• Lifestyle,  Personal,  Publishing,  Writing

    And now for something completely different…

    Over ten years ago I wrote a book. Well, it wasn’t quite a book. It was a series of ideas that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. It was a story that I knew back to front and inside out. Something that I just wanted—no needed—to commit to paper, or a Word document.

    I’d never had any aspirations to be a writer but this story just had to be told.

    And so, over the course of around eight years, I finally wrote it down. When I was finished I knew it wasn’t much good. I had no understanding of the technicalities of writing or publishing, and I knew it was bad in terms of grammar and skill, but I always thought the underlying story was good. At the time my only aim was to get the story out of my head, which I did. So I saved the document and it has since been left to fester in the crevices of my various PCs and laptops.

    Things are very different for me today.

    I’ve published four books, I have another three in the pipeline to be published within the next four months. I feel I’ve learnt enough about my craft to be able to take this story and make it into a reality. So, I’m hoping to overhaul the manuscript with all my new-found knowledge and release Family Ties in September* (*updated May 2018) of this year.

    I didn’t know it at the time but I wrote a political thriller. It’s not a lesfic book by any means, but there are LGBT characters and the lead is a strong and independent woman so I think the lesfic market would still be interested in it. I’m publishing it under my full name in order to keep it separate from my lesfic writing, so as not to confuse anyone into thinking they might be picking up a romance story when… it really isn’t!

    For me, this will be the ultimate challenge. I’m taking a project that has been very close to my heart for a very long time, and finally trying to turn it into a book. It’s a break from my lesfic romance stories and I’m looking forward to putting my new skills to work on this manuscript.

    I know this won’t be for everyone but I hope some of you will follow me on this short detour into a new genre and give me your valid opinion on something completely different.

  • Personal,  Publishing,  Writing

    Indie Authors | My experience and perspective

    I’ve recently seen some discussions regarding Indie authors and was surprised to see that many people don’t know what an Indie author is, and many still hold some common misconceptions about them.

    I wanted to talk a little about my own experiences and hopefully clear up some of the confusion.

    I identify as an Indie author and while there are many different ways to categorise an Indie author I think the primary one is the subject of control.

    I chose to move away from traditional publishing and become an Indie author because I like to have control over all aspects of my work. As an Indie author, I am able to have full creative control over my product, I choose distribution channels, I choose pricing strategies, everything about my independently published books is decided by one person; me.

    Indie vs Traditional

    As some of you may know, in the past I have published books with a traditional publisher. At that time, I had no goals to be a published author. But one day, I was approached by Ylva Publishing and asked to turn an existing work into a published work.

    This was a fantastic opportunity and allowed me the chance to learn a lot about the world of writing and publishing. I personally view Ylva as one of the more forward-thinking and modern lesfic presses and their catalogue of diverse books is something to be proud of.

    To clarify

    So, to be crystal clear about this, I view Indie publishing as having full control over your product. If there is a person who can veto your decisions, then I would say that you are probably not an Indie author.

    There are many other ways to publish, vanity, collaborative, etc. But this is my quick and dirty definition of Indie vs Traditional.

    Which is best?

    This depends on the individual. I’m passionate about Indie but I recognise that traditional publishing presses are best for some.

    With a traditional publisher comes label-prestige as well as the ability to work with an established, professional team. Also, critically for some, the publisher will shoulder all of the production costs. This means that the author doesn’t have to spend a penny to see their book become a reality. Note: if you are being asked to pay to have your book published, that’s a vanity publisher and you should be very careful. 

    However, there are some negatives to being with a traditional publisher too. Publishing through a publisher is a very slow process, there’s a loss of creative control, marketing help is practically non-existent, royalty rates are much lower, and you must sign away your rights.

    Now, I’m not bashing traditional publishers. There are reasons for these negatives and they all come down to money. If a traditional publisher had a large marketing team and paid higher royalty rates—they’d be bankrupt in a week. There’s not a lot of money in publishing and the production costs are high.

    As an author, you may have to suck up these losses for the privilege of the publisher taking a chance on your manuscript.

    Personally, speaking…

    I’ve done traditional and I’ve done Indie and I know that Indie is right for me. It all depends on what kind of person you are, what skills you have, and whether you are willing to take on all aspects of your author business… and treat it like a business. Because, to my mind, it is.

    Heartsome Publishing is the label I use to release my books and has released books by other authors in the past. It probably won’t release other authors in the future as I can’t, in good conscience, be as passionate about being an Indie as I am AND run a traditional publishing house.

    Some common misconceptions

    I find it strange how we are moving more towards appreciating homemade, traditionally crafted items and yet there is still a lot of negativity towards Indie authors.

    An Indie movie is considered artsy and intellectual. Going to the local market and buying produce from a local farmer is considered supportive of the local community and ethical. Buying art from an independent artist is sought after and well thought of.

    But books seem to be different and that’s because of a small minority who produce bad products tainting the whole market.

    Editing

    I’ve heard it said quite often that Indie authors don’t pay to have their books edited. I’ve also heard that Indie authors don’t know the difference between beta readers and editors and just use beta readers.

    This is ridiculous. I know lots of Indie authors and they all pay for professional editing. There may be some who don’t edit their books but they are the small minority. Most Indie authors know that they have to produce a quality product and they spend money to do that.

    Big 5

    There also seems to be confusion over what a traditional publisher is. Some have suggested that only the “Big 5” constitute a traditional publisher and all others are actually Indies. This definitely is not the case. A traditional publisher is any publisher who buys the rights to an author’s manuscript via a contract and produces a book in either paperback or electronic format.

    In summary

    To finish I would just like to say that I believe that Indie publishing is the future. I think there is still room for traditional publishers but I think new technology has opened up the publishing world to everyone. Indie publishing is getting better and better and more talented authors are making the change.

    So, if you’re on the fence about trying an Indie author, give them a go. Things are improving all the time and you may just find your next favourite author!

  • LGBT+,  Lifestyle,  Personal

    Bisexuality and the Lesfic community – Podcast

    While bisexuals represent the largest group within the LGBTQ community, they often feel compelled to remain in the closet due to lack of acceptance from their lesbian and gay counterparts.

    As an out-and-proud bisexual author, I joined Zane and Thalia on the Therapy Cafe to discuss bisexuality within the lesfic community.

    Listen here.

     

  • Movies,  Personal

    2016 Movie and TV in Review

    When we sit down at the end of the year and reflect back on 2016, it will probably be with an overwhelming sense of disappointment and anger. On the face of it, 2016 has been pretty much awful. There have been terrible natural disasters, questionable political decisions, so many celebrity deaths and a PowerPuff girls reboot. On the face of it, it seems that world has gone mad. But we have short memories. Our capacity for remembering negative things far outweighs our ability to recall positive things. So, I’m here to say that 2016 wasn’t all bad. I mean, yes, it was bad. Unspeakably bad. But, if you’re a television and movie geek like myself then 2016 has brought you some amazing gems.

    Personally, I kicked off 2016 by binge-watching my way through the epic BBC drama War and Peace because, of course, none of us are going to read War and Peace so why not have it spoon-fed to us in handy little episodes? High-brow drama kept us feeling smug and with a sense of superior intellect throughout the year with Jenna Coleman ditching “Doctor Who” and staring as Victoria in the eponymously titled series. Towards the end of the year, Netflix treated us with ten one-hour-long episodes of “The Crown,” which saw Claire Foy star as a young Queen Elizabeth II and make us all immediately re-watch 2015’s Wolf Hall.

    If historical drama wasn’t your thing, 2016 still brought us plenty more, especially if you love comic book culture. Both Marvel and DC lit up both big and not-so-big screens this year with what can only be described as a jackpot of superheroes. DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow” brought us not one but two seasons in 2016, being quickly picked up for a second season just halfway through the first. “Legends of Tomorrow” is a spin off from the popular “Arrow” and “The Flash” series and exists in the same universe and paved the way for the most epic crossover yet.

    “Supergirl,” a surprise ratings winner on its new home on The CW network aired its second season in October 2016 and just two months later DC fans were treated to a crossover busting with action and in-jokes. Over the course of four days the series “Supergirl,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Legends” all came together as the CW showed why it has become the home of DC’s TV offerings.

    Marvel wasn’t about to be outdone and treated us with a season of “Luke Cage,” announcing its own renewal for a second in December. Many of us first heard about Luke after watching the award-winning “Jessica Jones,” which has also been renewed for a second season as the battle between DC and Marvel continues to rage.

    But it wasn’t just on our goggleboxes at home that we were spoiled. 2016 brought us the epic comic book hero battles that never was with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman v Superman was a good movie, but I couldn’t help but feel that we were kind of watching a lover’s spat that could have been solved by simply talking to one another. But if you just went to see things blowing up, a good dose of man pain and a glimpse at Wonder Woman, then you couldn’t really complain. In fact, the formula of two men having the most amazing quarrel over not much was repeated between Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and good old Cap (Chris Evans) in Captain America: Civil War just a couple of months later. Personally, I think Marvel won this battle with the tiff between Stark and Cap being slightly more believable. I can’t be alone in that assessment as Civil War was the highest grossing movie in 2016, taking over a billion dollars worldwide. And we got to see the beginning of a whole new back story for Peter Parker’s development into Spiderman, which will hit our screens in 2017.

    But back to 2016 and comics! Two blockbuster hits just weren’t enough for DC and Marvel this year. We also had the unexpectedly hilarious Deadpool, the unexpectedly controversial Suicide Squad and the just plain unexpected Doctor Strange.

    Out of the cinema and the networks brought us some amazing new shows. “Stranger Things” came to Netflix in July and received acclaim across the board for its characterization, pacing, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing and fantastic homages to 1980s genre films. And just a month later it was renewed for a second season. In fact, many of the networks felt like reminiscing in 2016. This was the year of the remake, the reboot, the second, or even third part of a series. Proving that Hollywood either doesn’t have an original bone left in its body or is just crazy about a revival, I’ll let you decide. We were treated to a few old classics being brought back to life with the likes of “Fuller House,” “MacGyver” and “Gilmore Girls” all returning.

    With a cast list of Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, David Harewood and Tom Hollander, it was no surprise that “The Night Manager” was a runaway success when it hit our screens in February. It has been sold to over 180 countries and it continues to receive acclaim worldwide. And if you spent the last few years wondering when someone was going to make a show about a complicated and flawed woman with special abilities who just happened to be the heir to Wyatt Earp and spends her time battling demons, then 2016 was a winner for you. “Wynonna Earp” had a slightly rocky start, but soon found its feet and developed into one of the most enjoyable televisual escapes of the year. And, yes, it was renewed for a second season, too.

    Disney was king of the rehash and it was certainly a profitable gamble for them with Finding Dory and The Jungle Book taking around two-billion-dollars between them. Finding Dory becoming the first Pixar film to cross the billion-dollar mark since 2010’s Toy Story 3. Proving that a tried and trusted franchise can be incredibly profitable. However, sometimes tried and trusted fails to deliver as with The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. These second time around movies received negative reviews and generally failed to deliver in terms of quality and profit.

    2016 and controversy have been best pals for the last twelve months, but no more so than when Ghostbusters reappeared after a twenty-seven year disappearance only for all the lead characters to be women. Nowhere was it clearer that a reboot must live up to extraordinarily high expectations when the original was so well loved. In monetary terms, the film was a loss. But most critics were quick to point out that the film could have easily stood on its own as a supernatural comedy with a fantastic cast. The very fact that it was a remake of such a cult classic was what drew the criticism.

    Another summer reboot that failed to deliver was Star Trek Beyond, which ultimately made more of a loss than Ghostbusters. However, many experts attributed the low ticket sales to the movie being released in the middle of an action-packed summer schedule rather than the movie quality. This is backed up by some solid reviews online and great feedback from the people who did manage to see it.

    But 2016 wasn’t just about wringing a little more money out of an old franchise, there were some original ideas, too. Zootopia was one of Disney’s box office hits in 2016. It helped the studio to secure all three top places in the highest box office takings chart for the year. When Zootopia hit the $500 million just a few weeks after its release, it became Walt Disney Animation Studios’ third consecutive movie to do so. Of course, Zootopia wasn’t just your average animated movie. It was a powerhouse of thoughtful and inclusive messaging that came at just the right time. While the new live-action Cinderella prompts us to “have courage and be kind” and last year’s blockbuster Inside Out reminds us that it is okay to be sad, Zootopia tells us to never judge or stereotype others. Zootopia may be aimed at children, but it’s an important lesson for us all.

    The Boss, Bad Moms, Central Intelligence and Office Party had us giggling and guffawing our way through the year with some surprisingly well-written comedy fun. Yet it was fantasy fans that were treated in the second half of the year with the enormously long titled duo Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Miss Peregrine was adapted from debut novel by Ransom Riggs, which spent an impressive seventy weeks on the New York Times best seller list. A collective coo could be heard around the world from Tim Burton fans when the news was announced that he would be directing the film version of the book. Burton was most certainly an excellent choice as the visual experience helped to compensate for a slightly anti-climactic script. Fantastic Beasts is based on the series created by J.K. Rowling and led us on a journey to New York in 1926 where a British wizard accidentally released several magical beasts and recruits help of some new friends to help him recapture them. Set in the Harry Potter universe, but without a sniff of Harry himself. Thankfully, Dumbledore is briefly mentioned. The movie smashed box office expectations and received generally high praise.

    December saw the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a stand-alone film in the Star Wars series. In the movie, we follow the daughter of the designer of the infamous Death Star and her mission to find the plans in order to destroy it. Of course, most of us know how this story ends, but that didn’t make the story in anyway slow mainly thanks to the dark tone and amazing visual effects.

    These have been some of my favorites and must-mentions of 2016. Yes, the year has been a hard one for many of us, but I believe that some of these productions have stood up and made it more bearable. When the world is as ugly and scary as it has been lately, it’s good to have some quality entertainment to lean on. What have been your highlights of 2016?

    Article originally written for Starry Mag

  • Personal

    Triangle and the Feta Quiche

    It was eleven o’clock in the morning when the doorbell rang. My wife opened the door to see a delivery man standing there with a parcel. It was for our neighbours and he asked if we’d take it in. Of course, my wife agreed and put the parcel by the door.

    Now is probably a good time to mention that we are not sociable. At all. We have prided ourselves in never knowing our neighbours.  Crazy Pam. Crazy Pam is a whole other story. But, on the whole, over seven houses, we have never gotten to know our neighbours. It’s actually rather fun because then you can theorise about them and that’s often much more fun than knowing the truth.

    That’s not to say we didn’t do little things for our neighbours in the past. We would often take in parcels for our neighbours, of course, it’s the neighbourly thing to do. But that is where our participation in being neighbourly, thankfully, ends.

    Until today.

    We popped out for dinner and upon our return, I noticed that the neighbors were home. I refer to them as the neighbours as I know nothing about them. Other than my suspicion that they own a herd of buffalo that likes to rush up and down the stairs of an evening. Buffalo aside, I don’t know how many of them there are. Who they are. What they look like. Nothing. And I’ve, quite frankly, enjoyed that immensely.

    Until today.

    I said to my wife, “Maybe you should take that parcel into them now, rather than them knocking for it at an inconvenient time.” You see, we’re unsociable. If we must have contact with other people then it is better to be on our terms. Knocking at their door is infinitely better than them knocking on ours.

    Early today, In a moment of madness, I wondered who it was I was living next to. I thought reading the name off of the parcel in my hallway would be a excellent way to find out with zero human interaction. My plan was foiled when I realised it was all Greek. Literally. It was from Cyprus. When I saw the name had a triangle in it, I gave up.

    My wife took in the parcel and the woman, of clearly Greek descent, was profusely grateful. Like, unbelievably grateful. As if we had done something amazing for her. That was of course once she had gathered the courage to open the door. My wife could see her hiding in the hallway for a few moments before she eventually decided to open the door. When my wife returned and relayed the story we both thanked our lucky stars that our neighbour appeared to be terrified of human interaction. Great. Another non-friend. We could continue as we were.

    Or so we thought.

    Two hours later, the doorbell rang. Our Greek triangular friend stood there with a foil-wrapped dish and told my wife that she had made feta quiche. She told her that the plate was hot and it was her own Greek recipe. My wife hesitantly took the dish and thanked her profusely, if thoroughly confused at the gesture. We had after all, only taken in a parcel and not fed her herd of buffalo for a month. My wife said she’d return the plate to which Triangle replied, “No, don’t worry, it’s just a piece of plastic.”

    What do we do? This is unchartered territory for us. We don’t want a friend. This isn’t how it was supposed to happen. What happens if she takes in a parcel for us? Do I have to make shortbread? Does Emma have to make meatballs? And the dish IS a plastic disc. Do we return that? Is a thank you card required? How do we nip this in the bud and ensures it goes no further?

     

  • Personal

    The month Captain No Friends morphs into Mister Popular

    Ah, December. I know what you’re thinking, I’m going to write a lovely little message about the changing of the seasons, the approach of the holidays and generally wax lyrical about the joys of giving.

    Wrong.

    You see, I’m the Managing Director of a company. And if there is one thing every Managing Director dreads, even more than the end of year accounts and being audited, it’s December.

    December is the time of year where you have to finish off all those little projects. You know, the ones you left outstanding for a while because they are fiddly, costly, boring or just plain irritating. Somehow, all of those need to be “boxed off” by the end of the year. Which usually wouldn’t be an issue. Except for the tiny little fact that it’s December.

    It is the time of year where you have to travel the length and breadth of the of the company to personally visit every single person you have ever worked with, certainly if you ever wish to work with them ever again. And, of course, you mustn’t make it look like you are visiting them because you have to, you have to appear to want to visit them. But, like Santa, you have to somehow reach everyone before Christmas Day. Which makes the task all the more stressful.

    Don’t forget, it’s the season of giving, which means you have to buy gifts for clients, including the ones you really hardly know. Which means the annual brainstorm with your staff to frantically try to remember if they ever mentioned a hobby or maybe the names of their partners and kids, if they have kids. “John, is that the son or the dog?” *blank faces*

    Of course, once you have a gift and a card, which hopefully contains the names of their family and not characters from a book they once mentioned, you have to somehow crowbar them into an already packed schedule. While also appearing casual and like you’re only really bothering with seeing them anyway. Which is extra hard because, of course, every other supplier wants to see them as well. Suddenly, Captain No Friends is Mister Popular and trying to squeeze a fifteen minute window for a drink and shoving a, hopefully relevant, gift under his nose seems impossible.

    Not to mention that these people are bound to be spread out all over the country. Which means hours in the car or on the train, if it’s running, going to see people you hardly know to present them with a gift that may or may not be well-received. Let’s not mention the heart-stopping moment when you know the card you have just handed over mentions the wife and suddenly they speak of the messy divorce they are in the middle of.

    During these, hopefully short, meetings you are regaled with supposedly amusing anecdotes from their office Christmas party. Stories about people you don’t know, and, frankly, don’t care about. To be honest, you usually barely know the person you are meeting and you certainly don’t want to add to your information overload by finding out that Sandra from accounts is sleeping with everyone in the tax department.

    In the back of your mind you’re thinking about everything that needs to be done for your own Christmas. My family has a unique habit of throwing down gauntlets every now and then, to ensure a perfect Christmas is had by all. “Oh, you’re in London? Then find me a plastic Santa to stab into a Yule log or CHRISTMAS WILL BE RUINED!” my mother says, maniacal laugh unheard but certainly implied.  I spent the last two days of November scanning Oxford Street looking for Christmas cake decorations. Only to be told once I had found them that, of course, we now need a cake board to put said Yule log onto.  “Aren’t the lights on Regent Street beautiful?” Yes, they are powered by my rage.

    But right now I don’t have time to wonder about when I’ll be putting my Christmas tree up, what I’ll be buying people and if I’ll ever have time to visit the Winter Wonderland in town (I won’t). I’m too busy trying to remember if Tristan’s partner is called David, or if I’m just making an assumption that someone called Tristan would be gay and wondering if I’m a bad person for assuming that. Although, he does have immaculate facial hair.