Let Them Eat Cake.

Food.

Glorious food.

My stories always seem to feature a lot of tasty treats.

(Or, in the case of The Caretaker and the upcoming Haka Ever After, ALL THE CHEESE.)

I’ll be perfectly honest, half the time, I wind up making myself hungry and get annoyed because I don’t always have access to some of the foods my characters enjoy. One Last Heist was a prime example. Toshiro and Mack indulge quite a bit in the story. I have to live vicariously through them.

Tragic.

Food adds a layer to stories. And I’ve discovered one person’s weird is another’s delicacy.

As an autistic, the smell, texture, spice levels, and even colour of food can affect whether I’ll be able to eat it. I also tend to have weeks and even months where I’ll eat the same meal over and over and over again, much to my hubby’s dismay. =) It’s something I try to stay cognizant of with my autistic characters.

Toshiro’s sister Charlie enjoys having her eggs in a particular way, especially when made by her brother.

The other side of the food coin is weird–odd–gross foods. And I’ll admit that one person’s weird is another’s delicacy.

Here are some of the foods (I find weird) that I’ve tried over the years:

– Blood Sausage.

Ew. Gross. Don’t.

– Jackfruit

Weird texture. Weird on the outside. Tastes amazing.

– BBQ Stingray

Tried this in Singapore. So good. Silky texture and no odd fishy aftertaste.

– Turtle Soup

This one traumatised me for years. My dad made me try his soup. I was horrified. Also, it was rubbery. But, I had pet turtles, and I had nightmares about eating them. lol

What are the weirdest or most unusual foods/dishes you’ve ever tried?

Do you enjoy learning about foods/dishes in the novels you read?

Once Upon an Indie.

Indie, Hybrid, Traditional.

Sounds more like different types of cars, not authors.

After I finished writing my first full novel, Ivy (a paranormal romance) in 2013, I had no idea what to do next. Submit it to agents? Try to publish it myself? Look for one of the many small publishing companies out there? It was overwhelming.

REALLY overwhelming.

I’d heard a lot of nightmare stories from indie authors about how they’d been royally screwed over by editors, cover artists, publishers, agents.  On the flipside, I’d also heard amazing stories about brilliant companies to work with.

It was hard to know what the right route for me was.

Traditional publishing ended up not being for me. It didn’t feel right. I was already so far outside of my comfort zone with trying to get publishing, I decided not to make it harder on myself.

And to me, that’s the most important part of the journey.

Find what works for you.

It’s your writing path–no one else’s.

As a general rule, I don’t believe in giving author advice. Advice on writing is always best taking with a grain of salt because everyone has their opinions.

And those opinions will quite frequently conflict with another author’s advice.

There are two things I think every indie/hybrid author should know: 1. professional covers are essential. 2. research your editor before hiring them.

I’ve heard so many nightmare stories about authors getting taken by disreputable editors when a little bit of research could’ve saved them a lot of hassle and money. Ask around. Talk to other authors whose work is well edited.

When I started looking around for an editor, I looked at a couple different companies before discovering someone I already knew had started an editing company–Hot Tree Editing. They were brilliant. Worked with me…and were understanding when I didn’t always get things and had questions. (Fun #actuallyautistic fact: I struggle with instructions A LOT.)

It was a no-brainer for me to submit After the Scrum when Becky decided to start Hot Tree Publishing to them. I trusted Hot Tree. And…dealing with everything as an indie was so stressful. Traditional publishing didn’t feel like my path, but the more hybrid route fit me perfectly, mostly because of the incredible women who support me and my writing.

I suppose this long rambling post is mostly to say–write your own way and publish in a way that works for you.

And avoid comparing your path to others.

What about you?

Are you an indie, hybrid, or traditionally published author?

 

Deja Who?

There’s no reason for the subject to be spelt wrong. It just made me laugh. I am a nerd.

I think most writers probably have certain themes that follow them through their stories. Character traits, or backstories, or tropes we can’ t help using. Often times, we might not even realise we do it.

It’s a question I’ve had on my mind for a while now.

What are the ones to follow me through my writing?

Here are the ones I thought about (and maybe why):

  • Banter

  • Adoption – I’ve had a few characters who were adopted, or orphans, or foster kids. It’s probably because I’m adopted, so there’s a wealth of emotional stuff there I can explore.

 

  • Autistic Characters – I’m autistic. That one is:

  • Pets. All the pets. So many pets. From Taine’s hamster to Sherlock in After the Scrum. I’m a fan of memorable animals.
  • Absurd moments. I find absurdity humourous. (Like giving a large rugby player a hamster for a pet.)
  • Rough childhoods. A theme running through many of my stories are characters who have survived abusive or neglectful childhoods. Again, as something I had personal experience with, I think it’s important that not ALL of your characters have blissful, amazing parents. I’ve found as a reader that I cherish the books that I can relate to. When I find a character who has pulled through terrible times as a kid, I see a bit of myself.
  • Nerds. I’m quite a bit geeky, so admit to giving some of those quirks to my characters.

How about you? If you’re a writer, do you notice certain themes consistent throughout your different novels?

As a reader? Do you pick up on these sorts of things?

How to write autistics and not rely on tired stereotypes.

Despite mainstream media and their mostly dismal attempts at creating autistics. It’s rare to see examples of autistic characters who feel ‘real.’ We’re not all rain man or white, young, male savants.

We’re real people who are just as diverse as every other subset of humanity.

Many autistics like myself will tell you if you’ve met one autistic–you’ve met one autistic.

When creating neuroAtypical characters, I try to be cognizant of creating individuals, and not carbon copies of either myself or some stereotype I think non-autistics will easily recognise. I will admit many of my own experiences find their way into my stories. How could they not?

In fact, one of my favourite parts of writing my most recent release, The Lion Tamer, was including Alex and Alice. Autistic twins. They’re on different parts of the autism spectrum with their own special interests and struggles.

Neither of them is some off the charts genius.

They’re just autistic.

No massively high IQ required to be legitimate human beings who deserve to be celebrated.

So, here are a few tips on creating autistic characters, or what are some of the pieces/parts to doing so. (And please keep in mind, this is from my personal perspective.)

  1. Talk to #actuallyautistic people, not just autism parents before you start.
  2. Avoid AutismSpeaks.
  3. Stimming. Your autistic character should have a stim. We stim.
  4. Special Interests. I could write an entire post about this.  We have them. Obsess over them. Use them to calm ourselves from super stressful moments.
  5. Emotions are something many autistics struggle with. We can feel quite intensely, but we don’t often understand what we’re feeling. I’ve spent days trying to decipher an emotion before.
  6. Sensation. Many autistics suffer from hypersensitivity. I, for example, struggle with touching certain fabrics. Light affects me. Certain sounds can trigger me into a meltdown.

Just a few thoughts.

Not sure if any of it is helpful.

I might turn this into a series of posts about being autistic/writing autistic characters.

Do you include neuroAtpyical characters in your stories? Do you have characters who have anxiety, or PTSD, or are autistic? Or some other mental disability or illness?

 

 

Lessons from the Olympics.

This is a conversation I’ve had with my hubby three times in the last seven days.

Hubby: What are we watching tonight?

Me: The Olympics.

Hubby: Again? Seriously? Isn’t anything else on?

Me:

It’s fair to say I’ve watched the Olympics all day, every day since the opening ceremony. I’ve seen everything from curling (which I swear was invented by drunken, bored Scotsmen) to snowboarding to figure skating.  The Winter Olympics are always my favourite.

I’m taking a few lessons away from the athletes as well. I thought I’d share them.

  1. Never give up. Even if you fall on your face, you might still win in the end if you keep going.
  2. Tune out the critics (even if it’s your own self-doubt.)
  3. Sometimes winning comes without a medal. Set your own definitions for success.
  4. No matter how inspired. I’ll never be a figure skater. I’d probably maim myself in the attempt. lol
  5. Find joy in what you’re doing.

How about you? Are you enjoying the Olympics? What’s your favourite event so far?

Friends.

Friendship is really one of the themes that connect the Sin Bin series.

Strong friendships run through each novel in the series. Relationships that are strong enough for friends to become family. The Lion Tamer is no different. In fact, it might be the story where those connections are even more important.

Scottie & Gray both suffered through terrible childhoods. In their experiences, blood family have hurt them more than anyone else. It’s their friends who gather around them to support them.

One of my favourite friendships in the entire series is actually the one that has developed between Gray and Alice & Alex, the autistic twins who first appear in The Royal Marine.

Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Is there anything better than watching as hard-as-nails marine become gentle and kind?
  2. Alice and Alex have gained an immense amount of confidence from it.
  3. Origami parties. The visual. The visual is priceless.
  4. Patience.
  5. Snow angels. (You’ll have to read The Unexpected Santa to see why.)

Do you enjoy platonic relationships in romance novels?

What’s your favourite non-romantic relationship in The Sin Bin?

 

Saint Jane.

Or, How Jane Austen Inspired My Gay Romance

One thing Saint Jane did brilliantly in all her novels was absurd humour and painfully human characters. She exposed the frailty of human ego. She made you cringe at painfully awkward proposals while you rooted for her heroines to find their true love.

When I wrote After the Scrum, my first Gay Romance, I used her approach to characters and humour. The story is filled with irreverent humour. I used my observations of human nature as an autistic to form many of the slightly zany villagers of Looe. It certainly made for lively characters.

I hope my beloved Saint Jane would approve.

The other way Austen’s novels have shaped my writing is in showing the path of love is rarely smooth sailing. You only have to look at the tribulations of Anne Elliot in Persuasion (my favourite of her novels). The Wanderer and The Caretaker, in particular, show how matters of the heart can be equal parts pleasure and pain.

When I first considered this post, I’d wanted to write about why readers should dip their toes in the Gay Romance genre—and my novels of said genre.  As you can see, I got a bit distracted. A lot distracted.

The thing is if you love absurd humour, witty banter, and love stories, you’ll enjoy my novels.

If you love great romances, you’ll enjoy the Gay Romance genre.

The love is the same—it’s just two men snogging.

And it’s good snogging as well.