fun

Wham Bam Author Jam 2020

Two big events happened in New Zealand on Saturday. We had the final day of voting and the results of the 2020 General election (we now have the queerest parliament in the world), and the Wham Bam Author Jam took place in Christchurch! Organised by author Stacey Broadbent (who writes M/M as Cyan Tayse), for the past three years, the Wham Bam Author Jam has provided a chance for authors and readers to interact. The event attracts authors from Australia and the North Island as well the respective ends of the South Island and a really good local crowd. I signed up for the first year but wasn’t able to make it, went last year and had a ball. I missed the sign up date for this year, but another author had to cancel so I nabbed a table last minute. It was another awesome event.

There is something very special about talking about books and stories with a crowd of readers and writers. Last year, the Wham Bam Author Jam was where I gained the confidence to stop answering people who asked me about my books by saying, ‘Well, that one’s not very good’ or ‘You probably don’t want to read that one.’ A lady who brought a book from me last year returned and we remembered each other which was very cool! My table was between Amy Blythe, awesome author and writing friend on my left, and the Christchurch Writers, more awesome friends, on the right. 

I sold nine books this year, which feels pretty good! That covers the cost of my table, but not the cost of printing and shipping the books to New Zealand. I also ended up coming home with four new books, so I can’t say that the event was a financial success. If you’re UK or US based, or have a really big fanbase, you might be able to make these sorts of events cover their costs. However, even though they’re maybe not the most financial choice I could make, I want to keep doing these events, for three reasons. 

1. The energy that you get from interacting with book enthusiasts at these events! I spent probably as much or even more time chatting with my fellow authors as I did with readers, but there is this amazing energy that happens at these sorts of live events. I came away with a massive boost, wanting to write all the books (and also with quite an expansive to read list). 

2. Author networking! It’s really good knowing what other people are writing. It feels really good when someone comes to my table and looks interested in my vampires, to say ‘oh, you know who else writes vampires?’ and then point them towards another author. It’s also good, when a reader asks if a book meets a certain requirement, to be able to say, ‘no, it doesn’t, but boy, does this author have you sorted.’ Yes, this happens with authors you know online too, but I don’t know—I think that I am better at making those connections once I’ve met the author, heard them talk about their books and that allows me to place their work better. There’s also the fact that you can see what promotional ideas various authors have and get some great tips, and share your tips. I’ve actually made several new author friends which is pretty cool!

3. Representation. A guy came up to my table and thanked me for writing LGBTQ+ fiction because there is an absolute dearth of it in New Zealand bookstores. We geeked out about Qtopia in Christchurch which has some really great youth initiatives, and he told me about a fundraiser they’re doing, and I loaded him up with bookmarks, magnets, brochures and a postcard, along with tons of recs for books. Last year, there was a lesbian couple who were astonished to realise there was a rainbow writing community in this country. I figured out a while ago that in writing my stories, I’m hoping to give others the community and support and validation that I didn’t have for a big chunk of my life. It has only just occurred to me that by taking my books out into the world through these sorts of events, I am providing that representation in a different way. So that is extremely cool and I really want to do more of it. 

There are a few things I want to do better for next time! I want to get some stands for my books—I’ve got so many of them now, that they really do take up a whole table, so it would be nice to have a plan to display them. Also on my Wishlist: one of those nifty pop up banners and a big table border thing. I also need to do my ordering and inventory when I’m home and can see what I have on hand or get better at tracking my inventory. I shot a quick video of my table which was a lot of fun, so while I think it was not a bad effort, I do think there is room for improvement.

I also forgot to swing by the supermarket for snacks before hand. I did okay on the food front, but really struggled to stay hydrated, ending the afternoon with a dehydration headache. This was on me—I didn’t want to leave my table to refill my water bottle and wound up getting really thirsty. So yeah, next time, I will bring more drinks with me!

Look what the mailman dragged in…

Jasper Carruthers has turned deciphering smudged addresses and avoiding conflict into a fine art. A crate from Egypt contains a problem he cannot return to sender: a mummified cat sought by a desperate thief. Failure to deliver the cat will give the Postmaster General—Jasper’s vengeful son—the excuse he needs to oust Jasper from the postal service.

Jasper’s attempts to deliver the package attract the interest of Captain Candy, an insufferable bore under the mistaken impression that Jasper tolerates him. Even worse: the cat does not seem to realise she’s dead. Jasper’s not sure if he needs an Egyptologist or an exorcist. There’s only one thing he’s certain of: he needs help.

Forced to trust Candy with his secret, Jasper may at last have found something worth fighting for—but can he deliver the package before the cat lets herself out of the bag?

The Dead Letter Office is book twelve in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone Gothic novellas featuring an expanding cast of LGBTQIA+ characters. Pairs well with a hot pot of tea and a biscuit.

The Dead Letter Office is currently available on Amazon here. 

Empowering gaslamp fantasy that confounds expectations

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 Baxter and Maisie double-team

As is now Read by Candlelight tradition, I’m going to introduce the pets that Read by Candlelight is dedicated to. If I’d been thinking ahead, I would have dedicated the book to Cora, the most ghostlike of all the cats I have housesat. Instead, I went with Baxter and Maisie for their contributions to the editing process. 

Baxter and Maisie belong to a writing friend, Jillian Barnes, who, after several attempts at a family holiday were thwarted, took off with her husband for an amazing caravan adventure leaving me with Baxter and Maisie.

Baxter, a seven-month-old German short haired pointer and Labrador cross, was full on, from the moment he woke up at seven in the morning, until the moment he put himself to bed, usually around seven to eight pm at night. He was a lot of fun, but I learned fast that he was not a dog that could be left to his own devices. He did not enjoy being alone, even for so short a thing as me needing the bathroom. Even when we were in the same room, I had to keep my wits about me. More than once, I was really into working or editing, only to realise there was an ominous crunching sound coming from somewhere in the room. Baxter chomped on a gunboat, the lid of a coffee keep cup, countless cabbage tree leaves, a few sticks, his toys, the replacement toys, and a beautiful crochet blanket that Jill had created… Yeah.

Baxter holding a whopping great stick.

In order to keep up with Baxter, it was necessary to take him for lots of walks and play. Fortunately, there was an amazing park nearby with a dog park. Baxter loved haring around the park, bouncing all over the place and playing with the other dogs and they loved him too. Watching the dogs, I was really impressed how, no matter how excited they got, the dogs always remembered to tailor their energy to who they were playing with. Baxter preferred to tussle with dogs his size or a bit bigger, but when he played with smaller dogs, he never hurt them. 

Baxter was really popular with the other dog owners too, many complimenting his coat or his good nature. I really enjoyed basking in Baxter’s associated glow. I also got to witness many fun dog park shenanigans. There was a yoga class who positioned themselves right at the point where the two halves of the dog park meet up. There is a hedge running down the centre of the park, with two gaps at either end. These gaps ended up channeling wave after wave of excited dogs directly into the yoga group, with very little warning. 

Baxter and I would pair playing at the dog park with an extended walk around the park. I really enjoyed being out and about with him. I don’t like walking when it’s just me, but having a dog just adds so much to the walking experience. That we were in absolutely gorgeous surroundings, and the weather, with only two exceptions was amazing, didn’t hurt either! I lost working time, but I definitely gained energy and endorphins from my walks with Baxter. Sadly I have not managed to keep this habit up—I will have to find some excuse to hang out with Baxter again!

When Baxter put himself to bed, I quietly packed my laptop and myself down the hall to my bedroom. A few minutes after I’d got settled in, Maisie would appear and get herself settled in. She preferred to sit on my collar bone, but generally, after I failed to stay still enough for her satisfactions, she would migrate to sitting on my stomach, or next to me on the bed. 

Maisie and me!

Baxter was a bit too exuberant for Maisie’s tastes, so they occupied different halves of the house. Since I spent most of the day with Baxter, Maisie was seemingly determined to make up for lost time. She was not shy, getting up close and cuddly and generally just being the sort of cuddly every cat owner dreams about…until she’d had enough and it was off to to stalk the night streets of Christchurch. 

Baxter and Maisie might have been a bit of a handful, and while I did not get as much writing done as I had hoped, I had such a blast, I did not even care—the best kind of housesit! 

Look what the mailman dragged in…

Jasper Carruthers has turned deciphering smudged addresses and avoiding conflict into a fine art. A crate from Egypt contains a problem he cannot return to sender: a mummified cat sought by a desperate thief. Failure to deliver the cat will give the Postmaster General—Jasper’s vengeful son—the excuse he needs to oust Jasper from the postal service.

Jasper’s attempts to deliver the package attract the interest of Captain Candy, an insufferable bore under the mistaken impression that Jasper tolerates him. Even worse: the cat does not seem to realise she’s dead. Jasper’s not sure if he needs an Egyptologist or an exorcist. There’s only one thing he’s certain of: he needs help.

Forced to trust Candy with his secret, Jasper may at last have found something worth fighting for—but can he deliver the package before the cat lets herself out of the bag?

The Dead Letter Office is book twelve in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone Gothic novellas featuring an expanding cast of LGBTQIA+ characters. Pairs well with a hot pot of tea and a biscuit.

The Dead Letter Office is currently available on Amazon here. 

Empowering gaslamp fantasy that confounds expectations

Gillian St. Kevern

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

When you can’t pick *one* favourite Christmas song…

I’ve shared this before, but not on this blog. Yes, it’s an oldie, but there are still people in the world who haven’t seen this, so for them (and those who haven’t seen it in a while): acapella group Straight no Chaser presents the ultimate Christmas song.

 

Make sure you watch until 2:12 when it really gets next level. You can stop watching after that, but if you do, you have no soul.

Ugly Sweater Season.

Ages ago, probably in December 2015, I was so excited by the release of my first published book, The Ugliest Sweater, that I set up a google alert to let me know if anyone talked about it. In the two years since, I have not received one alert about my story. Instead, at this time of year my inbox explodes with newspaper headlines like the following:

Runners Don Ugly Sweaters For Annual Race: Syracuse Ugly Sweater 5k.

And it makes me really, really happy. If you click on the link, you’ll get a photo of the ugly sweaters in action. Even better, part of the proceeds raised by these horrible sweaters went to the Rescue Mission. I also get Ugly Sweaters of all varieties showing up in my Facebook feed.

If the time of year is getting to you, or you find all the bad news overwhelming, why not Google ugly sweaters and see what you find? Even Chuck Tingle’s in on it (admittedly with a handsome sweater):

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Love Is Real Handsome Holiday Sweater from Chuck Tingle’s Shirts For Buds.

I dare you to look at this sweater, and be miserable. It’s physically impossible, right? So as November turns into December and the seasonal madness begins, just remember–the sweaters have your back.

Have a Little Patience…

Last post, I mentioned I was working on Morgen Prince (working title), the fourth in the Deep Magic series. A lot of time has passed, and we have a new narrator. Move over Myrhydion: Duhywynt is finally getting the chance to tell his story. And wow… If you ever thought Myrhydion was verbose or Ieuan lacked self-awareness, you are not prepared for Duhywynt.

I’m sharing a song from my Morgen Prince writing playlist. This song is apt because not only are the lyrics incredibly appropriate for Dewi, but the setting is also very suitable (and I am a huge unashamed fan of Take That’s comeback):

Comment if you agree that it looks like the other band members are thinking ‘Bloody hell, Gary, seriously? Why did you drag us out here?’ for the first half of the song!

My new side-gig.

Although I’m a published author, I’m still a long way off being able to write full-time. Since quitting my job as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, most of my income comes from freelance jobs, anything from ghost-writing to editing to travel-writing. I also babysit, and this month I added another side-gig to my repertoire—and I think you’ll agree I really lucked out here.

Dog-walking.

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This is my new boss, and although she works me hard, I have to say I enjoy every minute of it. She’s always happy to see me when I arrive, gives loads of positive feedback, and is totally up for taking an untried route. If we get a little lost or walk farther than we intended, it’s all good! She’s not one to watch the clock. All in all, I really enjoy her positive attitude and look forward to many future walks.

Cats Have Staff: A.L. Anderson

My friend M. Caspian shared her cute fluff penname this week, revealing she occasionally writes ‘sugary-sweet M/M romance with HEAs all round‘ (she also reviews notebooks and introduced me to Little & Fridays so I totally endorse following her). I feel like I deserved a treat for getting Dead Wrong submitted by my deadline, and figured a sugary-sweet fic was better for me than eating half a packet of gingernuts. When I saw Cats Have Staff I knew this was the story for me.

Cats Have Staff is short, sweet, uncomplicated but still had me ridiculously invested in Sal and Golightly. In short, it was exactly what I needed tonight, and I thoroughly recommend it for cat-people or people trying to reduce their gingernut intake.

barnesandnoble-catshavestaff

Salvatore Moretti has spent the last three years alone, ever since his lover Benjamin Cresswell left town for the job opportunity of a lifetime. Sal knew he couldn’t hold Ben back, and instead he’s been focused on creating a solid life for himself. A good life. He doesn’t need more than that . . . does he?

This is a short story of 14,893 words.

Cats Have Staff on Amazon.

Rock Sugar: Don’t Stop the Sandman

Ever wondered what would happen if an eighties metal band were stranded on a desert island and all they had to listen to was the music collection of a teenage girl? Luckily for us all, Rock Sugar is here to answer that question. The answer: some really incredible mash-ups.

Don’t believe me? Check out the music video for ‘Don’t Stop the Sandman’, a mash-up of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman.’ It is flawless.

 

Rock Sugar have a ton of awesome mash-ups (I really like ‘Here Comes the Fool You Wanted), but this is their only video.

And if you want to know something really crazy… The guy on lead vocals voiced Wakko Warner.

The Best Cover I’ve Seen in a Long Time.

And for once I’m not talking about book covers! No, I discovered this cover weeks ago and have been gleefully sharing it with people ever since. Trust me, this is one you’ve got to watch. No–it doesn’t matter how you feel about Adele, or even if you like or don’t like metal.

Watch.

This.

Video!

Isn’t it glorious? Not only do Leo Moracchioli and Pete Cottrell nail this cover, but they have a ton of other cool stuff on their respective channels.

What makes this even cooler for me is that I found it a week after I finished writing The Op-Shop Rejects Live in Concert and two of the characters in the story would totally start a phone call like this. Yes, I know this means nothing now, but just wait till I share this in December saying ‘this is totally Declan and Mikaal.’