I’m Coming Out…

(Though probably not in the way you think.)

It’s come to my attention (especially lately, with the dust-up at the Hugo Awards) that if a person doesn’t fall in line with a certain set of beliefs and -isms, and isn’t aligned with a certain political and social worldview, that such a person will never be accepted into the mainstream of SFF writers. That’s okay. I write what I write because I love writing it, and there are enough other like-minded people around to find the sort of thing I like to read, as well. I don’t write to meet certain set amounts of POC in a book, or to advance a social/political belief, or to fight for gender equality. I don’t like being preached at through books I read, and I don’t intend to preach at my readers.

woman-closet

This particular idea was strengthened in the last few days. Over the weekend a thread cropped up on one of the blogs I like to visit. The question was (paraphrased): What makes you stop reading a book? How long do you give a book before you give up on it?

It was a question that interested me, and so of course I commented. In my comment I listed several things that would make me stop reading a book: sex scenes, rape scenes, bestiality, graphic torture, and homosexual themes. I went on to add that I would also stop reading if I didn’t connect with the characters, and mentioned that I would also stop reading a book if there was continual profanity. I wasn’t making a statement of what I believed, or of what I thought was right and wrong. I was simply stating what I didn’t read.

Do you want to take a guess as to whether someone replied to me? And as to what they said?

If you guessed that they did, and that the gist of their comment was that they had decided I was equating torture and rape with homosexuality, and that they were offended by their own inference, you would be right.

In vain did I point out that I had never equated them with each other, that sex scenes and characters I didn’t identify with were also on the list (was I also equating them with rape and torture? Spoilers: no) and that these were my own personal preferences as to what I did or did not read. A few of the commenters were simply determined to be offended. In which case I reckon they must be offended at the dictionary, too, since it also lists homosexuality along with some other nasty words and ideas. There seems to be an idea that if you don’t agree with what a person does or doesn’t support, that you can ‘call them out’ to tell them how offended you are, how unkind or bigoted they are, and how they need to be more careful in what they say.

So I’m coming out. 

I don’t agree with homosexuality. I won’t write about it, or (in almost every case) read about it. I won’t promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with abortion. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with misogynism. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong. Also, I find it highly annoying.

If you’re not going to read the books I write because of that; well, that’s your right. Just like it’s my right to read and write what want to read and write. I won’t be silenced in my convictions, and by God’s grace I’m not going to be bullied into being too scared to speak what I think is right. If that means that some people (or even a lot of people) won’t read my books and feel that they have to call me various names; well, that’s their right. It’s a free world after all.

And I’m free to act upon my own convictions, too. If you’re lesbian/bi-sexual/gay/trans; if you’ve had an abortion; if you’re a misogynist– I don’t hate you. I do have a different moral system, and it’s not going to agree with yours.

It helps if people remember that. And it helps if we all decide not to be instantly offended by everyone who doesn’t agree with us (especially if you’re reading values into simple statements of preference). Fortunately I have quite a few family members and friends who identify as lesbian/bi-sexual/et al, and are always willing to have open discussions with me. They don’t love me any less for my beliefs, and I don’t love them any less for theirs. We certainly don’t agree with what is right and wrong, but none of us are closed minded enough to say that the other isn’t allowed to have their point of view.

The internet is not the same. Fair enough. But I don’t try to tell others what to read or write, so don’t expect me to change my beliefs to suit you, either. Whether I make a living at writing or only ever manage to keep it as a side-job, I want to honour God; and I can’t do that if I’m too afraid to stand up for what I think is right.

If you want a reason to label me, to refuse to read my books, to call me names, I’ve listed some for your convenience. Choose any or all of the above. And for my writer friends, whom I have loved ‘meeting’ as I began to publish, and who may or may not agree with me: some of you write stuff I don’t like to read, but I’d have to be daft to say that you’re bad writers because of it. Most of you are brilliant writers, some of whom simply write things I don’t always read.

Also, no hard feelings if you feel that you no longer want to interact/follow/’like’/talk to me. These can be divisive issues, and many publishers don’t like their authors to associate with ‘my kind’ of person just in case mud, doing what mud does best, sticks.

I Found A Thing On The Interwebz #1

Cool stuff I randomly found on the internet: Bookcase Edition! I found this lot on IncredibleThings.com

I’m sure you’ve got room in your life for bookshelves like this:

Platzhalter Expanding Bookshelf

If your bookshelf always seems to be bursting at the seams, maybe you should just let it. You’re obviously not going to stop collecting more books than you have space for, so why not store them on something that adapts to your needs. Although after a certain point you may realize it would have been more prudent to just by a second regular shelf instead. Source

Or this:

Tangram Bookshelf

Creative use of shapes, endless possibilities.
If you liked playing with Tangram blocks as a kid, but can’t quite bring yourself to break out the blocks as an adult, this book case will alleviate the urge. Get the shapes you need and create unique artwork that expresses your style. Source

Or even this:

Rolling Shelf

Take advantage of more shelf space by making it bend to your will. Create interesting arrangements with varying heights and options with the Rolling Shelf. The flexible ends made from strips of wood are held together by fabric that allow them to be rolled up to make room. Source

And my personal favourite:

DIY Inverted Bookshelf

Follow these simple instructions and create your own upside down book shelf that freaks out your roommate. It’s a quick enough project that you can do it before he gets up for work. Unlike the time you stapled his coat to the ceiling, this won’t damage any property. In fact, the bookshelf is completely functional. Source

This has been partially reblogged from IncredibleThings.com, and the other VERY COOL bookshelves can be found here.

You Are What You Eat Read

At the Day Job I meet a lot of interesting people. And by interesting I mean people who have punchups at the service desk, entitled crusties who bring 60+ items through the 15 or less counter while berating anyone who dares to tell them they can’t do it, and that bloke who always comes in with striped thermals under his  knee-length shorts. (Seriously, I love that bloke. I get a kick out of seeing what colour stripes he’ll be rocking each time).

Then, of course, there are the ones who are interesting for a different reason. Quite often as I’m putting a customer’s groceries through, it’ll come out in the conversation that I’m a writer. The conversation then usually veers in one of three directions.

  1. Customer is VERY interested, and wants to know what sort of thing I write. When told that I write YA and NA Fantasy (most particularly rewritten fairytales) they ask to know my name so they can look me up. They are thereupon given my card.
  2. Customer is interested, and confesses to reading quite a lot, but not usually fantasy/YA etc. Depending on whether or not they are also interested in blogging/self-publishing/etc, I may or may not hand out a card.
  3. Customer wishes to tell me ALL THE WISDOM and let me know exactly how I should be writing, what I should read to be successful, and that I should give them my phone number so they can encourage/mentor/teach me the ways of life. (None of these so far have actually been writers, just rather pompous but kind-hearted individuals who genuinely seem to care about my growth). They make me want to back away slowly, but mean no harm. I try to avoid giving them my card.

This afternoon I had one of the less off-putting interesting ones. We had quite an interesting chat about The Classics (which he wanted to know if I had read, and was kind enough to approve when I said that I had— well, some, anyway). He then wished to know which classic authors I enjoyed. Of course, I mentioned Austen, Dumas, Scott et al, which he seemed mildly pleased about. I was on the right track, he said. We then moved on to Shakespeare, where we had slightly differing views on his tragedies (I find them highly amusing, and full of rich themes like hope and love and forgiveness).

Then he asked if I had read Kafka, Dostoyevsky (yes, I had to Google it to find out how Fyodor_Mikhailovich_Dostoyevsky_1876to spell it) and a few others that I either didn’t recognise or found vaguely familiar but was uncertain of their body of work. When I confessed my ignorance, he smiled kindly and said that I was going in the right direction, but that I should broaden my horizons. I agreed generally, but said that some of the classic authors I didn’t enjoy at all; to which he replied that reading them wasn’t about pleasure, it was about broadening the mind. Sometimes, he said, you have to force yourself through them: they’re heavy going, but worth it in the search for illumination (my paraphrasing here).

That got me thinking. As a writer, everything I read has an effect on me, even things that I really dislike. In one way or another, every book I’ve read has contributed to my ability as a writer, even if that contribution was how not to write. Sometimes I’ll dislike a set of characters and love a setting. Sometimes I’ll greatly admire a plot and dislike everything else about the book. Sometimes I’ll just hate a book so much that I can only think of how I would have written it AND NOT RUINED IT. In one sense, therefore, reading for the sake of broadening my mind and my skill isn’t to be lightly dismissed.

I do not, however, tend to continue reading things I don’t like. I don’t read just for the sake of broadening my mind. I read for pleasure. (With the exception of Christian authors like Sibbes, Spurgeon, Goldsworthy and others, whom I read both for pleasure and instruction). I’m not even sure that I should read merely for the purpose of broadening my mind. If there’s no love for what I’m reading, why bother? Even when I read biographies and autobiographies, I read because I’m interested in the person, and thus could still be said to be reading for pleasure. I’ve gotten past the age where I feel that I have to be able to proudly proclaim that I’ve read this great author or that famous poet: I feel quite happy in proclaiming that I read for pleasure.

Will I read Kafka and Dostoyevsky? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. But I’m pretty certain it’s going to be because I want to, and not because I should.

Villanelles And Story Structure

Villanelles and Story Structure. What do they have in common?

Absolutely nothing.

Well, except for the purely personal connection that I studied them both this week. Also, if you think about it, villanelles have a very rigid structure that- huh. Maybe they do have something in common. But I digress. Or do I? I’m not sure anymore.

Let me start again. This week I discovered a structured form of poetry known as villanelle thanks to Harriet Goodchild, who besides being a talented (and rather terrifyingly clever) author, is also a talented poet. Basically, a villanelle is a poem with five stanzas of three lines, followed by one stanza of four lines (a total of nineteen lines, if you’re counting). According to Wikipedia, “It is structured by two repeating rhymes and two refrains: the first line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. The rhyme-and-refrain pattern of the villanelle can be schematized as A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2 where letters (“a” and “b”) indicate the two rhyme sounds, upper case indicates a refrain (“A”), and superscript numerals (1 and 2) indicate Refrain 1 and Refrain 2″.

Basically, it’s the sudoku of poetry. The second lines of each stanza have to rhyme with each other, as do the first and third (until you get to the sixth stanza, where the first, third and fourth lines all rhyme with each other). It’s incredibly structured, and incredibly difficult to write. (Yes, I tried). It’s also oddly freeing to write, and the structure feels more like a guide than a constraint.

Besides being interesting in it’s own right, it was also interesting to consider the villanelle in light of the fact that I’d been musing on story structure at the start of the week. I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with story structure: partly because I’m primarily a pantser (meaning I most often just sit down and write without doing any planning in writing) and partly because it took so long for me to understand what story structure actually is. I’ve since done a lot of study on the subject (aka, read a lot of books by Steven Brust and Patricia Wrede, and paid special attention to any other book I read where the structure leapt out at me), and it has been borne in on me over the years that the structure of my own books requires more work. Interestingly enough, I received a crash course in structure this week and last, over at Janet Reid’s blog. Janet periodically runs flash fiction contests on her blog, which I love to enter as a form of practise even though I’m seriously outclassed by most of the writers there. I was going over the finalists’ entries a week or so ago, and though quite a few of them aren’t my style of preference for reading, it struck me how very much they could say in very few words (100 words max). This turned my interest from looking for flash fic I liked, to flash fic that really worked, without regard to preferred style.

And that, of course, brought me to structure- for it was the structure of each of the pieces that gave each so much depth. The closest thing I can compare it to is looking in a telescope. There are so few words used, but the effect is wide-ranging and immensely vast. It feels as though there must be so much more than 100 words there. I learn best via reading (and perhaps osmosis of words) and let me tell you, reading those flash fic pieces over the last two weeks has been the schooling of my life. I so much appreciate all those talented writers who enter the contests.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. You want to know if I succeeded in writing a villanelle (shush, child, shush: of course you do). I did write my own villanelle, and it turns out that the only thing I feel really poetical about is my morning cup of tea. (My magnum opus is Ode To A Cockroach (RIP), so that should give you some idea of my poetic range). Therefore, enjoy this villanelle about my first morning cup of tea, and be thankful that there are no insects involved. It has no real rhythm, meter, or in fact merit, but it was fun to write.

The First Cup Of Tea

Cup meeting saucer, bergamot in flight
Amber swirls from the tealeaves and sinks fast
A curl of steam variegated through light

Silence that rings with a chink! clear and bright
Teaspoon abandoned, steam rising ‘gainst glass
Cup meeting saucer, bergamot in flight

Dreams linger gently, away out of sight
Fingers curled ‘round the cup, warm to the last
A curl of steam variegated through light

Plate piled with shortbreads: a secret delight
Beside glazed honey jumbles- saved for last
Cup meeting saucer, bergamot in flight

Eyes flutter shut, open wider and bright
Smile as I savour this morning’s repast
A curl of steam variegated through light

Dappled light playing on walls painted white
First warmth of sunshine through icy-cold glass
Cup meeting saucer, bergamot in flight
A curl of steam variegated through light

Spindle’s Publication Day Is Here!

Spindle has been released into the wild!

SPINDLE - 2000Aka, it’s publication day, I’m excited, and EVERYONE SHOULD BE EXCITED. As such, I apologise if my Facebook and/or Twitter accounts become overly repetitive. If you’ve been eagerly waiting to buy Spindle on publication day (and I just know that you have), here are the links:

AmazonKobo, iBooksSmashwords, and Createspace.

Of course, if you sign up to my mailing list, that’s a whole ‘nother rodeo. Those on my mailing list will be able to download Spindle at 50% off from Smashwords. Plus get access to other awesome freebies as they become available, so…what are you waiting for? Sign up here!

And in the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Spindle to whet your appetite!

Excerpt

“Well now,” said a soft, amused voice beside Poly. “Something seems to have annoyed Luck. I wonder what that can be?”

The younger of the two men had strolled away from Luck and was now standing beside her. Poly turned her head in what she hoped was a stately manner and took in the faintly challenging hazel eyes that glinted at her above a thin, sarcastic mouth.

“I can see why Luck likes you so much,” said that sarcastic mouth. It wasn’t said sarcastically, however: unless Poly was very much mistaken, those hazel eyes were looking her over with distinct appreciation.

“I’m Melchior,” he said. “That’s Pettis: he and Luck will talk for hours if left alone. Foolish of him, I think, when he could be whispering in your ear. You do speak, don’t you?”

“You’re very forward, sirrah,” said Poly. She was pleased to hear that her voice sounded thoughtful and quite cool. “Why are you addressing me?”

“Four reasons,” said Melchior. “One, I have a great interest in the Sleeping Princess. You’re something of a hobby of mine. Two, your hair is delightfully unusual. Those are spells, I take it? May I touch your hair?”

“Of course not!” said Poly, ruining her aloof tone of voice with an unfortunate squeak.

Melchior’s eyes lit with wicked amusement. “Three, you’re quite obviously an enchantress of some power; and four, well, I haven’t seen anything quite like this before.”

He was holding her gloved hand in his own, and before Poly quite knew what was happening he had kissed her fingers lightly.

“Stop that!” hissed Poly, her eyes flying to Luck. He hadn’t noticed, still deep in his conversation with Pettis, and Poly wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or relieved.

“Why? Because Luck isn’t intelligent enough to do it?” This time there was certainly a sardonic edge to Melchior’s voice. “You must have so many questions, princess: I’m certain that Luck hasn’t answered them all. Allow me to be of service.”

“He warned me about you,” Poly said bluntly. She was rewarded by a lightning-fast grin from Melchior, and was a little annoyed to find that she felt rewarded.

“Did he so! Clever Luck. Me in particular?”

“Not in particular, no. He did warn me against accepting any gifts, agreeing to any arrangements or allowing people to touch me, though.”

One of Melchior’s hands spread wide, indicating innocence, but the other didn’t release Poly’s gloved hand. Poly saw a brief glint of magic obscure his hazel eyes like the flash of light across glass, and knew that he was studying her antimagic hand. The magic was obsidian black, but it didn’t frighten her.

“No hidden costs, princess. Ask, and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed that excerpt of Spindle! Now go out and buy it. Go on. Shoo.

In Appreciation Of The Significant Other

There’s a point at which, as writers, we find ourselves sitting on the floor and sobbing hysterically.

You think I mean metaphorically.

I don’t.

We’re a weird, piebald mix, writers. We’re thin-skinned, delusional, always-hopeful, always-despairing; a quivering, mushy bundle of nerves and irrational fears; more than slightly mad and almost invariably difficult to live with. We ride highs and lows like the worst addicts out there, exulting with each small success and crushed by each small failure or setback.

We sit on the floor sobbing over something that a night’s rest would show us is not the end of the world. We’re convinced at every review that doesn’t positively praise our book to the skies that we’re the worst excuse for writers that ever lived. Five minutes later we’re at it again, writing furiously and certain that we’re gonna be famous soon, because this book is THE BEST BOOK EVER. Then when editing time comes around again we know we can’t write for peanuts, and the whole cycle starts again.

Part of this is good. If we weren’t so thin-skinned we wouldn’t be much good at writing: there’s a necessity to feel and anguish and exult, to know what it feels like, what it tastes like, what it is to be all these things. In one form or another, it all goes into our writing; and if we’re VERY good, our readers feel those things with us.

But it doesn’t make us terribly easy to live with. If we’re not crashing, we’re exulting. We’re usually talking about ourselves, or our books. We’re horribly self-centered and self-absorbed.

(Or, yanno, that could just be me).

So I want to take a moment of appreciation for my significant other, The Hubby. He’s wonderful, and sweet, and can be so very patient with my vagaries and self-absorption. He doesn’t read my books, but he’s as proud as can be and supports me in all the important ways.

Cheers to all the Significant Others out there. We love you. We’re thankful for you, even when we forget to say so.