[Spoiler alert for minor plot points about Fury’s Kiss and Man’s Ruin.]
I have been feeling overwhelmed lately by the number of revelations from women in the media about sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, especially at the hands of their employers. I think it’s awesome that the world is finally taking notice of this horrendous cultural norm, but the #MeToo movement has reminded me of my own experiences with harassment, some of which I prefer not to think about. It also has me questioning whether I have been complicit in the exploitation of my own gender.
On February 3, Jessica Chastain tweeted this statement, which is both powerful and accurate:
When violence against women is used as a plot device to make the characters stronger then we have a problem. It is not empowering to be beaten and raped, yet so many films make it their 'pheonix' moment for women. We don't need abuse in order to be powerful. We already are.
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) February 4, 2018
The thing is, I have used physical and sexual violence against a female character as a plot device. In my debut novel, Fury’s Kiss, the heroine manifests the powers of a Greek Fury when her life is endangered and she fights off her assailant. And Fury’s Kiss isn’t the only book in which I explore this type of interaction. In Man’s Ruin, there is a scene in which the threat of sexual violence is used by a villain to attempt the intimidation and subjugation of the heroine.
So how can I justify these scenes to myself and my readers?
I’ve devoted a lot of time to considering my reasons for writing about violence against women, and I think the reason I often circle back to it is because it is, or has been, a reality of everyday life for so many of us. The first time I was ever catcalled on the street, I was twelve years old. Twelve. When I was fifteen, I quit my first job because a man who was at least four decades older than me groped me on multiple occasions.
And as is the case for many (most?) women, it only got worse from then on.
I write about sexism and misogyny because I have experienced it. I think this is why I feel compelled to exorcise those demons through my writing. I’m sure that some critics might look at my work and find fault with it, but I can only write about the world as I see it.
When writing about violence, and specifically violence against women, I rely on these basic rules:
- The violence must serve a purpose to the plot or theme of the work. It must not be gratuitous or titillating.
- The woman wins in the end. Always.
- No explicit violence against children or animals.
These are my boundaries, and what works for me may not work for others. For example, I have read books that depict violence against children in a way that furthers a message or makes sense in the context of the plot (Room by Emma Donoghue comes to mind), but it’s not something that I feel comfortable writing right now.
I am excited to announce that I have teamed up with Canadian artists Kara Brauen and Jono Doiron to bring my first comic book, Wild Rose, to life. We are crowd funding issue one on Kickstarter and we hit 39% funded in the first 48 hours!
Statistically, this means we stand a very good chance of being fully funded, but I need your help to keep the momentum going. If you are interested in any of the cool rewards we’re offering, please check out the Kickstarter page and consider supporting the campaign. If you’re not able to contribute financially, it’s still a huge, huge help if you share the campaign with your friends/family/social media following.
Set against the backdrop of London and rural Ireland in 1790, Wild Rose reimagines a haunting Irish folktale. The story of Eliza Day is a tale of love and revenge, but also of class conflict, religious intolerance, and the secret societies that became common in eighteenth century Ireland.
When Eliza is seduced and betrayed by a wealthy English lover, she vows to seek revenge and enlists the help of a witch. But as she soon finds out, the restrictive society in which she lives has no place for defiant, damaged women who break with convention. With the help of Adam Stone, a free Black man, Eliza has a chance to make a new life for herself after the loss of her innocence – but to do so, she will have to be braver than she could ever have imagined.
Wild Rose is a six-issue mini-series with potential for an ongoing storyline. This is a socially conscious project which depicts the realities of life in 18th century Europe, including people of color and LGBTQ+ orientation.
Funds raised on Kickstarter will be used to pay for cover design, coloring, and lettering for the 22 story pages of issue #1. Money raised above our goal will be used for marketing, self publishing (if we don’t sign with a publisher), a limited first print run, and production of the next issue.
Fury’s Kiss is now available in audiobook format from Audible.com – and if you don’t already have an account, you can get it for free with a 30-day trial membership. I love listening to books and podcasts when I’m driving or doing chores, and sometimes a good book can even make me forget how out of shape I am when I go jogging.
Another cool thing about hearing a book read out loud is that you don’t have to wonder about pronunciation of characters’ names. (Remember when the Harry Potter books first came out? Was the girl witch called Her-me-own? Her-my-own-knee?). Since the Furies books are based on Greek mythology, I have to admit that sometimes I have to use Google or Youtube to pronounce my own characters’ names.
The audio version is 9 hours and 2 minutes long, so you get lots of bang for your buck. Since this is my first audiobook, I would love to hear from readers about what you think. If there is anything you loved or hated, let me know!
Word on the Street is an annual one-day literacy festival that takes place in locations across Canada. In each participating city, local, regional and national authors, poets, illustrators, spoken word artists, and entertainers participate in readings, panel discussions, and musical entertainment. Publishers, booksellers, literacy organizations, post-secondary programs, and community groups are also welcome to set up tables in the vendor marketplace.
For most of its history in English, the word ‘literate’ meant to be ‘familiar with literature’ or, more generally, ‘well educated, learned.’…Today literacy means so much more than the ability to read and write. In our modern technology-rich society the definition of literacy is much broader and now includes nine essential skills: reading text, document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, computer use, critical thinking skills and continuous learning. – Word on the Street Halifax
This year, fellow romance author Brenda Pearson and I shared a table to sell and sign our books. As always, one of the highlights of WOTS was the opening reception the night before. The reception was held at Halifax’s famous Central Library, where Mark Lefebvre from Kobo Writing Life happened to be in attendance in his capacity as an author (did you know he writes spooky Canadian ghost stories as Mark Leslie?).
Check out this Facebook Live interview I did with Mark!
One of the other people I was excited to meet this year was Alexa Wilcox, the 14-year-old author of the YA fantasy, Aqua Jewel. With help from her parents, Alexa self-published her debut novel and is already hard at work on the sequel.
Last but not least, it’s always great to catch up with John Munro, the Atlantic Canada Regional Manager for Frontier College. I volunteered with this literacy organization when I was in law school and it’s always nice to see what new programming is in store.
Beginning in 1899, the founder of Frontier College, Alfred Fitzpatrick, trained teachers to go into logging, mining, and railroad camps to teach the workers there to read. Now Frontier College provides homework clubs, summer reading camps, adult literacy and GED tutoring, and ESL services.
Finally, here are a couple more photos from the festival! On the left, I’m posing with Super Why!, a children’s television character who helps kids ages 3-6 learn literacy skills. On the right is a photo of some local athletes marching in support of ending violence against women.
Although I usually sell my books on all major retailers’ platforms, I have decided to give Kindle Unlimited a whirl for a three month trial period. In a nutshell, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon that lets you borrow and read as many books, audiobooks, and magazines as you want for $10/month. There are more than one million titles available and many of them are from self-published authors, so if you’re a voracious reader or simply want to support indie authors, this is a great option.
I think KU is an awesome service for readers, sort of the ‘Netflix of books’, but it is controversial in publishing circles. When a book is enrolled in KU, it can’t be available for sale or download anywhere else, which creates a monopoly on the title in favour of Amazon. Obviously, other retailers aren’t fond of this. Another common criticism of the program is that KU hurts writers/the publishing industry by devaluing books and making authors too dependent on Amazon for the majority of their revenue.
So why have I chosen to enrol in Kindle Unlimited?
Simple – other retailers haven’t been offering me much bang for my buck lately. I have tons of respect for everywhere I sell books, especially Kobo (Fury’s Kiss won the $10,000 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in Romance). However, my sales aren’t what I hoped to see at this point in my career, based on the number of books and short stories I have available to readers. I have tried different marketing strategies, including promotions with specific retailers, Facebook ads, and newsletter building campaigns, among other things. Some work better than others, but they all cost money and KU is a free option I haven’t tried yet.
Testing out KU isn’t a case of sour grapes because my books don’t sell as well as I would like – I write and publish because I enjoy it, regardless of whether I make money or not. That being said, I would prefer to enjoy my work and make money at the same time. I also have a number of projects in the works that require significant upfront investment (cover design, editing, formatting, printing costs, etc.). My goal is to make my self-publishing business a growing concern, not just a going concern. For that reason, I need to keep the hustle going so I don’t go broke pumping personal funds into publishing.
If you’re interested in outstanding legal and economic analysis of the publishing industry with a side helping of common sense, I suggest http://www.thepassivevoice.com. This blog is written by Passive Guy, aka David P. Vandagriff), an attorney, entrepreneur, former tech executive and writer. His frequent commentary on Amazon’s presence in the publishing/online retail industries align closely with my own views, except that he has the benefit of years more experience than a spring chicken like myself. (If you ever read this, PG, I’m not calling you old. I’m calling myself young).
As PG says:
In a competitive economy, no retail organization has a right to continue its existence. Commercial history is littered with names of former commercial giants who lost the contest for consumers’ dollars to competitors who did a better job of providing consumers what they wanted. During their climb to prominence, Montgomery Ward and Sears decimated hundreds of small-town retailers with lower prices and a far larger choice of products.
The rise and eventual fall of large retailers over time is more the rule than an exception to the rules of commerce. (You can read the full post here.)
I’m super excited to share the news that I am currently developing a 6-issue comic book series! The incredibly talented Maria Nguyen is creating the artwork for the series (check out her work here) and we are working on finding a publisher. Read on to see the first six sample pages.
Set against the backdrop of London and rural Ireland in 1790, Wild Rose reimagines a haunting Irish folktale. The story of Eliza Day is a tale of love and revenge, but also of class conflict, religious intolerance, and the secret societies that became common in eighteenth century Ireland. When Eliza is seduced and betrayed by a wealthy English lover, she vows to seek revenge and enlists the help of a witch. But as she soon finds out, the restrictive society in which she lives has no place for defiant, damaged women who break with convention. To make a new life for herself after the loss of her innocence, Eliza will have to be braver than she could ever have imagined.
At long last, The Fury Bride is finally live! Thank you so much to all my readers who have been patient with me while I worked out the kinks in this story. The Fury Bride is the longest book I’ve written (so far), with new characters and more worldbuilding/mythology than ever as the series races toward a finish in book seven.
If you like short stories/flash fiction and good deals, you should check out my Patreon page. $1/month gets you a free short story every month. There are also opportunities to get cool swag, have characters named after you, and even see your name in the dedication of my next novel. The most recent stories I’ve posted were a lot of fun to write, and I think that shines through in these covers!
I’m excited to be involved in a new promotion that features free books from tons of great authors. Answer three questions and your perfect book boyfriend appears!
Follow the link above to find your book boyfriend now!