Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Angler Fish, or, Sometimes Ladies are Larger

I watched the film John Carter recently, and was quite pleased with the female alien characters because they didn't have boobs. (Boobs are great, but bear with me...)

But, my mind was wandering and I was thinking about it and yeah, it did annoy me that these female aliens were still weaker than the males.

When I went to BristolCon last year, I attended a panel called Humans are Weird. The woman running the panel (a doctor) spoke about all the ways that humans are biologically different from animals and was discussing the ways we could apply this to fantasy races or sci-fi creatures, but said that often, we as writers, still base our non-human characters on humans. So the females will still have boobs, the males will still be bigger and stronger.

I wish more writers would stop thinking 'human'.

There are loads of animal species on Earth where the female is the big, strong one. So even all these 'but it's realistic for the women to be smaller and weaker!' arguments I hear are just lazy nonsense.

One of my favourite animals is the angler fish. You know the big deep-water fish with the scary teeth and the light dangling over the front of its face like bait? Yeah. That's the female. Male angler fish are teeny tiny. They're basically just a pair of testicles. A male angler fish will attach itself to a female and she'll basically absorb it and just use it to make babies.

Hyenas are interesting too, if we want a mammalian example. It's difficult to tell males and females apart because the females have psuedo-penises (which they give birth through, ouch!), and they're as aggressive and nasty as the males. Hyenas are matriarchal animals - like elephants and bonobos..

So, next time you write a non-human fantasy character, or an alien, please be aware that even on our planet, there are species where the female is the big scary one.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Blog Hop

These questions are hopping over to my blog from the gorgeous and sexy (she told me to say that) Jo Zebedee who answered them just last week on her blog. Jo's represented by Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency and her first novel is out in Autumn from Tickety Boo Press. Go check it out.

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on an urban fantasy which is possibly the most complex thing I've ever written. So it's slow going! Lots of angst and real-life problems mixed in with the supernatural.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, the MC is an immortal lesbian, for a start. It's like Hollyoaks meets Lost meets Buffy, I guess. My style of writing is easily read and I'm hoping to get some humour in there too, I don't want everything to be all dark and depressing.

Why do I write what I do?

I write lots of supernatural and paranormal stories because I love that sort of thing! As you can see from my blog, I go on ghost hunts quite a lot. I'm not necessarily a believer, but I'm open minded and would love to see something for myself. My cousin's a medium too, and a few years ago now I used to sit with a group and we'd all learn about tarot and crystal healing and various things that I wasn't very good at.

How does my writing process work?

I usually get a feel for a character come into my mind and then I just sit down and start writing. I don't plot. I might scribble down ideas for future scenes in my notebook though. I have to have silence when I'm writing - no music, and the dog has to be asleep!

Who's next on the blog hop?

Stephen Palmer is the author of eight novels: Memory Seed (Orbit 1996), Glass (Orbit 1997), Flowercrash (Wildside 2002), Muezzinland (Wildside 2003), Hallucinating (Wildside 2004) and The Rat And The Serpent (Prime Books 2005). In 2010 PS Publishing published Urbis Morpheos. In 2014 Infinity Plus Press published his surreal slipstream steampunk novel Hairy London. Ebooks of Muezzinland, Hallucinating and The Rat And The Serpent are available from Infinity Plus, who also recently acquired the ebooks of Memory Seed, Glass and Flowercrash. His short stories have been published by Wildside Press, Spectrum SF, NewCon Press, Mutation Press, Eibonvale Press, Solaris, TFQ and Unspoken Water. Further short stories will appear in 2014.

Thaddeus White is the author of fantasy novels Bane of Souls and Journey to Altmortis, as well the fantasy comedy Sir Edric's Temple.

Hunter Frost is the author of What Can Brown Do For You? which features in Torquere Press's Men in Uniform anthology. Visit her site to see what else she's up to.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Living Again by Brynn Stein

Today I'm joined on my blog by writer, Brynn Stein. She's busy doing a tour to promote her novel Living Again, and I'm lucky enough to play host today.

Blog Tour for Living Again

Hi all,
Thanks for visiting the next stop on my blog tour.
I wanted to talk about one of my lead characters, Jonah Thacker, from my newest book, Living Again. Jonah is a private nurse with a bit more medical training than most. He went through medical school to be a doctor, but before he could start his residency, his sister had a severely handicapped baby, and her husband left her to fend for herself. Jonah stepped up and tried to help raise the boy, only to have tragedy strike again when his sister died while the boy was still young. Now he’s raising Ethan by himself and needed a more flexible schedule than he could get as a resident.
His newest client is Daniel Larson, a single amputee who subsequently broke his one remaining leg. Since Daniel also has other injuries, he’s going to needed help getting around for a while.
The problem is, Daniel is gorgeous and Jonah is instantly attracted. He’s a professional, however, and he knows he cannot pursue a relationship with Daniel while he is his client.
Jonah is hired by Daniel’s Uncle Lawrence, with whom Jonah is originally impressed, until he actually met him.

Jonah was so glad Daniel had someone taking care of the financial and logistical side of things. When he had gotten the call from the agency and had gone to the hospital to meet his new client, he’d been shocked to find that Daniel had just been admitted about four hours before. Usually, clients or family called the agency closer to their exit from the hospital, not the entrance. As soon as Mr. Thompson had found out that his nephew had broken his one remaining leg, not to mention his arm and ribs, he had set right out to find help for him. He had told the agency that the provider should start right away and call him when Daniel woke up.
A couple of hours after Daniel had gotten the gauze removed from his eyes, his uncle showed up at the hospital, having been called by the nurses.
“Hello, Daniel,” the uncle had said.
“Uncle Lawrence,” Daniel had answered.
Jonah was shocked by the lack of affection in the men’s voices. From the way the uncle had taken charge of all the paperwork and hired private help, he would have guessed that the two men were close. But thinking back, it had been unusual for an uncle who was close to his nephew not to show up even once during the two days Daniel had been unconscious.
“Thanks for… all this.” Daniel gestured to include Jonah and the newly arrived power chair. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“We’re family, Daniel,” Lawrence answered. “I know we haven’t been close, but I couldn’t let you fend for yourself. The missing leg is bad enough—God alone knows how you take care of yourself each day—but now this?”
According to the look on Daniel’s face, this was probably more like Mr. Thompson’s usual attitude. The distance in their voices made a little more sense now.

I’m having fun with my blog tour so far, though I’m still kind of learning how to do all this.
I want to raffle off a signed paperback copy of the book, as well as an electronic copy to two different people. The way it will work is this: Comment below and follow the tour to the other stops. Comment there too. Your name will be entered one time for each different blog you comment on. At the end of August, I will announce the winners.
Blog Schedule:
Blog Stop
Date of blog
Name of Host (or Name of Blog)
Address of Blog
Jessica Davies
Grace Duncan
Emma Tett
Tara Lain
Charlie Cochet's Tea House
Lex Chase

Anne Barwell
JP Barnaby
Tempest O’Riley
Kit Moss
Michael Rupured
Shae Connor

Charley Descateaux
 Elizabeth Noble
Grace Duncan
Topic for blog tour stop 4: Spotlight on Ethan Thacker

Blurb of Living Again:
Daniel Larson has walled himself off from any possibility of romance since his lover died violently five years ago in Afghanistan. The same bomb that ended his partner’s life took the lower part of Daniel’s left leg. The only support Daniel has, his Uncle Lawrence, is dead-set against anything homosexual, including Daniel.

Now, a popular language teacher at the local university, Daniel's suffering from a car accident that broke his one good leg. His uncle, who is much better at throwing money at things than offering emotional support, provides a rented power chair and a private in-home nurse. Unbeknownst to his uncle, the nurse comes in the form of a man named Jonah Thacker.

Instantly attracted, Daniel and Jonah fight their mutual feelings in favor of professionalism. They become friends anyway, and Jonah shares his life with Daniel, including his handicapped son, Ethan. As Jonah and Daniel grow closer, Daniel becomes more involved in Jonah and his son’s lives, even being there for Ethan when his medical conditions worsen. But when Daniel’s uncle finds out the nurse he's hired is male, he uses all of his resources to keep Jonah and Daniel apart.

Buy Links:
(links to other sites from the Goodreads page are not yet active)

Brynn’s Bio:
Brynn Stein has always loved to write. Fan fiction, original fiction, whatever. While Brynn wrote in numerous genres—everything from mystery, to contemporary, to supernatural—she had always tended toward strong male characters. And then she discovered “slash,” male/male romance, and all those strong male characters were finally allowed to express their love for one another. It seems that there are always at least two characters clamoring to tell Brynn their story.

Brynn lives in Virginia with one of her two two-legged children, and two four-legged ones. Her supportive family encourages her writing and provides a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs. In free time, when such a thing exists, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.

Please feel free to contact Brynn at any of the following:

Monday, 7 July 2014

Shuttered Q&A

Ok, so I've been sent these questions by the lovely Jo Zebedee as part of a blog tour. It's my turn to answer them today and I'll be passing them over to Brynn Stein at Stein's Station and she'll be answering them on the 14th.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

The main character is a man called Daniel Hopson. He's a product of my imagination and not historic at all.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set in 2013/4 and the action takes place in the south west of England. Weybury is a fictional town, based on my own home town. Lyme Regis is a very real, and lovely, seaside town about twenty minutes from where I live. Bristol is a city about an hour away – my cousin lives there. And Bell Tor is based on Bellever  - a ridiculously beautiful part of Dartmoor.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Daniel can communicate telepathically with his dog, Sasha.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

A fake medium called Rowan shows up and Daniel falls for him. Rowan conned money out of some very shady characters and now they want him to pay them back - which he can't do, because he's spent it all.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Daniel's a good guy, he wants to help Rowan. I guess he wants to be a hero. He also wants to get laid.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is Shuttered.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

Shuttered will be published by Dreamspinner Press in December 2014.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Farscape is Better Than New Who by Thaddeus White

My guest blogger for today is writer, Thaddeus White. I absolutely adore Farscape, and Thad does too.


This blog contains minor spoilers about Farscape and major spoilers about past episodes of Doctor Who.

Pick's a freeview channel (11) in the UK which has shown quite a lot of good sci-fi, and I've been catching up with Farscape (7pm, weekdays).

I did watch it when it initially came out, but missed the start, so I saw that for the first time on Pick. Memories can easily be rose-tinted, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Farscape was even better than I remembered.

The tension between the disjointed crew works well, the monster of the week and longer plot arcs are very well-balanced, and the storylines are coherent and actually make sense.

I was watching one of the first few episodes, and was actually surprised when the plot was coherent. No inexplicable rescue from danger, no technobabble poorly trying to hide a plot hole, just good quality writing and a storyline that holds together.

But why the surprise? Partly because one of my overriding memories of Farscape was how crazy it could be, but also, I think, because much of the most recent sci-fi I'd seen had been new episodes of Doctor Who (New Who).

Doctor Who started in 1963, and had a prolonged interval between the end of the original run (with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor) and the start of New Who (with Christopher Eccleston). Resurrecting the series had certain challenges, but also lots of advantages (a ready made viewership ready to get drunk on nostalgia and a huge body of lore being the most obvious).

Certain episodes (Blink, the two-parter introducing the Silence) have been excellent, but some have been bloody awful (typically, season finales). On the whole, I think Farscape's the better. And not by a small margin.

Consider the best parts of New Who. The Weeping Angels and the Silence are new creatures, unburdened by past lore or what the writers (themselves fans of Old Who) feel could be an 'interesting' interpretation of something old.

But when the episodes do focus on old favourites (particularly the Master and Davros), the inexplicable lack of understanding from the writing team has led to characters that share a name and little else with their Old Who counterparts. The Master was a violent, brilliant, self-confident chap, the Doctor's equal in cunning. And how does he 'get revenge' on the Doctor after he thwarted the Master's plan in New Who? He refused to regenerate, thereby (apparently) killing himself and making the Doctor cry. Fearsome.

pic by Simon Howden
After Davros was introduced in Genesis of the Daleks (which remains the best Doctor Who story and which I highly recommend) he was the focus of just about every dalek-related story afterwards. The running theme was his effort to gain control over his creations, and their desire to either kill or capture him, to use for their own ends. This wasn't a one or two adventure thing, it lasted almost two decades. Yet when Davros was (for the only time so far) brought back in New Who he had 'reached an arrangement' with a Supreme Dalek, which left him stuck in a vault as a prisoner doing the daleks' bidding. As well as being rubbish in itself (why not just have Davros in charge?), it was also diametrically opposed to everything Davros had done before.

Another problem with New Who is the sonic screwdriver, (the handheld plot resolution device). It opens doors, it fixes machinery, it assembles cabinets (allegedly, we haven't actually seen it do that, I think). It was used now and then in Old Who, but has become really overused with the new series.

Farscape doesn't have 30 years of history to draw on: and that's a bloody good thing. Yes, there are no inside jokes about reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, but there's also no hero-worship of the protagonist. And because there are no 'old favourites' there's no danger of them being screwed up. Like the Weeping Angels and the Silence, the Peacekeepers, Scarrens and Nebari are all new, giving the writers no baggage to try and handle, and freedom to do whatever they like.

Then there are the plot arcs and monster of the week issues. A monster of the week approach means each episode is self-contained with a storyline that is entirely begun and resolved in that singular episode. Having that approach makes it easier for new viewers to get into a series, but longer plot arcs enable a deeper world, better characterisation and are more rewarding for longer term viewers.

Farscape handles this extremely well. The Look At The Princess three-parter was a great example. Scorpius, the main antagonist for much of the show, makes an appearance but it's very much as as a secondary character for those three episodes. Instead, the focus is on the political intrigue of an independent third party which is being courted by the rival Peacekeeper and Scarran empires, and is undergoing a tussle over the succession. Any newcomer to the series would entirely understand the three-parter, and a longer term viewer would appreciate the greater depth revealed about Scorpius and the Scarrans.

Contrast that to the plot arcs in New Who. The Bad Wolf was deus ex TARDIS (akin to finding a magic Reset button in the TARDIS), and the three-parter with the Master made no bloody sense (and the antagonist's character was completely contrary to what had gone before). I did enjoy the daleks versus cybermen, however.

I hope New Who can improve. A bit less ADHD and screwdriver-waving and a bit more coherence would go a long way. The best episodes show that it can be done, so perhaps a shift away from old favourites would help enhance their impact when they do appear, and avoid hero-worship and strangely detrimental nostalgia.

Incidentally, there is to be a new Farscape film. There are rumours, if it's well-received, a new series could kick off. Hopefully it won't fall into the nostalgia trap of New Who.