Publishing update

So.

The Painting is up on Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu, and is selling at a steady rate. All ebooks so far, no paperbacks, although I think the paperback royalties take longer to appear on the statement.

Stormwatcher 1 is up in both ppb and ebook versions, and Stormwatcher 2 as an ebook (just finishing the adjustments to the proof – more on that later)

Sense and Celebrity is up in ebook and ppb.

I’m back to working on A Season of Singing. I’m on the last few thousand words, wriggle room I leave myself in the final edits as I tend to underwrite and have to go back and do a lot of filling in between events, foreshadowing, making sure motivations are realistic, that kind of thing.

I never really thought about how much I write about disability until now. I assumed it was because I’m a doctor, but now I no longer think that’s the reason. I suppose it’s that firstly, I prefer to write about people who are disenfranchised in some way – gay men in Nazi Germany, for instance. In Pride and Precipitation (spoilers!) Stephen Rowan ends up the most seriously injured among a small group of people; not a role he has ever envisaged himself in, nor one he’s particularly well equipped to cope with.

Season of Singing follows a deeply religious man who’s the victim of a vicious, mistakenly homophobic attack, from which it has taken him a year and a half to return to independent living. He believes everything that happens has a purpose, but cannot square this with what he’s experienced.

And lastly, The First Time They Met, the most challenging (for me) book I’ve yet written. One character has a lifelong disability, the other has acquired permanent spinal injuries as a result of his own recklessness. One has had it all, and thrown it away, while the other has struggled to be normal, struggled to achieve and yet is still the outsider in her own life.

I’ve suddenly realised that I would find it hard to write without tackling these kinds of issues. I can’t imagine writing a book where all the characters are healthy, privileged people. I’ve often felt guilty about not including more POC, but maybe that’s just not my bag. And if any group of people needs a fictional voice that speaks of them as being fully human, then we certainly do.

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Writing m/m

If you frequent forums discussing m/m fiction, sooner or later you will inevitably see the question ‘Can women write m/m romance (or m/m sex, or gay characters generally)?

The discussion rarely draws any conclusions, mainly because it’s so easy to find evidence of poor quality m/m fiction online. That’s not a criticism; by the same argument it’s possible to find examples of poorly written fiction of any type online, or printed. If there’s a literary genre, there will always be people writing bad fiction within it.

But it’s a curious question.

A list of gay writers:

Walt Whitman
Oscar Wilde
Marcel Proust
Federico Garcia Lorca
Cole Porter
Leonard Bernstein
Tennessee Williams
James Baldwin
Christopher Marlowe
Herman Melville
E.M. Forster
Noel Coward
Christopher Isherwood

Most of these writers, in fact all, had heterosexual characters in their work. And I’d imagine most of them had heterosexual female characters (the horror! The horror!). And yet nowhere, on any blog or forum, have I seen readers/writers questioning the ability of these men to write about heterosexual relationships.

Oh well, but these men lived during a time when they were forced to participate in a heterosexual lifestyle. All too true. And if modern gay writers were therefore criticised in a way their forerunners are not, it would be less surprising. But still no criticism. Nil. Nada.

[Just a note – I’m sure, in the depths of literary criticism, there are many ruminating on this very point. But that isn’t the group I’m talking about. You don’t tend to see them on the kindle forums.]

There is a taint of mysogyny in these attitudes. Of privilege. You’d think by now men would know better than to start out with ‘Women writers can’t write a convincing X’. You’d think we’d all know better than to stereotype any group like this. It harks back to my previous post, about how a majority of men won’t knowingly read books by a female writer.

When I pick up a book my main consideration is whether it’s a good story. Whether the characters are complex, and the motivations comprehensible. I care if the prose is well written, that the pacing is good. But if any of these fail, I don’t flip to the front cover and go, ‘oh, well, a male author, what did I expect!’ There are certainly some genres I have no interest in; westerns have never appealed, and I have read very little horror. SAS-style military fiction leaves me cold. Cosies and religious fiction, too. But a badly written book is a badly written book. A poorly paced book is dull. One dimensional characters are just one dimensional.

As readers we really have to get over ourselves. We have many female writers hiding behind their initials. Hiding their gender completely with careful, gender neutral bios and no public appearances, or writing under a pseudonym of the opposite gender. This is crazy. It’s about the story, people!

The success of the book for me as a reader lies in the writer’s craft – and that has nothing to do with gender.