Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Erotica, part 2.

Sometimes, it just so happens that book fans as big as me get to meet some of the authors that they most enjoy reading. Even when those fans live in a place so far away as Australia.

As it happens, I met Tracy O'Hara for the first time during the WorldCon held in Melbourne a couple of years back. She was excited to see her books featured in our book store, happily signed them and then stuck around talking with me and my co-worker for around half an hour before she went to the next panel she was in.

(I also got to meet writers Erica Hayes and Catherynne M. Valente!)

((This was also the con where I managed to score a signed copy of Charlaine Harris' Dead in the Family the year that it came out and before there was quite so much drama about her writing.))

Her 'Dark Brethren' vampire series is my most favourite, written in a style similar to Ms Harris and Patricia Briggs.

Tracy O'Hara herself is a lot of fun to talk to, and we've kept in contact over the years on Twitter as Australian writers and aspiring writers sometimes seem to do. So when I saw this interview reblogged on her feed, I knew it was bound to be good.

Erotica is not Porn: Novelist Encourages New Erotic Writers.

“Fifty Shades of Grey is not the best example of erotica. It's just the one that managed to break through here. Erotica is only a new publishing phenomenon here in Australia. In the US, it's been a best-selling and profit spinning genre since 2000,” Ms O'Hara said.
(Read more)

Now I've written about erotica on this blog once before. Then, it was to quote Julian Barnes' Telegraph article, in which he stated most modern authors feel obliged to write sex scenes if they want to see themselves published. I myself could certainly relate to this in past publishing experiences.

But Tracy's post is another side of the coin, if you will, an empowering view of the writing of erotica and separating it from the more derogatory title of "porn".

“They are stories which contain graphic sex scenes but narratives also centre as much around the mental and emotional journey of the characters as they do about the physical side of things.”

What Tracy suggests seems to be that physical aspects happen in real life and if your story is about the goings on of romance and real life characters, why not include erotica as a segment of that story? It doesn't need to be gratuitous, it doesn't need to be there, but it's an option to be considered.

Earlier in this month, I read one of Francesca Lia Block's books called The Elementals which had some graphic content. It forwarded the story, the relationship between two characters. I've also enjoyed reading her short story anthology Nymph, though that is a collection of erotica, which is not exactly the same thing.

Just before posting this, I reblogged a comment on Twitter stating that the only hard thing about writing erotica is figuring out good reasons why the characters are engaging in smutty activities.

My latest project is a joint anthology of m/m retold fairy tales, which is fantastic cause it's been a long time since I wrote anything other than het (hetrosexual pairings), but it's fun as well because some of the tales are heading towards erotic content. But they also centre as much around the mental and emotional stories of the characters, so I guess that's okay. ;)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Flash fiction: The Avengers (part 2)

There’s a part of Thor which truly hates being an Avenger. Hates it because he forges these friendships, creates a new home on Earth, only to have it ripped away when he has to return to Asgard. For despite his love for Earth and the Midgardian people, Asgard must always come first.

Submitted by anon

After the Avengers saved Manhattan, Jane Foster was brought back and debriefed by Erik Selvig. Not that a lot of debriefing was required. Jane had been taken somewhere that still did have the news, after all.

The whole time Erik was talking to her, Jane was none too subtle about trying get a glimpse of Thor somewhere in the facility. So it was that several moments passed before Jane properly realised that Erik had stopped talking to her. She had the grace to look sheepish after that.

Very indulgently, Erik said in his deep and gentle voice, “Thor is with the others at Stark Towers." He knew very well that these were perhaps the first words Jane had heard him take in.

Jane didn’t need to know the street address of Stark Towers to get the first cab that pulled over to take her there. As it was, one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cars was made available to her. Jane didn’t much care, just so long as she got there quickly.

The pale haired man who opened the door wasn’t someone Jane had ever met, but he seemed to know who she was, for he opened the door wider for her and informed her respectfully where she could find Thor.

When Thor first saw her standing there in the living room, close enough to touch, everything else in the room may as well have disappeared. He stood up from the couch, and in five firm steps Jane was enclosed in his arms.

At the front door, Steve might have been respectful of their need for time alone, but Tony coming out for his afternoon snack was nothing of the sort.

"What’s going on in there?" he asked, starting to move in the direction of the lounge room. 
Steve put up a token resistance, knowing that anything more would stoke Tony’s stubbornness to see for himself. Knowing that anything less would probably have the same effect.

So it was that Thor and Jane had less than fifteen minutes of a reunion to themselves before Tony was standing in the doorway. “Aww, isn’t this sweet?" he said, while Steve stood sheepish and apologetic behind him. “You must be Jane Foster."

The woman in question looked from Steve to Tony and back up to Thor. “Does everyone know?" she asked.

"Oh no," Tony reassured, his eyebrows drawing down over his nose. “Your secret’s quite safe with us." Then he turned his head and called out behind him, “Pepper! We have another person for dinner!"

Pepper’s voice could be heard calling back from some other area of the house. “On it!"

"I’d call Natasha to let her know you girls have an extra number to try to equal this battle of the sexes," Tony continued, attention on Jane once again.

Steve shook his head and muttered in an undertone that Jane heard quit clearly, “There is no battle of the sexes."

Tony gave no indication that he’d heard Steve’s words. “She and Barton have been at it like 16 year olds ever since we saved the world. Well, you know how it is," he said, as though he was sharing some confidence.

Jane raised her eyebrows. Well, she might know how it is, if a certain person left them alone to their reunion. So this was the famous Tony Stark, then. She would have guessed it from the attitude alone, she thought, even had it not been for the glowing device in the middle of his chest.

With a heaved sigh, Steve walked away from them. Moments later, he came back, having called in Pepper for reinforcement.

"Alright, big guy," she said, offering a smile at both her own man and Jane standing there next to Thor. His arm was still protective around her. “How about we let these two have a little private reunion time?" She began tugging on his arm at the same time as shooting an apologetic look towards Jane.

"But…" Tony looked so affronted it was all Jane could do not to laugh. Within moments, Steve, Tony and Pepper had all cleared away and she turned to Thor.

"So, you saved our world again, did you?" Jane leaned into her beloved. “You seem to be making a bit of a habit of that.

Thor gave her a small smile, but no words. What could he say? Saving Earth once had been enough. That had been time enough to forge ties with Erik Selvig and Jane’s friend Darcy, not to mention the love that had formed between himself and Jane Foster. Coming to Earth a second time had ended in branding him one of Earth’s Avengers, had created a home for him on Earth even separate to the one he had fought against forming with Jane. Nothing had changed between this and last time. He still had to return to Asgard once it was assured that no further alien attacks would be committed against Earth.

Asgard still came first to his honour, even if Midgard came first in his heart.


Flash fiction supplied in excitement of the lead up towards S.H.I.E.L.D on ABC!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3.

Remember when I came to you with a very disappointing update on Sherlock season three tacked onto the end of a post?

"(Unlike True Blood, BBC's Sherlock is something I'm looking forward to with baited breath. Come on season three!)"

Well, now this has happened.

This may just be the most exciting thing that has happened to me all morning.

(Of course, considering I've only been up for an hour and it's almost midday, that might be the most exciting thing that has happened to me all morning.)

Episode 3! They are up to filming episode 3 at the end of this month!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Francesca Lia Block: a loving (incomplete) bibliography.

In 2003, I was 19 years old. I was in England, staying halfway across the world with a couple of girls I had only ever talked to online. I was going through their bookshelves, and realising how similar our tastes in books were, except for this one author I'd never heard of before: Francesca Lia Block.

It was only the first time that I would come across this wondrous woman's writing. There were two books on that bookshelf; one was about a teenager who met and fell in love with a boy with angel wings, the other was the story of a girl fighting anorexia and telling her story through a series of tarot cards. I was hooked.

At 19, I was one of many young women who was struggling with an eating disorder. I was also a young woman who still believed in magic in all places. These books, speaking of realities like cancer and abuse while intermingling it with a sense of the divine or the magical spoke to me in a way that I couldn't quite describe.

My writing style changed around this time, trying to emulate the simple beauty I found in these books. 

It was 2005, I was 21, and New Zealand was the flavour of the year. A friend had a copy of Violet and Clare, a novel that I mistakenly took from its title for a lesbian love story, but I wasn't disappointed. 

2006, still in New Zealand, and leafing through a copy of I was a Teenage Fairy, the story of a young model trying to live up to the pressures of her mother, who sees fairies in the backyard and is close to one fairy, the fairy Mab, in particular. 

When I revisited this novel again in 2008, I started wondering whether these stories of real life with magical realism spoke of a deeper metaphor, whether suffering mental health was the scope through which these teenagers escaped to and regularly found outlets of the mystical and the divine. Or whether the fairies and angels were part of their delusions. 

In 2011, I did an Honours paper that included one of the short stories from Francesca's The Rose and the Beast. There, while my focus was on the short story 'Beast', I finally found my lesbian love story in the retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. 

This month, I read The Elementals, a book with lyrical writing, strong plot and many of the familiar themes I have come to associate with Francesca's various works. This novel was, in many ways, one of those "New Adult" novels we've been hearing so much about: The main character moves out from her family home, goes to college, discovers sex. But it's so much more than that. Mystery and drugs and abductions and cancer with just a hint of magical realism serve to make this a very well weaved, heart-wrenching novel by a very talented author.

For ten years , Francesca Lia Block has managed to elevate, excite, liberate, titillate and make my heart soar with her stories of sadness and beauty, magic and suffering. I love these stories. They are a part of me, and now, this year, she will be releasing her latest novel. 

Love in the Time of Global Warming is a post-apocalyptic novel with a young woman going on a journey to find her lost family. Early reviews of the book agree that this will be another one of her gritty realisms in a slightly fantastical setting which, of course, post-apocalyptic settings tend to be.

This will be the first time that I am getting on board with one of Francesca's novels as they come out. I was close, I think, when I picked up her novel Ruby (co-written with Carmen Staton). Of course, the release date for this novel is saying late August, so my only question really is how am I going to wait that long? 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Joanne Harris, 'Gentlemen and Players' and the writer's responsibility.

You may recognise this lady, Joanne Harris, who had such prudent words to say when I was having a difficult time at work.

It was a recent reblog from her blog that enticed me into reading Gentlemen & Players this month specifically. This book's been sitting on my shelves for a number of months, but this photo set and accompanying text sold me beyond doubt.

Gentlemen and Players, by Joanne Harris.

"If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past fifteen years, it’s this: that murder is really no big deal. It’s just a boundary, meaningless and arbitrary as all others-a line drawn in the dirt."

How completely evocative is that? How much more does it make me want to read it? How talented this person for putting this collection of images together in such a way?

If there's one thing I've found that is commonly inherent in Joanne Harris' books, it's that there are very few characters of conventional morals. Joanne seems to have a particular talent for drawing out these characters and making their motivations sympathetic, understandable, whether they be protagonist, antagonist, or something else entirely.

I love any excuse to post something from her Tumblr. Around the same time as the problems concerning Charlaine Harris' final book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries were making themselves public, Joanne responded to a fan letter which took it upon itself to dictate to Joanne what she should and shouldn't write. Joanne was in the middle of a five part series of blog posts on herself and her relationship to others at the time.

In response to him, she wrote,

But readers are not everything. Basically, I write because writing is necessary to me.

This is a statement I've seen written by many other writers. That's why (some of us) are paid terribly. There are an abundance of us who just need to write, not for the money, not for the readers, just for the writing.

She also went on to write,

A writer can (and should) only try to please one person at a time. That person is the writer herself – because trying to please anyone else, or modifying what you write for the sake of a real or imagined readership leads, not only to madness, but to dishonest writing. And, whatever else we expect of them, we need writers to be true. (read more)

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 2013 reading list

So I'm having a lovely time around here, working out what it's like to work as a full time admin from home while still working out how everything's supposed to look. My writing has taken a little bit of a pause of late, but that's just allowing my beta readers to catch up on a little bit of the backlog.

I've been watching a lot of Boston Legal.

I also had my first bout of depression since leaving the 'Real Life Job', which was a bit scary. I'd somehow thought that maybe my depression was being caused by going to a job I didn't like and by ceasing to go to that job, I would be magically CURED! Sad truth is, although the Real Life Job may have exacerbated the extent to which I was feeling sad, sad and depression is just something I have to look after now and again. That in itself is entirely too depressing a thought to linger on.

So! When I haven't been in the middle of all of that, I've been reading.

Here is my monthly dose of new books:


3/5 - An okay read, not as good as others in the series.
I remember in March, the first book that I listed was Black Heart by Holly Black. I remember it because it was the last one of its series and, as excited as I was to start reading it, I was also dreading it because it would prove to be the end of a series I had very much enjoyed. Well, there is still one more book after this in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, but only one.

The Night Circus.

4/5 - Imaginative and different.
I know almost nothing about this book except that the writing is said to be evocative and I haven't seen a single bad thing said or written by anyone whose advice I lean to in these matters. Onwards to finding a new author I'm sure I'll love!

The Elementals.

4/5 - Not the best book by her, but enjoyable just the same.
'I stood alone by the large window, looking out at the town below.'
This is the first new book by Francesca Lia Block that I have read for years and I am so excited by it! There's been a lot of talk about the new genre of New Adult writing going around. I think this might be the first book I'd place in that category since I started posting here. It seems, while I have not been paying attention, Francesca's visibility as a writer has gone up and up to the point where all her books are on hold or borrowed out at my local library. I'm so proud!

Something Rotten.

3/5 - This one dragged. I wanted to like it more than I did.
As I started reading the back of this book, I can't believe I've left it so long between reading the previous Jasper Fforde book and this one. It's a book whose narrative circles around Hamlet and Shakespeare! Be still my beating... I don't talk about Shakespeare enough on here. I barely even mentioned him when I read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. I really should do more of it.

Gentlemen and Players.

5/5 - Amazing, simply amazing. The best book by her I've read yet!
Joanne Harris. Need I say more? I'm sure I'm in for a treat, actually. With both the lyrical writing expected from The Night Circus and from Joanne Harris, the only thing I feel I'd need to add to this would be another book from Sarah Waters, but I don't think I have any more of hers that I haven't recently read. :/


As ever, for updates on how I'm going with all these books, follow me on