset Seas,” will be released in the Anthology, Solaris Rising 3, from Solaris Books, in August.
I released the cover for the second Vestigial Tale, “The Fisherman’s Net.”
I was nominated for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Newcomer for Pantomime.

So, that’s all for now. Thank you so much to everyone who bought/borrowed my first Vestigial Tale. It made me excited to share the other stories with you.

I’ll leave you with the cover and blurb of “The Snake Charm.” Please consider picking it up if it captures your fancy.


Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Snake Charm

“To most, Drystan was just another buffoon in the collective of clowns. But behind the inane grin, he saw everything, keeping the secrets he discovered close, like precious gems to barter.”

Mutiny is brewing in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic. When Linden, the leader of the clowns steals one of the ringmaster’s most prized possessions, Drystan, the white clown, finds himself caught in the middle. Tasked with retrieving the Lethe, he’s forced to betray Linden or risk his troubled past coming to light. But the Vestige artifact has its own history and its own power. Drystan will learn what it can really do, and who it can hurt.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…

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