Derailing The Diversity Train

A very very interesting and insightful blog here on the continuing battle to try and get more diversity into fiction, specifically SFF fiction and how in some quarters, even daring to have that discussion brings derision and harassment and how the issues at the heart of the discussion are being ignored in favour of merely discussing the ‘fights’ and controversy.

I am not a person of colour, I am white and I know that unjustly comes with certain benefits I take for granted. But what I am is a woman, 50% of the world’s population but without the inherent advantages of the other 50%. As a female writer, specifically a female SFF writer, I myself have come across prejudice in relation to the fiction we create, merely based on our gender rather than ability. Yes, that prejudice is infuriating, unfair and as with any prejudice, is completely inaccurate and based on fear not fact.

I work in a library too, and sadly it is quite a familiar occurrence for customers (always male) to refuse to read or say they don’t read any fiction written by women, often dismissing it as frivolous ‘chicklit’. I don’t read ‘chicklit’ myself either (personal preference, I like SFF), but I have nothing against the genre and am against snobbery of any kind. I also believe that there are many writers of that genre which are talented, good, accomplished writers. Why have snobbery about any genre?

But the point is, female writers have a FAR harder time trying to break into publishing, trying to be visible in such a male dominated genre as SFF, trying to be heard and most of all READ. The general prejudice I’ve heard is that somehow, due to our genitals, we are unable to write dark, gritty, bloody work of complexity, that we are somehow lightweight or prone to put romance in. None of which is true of course. As a library worker, I try to open eyes, so I talk to these customers about women writers who write weighty tomes, dark crime, gritty SFF etc, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Stella Rimmington, Ursula Le Guin, NK Jemisin, Jen Williams, Susanna Clarke etc. Why this blog post is SO great, is that it is trying to focus people’s attention back on the issue that really matters – not the arguments, the hateful rhetoric on twitter etc, but actually on the issue itself – of trying to bring more diverse voices into fiction. Of trying to make fiction more representative of the diverse cultures and countries we live in. It is not about stopping other people’s voices, or political correctness, or oppression of any kind, it is about inclusion. Including more diversity in fiction, why is that scary to some people? How can inclusiveness and diversity possibly offend or threaten anyone? Great post!😀

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There have been quite a few awful blog posts, videos and speeches given regarding the discussion of diversity in publishing in the past few weeks. Some of these opinion pieces have led to harassment, to trolling, to people leaving Twitter and blocking half a village.

There has been a push towards inclusiveness in the publishing world lately and it’s normal to see push back. Change always begets fear. Fear sometimes leads to opposition. Like any discussion on any sensitive topic there will be people who get upset, people who take it to the extreme with things like death threats which are completely ridiculous, and people who express their anger pointedly.

The discussion about diversity has largely been about one message: creating space for all of us. Yet, over and over again, I see authors and bloggers choose to focus on the anger that is a part of the discussion instead…

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Struggling authors, please read.

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This is SO true! All us writers are often plagued by self-doubt and from time to time we do feel like giving up, that we’re wasting our time and spilling our guts onto paper just for them to be lost in the ether amongst all the other millions of writers vying for attention. But is so important that we cherish our own personal journey and keep going, here’s why…

Author Kyle Perkins

By Kyle Perkins.

So lately I have heard from a few people that they feel like they should just give up on writing because for whatever reason, they are feeling like it just isn’t worth it anymore. Whether they feel like they aren’t getting enough attention, don’t have enough fans, or whatever the case may be, they are wrong, and here’s why.

Writers and authors have a gift, and because we have that gift, we have an obligation, a responsibility to use it. We may “just” arrange words in such a fashion that people enjoy reading them, but a heart surgeon “just” transplants hearts, and astronauts “just” go to space. We need to stop treating writing like it is simply a hobby that “anyone” can do, because that’s not the case. We “just” take people to places they can’t go on their own, and give them a form of escapism…

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Battling the Great ‘D’!

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The Great ‘D’ – depression.

I’ve battled with this nasty bottom dweller since I was a teen, not just the usual teenage angst but something fundamentally more serious and frightening. Well, it’s true to say that I have been struggling again these last few months.

The problem with depression isn’t merely the ‘being down’, the negative thoughts, the brain paralysing fears and paranoia’s and the black pit of despair, it is also the straight jacket, the feeling of having your hands and feet tied whilst being asked to continue with ‘normal’ daily life. A total impossibility. Depression is a paralyser of creativity, ideas, ‘normal’ cognitive function, it skews and sours everything.

There’s that awful word again – ‘normal’, as when you’re in the grip of depression you feel anything but normal, you imagine your head enlarged, a sign scrawled across your forehead, a big pointy neon sign following you around. Did I mention paranoia? You feel out of control, scrutinised, attacked, beaten, bruised, defeated all at once. It’s the sensation of speeding in an open top car at 110mph with no seat belt while the driver wears a blindfold, yet at the same time feeling as if you’re stuck neck deep in treacle – unable to move, to progress, to do anything. It’s debilitating.

It’s such an insidious condition. I’ve known it’s been creeping up on me for the last few months, that sinking feeling as life’s little or big crisis’s become increasingly more difficult to deal with. None of us can stop life being damn hard, from bad things happening. But when you have depression, you are completely incapable of dealing with them. You become instantly overwhelmed by the smallest thing, and completely smothered by anything larger.

It’s for this reason that I’ve neglected my own lovely blog for so long. I’ve found it virtually impossible to get the energy to blog anything this year and have been utterly incapable of following any of my friend’s wonderful blogs. Every time I saw one of their blog posts pop up on my emails, it just stayed there, accumulating with all the others along with hundreds of emails, probably thousands now.😦

So, a huge apology to any and all of my friends if I’ve been a bit weird of late. I’m usually a great one for doing a ‘swan impression’, appearing in control, the effortless gliding swan, while in truth the legs are peddling manically beneath. That’s me to a T – so busy trying to convince others and myself that everything is okay, that I’m my usual social, bubbly, happy self, when the reality is anything but that. It’s exhausting and a dreadful ‘Catch-22’ cycle, one I find almost impossible to break. Perhaps it’s a confidence issue, but I’m just so used to putting up a front, the happy exterior that I don’t seem to be able to let that slip and allow people to see me down. Reality bites.

I think the only time in my life that I’ve really ever broken down and cried in public was at my friend’s funeral. So, to anyone who suffers from depression, whether you put on a brave face like me or are able to be open and honest about it, you have my heartfelt sympathies. It sucks. And to anyone who knows someone who is struggling, please be patient with them and if they appear okay, look a little closer. No-one builds a wall better than someone battling depression, we’re experts at hiding from the world, our friends, ourselves.

At the moment, I admit I am drowning slightly. Life worries are weighing heavily and those worst dark impulses are louder than ever. So, trying to be positive and drag myself out of this cycle, I have promised myself to try and list 5 things every day that are positive or make me happy, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.

So here goes:

  1. A notable and prestigious writer has approached me to do a fantasy map commission for her amazing books. I am both thrilled and honoured.
  2. I have a lovely meeting of my gorgeous fellow Grimbold authors and friends at my place this Sunday for a big BBQ. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this and what a light in a dark tunnel it’s been.
  3. I am perpetually thankful for the family that I do have. I love them all dearly.
  4. My four gorgeous doggies bring me laughter and light every day.
  5. Despite my job being terribly low paid, I do absolutely love it and love the people I work with.

There, 5 things to be thankful for. If you are struggling with any kind of depression, mental illness or anything else, then please take the time to breathe, look around you and find 5 things that make your life better/easier/happier. It’s so so easy to be swamped in a negative mire and forget to look up and really see what you have.

I will also try to blog again and when I can (without beating myself up anymore), read and support my lovely friend’s blogs…it may just take me a little time.

Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as well – you can’t help others if you’ve fallen yourself.❤ xxxx

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Writing: Wise Words to Inspire and Motivate Indie Authors

A great blog post for inspiration here, by Debbie Young. Check it out folks!😀

 

Wise words from great writers to inspire indie authors to keep writing and self-pubishing their books, courtesy of author members of the Alliance of Independent

Source: Writing: Wise Words to Inspire and Motivate Indie Authors

Is it me that’s nuts or them?

Brilliant post by MT McGuire that perfectly captures how I’ve been feeling during this divisive and toxic EU referendum. xx

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WARNING!!!! There is swearing in this post. Actually, thinking about it, if you are offended by swearing what on earth are you doing here on my potty-mouthed blog? No but seriously, there is swearing, so please don’t read this if effing and blinding (and ranting) offends you.

Right, if all the non-swearers have left, on we go.

Rant mode activated.

Lately, I’ve been slightly worried that I might, perhaps, be going nuts. Perhaps it’s just the mean spirited horrid climate of the EU referendum that’s making me feel out of sorts. After all, while the folks voting leave are not all racist, you can bet all the racists will be voting leave. And then you get Farage with his smug bull frog grin and his ‘At Breaking’ Point’ poster aimed at brown people. I know I shouldn’t single him out but it’s so hard not to. Well, Mr Farage, Boris…

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Life in perspective – car crashes, glass and tears.

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This rant…ahem, post was written a couple of months ago, but, I was feeling too delicate to post it. Although the situation is still ongoing – lawyers and insurance companies take FOREVER, I thought I’d post it anyway.🙂

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On Saturday 13th February I was involved in a rather serious car crash. I say involved…I was driving to work when I approached a set of traffic lights at the Tetbury A46 junction in Gloucestershire, UK. I slowed down but then the lights turned to green as I approached so I thought, “Great, I can keep going!”

Two cars on the opposite side of the junction were indicating to turn right, across my path. They are supposed to wait and give way to incoming traffic, as the yellow signs say. They did not. The first black car crossed right in front of me, I flashed my lights at him and slammed my feet on the brakes. The second blue car hesitated and stopped, as they should. “Great I thought, bloody right, it’s my right of way!”. So I continued on…unfortunately the idiot woman in the blue car then changed her mind and thought she could somehow make her illegal right turn in front of me before I reached her. She was wrong.

As I’m crossing the road this woman’s car slams right into me, ramming into the side of my car, shattering the windows, setting off the door airbag (which I didn’t even know I had) and ramming my car off the road and towards a solid stone wall. With the force of the impact, according to the police themselves, if I had hit that wall head on I would not be here. They actually praised my driving! The strange thing is the whole thing happened in slow motion. I remember suddenly being slammed into then the wall coming up, I managed to turn the steering wheel and slam my foot on the brakes as I was sliding, missing the trees and solid wall completely and resting high way up the grassy verge.

I sat there in stunned silence, covered in glass. The woman who rammed me was already on her phone, I suspect she was on her phone when she crashed into me. She asked if I was alright but I couldn’t answer.

A very kind passer-by stopped and helped me. The car was filling up with smoke. The driver’s side was completely mangled, so he opened the passer door and helped me out. I was shaking violently and couldn’t stop crying. He put his coat around me and eased me back to his car to sit in the warmth. He and his kind lovely wife looked after me, gathered my bag and things and were just…amazing. I can’t thank them enough.

The police and ambulance turned up. The police took my statement, between my ridiculous sobbing.

The shock still hasn’t sunk in fully. In over twenty years of driving, I’ve never had a point on my licence or even a parking ticket and have never been involved in a crash.

The car, my beloved car, is completely totalled – a total right-off. Her car had damage to the front corner where she drove into me, but looks easily fixable. The woman in question looked wealthy, well-to-do, but me? I’m on minimum wage, money is so tight it keeps me awake at night. Long gone are the days when I was teaching and on a high salary when I could afford a new car. Since my illness ended my teaching career and a job I had slogged my guts out for 12 years, I am unable to work full-time and can’t teach at all as I get too dizzy and sick. So, having always worked, I found myself in a dire situation, no job but still with a hefty mortgage and huge bills to pay. I ended up finding a lovely part-time job working in a library with lovely supportive people which also gives me time to continue my writing. The only down-side, is that the pay is terrible, minimum wage, so when something like this happens it is truly devastating.

Despite having insurance, at best it will still leave me without a car in the short term (and living in the sticks that’s no joke) but could possibly leave me without a car in the long term. My car is 6 years old and worth very little now, so the probability of my being able to get the same car again on that money is remote to say the least.

The ambulance checked me out, whiplash, bruising, shock and a few cuts from the glass but miraculously unhurt given the force of the impact. Of course I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t stop crying. But I must say a huge THANK YOU to the Gloucestershire police and ambulance service and a MASSIVE thank you to my knight in shining armour, Neil Fraser and your wife…the kindness of strangers, eh? THANK YOU so much for looking after me, in my worst blubbering state.❤ xxx

I was picked up and taken home, was sick with terrible head pain and promptly fell asleep for about 6 hours+. Amazing how the body goes into preservation mode and there is nothing as restorative as sleep. And yes, shock meant that I was absolutely FREEZING. So now I’m at home, finally awake and under a pile of duvets and copious amounts of sweet tea. My whole right side especially my hips, neck and shoulders are very painful and will no doubt come up in an assortment of bruise colours, but despite feeling rather sorry for myself, being desperately worried about the money/car situation and being very angry at that stupid cow who caused all this…I have also been very lucky and I know it.

So…in the spirit of recognising when something could have been so much worse…I forgive that driver. Yes your actions were stupid and thoughtless and I’ve been the victim of them, but, it was an accident an occurrence with no malice behind it. So, I forgive you.

Tomorrow, I will have to take a deep breath and deal with life again. My crunched car is still out there on that verge where it was rammed into, albeit with a police sticker on it. So tomorrow I will have to phone the insurance people, garages etc and get it towed and start the whole process. My lovely work colleague even phoned when I was asleep and has even sorted cover for my shifts on Monday knowing I’ll be too shaky, which I will be. I still have pretty bad head pain and pain all over really, but I am a lucky lady…

So…what is the lesson to be learned from this?

  • The kindness of strangers really is a thing, a beautiful thing.
  • When you’re feeling down, or if things are going badly, just take a deep breath and realise that things could be so much worse.
  • At the end of the day, despite our worries, the pain we may carry (emotional, mental or physical) …we are all pretty lucky.🙂 xxxx

Love to you all and drive safe.❤

Book Launch Extravaganza! Fight Like A Girl kicks ass…literally!

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As I type this my head is still reeling from the awesome Fight Like A Girl events of yesterday. (Apologies now, the word ‘awesome’ will be overused and abused in this post!) For any of you who have been to a book launch or are even trying to organise one yourself, take note – THIS is how it should be done!

The ingredients for a perfect kick-ass book launch:

  1. An awesome book to launch – a brilliantly written and edited piece of fiction with a great cover, which is worth people forking out their hard-earned cash for!
  2. An awesome venue with plenty of room/space, facilities (bar, toilets, stage area for readings/events etc), places to chill, great lighting and sound and easy access.
  3. An awesome collection of writers, reading extracts from their work.
  4. An awesome panel with great Q & A’s for the audience.
  5. A mind-blowing physical display of martials arts and swordplay!
  6. Then of course, book signing from the authors and chances to ask questions.
  7. Throw in a load of lovely food and drinks (free wine and free soft drinks!), a great atmosphere and you have the recipe for the best book launch EVER!!!!😀

It honestly felt more like a mini-con than a book launch!

Right, back to the day itself. Saturday 2nd April 2016, despite a slightly wet start to the morning, the sun came out and stayed out. My lovely fellow Grimbold author and friend, the uber-talented, Kate Coe, popped over to mine and after an initial hello from my barky boys (my four large white wolfies), we headed off. SAM_8682

The destination was The Hatchet Inn, in the heart of Bristol, dated 1606, a pub I later found out I have a weird personal connection to (more on that later). We arrived and strolled up Park Street to the Boston Tea Party to meet lovely Chris Horner and Tom Miles and the indefatigable Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke, fellow Grimboldians and amazing writers who edited the Fight Like A Girl (FLAG) anthology, contributed an awesome story each as well AND organised the whole amazing book launch event! OMG! I strongly suspect that Jo & Roz are hauled up today in their respective homes, floating in a sea of duvets and doggies, recovering…

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I have to mention the one person who should have been there but couldn’t make it (gritty police work got in the way😦 ), our wonderful publisher, Sammy HK Smith, one half of Grimbold Books (Zoe Harris is our other lovely publisher) and the Creative Director of its imprint, Kristell Ink, behind the publication of Fight Like A Girl. It was such an amazing day and poor Sammy’s absence was felt as she would have loved the whole thing.❤ But huge kudos to her, her team did her proud and Kristell Ink did such an amazing job with the book. SAM_8598

After heading back to the pub to finishing setting up, to our delight we noticed that the fabulous cover, designed by the awesome Sarah Anne Langton, actually glows in the dark under a black light! Awesomeness x 10!

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I should also say that one of the main reasons the book launch was SUCH a huge success was that the book in question, Fight Like A Girl (FLAG), really is such an amazing book, it kind of sells itself! I rarely comment on other books, because frankly I’m not a reviewer and I lack the confidence to assess other people’s writing, I’d much rather leave that to others who know more than I do, but in this case, I have to make an exception. There simply aren’t enough accolades to describe it – an awesome anthology of kick ass fiction by some of the best female genre writers from around the country, writing about strong female characters, assassins, pilots, warriors, killers, archers, mercenaries, you name it, these women are deadly and mean business. No fluff, no touchy feeling stuff here. If you had any preconceived stereotypes about women writers writing fantasy and sci-fiction – leave them at the door, Fight Like A Girl, will blow you away! SAM_8677SAM_8676

The doors opened at 1pm and in came the people. Within minutes the whole place was absolutely packed! So many lovely people to mention…a big shout out to Gareth L Powell and his lovely wife and daughter, Fantasy Faction‘s very own Marc Aplin, Jonathan L Howard, Pete Sutton, Ian Millsted, Mark Robinson (my fellow Star Wars fan), the lovely Heather Ashley & Claire M Carter, the awesome Claire Ayres (of BrizzleLass Blog) who wrote the first awesome review of Fight Like A Girl and loved my story! (THANK YOU!). Lovely to see John Bav, Anne-Mhairi Simpson & Richard Bendall, Desiree Fischer, Jon Dowling (who always cracks me up), the lovely Emily Turner (Elegant Emily) who is a fab new intern at Grimbold, and the very dapper, Scott Lewis who is such an awesome guy and bought a copy of White Mountain too, thank you Scott!😀

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I was also thrilled to finally meet the Spymaster General and Robin, AFE Smith, from our Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) group from Authonomy, who met in 2010 and are not only still great friends but have written a charity anthology together. Meeting Anna for the first time was lovely, she is SUCH a lovely person and such an amazing writer herself who has signed with Harper Voyager and whose second book, GoldenFire is out in July this year! Then it was also lovely to meet my old mate, Will Macmillan Jones, another AWBer, who had travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales. Thanks matey!😀

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Then, of course, I have to mention my fellow awesome Fight Like A Girl authors who made it to the launch, the awesomely amazing Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke, Dolly Garland, Fran Terminiello, Lou Morgan and KT Davies. (Nadine West was getting married at the time so couldn’t make it for obvious reasons! Congrats to her and Adam!) SAM_8603

People chatted as the food and wine flowed. Joanne & Roz did a fab introduction and this was followed by the first reading of the day, the amazing Lou Morgan reading an extract from her story, Archer 57, which was utterly brilliant! Then a break…*gulp* then it was my turn! I read a short extract from my story, Silent Running, and had to smile at the audience reaction to one of the grisly parts!😀 12928120_579666122188911_2427319853639567376_n[1]

After my reading there was a brilliant panel moderated by the lovely Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan, who like Joanne Hall, seems to know everyone in the SFF community in the southwest!

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The panel, with Joanne Hall, KT Davies, Cheryl, Gaie Sebold and Dolly Garland, were discussing the role of women in SFF fiction, both as writers and readers, the bias which female writers face from a male dominated genre and a public which isn’t always willing to look beyond the stereotype to give female SFF fiction a try and the importance of having strong female characters in fiction. The question of discoverability for female writers, a topic which Joanne Hall has blogged about extensively (please check out her awesome blog: Joanne Hall’s Blog – Hierath)

12931087_579665982188925_3061819945994639525_n[1]Then, after a break of more food, wine, chat and laughter, it was Danie Ware’s reading, from her story, Unnatural History. It was epic, awesome, breath-taking!

Finally, the part of the book launch everyone had been salivating for…Juliet E McKenna’s martials arts display and Fran Terminiello’s swordplay!

Juliet E McKenna, apart from being a very accomplished and well known SFF writer on the national and international stage and running the fabulous FantasyCon, which we at Grimbold Books had such an epic time at last October, also happens to be a 3rd dan black belt in Aikido! She went on to demonstrate some basic self-defence and Akido moves. Wow! SAM_8673

Then the amazing Fran Terminiello and her friend, Liz, demonstrated duelling and sword fighting techniques from the Renaissance onwards, with a range of rapiers, long swords, short swords, daggers, even scythes! OMG!!! Totally amazing stuff, all of it!😀 Talk about ‘Fight Like A Girl’, these women were fighting like total bad-asses! SAM_8650

After all the excitement, we had the group book signing, where the lines were huge and we all sat and signed the FLAG books to very eager and enthusiastic readers and chatted away. We sold loads of books, in fact, almost ran out! All-in-all, it was a totally amazing day and an amazing experience! 12417894_1264280650268033_7439142051687648971_n[1]

A HUGE thank you to Sammy, Jo, Roz and everyone involved in this event and getting this book to publication. Wow!😀

Finally, I found out a strange fact from my mum…we have a personal family connection to the Hatchet Inn! Yes, apparently my Great Aunt Grace, married a man called Reg Hillier, part of ‘The Hillier Brothers’, who were well known in Bristol and ran the house removals and antiques dealers and actually lived next door to the Hatchet Inn, which is now part of the inn itself! In 1967 her house was demolished and the Hatchet Inn was rebuilt that side, where her house had been! How weird is that?!!!😀

Wow…what a day!

Do yourself a favour, a pick up a copy of Fight Like A Girl, for the best kick-ass SFF fiction!😀

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😀 xxx