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Tiny Ghost Newsletter: Pets and Portents!

Tiny Ghost Press Newsletter 2.0, Issue #4, April 30, 2024


Hi Tiny Ghost Fam!



Well, spring finally feels like it's springing. After a much despised cold snap it appears those warm sunny days are finally upon us. The garden is bursting with flowers (and weeds) and the days are getting longer. And all this new energy in the world has us revitalised for a great year.


We kicked off our 2024 catalog of releases with Girls Night by I.S. Belle this month and we're really chuffed to the response for this book. We've seen some great reviews coming in and so far it seems readers are really resonating with the girls of Girls Night. I.S. went on a small virtual tour, chatting with a number of fellow authors plus Jacob Demlow from A Very Queer Book Club. You can catch those on our Instagram account if you missed them. We are also very close to making an exciting Girls Night announcement, so keep your grapes peeled.


This month we devoted some time and energy to getting through our back log of submissions. As part of our ethos of removing barriers to publishing for queer books and authors our submissions remain open at all times to authors with or without representation, and we've been humbled by the quality of all the submissions of late. We've read some great queer books and have even decided to take on a few. Which means that we're building out our catalogs for the next two to three years and things are looking so great. It's always amazing that people are eager to send their books in to Tiny Ghost Press, that anyone would think this little press is the right home for their book, and we're so grateful for the submissions we do get. Sadly we can't take on every book that we're sent. But we're looking to expand the representation across our catalog and excited for what's to come. If you have a book to submit you can do so by following the directions on the submissions page of our website: here.


This month I'll be head down in editing mode and focussing on the cover creation for our 2025 slate, all while starting to push our summer release Trailer Park Prince. We'll be sending out ARCs for this title shortly, so if you'd like to receive a review copy of this queer sci-fi fantasy, shoot us an email at info@tinyghostpress.com


That's it from me this month. I hope it's as warm and abuzz where you are.


Stay scary...


Josh xx

Tiny Ghost Pets


Everyone on the Tiny Ghost team is an animal lover and we all have a furry little friend to keep us company while we're working on brining you the best queer YA possible. So this month we thought we'd shine a little light on the pets of the Tiny Ghost team, and introduce you to our four legged companions. Without further ado, please meet the furry friends of Tiny Ghost Press!


Name: Penny (Miss Penny, Penelope, Lopey, Pen-Pen, Pink Chops, Squishy, Sweetie, Stinky, Angel Pig)

Age: 5

Breed: Boston Terrier

Tiny Ghost Team Parent: Josh


Penny is Josh's constant shadow. She loves tennis balls more than anything else on the planet. If there’s a ball in play nothing else exists. Her favorite snack is cheese. She is so fromage attuned she can sense if you’ve so much as taken the cheddar from the fridge and will appear, patiently waiting for a little slice. Her favorite walking spot is the cemetery, which is delightfully on brand for TGP. She enjoys naps and (thankfully) a good lie in. She is an obsessive licker, the destroyer of toys, endlessly curious, and wonderfully needy.


Name: Kim

Age: 12 weeks (une bebe)

Breed: Labrador x Border Collie (Lord help me)

Tiny Ghost Team Parent: Reuben


Kim is brand new to the world. His full name is Kim Richards, named for The Race to Witch Mountain and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills icon herself. Kim loves food more than anything in this world. If it can go in his mouth, he will eat it. He will do anything for a treat, and even at his delicate young age he can sit for a sausage, lay down for a little cracker and paw for a piece of, well… anything, quite frankly. His number one enemy is the large Monstera plant in our kitchen. Perhaps he knows it by its common name, Swiss cheese plant, and takes it for a snack.




Name: Guapito

Age: 15 (grumpy old man)

Breed: Nebelung (if you care about cat breeds)

Tiny Ghost Team Parent: Jeremy


Don’t let the fluffy exterior and old age fool you. Guapito is a beast. He works round the clock to keep us safe, patrolling the perimeters of the house and yard. He’s descended from a long line of hunters who excel at chasing butterflies and sneak attacks. When he’s not busy tearing up my stuffed animals or foraging for extra treats in the pantry, he enjoys napping in my bed while I read. Guapito’s also a catnip connoisseur and loves getting it fresh from the herb garden in the spring and summer. He might be a grumpy teenager when he wakes up on the wrong side of my bed, but he truly is a furry angel on this earth.


Name: Lexi

Age: 6

Breed: Golden Retriever

Tiny Ghost Team Parent: Tom


Lexi is queen of the house and she knows it. She plays the part of royalty well, delicate and regal, though when she meets new people she unleashes the boisterous beast inside, loving all of the attention. She might be 6, but she’s still a puppy at heart. Before every walk she has to complete her ritual of running a complete circle around the coffee table. She loves long walks in the woods or on the beach. And she loves to bark at other animals on the tv – especially birds, wolves, cats, and other dogs!

Tiny Ghost Author Deep Dive


We're asking our authors some probing questions to get to know them a little better!

This week get to know Xan van Rooyen author of My Name Is Magic!

TGP: Hi Xan! Can you introduce yourself and give us a little information about My Name Is Magic?

Xan: I'm Xan. I'm an autistic non-binary writer originally from South Africa but I've been living in Finland for almost 15 years now (with brief stints in Sweden and Australia). I have a Master's degree in music and teach at an international school similar to the one in My Name is Magic - minus the magic sadly. Aside from music and writing, I love gaming - especially 2D side-scrollers and RPGs - and am also an avid rock climber fueled by peanut butter and coffee. I also have a shiba inu called Lego.

My Name is Magic is a novel aimed at younger YA readers about non-binary Taika who has to navigate being the only one at their school seemingly without magic. This novel is, in a way, a love letter to Finland as I have always been a massive fan of Finnish mythology and the way Finns view and interact with nature. I wanted to help readers discover this lesser known mythology and perhaps pique their curiosity about Finland too. The book was a lot of fun to write, especially the frenemy crew Taika ends up being a part of while trying to save their crush from a nasty and nefarious conspiracy resulting in students being kidnapped from the school.


TGP: Where can our readers find you?

Xan: I'm everywhere: Bluesky, Twitter (X), Mastodon, Facebook - but I'm most active on Instagram and I'm starting to post more on TikTok too. I make videos about writing, my experiences with autism, and the occasional book review as well as footage from the metal gigs I go to. You can find me as either @xanvanrooyen or @xan_writer in most places.

TGP: What is your favorite scary movie?

Xan: I hate horror movies! Or rather, I hate being scared and really struggle with watching horror, which seems ironic considering how much I love to write scary stories. I far prefer reading horror to watching it. It's just too intense for me, especially with the music. That said, two of my all time favourite films could be classified as 'scary' and they are The Crow and Donnie Darko (oh goodness, showing my age here)

TGP: What has your publishing journey been like?

Xan: Complicated and somewhat fraught at times, lol. I never actually wanted to be an author - I've always loved books and admired writers, but never thought it was something I'd end up doing so I somewhat accidentally fell into publishing when I submitted one of my attempts at NaNoWriMo to an indie publisher. I was absolutely astonished when they decided to publish that book, and things just started building from there. It was a 'baptism by fire' though as I knew about publishing at the time. After that, I kept writing, learned more, and eventually found an agent. That's when I started taking writing more seriously. I'm now actually with my third agent (Lindsay from The Rights Factory, who is amazing!) with multiple novels published and dozens of short stories out in the world but every time I receive an acceptance I am still astonished that someone wants to publish my words.

TGP: When did you first have the idea for My Name Is Magic?

Xan: I was actually still with my second agent at the time and pitched her the idea of a magic school set in Finland inspired by my own experiences teaching at an international school. She loved it and I wrote what was then a very different story aimed at middle grade readers. While it received some great editorial feedback, no one loved it enough to publish it and I knew there were aspects of the story that weren't working, mostly because I felt like I'd had to censor myself and the characters in order to make it middle grade. A few years later, I rewrote the book letting it breathe and become the story it needed to be and that's how My Name is Magic became darker, better, and found a home with TGP.

TGP: As spoiler-free as possible, what is your favorite part of My Name Is Magic?

Xan: Any scene involving Morgan and Taika. I adore Morgan - my punk druid with a bad attitude towards authority and a heart of gold. I loved writing his interactions with Taika because of how much compassion they have for one another even though they each, in their own way, struggle to have compassion for themselves.


TGP: What’s your favorite line from My Name Is Magic?

This is so hard, but I'll have to go with one of the creepiest... "They appear to be seedpods or some sort of insect nests, cocoons even—until they move. That’s when I realize a dozen eyeballs are hanging from the frozen trees, and they’re all looking right at me."


TGP: Were there any moments or experiences in your life that inspired a part of your book?

Xan: Oh for sure but they're fairly small. Like the bit about the theramins-that's because I built my own theramin for a project during my Master's and have always been fascinated by the instrument. I also had no idea I was writing autistic traits into Taika. I was simply drawing from my own lived experience and at the time had no idea I was autistic. Knowing what I do now though, there is so much of me in Taika that might make it obvious to some readers that Taika is on the spectrum even though this is never explicitly stated in the text.

TGP: How has your life changed since becoming a writer and getting published?

Xan: I write a whole lot more than I ever thought I would. I also have way more imposter syndrome. Somehow, I thought the more I was published the less I'd feel like an imposter, but I think the opposite is true, which can be frustrating at times but it also challenges me to constantly learn more, to improve my craft, and become a better writer.


TGP: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer, and what were some of the books that made you want to become a writer?

Xan: While it was never my childhood dream, I started writing stories even before I could hold a pencil and dictated them to my mom who had to write down what I was saying word for word. By the time I was 12, I had written my first novel which was thinly disguised Northern Lights fanfiction. It was Pullman's book that first opened up my mind to how creative and expansive world-building could be, but I never really thought I'd be able to get published until my grade 8 English teacher encouraged me to try and publish a story I wrote in class. While that never happened, it certainly made me think getting published one day might be possible. It wasn't until about ten years later though that I started writing more stories and actually tried to get published.


TGP: What are some things that inspire your writing?

Xan: Music. Individual songs have inspired entire novels, actually, and whenever I'm feeling a little burned out creatively, I use music to help me refill the creative well. I love to travel and this has also inspired my writing, it might just be a certain smell or some peculiarity about a place that plants a little story seed. I'm also inspired by the media I consume, by games, other books, TV shows and films. When watching shows and films, I often have a notebook with me in case I get hit by a 'what if' moment which might later become a plot bunny.


TGP: Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

Xan: I used to have a fairly chaotic process in that I wrote when I felt like it and only what I felt like writing at the time. This resulted in so many unfinished stories, and many novels languished around the 30k mark because I'd lost both that initial creative impetus and any desire to figure out what the plot should be because I was just pantsing my way through everything. After taking several writing classes (from the likes of NK Jemisin, Maggie Stiefvater, and Neil Gaiman) I now have a more deliberate and considered approach, especially since I have so little free time for writing. I have to make the most of it and that means I have to have a plan, even if it's just a bare bones outline. I use a novel writing template from my agent (again, Lindsay is amazing!!) to help map out the trajectory of my novels which allows me to get over that 30k stopping point and actually finish books! I also did an amazing course on creativity with one of my favourite musicians, Justin Philips aka Crywolf. His approach to songwriting is something I quickly and eagerly adopted in my own process and it has been a game changer!


TGP: What’s your favorite spot to write, and do you have a go-to writing snack?

Xan: I like writing in the comfort of my home, at my desk, with my notebook, music, and a mug of coffee, but I recently started writing in a quiet corner of the library (Oodi library in Helsinki is incredible!) and I've been really enjoying it. My got to snack would be anything involving peanut butter.


TGP: Your love of heavy metal was evident in My Name is Magic. Do you plan on incorporating it in future writing projects? BTW, What are some of your favorite artists and bands?

Xan: Oh definitely! Music plays a big role in all my books. I always create a carefully curated playlist for my books, sometimes even for specific scenes or even characters. Many of the characters I write are musicians or have an affinity for music. Music has always been my intense interest and I cannot imagine writing a book that didn't reference or some aspect of music in it.

I have a fairly eclectic taste in music and my favourites depend on the moment, but perhaps my true favs are the ones I have tattoos for: Linkin Park, In Flames, Bad Omens, and Crywolf. Special mention to Placebo, Badflower, Health, and Zeal&Ardor


TGP: What magic house from the book would you say you belong to?

Xan: Aithyr. Definitely. Gray is my favourite color and I just couldn't imagine wearing any of the other t-shirts.


TGP: Do you have any tips for fighting writer’s block and what do you do when you’re stumped?

Xan: This is a trick or technique I learned doing the creativity course with Crywolf. Justin does something called free writes, where you set a timer for ten minutes and you just word vomit. The idea is not to think too much but to just let thoughts and feelings pour out of you no matter how random or discombobulated. Even when I've started with "Don't know what to write, why am I doing this' by the time the ten minutes are up I am always surprised by the emotion I've revealed, a metaphor I used, or an image I put down. I've gone on to use several of these free writes as story seeds and still have a folder of phrases taken from these exercises which I've gone on to use in short stories and even novels. So, I highly recommend this method to anyone struggling with writer's block.


TGP: What’s your favorite genre to read, watch, and write about?

Xan: I love reading, writing, and watching anything science fiction or fantasy - especially if it's dark and leans toward horror (minus gore and jump scares). I particularly love watching cyberpunk, films like Blade Runner, Equilibrium, or the Korean animated film Wonderful Days. Shows like Altered Carbon are exactly my jam. I also love thought-provoking dramas with a quirky or weird aspect to them like The United States of Leland and Imaginary Heroes. I'm also a huge fan of detective noir shows like True Detective: Night Country or the French series Blindspot - even better when shows like this have a supernatural leaning.


TGP: What do you look for in a book you read (or any media you consume) and how do you bring those elements into your writing?

Xan: Complex characters, consistent world-building, some sort of transformation whether it's a personal and internal transformation for the character (for the better or the worse) or if the world goes through a transformation because of the MC's action. I want to be taken on a journey, and that's what I try to do in my own stories--show the transformation, the growth or destruction, that both fuels and results from the plot.


TGP: What in your mind makes a good book?

Xan: Authentic, complex characters. Beautiful writing (I love lush, poetic prose). Interesting world-building. Makes me think. All the best books have left me in a daze afterwards and thinking about them for days, weeks, even years.


TGP: Who is your favorite character that you’ve written so far?

Xan: This is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child! It's cruel! But also I realize that I have a soft spot for all my secondary leads so in My Name is Magic that means Morgan.


TGP: Who would you fan-cast to play some of the characters in your book?

Xan: This is tricky because I do feel a little out of touch with teen actors these days but I could totally see someone like Bella Ramsey as Taika. For Morgan, I'd want to find a young Cillian Murphy.


TGP: How important to you is (queer) representation in books?

Xan: It's fundamental. I couldn't imagine writing a book, or any story for that matter, that isn't queer. These days, it always feels a little odd to me when I'm reading or watching something that has no queer characters, or even queer-coded characters in the story. And representation absolutely matters. It's 2024 - there are no more excuses for perpetuating harmful stereotypes when it comes to depicting, especially marginalised, characters of any identity.


TGP: Are you happy with the addition and portrayals of genderqueer and nonbinary characters in books, movies, tv, etc. or is there anything you feel has been missing?

We're getting there. I think there are still so many intersectional identities we haven't seen or seen nearly enough of yet, especially not in mainstream media. I think indie publishers and indie books are doing amazing work but I want to see more and more diverse queer rep in mainstream media. I can't wait to see a film as big as Dune or Barbie being led by a nonbinary autistic character of color, for example.

Culture We've Enjoyed This Month!


A monthly breakdown of the culture the Tiny Ghost Team has been enjoying and inspired by this month.


Books: The Watchers by A.M. Shine

The Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio



Film: Barbie

Nope

Civil War



TV: Heartbreak High

Masterchef Australia Season 14

Fall Out

Palm Royale

Baby Reindeer



Music: The Tortured Poets Department by Taylor Swift

Don't Forget Me by Maggie Rogers

Cowboy Carter by Beyonce,

Espresso by Sabrina Carpenter

Good Luck, Babe! by Chappell Roan


Podcasts: POOG

The Bakersfield Three

Your Burning Questions Answered!


Each week we'll answer one of your burning questions. Whether you want to know a little more about how we work as a publisher, the books we publish, or just want to know when your favorite werewolves are returning, we've got you covered.


Q: I've sent in my submission, what happens next?


A: At Tiny Ghost Press we endeavour to respond to every submission, assessing them all in equal measure as we strive to achieve our mission of publishing a diverse range of exclusively queer stories. When we get your email we read through all the submitted documents (should include a short extract of the manuscript, a one-page synopsis of the book, and a cover letter), and then put together a report about the book, and the author.


Things we consider when writing a submission report:

What representation is featured?

What are the major themes of the novel?

What is the message of the novel?

What is the writing like?

Are there any potential challenges?

Does it fit our brand?

Who is the author?

Do they have any past works?

Do they have a social media presence?


The submission is also rated on a scale of 1 to 10 Tiny Ghosts!


Finally it is brought before the rest of the team where we all discuss the submission and decide our response.

Tips from Tony the Tiny Ghost!


Getting started with a novel can be really tricky, and something that could really help is a thorough plan. Some writers excel from making a plan, but equally, some excel from not planning at all. A writer who doesn’t like to plan is sometimes referred to as a “Pantser” in the writing community. Planner to Panster is kind of like its own spectrum, with some writers falling somewhere between the two. It's important to figure out where you land on this scale, as it can help you to be more efficient and motivated to start (or keep!) writing.


Here are some ideas you could use when planning your novel:

  • Outline

  • An outline is a chapter by chapter compilation of important information in your novel. This can be done in the form of a word document, a bullet point list, index cards, or whatever format best suits you. It should include all of the plot points of the novel, including main and any subplots you wish to incorporate, and can even include things such as dialogue or any other information you think will help to complete your novel (such as foreshadowing).

  • Timeline of Events

  • Organising the events of your novel into one timeline can be a really good way to help visualise the events of your novel.

  • Character Profiles

  • A character profile can be as descriptive or as simple as you want it to be. E.g. What does your character look like? What is their favourite colour or food? What are their likes and dislikes? What do they do in their down time? What is their aspiration? What is their flaw(s)? What do they fear? Do they have any quirks that set them apart? What is their backstory?

  • Map

  • A lot of fantasy – and even some contemporary – books have a map of the world and or city/town where the novel is set. This can be a good way to help visualise the world and the whereabouts of certain landmarks or distances between locations. You can even do floor plans of specific buildings or places, depending on how thorough you want to be.


But remember; the hardest part of starting a novel though is to actually start writing, so while having a plan that works for you is a great first step, it's also important to find an equilibrium between your plan and the act of writing.


Happy Planning!


All my scares!


Tony


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