Talk it out

So I’ve been planning Blood Legacy for a week now but I’ve had a major plot hole the entire time. So much so that every time I sat down to further my planning I found myself returning to the gaping hole, unable to focus on anything else. I tried writing around it, that didn’t help, then I tried writing through the problem and came up against a solid wall, I even tried my stream of consciousness method, which normally works (this basically just involves me writing everything about the subject directly from my head onto the page without any sort of censoring, I ask questions and try to answer them), but alas it was all for naught.

Eventually I did work it out, but not through writing. I had to talk about it. I have a pretty solid support group of friends and just by being able to use them as sounding boards for what my problem was and hearing their questions really helped.

I’m a mixed bag when it comes to novel writing, I’m a planner and a pantser. I write out what should happen in an outline but if something else happens then I let it and change the plan as I go (this is how my last novel turned from a fantasy novel into an Epic fantasy).

So I guess what I’ve learned today is that while an important part of writing is getting in and doing the job, that sometimes you need to look at it from a different angle if you’re coming up against a problem that seems unfixable.

Starting Blood Legacy

So I blog as a method of procrastination. Today I’m procrastinating working on my second book, but the purpose of this blog post is to buckle down and rededicate myself to the idea. Last year I buckled down and did something that  I thought was unachievable, I wrote a book! I love those words, and I love telling people those words (at least on the internet, I still suffer from imposter syndrome pretty badly and hate saying the words to people in real life).

When I was thinking of writing Blood Foundry I read a tonne of articles on how to be a writer, habit’s of a good writer, thing’s that good writer’s do, pretty much anything to do with writing. There was a pretty solid consensus that the best thing you can do is to write and that once it was written you could make it better. I followed these instructions and wrote a book that I love, I’ve read it far more than I’ve read any other book, as I’ve gone through editing and reediting it. What none of those articles really tell you about is what to do next. I mean the first step is easy, Beta readers. Out of the three people I chose as beta readers only one of them has almost finished the book. I know people are busy and I know the slog that my first draft must be, I also know the need for patience, but I found myself quickly becoming disillusioned with the whole idea of being an author.

The act of writing is fun and cathartic for me. I also write for myself, I write what I would want to read. Having sent my baby out into the world, finding that other people weren’t as invested and interested in it as I was, was devastating. I stopped writing, and then decided that I sucked at that genre and started on a new genre but I kept finding myself pulled back to my original idea. I wrote Blood Foundry, and didn’t realise until I was in the latter part of the book that it was part of a trilogy. I fell in love with the characters I was writing about, but more than that I fell in love with the world I created, and not writing the trilogy feels like orphaning a child.

So this is me rededicating myself to the idea. I’ve begun planning the next novel, I need to set deadlines and stick withe them. I need to finalise my outline by the end of the month and then I need to get back into habits, back to writing regularly.

I love my book, I love the story that I told and I love the stories that I’ve come up with for the Telluric Realm, so even if it doesn’t get read just yet, I’m going to write them, not for my adoring public, but for me.

Book Series: The Russel Middlebrook Series – Brent Hartinger

This ones a guilty pleasure of mine, while the Russel Middlebrook series has been over for quite some time, with the author’s reboot of the Russel Middlebrook Series: The Futon Years, I feel it’s time to write about this.

The Russel Middlebrook series is a classic gay coming of age series, filled with classic teen angst, and classic over dramatisation and I still loved this series. I think in part because Russel Middlebrook while burdened so verily with first world problems, is so very relatable. He’s not great with people, he’s not great with the future, he’s not great at much and it’s in this mediocrity that we find a little piece of ourselves.

Russel’s journey to find himself and love is trite and contrived but it’s still cute and worth reading, I wish there had been more books like this when I was a teenager. With the newer books released in this series we get to follow Russel as he grows up, having finished high school and trying to make his way in the real world as a young adult.

While the earlier books have a less sexual focus and lean more towards romantic fiction aimed at tweens, the newer novels start to explore a much more graphic level of Russel’s sexuality.

The books aren’t a page turner, I find myself reading the series in between my other series, but it’s good for a light read and I do hope Brent Hartinger continues to write this series as it’s like catching up with a good acquaintance.

All in all, if I were a teenager again or if I ever find myself single I know that especially during those times in my life this series would be crucial to my mental wellbeing, reminding me that it gets better and that true love can happen to us all.

Comic: Earth 2: Society

I’m not going to lie, I only started reading the Earth 2 series because they made the Green Lantern gay. When we’re first introduced to Alan Scott (rich, cute, philanthropic, heartthrob) he’s really gay, we get a kiss scene and everything (not as sexual as midnighter but definitely more romantic). Alas as far as an awesome gay superhero we were still left wanting more. Once Alan Scott takes up the mantle of Green Lantern he becomes some sort of eunuch far too important to ever think about a relationship or sex with a human being who isn’t his dead lover (spoiler his lover died, it happened like almost straight away this is barely a spoiler because as I mentioned, Alan Scott is a loveless, sexless asexual).

Despite this I quite liked the original Earth 2  series, I liked Evil Superman (followed by Black Superman), I like Aquawoman and this version of the flash is cool as balls. Which is why I became invested in the characters storylines and followed it through DC’s universe colliding event (Convergence) and began reading Earth 2:Society.

Post Convergence I guess could be called a kick off for new Earth 2 fans, but as the comic stands now I can’t see how  it would garner any. Our team of heroes are on a new planet, filled with their old cities, trying to rebuild a society and fighting off anything that stands in their way.

There’s some sort of greater story arc, but I can’t figure it out. All of our favourite characters are all dead or so changed from their old selves that they’re basically unrecognisable and I can never tell whether the bad guys are good guys or they’re waiting to double cross or triple cross someone.

It’s a clusterbuck basically, I am continuing to stick with this in an effort to hang on to the thought that maybe Alan Scott will one day not be such an aloof douchebag, and that this story will make sense. In the meantime, stick to the original Earth 2 series and skip Society, I’m sure their next jump on point will make more sense.

Book: The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett

The final book in the Discworld series. It was with great trepidation I read this, Terry Pratchett’s final book released after his death. It’s with even greater hesitation that I write about it because who am I to judge a man’s dying work, let alone that of Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, but this was a fantastic book as are all of his works and with that in mind I feel less like my writing here is judgement and more so a memorial.

The whole book was about endings, but it was also about beginnings, about how life goes on and how stories continue even when unobserved. Terry Pratchett knew he was dying when he wrote this book, but this isn’t the story of a dying man. This is the story of a woman coming into her own, of a people coming together and of a people mourning and honoring the dead each in their own way.

The Discworld has never feared Death, many occupants having encountered the anthropomorphic personification of The Reaper just goes to enforce the idea that death isn’t a finality, it’s a part of a process, the greatest journey ever taken, the greatest story never told.

Despite the bleak subject matter, and the author’s terminal illness, this is not a bleak depressing story. This is still a Discworld novel, filled with laughs (and the Nac Mac Feegles), I was wondering as I began this book, how can all the story lines be neatly tied together in one book, and the answer is they can’t; and if this book taught me anything it was that all stories come to an end and you might not be there to witness all those ends and that’s alright.

I’ve been reading the Discworld series since before I was a teenager, I first read The Truth (the 25th Discworld novel) and I didn’t understand it all, because some of it was far too adult for me at the time, but that didn’t stop me from reading the books, it means i reread them, all of them, every year, and with each reread I understood more because it reflected my life’s experiences.

With all of those rereadings, I became closer with some of the characters, everyone loves Nanny Ogg’s inappropriate suggestive remarks, everyone respects the man Sir Samuel Vimes has become (a Sir now!) and how could you not love Nobby Nobbs. With this story we lose a major character, it’s not the first time we’ve lost a character but I guess as the final book it will be last time and with that finality it made this loss even greater; but with this loss we saw one of our characters come into the person we knew they would be, and our hearts swelled with pride.

While Terry Pratchett didn’t specifically write about LGBTQIA inclusion he wrote about an equality and inclusion for all, regardless of sex, gender, or species. His world was one of fantasy and he reflected in it the same politics and prejudices from the real world, and with that he told stories. Stories of a world that could become a better place.

Like all the greats Terry Pratchett was taken from the world far too soon, but in his short time here he changed lives, and the world, for the better. With his final book like all other Discworld Novels, anyone can pick it up, read and enjoy it, and I hope it inspires them to read the other 40 magnificent works.

He will be sorely missed.

Comic: Constantine: The Hellblazer – Ming Doyle

I’ve wanted to love Constantine for a long time, it has all the right ingredients to be amazing; A coarse, attractive, unabashedly bisexual lead, a supernatural chthonic underworld, magic, mystery and grungy rock and roll.

Despite this I’ve only ever felt ambivalent about the series, and I’m sure whether it’s because I feel like I’ve missed too much or whether that’s part of John Constantine’s allure. Even after going back and reading many of the historical issues I felt like I didn’t know John constantine, other than the fact that he tortures himself incessantly over one mistake decades ago.

With the release of the 2015 series of Constantine: The Hellblazer I feel like everyone is on even footing again, whether you know a little, nothing, or a lot, the story makes sense, we’re getting to know John  Constantine, slowly, little by little. The story line in Constantine has always been fresh and unique, and the new series doesn’t fail to live up to this high standard. I think it’s one of my favorite features of this series is that almost anything can happen and I never see it coming.

With less than half a dozen issues out so far, the series has already played around with a huge variety of art styles, and instead of fracturing the storyline it serves to keep reader on their toes never knowing what to expect.

As I mentioned earlier, John Constantine is openly bisexual. I think this variety of sexuality across DC’s lineup of series is fantastically inclusive. While this comic is nowhere near as homocentric as Midnighter, John Constantine is still a wanton coquet with enough men to keep his sexuality authentic.

If you like Supernatural, Buffy, The Dresden Files and other stories in this genre, then Constantine is definitely worth giving a go. Very few people fall in love with it, but I still think it’s a great filler comic to keep you busy.

Book Series: The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher

This series was not at the top of my list, I only just found out about it this year, I love Laurell K Hamilton’s books which led me to Richard Kadrey’s works which eventually led me to here. The first book was slow and very average, but it does it’s job of setting the scene and the rest of the series is amazing.

The series centres on Chicago’s only “Professional Wizard”, in this world vampires, faeries and spirits are all real, and while not mainstream they are something that Harry Dresden PI (the main character), has to deal with on a day to day basis.

Before I go any further I want to stress how much I love this series, it fills that fantasy niche that crosses with the real world, it has a male lead (which I find helps me empathise slightly), and the lead is in my age range.

In saying that this series does has its flaws. The lead is a misogynistic chauvinist who is prone to verbalising mild homophobia. This could be just a character flaw, and while I never condone Homophobia, especially not careless flippant homophobia, I overlooked it in light of the story line which at the time was not concluded.

The way women are portrayed as damsels in the series could be interpreted as insulting and demeaning, but again the story is told from a first person point of view so maybe its just a character flaw?

It’s the first book series I’ve ever been this conflicted about, great writing is supposed to inspire thought though and that’s definitely what this series did. If you’re a young adult and a guy who’s into the whole supernatural thing (and I am), then this series is for you.

Note: The image for this post is from the comic book series which is also a great read, the benefits of the comic books are that the artist was heaps nicer about what Harry Dresden looks like than my imagination was.

Comic: Midnighter – Steve Orlando

Midnighter is the kind of comic I wished existed when I was a kid. Then growing up I’ve still always had this thought, why aren’t there more gay superheroes. When I found out there was a gay couple in a DC Comic called Storm Watch I went and read as much of it as possible, even in Storm Watch when Midnighter was just a small part of the story, I felt his story stood out.

This year Midnighter has earned his own comic book series, his marriage is over, all affiliations are over and he has a huge undertaking of his own. In amongst all his ultra violent superheroing he makes time for rebound dates and hook ups.

Midnighter isn’t really a good guy, he’s excessively violent, he’s cocky, shallow, and kind of a slut. Despite that he’s still a unique take on both being gay and being a superhero.

A lot of the big comic houses are doing gay characters, where those characters are gay only in passing and any romantic notions are theoretical, intensely monogamous or just a teenage trist. It’s been interesting to the other side of that, a superhero on Grindr, using his superpowers to woo guys and get laid because while I love the idea of advancement of the idea of homosexuality, I still know a tonne of guys who would do exactly the same thing.

I don’t think we’re in for a long run with this, the comic marginalises too many audiences, while I tout the greatness of this comic as much as I can the character is too unknown to be picked up by many of the gay community, and I don’t imagine a huge portion of the straight Storm Watch community being overly interested in this series for long.

Prove me wrong, go to your local comic book store and pick up a copy, subscribe to the series and keep it going. I know I will.

Book: Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling

This is Mindy Kaling’s second book. I loved her first book, but then I loved her as Kelly Kapoor in The Office and I love her show the Mindy Project. She’s a successful comedy writer as well as actress so it’s no surprise that this book is hilarious, what is surprising is that this book is also touching, sincere and humanising.

It’s easy to look at Hollywood stars and think how wonderful their lives are and how easy it must all be. While this book is not a story of how difficult Mindy Kaling’s life is it does serve the purpose of educating the public on the hard work that goes into being both an actress and writer.

While the book is mainly targeted at women, Mindy makes reference to the few other people that she assumes will get a hold of her book and makes us feel included and welcome as well.

As a white male born in a first world country my experiences are wildly different to those of Mindy’s and yet instead of alienating the wider audience she seems to strike a chord with almost everyone, giving voice to all those little voices you thought you were alone in hearing.

 

Comic: Kaptara – Chip Zdarsky

My first encounter with Chip Zdarsky’s work was only fairly recently when he released Sex Criminals. While it was very heterocentric I still found myself laughing along at this weird comic. Before Kaptara came out he was plugging it as a Gayer version of Saga, and as a long standing lover of Saga my interest was piqued.

Kaptara is a fun, whimsical, nonsensical take on the whole space opera genre. I’ve waited for a long time for a comic featuring a gay lead, and that’s exactly what Kaptara has delivered. Keith Kanga (our leading man) is a shallow, cowardly, self obsessed environmental scientist “trapped” on a planet (Kaptara) far far from earth. The story loosely follows him and his adventures in this strange new land filled with strange floating motivational orbs, bird people and cat tanks.

While the art is bright and vibrant (dare I say even camp), the characters are much more than any basic stereotype. The story is still in its infancy and seems to still be looking to get it’s feet but I’m having a lot of fun just reading to see what crazy shenanigans they’ve thought up each issue.

Anyone who read and liked God Hates Astronauts will love Kaptara, they’re very much so alike, although I think Kaptara has a much clearer more linear storyline.

I think the most interesting part of Kaptara is in fact the Planet itself, full of endless possibilities I definitely look forward to seeing where this comic goes and what adventures lie in store for our “hero”.

Book: I’m Special; And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves – Ryan O’Connell

I’ve never been one much for Non-Fiction, but as I age I find myself seeking better role models and I find this style of book a fantastic source of inspiration and encouragement.

They had me sold when I read it was about a gay guy in his late twenties telling his tales of trials and tribulations as a gay man with Cerebral Palsy. Who doesn’t want to read about the sex life of people like us but different?

The book is the autobiography of a blogger born with Cerebral Palsy and then later in life being hit by a car. I was trepidatious as I started reading the book wondering if it would be all about how much this guy has suffered and how much I should appreciate life but I quickly understood that Ryan O’Connell was not that kind of man.

Ryan’s success is being the same as every other person, he writes that he’s not disabled enough to fit in with the disabled and not normal enough to fit in with the norms, not hot enough to be hot and not ugly enough to be grotesque. I think this feeling of mediocrity is almost universal, especially amongst his target audience(the millennials).

This book was actually really good, I went in with such low expectations and was surprised at how many laugh out loud moments I had, how many emotional moments touched me and how many truths struck home hard.

The only downside about this book was how short it was, I’m sure I’m not alone as I eagerly await the author’s next book.

Comic: The Wicked + The Divine – Kieron Gillen

I’ve always been interested in religion, I see them as a form of storytelling, so I love when the books and comics I read include and work with these old stories and breathe life into them anew.

That’s what The Wicked + The Divine does, it takes a concept like reincarnation and godhood and it brings it into the modern era, add in a splash of drama, a drop of intrigue, an ever present undercurrent of sexual tension and a murder mystery and you have a recipe for a roller coaster comic series that keeps you hanging on for more.

The art is vibrant and the story more than just being interesting is well written. I never see what’s coming around the corner and have been blindsided by the twists on multiple occasions.

As for LGBTQIA inclusion and representation this comic has more than its fair share. The story centres on a Pantheon of roughly a dozen characters (and a supporting cast of at least half a dozen regularly occurring characters ) and of these there’s at least one lesbian, a couple of gay guys, a trans character, bisexuals, pansexuals, you get the point a whole heap of subcultures and minorities are represented. Unsurprisingly for a story that steers away from convention the stereotypes are also pretty well avoided.

Luckily for non-readers this comic book series is being adapted for a television series so my husband and other non comic folk will be be able to enjoy it in its entirety in no time.

Book: The Magicians – Lev Grossman

When I was growing up as the Harry Potter books were being released Harry was always a year older or younger than me. Harry, Ron and Hermione (who I pronounced Hermoyne for the longest time) were as much a part of my group of friends as my real friends were.

Now as a twenty something lover of fantasy it’s a lot harder to empathise with the main characters, I constantly feel like the YA fiction is full of whiny teen angst. This book/series is not, this series seems to have been written specifically for me and people like me, the twenty something’s who don’t know what they’re doing with their lives.

It’s a slow start but once you get into it this book is amazing, I opened with a Harry Potter reference because the first book at least is similar to being Based around Hogwarts if Hogwarts were college instead of High School.

When I started reading this series I had no idea whether it mentioned or had any gay characters in it, but Lev Grossman surprised me casting one of his main characters as gay, and veering away from the stereotype wonderfully. Any stereotypical traits seem more like coincidental character flaws allowing the character to have a depth often missed in the portrayal of LGBT characters.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough, if you liked Harry Potter, if you like Epic Sagas in the style of David Eddings, if you like the Dresden Files then this series is for you.

Final Note this Book is being made into a TV series by Syfy, which is fantastic because then my husband (who doesn’t read) can get into it as much as I am, the trailer is cringeworthy (see below) but I’ll definitely give it a go, and so should you.

Comic: The Private Eye – Brian K. Vaughan

So I’ve just finished The Private Eye. I sat downloaded and read the entire thing in one sitting, it was so thoroughly engrossing. The premise is that in the future nobody trusts the internet or technology so nobody uses it for the most but after having gone through the internet age people had learned and grown accustomed to saying and doing whatever they want behind the smokescreen of a Pseudonym. People are really only themselves at work and home, any where else (clubs, shops, restaurants) people employ their Secret Identities so as to at least feel like they’re cooler, better people than they are (or so I guess, I’m not them who knows why they have these identities).

It sounds weird and the concept and premise was, but the bold bright art and the well told story make this a page turner. I’m only upset that it took me this long to find out about this comic and that it’s over already.

On a side note, a minor facet of the story that resonated with me was their portrayal of gay people in this future. While such a minor part of the comic it was great to see their sexuality woven into the story without being a focus point, as it didn’t need to be.

If you’re looking for a comic to read on a long car trip or for a lazy afternoon definitely pick up The Private Eye