Writing

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.

Empowering gaslamp fantasy that confounds expectations

Gillian St. Kevern

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A long overdue writing update.

It is 10:19 am here in New Zealand, and I am on my second pot of tea. I’ve been meaning to write this post for almost a month now, and it is not going to get any easier.

On March 9th, I did something that for me was a really big deal. I’ve been out as a writer of LGBTQ fiction online since 2015, but it was only last year, after writing Morgen Prince, that I was comfortable to be out as myself with my writing friends and family. On March 9th, as part of Christchurch’s Pride Week, a Rainbow Market was organised. I signed up for a stall. After a week of pure panic as I ran around getting ready, I was there, standing next to my books–me.

I was welcomed. The crowd was fantastic, but it was my fellow stall holders that really made the event for me–there was an energy in the hall (and outside too) that made the place hum, even before anyone showed up. And that energy was amazing. I don’t know how to describe except that it is that feeling when you meet someone and you know you’re going to be friends. It was pure magic, and I came away from the market with an exhaustion headache and a feeling of belong, acceptance and positivity that lasted for days.

That was Saturday. On Friday, March 15th, just six days after I had such an amazingly positive experience at Pride, a gunman walked into two mosques in Christchurch. Fifty people who were in a place that should have been safe, in the warmth of their community, were killed, many others injured, and an entire community made to feel unsafe.

I’ve been struggling to reconcile the two events. Following the attacks, New Zealanders, especially pakeha (NZers of European descent, of which I am one) especially, have had to take a hard look at our beliefs, our assumptions and our actions, and ask ourselves how our fear, our ignorance, our laziness, our indifference has contributed to rise of islamophobia and other forms of racism in our country. It’s not been an easy process, but the strength and resilience of the muslim community in New Zealand has been incredible and inspiring, and the outpouring of love we’ve seen here has been like nothing else.

During this time of grieving, of searching for answers, for trying to find a way forward, I’ve leaned heavily on my writing friends. As current editor of the Romance Writers of New Zealand magazine, I had the opportunity to write an editorial detailing my feelings and thoughts on what romance writers can do. In this, I was inspired by two excellent articles, Elizabeth Kingston’s Romanticizing White Supremacy and K J Charles’ Just How Things Were,  both articles I highly recommend reading.

While working on the April issue of Heart to Heart, the announcement of the 2019 RITA finalists led to the RWA also doing some serious self-examination. Racism is everywhere in publishing, and the sheer scale of it seems overwhelming. Our courageous authors of colour have been battling incredible hurdles for far too long, and quite honestly it is appalling that they’ve been doing so, and doing so mostly alone.

As a writer, I’ve renewed my commitment to writing stories that reflect the richness of the many and varied cultures I’ve experienced in my life. I’ve also been thinking about practical ways I can support authors of colour (inspired by an incredible Facebook post by Kaje Harper). I encourage everyone to do the same. These things may feel small and you may doubt you’re making a difference, but the incredible wall of flowers on Rolleston Ave and outside the Linwood mosque that came to symbolise the love of New Zealanders for our muslim whanau (family), was formed by individuals each with a single bunch of flowers.

Given the seriousness of the above topic, I’ve been struggling to blog about my writing here. My latest series is pure, ridiculous escapist fun, and not particularly representative. I released The Secretary and the Ghost March 8th, the day before the Rainbow Market, and went on to have my best ever month on Amazon. On the one hand, I have extremely mixed feelings about the fact that my biggest ever self-published month should happen at a time when so many people are hurt and grieving. On the other, it is moments like these that you really need some escapism. While I think that I can do (and will do) a lot better with Read by Candlelight in future books, I’m going to let the first three be what they are and focus on my future stories.

Hopefully, you’ll see more regular updates from me again soon. Sorry for the length and randomness of this, but it–like my pot of tea–has been brewing awhile.

Yours,

Gillian.

Baby steps.

I’m in the middle of doing something quite exciting: editing Morgen Prince. This was not exciting until maybe ten minutes ago, when I suddenly realised how significant the scene I’m working on is.

On one level: It’s nothing really. Duhywynt has been cruelly forced to visit Bardsey Island with Myfanwy and a tourist, Drew, who wants to be friends with him (oh, the humanity!).

On another level, it’s everything. This is me writing about something I could only dimly imagine writing about when I first plotted Deep Magic. I sensed the seeds of this were there, but I couldn’t have articulated this—and I would have run a thousand miles before trying to write it.

So what’s the thing? It’s only Duhywynt rejecting the labels suggested to him in order to be true to an identity he hasn’t fully grasped yet. To many of my readers, this will mean nothing, but right now it meals a lot to me—because it’s the first time my truth has shown up so openly in something I’ve written.

At thirty-six, I’m still exploring who I am. I’m in no hurry to stop discovering me, and have a lot of unease around labels. Although I identify as asexual-bisexual, I’m more likely to identify myself as an author, a traveller, an Aunt, or a writer. These labels are much more me than the labels ‘asexual’ or ‘bisexual.’

This seems really weird, given that I am so strongly drawn to writing LGBTQI stories. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think the reason is that my experience of being ace or being bi doesn’t match the experiences I see expressed in the blogs I read, twitter feeds I scan, Facebook communities I join, books I read or media I consume. And I really hate to disagree with people–like, really, really hate to disagree. So rather than risk making people feel like their experiences weren’t valid, I’ve avoided expressing my truths openly—and in the process, I’ve invalidated myself.

I’ve been slowly coming to the realisation that my truths are important, even if they don’t resonate with everyone. Embracing them will make me feel whole and will give permission to others with different truths to express them in their way. Again, as obvious as this may seem, this has been a long time coming… Too long, probably, but I am a work in progress, and no where near the end of my first draft so I’m going to forgive myself.

And in case you missed it… cute Weddell seal being utterly ridiculous:

This is pretty much exactly how I imagine Evans Oliver.

No One Ever Saved the World by Being Nice.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned the YA superhero story on this blog yet. It’s always hard to get started on a new story, particularly if everything is new–and in this story it is. Characters, world, everything. So, naturally, I’ve been procrastinating hard. In particular, I was revisiting old fanfics.

I used to be a huge DCU fan of a very specific vibe–Impulse, Young Justice, Superboy. I loved the way the young characters, the third generation of superheroes, struggled to step into the footsteps of those who’d gone before them. I wrote fanfic, made friends, spent hours on AIM chatting about nothing. It was a small community, but a really positive one, and I’d really like to capture some of that positive, excited vibe with the YA superhero story. So I went back and read some incredibly bad fic, got nostalgic for friends I’ve lost touch with, and eventually decided that it might be fun (and work against the procrastination), if I shared the story as I wrote it, fanfic style.

Fair warning: this is an experiment! It might work. It might not. I might get stuck and decide to delete everything and start again. The end goal is publishing this so it will probably come down once it’s complete. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

NO ONE EVER SAVED THE WORLD BY BEING NICE

How do you prove your father isn’t a super-villain? Enrol in superhero school, obviously.

But becoming a hero requires more than making the world’s best vegan brownies. Phoebe can’t control her light-speed powers, her classmates hate her, and she’s developing a major crush on the son of her arch-enemy. Nothing would make Atlas happier than putting Phoebe’s entire family behind bars permanently. If she can’t out superhero the world’s greatest superhero, her Dad is non-vegan toast.

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February Done/March To-do

I feel like I’m floating—and not in a good way. I’m sitting at my Thursday writer’s group, feeling really disconnected from what is going on around me. A few big deal things have happened recently—Dead Wrong released, I got print copies of Thorns and Fangs and Uprooted—and none of it really seems to sink in.

I also coughed for an hour last night, barely slept and woke up this morning completely congested, so this is not a life crisis, it’s a cold. But it’s still something of a wake-up call.

I’ve been really busy chasing volunteer experience, job interviews—everything except writing. I don’t multi-task well, and so I just need to remove these distractions so I can focus fully on writing. It’s a bit unnerving, stepping away from the safety net of steady employment, but ultimately I think I need to focus on meeting my writing goals. The uncertainty and interruptions of February (and December and January) have meant that I haven’t made the progress I want to. The really good news is that my family is one hundred percent behind me in this, so I’ve got that safety net.

February Goals:

Write Murder Isn’t Art. Added 31,500 words. Not great!

Unfortunately, I can’t get straight down to work in March. I have two freelancing commitments that need to be finished ASAP plus I have a YA story I need to outline and write in March to make editor deadlines. I just have to get my head down and get to work. I’m going to do what I can to get back into a regular writing habit. I’m also going to do what I did last year with my Mindful March, and work at getting myself into a healthier space: walking everyday, eating more fruit and veges, taking my vitamins (lost between move from house to house), and practicing Mindfulness again.

March Goals:

-Outline YA and submit to editor.

-Write YA superheroes

-Freelance #1

-Freelance #2

-Weekly Freelance articles 1-5

-Edit Morgen Prince

Wish me luck!

Dead Wrong out…now!

One of the biggest challenges of being an author in New Zealand is that since our timezone is ahead of the US—and the US is where both NineStar Press and Amazon are based—release days arrive here sooner. After counting down to February 26th for what feels like ages, I’ve been waiting all day for Dead Wrong (Thorns and Fangs #4) to go live.

And it finally has!

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

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Nate’s no supernatural expert, but even he knows a murdered man coming back to life to kill him can only mean one thing—the necromancer is back and out for revenge.

Recruited by Department Seven in a desperate attempt to stop Peter before he claims new victims, Nate quickly realizes he’s in way over his head. His powers are failing him, he’s haunted by Peter’s ghost, and he can’t even remember how he stopped Peter the first time—or why he feels that someone very important is missing from his life.

Ben is fighting for his afterlife. Trapped in the supernatural version of solitary confinement, he knows freeing himself will destroy New Camden’s fragile peace—but what choice does he have? The longer he spends in his magical prison, the harder it becomes to resist his inner vampire. But if Ben wants to help Nate prevent Peter taking over the city, he has to prove himself to his sire—Saltaire, a thousand-year-old vampire with no qualms about using his immense power to suppress Ben’s free will.

As the casualties mount and the city descends into chaos, Ben and Nate must overcome their worst fears and impossible odds—or be written out of existence entirely.

Life After Humanity: Exclusive Excerpt

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I’m feeling really good about this! The entire Thorns and Fangs series has been me challenging myself. Life After Humanity is no different. I’ve taken chances and written the story I wanted to write. I have second-guessed myself, worried myself, worried my editor… but now that release day is approaching I’m feeling really good about it.

On the theme of taking a chance, I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt today. It’s not user-friendly in that it probably won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t read Thorns and Fangs (and contains major spoilers for the story), and won’t appeal to everyone–but it is a scene that has appeared in every single incarnation of this story (and there have been a few). It’s also one of my favourites. While saying you’ll either love it or hate feels like too big a claim, this one I think will leave you either really excited for Life After Humanity or faintly confused.

If the former, preorder Life After Humanity from the NineStar website now to get it on January 12th.

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Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.

When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.

Read on for the exclusive excerpt!

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Going Backwards to Go Forwards: 2018 Goals and Life After Humanity

LifeAfterHumanity-SliderI’ve been in a really weird headspace for about the last month. It started with the lead up to Christmas, and continued, with a few brief breaks, over New Year’s. I seemed to shake it off for a little while, but it would sneak back, insidious and subtle, and before I knew it, I’d spent another day unable to do anything.

I’m still not exactly sure what the cause of it was, but I suspect I let myself get overworked and overwhelmed in December, and by fussing when I should have surrendered, inadvertently prolonged the mood. Yesterday, I had an afternoon of forced doing nothing. I showed up too early for an appointment, and had nothing to do but sit and read. It was glorious. Today, despite having had a busy morning and a full on afternoon babysitting, I feel full of light and energy, and I’m finally ready to face my last years goals.

I’ve been putting it off and putting it off because I have a really hard time admitting failure. And I knew that I’d fallen short of my goals. Luckily, I’d forgotten what those goals were so when I was stewing in my bad mood, I wasn’t beating myself up as much as I might have otherwise.

2017 Goals.
▪ 8 books published.
▪ 1 year entirely supported by writing.
▪ Investing in my work (marketing/learning)

How did I do? Well…

  • 3 books published —Uprooted, Wing Commander’s Curse and The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

So not great! However, I remembered this goal as ‘8 books written’ and I did slightly better on that front—Life After Humanity, Dead Wrong, Wing Commander’s Curse, The Charity Shop Rejects, Gentlemen Don’t Murder, and Morgen Prince. I also revised Banging the Supernatural, which I think gives me a total of seven books written—and if you count freelance projects I ghost wrote for clients, I can add four more.

I realised in November/December how difficult I was finding balancing my freelance work with my own writing and family commitments. I made the decision that once I’d completed my current freelance projects, I wouldn’t be looking for more. In fact, I’ve launched a serious job hunt. I think having a regular schedule and taking some of the financial pressure off, will mean I stress less and have more mental energy to give to writing. Unfortunately, job hunt is practically synonymous with stress and uncertainty. Here’s hoping that the short term uncertainty pays off with long term productivity!

  • 1 year entirely supported by writing.

Success! I did expand into dog-walking and babysitting, but I supported myself throughout all of 2017 primarily by writing, mostly freelance work. I find it really reassuring to know that if necessary, I’ve got this as a fallback.

  • Investing in my work (marketing/training).

Actually, I did make headway in this direction, too. Not as much as I’d like, of course, but overall, I didn’t really need to beat myself up as much as I did.

2018 goals.

I’ve only got one 2018 goal, and I’ve already mentioned it—publish a book or story a month throughout 2018. I’ve got January and February covered, but I’m already behind. I’ve only just started on the story I intended to write in December, but I’ve suddenly realised that’s okay.

In 2017, I struggled to write in January. I started the new year enthusiastic but tired, and my creative project quickly got overwhelmed by doubt and a freelance project I was working on.

In 2016, my January got taken over by school and cold and being sick. Can’t remember January 2015 either, but I’d be surprised if I got anything done. And I know that January 2014 I struggled to write anything at all.

This is a really obvious trend. So obvious that I really need to acknowledge it, take some pressure off, and celebrate what I have managed to achieve. Even if it doesn’t feel like much. Even if it’s a step backwards.

And speaking of backwards…

Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) releases in one week!

Life After Humanity came about in a really backwards way. I wrote it as the second book in the Thorns and Fangs series, learned a hell of a lot while editing Thorns and Fangs, pretty much rewrote it a second time, submitted it to NineStar, and was in the early stages of reworking it when a writing friend helpfully pointed out the series was missing something, and I realised Life After Humanity was book three, not book two. It was on hold while I wrote Uprooted, and the ways that Ben and Nate developed in Uprooted meant that I had to rewrite Life After Humanity a third time (or possibly fourth time)—and it became something entirely different. There are things I miss from the earlier drafts, but this story leads into Dead Wrong in a really powerful way, and makes the series really hold together, so I can’t regret the changes too much.

I do regret that I didn’t see what was missing sooner, or that I didn’t plan the entire series before jumping in and getting started writing. But I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just let that go. After all, a big part of Life After Humanity is Ben stepping back to get his life straightened out, even though that means putting his relationship with Nate on hold. I support sideways moves or even a step back to regroup when friends or family members need to figure out life stuff. Why is it so hard to give myself the same permission?

I am really nervous to see if readers are willing to allow Ben and Nate a step backwards. I think it’s necessary for their development individually and together, but it’s not something you see a lot of in typical romance. Luckily, I think my readers appreciate atypical romance…but we’ll see! In the meantime, stay turned for sneak previews, where the central plot of Life After Humanity came from, and more.

The Ugliest Sweater: Live

Not last weekend, the weekend before, I did something for the first time. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I decided I needed to challenge my fear of putting my work in front of others and really concentrate on getting it out there. I put three pieces into Cold Reads, and pitched and submitted my work to agents. I still haven’t successfully managed to react to someone saying ‘oh, I’d like to read [your story] without immediately telling them everything that is wrong with [my story], but hey. Baby steps.

Not baby steps: reading an excerpt from The Ugliest Sweater to a live audience at the NZSA December Book Buzz and Open Mic.

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Oh this will be easy, I thought. I got up in front of classes of students how many times when I was an English teacher? Not to mention doing presentations at seminars! I’m used to public speaking. This will be a piece of cake.

Yeah, nah. My voice wobbled, and I did that nervous thing when you repeat yourself a lot. Whoops.

Still–I did it! And people laughed at the funny bits, and wow, that was a rush. In retrospect, I’m really glad I chose The Ugliest Sweater to read, because the humour is pretty much immediate. I’m also glad that I chose the NZSA Book Buzz to read at because the audience was primarily other authors and they were definitely a sympathetic audience. I’m definitely going to do this again–and other authors, I encourage you too as well.

 

Cover Reveal: The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert

On this day next week, The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert will be released! I’m really looking forward to sharing it. We get to revisit Jake and Dan, as well as spending time with The Charity Shop Rejects, who, by performing in ugly sweaters, are men after my own heart.

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The cover doesn’t really convey what this story is about. It’s beautiful—I don’t think Ninestar’s cover artist Natasha Snow has made a cover that wasn’t—and does a good job of suggesting seasonal without being overtly about Christmas or one of the other holidays represented by the NineStar Holiday Story Collection. The problem is that when you have a collection of stories that are as different as the NSP Holiday Collection (seriously, we have stories revolving around Christmas tree ornaments to stories revolving around dragons), it’s really hard to come up with something that can really capture all of them.

So how to properly convey the train wreck that is The Charity Shop Rejects? It’s a tough one. A really, really, really tough one. I don’t know if there’s even—

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Okay, nevermind.

The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

Mikaal Sarhadi has been in trouble since the moment he met guitarist Declan Hyde. Declan treats music like religion, setting high standards for himself and his bandmates. Mikaal struggles to even step on stage. He will do anything to justify Declan’s belief in him—even if that means ignoring the powerful attraction between them.

After a chance meeting with Brandon, Declan’s estranged brother, reveals just how much Declan will sacrifice for his music, Mikaal wonders if he can even call himself a musician. Worse, drummer Hiro’s visa application has been denied. With time running out for The Charity Shop Rejects, Mikaal must conquer his stage fright or lose music—and Declan—entirely.

Preorder from NineStar Press or Amazon (coming to other vendors from December 18th).