26 October 2021

Fanning around

 Hey all - still working on Seconds.  It seems to have meandered off into a story about game development.  You never know what geeks your school hotties might be until you get to read the shared world book they've been writing since they were ten. :D  Their fans wouldn't recognise them.

On a related note, a kind fan (thanks, Susan) has set up a Facebook fan site for me.  I'm happy to answer any questions you might have there, or if you should happen to want a place to hang and debate which Setari you'd want to be stranded on a desert island with...

13 August 2021

Reverse Harem vs Visual Novel vs Menage

[Contains spoilers for The Book of Firsts.]

The first two reverse (female protagonist) harems I really recall encountering are Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket.  In both of these, a relatively low-key but likeable girl encounters a whole bunch of attractive and outlandish people, and ends up with one of them (arguably Fruits Basket was only ever a choice between two people, but I think the even more common trope of love triangle falls into this discussion anyway).

In both of these stories, the eventual romantic choice was Not My Ship, and significantly lowered my enjoyment of the story.  The challenge with any of these romantic harems and love triangles is to get the reader properly invested in the 'correct' choice, so that they're not too annoyed at the ending.  Meanwhile, I rarely read harem/triangle novels because I get frustrated by the time invested in the 'wrong' choice.

[Otome] visual novels/games are the complete opposite approach.  In these, any of the main characters encountered can be pursued, and it's simply a choice of which route you take.  The protagonist is often a cipher - sometimes even depicted as a faceless (though usually brunette) outline.  This works not only to allow for a better self-insert (for those who like their romances that way), but also allows the protagonist to not be an obvious mismatch with any of the widely diverse characters.  

Visual novels also reward players for following all the routes, sometimes unlocking hidden characters only accessible by successfully romancing everyone else you've met.  I occasionally enjoy visual novels/otome games (I prefer the ones with daily life task structures over ones that are pure text), but it's rare to never that I'll play all the routes because there's always likely to be one that just doesn't work for me (like a Shotacon route, for instance).

'Menage' gets me over 60,000 search results on Amazon, so it's not an unusual sub-genre, though a fair proportion of the stories seem to be erotica.  Most of the stories I seek out to read aren't focused around sex (though I did read an (at the time) fascinating series called "Blade" when I was in high school, which was basically 'go have sexy adventures' - and I thoroughly recommend 'Oglaf' for sex-based humour).  I think menage (sex-focused or not) combines a couple of the challenges of harems and visual novels (particularly believing multiple people could be the 'right choice').  Monogamy works for a lot of people, and cheating is a distinct issue for many readers.  You also need a reason why multiple eligible people would 'settle' for sharing their love interest.

Now, I won't pretend I sat down and thought all that out before starting Firsts, since my approach to writing tends to resemble the way the 'fog of war' clears from gaming maps - I start with a scene and explore outwards, and often don't even have a goal before half the map is cleared.  I wasn't even certain if I was writing a menage, or a monogamous romance that happened to have multiple partners on the way.  [I was even doing a bit of a feint with Carr, who could have been mistaken as The One.]

Anyway, I thought those who liked Firsts would enjoy detail of some of the more deliberate decisions I made during the process to make the menage ending more acceptable.

First Girl Wins

TV Tropes has a trope for everything, and First Girl Wins (gender flipped) is extremely common (especially in the Chinese web novels I've been consuming recently).  No matter who else is introduced, the first eligible (for your gender/sexuality) person to be introduced is by far the most likely to be The One.

Mika meets the Kings as a group.  That was very important, because if she'd met any of them first, you'd read the story differently.

The One

In this over-the-top (though not quite Ouran-level) frothy setting, Mika fits many of the tropes of the visual novel protagonist.  She's a brunette who is from a significantly less wealthy background than many of the people around her.  She's a newcomer, giving her a level of detachment and distance from past entanglements.

Mika also has some very specific traits that make it possible for her to fit romantically with any and all of the Kings.  She's so smart and self-collected it's hard for them not to respect her.  They align in a number of ways (gaming being important to all of them, sharing a tendency toward the cynical while remaining fundamentally decent people).  Mika is also adaptable, and is used to analysing and getting along with people, while also being possibly _too_ detached.  She's sociable, but primarily focused on her personal dreams, and inevitably has to keep some part of herself back in order to shield herself from constant separations.  She also enters a situation where she's supposed to treat Rin, Kyou and Bran equally.

But possibly most important is this song from The Whitlams (you'll know the line when you get to it - second half of the song), and this song from Tim Minchin, which leads us to our next point.


Meggan is very important to the story.  Rin, Bran and Kyou have been friends from infancy, and bonded in a relatively (pun intended) hostile environment.  They are inseparable, and that poses a problem romance-wise because when childhood friends grow up, they tend to go build separate lives (unless they end up marrying each other).  The situation with Meggan, who Bran has long regarded as The One, is the in-story demonstration of this problem, and since the reader is (hopefully) invested in the bond between the Kings, Mika suddenly becomes not someone trying to have her cake and eat it too, but a solution.  A way for three boys who are (primarily) sexually attracted to women to have a romantic relationship without their own bond diminishing.


Since I'm someone capable of publishing a book called Gratuitous Epilogue, it's probably no surprise to my readers that I'm enjoying exploring the 'what happens next' of the story.  Deciding you want something and making it work are two very different things, though the characters are at least all smart and motivated.  I am, however, 22,000 words in and on Day 2, so I am somewhat daunted by how much of what happens next I seem to want to tell.  [It'll speed up a lot - just need to get them settled in their new situation first.]

Considerably less sex in this book!  Many more relatives.

Fun facts: When I was thinking up names for characters in Firsts, I named Kyou for Kyoya in Ouran.  Guess people get an anime feel from the story for a reason.  And Mika's dad's surname is Teyrn - which is Welsh for 'king'.

01 June 2021

Get the And All the Stars audiobook for as little as 1/3 the price!

It's June is Audiobook Month, and my contribution is And All the Stars.

You can get it (and other great audiobooks) for big discounts at Nook Audiobooks, and Google Play, (and Apple's audiobook store but I don't see the discount up yet).

And All the Stars is a young adult action adventure with aliens, musketeers, Sydney landmarks, fear, surprisingly little squabbling for a bunch of teens hiding out together, and one very surreal cupcake scene.

Narrator Coralie Bywater did a fabulous job with AAtS - absolutely couldn't be happier.

Check out AAtS and these others indie deals.

21 May 2021

The Book of Firsts - release today

 Yay - nice to get this one out there!  [Caution for those who like clean romance - I'm using a pen name for this one primarily because it contains so much sex!  Nearly sixty scenes, which seems a ridiculous amount when I write it down.]

The Book of Firsts

Three boys, the 'kings' of the school.  One cynical newcomer.  An outrageous competition.

When Mika Niles overhears the details of "The Book of Firsts" she's at first bemused, then scornful, then intrigued.  Judging which of three very handsome young men is best at kissing, and...? 

With no time in her final year for serious attachments, a series of lunchtime trysts is more than tempting – and an opportunity like this might never come her way again.  But this light-hearted game is also a scandalous secret, and few can play with fire and walk away unscathed.

Out now in the following stores (and more to follow as it slowly makes its way through the various distribution chains).  A note for paperback purchasers - this one's in 5x8 instead of the slightly larger TPB I use for the AKH books.  I'll keep the sizes consistent for the pen names, though.

It's a very pretty cover. :)


Amazon (US, AU, UK, FR, DE etc)

Kobo (CA, AU, US)


Google Play 

Barnes & Noble 


Amazon (US, AU, UK, FR, DE etc) 

My plan for the rest of the year is to work on Tangleways and the sequel to this (which at the moment I just call 'Seconds').

[So many books I want to write, so much procrastination...]

28 April 2021

Cover Reveal - The Book of Firsts

Because, as usual for me, I've produced a story that doesn't really fit the conventions of any genre (though I'm calling it New Adult because it involves 19 year-olds and a lot of sex), I've had trouble finding something that worked for my latest cover (for my pen name).

Fortunately I came across one I really liked over at http://goonwrite.com/index.htm, and so here at last is the cover of The Book of Firsts.

The book is in edits, and won't be out this month, but almost definitely in May.

And here is the (hopefully final) blurb:

The Book of Firsts

Three boys, the 'kings' of the school.  One cynical newcomer.  An outrageous competition.

 When Mika Niles overhears the details of "The Book of Firsts" she's at first bemused, then scornful, then intrigued.  Judging which of three very handsome young men is best at kissing, and...? 

 With no time in her final year for serious attachments, a series of lunchtime trysts is more than tempting – and an opportunity like this might never come her way again.  But this light-hearted game is also a scandalous secret, and few can play with fire and walk away unscathed.

03 April 2021

Hidden SF

Hi all - sorry for the long delay between updates.  I keep putting off posting until I have news about the latest book, and then not having anything significant to report.  Firsts is still a week or two before a full draft is done, and then it will be in editing.  This (New Adult) is a slower genre for me, in part because in my usual SFF books I have a lot more 'event' chapters, where there's a lot of action scenes.  Action is significantly easier for me to write than day to day conversations that show small emotional shifts.

While both Touchstone and Firsts are intended to have more of a 'slice of life' structure than the traditional rising action, denouement, etc, it's a very different feel when the slices don't involve monsters.

While I'm enjoying the story (and looking forward to working on the sequel), I have no intention of switching genres permanently, since SFF has some core components that I really love.  And, in fact, Firsts is an SF novel (though in a very low-key way).  After it's out for a couple of weeks, I'll put up a post to see if that element stood out for anyone.

Anyway, not too much longer now.  I won't promise this month, since editing sometimes brings up unexpected issues, but 'soon'.

16 November 2020

Wearing Book

 Hey all - sorry for the lack of posts.  I am still very much on a reading binge, which tends to make me want to reserve my writing energy for writing books, rather than writing posts.  I'm hoping to get Book of Firsts (the New Adult bit of fluff I've been working on) out end of December (though potentially in January).  Then I will probably spend my time swapping between writing Tangleways and the sequel to Book of Firsts.

But on to the subject of Wearing Book, which is a trope in Chinese webnovels used almost as frequently as rebirth (it's kind of a sub-category), and the type of story I'm reading a lot of currently (mixed with some metaphysical master is a teenaged girl stories).  "Wearing Book" is a plot where a reader wakes up suddenly in a book that they've (usually) read, often as a character with the same name as their real-life name.  These characters are rarely the main character of the book - they're usually the villainess, or the cannon fodder, or the friend of the heroine, or a total side character who barely gets a named mentioned.  Quite often they're the mother of the villain, in a kind of unwritten prequel to the book.

I somewhat prefer straight rebirth to wearing book, as the protagonist is considerably more emotionally invested, but there's also a lot of fun in seeing the doomed-to-fail rival for whoever's attention suddenly declaring that her Field of Fucks is barren, and romping off to do something far more interesting than follow the main plotline.

So far I've not encountered a Wearing Book which involves any actual written books, so they're not a variety of fanfiction, but I thought it would be fun to ask: If you could be anybody other than the protagonist of a book you've read, who would you be? [One for my books, one for all the other books.]

I'd say I'd like to be Nils, but I don't think I'd be very good at being a Setari, let alone Nils, so if I was going to go Touchstone, I think I'd be a pinksuit, someone in admin, doing the virtual equivalent of pencil pushing (while writing books in my spare time, of course).  However, if I could choose which book to wear, I'd definitely be one of the gamers who got the Starfighter Invitation.

Fanning around

 Hey all - still working on Seconds .  It seems to have meandered off into a story about game development.  You never know what geeks your s...