Tweaked Plot Embryo

This morning on my Saturday Sprints writing livestream, I showed off a new plotting method I’m using to plot out Secret Project. A couple of people watching expressed interest in knowing more, so I spent the rest of the sprint working on making a blank template, copying it, and then filling it out to show people how it works.

I cannot take credit for any of this. This is an amalgamation of cool stuff other, much cooler writers have done. The biggest influences on my writing and the ideas that underlie this come from:

Dan Harmon: Created the plot embryo (itself based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey ).

Disclaimer: I have not yet checked out Dan Harmon’s work in the original, and my memories of reading Joseph Campbell for university are fuzzy, but I have a fairly good second hand knowledge of what they’re about. 

Racheal Stephens: adapted the plot embryo into a form that makes a lot of sense and expanded it for tragic endings: https://youtu.be/_pZ3ZZd1mms

For more info, Racheal has a free course about using the plot embryo that you can find on her website: https://www.rachaelstephen.com/

The plot beats I use in my plot embryo come from James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle (the single most useful writing book I have ever come across) and Kate Hall’s A Book a Week.

Underpinning everything is the understanding of character arc and overall structure that I learned from a Michael Hauge workshop I attended. Looking on Michael’s website, I think the course is closest to his The Hero’s Two Journeys video.

sheet of white A4 paper with dual plot embryos side by side
Dual plot embryos

Basically, I start with a piece of paper that looks like a startled reptilian—or maybe a prehistoric armoured bird. The page is split into two halves, one for each of my main characters is whatever story I’m working on. In a romance, this would be the MC (main character) and the LI (love interest). In a mystery or thriller, it could be the detective and the antagonist. One is always your main character, but who gets the second embryo depends on what genre you’re writing in, and who, besides your main character, has the most growth and stakes over the course of the story. 

Before you use the plot embryo, you need to have thought about the premise and genre of your story. For example, a story with the premise of a man who is afraid of snakes meeting and falling in love with an Australian zookeeper with an emotional support snake that helps him get past his otherwise crippling anxiety will be a romance. From the premise, you can tell that I have already thought about the characters in this story—Jake, the main character, Steve the love interest and Missy, the emotional support snake. I have an idea of what these characters want, what is holding them back, and how this story is going to end: a HEA. The plot embryo is a map to help us figure out how we get from A to The End. The banner in the top centre is for your title, if you know it, and the boxes in the top right and left corners are for the characters each embryo is for.

We start at the centre and work out. I like having the plot embryos on the same page because I find that they play into each other. Since I didn’t do a double embryo for Jake and Steve, you’ll have to take my word for it—or try it out for yourself. 

The circle in the middle of the embryo is in two halves, left and right. The right side contains the lie that the character believes. For example, Jake is terrified of snakes. He believes that all snakes are bad. The left side is the truth that Jake needs to come into his own as a man who is able to look past his fear and love snakes—and Steve, the snake obsessed zookeeper that steals his heart. The truth that Jake needs to learn is that not all snakes are scary. Michael Hauge really nails the importance of a character’s lie versus their essence. 

The next layer of the circle is split top and bottom. The top represents the familiar. Rachael Stephens does a great job of describing this, but basically, this could be a physical location or a state of mind. Rachael used Darth Vader as an example, and had the top half as Jedi, and the bottom half as Sith/The Dark Side. For my snake romance, I’ve had the top half as Ireland—where snake phobic Jake lives—and Australia as the bottom half, so he will physically travel outside his comfort zone. 

 Before we get into all the little rays shooting out of circles, I want to call your attention to the fact that the embryo is divided neatly into four parts. Each of these parts represents an act within the three act structure. Starting at 12:00, we have Act 1, moving into Act 2-A at 3:00, Act 2-B at 6:00 and Act 3 at 9:00.

These acts are really good for structure—basically ensuring that your pace is moving along appropriately, and you’re hitting the right emotional beats. Act 1 and 3 can be anything from 10-25% of your word count, but whatever length they are, it is important that they are roughly the same size, and that they are not more than 25%—otherwise your beginning goes on and on and your reader puts your book down before they get to the action, or your end drags out and there isn’t any tension. Acts 2A and 2B should be the same size as each other again, and you want 6:00—the mirror moment—to hit the middle of your story. 

This is a major point in the story, where the character abandons their lie and accepts the truth. From here on out, they are moving into their full potential as the person they are truly meant to be (assuming you’re writing a character with an arc that ends positively. Otherwise check out Racheal Stephen’s tragic embryo). When it is in the middle, it feels right. It resonates with the reader more because they’ve been through the struggle to get there, and they’re rooting for the characters success the rest of the journey. To learn more about why this is such a big deal, read Write Your Novel from the Middle and also get a sneak peek at the beats we’re about to work on. 

Each of the rays surrounding the circle are where you can write a specific plot beat. These beats I have adapted over the years from James Scott Bell, and most recently Kate Hall. The numbers in the outermost ring of my circle indicate the order that I recommend tackling them, again taken from Kate Hall. Don’t get too hung up on this however—often when I decide on one of these, another falls into place, so I do not stick to this order when making plot decisions. I’ve used JSB of KH to indicate whether the beat is more closely adapted from James Scott Bell or Kate Hall. 

Kate Hall advocates figuring out your big, climatic moments first, those that really get to the heart of your character and their struggle. Basically, in order:

1. Mirror moment (JSB): Character has a moment of lightning like clarity where they realise what is at stake if they fail to free themselves of the lie. Jake calls out of a date with Steve because he is so freaked out by Missy. He looks at himself in the mirror, sweaty and pale and gross, and realises that if he doesn’t do something about his fear, he will lose the respect of the man he has fallen hard for. 

2. Doorway of No Return #2 (JSB but also Michael Hauge): Character takes big, irrevocable action, either committing to final battle with big bad, or giving up and saying it’s all too difficult. The character retreats into the lie. Character leaves the unfamiliar world and retreats to the known.

Jake breaks up with Stever and gets on a plane back to Ireland. He is done with snakes—and Australians—for ever. 

3. Final Battle (JSB and KH and MH—also called the Climax): Character embraces the truth and their essence, and reaches their full potential in confrontation with the opposing force of the story. In romance, this would be the grand gesture—see Gwen Hayes for romance specific beats

Jake rushes back to the airport to get the next plane to Australia only to find that Steve has followed him—and Missy has escaped from her cage. Irish animal control, completely unused to snakes are preparing to catch and destroy her. Jake summons his courage, picks up Missy, calms her and returns her to Steve. He is hailed a hero. 

4. Doorway of No Return #1 (JSB, MH): character commits to a plan of action that will remove them from their familiar world and put them in the unknown. They will have a goal in doing this, but this goal is usually a false goal—what they want, not what they need. 

Jake agrees to take part on a Reality TV show about facing fears, shot in Australia. He boards a plane, prepared to face his fears—but also meet Steve for the first time. 

5: Opening Disturbance (JSB) Hero is going about their daily life, when something goes wrong—an inkling of the conflict that is to come. 

Jake’s friends prank him by hiding fake snakes around his apartment. When he freaks out and kicks them out, the video they recorded of the prank goes viral. Jake is humiliated. 

6: Argument Against Transformation: the character states the lie firmly, and argues their case for it. A good moment to hint at whatever wound caused them to adopt this lie. 

Jake is invited onto a TV talkshow to talk about his snake phobia with snake-expert Steve joining remotely from Australia. Steve is passionate that his snake therapy can cure anyone’s fears. Jake argues that fearing snakes is natural and that his friends over stepped and that anyone would react badly to an apartment of fake snakes. There is absolutely no way he will ever like a snake.

7: Obstacle #3 (KH — the number might not match hers. Basically, this is the third of my obstacles, the biggest one so far). An event that really challenges the main character. They are moving steadily towards their essence, and using their truth to tackle the problem.

Jake discovers that to win the challenge and his prize money, he must strip down to his boxes and let snakes crawl on him for ten minutes. He practices this with Steve and Missy and manages to get comfortable with touching Missy. Also Steve is shirtless and that’s really nice. 

8: Disaster (KH): Another obstacle—and this time, despite accepting the truth, the character fails spectacularly. 

The actual snake pit test. Jake is rocking it, until the producers add more snakes he didn’t know about. Jake freaks out and throws the challenge. He’s angry and betrayed—Steve knew and didn’t warn him!

9: Light’s Out (JSB, MH): The character’s lowest point. They realise exactly what they’ve lost and, now that they experienced life with truth, they cannot be satisfied with the lie they were living before. Alexa play Despacito. 

Back in Ireland, Jake is moping in his snake-free apartment. It is cold—unlike Australia—and there is a big lack of hot reptile handlers around. He is mourning the loss of the first person to believe he was more than his fear, and everything that could have been. 

10: The Q factor (JSB). Named for Q from the James Bond franchise, the main character has a lightning bolt moment. Using knowledge or skills they learned during the course of the story (the pet the dog, or obstacles are a good place to gain this info), they realise there is a solution to their problem.

Alone in his apartment, Jake triggers an overlooked prank snake. He doesn’t even jump. He realises that he is no longer afraid of all snakes. Maybe he’s brave enough for a relationship with Steve after all!

11: Pet the Dog (JSB— also Save the Cat from the Save the Cat method). At a moment of big emotional turmoil and overwhelm, main character does something selfless for someone else. It does not have to be a literal cat or dog.

Jake realises that Steve, held up by the TV crew, hasn’t fed Missy. Despite his fear of her, he drops food into her cage for her. 

12: Care Package (JSB)/Beginning (KH). Basically, the main character in their everyday life, with the people that matter to them, doing their usual daily life stuff. A good way to show that no matter how great they think they’re doing, their lie is preventing them from truly being happy. 

Jake is alone in his apartment, watching the viral footage of his freakout. He gets a call from his therapist or shut in sister who has not left their childhood home since she was 15 because of her fears. Jake consoles himself with work, but it doesn’t satisfy him.

13. Transformation (JSB, MH). Main character is living fully in their essence, and has achieved what they need to be happy (assuming positive outcome/HEA)—or near enough (HFN). Bonus points if their transformation had a ripple effect on their world. 

Jake and Steve are happy celebrating their reunion at the reptile sanctuary. After the airport footage went viral, a gofundme was started for Steve’s reptile sanctuary, and they raised a huge amount. The TV show donated the money Jake would have made to it, so they’ve saved the rare snake Steve is obsessed with and overcome their fears to have a happy life together. Jake’s got a snake of his own, so that Missy has company when Steve—who no longer needs his support snake at all times—goes out with Jake. 

14: Kick in the Shins (JSB): Arriving in the unfamiliar world, character is initially overwhelmed by how strange everything is. They make false steps and suffer a setback. 

Jake arrives in Australia and the TV crew greet him with a fake snake. He realises they don’t care about him overcoming his fear. They want good television, and him freaking out is apparently good ratings.

15: Obstacle #1 (KH): main character encounters an obstacle. In the process of overcoming it, they begin to chip away at the lie and glimpse the truth. 

Steve shows up and is kind and understanding—also super hot. But also with him is his emotional support snake, Missy. Jake is too freaked out to approach Steve at first but, as Steve strokes her and talks about how beautiful she is and how she helped him overcome his fear, Jake is coaxed into coming closer and touching her.

16: Obstacle #2 (KH): Main character faces a bigger obstacle, requiring even more of them and leading them closer to their truth. 

Jake and Steve spent a steamy night together in Steve’s apartment. Jake needs to get up during the night, but Missy is stretched out across the floor between him and the bathroom. Jake will have to walk past her alone. 

I’ve put my blank template (it’s hand drawn so apologies for the wonkiness), and a version with explanation and example in pdf format. Let me know if you’ve got any questions or want more detail about anything—I am happy to answer them. 

You can download it here. If you found this helpful, please consider buying one of my books, or sharing my work. Thanks!

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

New Release: The Heir of Westmacott Hall

I have had a roller-coaster weekend. The release of The Heir of Westmacott Hall isn’t even the most adrenalin-inducing instance of the last two days!

I don’t want to keep anyone waiting. The Heir of Westmacott is now available on Amazon for purchase or to read through KU. Go nuts. If you like your scientists with a side of gothic romance, this is one hypothesis you will want to test yourself:

The Heir of Westmacott Hall.

A mystery science can’t solve.

Newt Grimshaw lives by the scientific method. His current hypothesis is that transforming his former family home, Westmacott Hall, into a school will:

A) remove him from poverty

B) restore the ruined reputation of his chemist parents, and:

C) silence the rumours connected to Westmacott Hall for good.

But Westmacott Hall contains even more secrets than cobwebs. Someone is determined to prevent Newt from claiming his inheritance—and then Newt witnesses a dead man walking the halls of his family estate.

Alive, Griffin Winsor was determined to destroy the credibility of the Grimshaw name. Sudden death but an end to his campaign—or has his desire for revenge brought him back from beyond the grave? Newt doesn’t believe in ghosts, but Griffin is his only hope of uncovering the truth behind his parents’ tragic deaths.

To make his school a success, Newt must solve the mysteries of Westmacott, or risk becoming a failed experiment himself. As Newt grapples with the facts, will his adherence to science save him—or will Westmacott Hall claim another victim?

The Heir of Westmacott Hall is for those who enjoy their scientific rivals with a dash of the supernatural. It is the fifteenth book in the Read by Candlelight series of novellas featuring an LGBTQIA cast, and can be read as a standalone.

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

The Heir of Westmacott Hall: Earlybird release!

It is a miserable day here in North Canterbury! We haven’t seen the sun since yesterday morning. The hills that I can usually see from my window are distant, hazy shapes. Rain drips from the trees in the garden and drums on the roof. 

It is, in fact, eerily like the scene in Sorcerer’s Heart I was working on this morning. And on that note, yes, I’m still working on Sorcerer’s Heart! Progress is slow, but thanks to my author friend Jamie Sands and others joining me for regular writing sprints on the weekends, I am making progress.

I’ve also finally finished editing and formatting The Heir of Westmacott Hall, the fifteenth book in the Read by Candlelight series. I finished writing The Heir of Westmacott Hall in December, but due to my health issues and wanting to make Sorcerer’s Heart a priority, editing took a while. In my biased opinion, it is worth the wait:

The Heir of Westmacott Hall.

A mystery science can’t solve.

Newt Grimshaw lives by the scientific method. His current hypothesis is that transforming his former family home, Westmacott Hall, into a school will:

A) remove him from poverty

B) restore the ruined reputation of his chemist parents, and:

C) silence the rumours connected to Westmacott Hall for good.

But Westmacott Hall contains even more secrets than cobwebs. Someone is determined to prevent Newt from claiming his inheritance—and then Newt witnesses a dead man walking the halls of his family estate.

Alive, Griffin Winsor was determined to destroy the credibility of the Grimshaw name. Sudden death but an end to his campaign—or has his desire for revenge brought him back from beyond the grave? Newt doesn’t believe in ghosts, but Griffin is his only hope of uncovering the truth behind his parents’ tragic deaths.

To make his school a success, Newt must solve the mysteries of Westmacott, or risk becoming a failed experiment himself. As Newt grapples with the facts, will his adherence to science save him—or will Westmacott Hall claim another victim?

The Heir of Westmacott Hall is for those who enjoy their scientific rivals with a dash of the supernatural. It is the fifteenth book in the Read by Candlelight series of novellas featuring an LGBTQIA cast, and can be read as a standalone.

Grab The Heir of Westmacott Hall in epub form direct from my website (available until June 26th). Alternatively, read it first by joining me on Patreon. The Heir of Westmacott Hall is also available for preorder on Amazon. 

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

IQARUS-con!

It’s been a while! I’ve had a run of bad luck health wise that has put me behind on my writing schedule, plus a bunch of other nonsense. Also some really cool stuff. Case in point: Rainbow Space Magic.

On March 13th and 14th, I participated in Rainbow Space Magic 2021, an online LGBTQ+ virtual book convention featuring authors and vendors. I took part in a reading (I was a mess) and a panel discussion on Magic and Folklore, and it was a BLAST. I had so much fun and even bought a couple of books! Thanks to the magic of YouTube, the rest of the panels are available for you to check out at your leisure—and I highly recommend that you do. 

The panel and folklore was the last thing I did before…getting sick. I was already exhibiting cold symptoms before the panel discussion, but I managed to keep it together for the con. After that, well. I did not manage much of anything. In the following seven weeks, I think I was healthy for a total of 4 days. I’m currently on bug number three. I’m really over this!

Before anyone worries about me: I’m fine. I have a rubbish immune system, a two-year-old nephew who is generous with his germs and a lot of bad luck. While I do have less energy than usual, and so am behind on my writing plans, I have been slowly plugging away at things.

Top of that list: IQARUS-con. Last year, I shared a survey with you to find out what you’d be interested in seeing on a virtual conference. Working with the rest of the IQARUS team, we’ve put together an agenda and guest list—and it’s only a week away from the con going live!

IQARUS-con takes place May 8th (May 9th if you’re in NZ or Australia). If you check out the agenda, you’ll see that I am hosting a lot of panels, and participating in one panel and one reading. It’s going to be a really busy day, but I hope that you’re able to join us for part of it. 

There’s also a Scavenger Hunt organised by the extremely talented Ava Kelly, with some awesome prizes for authors and readers. The event is free, but if you register to attend (by either making a donation to one of our three featured charities, or by sharing info about the charities on your social media), you’ll receive a swag-bag with ebooks donated by attending authors.

In writing news, I’m currently working on chapter eleven of an anticipated eighteen in Sorcerer’s Heart. I’ve also had a busy time house-sitting (a kitten, sheep, hens, donkeys, cats—not all at the same time, fortunately), took my niece to a cat-cafe, picked grapes (an awesome experience but wow was my body sore), and even took part in Christchurch Pride’s Rainbow Market (before I got sick). 

Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you’re making progress on your projects too—even if it’s slower progress than you would have liked. Take care, and hope to see you at IQARUS-con!

Talk soon,

Yours,

Gillian

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

Don’t wait for perfect & I was on the Big Gay Fiction Podcast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t wait for the perfect moment. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about sustainability and authors, primarily how we can create a schedule for ourselves that both provides an income that will accomodate our living needs but also care for us by ensuring we get the rest and environment we need to work without getting burnt out. You’ll be hearing a lot about this subject from me in the future, fair warning! Anyway, as I was launching myself into my ambitious 2020 publishing schedule back in May, I decided that I would make a point of celebrating my successes, the theory being that this would stop me from getting burnt out and feeling like I was getting nowhere. Every time I published a book, I would do something special. I started off by getting a pin for every book published in 2020, and wearing them on my cardigan. That kind of worked, but I decided I wanted to share what I was doing.

Since my stories generally go live on Amazon on a Saturday and Saturday was one of my cooking nights, I could make sure that we had a really nice sit down dinner on launch day. I even got a tiny bottle of Lindauer to split between me, Mum, Stepdad and Grandma. It made the occasion feel that much more “official” and it meant that we could talk about the new story, how it was going, and my plans for the future and how I felt about the progress I was making. The last book we did this for was The Dead Letter Office (I was staying with my sister for The Lord and the Banshee launch). I showed Grandma the cover, and she asked if she was allowed to read it. I recommended The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall instead, and gave her a copy. She was pleased with it, and made a point of showing me that she was reading it whenever I passed her with the book. 

I am so glad that I didn’t wait for a really big success to celebrate, and that Grandma was there for those small milestones. I know how proud she was of me (introducing me to the nurses at the hospital as her granddaughter, the author), and how much she believed in my success. It scares me a little to think how close I was to not having that because I was waiting for a big success moment.

The Big Gay Fiction Podcast backdrop with four books-The Christmas Party, Thorns and Fangs, Deep Magic and The Ugliest Sweater- over top.

Likewise, I’m really glad that I didn’t wait for the perfect time to talk to Will and Jeff of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. Being on the Big Gay Fiction Podcast has been an author dream of mine since 2015. They approached me about being on their podcast in September, but due to various timing issues (mostly me taking forever to finish The Christmas Party), we didn’t sit down to chat until the Tuesday of the week that Grandma was in hospital. Jeff had offered to reschedule, but even though it was a bit of a logistical challenge to make it work and I was frazzled, I was determined to do it. My family had really worked hard to make sure this would work, and I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get another opportunity. I don’t know what gave me that feeling—but it turned out to be right. Friday, we got the phonemail that Grandma was gone. 

I’m a little nervous to listen to the interview, honestly. Immediately afterwards, I started second guessing myself, thinking ‘I did a really bad job of explaining that’ or ‘I completely failed to mention ‘XYZ, I should have said more about that.’ I felt like I was jumping from thought to thought and missing out all the connective bits in between. But if we’d waited, this might not have happened. And, when I went into the hospital Wednesday, the first thing Grandma said to me was, “How did the radio interview go, dear?” I was able to squeeze her hand and tell her that it was great. And while it might not be perfect, I’m really pleased that I did it. 

The podcast episode went live on the 30th of November. Here it is: https://www.jeffandwill.com/biggayfictionpodcast/2020/11/30/episode-271-a-gothic-christmas-party-with-gillian-st-kevern/

I am so incredibly grateful to Will and Jeff, both for inviting me onto their show but also for working with me through all the many hurdles November sent my way. Writer friends, if you ever get the chance to work with Will and Jeff, do it! They made the entire experience just really warm and welcoming. 

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

New release: The Christmas Party

Happy Belated Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it. It’s not a tradition we have here in New Zealand, but I have actually attended a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner while I lived in Japan, and while that was probably non-traditional, it was a lot of fun. Thanksgiving this year would have felt very different if you’re used to celebrating with friends and family. I can sort of relate. I’ve been sick for most of this week, so I’ve been unable to socialise and have found myself really missing my friends. What I’ve started doing which is making a big difference has been to watch live streaming videos of people doing pretty repetitive tasks on YouTube. Listening to them chat about their day or week while I work on catching up on my to-do list helps me feel connected to the world.

When I worked in Japan, Christmas, which in my family, tends to be a big deal, was not a public holiday, and usually ended up being the last day of term. I realised that if I wanted things to feel like Christmas, I had to make the effort, because there would be none of the usual Christmas things going on. So I made sure I did something special on Christmas Day, whether that was cooking a ridiculously over the top dinner just for me (and then having amazing leftovers for the next few days), saving a treat for myself, like a book I really wanted to read but wasn’t allowed to open, or organising a chat or Skyping with family and friends. Last year, I had to work Christmas Day, so decided to make a new tradition for myself: watching The Addams Family movie Christmas Eve. I’m already looking forward to watching it again this year!

The reason for this post was not to tell everyone to go and watch The Addams Family, although you totally should. It was to let you know that The Christmas Party, Read by Candlelight #14 is now live on Amazon. 

The Christmas Party. 

 Tidings of comfort and—ghosts?

As the solitary inhabitant of a notoriously haunted house, Micah Evanovitch is braced for another miserable Christmas. He passes his days playing the piano, brooding on his failure to produce a sonata worthy of the woman he loved, and hiding from the world. When a wilful heiress decides his house is the perfect location for her spooky Christmas soiree, Micah’s very existence is threatened. Will the party provide Micah with the chance to put his past behind him—or further cement his failures?

Pippa Goodfellow has five thousand pounds a year and a simple wish: to scare the socks off her infuriatingly superior cousin Julian and his odious friend Bryant. But when her revenge threatens the professional reputation of her beloved Uncle, Pippa needs Micah’s help to ward off disaster. Can an eternal pessimist and hopeless optimist ever find common ground? Or will Pippa’s Christmas Party end in Christmas tragedy for all? 

The Christmas Party is the fourteenth in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone novellas featuring an LGBTQIA+ cast. Pairs nicely with Christmas mince pies and ginger beer. Read now to help revive the tradition of ghost stories on Christmas Eve.

Amazon customers,  you can grab The Christmas Party here.

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

The Christmas Party early bird release.

This is two days behind schedule, but I’m not beating myself up about that. November has been an incredibly difficult month for my entire family.

Although this is late, I’m actually really proud of myself for putting myself ahead of my publishing schedule. I’m pretty bad at recognising when I need to take a break, but there were a couple of times this month when I could have worked on writing or editing, but instead I realised that I needed to care for myself—and I did! And honestly, I think that is the reason I am able to bring you The Christmas Party today. If I’d pressed ahead and pushed myself, I might be in even worse shape than I am right now. 

So yes, breaking news—taking care of yourself is important, at this time of year more than any other! We might be heading into summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, but for most of you reading this, temperatures are cold, and it’s really easy to get run down at this time of year. I hope that you’re able to balance the inevitable end of year busy with the need to be kind to yourself and make time for what is most important to you.

To help you with that, a Read by Candlelight story that, unlike my last release, is not going to make you cry (not unless things have gone terribly wrong)—The Christmas Party!

The Christmas Party. 

 Tidings of comfort and—ghosts?

As the solitary inhabitant of a notoriously haunted house, Micah Evanovitch is braced for another miserable Christmas. He passes his days playing the piano, brooding on his failure to produce a sonata worthy of the woman he loved, and hiding from the world. When a wilful heiress decides his house is the perfect location for her spooky Christmas soiree, Micah’s very existence is threatened. Will the party provide Micah with the chance to put his past behind him—or further cement his failures?

Pippa Goodfellow has five thousand pounds a year and a simple wish: to scare the socks off her infuriatingly superior cousin Julian and his odious friend Bryant. But when her revenge threatens the professional reputation of her beloved Uncle, Pippa needs Micah’s help to ward off disaster. Can an eternal pessimist and hopeless optimist ever find common ground? Or will Pippa’s Christmas Party end in Christmas tragedy for all? 

The Christmas Party is the fourteenth in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone novellas featuring an LGBTQIA+ cast. Pairs nicely with Christmas mince pies and ginger beer. Read now to help revive the tradition of ghost stories on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Party went out to my Patreon supporters already, and is available to purchase as an epub on my store until November 28th NZT. Amazon customers, you can preorder it here

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

A goodbye bouquet.

It is a very sad day in for the extended Read By Candlelight pet family. Two Sundays ago, we said goodbye to our little dog Tui. Today, we heard that Charlie, another RBC veteran, has gone. Knowing both of them, they are in the dog equivalent of heaven, eating everything in sight. Both were old dogs in declining health, and both went without pain or trauma—but it is still very hard to say goodbye to such good friends. 

I do not want this blog to become known for depressing animal stories, so I want to share instead something that I think is lovely. Last weekend, a lady that had met my grandma once before showed up at our house with a bouquet for her, ‘knowing how much she must be missing her little dog.’ Mum says this is a proper Victorian style bouquet. 

What struck me immediately was the inclusion of Forget-Me-Not. This flower was one of the first I learned the name of and used to grow wild in our garden in Nelson. The giver stuck with the blue and white theme for her bouquet, but some of the flowers have meanings in the Victorian language of Flowers ( the A-Z of the Secret Victorian Era Language of Flowers ). Anemone means Forsaken, Angelica Inspiration. The bluebells symbolise constancy (a good way to express a dog’s loyalty), Pink symbolises boldness. Scabious means unfortunate love (um). Daisies have connotations of innocence and purity, and Columbine (apparently called Granny’s bonnet here) indicates folly. 

Having looked up the meanings, I think the giver chose the flowers for their colours rather than their meaning, but this was a really lovely present and has given grandma and the rest of us, a lot of joy. It’s a really restful combination of flowers and while we miss our dog a lot, it is really nice to know that someone was thinking of us. I have not met the lady who gave grandma the bouquet, but it’s obvious that she has once had a pet. Isn’t it kind of amazing, that, even when they’re gone, our animals continue to bring us together? 

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

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New release: The Lord and the Banshee

I’ve noticed that a book on preorder goes live at 7:00 pm New Zealand time. This is not usually a problem, but New Zealand is also a day ahead, so as I write this it is evening, October 31st and I keep having to answer the door to trick or treaters. 

Halloween is a pretty new phenomenon in New Zealand, or at least it seems that way to me. When I was a kid, we lived in the country and there was enough distance between houses to rule trick or treating out, even if it had been acceptable (there was a push back against adopting ‘American’ traditions/culture). I was in my third year of university before I went trick or treating for the first time (I was working as a live-in nanny for an American family), and living in Japan before I really got the Halloween bug. 

This year, I’m volunteering at the Ngaio Marsh house over the weekend, so I’ve had a pretty full day and am quite happy to be on door duty while my niece and nephew, their friends and my sister and her friend take them around the neighbourhood. It is my nephew Jack’s first experience trick or treating and he is hyped. 

Anyway, taking advantage of a momentary lull, The Lord and the Banshee is out! The book that nobody wants is on its way to your kindle, if you preordered, or is available for purchase on Amazon. If you are new to this series, this is not the one you want to start with. Apologies in advance! This was the story that wanted to be written. The next one will be happier!

THE LORD AND THE BANSHEE.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen.

Thomas Cross, Lord of Foxwood, has received a double blow. The discovery of his terminal illness is followed immediately by the news that his longterm partner Pip is marked for death by the banshee of Connaught Castle. There is no cure for Cross’s condition, but there may be a way to save Pip—at the cost of his remaining time.

Recruiting his adopted son Julian to aid him, Cross travels to Ireland to free Pip from the banshee. As each successive encounter with the banshee leaves him closer to death, Cross grows more dependent on a dangerous fairy relic. But the gifts of the fair folk come at a price. What is the cost of Pip’s safety?

The Lord and the Banshee is the thirteenth in the series of Read by Candlelight gothic novellas featuring an ever-decreasing cast of LGBTQIA characters. Pairs well with chocolate and regret. Read now to hate everything.

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.

The Lord and the Banshee: early bird release

I’ve got mixed feeling about this news. Normally, a new book is something to celebrate. However, this is not a book I think anyone is looking forward to! 

If you’ve been reading the Read by Candlelight series in publishing order, than you’ve already noticed that Cross is… absent…in later books. That he predeceased Pip was not exactly a secret. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of how Cross died at some point, but I thought that it would be a long while in the future. I was not expecting to write this book this year. This book had other plans and here we are!

This was definitely one of the more challenging of the Read by Candlelight books to write. I really hope that it is not as challenging to read! This is the early bird release. The Lord and the Banshee went up on Patreon a few hours ago,  and will be available as an epub on my store until October 30th. Amazon customers, you can preorder it here.

THE LORD AND THE BANSHEE.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen.

Thomas Cross, Lord of Foxwood, has received a double blow. The discovery of his terminal illness is followed immediately by the news that his longterm partner Pip is marked for death by the banshee of Connaught Castle. There is no cure for Cross’s condition, but there may be a way to save Pip—at the cost of his remaining time.

Recruiting his adopted son Julian to aid him, Cross travels to Ireland to free Pip from the banshee. As each successive encounter with the banshee leaves him closer to death, Cross grows more dependent on a dangerous fairy relic. But the gifts of the fair folk come at a price. What is the cost of Pip’s safety?

The Lord and the Banshee is the thirteenth in the series of Read by Candlelight gothic novellas featuring an ever-decreasing cast of LGBTQIA characters. Pairs well with chocolate and regret. Read now to hate everything.

LGBTQIA+ fiction with a twist

Gillian St. Kevern

To stay up to date with my new releases and receive a free book, sign up for my email updates here.