Happy International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day and to celebrate, I thought I’d share some of my absolutely favourite women in literature.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love strong female characters, and given any chance I will talk your ear off the subject. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favourites:

Sabriel & Lirael
The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
In his fantasy YA series, Nix gives a phenomenal range of female characters who own their cleverness and their strength. They figure out puzzles, they stand up for themselves, they work together and even put the dead to rest. I first read this series at fourteen/fifteen and it’s still a firm favourite of mine, so while Sabriel and Lirael are my standout characters, the whole series is packed with fantastic women.

Sylvia
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
It might seem odd to include a children’s book from 1936, but this story has always been a favourite and it’s only as an adult that I’ve truly appreciated how amazing Sylvia is. Noel’s cast is almost entirely female, but Sylvia is the glue that holds the entire family together – she is kind and sweet, but also incredibly determined and I love her for that.

The Entire Cast of ‘The Stars are Legion’
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
It seems a little like cheating to include the entire cast of a novel, but given that this brutal science fiction novel has an all female line up, I’m going to include it. Hurley is one of my favourite science fiction writers and this novel is gritty and visceral, but it’s got a tiny soft side too. I can’t choose a favourite because I love all the characters in different ways – they’re kickass, sneaky, determined and not afraid of a fight! It totally challenged my expectations of gender because I’d never seen women written this way – and I loved it.

On a side note: I’d also recommend Hurley’s excellent essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative”.

Jenny Perata
Space Unicorn Blues by T. J Berry
This novel wiggled into my life last year and blew my mind – it’s diverse, it’s queer, it’s fantastical but it’s also fierce as fuck. Jenny isn’t really a good person, but she’s not necessarily a bad one either – she’s shades of grey and that’s so representative of people. Berry gives us a whole cast of morally ambiguous characters and throws them together, pitting them against the universe and providing a great piece of social commentary along with it.
I also have to give a shout out to Ricky Tang – I love her so much… even though I know she’d rob me blind, I’m pretty sure I’d be happy about it.

Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
Terry Pratchett
I couldn’t write this list and not include two of my favourite witches. Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are two very different women, and yet I love them both equally. They’re respected, they’re listened to and they’re smart – plus lots of people are scared of them… even if that’s just because Nanny is a terrible singer. Although Pratchett’s discworld contains a host of wonderful women (including Susan, who I also adore), I think Granny and Nanny are my favourites – and if I can be anything like them then I’ll be pleased.


I feel like I should end this list here, as I’ve only just scratched the surface. But if we don’t stop, we’ll be here all day and sadly I have editing to attack!

But I’ll finish off by asking: who are your favourite female characters?

January and February Wrap Up

Somehow, we’ve arrived in March and I’m still not quite sure how we got here… but since we are here, I thought I’d do a little wrap up of what writerly things I’ve done so far this year, and hopefully I can turn this into a monthly feature.

I know that sometimes I tend to lose sight of the little things that I’ve achieved, since I’m always focused on the end results and larger goals. But since these small achievements help me get there, I think it’s important to remember them and just how far I’ve come. So without further ado, here are things I’m celebrating:

January
– Wrote just under 27,000 words (for Breakaway and a gift fic for a friend)
– Started my blog and Twitter account
– Booked my editor for April (which feels like such a long way away!)

February
– Finished the first draft of Breakaway
– Booked my cover artist (who I’m ridiculously excited to be working with)
– Edited my first draft on paper and started working through those edits
– Started plotting book 2 and found some awesome people to ask some super secret research questions
– Wrote a total of 6640 words (both Breakaway and for a fanfiction challenge I’m taking part in)
– Shared my valentine’s day short story (which you can find here)

All in all, it’s been a good start to the year and it’s amazing to see what I’ve achieved already.

My March goals are to finish my edits, potentially get a beta reader, finish my challenge fic and to start plotting book 2. Plus I’d love to blog more regularly too!

What are your March writing goals?

Plagiarism, Ghostwriting and Reader Demand.

As I’m sure many of you will now be aware, at the start of this week a story broke across Twitter that a bestselling romance author had been actively plagiarising the work of other romance authors, and passing it off as their own.

Their defence was that they’d hired a cheap ghostwriter to write their books for them, and that the ghostwriter was the person who’d done the copy and pasting, not them. Honestly, I’m really not sure how they could have made the situation worse, but saying that they hadn’t even read their supposed ‘own work’ takes the cake.

As the whole messy situation unfolded, and continues to burn on, it’s been noted that the practice of ghostwriting is rampant within the indie publishing industry, especially within romance. And other commentators have openly hinted that they know of several authors who engage in the practice.

I don’t think ghostwriters are to blame in this situation. Ghostwriters have existed for years (think 99% of celebrity written novels) and they do some excellent work. The fact that you can hire someone from Fiverr to write you 5000 words for $5 speaks to larger economic issues, and the value that we as consumers put on writing and our constant demand for more, rather than ghostwriters themselves. At least in my opinion.

But I do want to focus on the way that rampant plagiarism and constant demand affects authors like myself – ones who are pouring their blood, sweat and tears into their work in the hope of sharing their stories. We can’t release a book or two a month, like those engaging ghostwriters can. All we can do is work our damned hardest to write our stories at our own pace.

Readers reactions of finishing a novel and then saying ‘where’s the next one?’ puts an incredible amount of pressure on authors to churn out work, lest rampant fans turn on them. I’ve seen people in author’s Facebook groups, on the release day on their new novel, saying ‘I’ve finished this, when are we getting a book about X?’, and happily celebrating their own impatience.

Patience is a virtue, except when it comes to reading apparently.

Author’s are human beings: we get tired, we have real lives to live, families to deal with, day jobs to work – we are not there to relentlessly churn out work to fulfil your every whim.

Is it any wonder that some less scrupulous authors then turn to someone who can cheaply write their work for them? But if you’re going to pay very little, you’re going to get very little effort – hence copy, pasting and re-wording is likely to occur.

Let me be clear: I am not defending plagiarism or any form of copy and pasting. It is fundamentally wrong and damages more than the reputation of the person who engages in it. It damages the lives of the people who have been copied from, it damages our community and it damages the reputation of our genre and publishing as a whole. In my opinion, it is an utterly unthinkable thing to do. I am merely speculating on the reasons that may fuel this practice, and broadly considering the issues which cause it people to engage in it.

Overall, it’s a horribly messy situation, and I don’t think there’s any straightforward way of untangling it.

But, I think if an author can’t keep up with demand or doesn’t want to put the hard work in – please admit that or stop publishing, rather than deceiving people. It would be a much better thing to admit you are struggling with the demand, and to take your time writing your own work, than to cheat your way out of the situation. (Although, I am not naive enough to think that people will always choose honesty. Why lose readers when you can pay someone cheaply, make money and keep interest in your work high? And thus the cycle begins anew.)

And readers, I know you’re excited to get the next story. It’s great that you love people’s work, but give your friendly neighbourhood author some love and support, and celebrate what they’ve already produced rather than constantly demanding more.

In the mean time, I want you to know that if you ever read something with my name on it, it’s genuinely mine. I’m the one spending my evenings pouring over a laptop or editing on paper with a pink pen, pottering along at my own pace. I’ll get there when I get there, and I’ll be damn proud when I do. Because it will be an achievement I’ve earned, not bought.

Operation: Distract Charlie

At the moment I am desperately trying to distract myself for editing.

Why? You make think. Surely editing is a good thing. And yes, normally is it. But I’m trying to give myself a cooling off period between the first draft and the start of edits, just so that I:
a) can look at it with fresh eyes
b) don’t get sick of it
c) actually focus on edits
But it’s been nearly two weeks and my patience is wearing very, very thin. I’ve been attempting to distract myself by various means: plotting book two, reading, playing with (and breaking) my website, helping friends, but it’s not working… all I can think about is editing.

Please send your best suggestions to help distract me for another few days at least. If not, I might have to resort to actually doing housework, and nobody wants that!

Valentine’s Flash Fic: A Jealous Kiss

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

To celebrate here’s a little flash fiction story, themed around the idea of ‘A Jealous Kiss’. I actually wrote this last year as a piece of fanfiction and I loved it so much, that I couldn’t resist tweaking it and sharing it with you!

“Hey there handsome, can I get you anything special?”

It’s the weekend of valentine’s day, and the cocktail bar is dimly lit and full of small groups and couples enjoying an evening out. It’s not really Tyler’s sort of place, with its plush booths and artsy lighting and stylish bar, but Jace has been dying to try it out and Tyler couldn’t face saying no. There isn’t currently a queue at the bar, and Jace is now leaning against it, chatting to a young man in a fitted, black staff shirt.

“Oh, I’m not sure, I haven’t looked at the menu yet,” replies Jace, to the barman’s sweet tones, picking up the smart looking menu booklet and starting to thumb through it.

“Not a problem,” the barman answers, his tone making Tyler’s skin crawl. “What sort of thing do you like?” He’s got dark hair, that’s been swept into some sort of fancy ass style and an easy, flirty smile and all of that would be fine, if he didn’t look like he wanted to eat Jace alive. Not that Jace has noticed, he’s adorably oblivious. Instead he’s smiling sweetly and openly, utterly captivated by the man’s careful attention. He probably thinks the guy is just being friendly. Too friendly in Tyler’s opinion.

The barman’s name tag reads Niall. Tyler vows instant death and destruction to him.

“Well, I like vodka based drinks,” Jace says, pausing to look a Niall’s carefully fashioned smile.  

“How about Baileys?” Niall asks, leaning across the bar and flashing stupidly white teeth.

“Oh, yes. That’s nice too.”

“Hmmm, and what about something creamy?” Niall adds, definitely giving Jace the once over as he adds, “you look like the sort of person who like sweet, creamy drinks.”

Jace blushes. Tyler swears internally. He’s being utterly cut out here by some irritating twinky barboy.

“That sounds delicious.”

“Perfect, I’ve got just the thing for you!” With a wink, Niall starts pulling bottles down and begins mixing things in a silver cocktail shaker. He chats easily with Jace, who starts telling him about the Italian place they went for dinner and about how delicious the food was.

“That’s the Italian place just round the corner right? Sexy Mama?”

“Yes, the ravioli was so good! So were the profiteroles I had for dessert,” Jace smiles, turning to look at Tyler as if to encourage him into the conversation. “Don’t you think so Tyler?”

“It was pretty good,” Tyler adds, not really thinking but more planning the destruction of Niall, who turns to look at Tyler for the first time, giving him an appraising look. Tyler draws himself up to his full height and goes to put a hand in the small of Jace’s back. Only his boyfriend has moved slightly down the bar, where the accursed Niall is now pouring out his drink.

He slides the thick, creamy looking drink across the bar and leans in close to Jace. “This is a Screaming Orgasm,” he says, soft and seductive, clearly pulling his best moves out of the bag. Jace blushes again. “Taste it for me? I want to know what you think.”

Jace takes a sip through the straw, closing his eyes as he swallows, a tiny moan of happiness escaping his lips. “That’s delicious.”

“I thought you’d like it,” Niall says. “They’re my specialty. Let me know if I can get you another one. Or maybe, a real one.” He adds a final wink as Tyler steps up to the bar.

“If you’re quite finished, I’d like a whiskey sour,” he snaps, noting the eye roll from barboy. “Why don’t you go find us a booth,” he adds, turning to Jace with a soft smile, “I’ll pay for these.”

Once he gets his drink, from a much sulkier Niall, he joins Jace in a plush booth on the other side of the room. The seats are soft and offer a perfect view of the bar, plus with the added bonus of being able to snuggle in right next to his boyfriend.

Tyler slides up to Jace, putting an arm around his waist and pulling him close. Jace, however, doesn’t seem particularly impressed – rolling his eyes and shooting Tyler a look that suggests Tyler is in trouble. He’s not quite sure why though.

“Why were you so rude to the barman? He was just being friendly,” Jace asks, a cold edge to his tone as he sips the drink Niall made him.

“Jace, he wasn’t being friendly, he was flirting with you. A lot.”

“No he wasn’t, he just asked what drink I wanted, helped me choose one, asked about dinner, gave me a screaming…” Jace’s voice trails off and he does the mental maths, and even under the low lights Tyler can see an adorable flush spreading across his face.

“Oh,” Jace puts the drink down, pushing it away and looking down at his hands. “I’m sorry.”

Tyler smiles, lifting Jace’s face up and looking deep into his beautiful dark eyes. “Don’t be sorry, not your fault he’s a dick.” He leans in close, a little smirk on his lips. “Not your fault your so goddamn gorgeous.”

“Not my fault either, that my boyfriend gets jealous,” Jace smirks, tapping Tyler on the nose like a cat.

“Hey! I’m not jealous!” Jace rolls his eyes again, and Tyler grins. “Well… maybe just a little.” He leans in and pulls Jace into a fierce kiss. He can taste the creamy tang of Baileys and Kahlua on Jace’s tongue as he pushes inside his boyfriend’s mouth, feeling Jace practically melt in his arms as Tyler kisses him over and over.

When the pull apart, they’re practically panting, and Tyler has to admit his jeans are a little tighter than they should be for so public a venue. It’s worth it though when he looks over at the bar and spots Niall fuming.

Tyler shoots him a wink and pulls Jace in for another kiss.

The Learning Curve of the First Draft

Terry Pratchett always said “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story”.

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot recently, especially as I’ve just reached the end of my first draft, and I’ve been comparing how I thought it was going to be vs how it’s actually been.

I thought that writing this novel would be exactly the same as writing everything else. Boy was I mistaken!

Writing this novel has been so much more challenging and exciting than I could ever have imagined. I thought I had a rough idea of the story and the characters before I started, but now things have happened that I’d never considered and I’ve totally fallen in love with characters who randomly appeared. I’ve had at least two characters stroll into my head, unannounced, sit down and make themselves comfortable.

It’s made me realise just how much of this story I don’t know – which always seems to happen right as I get to an important part and I suddenly realise that I’m not sure what happens next.

I thought I’d just sit down with my very rough bullet point outline and my character notes and just get the whole thing down in about 3 months. Instead it’s been five-ish months, lots of pondering and questions and leaving chapters unfinished, because I can’t quite figure out the words, and going back to them later. It’s been a learning curve of what works for me and what doesn’t, and it’s definitely taught me some valuable lessons I can take with me into the future.

It has also made me realise that I could also do with a little more planning next time… although whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

First things first though, now I need to edit!

New Year, New Goals?

Happy New Year!

However you celebrated, I hope you had a good one. I spent it on the sofa, watching movies, eating food and then watching the London fireworks on TV – it was absolute bliss.

Today I’m not planning on doing much except enjoying my last day of holiday freedom… which means I really need to be doing some writing! I had planned on using my ten days off work to relax, recharge and get some much needed words in, but then I came down with a horrible bug on the 26th and spent three days in a haze of sleep. So no words for me.

As much as part of me wants to punish myself for not writing, I’ve realised that I really needed the break – especially because of how stressful the end of 2018 turned out to be, and now I feel a lot of more rested and ready to let the words flow.

So for January, and 2019 as a whole, I’ve reset my goals and adjusted them based on what I’ve learnt over the past few months. When I started on my current project, I was sure that 3 months would be plenty of time to turn out a 70-80K first draft. But I hadn’t counted on life stress, illness, fatigue and writer’s block. I’m still learning what works for me, and what doesn’t. So while 1,000 words a day is peanuts for some folk, for me it’s a realistic goal that some days will be easy and some days will be hard.

I’ve also learned to give myself days off – especially if I’m tired, because otherwise I stare at a flickering cursor for two hours and then wonder if throwing my laptop out the window will make me feel better.

It’s all about balance – like yesterday, when I wrote nearly 600 words and ate half a chocolate orange!

So, with all this in mind – I’m aiming for 15-20K this January. About 5,000 words a week. And I’ve written this goal in my new unicorn themed journal/planner/attempt-to-get-my-shit-together notebook so it’s official now.

As for other New Year Writing Goals?
Well I’m going to stick with a simple one: be kind to myself.
I’m terrible at comparing myself to other writers, or berating myself for not getting things done perfect first time, or writing fast enough. I need to remember to celebrate my achievements – like hitting the halfway point, or even starting at all, and take things in my stride.

Now, I just have to do it!

The First One

They always say beginnings are the hardest thing to write – and given that it’s taken me two days to write this, I’d say that it’s true.

So, without further ado…

Hi! I’m Charlie – I’m a romance author who writes gay erotic stories with a little angst, heaps of fluff, plenty of yummy sexy times and a happily ever after. So far, I’ve written mostly fanfiction (which is published on AO3) but I’m diving off the deep end and starting some original fiction of my own.

I’ll be trying to keep a blog about writing and my own exploits, plus bringing you news, updates and teasers from my upcoming work.

I’m so excited to get started! Now I’ve just got to finish the damn book…