20 June 2015

Interview with me at R L Martinez's blog

There's an interview with me up at R L Martinez's blog (where there's a whole series of interesting author interviews).  In this interview I go through writing process, cover creation, offer gratuitous publishing advice and (almost inevitably) weigh into the current Hugo Awards controversy.

17 June 2015

Occasionally self-publishing isn't fun

As I mentioned in my previous post, while I really love self-publishing, there are some negatives that anyone considering the route should be prepared for.  Obviously not selling or bad reviews sting, but that's a common experience for many authors.  Not having as many promotional opportunities (and some people simply refusing to read self-pub work) isn't fun either, but I'm pretty good at shrugging that off.

My most negative experience as a self-publisher was an innocuous twitter conversation.

This followed a guest post I'd contributed to the Book Smugglers' web site, where I'd listed 99 female authors.  The post was a response to the usual nonsense about how women don't write SFF.  Instead of producing a list of the same half dozen luminaries whose names seem to turn up on every list (perhaps contributing to the perception that there are few female SFF authors), I simply listed authors I had on my physical book shelves.

An Australian author* asked me why so few Australian authors (there were four) and I explained that most of my Australian books were in e-format, and thus not on the list.  [Though a lot of Australian fantasy is big-book multi-volume epic fantasy, which isn't to my taste.]

I thought nothing of the exchange until a month or so later when I noticed the same author talking about sources of information about Australian SFF authors, and speculating that there were so few Australian authors on my list due to cultural cringe.  She offered up her own list of Australian (adult SFF) authors, one she'd prepared some time before tracking Australian authors put out by mid-range and large publishers.

I suggested that the Aurealis Award nominees listed on Wikipedia would be a good source (a list I happen to be on, as a multiple finalist).  I was told that she'd started with that list, and then left off the YA and the self-publishers.

She'd taken the Aurealis Award list, and removed me from it.

This was a fantastically minor conversation, with no malice whatsoever involved, but it really brought home to me that self-publishers continue to be thought about in a separate category.  To not only be left off lists, but removed from them.

Sometimes it's the tiny comments, the smallest things, that are hardest to shrug off.


* Identity not important - this was an entirely innocuous exchange. Please no trawling through my twitter history playing detective.

On Writing, the 2015 AKH edition

I gotta say, I just love my writing situation.

I love writing, of course.  Making up worlds, putting people in them, adding unfortunate circumstances and then spinning out the consequences.  So. Much. Fun.

And I love being read.

I love that other people can walk into worlds that I have created.  I get a huge kick out of watching readers react to certain twists, or seeing which characters they fall for, or whether they spotted the clever thing.  Fan mail is awesome, and I'm an inveterate ego-searcher on Google, and really enjoy the discussions about my books.  Even the negative ones can be enlightening, though I often read them with a raised eyebrow or a 'well, all that went over your head didn't it?' expression.

I'm more mindful of probable reader response now, when I write, though I usually write the things I want to write anyway.

For that reason (among others), I love self-publishing.

I particularly love being able to write whatever the fuck I want, even YA including swear words.  I'll take the occasional one star review for swearing if I think it's character-appropriate. :D

Being able to write non-commercial stories (which, frankly, most of mine are when you look at what is popular and what I choose to write) is a big bonus for me.  I'm happy not to have to fret about not being able to sell the next book in a series, even if it has, say,  a...subdued critical response like Pyramids, or really low sales numbers like Stained Glass Monsters.  I can still happily work on The Sleeping Life, which is the kind of 'quiet' novel without a big hook that would struggle to get accepted at any publisher.

And I can embark on something off-the-wall, like Snug Ship (first in the Singularity Game series), which has a ton of wish fulfilment and a complete over-indulgence in my addiction to MMOs (and, uh, an ending that will make readers want to strangle me, if only for the pun in the final sentence), and choose exactly how much explanation of gaming terms I stick in.  Readers who are gamers will find it effortless, and there's a glossary for everyone else.  I get to make that call.

Self-pub isn't without its down sides (I'll have to get around to writing up my most negative self-pub experience one day), and I've got plenty of ground to cover before I can hope to be a full-time writer - in part because I choose to always prioritise the fun over tedious things like marketing, but also because I live in Sydney.  But every so often I look at how my life is going because of self-publishing, and can only stop and appreciate the moment.

I'm getting paid to have fun, and people randomly email me compliments.

^^

13 June 2015

Jurassic World (Spoilgrrs)

There's been some debate, leading up to this release, as to Jurassic World's treatment of women, given that the trailers made it look like an "uptight Smurfette gets lesson in loosening up" narrative.

This is and isn't true.  In fact, it's a little worse than that.

Jurassic World is pretending the second and third movies in the series don't exist, and thus spends a lot of time making direct references and call-backs to the first movie, including mixing and matching a large similar set of main characters.

Jurassic Park was about:

John Hammond - wealthy guy and dinosaur fan, due for a lesson in hubris.
Dr Grant - paleontologist and dinosaur fan, there to save the day and learn that kids can be okay.
Dr Sattler - paleobotonist and dinosaur fan, there to save the day and make direct feminist points.
Dr Malcolm - chaos theorist, there to snark and be shirtless.
Lex - grandchild, computer fan, with a sibling relationship to work out.
Tim - grandchild, dinosaur fan, looking for a dino-loving friend.
Muldoon - manly man doing manly thing.
The Lawyer - there to be wrong.
Samuel L Jackson - as himself.
Nedry - greedy bad guy, there to get his just desserts.
Scientists of debatable morals.

In Jurassic World we get :

Aunt Claire - Park operations manager, brittle control freak, due to get in touch with her inner Ripley.
Grady - Velociraptor trainer, nature fan, there to save the day.
Zach - nephew, fan of girls, there to remember he should care about his younger brother.
Gray - nephew, fan of dinosaurs, there to tremble and be unhappy about his family.
Hoskins - there to be wrong, and to get his just desserts.
Cruthers - there to snark and to wish he could look half as good as Dr Malcolm shirtless.
Masrani - wealthy guy and dinosaur fan, due for a lesson in hubris.
Barry - there to be somewhat luckier than Samuel L Jackson.
Vivian - there so Claire isn't (practically) the only woman with a speaking role in the park.
Karen - busy guilting Claire about not caring enough about her nephews or about having kids of her own.
Scientists of debatable morals.

Grady is clearly Grant + Muldoon, but Aunt Claire (it was hard to catch her surname at all) is definitely not in the position of Hammond or Dr Sattler.  She is not a fan of anything except control, for a start, and spends her time reciting statistics (ah, KPIs and deliverables, how I dislike corporate-speak).  She's also not ultimately in charge, is answering to people of higher authority, has had vital information kept from her, is never shown to be respected, and is operating two beats behind competency.  Her story arc is about how she should lighten up, spare more time for her family, and maybe think about having kids.

In other words, Claire is an essay on work/life balance.

[Strange timing - I just finished a review over on Goodreads about how Dragonsbane is an essay on magely work/life balance.]

While Claire does morph into Ripley toward the end of the movie - and is given two separate crowning moments of awesome - this story would have been so much more powerful if Claire had started out as effortlessly competent and respected, lauded for the Park's safety record.  Instead, we have someone constantly being lectured on how wrong wrong wrong she is.

A poor foundation for any character arc.