S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Author Blog Hop – Writing My First Novel

I am excited to be participating in a new blog hop initiated by author A.E. Radley, along with a host of other lesfic authors. I can’t wait to see what topics this blog hop throws up.

The first one is Writing my first novel

A great first topic to break the ice with. Plus, it really made me go back and think about what it was like writing my first novel, which one it actually was and how it all came about.

My very first novel, written and published, was Crush, which became the first book in the Girls of Summer series.

It didn’t start out as a novel though. It actually started out as a novella, written only from Tess’s point of view.

My intention with the Girls of Summer books was to make them short and sweet, and in print, on the smaller size. Something you could put in your back pocket and carry with you.

A couple of my Dolly and First Love books – I read these when I was 12-14.

The Dolly romances and Silhouette First Loves books I read in my youth (now I’m showing my age) were small books that were easy to read. I ploughed through them while sitting in the stacks in my school library (I never actually borrowed them – I guess I didn’t want them on my library record for some reason).

I wanted to emulate those books from my youth, but where girls fall for girls.

So, the first iteration of Crush was a 21,000-word novella about Tess meeting and falling for the enigmatic Maddie.

I loved that book so much, and so did my first readers.

I sent it off to a publisher, who got back to me within a few weeks (totally unexpected as they normally take a few months) and said they loved the book and the concept of the Girls of Summer series.

They then dangled the carrot for getting the book into print – if I wanted my book to become a real, live paperback instead of just an ebook, I’d have to increase the word count to their minimum print requirement, which at the time was 40,000 words.

As you can imagine, that was a HUGE ask. It meant doubling the word count and reworking the story entirely.

After long discussions with my first readers, editor and wife, I decided to at least attempt to increase the word count and see what happened. After all, a lot of young adult readers still buy their books in print format, rather than ebooks, so I’d be missing a big chunk of readers if I didn’t get it into print.

And what was the absolute easiest way to double the word count?

To tell the other side of the story, of course.

So I set about writing Maddie’s side of the story and alternated it with Tess’s, which gave me some great new fun scenes and a better insight into the story overall.

There were a LOT of changes (some of the early scenes ended up closer to the end of the book, and some of the later scenes were brought forward, and some scenes I changed from Tess telling them to Maddie), but in the end, I have to say that adding Maddie’s side of the story, while it proved to be a lot of hard work, made it so much better.

After some editing passes to check for continuity (always a major problem with such a huge rewrite), I sent it back off to the publisher with high hopes and waited for them to reply.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And in the end, a couple of days before Christmas, I got the rejection I expected when I first submitted it.

As you can imagine, after getting such great comments the first time around, I was totally unprepared for them to reject the second iteration.

I have no idea why that happened, but it totally shook me.

I spent a few weeks recovering from it and trying to work out what I wanted to do. I knew the story was a lot stronger for the new edits and editions and I struggled with that rejection after putting in so much hard work (at the publisher’s request).

In the end, my wife sat me down and made me realise that my intention was to self-publish my books in the first place and that that was still an option.

So that’s what I did.

I picked myself up off the floor, went through another round of edits, organised the first cover, and learned how to format ebooks and print books and published Crush myself.

And although I sometimes wonder what would have happened had that book been either accepted as it was in its novella form, or picked up after doubling the word count, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I still get to hear from readers of that book (and the others in the series), regardless of how the book made it into the world. And I still get to write what I love.

It’s bloody hard work doing most of it yourself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 


** This post is part of the WLW Author Blog Hop, which includes authors from across the lesfic spectrum.  Each post will link to the next author in the series, so you can discover more about them and their books.**

Read how Barbara Winkes’ first NaNoWriMo project became a published novel, and a standalone story turned into seasons of love. Barbara Winkes is the author of 20+ lesfic titles, including the Carpenter/Harding thriller series. She lives in Québec, Canada, with her wife. You can read about her first novel here.

 

Want to be proud to be an Aussie cricket fan? Start watching the women.

After reading about the recent review into Australian cricket, I wanted to write a post about how short-sighted Cricket Australia has been in their follow-up statements, and how I think they can start to ‘fix’ the culture around the Australian men’s cricket team.

When CA make comments about changing the culture of cricket, they’re referring to the men’s team. The men have always been, and apparently still are, the centre of CA’s universe. And although the language says ‘we’, what they’re really referring to is the men.

They seem to forget that as an association, they actually encompass much more than just the elite Australian men in these statements, and really, they need look no further than our Australia women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, for shining examples of what a cricket team should look like and play like.

While we seem to be unable to find a winning mix of players in the men’s team in all forms of the game, we have an abundance of talent in the women’s competition.

This is despite the fact that a majority of female players aren’t full-time professionals. Some of them are barely part-time semi-pros, but they’re toiling away for their clubs and state sides, hoping for a chance to get an Australian cap or a call-up for a WBBL team each summer.

The Aussie women are playing good, solid cricket, and are winning games and series overseas.

And not a scandal among them.

Imagine that.

What’s the difference?

Well, apart from the massive gap in pay, since the women have just recently been given enough funding for our top players to go full-time, there’s one massive difference I think the review has missed the mark on.

Our women’s players do a lot of work in their communities. They visit their old clubs (and play for them while they’re not on rep duties) and they visit schools and junior clubs to run training clinics. They stick around for hours after matches to sign autographs and talk to fans.

The majority of them also study part-time or hold down second jobs that they go back to in their off-season.

That’s another huge difference.

The women have an off-season.

Though some of our best players had a stint in the Kia Super League in England this year, most of our players came home or travelled for some much-needed time off away from the game.

How do I know? I follow a lot of them on social media and love seeing what they get up to in their downtime. (If you don’t already, you should seriously seek out some of the Aussie women’s cricketers and give them a follow – they’ll brighten up your social media timelines).

Off-seasons are few and far between for the men now, with overseas tours and stints in T20 leagues all around the world eating up more and more time. Off-seasons help with rest and recovery and provide time for players to ground themselves in other pursuits. It also helps with mental health, which is so important in elite sport.

So having said all of that, here are my top 3 things I think CA can do to improve the men’s team and make them more like the women’s team:

  1. Enforced off-seasons – CA already have the option to disallow players from playing in T20 leagues if they think it will interfere with their representative duties. I think CA (and player managers) can go further and require all players to have time off between tours and seasons. They should also look at how many games they’re trying to cram in each year and reduce them so that players are physically and mentally fit. I love my cricket but I’ve switched off from the men’s game because there are way too many games and series to try to keep up with now.
  2. Community work and charity work – Rather than just making players available for state and club duty each summer, they should be required to be available for much more charity and community work. This could be done during their off-season. Plugging things for sponsors is all well and good, but it’s the grassroots that matter most for a sustainable future in cricket, and CA could do well to get our top players to spend more time with those toiling away each week for the fun of it to keep them grounded. And finally,
  3. Semi-professionalism until players reach their mid-20s – Holding down other jobs and/or study early in their careers means players don’t get caught up in a cricket bubble so early. Steve Smith and many other young players who were pipped early for elite sides have suffered from this problem. When all you know is cricket, you don’t have any other context outside of sport for moral and ethical dilemmas, or for success and failure. Also, when you have a second career/job option to fall back on, it means the decision to train and play hard to reach the top levels of cricket is much more worth it.

So before you switch off from Australian cricket because you think the men aren’t redeemable (we disagree on that point if that’s what you think), start watching the women’s game. I will absolutely guarantee they’ll restore your faith in cricket in this country.

And if you have kids who love cricket, you need look no further for role models than our women’s cricketers.

They’ve played in obscurity for so long that it’s now their time to be elevated to our country’s favourite sporting team. (Along with the Matilda’s – but I’ll leave that for another post).

By the way, I reckon Meg Lanning’s got the best job in Australia.


Want to support the Aussie women’s cricket team? You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And look up your favourite players on your preferred social media platform. They’re fantastic value.

My new library card

I’ve been meaning to get one for years, but today I finally relented and applied for a library card.

A few reasons, I suppose.

Firstly, libraries are such great resources, and as an author, I should be supporting them much more than I have been.

Secondly, I’ve started to sell a few of my ebooks to libraries via Overdrive, so I wanted to check out how it all works. (BTW, my books are available via Overdrive, but it depends on your local library’s catalogue, so you may need to ask your local libary to stock them).

The kicker for me, though, was a conversation I had with my wife last week about the cost of entertainment. While we’re not huge spenders, up until the weekend, we had both Netflix and Stan, and I’ve just signed up for a Kindle Unlimited account, because it was cheaper than buying the number of books I was every month.

And while I’m a fan of the subscription model (mostly – though I do wish the amount authors get paid per borrow was more, which is why I don’t have my books in KU at the moment), I realised how differently I tend to seek out the books I want to read since I started using my KU subscription.

The choice is limited, as more and more authors go ‘wide’ and publish on other platforms (Amazon requires exclusivity in order to utilise the KU system).

And a lot of the big-name authors don’t have their books in KU because, I’m assuming, their publishers want sales and not borrows.

Plus, we’re trying to save some money, and although it’s not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, eveery little bit does count.

So I’m going to read what I’ve borrowed on KU this month and then cancel my subscription.

And then I’m going to start borrowing my ebooks from the library.

I’ve had a quick look at the apps I can access with my new library card, but have to wait until my card arrives to use most of them.

I am a little disappointed to not be able to find an LGBTIQ+ category in the apps  I can access so far, and will be interested to see if that’s the case for all of them.

I have some further thoughts on that subject that I think I’ll look at next week, hopefully after I’ve been able to get stuck in to using the apps and borrowing books.

I am curious though as to how many of you have library cards and actively use them? And do you use them for physical books or ebooks? (Did you even know you could access ebooks with your local library card??)

Hit me up in the comments – I’d love to know your thoughts.

Brisbane Pride 2018 is almost here!

Brisbane Pride is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s loud, it’s proud and it’s wonderfully colourful.

2017 Brisbane Pride – My wife and I waiting to march to Newfarm Park.

Usually, my wife and I travel down for the weekend, walk in the march to Newfarm Park and then spend the day wandering around eating, checking out stalls, catching up with our city friends, eating, listening to music and watching the drag queens, eating … you get the picture.

 

2018 Sunny Coast Pride Fair Author Booth

At last year’s Fair Day, I met a wonderful author, Lesley Dimmock, who had a stall at Fair Day selling her books. Since then, we’ve become firm friends and had a stall together at the Sunshine Coast Pride Fair where we had a lot of fun meeting people who had no idea lesbian authors even existed in Australia(I know, right! Turns out, there are HEAPS of us).

It’s no surprise, then, that Lesley and I decided to team up again and have another Author Booth stall at Brisbane Pride Fair Day this year, which is happening at Newfarm Park on Saturday the 22nd September, from 11.00am-6.00pm.

Lesley and I have been working away on some cool things for the stall this year, and we’ve called on some other Aussie lesfic authors to help us out.

What can you expect?

  • Freebies! We’ve curated a freebie bag that contains free ebooks from some fantastic Aussie lesfic authors as well as stickers, bookmarks and other cool stuff.
  • Books! Lesley and I will, of course, be selling our own books.
  • Giveaway! We have a brand-spanking-new  Aussie and Kiwi Lesfic Reader and Author group we’d love you to check out, and if you sign up for the mailing list during Pride, you go into the draw to win some really cool prizes.
  • Red Frogs! Seriously, Lesley can’t get through the day without at least 20 of them, so there will be a HUGE bowl of red frogs to lure you in for you to eat for some extra sustenance. It’s a huge day – trust me, you’ll need them.
  • Authors! Last but not least, Lesley and I will be there and would love to chat to you about books (ours and in general) and about lesbian fiction and what we’re doing to promote it.

As an added bonus this year, Rainbow Families Qld has asked me to do a reading at their Young, Out and Proud event being held at the Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop at West End on Friday 21st September, 4.00pm-6.00pm. Rainbow Families Qld provides some wonderful advocacy and support services for LGBTIQ+ families and since I know some fantastic rainbow families myself, I want to support them as much as I can.

Which is why $5 from each of my novels ordered directly from my site before the 14th September (excluding Written in the Stars) will be donated to Rainbow Families Qld when you use the magic word in your checkout.

As an added bonus, everyone who purchases any of the Girls of Summer books (Crush, After Summer and Written in the Stars) or the Alice Henderson books (Alice Henderson On Debut and Alice Henderson Makes the Grade) will get a bonus swag pack containing:

  • book series stickers
  • bookmarks, including one handmade by me!
  • codes to download the ebook copies of the book(s) for you to keep or give to a friend

Want to find out more about that offer? Head over to the Rainbow Families Pride Special Page for more info. Hint: that’s also where you’ll find the magic word to get your swag.

And if you haven’t already, now would be a great time to give me a follow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’ll be posting pics and updates from Pride weekend and those are the places you’ll find them.

The Invisibility Cloak of an LGBTIQ YA Author

I’m preparing to give my very first author reading in a few weeks, which means I’ve been spitballing ideas on what to talk about that won’t bore the pants off people and maybe, hopefully, even convince them to buy a book or two.

After asking for advice from friends, thinking about the books I write, and reading a good friends brand new blog, I settled on my theme for my pre-reading talk.

Invisibility.

Invisibility is a superpower for those of us who are introverts. It comes in particularly handy for those of us who write in tiny niches, which LGBTIQ YA stories certainly are.

On the one hand, we wish our stories would get much more attention, if not because it would be good to actually make a living wage off our writing, then to be able to reach readers much more easily.

On the other hand, being invisible as an author writing in a tiny niche means almost never having to explain what you write. It means never feeling judged when you get pressed to answer the question ‘what type of YA do you write?’.

Sometimes, when you mention the word ‘lesbian’ in conjuction with being an author, the person you’re talking to jumps right over that assumption barrel and lands on ‘erotica’ – or at the very least, sex scenes.

It can be exhausting explaining that writing lesbian characters, particularly in the young adult genre, does not necessarily equal sex.

So anyway, thinking about this reading, and what I wanted to talk about, I had decided to explain why I choose to write happy lesbian YA fiction.

I’ve been taken to task by some people – not often but often enough – for not writing realistic characters, which essentially means that because my characters suffer no homophobia, have happy endings and have supportive family and friends around them, that I may as well call my books fantasies.

Apart from the fact that I have been lucky enough myself to have a happy ending, have suffered no outwardly bad homophobia that I can think of, and have loving and supportive friends and family, I just think there are other writers out there better positioned to write those darker stories than me.

And that led me to thinking about how authors like me stumble around on the fringes of the publishing industry.

I’m a niche within a niche – a self-published author writing in LGBTIQ YA/children’s fiction, but I don’t write coming out or angsty stories, which is what seems to be currently expected when you add the ‘LGBTIQ’ tag.

While the big publishers are starting to release more fiction in that niche, the authors of those stories still don’t get the huge backing that other authors of more mainstream genres (ie contemporary romance, fantasy, urban fantasy etc) do.

We’re in effect invisible.

Now, being invisible means we get to toil away, writing the stories we want to write without too much pressure being placed on us by publishers to go bigger and better than last time. (Although I do feel a pressure to write the best I possibly can for the readers I have and give them the stories they want to read, but that pressure is internal).

Being invisible also means there’s less chance of copping criticism. Less chance of someone dragging your hard work through the mud, just to take you down a peg or two because you haven’t managed to be inclusive enough.

Seriously. The LGBTIQ fanverse can be brutal – just ask Ruby Rose about what fans thought of her being cast as Batwoman in the upcoming TV series.

So invisibility affords us a get-out-of-jail-free card of sorts. It affords us a fall-back so that we don’t have to step outside of our comfort zone. We don’t have to stick our head above the parapet lest it get bruised or worse, taken clean off.

But invisibility also means that we feel isolated.

Invisibility means we feel like the only gay in the village, when in reality, that’s so often not true.

Invisibility stops us from living our best selves, and from connecting to others like us who will validate us and make us strong enough and confident enough to claim our own unique place in the world.

And so that’s what I’m going to talk about if I get the chance to do my reading next month.

I’m going to talk about how, even though it takes me weeks of mental preparation to talk to a group of people I don’t know, and then days to recover from the stress of it, that it’s important I stick my head up every now and then.

I’m going to talk about the fact that though some people don’t think my stories or my books are realistic, or even any good (which is entirely subjective anyway), that it’s important that I still write them because of those emails and social media messages I get from readers who are just discovering who they are; those who are living in families that aren’t accepting of their sexuality; those readers who have lost friends from coming out; they need my stories.

I know because they’ve told me.

Those readers need something light-hearted and fun, where the characters are accepted for exactly who they are. Where they’re surrounded by supportive friends and family. Where they get a happily ever after.

Those are the books I write. I’m not going to shy away from that anymore.

And I am going to do my damndest to get past my own awkwardness and my own tendency to hide away in order to get those stories to the kids who need them the most.

Why, as a Queenslander, I’m fine with NSW winning Origin this year

Queensland scarf at the ready for the final game of 2018

I’m not as disappointed as I probably should be that Queensland lost this year’s State of Origin series.

Why?

Because I played and coached sport for over 20 years myself. I understand the ebb and flow of team success. I know that just one retiring champion player can change the entire dynamic and mental fitness of a team.

Those players are irreplaceable.

We saw what happened to the Australian Test Cricket team when we had Gilchrest, Langer, Warne, McGrath, Hayden and Symonds all retire over the course of three years. Losing that sort of talent in such short order can rip the guts out of a team, especially if plans haven’t been put in place to bring in younger talent to replace them.

In the Queensland Origin side, we’ve been lucky enough to have several once-in-a-generation players in our team for nearly two decades. Players who can change the game in a second are rare, but we’ve been blessed by some of the greatest names in the game: Lockyer, Thurston, Smith, Inglis, Slater, Boyd, Cronk…

We’re sure as hell going to miss those retiring players not just because of their talent, but because they’re playmakers. They’ve always been the first ones picked. They’re the players coaches can build a team around.

But when I look at the players coming through for Queensland in Holmes, Munster, Hess, Kaufusi, McCullough, I see the next generation of a Queensland team that can build towards success.

And rather than trying to be the next Thurston or Smith, they get the chance to redefine the game in their own images. That’s the power of Origin.

I don’t like it when my team loses. But it’s always been bittersweet to win against a side that sometimes lacked competitiveness.

NSW seems to have finally discovered that the secret sauce to winning isn’t just great players with amazing talent, but team players who’ll do what’s needed to pick each other up and do their job. Games are won and lost on the workload of everyone, not just the one or two stars in a team.

I love that NSW are more competitive. It means Queensland need to work harder to get on top again. Origin can make a good player great, and I’m looking forward to seeing our younger players grow over the next few years in one of the toughest series on the sporting calendar.

And besides, some of the Queensland players coming through now haven’t really experienced the sort of losses the older players have gone through prior to their dominance from 2006 to 2017. Always winning can breed apathy, which is a hard mental block to get past. It won’t do Queensland any harm to have lost this series to a better NSW side.

Having said all of that though, I’d hate for us to be Blue-washed so for the last time in 2018, [Billy Moore voice] QUEENSLANDER!

How catching a mouse taught me a lesson about writing

My wife yelled out “Got’im!” in the middle of the night a few days ago. No, she wasn’t dreaming. I was though, until that moment.

She’d been listening to a mouse run around our bedroom until finally, it found the food we’d left for it in the trap she’d set. She’d heard it go off while I was apparently blissfully unaware until her shouting in her moment of triumph woke me up.

Before I go any further, I should explain we purchased a trap that wouldn’t harm the mouse, so we could release it later, which we did, and that trap forms part of the story below. I just wanted you to know my wife and I are “catch and release” type people as much as we can be. Even with spiders, which I am absolutely afraid of but if we have to have them, I would rather have them outside than in.

Oh, except for flies. We both hate flies.

So how did catching a mouse teach me a lesson about writing?

If you’re part of my Reader Group email list, you’ll know I’ve been struggling with my writing for the last four months. This isn’t unusual for creative people – we can periodically get caught up in depression and depressive episodes, questioning what we’re doing and why, and whether what we do even matters.

Writing is hard when you remind yourself that you’re effectively putting a piece of your heart and soul into each new project and setting if off into the world for people to judge.

It’s easy to lose your self-belief and get stuck in the mire of thinking that what you do doesn’t matter.

Which is part of what I’m going through right now. Among other things, but it’s my mental state that needs some loving right now so that’s what I’m talking about today.

So back to the mouse story.

We’ve known we’ve had a mouse running around our place for at least a few months, but it would disappear for a few days and we’d think it was gone for good, only for it to wake us in the middle of the night rustling through the paperwork in our bedside drawers.

Finally, a few weeks ago, my wife came home from work and informed me she would make a trap to catch the mouse. She’d just need an empty softdrink bottle, some wire, a piece of wood, some books and some food to tempt it with. I wish I’d taken a photo of it, because it was the most un-mousetrappy thing I’ve seen. It would never work.

And then it actually did. The first night we set it, we caught the little sucker.

And then watched as the mouse squeezed through the smallest of gaps to escape.

It then proceeded to spend the night going back and forth, nibbling on the food and then doing whatever the heck it was doing before we provided it with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Then it vanished again.

(That’s not exactly true – I found a dead mouse drowned in the dogs’ water bowl and assumed it was our mouse – so sad, which is why I didn’t want to add it to the story. Ahem).

Then it turned up again. (A different one, I guess). In the middle of the night, it woke us with its shenanigans, going through our bedside tables, and I finally put my foot down. “We’re buying a mouse trap tomorrow,” I said.

So we did.

I do have a picture of this one:

And this one worked too, hence the start of my story above.

My wife duly released the mouse on her way to work. Apparently after it had gorged itself on the food we’d left in the trap. Which I guess you can’t argue about really.

If you’ve read this far, you’re now wondering how on earth this story relates in any way to writing.

One of the things we did with that mouse was reassessing the tools we had at our disposal. We used what we had ourselves first, to see if that would work. We were almost there with that, but we decided we needed the proper tool for the job to get the best result.

We also didn’t give up and let that mouse run around our house like it owned the place. If we did that, who knew how many extra house guests we’d end up having once the word got out we were apparently happy to have them.

And that’s effectively what I’ve been doing with my writing these last few weeks.

I’ve questioned whether it’s what I want to do, and reminded myself that I actually love it when it’s working.

I then questioned why it’s not working right now and came to the conclusion I’ve not been working on myself or my craft as much as I should have been.

So I upgraded my tools.

I’ve been reading and rereading craft books, fiction books for fun, and motivational books to get me back on track mentally. I’ll share those books and my thoughts on them in future posts for anyone interested.

I have a tonne of story ideas I want to get out of my head and into the world so not writing was never going to be an option anyway.

I’ve also reframed my thinking around my writing and story in general, which I’ll write about in another post.

But for now, I’m going to head off and do some free writing to get back into the habit and then finish reading some books that have been on my TBR pile for far too long.

And hoping that another mouse doesn’t decide to move into our place…

 

‘Girls’ or ‘Women’? What’s the big deal??

On Friday night, I got to watch the inaugural Women’s State of Origin footy match on national TV. It was a historic moment, as it was the first time in the rebranded format after almost two decades of being played in relative obscurity as the Interstate Challenge.

And although the women aren’t yet fully professional (heck, they’re barely even semi-professional) and the Origin is contested over a single match instead of like the men’s three-game series, it was a joy to watch a women’s rugby league match on a Friday night in prime time.

NSW won the match which, as a maroon-blooded Queenslander I’m still raw about, but it was bigger than the women who actually played the game, so I’m prepared to overlook the result – for now.

It was about all the players and coaches and administrators who came before, setting the stage for a cracker match. It was about all the girls and boys in the crowd and watching on their TVs at home having new role models to look up to and to sign their jerseys and caps and footballs.

All-in-all, it was a great advertisement for rugby league, especially seeing the crowd swamp the field and the players after the game, getting up close to their new heroes, who seemed to be just so stoked and honoured to be there.

I say all this as a rugby league agnostic. I’m not a fan of any single team, and I pay attention to rugby league only during Origin, sometimes during Tests and World Cups, and if a Queensland team (including the Storm) makes the final 8. Other than that? I don’t go out of my way to watch it during the season.

But I also say this as a woman who played soccer for over two decades back in the 80s and 90s and into the 00s when we had to use the men’s hand-me-down jerseys every season and be thankful to get an hours training run before the youth and men’s teams took over the fields. We got to use the dressing sheds only when the men or youth weren’t playing, or when we made finals. Other than that, we changed in the toilets or on the sideline.

Back then, we had to be grateful to even be playing in our own competition. We never aspired to be more because we never knew we could.

Watching that game Friday night was less about the game itself, and more about seeing women elevated to the same stage as men. We’re not fully there yet, but we’re on our way.

The one single thing that grated on me just a bit was the use of the word ‘girls’ when commentators were talking about the players.

I know, I know, it’s such a small, seemingly insignificant thing in an otherwise amazingly magical moment in time. But it’s something that once you become aware of how often the word ‘girls’ is used in relation to adult women, it’s not something you can unhear.

So why does it annoy me?

As an author, I know how important word choice is. My editor asks me to ‘be specific’ when choosing words and conveying my ideas because the wrong word can totally change the meaning I’m trying to get across. Even unintentionally.

That’s why I think the connotation of the word ‘girl’ is important in the commentating context.

A girl is a female child – not an adult. Not someone with their own agency. Not someone who can make their own decisions yet. Not someone who is ready to go out into the world and make their own mark.

I know that’s not what was meant with its usage Friday night, but I really wanted to make a point about why it’s problematic, and how easy it is to fix.

When I made this comment on Twitter:

it was quickly pointed out to me that Ruan Sims, (the injured NSW player who did a great job on sideline commentary), as well as Karina Brown (QLD captain) and Maddie Studdon (NSW captain) all referred to their players as ‘girls’.

That was right, of course, but this is down to context.

For the record, I don’t think women should refer to other women as ‘girls’, and we shouldn’t refer to grown men as ‘boys’, but that’s just my opinion, and each to their own.

I do, however, think there are certain circumstances where calling women ‘girls’ and men ‘boys’ is acceptable. We see it all the time in team environments and amongst friends and family. Familiarity, and being part of the team is the key.

Karina Brown referred to the QLD team after the game as ‘my girls’, and that’s because she’s part of the group. Maddie Studdon did the same thing when referring to her team for the same reason.

But you wouldn’t have heard Karina refer to the NSW team as ‘girls’ because she’s not part of that team.

To make things a little clearer, because I know that explanation isn’t the best, consider when men use the word ‘boys’. Listen to any football coverage, and a player in a team will refer to his own teammates as ‘the boys’, but wouldn’t refer to opposition players as ‘boys’.

Used in this way, it’s a term of endearment and familiarity.

The word ‘girls’ as used by male commentators, (or just one, actually) as it was on Friday night,  is something else entirely.

However, I’m prepared to give that commentator the benefit of the doubt, because I really think the use of ‘girl’ when he was calling the game was more about not really knowing what he should call the players. That’s understandable with him not having had the opportunity to call women’s matches much (if at all).

I mean, every summer we hear male commentators fumbling over the word ‘batsman’ during the WBBL and women’s internationals when it’s simply just ‘batter’. Fieldsmen long ago became fielders, and bowlers, well, they’re still bowlers.

The only exception in cricket, of course, is 12th man and third man, which are fielding positions and it would be pretty silly to change them to 12th woman or third woman. Although I do recall a commentator asking the question as to whether he should be referring to those fielding positions with ‘woman’ instead of ‘man’. I distinctly remember the female commentator at the time assuring her colleague that ‘man’ was fine in that regard.

So what could the commentators have used instead of the word ‘girls’ on Friday night? ‘Women’, ‘team’ or ‘players’ would have been perfectly fine.

But in reality, they could’ve called on anything they would have used when calling a men’s game. There are plenty to choose from – ‘backs’, ‘forwards’, ‘pack’, ‘wingers’, ‘halves’, ‘centres’… You get the idea.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that language matters and having commentators, particularly male commentators, refer to women as ‘girls’ instead of ‘women’ or any other term they could have used, perpetuates the stereotype that the games aren’t as serious as the men’s competitions.

That’s definitely not the intention – I know that.

I guess the key is to just treat a football player, or a cricket player or a soccer player or [insert sport here] player, whether male or female, as a player. Use the same words when referring to women when commentating on a game as you would the men. They do, after all, play in the same positions and play under the same rules (mostly – I’m looking at you AFLW).

It’s not that hard really.

 

** NOTE: I’ve left the comments open on this one because if you’re reading this, I know you probably have an opinion on this subject, as I do. I’d love to hear it because I enjoy intelligent and reasoned debate. Be aware though, that if you play the player and not the ball, you’ll get a quick send-off and suspension. Cool? Cool. Drop your thoughts in the comments below. **

 

 

 

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.

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