S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Tag: lesbian YA fiction

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!

 

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!

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.

 

 

 

Five things I learned from the publication of the First Time for Everything Anthology

I posted pre-order links to the First Time for Everything anthology a few weeks before it was released. I also posted buy links to facebook for the ebook and paperback versions when it released in September, but it wasn’t until I posted photos of me opening the box of author copy paperbacks I received that I got any type of response.

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

I think that’s because most people “get” paper books and once they saw me holding it, it became as real for them as it was for me to have a story published. Apart from realising that paper still means “real book” to some people, here are five other things I learned from the publishing experience.

  1. Don’t discourage anyone from supporting you, even if you don’t think your book is to their taste. Friends and family will be excited for you (at least in the beginning) so if they want to buy your book, don’t discourage them.
  2. On the other hand, sometimes, people don’t give a shit. Yes, it’s exciting to publish a book, but not everyone will care. Don’t fret if people don’t share the same enthusiasm as you do and share your news (and links to your book) with everyone they know like you’d hoped.
  3. Take the compliments on board, and then get back to writing. It’s great to get praise for something you’ve laboured over for what seems like months (or sometimes years). The biggest compliment anyone can give you is to buy your next book and they can’t do that if you’re still fawning over the last one.
  4. Share links to your work often (but don’t spam). People miss them on facebook and twitter and tumblr because of the churn of the timeline and other people’s posts. Give a direct link so people can buy in the easiest way possible.
  5. Non-writers are fascinated by writers. Yes, it can get annoying answering the same questions over and over again (“So, do you write, like, Twilight/50 Shades/Game of Thrones/[insert hot new release here]?”) but at least they’re trying to relate to you. Have patience and answer their questions – they wouldn’t ask if they weren’t interested. Plus, you never know when you might gain a new fan.

Bonus:

Take some time to bask in the glory of what you have produced. I know I said get straight back into it and write the next book, but you should take a few days to ride the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with writing and publishing. Not everyone gets to experience the feeling of seeing other people read their words, so enjoy it for a little while and then get back into it.

With all of that said, my time for basking is over so I’m off to write the next one.

“First Time for Everything” Anthology Release Day is here!

It’s release day for the “First Time for Everything” YA anthology! Woohoo!

I’ve enjoyed the last few months of working with Harmony Ink Press on moulding my short story “Summer Crush” into it’s much prettier self and can’t wait for you to read it.

You can get it direct from Harmony Ink here.

The Amazon link is here.

And if you like the anthology, please remember to leave a review on whichever site you purchased it from.

And I’d love to hear what you think of “Summer Crush”, so feel free to comment here or email me, tweet me or ask me anything on tumblr.

On bad things happening to lesbian characters because they’re lesbians

An interesting thing happened to me last week. I’d finished the first draft of a novella I’d been working on in a new series I’m developing and, as I often do with my finished stories, read it to my wife to see what she thought.

She’s not a big reader, but I love seeing her reactions when I read the stories out loud to her. If I can make her laugh and cry and react in all the right places, I know I’ve done my job.

So, there I was, reading my story out loud, and she was crying and laughing out loud and reacting fantastically – even in places I didn’t realise were emotional. It was great. I also found a LOT of things I need to change in the story (which is why all great writing advice blogs say you should read our stories out loud).

Afterwards though, when we were discussing the story, my wife said to me, “I was waiting for the main character or someone else to die.” I asked why and she said because that’s “what always seems to happen in stories with lesbian characters”.

Now, I’ve read those types of stories so I know that for a long time, those stories were in fact the norm. And we accepted them, because hey, they had main characters we lesbians could relate to. I’ve also read some more recently published stories (not nearly enough, but that’s another blog), where the characters do end up with a happy ending.

But it made me really think about our expectations when we start reading a story, and that maybe my stories can go a little of the way to changing those perceptions and expectations.

Apart from the “lesbians don’t end up happy” stereotype, the other thing she said was that she loved how the main character’s sexual orientation didn’t matter at all to those who know her.

And that’s the thing. To those of us other than heterosexual, we don’t think about our sexuality every day. I can only speak for myself, but my sexuality only comes up whenever anyone else has a problem with it, or is curious about it. It’s one part of who I am that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) affect my day-to-day life.

Which is exactly how I want to portray the characters in my stories. I write the characters as they see themselves, not as others see them. It’s important to me that the characters in this series have bigger problems than their sexuality. I want readers to know that reading about a character they can identify with (with regards to their sexuality) doesn’t mean they have to read an angsty, coming of age story, where the main character is bullied for their sexuality, or bad things happen to them because of their sexuality.

Yes, those things happen in real life, and yes that’s a tragedy.

But reading a book with a lesbian main character and expecting an unhappy ending – that’s also a tragedy.

I’ll go into the series in greater detail in a future post, but the one major thing I want to achieve with the stories in this series is for teen readers to have a light, enjoyable read, where the main character gets the girl in the end. Yes, they’ll have to work for it, but no, it’s not going to be a tragic ending.

The other thing my wife said to me, and the comment that affected me most I think, was that if she’d read a story like mine when she was in high school when she was struggling immensely with her sexuality, it may have gone some way to helping her realise that girls like her can have happy endings.

That one comment was a light bulb moment for me, because one of the other most often-quoted pieces of writing advice is to pick a person, real or imagined, who is your ideal reader, and write for them. Up until this point, I had a vague notion of who I was writing my stories for.

Now I know exactly who I’m writing for – my wife’s 16 year old self. And I would love to think that if that 16 year old redheaded teenager got to read stories like the ones I want to write, then I may have turned her into a reader. But what I hope the most is that 16 year old teenage version of my wife who reads my sweet contemporary romance novellas feels even just a little more comfortable in her own skin.

Why you should review your writing plans regularly

Accountants everywhere are celebrating the new tax year, and since I still have accounting in my blood, I used the new year as an excuse to review and revise my business and writing plans. Business plans (and writing plans) should be organic documents. They should change and grow as your business does, so a six-monthly revision is a good way to see how you’re travelling with regards to the business side of things, as well as the writing side.

The business part of my plan didn’t need too much tinkering, since the main goal for the next few years is to write as much as I can and publish as much as I can. I changed a few minor things, such as pricing strategies and marketing schedules, but apart from that, everything business is the same as it was at the start of the year.

The big changes to the plan were made on the writing side. I started off this year wanting to get an adult near-future crime series started (Division 10), re-focus my urban fantasy story (Eli Crane), and look into other genres that I’m interested in.

What I actually did was re-purposed two stories and got them published or gave them away for free through the newsletter (The Break Up and the still untitled Division 10 short story). I also had a short story selected for inclusion into a YA anthology by an emerging publisher that specialises in publishing LGBT YA stories. I’ll post about that when it gets closer to release time, because it’s an exciting story that warrants a post of its own.

I also published a short story, Sunday -fish, that I had earmarked for a competition, but just couldn’t bring myself to enter.

I didn’t track my words, which was something I wanted to do, and until I reviewed my achievements for the first half of the year, I was a little disappointed with what I had managed to accomplish.

That’s another reason to review your business/writing plans regularly – to help you realise that you’ve achieved a lot more than you first thought. I’ve dragged my feet on a lot of projects, partly because of struggling with a few personal issues, but also because I’ve been riddled with self-doubt. The absolute best thing that came from the publication of Sunday – fish and the acceptance of my YA short story (and the process that has followed with the publisher) has really given me a shot in the arm.

The biggest change to the writing plan is that I’ve changed my focus for the next half-year. I blogged about it here, but briefly, I wanted to see if I could take advantage of the publication of the anthology, and to do that, I needed to have some stories out in the YA genre.

After reading a series of posts and tweets about the lack of diversity in YA fiction, it made me realise that my decision was timely. Knowing that readers are asking for fiction that includes characters that represent them (diverse characters including disability, sexuality and culture) makes me extremely happy that I’ve made the decision to change direction, at least for now.

Moving forward, I now have a To Do List for the next two months to keep me on track, that will get updated at the end of August for the following two months.

I feel great having a firm direction to travel in, after feeling a little disorientated for the last few months. And in another six months, I’ll be doing it all over again.

 

Diversity in YA and what I’m doing to change it

In sport, particularly when playing finals, we have a saying:

“Leave nothing in the tank”

In other words, play your absolute best today. Leave nothing for tomorrow. Today, it counts. In writing terms, it would be “Do your best work now.” Don’t wait for tomorrow or next week or next year to work on projects that are close to your heart.

I think it’s entirely appropriate for the way I’m feeling about my writing at this point in time. Why? Because I’ve just completed my half-yearly review of my business plan and writing goals and, among other things, I’ve decided to ditch some projects I’ve been working on (for now), and bring forward some other projects I was going to get to “at some point in the future.”

I’ll write more about my business and writing plan update in another post, but today I wanted to explain why I’ve changed direction so dramatically.

A few months ago, I had a short story accepted for inclusion in an LGBT+ YA anthology from Harmony Ink Press that’s slated for release in September. (Again, more on this next month).

Since then, I’ve read posts and tweets and articles on various blogs around the place about the lack of diversity in YA fiction. Not just with regards to sexuality, but with regards to other cultures, disabilities and other “differences” people have to deal with that are under-represented in the YA fiction currently being published.

This one in particular really made me question my priorities.

It made me revisit the reasons I started writing in the first place, back when I was at uni and was writing as a way to clear my mind from marketing and accounting and law. The reason I started writing was because there was a serious lack of stories with characters I could relate to. And being before the internet, there was no real way of finding any books that may have existed.

Hell, I didn’t even realise I was gay at that point. I just knew I was different – I knew that what my friends said they felt about their boyfriends, I didn’t feel about mine. I also didn’t know anyone who was gay or lesbian, and those words (gay and lesbian) were words that were whispered by adults, out of earshot of children and teenagers.

Back to my short story for a moment – before I submitted it, I did a bit of googling to see what I could find out about the publisher. That was more a business decision at the time, because I wanted to make sure it lined up with my long-term goals as a writer.

What I discovered is that Harmony Ink’s philosophy lined up with my own initial reasons for writing – to write the stories I wish were around when I was a teenager.

It’s a pretty simple concept really, and in my haste to get stories out, I’d actually forgotten why I write in the first place.

So what do I wish I’d read way back then, when I was struggling to put a name to how I was feeling?

I wish I’d read stories where the girl got the girl in the end. I wanted stories that when I’d turned the last page and read the last word, made me feel good about myself. Stories that gave me a sense of hope that I could fall for someone who would fall for me too.

Here’s the thing though – I used to write those stories. I used to write about girls like me, whose friends didn’t think she was strange for liking other girls.

When I started to take my writing seriously though, I stopped writing those stories. Why? Because I knew, deep down, that if I wanted to get published, I wouldn’t get there by writing about girls who like other girls.

Books like that are getting published now, yes, but not  often enough. And they’re certainly not being publicised enough or given a chance to reach their audience. An audience which is obviously hungry for those books.

Publishing is changing though, and publishers like Harmony Ink Press, who specialise in LGBT+ YA fiction are leading the charge. But a big influence on my decision to go back to writing those YA stories is the advent of self-publishing, and the ability to reach readers more directly.

There are a lot of new ways for authors to write and publish more diverse books, and for readers to find them.

It’s an exciting time.

And from now on, I’m leaving nothing in the tank. I’m not letting these stories languish in the back of my mind to get to “some time in the future.”

Because the stories I want to write aren’t needed tomorrow, or next week or next year – they’re needed now, yesterday, today.

The girls I’ve been waiting so long to write about are shy, strong, tough, sensitive, flawed, and lesbian. And finally, after waiting all these years, they’re coming out to play.