Apr 29, 2014

Memory War - New Title and Release Date!

It was April 27th, 2011, when I announced that my first book, Locked Within, was going to be published.

So it's kind of nice that, barely more than three years later, I can announce the new title and release date for the final instalment of the trilogy.

The marketing department at WiDo wanted something else for the title, so we settled on the original working title of the book:

Memory War

The marketing department liked this title so much that WiDo have decided to re-name the series, from the Locked Within Trilogy to the Memory Wars Trilogy*. The cover and blurb will be revealed soon, and I'll be starting some exciting promotional work to get ready. This are going to kick into high gear soon, as we get ready for the release of Memory War on...

September 2nd!**

This is the earliest release I've had so far, and I can't wait to share the epic climax with everyone.

The final battleground
*If you've already liked the Facebook page, you don't have to change anything, I've already updated the name so you'll see posts from the Memory Wars page instead. If you haven't liked it yet, now is the perfect time, as there'll be snippets, character profiles, and a range of other treats coming up over the next few months.

**I'll be delaying the release of Lady Raven to autumn/winter, to give myself space to focus on Memory War.

Apr 24, 2014

Admiration vs Objectification

Warning for profanity...

Recently, the first issue of the new Teen Titans comic came under scrutiny for, among other crimes against art such as teeny school buses and weird perspectives, portraying a 17 year-old girl as though she had a hefty set of breast implants.

Here's how Wonder Girl is usually portrayed:

Not bad. Feminine, but tough, and fairly age-appropriate for a teenager.

And here's how she appears in the new Teen Titans series:

You can't tell me there's any reason to depict a character with breasts like that other than to appeal, sexually, to guys between the ages of 14 and 40.

And she's 17.

Guys, we're being urged to want to have sex with a 17 year-old. And that's a problem.

A common argument given in defence of the way comics depict women is that men are also depicted with big muscles, in right, revealing costumes. So that makes it okay, right? They're the same? Wrong. And here's why:

There's a difference between "I want to be that" and "I want to fuck that."

Take a look at this:

Batman is one of the most awesome, and masculine, characters in comics. He's every inch the alpha male dream. Rich, handsome, incredibly intelligent, tough as nails, and he gets all the girls and has all the best toys. Here, he's drawn with a determined expression, head and chest thrust out as he makes gravity his plaything, swinging through the night.

This is a powerful, forceful image, intended to make guys want to be Batman.

Now look at this:

And this:

Let's be brutally honest for a moment. Catwoman and Starfire were drawn this way for one reason, and only one reason: to make boners. Because showing women that men want to fuck is a great way to get men to buy comics. The thing is, that we don't need any help getting men to buy comics. They've been aimed at men and boys since their inception.

Even if we did need to play on the "I want to fuck that" response, it's a fallacy at best, and an outright lie at worst, to say that the men in comics are depicted in as sexually objectified a manner as the women.

Let's look at Batman again:

Yeah, he looks pretty badass. But I'd put money that not one woman (or man, to be fair) wants to fuck him based on this.

Here is a picture of someone I am assured by several women is "edible":

No skin-tight costumes. No unrealistic posing or exaggerated proportions. What is it that makes him attractive? His smile. His walk. His attitude. And yes, his shoulders, ass and abs help. But the key thing is that major factors in what women find attractive are to do with his personality. What he's like to talk to and hang out with. How he makes a woman feel about herself. How he makes her forget her inhibitions. Make her laugh without feeling self-conscious. Have a conversation about everything and nothing at the same time. And how they can share a deeper intimacy as a result.

The character isn't attractive because of gratuitous displays of his body. He's attractive because of who he is. And, more importantly, he's still a character who men will look at and think "I want to be that." Why? Because he has personality, flaws, vices, doubts, and still stands next to his brother and stares down the gates of hell because that's what heroes do.

My god, wouldn't it be great if the sex symbols men were being pitched could boast that, instead of rotating spines and floating breasts?

This is why it isn't fair to claim that male characters are sexually objectified the same way as women. It's not remotely the same.

To take it further, how many female characters can you think of that you can say are portrayed as character first, sex second? I bet it's less than the male characters you can do the same for. And in comics? Forget about it. Comics are still a boys' club, which is why, despite repeated calls for it, the first time Wonder Woman got to be in a major movie was the Lego Movie, and her first appearance in a live action cinematic release will be as a side character while Superman and Batman throw down and see whose manliness is superior.

Where are today's Ellen Ripleys? Where's the Zoe Washburn of superhero comics? Why does a children's cartoon have over 500,000 fans, more than half of whom are women, and no-one thinks that maybe if they made the comic version appealing to women, it might sell more than 26,000 in a month?

Ask a woman to tell you what characters she finds attractive, and what characters she looks up to as role models, the ones she might fantasize about being some day. The answer might surprise you.

Because women should get to be the hero, too.

Apr 22, 2014

In Which I Can't Separate Art From The Artist

A little while back, the Hugo Awards were the subject of controversy, following the backlash against Jonathan Ross being announced as the host for this year's awards.

Now it seems that there's going to be another sticky issue. The nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced. I'm thrilled to see a couple of writers I know have been nominated.

Also on the list is Opera Vita Aeterna, a novelette by Vox Day.

Vox Day is the pen-name of Theodore Beale, To say I disagree with his views on women, race, theology, and the issue of rape would be a massive understatement.

A major recurring theme in SFF is that people of various ways of life can co-exist, and not just co-exist, but become more prosperous as a result of co-existence and co-operation. Whether it's Star Wars, Mass Effect, Star Trek, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, an overriding message of SFF is to set aside differences, to learn from each other, and stand for something better than base instinct and aversion to those who aren't like us.

There's a limit to how far I can separate a piece of art from the artist who created it. That limit is pretty low for things like the kind of hate preached by Vox Day, particularly when it comes to written fiction, since so much of the author comes through.

I don't believe Vox Day deserves this award. I'm actually quite shocked enough people like him to get him on the nominees list. I'm not the only one to feel this way, and like Ceilidh over at Bibliodaze, I feel there is no place in SFF for someone who genuinely believes that same-sex relationships should be criminalized, who regards women's rights as a disease, who believes that marital rape does not exist, and who believes that non-white people are in every way inferior to white people.

The SWFA expelled Vox Day, a former lifetime member, following calls to do so after his racist attack on N.K. Jemesin. He's not welcome with them, and he shouldn't be welcome with the rest of us.

Apr 17, 2014

Dealing With Issues

I'd like to share some thoughts that have come to mind while I've been having trouble with my next WIP.

The book, Carver & McCain, was going to be a police procedural with strong urban fantasy elements, dealing with issues of prejudice in how paranormals cope with the way mundane humans treat them. I had my privileged, ex-SWAT officer, recently transferred to the paranormal crimes division, and his werewolf partner who would have to put up with his anti-paranormal attitude.

The problem was, I feel, the issue of prejudice was never going to be confronted by the characters. They would learn to respect and eventually like each other, but the more I wrote, the more I realized I was hitting out a lot of stuff about how hard life was for paranormals and how readily normal humans would turn on them, without my characters deciding to do something about it.

In short, it felt like I was preaching.

Lady Raven, on the other hand, is different. Although Cora lives a precarious existence within the Empire's strict rules for women, the story is about her defiance. The point is to show that she's not willing to stand by and let this tyranny continue. While her quest starts out on a personal level, to protect her mother, it will grow to become far greater, and she will grow from a reactionary child to a young woman of power and agency, fighting for a cause.

Of course authors should tackle difficult issues in their work. But are the characters simply enduring the problem, or are they doing something about it? For me, reading (and writing) is escapism. It's about seeing characters do the things I never could. That's why I write the kind of adventure stories I write. I can't defeat sexism or social injustice in one fell swoop. But I can write characters who can. I can write characters who, instead of accepting that their world has problems and trying to ignore them, stand up and make a change by fighting representations of those problems.

To me, that is the difference between tackling an issue, and preaching about it.

So for now, I think Carver & McCain will be shelved. I'll come back to it when I've got some perspective and distance, and can come at it fresh. I have another idea cooking away that could make a suitable replacement for my next book.

Apr 15, 2014

First Edits

First edits are a daunting thing. The first feedback an editor provides to an author on a manuscript always calls for the most intensive work you'll carry out in the whole editing process.

The other day, I got back the first edits on Lady Raven. As I expected, there's a lot of work to be done.

Quoth the raven: "Evermore edits"
Let me tell you, it never stops being scary. This year my third and fourth novels are being published, so while I'm not an experienced author or anything, I'm not quite a beginner anymore. I've been through some tough edits. But seeing that email come in and the little paperclip icon telling me there's an attachment makes my heart jump into my throat every single time.

First edits are a good thing. As scary as they are, they signal the point where things start to get real. Where your work starts to transform, changing from a manuscript into a fully-realized novel. But the fear is good. The fear means you still know you make mistakes. You have to hold on to that fear, because admitting you make mistakes keeps you humble. And if anything, edits require humility.

Your editor is your lifeline. You editor will say the things you need to hear, even if you don't want to hear them. Listen to them, learn from them. They're the essential outside, expert opinion you need to make your book the best it can be.

If you're able to self-edit, more power to you. I'd be very wary about trying it, myself, and would always recommend using a professional editor, whether that means submitting to a publisher so they'll provide one for you, or hiring one yourself.

So now we start my last "first edits" of the year. We're one step closer to Lady Raven taking flight.

Apr 10, 2014

Cover Reveal: Steele Your Soul

I've had Decadent Kane on my blog before. She writes perhaps the most unusual sub-genre I've heard of: elf erotica. Her Trouble With Elves series started with a story about one of Santa's elves who'd gone rogue, and falls for the chief spy elf sent to bring her back.

In her latest book, Steele Your Soul, she gives us pirates, (more) forbidden romance, and likely all kinds of naughtiness. The book is due out in May.

Apr 3, 2014

Writing Time

One of the things I'm often asked is how I find the time, with my busy schedule, to write. It makes me realise that there's still this myth that you need tons of free time to be a writer.

It's even present in movies and tv. Look at any time a character decides to follow their artistic dreams. They often pack in their day-job and set out on the journey of finding their passion, making it happen (Fame! I'm gonna live forever. Ahem...). Going as far back as You've Got Mail, where Meg Ryan's character comments on only being able to write a book because she has so much free time, or Mike & Molly, where Molly, a teacher, climbs out of her classroom window and abandons her students, to live her dream of being a writer. This is a terrible idea for most of us, who have bills to pay.

If you've got a busy schedule, I can relate. But you can make time to follow your passion, whatever that may be.

Break it down easily. Let's take writing, since that's the one I know about. Writing 1,000 words in an hour is an achievable pace. If you can write for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, you can have an 80,000 word novel drafted in 16 weeks. Add another 4 for editing, and you've got a book ready to query or get ready for self-publishing in less than 5 months. Keep that pace up, and you write two books a year, which is better than a lot of big-name authors, and in today's market, releasing more books is one of the best ways to stay competitive.

So don't worry if life feels hectic. You can absolutely find the time you need, without sacrificing the security of a day-job, or time with your friends and family.

Apr 1, 2014

New Beginnings

April 1st marks the start of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I took part in the challenge a few years ago and had a great time, met some awesome people, and read some fantastic blogs. I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out, even if you're not taking part.

For me, this year, April feels like a clean slate. I spoke last week about feeling like me again, and I've got months of great things coming up, from books to conventions and more. It's time to get excited.

This past weekend I finished the first round of edits on Final Hope. I say first round, but my editor was so pleased with the original manuscript that we were able to get story edits and line edits done in the same batch. Very little has changed and the story remains exactly as I imagined when I sat down to write it. I'm so proud of this book, you guys have no idea. I want its release to go off with a bang.

Since I don't have a definite release date yet, I can't really schedule things properly. However we're confident that the book should be out for around October/November, as with the previous two. That gives me about 6 months to spread the word and get things organised.

This year, Nathan Shepherd's story ends.