S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Tag: Girls of Summer

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 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

Crush paperback unboxing and pre-order

When I was just starting out on my self-publishing and writing journey, I discovered an author who has become one of my all time favourites. When I was feeling down about my writing, watching his first unboxing video used to give me a great pick-me-up. I still watch every now and then to remind me how exciting this big adventure can be, and how far I have yet to go.

(You can see Hugh Howey’s unboxing of Molly Fyde on youtube here.)

Since Crush is my very first novel, I wanted to share the excitement of opening the box and seeing it in print for the first time. You can see that video below. You can also scroll down to the video below that to hear the details of when the paperback copy will be available and where.

For the initial launch through until the end of July, you’ll be able to get Crush for $12 plus postage. After that, the price will go up to $15 (plus postage).

 

See the video below for details on when the paperback will be released.

Don’t forget, the pre-order page will go up on Monday the 25th May.

Release Day is here!

CrushIt’s release day for Crush, and I thought I’d share some cool facts about the story to celebrate. These are a little spoilerish, but they’re mostly about settings, so no real plot spoilers.

If you don’t like spoilers full stop, then stop reading this post now and go read the book. You can get it here. I’ll wait.

Still here? Fantastic! Here, then, are five cool facts about Crush:

1. Chesterfield is based on the small town I was born in. (Bonus points if you don’t know me personally and can work out where that is – there are clues in the book!)
2. Piggies was a real cafe in that small town.
3. Pop and Gran’s farm is based on the farm my grandparents owned when I was younger. It’s still in my family, though I don’t get to visit it anymore.
4. There really is a Crush Festival, but I didn’t know that until after I started writing the book and was doing some research. It’s nothing like the festival in the book though.
5. And finally, ‘Chitty’ the old VW beetle really exists. In fact, here’s a picture:

Chitty on the farm

Chitty on the farm

You can find out where to buy Crush from here.

Introducing The Girls of Summer series

So, remember those sweet romances we read as teenagers in the 1980s an 1990s? The ones with lesbian main characters who fell for other girls and had fun adventures and happily-ever-after endings? No? Me neither.

I do, however, remember those sweet teen romances from Silhouette First Love, Dolly Fiction, Sweet Valley High… The list goes on. I remember hiding in the stacks in the library at high school reading those books, never checking them out lest they appear on my borrowing record. Though I loved sci-fi and fantasy (Day of the Triffids and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are still two of my all-time favourite books), when I hit 14 or 15, I started being very interested in the way relationships worked. Because I was a voracious reader, the way I discovered those things was mostly via fiction.

I’ll go into my personal story in a future post, but as I read those short romance books, I quickly learned that it wasn’t the female main characters I identified with the most. It was the male characters that the girls lusted after. I wanted to be those boys that the girls chased after, had fun adventures with and fell in love with by the end of the book.

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I knew it meant I was different.

I’m not sure whether reading a book with a girl who fell in love with another girl and nothing bad happened and they got to be together in the end would have made me realise back then that I was lesbian, but who knows?

What I do know is that we’re in an exciting time in the publishing industry, when there are more and more books with diverse main characters making their way into the world. A good number of them, however, deal with the ‘bad’ side of being different – the bullying, homophopbia, unhappy endings, coming out etc. While those stories are needed and valid, we also need stories where sexuality isn’t the main plot point.

I think we need more happy endings, more sweet romances, more girls-who-love-girls and that’s okay stories.

And that’s why I’ve been working on a series of sweet teen romances that will feature lesbian main characters, whose problems are just like any other teen, and whose sexuality is not a major plot point.

I touched on the series in this post back in August last year, but since then, I’ve refined the series idea and decided on a direction for it.

The books in The Girls of Summer series, beginning with Crush, are intended to be short and fun reads. Lighthearted sweet teen romances where the girl might struggle to get the girl sometimes, but she’ll never be dealing with bullying or homophobia as the major plot point.

Though they will be linked by taking place in summer (my favourite season of the year), they will be stand-alones that can be read in any order.

And most importantly, the girl will get the girl in the end.

 

Wattpad Edition

Wattpad Edition

Crush is due for release on the 1st May 2015. You can get it for free before it’s released to the general public by signing up to the mailing list here. You can read the first five chapters and synopsis here.

 

 

 

Flat rate shipping on all books: $3/book for Australian purchases, and $5/book for anywhere else in the world. Dismiss