Books Read in January

Not too many books this month, between my holiday, having a lot of admin work (thanks, taxes), and being in the middle of two longer books. Mainly I was looking for my comfort genre, fun YA fantasy.

1. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Read it in one sitting on the plane to Hong Kong. SO much fun and I can’t wait for the sequel!

2. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this and it was so lovely. Literary fiction set in a circus that plays with gender and sexuality, in a Waterworld type of setting. Definitely recommended.

3. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd. I really enjoyed The Madman’s Daughter when I read it a few years ago, so it was nice to come back for the sequel. Really well plotted and good fun.

4. Blythewood by Carol Goodman. This is set in a boarding school, with fae, bell magic, a mysterious shadow man, and family histories. I did enjoy it but it felt like there was a lot to put in one book, and perhaps some things could have been pared down, but I’ll probably read the sequels.

I also read about a book’s worth of essays, articles, and short stories for my Masters, as well as some judging for the Bisexual Book Award.

An Update on Pantomime & Shadowplay

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It’s 2015 so I can talk about it now.

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It feels a little strange to technically be unpublished again; I’ve no books available for sale.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.

Happy 2015! May it be awesome.

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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!

The Isle of Arran Writing Retreat

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.

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On the ferry to Arran

 

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.

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The nearby town of Lamlash, where we went for supplies
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In search of vittles
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The view from our window. I know, right? That’s Holy Isle, which has a Tibetan monastery.

 

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.

My main task
My main task

– 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.

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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.

 

Shadowplay Nominated for the ALA Rainbow List

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Yay! Shadowplay was nominated for the American Library Association Rainbow List but I didn’t notice until recently. Pantomime was on it last year and was even a Top Ten Title, so I’m super happy the sequel has followed.

The Rainbow List is “a joint project of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.  The Rainbow Book List presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age.”

Whoohoo! *throws rainbow confetti*

Recent School Visits & Events

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.

Tales of a Hybrid Author: Month 5

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Did you know “The Card Sharp” is FREE on Kindle until 13th November, 2014?

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon Canada / Amazon India / Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil / Amazon Mexico /Amazon Australia

“The Snake Charm” is up for pay-what-you-want on Smashwords

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 (PantomimeShadowplay Masquerade). There’s going to be a bit of delay in getting Masquerade to market. These short stories/novellas are to help break up the wait and teach me about self-publishing.

This is the first month since I started chronicling these that I haven’t had a new release. So, how much did sales drop?

Answer: there is a drop, as expected, but it wasn’t as drastic as I thought it’d be. I also did a 5 day Kindle countdown for “The Tarot Reader,” which helped, but that was US only. The currency didn’t convert to be at the UK threshold level, so it didn’t work and I couldn’t run one before the Amazon exclusive ran out. Boo. But, that means that two of the four stories are now out of the exclusive time period and up on Smashwords! As I said at the top of the post, I’ve also listed “The Tarot Reader as pay what you want, which should be an interesting experiment.

Total Sales for October:
Paid (Amazon): 46
Borrowed (Amazon): 6
Paid (Smashwords): 0
Total: 51
Total Sales to Date: 377

Per Story in October:
“The Snake Charm”: 7 (plus one bought and refunded)
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 12
“The Tarot Reader”: 20 (15 of the sales during the Kindle Countdown deal)
“The Card Sharp”:  12 (plus one bought and refunded)

Total Sales/Borrows per Story:
“The Snake Charm”: 145 (plus 395 free ones)
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 116
“The Tarot Reader”: 76
“The Card Sharp”: 40

Total Gross Income for September: £36.97 ($58.68)
Total Gross Income to Date: £313.04 ($496.84)
Costs: £132 for 10 ISBNs
Total Net Profit: £181.04 ($287.34)

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October sales

Reviews as of today: 
“The Snake Charm” on GR: 48 ratings (22 reviews)
“The Snake Charm” on Amazon: 8 (US),  9 (UK)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on GR: 22 ratings (9 reviews)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on Amazon: 2 (US), 2 (UK)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on Smashwords: 0
“The Tarot Reader” on GR: 20 ratings (8 reviews)
“The Tarot Reader” on Amazon: 2 (US), 2 (UK)
“The Tarot Reader” on Smashwords: 0
“The Card Sharp” on GR: 15 ratings (8 reviews)
“The Card Sharp” on Amazon: 0 (US), 2 (UK)

As ever, if you’ve read any of the stories, leaving a short review on Goodreads/Amazon would be so greatly appreciated. Especially on Amazon/Smashwords, as it means more casual readers might pick them up. And if you’d consider purchasing one, it’d also be appreciated. All money is being earmarked for self-publishing Masquerade. So far it’s raised enough for the ISBNs and some of the costs for orders swag for the varying backing levels.

I’m still finding it an interesting experiment, though it’s not made me enough money that I’d consider writing more soon to generate a side income. It seems my time is better spent focusing on novels, or selling short stories/novellas to trade markets. Which is a shame, as I quite enjoy being able to see sales in real time, fiddle with prices, and generally have control. I’m hoping with Masquerade, because it’s a full-length book, sales will be more robust, but we’ll see.

Thanks for reading along.

Previous months:

Month 4

Month 3

Month 2

Month 1