Creating LGBT Characters Without Writing Erotica

(I originally posted this article on Medium.)

lgbt article pic

When I set out to write my YA novel (First Charge) I had two reasons for wanting to create my fifteen-year-old main character as a lesbian. I wanted to make it clear there was no chance of her becoming romantically involved with the secondary character, Theo. Their relationship resembles that of a brother and sister.

The other reason was, I haven’t come across many positive LGBT role models in books. The books I’ve seen — or in some cases subjected myself to read — all insist on having explicit sex scenes in them. Yet books about straight characters aren’t always like this. So why do authors seem to do this? I’m sure some books are out there to prove me wrong, but I’ve struggled to find them. I’m happy for people to tell me about them in the comments section.

People’s eyes light up when I say I’ve written a book about a lesbian mermaid and they seem disappointed when they find out it’s not what they think. I’ve been asked how Meredith knows she’s a lesbian if she doesn’t hook up with girls — that’s the polite version of the question. The simple answer is, because she’s attracted to girls.

Anyway, my character is fifteen in the first book, so this was never going to be erotica. She’s unsure about her destiny to save the world. Part of her enjoys being different (and her mermaid ancestry) but another part of her wishes she could live a normal life. The thing I wanted to do when writing Meredith was for her to feel confident about her sexuality; although relationships aren’t a priority for her and she’s conflicted in other parts of her life instead.

Without giving too much away, she does meet someone, but I didn’t write any explicit scenes. Even with the character of Theo, who sleeps around with a lot of women, I hinted rather than showing this. The reason for even including that was to demonstrate how he separates himself from people and doesn’t show his true self. He’s a shapeshifter descendant with the ability to change appearance.

I may have overdone it on the violence instead, but when you’re fighting people from an evil organisation who want to let half the population die, there will be some bloodshed. It’s essential to the story. The plot can cope without unnecessary X-rated scenes though.


 

Amanda Steel is the author of First Charge.

A list of links to buy the book can be found HERE

I’ve got Projects Coming out of my Ears

Printed Words cover

It’s been a while since I put a writing update on here, but I’ve been busy. As the title of this blog post suggests, I’m working on a lot of projects.

In January this year, I started Printed Words; originally intending it to be an e-zime, but it seemed to force its way into print and became a magazine too. It’s been an experience; reading submissions, replying with acceptances or rejections and feedback whenever possible. I was worried that people might not react well to some constructive criticism, choosing to take it personally or become defensive. Instead, I’ve received a positive response. Most of the writers whose work I haven’t accepted have appreciated the feedback at least. As many seasoned writers will know, rejections often contain nothing to tell the writer why their work wasn’t accepted.

For anyone wanting to find out more about the e-zine/magazine here are the links to the guidelines and the Facebook page.

Printed Words Facebook Page

GUIDELINES

Submissions will re-open in mid-June.


 

I’ve also re-edited and re-released After the Zombies, which was originally written as a present for my sister. If you’re reading this before 24th May you can enter to win a paperback copy HERE

Otherwise, you can buy a copy HERE or from your local Amazon website if not in the UK.

If you’d like to read the book for free, you can. It’s available as an e-book on several platforms.

Click here to find your preferred choice (not Amazon, unfortunately).

The full-length sequel “Not Human” and the novella “Life After Zombies” which followed on the story will be re-edited and combined into one book, for release later this year. I’ll be sticking with the title “Not Human” and the amazing cover which was turned down from Amazon ads because the zombie was covered in blood.


 

I’m also working on numerous poetry projects. One I can’t talk about here, another is a collection of the poems I’ve written over the last three years. I’ve narrowed it down to 51 so far, but might cut a few more before it goes to print.

I’ve designed the cover already.

poetry book cover

Another collection I’m putting together will involve Father Christmas dying repeatedly in a series of unfortunate incidents. It’s funnier than it sounds (I hope.)

Here a teaser image from an of the image which will accompany one of the poems.

white llama

I’m also working a series of seven-word poems with my partner. This is in addition to a collection about an imaginary couple inspired by his collection. There will be a crossover poem where the two couples meet.


Before I forget to mention it, my long-awaited YA novel “First Charge” has been given a June release date. This was previously self-published briefly, before I un-published it and was given a contract by Gnome on Pig Productions. They also want to publish the other two books in the series. I’ve written book two and am halfway through the first draft of book three.

If that’s not enough, I’ve just started writing a sci-fi novel which I’m really excited about, but can’t discuss yet. The ideas are flying around and I’m in the process of world-building, which is something I’ve never done to this extent before.


I joined Medium this month and have written some articles on there too.

I believe you have to be a paid member to read them all in full, but it allowed you to read a few articles before asking you to pay.

So, check out some of my articles HERE

Finally, the monthly book review podcast I co-host with Andy N is still ongoing too. I find having to come up with two or three books a month encourages me read some of my books, even if I do keep buying them faster than I’m reading them. As Stephen King says, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time or the tool to write. Hopefully, the books I’m reading are providing me with the right tools.

Listen to the latest episode here

 

Q&A with Andy N (co-host of SpeakEasy)

speakeasypic.jpg

 

How did you first hear about SpeakEasy and when did you get involved in co-hosting the event?

It came about by chance actually I think from my Father who heard about at Stretford Library somewhere around June or July of 2015 and I ended up going down to the 1st

Although I was / am an experienced writer / reader, I was out of practice at that stage (long story which I won’t go into great detail) and I can remember feeling a little bit nervous by the excitement. The welcoming, low key nature of it (advertised as living room literature — the room where it is hosted reminded me of a living room) won me around and I became a regular for the next two years or so.

At the end of summer 2017, Dave who had been running Speakeasy had to step aside and Steve agreed to take over at the end of that year. Steve couldn’t host one of these events at the start of 2018. I came on board to do guest MCing (or hosting) and since then I’ve kind of just stayed on-board assisting Steve to run it ever since.

Manchester has a lot of spoken word nights. How is SpeakEasy different from those?

 One thing Dave started off when he created the night — which me and Steve carried on — is that all of the readers are the headline acts. Everybody who reads is treated the same and given the chance to read out their poetry across two halves, a total of six minutes’ worth of poetry, short stories, flash fiction or creative non-fiction. I am also proud of the supportive atmosphere, whether experienced or brand new to reading out work. SpeakEasy is a place free from Ego’s, filled with nothing but encouragement. It has a vibe I haven’t experienced in any other venue, which feels like you are reading out in the company of friends. That’s probably the reason why I agreed to help Steve out with the night originally. I’m a regular at quite a few other nights, but Speakeasy is something special. I read it described elsewhere as “The venue itself is quirky and uncanny, with an array of lampshades that remind me of a David Lynch film.”

Indeed, the atmosphere and low-key theatrical vibe of the space, helps to give Speakeasy its own distinctive identity. With a warm and convivial bar area and a quiet back room devoted to the performances, the overall feel is welcoming, informal and encouraging.

What would you say to anyone who wants to read their work out, but feels nervous?

Just do it. Personally, I think the main battle is to get up and just do it. I found when I first read, I was shaking beforehand, but was buzzing afterwards. Over ten years later, I haven’t stopped since in one form or the other. I took it slowly and found the nights that suited me as a person and a writer. I’ve have carried on since, writing a few books, performing in a lot of places, I’ve fronted a few bands and now run a few Podcast series — building myself up slowly.

Can you describe the first time you performed your work in public?

 The first official time (although there was a few minor times before that) was at Manchester Central Library at the start of 2008. I joined a poetry discussion group the year before called Poetica. The guy who ran it announced at the end of 2007, he wanted to do a low-key reading showcasing the group. He told us all not to worry to as it would be a quiet little reading and just a bit of fun. It wasn’t as there were over 50 people there. I was shaking like a leaf right up until I got on stage. What perhaps helped me out with this was asking a friend of mine Tony to come onto stage and read out the third piece with me called Airport which was a spoof about Airport Security. That piece went down really well, but I always remember it more than anything for the way I delivered the punchline four lines early. It was pointless carrying on owing to the laughter I got off the audience there. It was great fun, but I was shattered afterwards.

What is your favourite thing about performing your work at SpeakEasy?

Seeing people’s faces who are new to reading or listening, when they realise what can be said with the spoken word.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell people about the night?

SpeakEasy is on the first Wednesday of each month’s at Stretford’s Sip Club 7.30pm doors open for a 7.45pm start. Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/speakeasymanchester/ or bookings can be taken by Steve on stevesmythe50@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter from my Bathroom Scales

Dear Amanda, this is Wayne from Bathroom Scales

I am writing to inform you that you may have being misinformed. All calories consumed in December do in fact count and will be added to your BMI

According to your statement, you owe your body two miles of running for every two sausages consumed at breakfast, two miles for the bacon and one for the scrambled eggs. The various biscuits, cakes and chocolates can be paid off in a series of walks. As for the Baileys consumption and the numerous takeaways, these will remain on your hips and buttocks forever. It doesn’t matter if you swim the channel, run 100 marathons in 100 days, or walk the world. These are now a part of you and will remain so until the day you die.

You can and should at least try to get rid of some of the weight caused by the excessive intake of food though. However, it is unlikely that you see a significant loss in time for next Christmas when it starts all over again, and don’t even get me started on all the ice cream you’re going to eat this summer.

Signed

Wayne Scales

Salford Punk Poetry Sadness Death New Life (Guest post by Dominic Carlton Jones)

SalfordPunkPoetry

Salford Punk Poetry Sadness Death New Life is the title of my debut album released By German Shepherd Records on 05/10/18. It’s a nine-track album of 36 minutes in length, bringing together a vast and eclectic style of musical form and spoken word. Ballads mixed with the experimental. Electro pop mixed with poetry. Its Diversity is an ethic I’ve always held to and striven towards and serves as a great medium for the emotional content of the album.

The album centres around my Dads death from Bowel cancer in January of this year, and goes on to explore themes like Geographical place, connection with your community, death, the afterlife and self-harm. There are references to actual places around Greater Manchester/Salford, people I’ve met and bands such as The Chameleons and The Fall. The Fall reference is in the song “Mark” which is a tribute To Mark E.Smith, who also battled the disease. The Chameleons reference is in the First track “The Lines That are Drawn”. Both of those bands have had a significant influence on me over the years and considering the theme of the album, I wanted to make reference to them.

The album starts with the Spoken word. A track called “The Lines that are Drawn” which depicts connection with local people. These things came more into focus after my dad’s death, so I wanted to highlight that feeling. The track really sets the tone for what is to come.

At a gig I played, I noticed a spoken word crowd was drawn to my songs, so felt that this genre incorporated with my music would be a good addition, added to the fact I value words and think words in themselves delivered in the right way can be very powerful. A video promo is currently underway for this particular track.

Next up is “Set Aside”. This is a throwback to post-punk, dealing with violence in the streets Of Oldham and violence in the streets of the mind. Its existence is quite widespread in these northern streets.

“The Spring within” deals with spiritual connection whilst “Forward Momentum” feels like a blinding burst of energy amongst the everyday. Three songs then follow about my Dads death with “Fall over into something new” being the standout track of the album and in contention for song of the year 2018 by Twitter group FIND A SONG.

“Mark” is a tribute to ex leader of The Fall, Mark E Smith, who also battled Bowel cancer. The album ends with a 10-minute synth composition called “My right eye is bleeding”, A Great contrast to the wordiness of the album. The title came about through words of my father in a dream to my girlfriend in which he asked her to look after me through mistakes I was making, resulting in my right eye bleeding. A fitting end…

Since the album’s release I have been offered a gig at The Kings Arms on the 25 January 2019 under The EL-Manisero banner, which is in effect a monthly showcase event for Manchester artists This was reviewed by Ian Leslie of The Salford Star as being synonymous with Salford’s Changing landscape and poetry for the people, and cited in Louder then War Magazine as an album that’s making Waves Locally.. It already feels a success but would be even more so if people reading this either listened, shared, sent me feedback or bought a copy. £2 on every sale through the link below goes back to German Shepherd Records, which helps us to continue putting out local cutting-edge music.

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/salford-punk-poetry-sadness-death-new-life

Poem about pain – votes needed

neck pain

Some of you may know that I suffer from pain which started in my neck about 5 or 6 years now. It then spread to my back and shoulders (and sometimes my hands). I recently changed doctors’ because mine said it was unnecessary to send me for a scan.

Because I reached the point where I crave a full night’s sleep without constantly waking in up pain and having to swirl my head around to unlock my neck, I registered with a new doctor. Also, I worried that continuing the exercises prescribed by the physio could be making it worse, without a scan to tell me what the problem was. I’m now waiting for the appointment to come through. Hopefully, they’ll be able to help when they know what the cause is.

As a writer, I decided to write about my pain after seeing a submission request from Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (who were looking for entries worldwide). My poem “The Pain you don’t See” made it to the final 38.

This is where you can help. I’m lagging behind those with the most votes and would appreciate if you could have a read and throw a vote my way, and maybe share the link if you can.

If I won, this would be my first poetry prize, and it would mean a lot for something good to have come out of the whole experience.

Thank you in advance.

Please vote here

Stabbed in the Back (poem)

The Death of Man

This poem was inspired by the (above) picture from Mark Sheeky, which is called “The Death of Man”.

You can find out more about the artist and his work here:

https://www.facebook.com/msheeky/

http://www.marksheeky.com

***

 

Friend’s don’t stab each other in the back

But lovers do, it seems

He thought, as he knelt dying

The weapon still embedded there

And she was nowhere to be seen

He grasped that one rose wasn’t enough

To make up for his indiscretions

His head went down, praying

To whatever God there might be

Pleading for forgiveness

For taking her heart and soul

And twisting it

Until only bitterness remained

But it was too late

His hands sunk into the ground

As he became a ghost