The Continuing Controversy of Same-Sex Relationships in Fiction

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I have a theory that there are two types of writers: those who court controversy and those who avoid it. Controversy can mean many things these days but I was a little surprised to realise that same-sex relationships in fiction are still classified this way. And it has forced me to rethink the number of categories writers can be separated into and add a third: those who are controversial without realising it.

When KK Ness released her debut novel, Messenger, Book 1 in The Shifter War series, I was one of the first in line to read it. I’d followed with anticipation her writing journey through her blog ever since she did me the favour of reading a draft of one of my yet-to-be-published novels and offering some very useful advice. It was even more appreciated since we’d never met before and still haven’t to this day.

You can read my 4-star review of Messenger here. For the purposes of this discussion, this extract was my comment on the way the book had been categorised on Amazon:

“I was a little concerned when I was buying it that its main classifications seemed to be ‘gay fiction’, ‘gay & lesbian fiction’ and ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender fiction’ when the blurb clearly described a story that easily falls into the fantasy genre. Maybe my concern was because so much fiction classified in that way turns out to be erotic fiction. But it’s only because the main character and his love interest are both male. In fact, it was so subtle that I wondered if the ‘gay fiction’ classification might put off some conservative readers when it really shouldn’t. More a marketing consideration than anything to do with the story itself.” Continue reading

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Book Review: Visioner (The Shifter War Book 2) by KK Ness

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Danil and Hafryn are back! If you liked Messenger, then you’ll like Visioner as well as they are very similar books. Danil is still a fish out of water, Hafryn is still his devoted lover and protector, and they still don’t know who they can really trust.

After winning the battle at the end of Messenger to save the deadlands from Roldaerian magi and the evil Kaul, Danil is now its custodian. It’s a position that chooses the person, not the other way around. Under his care, the once lifeless area is flourishing with greenery and, more importantly, leylines and kiandrite crystals that speak to him. Danil has just found his first proper kiandrite crystal (instead of the flecks that the magi have been stealing for decades to use in their magic spells) when he is surprised by a Roldaerian emissary and her guards. They wish to be taken to the High Council of Amas to negotiate a peace treaty on orders from King Liam of Roldaer. Continue reading

Preparing for the First Time You’re Asked for Your Autograph

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Anna Scott: Oh, signed by the author, I see.
William Thatcher: Um, yeah. Couldn’t stop him. If you can find an unsigned one, it’s worth an absolute fortune.
Notting Hill

Rufus: Can I have your autograph?
Anna Scott: Sure. What’s your name?
Rufus: Rufus. [She writes on a scrap of paper and hands it to him.] What’s it say?
Anna Scott: That’s my signature and below it it says, “Dear Rufus, you belong in jail.”
Rufus: Right. Good one.
Notting Hill

There is nothing quite so humbling for an author as the first time you are asked for your autograph. I distinctly remember my first time. It was just a few weeks after I’d released my debut novel and it was a guy who worked with my mum. But since I’d released Enemies Closer as an ebook only, I couldn’t sign a copy of my book for him. Instead, I printed a copy of my one and only professional head shot, wrote a message about how this was the best I could do until I did publish the book physically, autographed it and emailed it to my mum so she could forward it on to him.

For some, though, being asked for an autograph can also be a little bit frightening. After all, if you haven’t prepared for that moment, it can be flustering. Why? Here are a few reasons. Continue reading

The Insult of Being Called an Amateur Writer

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Amongst writers it is a well-known fact that the majority of us can’t earn enough just from our writing to give up all other forms of employment. There are a lucky few but not nearly as many as those of us wanting to join those few would like. It doesn’t mean we give up on writing. It just means we supplement our incomes with other work like editing, teaching and more often than not jobs that have absolutely no link to what it is we’d much rather be doing.

In 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to begin three years in which I spent the majority of my time writing my own work full-time. During the times I wasn’t writing my own work, I was employed as a writer writing for others (six months here, six weeks there but for less than a year of those three years). Prior to that, I spent six-and-a-half years as a corporate writer and before that, I was a textbook editor for three years. I even have two postgraduate writing degrees.

And in the past five years, I’ve published three books, written two more, ghost-written another, written and published over 400 blog posts, and written and published about two dozen articles, one of which had over 10,000 views on LinkedIn. I was even shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for my upcoming novel, Black Spot, and it was a point of pride for me when one of Text Publishing’s employees told me my book wouldn’t need an editor because I’d done such a good job.

So imagine my surprise when, as I sat right beside him, my father told a group of his friends and acquaintances that I was an “amateur writer”. Continue reading

The Insidious Side of Perfectionism

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My little sister has a lot going for her. She’s model beautiful, thin, smart, socially aware, vegan (so much commitment required to do this – I know because I’m vegan as well when I dine with her, which is a fair bit), loves animals and children, hates injustice and generally wants to make the world a better place and herself a better person. All of this is more amazing when you find out she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (at the age of twenty, mind you), clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, endometriosis and a multitude of allergies. But she still managed to finish Year 12, complete a Certificate IV in Youth Work and is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work with aspirations of eventually doing a master’s degree.

She’s also a perfectionist. I shouldn’t be surprised it runs in the family since I’m a perfectionist, too, although our nineteen-year age gap has given me the time she hasn’t had yet to work through my perfectionism and settle on a more reasonable goal of extremely good. Mostly I meet that goal; sometimes no matter how hard I work, I don’t. Results can range from good, just okay, not good and complete failure, depending on what it is I’m doing. (Housework is a complete failure more often than not; I just can’t be bothered.) Continue reading

The Moral of the Story

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In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in US history, I was listening to a segment on the radio about research into gun owners in Australia. Rather than reinforcing the idea that weapons were more likely in rural areas where they are necessarily used for farming and predator control purposes, it found that a small number of urban gun enthusiasts and sports shooters were amassing huge arsenals. One owner had 283 guns. All legal, of course, otherwise the researchers would never have known about them.

There are plenty of illegal guns in Australia as well, estimated at about 10,000, but the strict gun control laws in this country mean that gun ownership is seen as unusual, abnormal even. We don’t have the gun culture that the US has, I suspect partly because of the different ways in which the countries established their independence from their shared colonial master.

The reason this segment on the radio resonated with me is because the main character in my debut novel is a small weapons engineer, a gun designer with a large arsenal of her own, although primarily comprised of historically significant pieces worth a lot of money. In the as-yet incomplete sequel, the novel begins with the opening night of an exhibition of her collection at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Continue reading

Book Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

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The problem with satire these days is that it looks and feels so much like the real world, particularly when it comes to politics, that it’s hard to tell what’s parody and what’s not. Ten years after Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was first published, that is the book’s primary problem.

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries scientist who works for the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in the UK. When he’s approached by the representatives of a Yemeni sheikh who wants to introduce salmon fishing into his hot, dry, dusty, Middle Eastern country, he dismisses the idea of out of hand. After all, salmon require cool, well-oxygenated water, something not found in abundance on the Arabian peninsula. But the sheikh has seemingly endless amounts of money to throw around, so the NCFE figures why not funnel some of it into their coffers in exchange for Alfred’s services and he’s ordered to do everything he can to get the project off the ground (and therefore the money to come rolling in). Continue reading