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.

Books Read in July

vicious1. Vicious – V.E. Schwab. Enjoyed it just as much as A Darker Shade of Magic. Sharp, strong prose, clever plot, compelling characters, a study of the shades of grey between good and evil.

2. On the Edge of Gone – Corinne Duyvis. I got to read this even before the ARC phase *proudface.* I wrote a short review on Goodreads.

3. Neuromancer – William Gibson (audiobook). I haven’t read this since I was a teen, and as I’m writing cyberpunk-flavoured thrillers myself, thought it’d be good to go back to the classics. This was one of the very first SF books I ever read. Enjoyed it more as an adult than I did as a teen.

the-likeness-1904. The Likeness – Tana French. Goodness me, but Tana French is a good author. Really, really enjoyed this, even if the premise requires a small suspension of disbelief.

5. Finding Center – Katherine Locke. This is the follow up to Second Position and just as awesome as the first. Go get this immediately if you like romance, ballet, and a sensitive portrayal of physical and mental disabilities.

I also did some beta reading and read the screenplay to Gone Girl.

Total books in 2015: 41

“The Card Sharp” is Free for 5 Days!

I’ve done a free promotion on Amazon for “The Card Sharp,” the last instalment in my Vestigial Tales series, tie in novellas and short stories to the Micah Grey series. These books can be read in any order.

Please consider downloading and, if you read it, consider leaving a rating/review on Goodreads/Amazon. My obvious ulterior motive is that you read this, enjoy it, read the other Vestigial Tales (Note: those are all free for Amazon Prime customers, yet I still get royalties), and then check out Pantomime & Shadowplay when they’re re-released in e-book in December through Tor UK. :-)


TheCardSharpCoverUntold 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 Card Sharp

“He always mourned that moment, when the high began to fade. It was like he moved from who he wanted to be to having to face the reality of who he was. He’d rather feel supernatural. More than Drystan Hornbeam, a seventeen-year-old-boy who had made a lot of foolish mistakes and didn’t seem to be changing his habits anytime soon.”

Before Drystan became the White Clown of R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, he was a Lerium addict struggling on the streets of Imachara. When a mysterious woman gives him a chance at a new life, he takes it, even if it means falling even deeper into the dark underbelly of the capital of Ellada. Drystan knows that selling Lerium to the powerful men and women who bet at the high stakes card tables is perilous, especially when he still battles his own addictions. Yet when he meets a man who can help him learn to cheat at cards and swindle them out of enough money to start a new life, he dives headfirst into more danger.

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…

Add on Goodreads!


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

ISBN: 978-0-9929428-4-7

Nine Worlds 2015 Schedule & Forthcoming Lemon Tree Workshop for AIYF

I’m back in Scotland after my five weeks in California. I have mostly gotten over my jetlag, and have plenty of work to keep me busy. I’ve been taking a brief social media break the last few days, which has been nice. I made it so I could only use Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for 5 minutes (combined) before it blocked on my laptop. I deleted the shortcuts and turned off all notifications on my phone. So the only way to really lurk, which I did do a few times, was to physically go into my list of apps and click on them. Just that extra barrier meant my procrastination-via-social-media went way down. I have done more work the past few days, but I also found myself procrastinating in more productive ways–cooking, cleaning, practising French via Duolingo. I’ll probably start going back on more often soon because when I work from home it is my chatting-around-the-water-cooler, but I’ll keep the notifications off my phone and increase total allowance on my laptop to say, 30 minutes.

It is also…con and festival season! I’m not doing all that much con-wise this year, but I’m going to Nine Worlds next month, which is one of my favourite cons. Here is my schedule:


Friday (August 7):

Beyond the Binary – Gender and Sexuality in YA
Room 38, 1:30pm – 2:45pm (Young Adult, LGBTQAI+ Fandom)

Emma Trevayne, Tom Pollock, Lauren E James, Laura Lam, Sarah Benwell, James Dawson, Marieke Nijkamp
More and more non-traditional characters enter the YA stage. Characters who defy gender norms and gender binaries. Characters who fall somewhere along the LGBTQIA* spectrum. Characters who kick ass and take names. How does YA explore these new stories, who are the characters we should be paying attention to, and what is there still to come?

Childhood Influences – I Want to be a Wild Thing When I Grow Up
Room 38, 5:00pm – 6:15pm (All of the Books)
Taran Matharu, Ed Cox, Frances Harding, Kim Curran, Laura Lam (Moderator)
From the fantasy worlds of Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree to whizz-poppers and marvellous medicines of Roald Dahl, how important are childrens stories on us as adults and do they shape what authors write when they grow up?

Saturday (August 8):

From MPDG to SFC: the Girls of YA
Royal B, 8:30pm – 9:45pm (Geek Feminism, Young Adult)
Liz de Jager, Laura Lam, Tom Pollock, Amy Alward
Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Strong Female Characters. Girls in YA literature are often labeled and boxed in. But who are the girl characters behind and beyond the tropes? And what are the characteristics of the modern YA heroine?

Also, as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, I’m doing a creative writing workshop for youth at the Lemon Tree on July 26th at 1.30-2.30 pm. Tickets are FREE, you just need to book! I think you have to be under 25, but it might also be flexible. There’s lots of other great events on at the festival, and I hope to go to some other events with my friend Erica, who will be out visiting from CA.


Books Read in June

zenintheartofwriting1. Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury. A collection of essays on writing from a master. Smiled a bit while reading. His love of creating worlds and stories shone through. Recommended.

2. The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing – ed. by Frank A. Dickson. I read this while preparing for writing a short story. As it was on my mom’s bookshelf, I thought I’d see if I’d learn anything. I learned a few things, but some of the advice seemed dated.

3. The Silver Metal Lover – Tanith Lee. I have been meaning to read this for years since I’m interested in artificial intelligence. I heard of Tanith Lee’s passing, unfortunately, and it reminded me to read it. It’s about a young, rich girl falling in love with a robot designed to be artistic and a fantastic lover. At first, Jane was incredibly annoying, but she’s meant to be, and I enjoyed watching her come into her own. The world-building was really interesting, too. Recommended.

uk-uprooted4. Uprooted – Naomi Novik. A lush fantasy inspired by Polish fairytales. I really liked Agnieszka and the politics of the world and magic system. Definitely recommended, and thanks to Macmillan for the copy.

5. On Writing – Stephen King. I’m writing my dissertation for my masters, hence all the books on writing this month. I plan to use a few quotes. I read this back when I was a teenager and just starting to write. Re-reading it about 10 years later and something like 7 books’ worth of words later was interesting. My takeaway is that Stephen King and I have very different writing processes. And that’s okay.

I also beta read 1.75 books for friends, which always takes longer than just reading.

Total books in 2015: 36.

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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