They Made Cake!

Dear internets, as you may know, because I mention it every ten minutes, my debut novel is coming out in April. Advanced Reading Copies are e’en now in the hands of librarians, booksellers and reviewers. I regard this process with some apprehension. I never thought I would be the kind of writer who suddenly backtracks: “Oh no, no need to read the book! It is enough that it exists! I don’t want anyone to strain themselves by actually passing their eyes over the words.”

Sadly, it turns out I am exactly that kind of writer! Happily, this is out of my hands.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email from a young woman whose librarian mother had acquired a Guardian of the Dead ARC, and then passed it on to her. She read it, liked it (!) and then passed it on to the friends in her book club (!!!). These five girls read their single copy of my book in turn in order to discuss it with each other.

I have never been more honoured in my life.

Oops, I am tearing up a bit now, and that won’t do, because I am not even at the BEST bit. The BEST bit is that their book club, Let Them Eat Cake, likes to read and discuss books, and then bake a cake inspired by them.


Internets, you cannot imagine my joy at the notion that my work had prompted smart, thoughtful teenagers to creativity. I attempted to express this to Let Them Eat Cake via email, but then last night I got to thinking that perhaps this wasn’t enough.

So, in an attempt to answer in kind, I created Cupcakes of Gratitude.

Girls, thank you so much. No matter what happens with my work in the near or distant future, here is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me. I hope it was delicious.

Books Coming Out This Year That I Know Are Awesome (Because I Have Read Them)

One of the perks of being about-to-be published that I didn’t know about, but feel should be more widely publicised, is that sometimes people give you books. Sometimes, people give you books that have not even been published yet and then you make small yipping sounds because you want to tell EVERYONE IN THE WORLD to buy these books, but everyone in the world can’t have them yet! And you struggle endlessly with the conundrum thus presented, viz: would it be so wrong to torment your blog readers with thoughts of books they cannot yet read?

I have decided it would not.

Very minor spoilers for A Love Story: Starring my Dead Best Friend, The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant.

So there is a smart, funny, sad contemporary YA book by Emily Horner called A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend, and I imagine a bunch of you just went, “It’s called WHAT? I’m buying it.” That is because you have taste! But in case you need more convincing, I have prepared the following dialogue between myself and the world.

WORLD: Karen, what do you like?
KAREN: I like amateur theatre! And teenagers. And wit. Also, coming out stories and identity struggles and coping with grief and the feeling of being left out of your group of friends because they have things in common that you don’t. Also, cute love stories!
WORLD: Oh, well, this book has all of that. And a cross-country road trip. On a bike. With a tupperware container of human ashes.
KAREN: Does it?
WORLD: And the heroine’s a Quaker.
KAREN: Sold!

There you go. More about this fabulous book here.

There is another book called The Demon’s Covenant, which is actually a sequel to a book already out, called The Demon’s Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan.

I was suspicious about The Demon’s Lexicon because I had heard it was told from the PoV of a romantically brutal Byronic dude who DID NOT CARE, SO HARD, and I find those guys boring enough when they are merely there to dazzle the heroine. I couldn’t comprehend being more entertained by his side of the story.

I was somewhat misled.

KAREN: So you are a tall dark and handsome broody bad boy. Next you’ll be telling me that you stoically resist having emotional connections!
NICK: I don’t have to stoically resist that.
KAREN: *pfft*
NICK: Because I don’t have them. People are baffling and stupid. I don’t even like Mum.
KAREN: Huh. Well, your mum appears to be a creepy crazy ex-murderer who is continually hunted by magicians trying to kill you all.
NICK: *shrug*
KAREN: … interesting. And this brother of yours? You’re saying that you wouldn’t care if anything happened to him?
NICK: Are you threatening Alan?
KAREN: No! No! Put that sword away!
ALAN: I will calm down this situation while manipulating it to my hidden goals!
JAMIE: I will make brilliant jokes out of nervousness at the strong probability that I will die!
MAE: I will be practical and brave and QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE in the quest to save my little brother!
KAREN: I will put this book in my column on my favourite YA SFF books of the decade.

So that’s The Demon’s Lexicon, which is out now, go read it AT ONCE. You can read the first chapter at Sarah’s site.

Now, The Demon’s Covenant is told from the point of view of MAE, QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE, as she struggles with difficult sort-of boyfriends, the dangers of demons, her perfectly polished and SEKRITLY BADASS mother, and her adorable little brother, who seems determined to find the biggest midden pile and hurl himself into it headfirst in every possible situation. It is so great.

I especially admire so so much what Sarah does with PoV stuff here, because, for example, Nick from Mae’s PoV is very different from Nick from his own PoV. And yet he is still recognisable as the Nick we already know, *and* recognisable as a character undergoing development, which is a very neat trick for a character with Nick’s unique approach to interpersonal relationships.

So that’s why you should read Lexicon and get Covenant in May! And nary a major spoiler. I am awesome.

There is one more book I am going to talk about, by – TEASER – Stephanie Burgis – but this post is already umpty-gazillion words long, and I have to finish this chapter I am writing with hot fairy almost-kissing, which Stephanie herself is jonesing for.

Oh, that is another bonus of publishing! Sometimes those people who give you books before they are out? They read yours too.


The winner of last time’s juvenilia extension project was undoubtedly Matt Cowens, whose spectacular essay on the brilliance of my adolescent poetry earned him a prize I’m still contemplating. It starts with “Reminiscent of Coleridge’s earlier works,” for goodness’ sake. Points off for misspelling my name, but at the very least he deserves an internet, and your eyes on his awesome sci-fi Christmas story, The Death Star of New Bethlehem.

Today’s offering is the (very short) first chapter of a novel of which I never wrote more. This is a very common genre of my teen years – I think I was probably 16 or 17 when I wrote this – so I offer this representative sample of my early fantasy chops. The best part, which I can’t really reproduce here, is how I evidently went through and added adverbs where I felt their absence was leaving the prose sort of naked.

~ * ~ * ~

The woman stood at the centre of the circle and probed delicately the crystal in her hands. She was certain that the power within it could be released, strange and other-worldy as it seemed. Almost absently, she pulled more power from the circle, and heard the chanting increase.

She found the hollow centre of the crystal and poured all the power she could gather into that well. Suddenly a picture flared into her mind. She smiled. Progress.

The image was one of a plain door with a heavily ornamented lock. She was standing before it (much more beautiful than in reality, she noted with amusement) holding a key that flared with light.

The dream-her put the key in the lock and firmly turned it. Alarmed, the woman suddenly saw a black pentagram flare onto the door and tried to pull back from the spell. But it was too late. Caught, the dream-woman turned the handle — and opened the door.

The woman had but one glimpse of what was beyond before her mind exploded into gibbering terror. This was wrong, unclean! Pulling on reserves she hadn’t suspected she possessed, she wrenched herself back to reality, collapsing onto the soft grass with a howl.

The circle instantly dissolved, rushing to the prone body. Supporting hands helped her sit, anxious eyes flinched back from the black despair in hers. She pushed them all away and stood. Then she told them what had happened in her trance. The horrified silence that followed her story was completely justified.

~ * ~ * ~

Very suspenseful, younger self! There are also some doodles of a bull head or maybe a jackal head in the margins. I do not even know.

Photo credit:

Good News Day

Things You Want to Hear From Your Editor About Your Latest Manuscript:

So you seem to have written another thrilling, tense novel – with a goodly dollop of URST and very appealing characters. How extraordinarily clever of you!

Thank you, S. I think you’re neat!

What else do I think is neat, could it be…. MY AUSTRALIAN/NEW ZEALAND COVER?

Wait, that wasn’t very patriotic of me.


(ETA: I should note that this might not be the final-FINAL cover.)

That’s from the Allen and Unwin catalogue page for Guardian of the Dead, where you can also find out exciting things like the price as well as poke around many other fine books.


Would you like to know an Interesting Fact about the person on the cover? That isn’t the protagonist! Mmmm, mysterious redheads.