Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.


By Emma on November 17, 2014

At last, I have something nice to report! Hang on a moment, ‘nice’ is far too insipid a word for this.

I have something fabulous to report: I have signed a two book deal with Ace/Roc for my new sci-fi novel and a follow-up (not a sequel per se). The first novel is called Planetfall. I am so damn chuffed about this!

I started writing Planetfall in June last year. I needed a break from evil Fae and mad sorcerers after working on the Split Worlds series for years. I wrote it in the nooks and crannies I could find between launching those books, going to ALL the conventions and then an incredibly stressful house move. I finished it in January, writing the last chapter as the floor shook from building work being done on the house!

It was one of the most difficult things I have ever written. It could not be more different from the Split Worlds – not just because it’s pure sci-fi instead of urban fantasy – but because it is a first person POV and a very different kind of story. Planetfall is a stand-alone novel and you know, I am pretty damn proud of it.

So… this year…

I’m not going to lie; this year has kicked the shit out of me. I had various disappointments at the start of the year when things I tried to get off the ground didn’t happen for one reason or other. Then I had major surgery followed by a catalogue of complications and resulting health problems that lasted four months. Then just as I was getting back on my feet, my poor Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently going through chemotherapy. Just as I came to terms with that and started working again, my best friend died unexpectedly. There are a couple of other incredibly stressful things going on that I’m not at liberty to talk about.

I had plans for the last quarter of this year that I was so excited about. I was going to Kickstart the fourth Split Worlds novel (I finished the video and writing up all the materials for it about half an hour before the call about Kate’s death). I was going to finish writing that novel and get it out there early next year. I was going to take control of my life again.

Now I know it’s not going to play out that way. There’s no way I can work on anything to do with the Split Worlds at the moment. It’s too painful. And there’s no way I have the resources to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. I need to focus on caring for my Mum and my son, who is very close to her and struggling with this too, in his own way. I need to replenish my own reserves and rediscover the joy in the creative life again. And I am. Slowly.

So I am quieter than usual online at the moment and these are the reasons why. I’m sorry the Split Worlds series has to pause right now. I hope that those of you who love the books can wait. It will be finished, I promise. Just not now.

Onwards and upwards

There has been an awful lot of pain, grief, stress and worry in my life this year. But it hasn’t all been terrible. There was the Hugo nomination for Tea and Jeopardy for one thing, and the love for the show has been palpable at various conventions. The live show we did at Fantasycon was one of this year’s highlights and our Patreon doohicky is doing far better than I ever thought it would.

I had to pause the show over October as I was in the Grieving Lands (bloody awful place, not recommended). But I’m back now and there will be two shows this month – the first of those is out now – and we have some really quite silly and ambitious plans for December that I hope will delight and entertain you.

And then there’s this new book deal. Honestly, I cannot express how much I needed this vote of confidence in my work. I spent all of my teenage years reading nothing but science-fiction and it’s my favourite genre of all. Writing it was like coming home and to have Ace/Roc want to publish it? Well, it feels incredible. I mean, they publish Frank Herbert, William Gibson and Ursula Le Guin for heaven’s sake!

But above all else this year there has been a lot of love. I have felt held by my community, loved by friends and cherished by family. I could not have got through this without you all.

Watch out 2015. I will be rested and ready to take you on. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Tea and Jeopardy Episode 28 – Juliet Mushens visits the tea lair

By Emma on November 12, 2014

Tea and JeopardyThe twenty-eighth episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the remarkable literary agent Juliet Mushens visits the tea lair in ancient Rome and chats about having multiple authors at conventions, what makes a book successful and the merits of leopard print….

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.

Tea and Jeopardy video edition – Toby Whithouse visits the tea lair

By Emma on October 23, 2014

Hello my lovelies,

In case you missed my mentions of it, my best friend died unexpectedly three weeks ago. Her name was Kate Harding and she was one of the most talented, gentle and amazing people I have had the privilege to know and love. I have never experienced such an intense grief.

Three weeks before Kate died, my Mum was diagnosed with cancer. It’s treatable and her chemo is underway, but let’s just say that times are tough in this little household.

I haven’t been able to record a new Tea and Jeopardy as a result, so a couple of days ago Peter and I released a video to our patrons along with an apology. Now they’ve had a chance to enjoy it, I’d like to offer it to you here to enjoy in lieu of a new podcast.

This was recorded in September, at Fantasycon in York. Apologies for the poor sound quality; you may well have to turn up the speakers as our teeny tiny camcorder thingy had to be positioned in the aisle among the audience so it picks up all the background noise too. Many thanks to the lovely Toby Whithouse who came into the tea lair and survived the silliness and mild peril with grace and good humour.

I hope you enjoy it. I don’t know when I’ll be able to record the next episode, but it will be as soon as I am able. Much love to you all.

Em xx


By Emma on October 6, 2014

Even though I have worked from home for years, Monday mornings still bring a particular energy with them. I like to sit down and plan out my goals for the day and then week, to get my mind back to the working places they were in before the weekend and the parenting that features more heavily then.

That’s why I find myself here on Monday morning even thinking about work when it seems like the most absurd thing I could conceive of. Kate Harding, my dearest friend – for whom there needs to be a more adequate word – died on October 2nd 2014. The days since then have just been… hell.

You know, as much as I hate Facebook, I have never needed it so much than in the last few days. The community that shared Kate’s life have come together in a way we haven’t since university days and I’ve seen glimpses of the many different spheres that Kate moved in. It’s so clear that she touched so many lives, so deeply. So many people are hurting now and I’ve been crying for them as much as for Kate and my own personal loss.

I have been envious of my friends who have been able to remember the specific occasion they met her. I can’t and no matter how much I beat the inside of my brain there is nothing. I remember so much, but not in any kind of useful narrative. In fact, it’s as if my memories of Kate refuse to be confined by such a logical framework. The closest I can get to that is dividing it all into phases; my life before I knew her, the deepening of our friendship and running around in a special group of people doing crazy things, the last four years or so when we were the closest we’d ever been and now the last phase, the one I find myself starting now, weeping and unwilling.

Even as I write this, I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Before I got the news of her death I had planned to work on the Split Worlds this week. It seems impossible now. I need to tell you why and I need to write about a day we spent together in Oxford and Oxenford, so I can press that memory between pages like a flower. It will fade and never be so brilliant as when it was happening, but perhaps I can preserve something more than if I don’t try.

Kate loved the Split Worlds. It got to the point when I was writing the novels as much for her as for me, because she loved me to read them to her as I wrote them. I would either go to her flat for a weekend or she would come down to us and we would sit together for hours, she sewing, me reading.

You see, story was so important to Kate. There was a bit of her that just lit up at even the hint of being whisked off into another world, be it through roleplaying or me reading to her. Apart from my husband, she was the only person I would read unpublished work to. The Split Worlds novels were hers long before they were anyone else’s.

I would read until I was going hoarse; she could listen for hours. It would get so late and her eyes would be too tired to sew anymore and then she would either snuggle up in my duvet to listen more, or if we were at her flat she would come and rest her head in my lap, positioning me until she was comfortable. “We should probably go to bed,” I would say and she would smile and have this glint in her eye and say “just one chapter more” and it would of course be three.

I was staying at her flat the night I met Lee Harris at Adam Christopher’s book launch and went back to her, all fizzing, saying that the editor of my favourite publisher might read Between Two Thorns! (I was planning to self-publish it all at the time). She was so excited, so happy for me. “He’ll want to buy it,” she said. I denied it. She shook her head. “The Split Worlds are really special, Em,” she said. “I believe in them.” She said that many times. Not only did she believe in them, she believed in me. When I never could. Oh Kate! I need you to believe in me now!

I cannot describe the joy at hearing her gasp when something happened or shout “OH, WILL! NO!” at several points. I loved how Rupert made her laugh, the gargoyle too. There’s a passage in Any Other Name, I think, that made her tearful. I stopped and asked if she was okay and she was shocked that I paused the story to ask. She said something about it being beautiful and important. How privileged am I to have had these moments with her. How strange to be filled with such happiness and gratitude at the same time as this crushing grief.

When the time came to write the third book, All Is Fair, I knew I wanted it to be partly set in Oxford and told Kate about it. Research revealed that Lincoln College would fit well into the background history of the Great Families and I couldn’t resist making it one of the primary locations because it was Kate’s college and I wanted to make it even more magical for her. She was delighted and arranged a research trip for us.

We met in the street outside Lincoln College. It was cold and she swept up the street in that long dark coat of hers that I’ve always loved, backpack on back, little wheelie case pulled behind her, jeans frayed at the heels. I hugged her, enjoying the usual elation at seeing her and holding her again. We were both so excited to be back in Oxford together again and after settling in at the room, we tromped around the streets of our student years, both then and in the nineties again. She’d discovered a place in the Covered Market sold these warm cheesy gluten-free snacks so we went and found it just as it was closing and bought the last ones. We stood there, making happy noises, marvelling at how good they were. We went back to the stall the next day and ate so many we couldn’t manage a proper meal. They will be forever “Cheesy puffs!” as called by Kate in her Cartman voice.

She’d arranged for someone at the college to give us a tour and little details about the room a couple of scenes in All Is Fair came from that. We laughed about how we asked bizarre questions. Kate pointed out things I never would have seen. They went in the book.

That evening we went to Pizza Hut of all places and sat in a booth and chattered excitedly about the live games we wanted to run together, some in the Split Worlds, some outside of it. We ran one at the first Nine Worlds convention and there were plans to do more. So many plans. We thought we’d have time.

I remember the waiter being far too over the top, calling us beautiful and doing all the things that make me retreat into my introvert shell. But Kate was gentle and kind with him, graceful in a way so natural for her. We walked around Oxford again, that time by streetlight and it was like being in RPGsoc again. I told her stories about places there and how they fit into the Split Worlds and she delighted in all the tiny details. I felt so happy, so…. useful, being able to weave another magical world for her from one with enough of its own magic for the both of us.

The next day we went on a tour of the Bodleian and went into places we never saw as students. I was filled with excitement about the location and details, there were more cheesy puffs afterwards and a trip to the bookshop-cum-strange-stationers opposite Lincoln where we spent so long cooing over beautiful things we couldn’t afford.

I dedicated All Is Fair to “the one who sews as she listens” and now you know who she was. I said on Facebook yesterday that I didn’t think I could write about her, as it would be like trying to capture the ocean in a cup. This post is far too long yet only captures one drop. I said I would write about her for the rest of my life and I will. I didn’t think I would be able to do it today, but here I am, writing about her.

I also decided yesterday that she will be in all the books I write from now on, a way to keep her roleplaying. I won’t tell anyone which character she is playing in each one. She would have loved that. Not that I feel I can ever write a word of fiction again, let alone the Split Worlds.

There was one evening, in the penultimate flat she lived in, when I had to go home. I’d been reading to her lots that weekend and it was always such a wrench to leave. We both hated the real world creeping back in at the edges. She hugged me so tight and said “You know you can’t die, don’t you? Not until you’ve finished the Split Worlds.” I was appalled at the very thought of death coming between us. “Of course not, don’t say things like that!” I said, or something to that effect.

And now I have to write the last two books of the series without her and the thought is simply unbearable. But I have to, somehow, otherwise she would be so outraged and like every single thing she ever did, she did outrage perfectly.

Forgive my selfish indulgence. I love you, Kate.

Tea and Jeopardy Episode 27 – Gail Carriger visits the tea lair

By Emma on September 30, 2014

Tea and JeopardyThe twenty-seventh episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the utterly splendid author Gail Carriger is invited into the secret tea lair. We talk about etiquette, the many ways in which octopi are remarkable, archaeology and some of the strange things Gail has eaten.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.