Hello to New Work, Goodbye to Old Work

Guys guys guys I have exciting news! My chapbook 16 Flavours of Ghost is going to be published by Lapwing Publications – a Belfast-based publisher that specialises in poetry. No idea when it’ll be available yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

16 Flavours of Ghost is made up of “character poems”. Each one is from the perspective of a different character, and while they’re pretty diverse in terms of background, occupation and identity, they one thing they have in common is that they’re all dead.

These ghosts are a spirited bunch (see what I did there?) who each deal with the afterlife in their own way. A busy woman develops a new relationship with time, a thief takes advantage of his invisibility, and an elderly man finally lets himself experiment with his appearance.

As thrilled as I am to be getting published by Lapwing, there’s a note of caution mixed in with the excitement. Last year, Dancing Girl Press published my chapbook Monster Hunting for Girls (Ages 8-14). I didn’t receive my author copies, and people who tried to buy it told me of ridiculously long waits and receiving copies with printing errors.

I hoped this was a temporary blip. It’s not easy running a small press, and rough patches happen, but other poets and purchasers have confirmed that the press just isn’t functioning adequately. I’ve taken the chapbook off my “Published Work” page and won’t be encouraging people to buy it anymore, because I don’t want readers wasting their money.

I’ve also had to take my novella The Misfortunes of Oscar Goldberg off the Published Work page, as it can no longer be accessed. The online magazine it was published in, The Fantasist, is now defunct and links to the stories no longer work. It’s a bummer to have one of my longer works disappear like that.

This is one of the issues writers encounter when publishing with small presses. Sadly, not all of these presses thrive. Still, large publishers and self-publishing have pitfalls of their own, and I’ve come to accept that there’s no easy way of getting your work out there.

Onwards and upwards my lovelies! I’m excited to see my new chapbook in print, and I’m keen to hear what’s going on in your writing journeys. Feel free to share any writing news – good or bad, big or small – in the comments.

The Picky Bookworm Indie Book Awards 2022

Voting is now open for The Picky Bookworm awards, and Other People’s Butterflies has been nominated in four different categories! The anthology Common Bonds, which contains one of my short stories, has also been nominated in one category.

If you’ve been reading and enjoying indie books over the past year, please consider voting – just click this link and it’ll take you through all the categories. Awards like this are great publicity for indie writers, and let’s be honest – winning stuff is fun. Here are the categories I’ve been nominated for…

Book you would most like to see as a movie (Other People’s Butterflies)  

If OPB were a movie, I suspect it would have a Mean Girls vibe, but with flashes of 1940s noir thrown in because of the “book within a book” subplot.

Book you would most like to see as a TV show (Common Bonds, Other People’s Butterflies)

As fun as an OPB TV show would be, I think Common Bonds would be better. It would be a speculative anthology show like Love, Death & Robots, with each episode taking place in a different world. Also, when have you ever seen an explicitly aromantic character on TV? This book has aro characters in every story, with a strong focus on platonic love.

Best “friends only” relationship (Other People’s Butterflies)

I’m not sure if the nomination refers to Gwen and Ethan, or Gwen, Martine and Angie. Either way, I’m very happy to be nominated in this category because friendship is at the core of OPB.

Best dynamic between family members (Other People’s Butterflies)

Once again, I’m not sure which family members this refers to. Gwen’s dad makes her laugh, her mum helps her deal with stress, and her brother literally picks her up off the floor at her lowest point. For any teenager dealing with high school drama and the stress of figuring out your identity, a supportive family is the best thing you can possibly have.

Some other awesome books that deserve a vote

Since there are a bazillion categories for The Picky Bookworm awards, I won’t bore you with who I’m voting for in every category. But I will share a smattering of books that, in my opinion, would be deserving winners.

Best fantasy – The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen

This adorable fairy tale is suitable for all ages and puts LGBTQIA characters at the heart of the story. A knight, a dragon and a baker’s wife team up to search for the missing baker, and many adventures are had along the way.

Best book based on mythology – Create My Own Perfection by E.H. Timms

Based on the Greek myth of Medusa, this story follows a groundskeeper at a magical college who helps her selkie best friend find her stolen skin. It cleverly uses a timeless story to address a timeless issue – sexual harassment – in a powerful and uplifting way.

Best queer couple – The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell

Ada and Louisa are a chalk and cheese couple, living together as “companions” in 1912. Their different temperaments make for beautiful chemistry, occasional clashes, and a perfect combination of skills. And they’ll need all those skills if they’re going to solve the murder of their next door neighbour!

Best representation of disability – Streetlamps and Shepherd Moons by Katherine Highland

Diane Abercrombie is an autistic character written by an autistic writer, which is probably why the character never lapses into stereotypes or “inspiration porn”. Instead, she’s a complex, well-rounded protagonist, who’s still figuring out the best way to live her life.

Best paranormal character – The House with the Narrow Forks by Katherine Highland

One of the joys of Katherine Highland’s novels is that the supernatural elements are subtle enough to be oddly believable. Harriet, the spirit of an autistic girl who died young, haunts the living with purpose – protecting those who need it, bringing allies together and making life much more difficult for bullies.

My Short Story ‘VOCSS’ and Finally Embracing the Horror Genre

My short story VOCSS (Yes, I know it’s a shit title. It’s an acronym.) is now published in Electric Spec and you can read it here. I’m not sure if horror stories are supposed to have trigger warnings, but I know a lot of people struggle with themes of domestic violence. If you’re one of these people, take care with this story.

I won’t say too much about the plot, but I will say that Tyler is a troubled and complicated kid, his dad is a bad bastard (and possibly a vampire) and Beverly is out of her depth!

I’ve been pussyfooting around the horror genre for years. Way back in 2015, I joined a writers’ group and wanted to make a good first impression. So of course I introduced myself by reading one of my creepy poems, full of gruesome imagery. Another member of the group asked if I ever wrote horror, and I was rather taken aback. A creepy poem was one thing, but horror? I’d never even watched a single Saw movie!

In retrospect, I had a pretty narrow idea of what horror is, and I suspect this is true of many readers. Seven years and an anxiety disorder later, and I’m ready to write about fear. I want to explore where it comes from and how it affects us, and of course I want to write about ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. VOCSS is my first attempt – I hope it scares you a little!

‘Goons’– An Introduction

Last year I wrote a 16.5K word sci-fi story called Goons. It turns out that there are a limited number of paying markets for 16.5K word sci-fi stories, so I’ve decided to publish it on my blog. I’ll post a chapter a day, starting on 1st February. Some of the chapters are teensy little things, while others are proper chapter-sized chapters.

The story

Behind every great supervillain is a great big bloke with sunglasses, a scowl, and a knack for letting his fists do the talking. Goons is written from the perspective of Jay – a bodyguard/driver/lab assistant who works with his best mate, Em. Together, they help their mad scientist boss with his plans to take over the world.

The characters

Jay

  • Occasionally gentle giant
  • Chronically curious. A teacher once told him he had the soul of a scientist “but, sadly, not the brains of one”.
  • Likes watching combat sports and 1950s romcoms
  • Underestimates himself
  • Just wants to see what happens next

Em

  • Horse girl at heart
  • Allergic to dresses
  • Has a blackbelt in Brazilian ju-jitsu
  • Cynical bitch. Happy with this.
  • Wants to earn enough money so she can retire to the countryside with her girlfriend and lots of horses

Bossman

  • Has decided that the world needs fixing and the easiest way to fix it is to rule it
  • IQ of 224 but doesn’t know how to put a duvet cover on a duvet
  • Has a lot of opinions. Doesn’t care about yours.
  • Really ought to get more sleep
  • Wants everything, right now

I’m very excited to share this story because it was a blast to write. If you’ve read Other People’s Butterflies you might notice similarities, such as a first-person perspective, some dubious ethics, and a protagonist whose primary motivation is curiosity.

I’m tempted to call Goons a found-family story, since the relationships between the main characters are so central. But I’m a little concerned that makes it sound sweet and wholesome whereas this family might end up literally killing each other. Anyways, it’s sci-fi, it’s weird, and it’s coming soon!

Other People’s Butterflies: Taking Stock (and Showing Off a Bit)

I just got my first royalties, woop woop! And while they haven’t exactly made me rich, they are making me feel like a Proper Writer. If you are one of the people who bought Other People’s Butterflies, read it, reviewed it, tweeted about it or added it to your TBR – thank you so, so much.

OPB has been out for over three months now, so I’m taking stock. Firstly, and most importantly, people are actually reading the damn thing. And judging by reviews, the majority of readers are enjoying it. For example…

“The dialogue is witty and sassy; events funny and poignant” – Ultraviolet, Amazon

“Gwen Foster is a force of nature and seeing the world through her eyes is a pleasure” – Kierstin Shea, GoodReads

“A fresh take on high-school drama!” – Andre Boone, GoodReads

Secondly, readers are responding to the themes of asexuality and aromanticism, which is awesome. It’s so heart-warming to hear people of all orientations say that they learnt something, or that it made them think about the importance of platonic relationships; but best of all is when ace-spec or aro-spec readers say it made them feel seen.

I barely read any YA when I was an actual Young Adult because I couldn’t relate to the protagonists. Like, you’ve just found out vampires exist – why is your first instinct to date one of them?!* So if I can make a small contribution to ace and aro representation in YA books, I’m a happy bunny.

Finally, this book has affected my life in ways I never anticipated. I’ve made friends because of it. I’ve had conversations with family members that I never expected to have. I feel more confident and comfortable in my identity. Seriously, if you’re sitting on the fence about writing an #ownvoices book, just go for it! The work is hard but the rewards are amazing.

*I should point out that this was the noughties. YA these days is much more diverse, both in terms of storylines and LGBTQIA representation. There’s still a way to go, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Monster-Hunting for Girls (Ages 8-14) is Published!

Having been delayed and then un-delayed, my poetry chapbook Monster Hunting for Girls (Ages 8-14) is now published! Check it out here if you’d like to buy a copy or get a taste of the kind of poetry it contains.

I’m slightly in love with the front cover. Dancing Girl Press wanted to make it look like a vintage biology textbook, which works well with the horror elements of the book. Though I’m anticipating having to answer the question “Why is there sperm on the front cover?”

As the title would suggest, this chapbook is about childhood and early adolescence. Specifically, it’s about the slow realisation that monsters exist outside the pages of Goosebumps books and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Contrary to the title, it is suitable for all genders but probably not suitable for eight-year-olds!

Poetry Stuff

It’s poetry time y’all! Firstly, a quick update on my upcoming chapbook Monster-Hunting for Girls Aged 8-14. This will now be published in late October, and I don’t mind the delay because it means the release date will be appropriately close to Halloween! Dancing Girl Press have sent me the galleys and the front cover and it’s all looking goooooood.

Meanwhile, here’s a little poem about childhood that wasn’t quite right for the chapbook, but I still like it.

Sacrifice

I’m seven and a bit.

It’s the first of September.

I leave a fairy cake by the fireplace

for St Adamantine.

She is my favourite virgin martyr

because her name sounds like Wolverine’s claws.

Also, I have got her mixed up with Santa

and think she will come down the chimney

to bless the fairy cake

that I have now licked all the icing off.

I’m scrawny, because I only eat

the bits I want to eat.

“Other People’s Butterflies” Release Day!!!

Today’s the day. My YA novel Other People’s Butterflies is now out in the world. It’s available to buy in paperback and eBook forms, and if you have Kindle Unlimited it won’t cost you a penny. Here’s the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1735937525 and here’s the US one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1735937525

Looks pretty. But what’s it all about?

How do I know it’s any good?

Well, the signs are promising! It has a couple of reviews on Goodreads and they are both five star, hellz yes! Here’s one of the reviews:

“This book has everything: gossip, mystery, an espionage sub plot, and some lovable backyard hens. Gwen Foster is a force of nature and seeing the world through her eyes is a pleasure. OPB showcases a point of view that is seldom talked about and brings it front and center. I imagine this book will be the “right book” for many readers to come.”

Thank you Kierstin Shea! If you’re wondering what she means by “a point of view that is seldom talked about”, I imagine she’s referring to the fact that the protagonist is asexual and aromantic. If you’re still looking for Pride month reads…

Trigger warnings

So, I’m frankly a bit clueless about trigger warnings, and when/where they’re helpful. I got the Amazon description for the book all sorted out, and then realised that the Amazon description is probably the best place to include trigger warnings – whoops. In the meantime, I’ll post them here for anyone who needs them:

TW – sexual assault

TW – animal death

Getting a bit emotional!

I started this blog three years ago, having tried and failed to publish my first novel. But persistence wins the day, and all I can say to struggling writers is don’t give up! There are many roads to publication, and it’s often just a matter of finding the right one.

Speaking of which, I can thoroughly recommend Art Over Chaos publishing, who have been so supportive throughout the publication process. They publish novels, novellas and poetry, and are particularly interested in #OwnVoices writing and diverse books. If this sounds like a good fit for you, keep them on your radar.

If you decide to read Other People’s Butterflies, don’t be shy about sharing what you thought. Feedback is fab, and reviews are particularly useful as they can increase sales and act as a kind of “matchmaking” service, showing readers whether or not a book is right for them.

I’m also more than happy to chat about my experiences of indie publishing with any writers who are interested. Much love to the writing and reading community on WordPress, you are all fabulous!

“Other People’s Butterflies” Cover Reveal

Here it is – the gorgeous front cover for Other People’s Butterflies!

Ain’t she pretty?! I take no credit for this cover, as it was designed by Rose Sinclair from Art Over Chaos and the sum total of my input was “Errr, maybe it should have butterflies on it?” I’m not the best when it comes to aesthetics.

The eBook is now available for pre-order here (the paperback version doesn’t have a pre-order unfortunately) and it’s only $4.99/£3.52. Slightly cheaper than a Grande Skinny Vanilla Spice Latte from Starbucks!

Yep. Mystery, intrigue, high school drama, 1940s spy drama, ace/aro representation and some serious friendship feels could all be yours for the price of a ridiculous coffee. Here’s the blurb to give you a better idea of what it’s all about:

“Gwen Foster has never been kissed. But when she gets the chance to finally see what all the hype is about, it’s with her best friend’s crush. Embroiled in relationship drama she doesn’t understand, and ostracized from her friend group, Gwen escapes the angst by using her favorite femme fatale as a role model… and makes snooping on her classmates her new pastime. 

Gwen’s detective work appears to be going well, until an unknown social media account starts spilling all the scandalous personal details she’s uncovered. Now this wannabe spy must stop whoever is behind it before everyone’s dirty laundry is aired, and Gwen is forced to finish high school without any friends.

Other People’s Butterflies is a coming-of-age contemporary mystery about not needing to find your first love – but yourself – and how to mend the relationships that matter to you.”

Readers and Reviewers Wanted!

My debut novel Other People’s Butterflies is being published next month *hyperventilates* and I’m looking for book lovers to read and review! If you would like to receive an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review of the book on your blog or other social media platform, please fill out this short form.

What is Other People’s Butterflies like?

My novel is a contemporary YA with an aromantic-asexual protagonist, so the most obvious comparison that springs to mind is Alice Oseman’s Loveless. However, I think the plot is more Harriet the Spy meets Gossip Girl. You may be interested in it if:

  • You enjoy contemporary YA.
  • You enjoy contemporary YA with some 1940s spy stuff smuggled inside it.
  • You are interested in books with LGBTQIA characters and themes.
  • You like books about friendship, self-discovery, and the messiness of growing up.

Why are reviews so important?

For a debut author – especially an indie author like me – reviews are priceless. They can build credibility and increase sales, and also provide valuable insight into what readers want. Since this is my first published novel (hopefully the first of many) it’s important to know what readers are enjoying and what I need to work on.

So, if you fancy helping out a debut author and think that Other People’s Butterflies might be your sort of book, please fill out this form to enjoy a sneaky peek before everyone else!