From the editing cave into the deadline one. Sorry for the silence, which is sometimes necessary. I was even hard pressed (latest release — see what I did there; okay, I apologise lol) to write a blog this week so semi-cheated. My blogpost this week was about hugging your creative elephant. You’ll have to head on over to see what that was all about, but I guess I can sum it up as learn the rules in order to break them effectively.
“Beyond the Inner Worlds” is a selection of letters and journal entries from the fictitious world of “Space: 1889 & Beyond”. They are set during various stories, in particular the gap between seasons two and three.
When one man has the worst of reputations and believes any misfortune befalling him is deserved, it’s hard to feel worthy of love. Can absolution arrive in three little words?
Journalist, Phillip Drake, is beginning to doubt the career he’s chosen, his motivation, his whole existence. Despite attempting a change of direction, his paper has informed him that’s not the sort of reporting they want. When an assignment arises — to trail up and coming, and coming out, actor, Gary Caldwell, he’s well aware it’s his duty to dig for dirt…and when Caldwell seems less than co-operative, Phillip half-convinces himself he’ll be happy to do so.
For Gary, the interaction is surprising — Drake is not all that he seems. Despite trying to be cautious, Gary has always been attracted to the reporter and finds it difficult to maintain a distance. Something is going on with Drake — not least of all the surprising revelation when Gary realises Drake is gay, and the attraction is mutual.
After an intimate encounter, Drake disappearsand Gary sets out to unravel a mystery that not only involves tracking down the reporter’s whereabouts, but may also explain why Drake has done the things he has, why Drake harbours more than a little self-hate and more than emotional scars, and why the one thing Drake doesn’t believe he deserves — love — is the one thing he’s worthy of.
Available now from Musa Publishing.
You can read a new blog on the subject of my upcoming release on my blogger site this week.
I’ll be adding the selected excerpt to the Hard Pressed page soon, but if you’re in a hurry to read it, best hop over to: http://aonia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/hard-pressed.html
Check out my criminal side: http://shotgunhoney.net/
Did you know I can write dark and gritty? My bio in the page of authors is all about things wicked.
News news news!!! On Hard Pressed. Yes, that’s right. I have in just over a week gone through two rounds of edits and it is now with the line editors. Then I get it back, then it goes to proofers, then I receive the galley to check, and all being well *fingers crossed fingers crossed* it releases the end of the month. Oh yes, the anticipated release is 28th of February so that’s what I’ve put up. If that changes, as soon as I know I’ll post it here.
The good news is most of the errors in the book were silly mistakes I made. The bad news is most of the errors in the book were silly mistakes I made. LOL. The better news is having gone through it with a very good editor I believe we’ve caught repeated words and typos, an occasional awkward phrase, and with regards to plot there was nothing really wrong at all. One small continuity point I spotted, otherwise it all came together and is pretty much the book as I sent it in. I’m quite delighted with the amount of story I worked in, and this may end up being one of my personal favourites despite it having suffered a delay. Maybe that’s helped. Often there are so many rounds with a book, I can end up hating it by the time it comes out. Can’t wait for my readers to truly meet the reporter, Phillip Drake. I’ll be back with an excerpt in a few days.
As to other writing, I’ve nothing subbed. I’ve things going on in my home and personal life, some complications, but I am researching for a few projects, most of them outside of romance right now. Which isn’t to say I don’t have unfinished projects in that genre too. I’ll be back with news, I’m sure.
Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of this author, and not necessarily that of publisher or all of the creative team behind Space 1889.
One of the worse things about a bad review is that usually the writer has no come back, no right of reply. A review is simply a personal opinion, and while everyone is entitled to those, sometimes reviewers get it wrong. They mark a book down because they miss a vital point.To use an example, I once came across a review (and I’m not referring to my own work) stating an author should have included some point in the book, and while I was reading said review my frown grew, because the very point mentioned was there, and I could only think the reviewer missed it, was mistaken, made an error. I am sure the reader in me has at times got it wrong so I raise my hand and claim to be equally guilty, but everyone knows how it is — a poor (or good) review can make one wonder whether you’ve read the same book, watched the same film, or bought the same product.
Towards the end of last year a number of colleagues were upset over a one-star review awarded to my steampunk book, A Fistful of Dust. While writers share an understanding of how it feels to be given a poor review, and how writers really have no ‘come back’ (the best thing to do really is to remain silent), on this occasion many voices were raised in defence of the work because this criticism was not of the plot, the writing; indeed, the book at all. It was censure against everyone involved with what is a multi-authored series.
The single star — clearly given because it was the lowest the reviewer could award — initially came across as a homophobic reaction. There was an immediate outcry among those who share a more openminded view of the world. “What were you thinking?” came across like a personal attack on us all. This was backed up by a declaration that the reviewer was ‘done with the series’.
I didn’t create Space 1889. I didn’t make this particular character gay. I’m one author in a multi-authored steampunk series, and yet it’s my book that now has not one, but two one-star reviews owing to a seeming objection to there being a gay character included in ‘fiction’.
Whatever one’s personal views, people of differing sexualities exist in the world, and to refuse to read a book because it includes a gay character seems like the worst kind of bigotry. The review that’s ‘not a review’ over a gay character made me think how ridiculous it would be to have mainstream books with nothing but straight characters, or vice versa. That doesn’t mean every story should be peppered with people from all walks of life with no reason or merit, but to purposely omit any section of humanity is unrealistic writing/reading, whatever one’s personal views. In writing, I’ve always wanted to be honest to the story.
If, on the other hand, the reviewer was questioning why the series creators made this particular character gay it could be a different matter. Unfortunately, the creative team behind the series weren’t given the chance to explain. Every attempt became a rant from reviewers on the subject of perpetuating the ‘gay agenda’ and selling sin — this from reviewers claiming not to be homophobic and to have homosexual friends struck many as peculiar indeed. The truth behind why the creators of Space 1889 decided to include homosexuality is simple — they wanted to explore all avenues of problems faced in Victorian society. They wanted to explore the love of two men during a time when it was illegal, of women taking a stronger role in society, of what it meant to lose a limb during that time, to name just a few examples. Everything that happens in Space 1889 was planned from the very beginning. This character was gay from the very beginning. No one suddenly ‘made him’ gay.
I didn’t invent Space 1889, but I’ve always felt this particular character’s sexuality has a bearing because it’s part of his personal journey, and that has as much to do with the story progression as does his spiritual and his physical one even though it’s not a pivotal point. I’ve always seen this character’s sexuality as underlining everything else that’s going on with him, and as I know where the series is heading (but am not saying ), it’s all woven in that pilgrimage to the big reveal.
I’ll say that again — this character happens to be gay to explore and to underline his physical and emotional journey and other themes in the book. Saying that, it’s not the basis of the story. It’s steampunk/space/sci-fi, and non-explicit, so that anyone with an open mind, and heart, and taste for adventure could read it. That anyone would dismiss a series simply owing to the fact that they’ve suddenly realised one or more characters are gay is a sad reflection of how much still has to change and how intolerant people can be.
Particularly tiring was the claim of a ‘gay agenda’ when everyone involved has no such thing. Fiction — particularly science fiction — has always moved a subject to a new setting so that it can be more deeply explored.
‘Gay Agenda’ is now the war cry to dispute every occurrence and appearance of a gay or lesbian character, together with claims that those doing it does so for the sake of being ‘cool’. Those chanting this phrase claim to know the agenda of others when what it truly does is reveal their own underlying intentions and motives, as ugly as those intentions and motives may be. Still, this was not what any of the writers, myself included, were objecting to. A review based on personal prejudice is simply unfair to every writer in the world. As Anne Rice eloquently put it when speaking directly on the subject of this review and my book: it’s typical of some of the trash reviewing going on, on Amazon. I clicked report and gave the reason. Imagine a review like this attacking “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” because Uncle Tom is black.’
If someone chooses to say a book is well-written (or not in their opinion), but that owing to there being a gay character the series is not for them that’s one thing, but the way this was phrased attacked everyone involved with the series. Also, I don’t believe any of us were ‘defending’ a gay character because for one thing it should need no defence, but simply stating it’s part of this particular character’s journey as a whole. We were saying all reviews for all books should be based on content, and not personal beliefs.
Yet, what seems most amazing of all is that it took this reader to book ten to realise this character is gay. The writers were going for subtlety, sure, but there were a number of hints dropped into the first series and ‘imho’ in series two it’s obvious. So we come to the point of which series was this reviewer reading? I cannot and won’t speak for the creators or the writers involved, although I know at least some share my views of utter bemusement of how it took a reader until book ten to realise.
This reader seemed happy to read about death, destruction, and mayhem, murder, torture, to watch the characters question people’s actions and authority, even the authority of an almighty, and had no problem with the introduction of talking giant insects and aliens, and the writers using them to question spirituality in all its forms — even, I believe questioning what it would do to all faiths if we were to suddenly discover alien life — but found the idea there’s a gay man in the book was too much to take? Hmm…
I’ve remained silent up until now. I did the politically ‘correct’ thing of being a writer and biting my tongue. So why am I saying anything now? Because I’ve been invited to partake in another outing to the universe of Space 1889 and am at present trying to work out a plot that will continue to do justice to the series and all the characters therein. It’s not a definite — I’ve not yet seen or signed a contract — but the opportunity is there, and if I sign on then I do so having had a taste of the kind of controversy with which these characters have to do battle, and I have to speak up for my team — those both real and fictional. I dare say the creators and writers, like the intrepid band of the Space 1889 universe, will survive the storm together. I hope many delighted readers will join in.
Should you wish to read more of what occurred then writer and editor, Andy Frankham-Allen speaks quite eloquently here: http://frankhamallen.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/outing-a-fictional-character/
Copying my blog here today because it’s worth mentioning what kept me reading last year:
Forty-five books read in 2013, some of which were novellas, and half of one carried over into 2014. Not the ‘improvement’ in the amount I’m reading I had hoped for, but probably better than the year before. I won’t list them all, just mention a few.
I got into the YA zombie books of Jonathan Maberry, and they are surprisingly addictive. In January I must have been in a strange mood because I read nothing but zombie books.
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst was a bit of a frustrating read for me. One of those books I realised was good once I’d finished it. A glimpse into someone’s life during a set time in that life — I guess that applies to most stories unless following a character from birth unto death, but it felt as if it lacked enough resolution.
One of my favourite books of the year has to be Warm Bodies by Isacc Marion. If you’ve seen the film, or even if you haven’t, read the book. The film is better than I was expecting owing to trailers that led me to think of a YA ‘popcorn’ movie; I feared they had turned the book into a hokey joke. That’s not the case, but it’s a difficult book to put across on the screen because it’s multi-layered. There’s a jokey element to the book, but you quickly start to find little threads of something darker, disturbing, upsetting, and even enlightening. This is not a gory zombie horror book, nor is it a teen rom-com spoof. Hidden within its pages is a celebration of life in all its messiness. Left me smiling and with an immediate desire to read it again. Wish I’d written it. Most unexpected read of the year.
Discovered China Mieville and Perdido Street Station. I’d only read a couple of his short stories before, but am definitely now a reader of his work. I’ve always loved Mervyn Peake’s work and can see why people mention Mieville’s work in the same breath — if you like the richness of Gormenghast then this is the only style I’ve come across that comes close.
I read a few short romance stories in the markets I write for, including m/m. I won’t list them all, but The Blue Moon Cafe by Rick Reed is a good blend of m/m romance, werewolf horror, and homicide suspense.
Caught up on a couple of titles in J.R.Ward series ‘The Brotherhood’. Likewise, still progressing through John Connolly’s work with The White Road, and The Black Angel. Other noteworthy titles were Camp David, by David Walliams, and The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern.
Another discovery was Lois McMaster Bujold with her science fiction book The Warrior’s Apprentice. I immediately set about gathering the rest of her titles and now have them sitting in my TBR mountain. Miles Vorkosigan’s mother was exposed to a poisonous gas during pregnancy. As a result, Miles is short, has brittle bones, and a twisted spine. Despite this, his biggest hurdle is probably a tendency to fling himself head long into crazy situations. I’ve found the first book to be far lighter than I anticipated and yet filled with characters and situations I immediately loved and felt drawn to. From the writing I didn’t immediately know a woman had written these. There’s also something of ‘nostalgic’ sci-fi about them, the sort of space opera that even puts me to mind of Blake’s 7, although with a far more humourous edge.
In July, I began reading Iain Banks. I was shocked to hear of his death, and a couple of his books had been sitting on my shelves for at least two years. I wasn’t sure what I thought of The Wasp Factory, but I’ve since picked up more of his books and will keep reading. The story is about Frank, a 16 year old living in a remove Scottish village. He has the most peculiar family, and the most peculiar tendencies towards violence, which he manages to justify in his own warped way of thinking. I found the whole book ‘peculiar’ and would love to know how the author came up with such a strange and wonderfully twisted idea. Nothing like I imagined it would be. He’s a writer I admire because (he has said) he wasn’t getting far with what he wanted to write so he reinvented himself; judging by his works, he as good as created his own genre.
The Last Kind Words, by Tom Piccirilli was an absorbing read by a writer who has shown as much courageousness in his own life recently as he has in his writing. I came across him many years ago when I was a fledgling writer and his small book ‘Welcome to Hell’ warned me what I was in for.
Another writer we sadly lost recently was James Herbert, and so I read the last of his works: Ash. I was reading James when I was teen, and he’s been something of a comfortable and familiar British institution.
Pradee by fellow Musa author Clarissa Johal wasn’t what I expected. Her tale of ‘critters’ accused of poisoning one of the Elders in their village sets them in search of an artifact that allows one to see the past and change the future…but should they use it? I can see why the write up for the book refers to the tradition of The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. I felt it could do with a slight tidy, but was otherwise delightful and has great potential. Should be in the hands of a large children’s publisher.
One of my favourite authors is Christopher Moore, and I added another of his titles to my ‘read’ pile with Fluke — an amusing and surprising tale/tail that takes the reader beneath the sea. His work is zany in an intelligent way. All his books have his familiar style yet in another sense they could be called multi-genre as one may be about god, whales, zombies, or some voodoo queen on a mysterious isle. You kind of have to appreciate touches of Douglas Adams to like C.Moore. Fluke is about marine behavioural biologist, Nate Quinn, and begins on the day he sees a whale lift its tail to reveal the words ‘Bite Me’ on its flukes. It completely had me going and guessing and even when I thought I had it figured out, the truth was even more bizarre. Great fun.
I’ve loved The Dark Tower series by Stephen King; however, while The Wind Through the Keyhole was a pleasant read, but I cannot say it adds to the series in any particular way. One for the fans of Roland’s quest.
I picked up a signed copy of The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse and was really looking forward to it. I admire the weaving of this tale from the research, but it felt too short, and from the blurb I expected something with more emotional attachment and just ‘bigger’ somehow. Don’t think I’m giving much away to say pleasant, somewhat historically interesting, but lightweight ghost story. A case of the blurb outshining the contents more than a little, making for higher expectations.
I finished the year and began the next with Under The Dome, by Stephen King It’s the sort of book he does so well and the perfect example of why I don’t think of him as a horror writer. His books are very character driven and apart from the paranormal aspect of this book (the dome itself) it’s very mainstream. The internal politics of the town, the way some characters hold it together in the face of adversity or turn on each other, even commit murder was very well done. It’s a lovely piece of writing. I was impressed with the research and then laughed when King admits in the back that he asked someone to help him with that. Anyone who likes crime or mysteries might also like this book. I was a little disappointed in the ’cause of the dome’ but I couldn’t see any other possible explanation he could have used. King tends to say some stories are about the journey rather than the destination, and I agree. This is all about the people in the town. Having since seen the first two episodes of the series, my advice is read the book.
Now, what shall I read next? Actually, my next reading material will all be to do with research.
Nice start to the year — a very good review for A Fistful of Dust. At first, I was a bit concerned by the reviewer’s comments re: the relationship of the characters and being introduced to so many, but then later the reviewer made it clear this was because she hadn’t realised it was one book in a linked series. Although it can be read as standalone if a reader didn’t know anything about the background behind the story I can see where it might be a little confusing. I love how she stresses the ‘sense of foreboding’ and subtle foreshadowing.
As I was lapse leaving a Christmas message last week (I was away with relatives and time just got away from me before I left), this week’s blog is about one of my favourite Christmas films: http://aonia.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-bishops-wife.html