S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated every Sunday - more often than not.

Queer fairytales to celebrate a fairytale wedding

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Hollywood royalty married into British royalty over the weekend, and yes, although I am in favour of Australia becoming a republic, I stayed up to watch it.

I do love a good wedding, to be totally honest, and who hasn’t ever dreamed of being swept off their feet by royalty?

If that’s totally your bag, then I’ve got some books that might see you through to the next royal wedding, whenever that may be (and who knows, maybe we just may see one of the future royals making a huge break with tradition and marry someone of the same gender).

Fairytales aren’t my cup of tea, but if they’re yours, here are three books you might like to read.

Ash by Malinda Lo

The only book I’ve read with a fairytale theme is Ash by Malinda Lo. It’s a retelling of Cinderella with a love triangle between real life and fae thrown in. I listened to this on audiobook, which Malinda Lo read herself, which was totally amazing.

From the back cover:

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

If you’re into Cinderella retellings with a queer twist, then this one’s for you. There’s also a follow-up book, Huntress, which is the prequel to Ash.

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

This one’s been around awhile, having first been published back in 2013. It’s the first in the Mangoverse series of fantasy/fairytale stories full of dragons and adventures with queer main characters. I haven’t read these myself, but they’ve been highly recommended and have great reviews.

From the blurb:

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody thinks she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

This one is relatively new, having been first published in 2016. It’s another Princess falling for a Princess story, but it’s not as simple as that. (Or there wouldn’t be a cool story!)

From the blurb:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

I wish I could find more, but as I said in an earlier post, it’s extremely hard to find books with queer content with simple google searches.

Having said that, if you’re after more queer books with fairytale or fantasy themes, check out these blogs and links for lists:

List of Lesbian Fairytale books on Goodreads

Lee Wind’s blog is always a fantastic place to go to find books and posts about queer books. As a bonus, Lee is an author himself.

Niamh Murphy, also an author, has a great post called “11 Gorgeous Adaptations for Lesbians and Queer Girls who Love Fairy Tales! (Including 2 FREE books!)”

If you have any other books with queer fairytale themes, please drop a line in the comments. I’m sure there are plenty more out there just waiting to be discovered.

Here’s how you can help people find queer fiction

I was procrastinating  catching up on twitter news when I saw this tweet by Malinda Lo:

There’s a whole thread and conversation going on over on twitter so if you’re so inclined, head over and check it out.

It got me thinking, though, about how hard it still is to find teen fiction with queer main characters. It certainly doesn’t help when authors miss-categorise and miss-tag (deliberately or otherwise) their erotica books so that when you search for things like “lesbian teen sweet romances” what you get in the search result is anything but what you’re looking for.

If you go via the category links to the LGBT YA category (kindle store>kindle ebooks>teen & young adult>lgbt>fiction), the list is dominated by male authors and male main characters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that we’re seeing an increase in queer fiction across the spectrum being published, but it seems like gay main characters are getting a lot more visibility than female (and other queer categories) at the moment.

Malinda Lo’s thread goes on to detail her ideas on how publishers, readers and authors can help to make books about queer female teens more visible, but her advice (as she indicates in qualifying tweets) mainly relates to traditionally published books.

So I thought I’d do a quick post with a few ideas on how you can help get the word out about queer books, regardless on how they’re published, but particularly if they’re self- or independently published.

  1. If you’re on Goodreads, shelve the queer books you read into queer-related categories and lists.
  2. Review and rate the books you buy wherever you buy them from and mention in your reviews when there’s queer content. More reviews and ratings help with visibility, especially on Amazon, but mentioning the queer content in reviews helps other readers who are looking for those books to find them. Review the books on your vlog/blog if you have one.
  3. Request them at your school and local libraries. Quite often, librarians aren’t sure where to look to add queer books to their collections, primarily because publishers and some major reviewers don’t go out of their way to talk about the queer content. This may be because they’re afraid it might limit the readership, but also because for self-published and independent authors, our books are often not in the release catalogues librarians get, so they don’t even know they exist. As a reader, you can help libraries get more queer books on their shelves for readers just like you to discover.
  4. Tell your friends about your favourite queer authors and books. As a self-published author, it’s extremely hard, especially early on, to find my audience. We don’t have the marketing budgets that are given to traditionally published authors and we don’t have the industry contacts to get our books into the hands of major reviewers. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways for books to find their readers as one reader urges another reader to take a look at their favourite books.
  5. Order your books from your local bookstore when you can. If they get enough orders of an author’s books, they’ll consider stocking them on the shelves.

Finally – and this is less to do with getting the word out and more to do with getting more books written – if you love a book, don’t be afraid to let the author know. Writing in a genre like queer fiction means that authors are often writing into a void, hoping that their books reach readers who need them the most once they’re published. Most of us started off as readers, unable to find the books and stories that spoke to us, that told our stories, that reflected our lives, and so we write them. We write them to fill the libraries of our youth with the stories we wished we’d had.

For my part, I’m going to try to recommend books to you when I can, and even get some lesfic ya authors on the blog for guest posts and interviews.

In the meantime, feel free to jump into the comments here or on Facebook and let me know what queer books you’ve read and recommend. We can always use more books in our TBR pile.

Sunshine Coast Pride Festival Wrap-up

Boxed up and ready for the Sunshine Coast Pride Festival.

 

Sunshine Coast Pride Festival was a blast! 

I just had to get that out of the way first up because it was an amazing day and I am SO exhausted because of it. In a good way, of course!

It was my first time out and about in public meeting people and talking about my writing, so it was hard to know what to expect.

It was also the first time the Festival had gone out on its own away from an established market day so it was a big unknown as to how that would translate into crowd numbers. There was no need to worry though because people poured in all day and the atmosphere was electric.

Author Lesley Dimmock and I got to chat with a LOT of people, which as an introvert, made me exhausted by the end of the day.

But!

I had SO much fun talking to people about Aussie lesfic that Lesley and I (and hopefully a few other Aussie lesfic authors, if we can rope them in) are planning on doing the Author Booth at Brisbane Pride Fair Day in September.

The big takeaway for us from yesterday was that people didn’t know Aussie lesfic authors existed, which is such a shame because I know we’re out there writing some wonderful, home-grown stories. I know quite a few of those authors, in fact.

So, Lesley and I are going to work towards ways we can make our Aussie lesfic authors more visible, so Aussie lesfic readers can get to know us and show us some love by reading our eclectic and unique books that are set in some wonderful places on our big island.

The thing about Pride events that I love, too, is being able to network with people in the community. We spoke to a number of young authors- and poets-in-the-making who we hope we see in our Author Booth in the future.

We also spoke to teachers and people working in service areas that were very interested in adding lesfic books to their libraries and resources for their students and clients. I love that part the most – connecting with people who can get my books into the hands of readers who need and want them the most.

One of the highlights of the day was meeting local lesfic music legend Kristy Apps.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that one of your author mates knows one of the biggest names in the local lesbian music scene.

If you haven’t heard the amazing Kristy Apps, you most definitely have to check her out.

Kristy kicked off the Festival with a rocking set that dialled the mood up to ‘party time’.

I also heard a wonderful story about a young man who had just recently come out to his dad, and he and his dad had attended the festival so Dad could learn more about the community. I also heard that young man went home with some rainbow merchandise purchased for him by his dad. How cool is that?

Sometimes those of us who have been out for a long time forget how many kids are still struggling, and sometimes we question the need for Pride events, but stories like that one make you realise why these events are still needed.

So if you haven’t been to one yet, and you get the chance, I highly recommend you go. There’s a good chance you’ll ‘find your tribe’ and have a fantastically fun and gay time to boot.

I will definitely be attending a few more events as an author in the future if I get the chance.

And if you’re an Aussie lesfic author or you know one, or you’re an avid Aussie reader of lesfic, and love the idea of meeting the authors that write our stories, please do get in touch. We’re hoping to get a dedicated Australian lesfic author event (like GCLS and the DIVA Literary Festival) up and running here down under, and we’re happy to take expressions of interest to help us come up with ideas to get started.

See you next week!

 

Sunny days are made for beach driving

Coloured sands on the western side of the beach.

The great thing about living where I do is that it’s got some beautiful places to visit. And since those places are prone to the elements, (changing tides, storm surges, erosion etc), the landscape is constantly changing.

Take the coloured sands, for example. Erosion along the western side of the beach causes the cliff faces to drop away, sometimes in quite dramatic fashion, making the colours of the sands exposed change. Sometimes the colours will be lighter, as you can see in my photo taken on the weekend, but sometimes that sand is a deep orange, almost red.

On the eastern side of the beach, king tides and storm surges wash away sand dunes creating drop-offs. Then just a few weeks later, the tides will drop sand back onto the beach, allowing the dunes to reform as if nothing ever happened.

A few weeks ago, due to some storms and high king tides, the remains of a container shipwreck were exposed for the first time in over a decade. The Cherry Venture became stuck on the beach in 1973 after a huge storm and remained there for decades until safety concerns saw it removed and buried.

We didn’t stop to get photos of it but we did drive through it and I managed to grab a quick video, which I’ve posted up on my facebook page. You can check it out here.

Looking back to Double Island Point.

It’s quiet at the moment, due to school holidays being finished, but we’ve got some public holidays coming up, which means the population will increase by a few hundred to a few thousand people, depending on the weather. (People love camping in my neck of the woods).

We stopped off on the eastern side of the beach for a bit of a sit session and snacks, watching the world (and very few cars) pass us by, before heading off back to the western side, back down the beach and then stopping in to find a geocache on our way home.

 

Cool little discovery in a geocache we found on our travels.

After a relaxing morning watching the world go by, we indulged in our geocaching hobby and stopped in to find one on our way home. It was a cool little find, though we did overthink where it could be hidden and missed the absolutely obvious.

We still have a few caches to find around where we live, so more adventures to come, I’m sure.

This next week will see me getting stuck into the next Girls of Summer novel, which has been plotted to within an inch of its life. I did more pre-writing work on this story than I’ve done before, so I’m pretty sure where things are going. I’m a little unsure of where to start it though, so I’m just going to pick a scene as a jumping off point and get writing.

Once I’m into the story more, I’m sure the beginning will come to me. Stay tuned for the working title reveal, as well as the cover. If I can get my butt into gear, this one should be ready to go by some time in June, just in time for the northern summer.

Next week will be the first Reader Spotlight post on the blog, showcasing one of my readers. I’m planning on highlighting one of my readers each month, so if you want to be involved, you’ll need to sign up for my Reader Newsletter. Click here to head over to the sign-up page.

See you next week!

 

Crush made a list!

I won’t lie. It’s awesome seeing my books out in the wild and I love nothing more than getting tagged in pics of readers reading my books, or blogs that feature them.

That’s why it was so cool to see that Crush made a list of YA FF/ romance books to read for people who love the movie Love, Simon.

I wasn’t tagged in this one, but I followed a link on a twitter post by Malinda Lo and was pleasantly surprised to see Crush featured. I may have sighed and swooned just a little that readers are still loving Tess and Maddie three years after the book was published.

You can check out all the suggested books on the Bibliosapphic website here.

I’ve read and loved only one of the books on this list – Dating Sarah Cooper – but I will definitely be adding the rest of the books to my TBR list.

As for Love, Simon, I haven’t yet seen the movie, but I’ve just finished reading the book it’s based on, Simon vs the Homosapien’s Agenda, and it makes me look forward to seeing the movie even more.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS** for those of you who haven’t yet seen the movie or read the book. You have been warned! 🙂

 

Simon is a brilliantly funny, sweet and romantic read, and like a lot of other readers, I loved guessing who Blue was and chopping and changing throughout. (FYI – I did manage to pick it before the big reveal!)

I loved the quirkiness of Simon’s family and the push and pull of his friendships as he navigated school and trying to work out who Blue was himself.

I particularly loved the revelation Simon had while quietly falling for Blue and then acting on it. The apparent ‘newness’ of everything normal in the glow of first love and happiness. Something I remember clearly when I fell in love the first time, and then again later when I fell in love with my wife.

One thing I have seen mentioned on my social media though is how apparently easy Simon and Blue have it on their coming out. How apparently little homophobia they grapple with compared to what can sometimes occur in real life. I’ve heard a few people I know mention this fact, mostly from people in the LGBT+ community who are older and who suffered terribly in their teens and early life. For them, Simon’s story doesn’t ring true, and I get that. They grew up in vastly different times.

But we’re moving on and times are certainly changing for the better.  It’s a great lesson that while some of the stories you read might not be your truth, they’re someone’s truth, whether that’s good or bad, sweetly romantic or littered with stigma and homophobia.

The former is certainly my story and I’m eternally grateful for such wonderfully accepting and loving family and friends who made my story a happy one. It doesn’t erase the bad but it tells both sides. And in a time where more and more countries are changing laws to allow recognition and protection of LGBT+ citizens, I think it’s fantastic that we now get to have our own happy endings.

So many romantic movies have been made about heterosexual teens getting their happy endings, I love how we’re starting to finally see movies where boys can love boys, and girls can love girls, and they get to live happily ever after.

I’m definitely going to have to up my game for the next Girls of Summer book, that’s for sure!

The one where a plan was hatched…

True story: One of my cousins is nuts about cricket, just like me. So is her husband. But their three daughters? Not so much.

Being the great cousin I am, I sent her an ebook copy of Alice Henderson On Debut, which she ended up sharing with her eldest daughter, Miss 13.

Now, you have to understand, Miss 13 (while being an avid reader) rolls her eyes whenever her mum and dad start talking about cricket and if it’s on TV, she walks out of the room.

But then Miss 13 read Alice Henderson On Debut. She loved it. My cousin was able to take the girls to watch an actual, live cricket match in their city, and the girls were excited and engaged and starting to show a real interest.

You can imagine my delight when my cousin told me about Miss 13 jabbering about Alice and how she enjoyed learning about cricket from reading the book.

And that’s when I hatched my plan.

I thought if I could convert one girl to cricket, just through the power of Alice, surely I could convert more?

And what better way to do that than with free books?

Why am I telling you this? Most evil villains wouldn’t tell anyone about their evil plans ahead of time.

I’m not an evil villain though – I’m an agent for good. (“Yeah, yeah, that’s what ALL the evil villains say!”)

Cricket is a fantastic sport for girls. It’s non-contact, skillful, fast-paced, promotes team-work and best of all, lets you make great new friends.

And with the advent of professional contracts, the Women’s Big Bash League (which coincidentally starts today in Aus) and other similar T20 leagues overseas, girls are getting into it in more and more numbers.

Can you tell I’m excited??

All of this is to say, in an attempt to convert more readers to cricket fans, and to celebrate the start of the third season of the WBBL, I’ve made Alice Henderson On Debut free on Amazon for the two days of the WBBL03 launch weekend, starting today.

Want to grab a copy for you or a friend? You can get it here:

Get Alice Henderson On Debut

 And if you’re in Aus and want to catch the action, check your local guide to see when they’re being televised (on channel 10) and hit up cricket.com.au to watch online.

Please feel free to share the link for the free book – the more converts, the merrier!

Oh and #TurnUpTheHeat!

That link again:

Some thoughts on Orlando

I have struggled with life today.

I wasn’t going to write anything about the tragedy in Orlando. I didn’t feel I had anything to add to the many thousands of voices already speaking out. I still don’t think I do.

What I do have though, is an honesty I have discovered about myself, awakened due to those terrible events that occurred on the other side of the world. Something I wanted to share with those who may be feeling the same.

As humans, not necessarily a part of the LGBTQ community, you know in your heart how terrible the events in Orlando are.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I feel it in my very soul.

Those were my people; my tribe. Although we never met, we share a bond invisible to those outside of the LGBTQ community. It is borne of the scars and stories of those of us who came before; those who suffered terribly at the hands of governments and police forces and others, over decades. Those for whom until relatively recently, it was a crime to be who they were.

I have older lesbian friends. Good friends who have told us stories from their younger years, about persecution, and hiding themselves. Of secret meetings and being paranoid that they would get caught and end up in jail, or lose their children, or on the end of a beating, or worse.

And I thought I knew. I thought I understood that struggle, and I was grateful to them for forging the path for me and those of my generation and making it easier for us to be loud and proud.

But I didn’t know. I didn’t understand the fear, and the frustration, or the strength and the tenacity and the passion they had. Not until today.

Add to that discovery the revelation that I currently live in the most conservative electorate in Queensland – the second most conservative electorate in Australia. I certainly feel it on a day like today.

The activist in me wanted to wear my pride colours down the main street of this town, out and proud and unafraid, to show solidarity for those we lost today. But the truth of it is, most of the people here won’t even know about the events in Orlando until they see it on the news tonight. They may have heard it in passing on ABC radio, but they wouldn’t even give it a second thought.

And just thinking about that made me realise that the most painful thing about being a minority, and living where I do, is the isolation. So isolated, in fact, that even our attempts to join the local LGBT group (extremely hard to find and get hold of) came to nothing – even they are closed to outsiders.

That realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I cried this morning when I read about the scale of the tragedy in Orlando. I cried for those lost and those who survived. I cried for the families of them all, and I cried for our community, once again the target of vicious, unfathomable hatred.

But when I realised how isolated I felt today, sorting through my feelings about this tragedy, I cried for myself. I cried because while I don’t feel unsafe, I don’t feel safe. I cried because being a minority out here means I can’t take ownership of what I write for a living and be proud of it when I so desperately want to. I cried because I hate the feeling of being watched when I hold my wife’s hand when we walk down the street, or when we sit in the only nice restaurant in town and celebrate our anniversary. I cried, because all of this makes me feel stifled and sometimes, alone.

There is nothing more that I want right now than to be somewhere, anywhere, there is a vigil or a gathering; a place to feel the strength of my community.

I want to stand in the main street of this small town and shout “Enough is enough!”

Enough with the rhetoric; enough with the shame; enough with the vilification that you call ‘holding an opinion’ or having ‘religious freedom’.

Enough with thinking you know better.

Enough with inciting fear of those who are different to you.

Enough with the condemnation of people you don’t even know and will never, ever meet.

Enough with allowing hatred and fear to win out over love and acceptance and tolerance.

Because no matter how long it takes,

#loveislove and #lovewillalwayswin

 

Why authors should outsource

(Plus a quick writing update)

I just finished a project I’ve been working on for over six months, and it’s now off to first round edits. While I’m waiting for it to get back, I decided to take a couple of days off from actual writing and start getting organised for that projects publication.

As Indie authors, everything falls to us to organise (unless we have a personal/virtual assistant, which I hope to have eventually), and for my first book, Crush, I did everything except the cover design.

For this new book, when I thought about having to do the blurb, I broke out in a cold sweat. I absolutely hated writing the blurb for Crush, and it’s not something that comes naturally to me. Yes, I know I’m an author, and creative writing is something I love, but back cover copy and blurb writing is an art form, and it’s one I am not good at. I know the story inside and out, but distilling it down to its essence without seeming bland and without giving a laundry list of ‘this happens and then that happens’ is almost impossible for me.

I wrote a so-so blurb in order to get Crush out on time, but I knew that I would end up spending weeks trying to write one to get the next book out, and I didn’t want to delay the release of the next book simply because I couldn’t get my shit together and write a blurb.

So, I made the decision to outsource the blurb writing to someone I’ve never met, through fiverr, something I’ve never used.

The result was fantastic. My original blurb:

Tess Copeland’s beloved family tradition, the Crush Festival, is under threat from poor attendance and funding cuts and she needs to come up with a way to stop it from falling into the hands of an opportunistic councillor.

Up-and-coming singer Maddie Lambert wants a break from her hectic life and she’s hoping that spending some time away from the spotlight in small-town Chesterfield will help her regroup and refocus.

Tess and Maddie’s budding relationship gives them both a welcome distraction from their problems. But when disaster strikes and the Crush Festival seems doomed, and Maddie’s secret is exposed, they both need to decide what’s important in order to save the festival and Maddie’s career.

Now, that’s okay, and it gives you an idea about the story for sure, but emotive? Not overly.

The new one below, however, blows the original out of the water:

Summertime in Chesterfield means two very different things for teenagers Tess Copeland and Maddie Lambert.

For Tess, spending time with family and anticipating the annual Crush Festival goes hand-in-hand with the country air and the sweet smell of a cane fire. For Maddie, Chesterfield offers an escape from the demands of a reality that she’s just unable to run from.

This summer, however, there is one lit fire that’s even harder to contain than the massive bonfires that characterise the town’s summer spectacle, as young love and awakened passions smoulder in the shadows.

Amidst the turmoil of growing up and the pressures of youth and fame, can these two young women navigate the precipices of adulthood unscathed? Will Maddie and Tess be able to overcome the secrets of a small town and save the beloved festival before it’s too late? Find out in this touchingly sweet coming-of-age tale from SR Silcox–grab your copy today!

See how much more emotive the second one is? It’s much more interesting to read than mine.

And it made me realise something that I hadn’t really come to terms with until now – I suck at selling my own work because I don’t believe I’m good enough. My lack of confidence comes through in how I wrote the initial blurb. It’s unsure of itself, and though it did the job early on, it doesn’t take someone by the scruff of the neck and say READ THIS BOOK!

So without taking any time to make the decision, I went ahead and requested the blurb for the next book as well, and as soon as the job was accepted, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Everything that’s left to do to get the book out is on me, and those are things I’m looking forward to doing (except the covers – they’ll be outsourced as well).

And that means I can get started on my next project without having to take a month off to get this one finished and sorted, and then trying to get back into writing.

Which brings me to a quick writing update. In my last post in January, I said I had a goal of writing a minimum of 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I set that goal to start on the 1st of February, because I wrote January off thanks to a move back out west which really took it out of me mentally.

I bought myself a calendar and some stickers, and asked my wife to come up with a small treat every week if I hit my goals, and for some reason, it worked. Even though I took a week off in the middle of February (as you can see in the pic below), I still hammered my word count.

February's writing goals achieved

February’s writing goals achieved

 

Tracking my word count in a spreadsheet also helped enormously. I had a goal to hit 20,000 words for the month, and I ended up with over 27,000 words, which is amazing. I didn’t get the project finished in the month, thanks to that week off in the middle, but I did get it finished in the first couple of days of March when I wrote over 13,000 words over four days.

What’s the takeaway from all of this? A couple of things I think.

  1. Revise and improve your process, and you’ll start seeing better results.
  2. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and outsource the stuff that you really aren’t good at to people who are.
  3. Also, for me, setting an achievable goal, such as a minimum of 1,000 words a day over a 5-day week, and tracking my output over time has meant I far exceeded my own expectations.

It also means I can get to my other projects earlier than I expected, and maybe have some spare time to get stuck into some other ones which I have been pushing back for a few years now.

March is shaping up to be a great month, because I get to start the 3 book series I’ve been mulling over for almost two years, and with the next book due for release in May, it’s going to be a busy and exciting next couple of months.

I can’t wait to let you in on the details of the next book in the Girls of Summer series.

Happy writing!

The year that’s been and the year ahead

(The requisite end of year post).

I meant to post this yesterday (31st December 2015) but there was cricket on the telly and then we caught up with a friend for lunch and then we had to prepare for New Year’s celebrations, and so I’m doing it now, on the 1st of January 2016. I don’t do resolutions, so this is meant to be a quick look back at 2015 and a look ahead to what I want to achieve in 2016.

In general, 2015 was the kind of year that cemented in my mind why I want to write and what I want to focus on. There was a LOT of discussion generally in the publishing and blogging world around diversity in fiction, which is fantastic, though it still hasn’t translated into a marked uptick in diverse fiction being published yet. Though that could change over the next few years as the cogs in traditional publishing are slow to turn, so we may see more diverse offerings in the future. I’m excited to think that I could be part of that.

So. My 2015.

Published

Crush was published in April, after I spent almost 6 months on it from starting the story in late 2014, to submitting it to a small LGBTQ+ press, and then subsequently having the revised manuscript rejected by that press in March after doing a shit tonne of work to it to double the word count from the original short novella. (You can read more about that here). After a couple of weeks of soul-searching and a good pep talk from my wife, I put Crush out myself, and I’m extremely happy I did. While I know it’s going to be hard to gain traction with what I write (YA contemporary romance on the younger end of the scale) by publishing myself, I also know that I’m the one person who is most passionate about those stories.

I also put Crush up on Wattpad in order to gain some readers for it, and it was featured in the Teen Fiction section in October, which really boosted it up the charts. It reached #54 overall in the Teen Fiction Category, which is spectacular, and although it’s dropped off the charts now, it’s still being read regularly and commented on. The comments are the best part about having Crush up on a site like Wattpad – the readers get to interact with the story as well as other readers (and me), and it’s great seeing what readers think in real time as they read each chapter. It will come off the featured list in April, at which point I’ll decide whether to keep it up there or not.

I made a few contacts at Brisbane Pride in October, and sent down some paperback copies to the Newfarm Library as well as to QSpace at the Gold Coast to add to their LGBTQ+ libraries. I’ve also been asked to donate to a local library on the coast, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to get that done yet, I’ll certainly organise that early this year. I also gave away a few paperback copies to some excited Wattpad readers, and will do another giveaway a month or two before Crush is due to be taken off the featured list.

Also late in 2015, I decided to publish two short stories under a pen name to test an idea I’ve been mulling over for a few years that falls into the adult crime fiction category. I stuck them both in KDP Select, which means that Amazon readers who subscribe to Select can borrow them for free as part of their subscription. I’ve not done any advertising or publicity for them, and they’re both being borrowed regularly, which is cool. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do with them as yet, but I will decide in the second half of 2016.

Process

I’ve learned a lot more about my process over 2015. Firstly, mornings are my most productive time for writing, because it’s the quietest time in the neighbourhood and the least likely time I’ll get distracted or interrupted. In light of this, I’m working on changing my daily routine to take advantage of this, which includes waking up earlier (which I seem to be doing naturally anyway) and getting in an hour of writing before I do anything else.

I’ve also learned (or reinforced my belief really) that I write much faster with a solid plot summary and chapter outlines. I’ve also worked out what’s most important in those plot summaries – characters and setting. If I know those two well enough, the story will come naturally. I’m working on ways to get better at getting the summaries done more effectively before I start the actual writing process.

I’ve also learned that the longer I take to write a book, the worse I feel about it over time, so I think it’s important I get the outlining process sorted so I can become more efficient all round and stop my brutal inner critic from lording it over my creative process. The fastest book I’ve written (Three Wishes, which was written in under a month from idea to published) is still the one that needed the least amount of final editing. I think that says something.

 

Writing Goals

I missed last year’s writing goals due to a bit of upheaval in my personal life in the second half of the year. We moved twice in a month – the first move in the same town, and the second to another town 6 hours away. It’s likely we’ll have another big move one way of the other in the next month or so, so I’m keeping my goals modest for the first half of the year.

In light of that, my most basic goal is to hit 1,000 words minimum per working day, which in my instance is weekdays only since I don’t work weekends (and going by an online counter gives me 250 working days, excluding public holidays). That will give me 250,000 words for the year, which is more than double of anything I’ve written previously. Because I write shorter novels (or novellas) of around an average of 35,000 words, this means I should get 7 and a bit books finished – though that also depends on editing and the creative process.

Which brings me to my only other work-related goal for the year, which is to get a better handle on my process. I’ve struggled with it over the last few years, so this year I’m determined to get myself into a more solid routine and put my writing time ahead of everything and everyone else. I tested a routine for the last couple of weeks last year and I got more work done in 2 weeks than I did in 2 months previous, so I think that’s really telling me something.

Personal Goals

One of the things I’ve struggled with is the distinction between personal time and writing/publishing time, and I guess a lot of people who work for themselves and/or from their home office go through the same thing. So this year, I’m going to schedule in personal time so I don’t feel like I’m goofing off too much, or working too much and not having enough ‘me’ time.

Also, one of the things I decided late last year was to pick one new skill or thing I want to learn and do that for a year. 2016 will see me learning to play the ukulele, which is so far proving to be great fun. My wife bought me a cool little uke for Christmas which I’ve already started strumming and getting the hang of. Youtube and the internet certainly make it much easier to learn, though I have to make sure I don’t get too distracted by all the videos and methods and just choose one or two sites to concentrate on. So far, I know four of the most basic chords and can play (almost through from start to finish) I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin and Riptide by Vance Joy. It’s a cool little instrument to play and having played the guitar previously has made it easy to pick up. I’m planning on having a good repertoire to play by the end of the year and the confidence to play them in front of family and friends.

Finally, 2016 is the year I want to get healthier and fitter. Writing is such a sedentary occupation and sitting for long hours in front of a laptop can cause havoc with your health. Last year, my wife completed the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for the second time, and as I’m the main cook in the house, I did it with her. I lost around 6kgs, which is great, and now I want to tone up and keep the weight constant.

I started doing Five Tibetans last year as well, as a way to get myself out of my chair for 20 minutes or so to get my body moving and that’s really helped to maintain my weight. I got some resistance bands for Christmas, so I’ll be adding a morning resistance routine to my fitness regimen as well. I’ve only been doing that for a few days, but I can already feel the difference, especially in my mental capacity. Getting the blood pumping in the morning is very conducive to opening up the mind and getting my creative juices flowing.

 

Coming up in 2016

Okay, so what to expect from me in 2016?

Firstly, I’m working on the second book in the Girls of Summer series, called After Summer. I’m about half-way through the first draft at the moment and after I spend the first week in January adjusting the plot for some changes I’ve decided on over the Christmas/New Year break, I’ll get stuck back into it with the intention of getting it to first readers by the end of January. I’d love to have it ready to release in May.

I have a 3-book project I was going to get done last year, but Crush and After Summer took up the majority of my time, so it was held over until this year. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on plots for the stories, going from three to five and back to three again. I’ve got the main plot points down for all three books, and want to spend February (while my first readers mull over After Summer) completing the book summaries and chapter beats. Because it’s to do with cricket, I want to get at least the first two books complete so I can get the first one out in November 2016.

With a goal of 250,000 words for the year, completing those four books leaves me with a lot of wiggle room to write some short stories and work on a few other projects I’ve had in mind for the last few years, as well as make a start in the last half of the year on the third book in the Girls of Summer series (which I haven’t decided on yet).

I also want to get Three Wishes out into print, and though I have the files ready to go for that, finances prevented me from getting covers completed. I also have a follow-up book mapped out for Sophie, Kate and Mac which I’d love to get done in time for Christmas, so all things going well, that one will be out as well.

 

Have a fantastic 2016!

SR

Being more sociable on social media

Lately I’ve been thinking about my social media use (kind of thanks to my wife, who accuses me of spending more time with my phone than with her – which I guess is sometimes true) and I realised I’ve been spreading myself too thin.

This morning I read a post on Jane Friedman’s blog called “Beware of One-Size-Fits-All Advice for Social Media” and it made me take some long-overdue action.

The general idea of that post was to really think about the advice you’re taking on board with regards to social media and whether certain platforms fit what you do and what you want to achieve.

So I did sit down and think about it. I took stock of all the platforms I’m on and what I use them for and how often.

I currently have accounts for facebook (both a personal page as well as an author page), twitter, tumblr, instagram, wattpad, google+, linkedin and goodreads. (I think that’s all). On top of that, I have a mailing list I’m trying to grow (though not currently – those guys haven’t heard from me in a few months – sorry guys!).

When I really thought about what I used most often and why, it turned out that facebook is my absolute favourite place to be, and that’s not surprising considering it was my first foray into social media. I have more friends there than all of my other social media accounts combined and I love the interactions I have with people on there.

I’m on twitter infrequently, and even then, only really to get news about publishing and writing and sports. I don’t often tweet anything of my own on there – I tend to retweet things from other users, which is fine I guess.

Instagram is my other favourite thing, because I love posting random pictures and checking out hashtags to check out other user photos. I also post to twitter and facebook from there which is a great time-saver.

As for the other platforms (tumblr and google+ in particular), though I spent some time on them in the beginning, I’ve not made any real connections.

And therein lies the key for me I think. Readers and other authors have found me through facebook, which has allowed us to become friends over time. I don’t feel like I’m yelling into a void on facebook like I do with some of the other platforms.

So after much deliberation and thought, I’m going to make facebook my platform of choice. I’m going to close my author page there (I feel like I’m doubling up on posts when I cross-post) and I still have plenty more room for friends before I hit my personal limit.

I’ve also discovered that there’s a ‘follow’ feature that allows people to follow me rather than friend me, which is essentially the same as what they’d be doing on my author page anyway.

I’ll also be maintaining my instagram and twitter accounts, but I will eventually close my profiles on tumblr and google+. I’ll also not be signing up to any new fandangled platform that happens to pop up.

So if you want to catch me on social media, head on over to facebook and ‘follow’ me or hit me up with a friend request (be sure to add a message to your request though, as I don’t tend to accept requests from people who don’t have any mutual friends with me).

 

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