The Rise of New Adult – Sex, Soap & Sales

For those of you on twitter, or deeply invested in the booklr, booktube or bookstagram community, you may have recently come across the disaster that was #SoapGate. It was a hashtag which exploded recently after a book-box subscription included some pretty risky merchandise in their A Court of Thorns and Roses inspired haul. Namely two very highly detailed penis shaped soaps which definitely made this box NSFW. I’m not going to even talk about the completely illegal published fanfiction also included in the box, which breached copy-right on so many levels, because honestly…I don’t have the time or energy to deal with that intense level of nonsense.

 

Instead, I want to take a different approach to the discussions that surrounded the whole #SoapGate fiasco. It seemed to me that many people were deeply offended by the soap which, whilst hilariously inappropriate, was ultimately harmless and precisely the kind of merchandise you’d expect in an ‘Illyrian boy-friend’ box. Why not enjoy some penis-shaped soap? You stick it to the wall, lather it up and have a giggle…just as long as you don’t try anything else with it, what’s the harm? The box was rated 18+, so no one should have been surprised.

But people were. Why? Not because of the illegal publications, not because of the (some would argue) questionable quality of the writing, but because A Court of Thorns and Roses  is a Young Adult book, and including dicks just wasn’t on.

And this really bothered me, because A Court of Thorns and Roses isn’t a Young Adult book. It’s New Adult. So why is no one calling it that?

Unless you’re into a niche in the American market, or you’ve kept your finger on the pulse-line of the book word, the term ‘New Adult’ probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to you. And why should it, when the book world routinely ignores New Adult as an age-group and genre? You go into a book-shop, and you’ll see the Children’s section, the YA shelf, and then adult…and no in-between.

Unfortunately, a between does exist, both in the demographic of readers, and in the books which are being produced.

So what is New Adult? Well to answer that, we have to look at what Young Adult is. Young Adult is a category of children’s books aimed for 14-18 year olds. A good, and easy example of YA is probably Twilight. In YA the main characters are usually between 17 and 18, and there tends to be a romantic plot-line somewhere in the story. The books are more likely to dwell on feelings and thoughts than Middle Grade books, and there is usually a sexual/romantic awakening in some form or another.  YA books, especially YA fantasy, have a particular sort of feel to them—they will often be criticised by ‘critical’ readers because of their subject-matter, and are written off as shallow or dull, because anything that’s written for or enjoyed by teenage girls can never be considered valid.

YA also, however, has a knack of addressing subjects in new and innovative ways, through setting, character and story. We get LGBTQ+, Disabled, POC characters in YA books like Six of Crows or The Mortal Instruments. Other YA books comment on capitalism, racism and corruption, such as The Hunger Games and Noughts and Crosses.

These books tackle interesting topics, whilst being relatable to their readers by examining the difficult ins-and-outs of being an adolescent. It’s only natural their ‘film-franchise’ popular.

The problem, however, is the assumption that past 18, we all magically become adults, and 18 to 50 year olds are all the same…

Between the ages of 19 and 25, our personalities are still versatile and developing. From finishing school, most people this age are moving into University, which far from ‘adult life’ is just another phase of learning, adapting, and character building. The human brain is still developing during this time, and it’s only after the age of 25 that our identities and personalities really start to solidify—(and for some, it’s even later!).

So why is this generation of people, the last of the millennials and the eldest of the Gen Z, being completely ignored? We’re not Young Adults any more—that 17 year old girl who’s never kissed a boy isn’t relatable to us, on average. We are a generation who have possibly, if not probably, lost our virginity. We are a generation that has kissed, and flirted. We are a generation who can legally drink, and drive (not at the same time!), and don’t have a curfew. We are a generation who are panicking as we learn to manage our own finances, live alone, get into long-term, serious relationships…

And we are a generation that grew up with the first few cycles of YA books. There is a big, and marketable difference between Game of Thrones and Cinder, Saturday and The Fault in Our Stars. From my own experience, having dabbled in adult-fiction from a young age, even I still got whiplash when I tried to jump from one tier to the other all at once. To me, adult fiction felt too distant, too dense, too impersonal for me to fully enjoy, while with each passing year, YA became increasingly and frustratingly un-relatable. I felt like I was being tossed between two campsites, without ever being comfortable in either, and the Lord knows I wasn’t the only one.

And thus, like Excalibur rising from the lake, New Adult fiction rose from the murky depths of the publishing world. At first glance, it was essentially YA with sex—explicit and detailed, not the virginal, censored touches that made us blush and hide behind our books when we were teenagers. It existed almost primarily within the Romance genre, concerning itself with characters in their early twenties, getting up to some hot mischief—not yet mature, but not children either.

And then, slowly, those nineteen and twenty-year old characters began to leach into other genres as well. And suddenly, A Court of Thorns and Roses was on our shelf, staring a young sexually active woman, with a sexually-active mind, all packaged up in that glorious, readable way that made YA Fantasy so easy and enjoyable to read.

I should add, very quickly, that New Adult isn’t all about sex. Sure, portraying sexual relationships is a key part of it…But there are other avenues that are opened up by NA that YA can only brush on. Abuse, trauma, rape, abandonment, monetary issues—the list goes on, and while YA has been tackling this nest of nightmares for years, it could only ever be as mature as the youngest reader could cope with…And it was also governed by what was deemed appropriate for that age. I mean, when was the last time you read a gay sex scene in a YA book?

And yet, despite the fact that New Adult fiction is being produced, and it is being marketed to us, and it is being read, the prevailing belief that New Adult fiction doesn’t exist continues to burn a hole through my waning patience.

I walked into my local Waterstones recently and saw A Court of Frost and Starlight on the YA shelf. I crossed over, grabbed a copy, picked a sex scene and began to read it aloud. Within two lines, my friend nearby was squirming. Sure, Sarah J Maas doesn’t use the words cunt, fuck and cock, but, my god, all three are present in vivid enough detail that, had I been an old guy in a trench-coat, I’d have probably been arrested. If it’s not something you’d want read-aloud in the children’s section, you probably shouldn’t have it in the children’s section.

And so, back to the #SoapGate disaster then. Ignoring copyright scandals, you all need to stop worrying about phallic toiletries—they’re not the real problem here. The real problem is that a book written for 19+, is being shelved in the same place as books for 13+ because the industry is too afraid of dealing with a new market, when the YA one is already established. Why take risks, when you can make money?

But whether they’re ready to acknowledge it or not, New Adult is in demand, it’s being written, and with the success of each new book, it’s only going to grow. And with growth come cash.

So get used to the term, because New Adult is here to stay.

And so is the dick-soap. (Or not.)

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‘Flight’ – Book Launch for local children’s author, Vanessa Harbour

On the 20th of July, I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for Flight, a middle—grade children’s book written by Dr Vanessa Harbour. Vanessa is an academic and lecturer of creative writing at the University of Winchester, as well as a mentor at the highly prestigious Golden Egg Academy.

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The crowd overflows into the street

In one of the old, quiet streets of the picturesque city of Winchester, beyond the magnificent cathedral and through the old stone gates, the book launch was held at PG Wells, a charming independent book-store with buckets of character. There was no better setting for the evening, as people gathered together in an excitable crowd, surrounded by walls of books. Glasses of sparkling prosecco and elderflower press were on hand, and fellow bibliophiles could all gather together in small groups and catch up before the main event began.

The launch was thrown into motion by an opening speech from Crispin Drummond, who runs the Winchester branch of the bookstore. This was followed by a word from Penny Thomas of ‘Firefly’, the publisher responsible for bringing Flight to us. A hush fell over the crowd, which had grown so large it was spilling into the street, people gathered eagerly around the doorway to hear. Stuck on the very edge of the crowd, and unable to slip closer without getting dizzily claustrophobic, I was privy to only every other word, but applauded loudly as Vanessa was asked to address her adoring fans.

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Introduction from Penny Thomas

As Vanessa stepped up to speak, she may well have been nervous, faced with so many people. After years of commanding the attention of sleep-deprived, hyperactive and occasionally volatile students however, I doubt there’s any crowd that Vanessa can’t easily charm with her natural warmth and humour.

Disappointingly, I only caught snippets of her speech, as noise in the street combined with my bad positioning meant I wasn’t able to get the whole thing. What I can tell you is that the atmosphere in the room was electric. Peering in through the windows to try and get a better look, all attention was focused on Ness. The address was followed by a short reading from Flight, performed by Sally Ballet.

From the first sentence, my imagination was snatched. Flight feels like a book that was meant to be read aloud—the tension, the description, the strong character voice all mingle together to paint a vivid impression. I had the pleasure of hearing the beginning of the book read by Vanessa previously, but was gripped with the same intensity as before. Vanessa’s natural story-telling ability brings the book to life, whilst the narrative is both original and yet classic at the same time. It feels like a book of all ages—the kind of story that will never really grow old.

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A selection of beautiful cakes

The reading was met with rapturous applause, and then the second half of the launch began. Two large queues formed—toward the till, and toward the author herself. At the beginning of the evening a copy of Flight could be found propped up on every shelf, in every corner of the room, but these quickly began to disappear as copy after copy was snatched up. By the end of the evening, around 100 copies had been sold, with plenty of guests anticipating the arrival of pre-orders they had already put in.

As I queued to see Vanessa, slices of the fantastic cake, which was decorated for the front cover of Flight, were handed out. An amazing book under arm, a glass of bubbly in one hand, and a slice of chocolate cake in the other, my evening was topped off by Vanessa signing my copy of Flight.

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The beaming author herself, signing books

All together, the event was a huge success, and I feel very proud to have been in attendance. A colleague, a teacher and an inspiration, Vanessa has been a role-model to me for years. It was she who introduced me to the Golden Egg Academy—of which many ‘Eggs’ were in attendance to share in Vanessa’s celebration—and it was she who pushed me and supported me through some of the hardest times at University. How one woman can be so full of love, courage and talent I can’t tell, but I feel privileged to have been able to share this moment Vanessa, who deserves every success.

My copy of Flight now sits by my bed, waiting for me to delve back into the 1945’s Nazi-occupied Austria, where Jakob and Kizzy must face perilous odds to save the dancing horses.

Be sure to purchase your copy of Flight from your local bookstore today, or order it online and find out what all the fuss is about!

 

The Gentleman Bastard Sequence – Locke Lamora is a Trans Man.

I’ve just finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and thought I would share some of my thoughts on my reading of it. I have had a few things spoiled for me about the next couple of books, but for the most part everything I am about to say is based on my reading of book one of The Gentleman Bastard Sequence. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read the books.

I realise it isn’t canon, but I have been reading the first book through a ‘Queer’ lens (in the Literary Theory kind of way), and have been analysing the story and text with the idea that Locke Lamora is actually a trans man.

This is based on a number of things, and whilst it isn’t supported by anything which couldn’t otherwise be given an explanation, there are some interesting ideas that make the reading possible.

1) Locke’s size. He is decidedly and noticeably thinner and smaller than the others. This is put down to malnutrition when he was younger, but he was adopted into Chain’s care at around 6/7, and was well fed from there. Despite this, he remained small and thinner than the other characters.

2) Locke rejected and doesn’t go by his ‘birth name’, and chose a new name for himself. He only reveals his ‘birth name’ to his best-friend/brother Jean at the end of the book, and the readers don’t see it. Jean professes that he can understand why Locke decided to call himself Locke instead, by stating that he would have changed his name too (Lynch, p. 529). Once again, we find out this name in book 3,  but within the context of the first book alone it fits in with the reading that Locke rejected his birth-name because it was female.

3) Locke is a master of disguise and ‘mummery’ with access to a great number of resources. Considering the Gentleman Bastards have a million disguises, lotions and potions to change their appearance, and also had Sabetha in their ranks, it would be strange if they didn’t have a binder among all of those things. Locke would have had access to all of the materials he might want or need to battle any dysphoria.

4) So far as I remember Locke never refers to his own facial hair or a need to shave. In-fact, in chapter 12, part 1, Locke notes of Jean: ‘Normally fastidious, he was now several days unshaven’ (Lynch, p. 383). This suggests they do not have access to a razor during this period of the book. Despite this, Locke’s only complaint about himself is the fact his hair is greasy (Lynch, p. 397). Not once does he mention a stubble of his own. Seeing as Locke was unconscious for several days prior to this point, we know he didn’t shave himself, and it is unlikely Jean shaved Locke. We know Locke doesn’t have any facial hair during that time, however, because he later applies a false bread and a mustache.

The biggest oppositions to the reading are the following:

  1. Locke is kicked in the groin and is almost sick.
  2. Locke goes to a brothel but isn’t able to ‘perform’.
  3. Locke is topless in a scene.

All three of these can be fairly easily argued.

In Chapter 3, part 6, Locke breaks into Don Lorenzo’s house and ends up getting into a scuffle with Conte. In the ensuing struggle, Conte fells Locke by kicking him specifically in the ‘groin’ (Lynch, p. 129). At no point does the narration, or Locke himself refer to the injury as being to the balls, the testicles, or any other specific terminology. Indeed, when asked to describe the pain, Locke states it’s ‘As though I’m with child, and the little bastard is trying to cut his way out with an axe.’ (Lynch, p. 129). Locke’s need to vomit and unsteadiness, as well as the pain of being kicked in the groin, can be ascribed to the fact he was also punched three times in the stomach and solar plexus (Lynch, p. 129).

In Chapter 6, Part 5 Locke has gone to a brothel to ‘get [his] brains wenched out’ (Lynch, p. 251). Despite his intentions however, the next section has Locke lying naked in bed, stating that, ‘This isn’t working’ (Lynch, p. 252). His companion, Felice offers him an aphrodisiac, and we are given the impression that Locke just isn’t getting an erection.

Once again, however, nothing is explicitly named. There is no mention of a penis, or testicles. Felice is described as rubbing Locke’s inner thigh, and Locke refers to himself as ‘nothing resembling aroused’ (Lynch, p. 252), never once using language such as ‘hard’ or ‘stiff’ or other words often ascribed to an erection in fiction. The fact that Locke has a ‘slender line of hair’ (Lynch, p. 252) that runs down his stomach is also not direct evidence that he is cisgendered man.

Finally in Chapter 12, part 1, Locke is topless during a scene. The only two people present, however, are Jean, Locke’s closest friend, and Master Ibelius, a physiker (Doctor). Locke is topless because he had been heavily beaten, and Ibelius applied a poultice to his chest to help heal him. This all occurred while Locke was unconscious. Whilst this does play into the rather uncomfortable trend of trans characters being outed through un-consensual nudity, it never-the-less does not rule out the reading, especially if Jean was already aware of Locke being a trans-man, which would be very likely. This would explain why there were no questions asked when Locke woke up, and Locke did not feel overly uncomfortable. Given that the world contains alchemy which is used to recreate a number of technologies, such as lights, heating and other modern day conveniences, it also isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Locke – given his substantial wealth – was able to purchase a testosterone or hormone equivalent, or even have surgery.

Once again, I am aware this idea was not Scott Lynch’s intention, and that Locke was almost certainly written and conceived as a cisgendered man. However, the book lends itself to the reading, and it is definitely worth considering the text with that literary lens in mind. So far as I currently see it, Locke Lamora is a trans man, and I have yet to find any sufficient evidence that really jars my interpretation.

 

Bibliography:

Lynch, Scott, The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gollancz, London, 2017)

 

To Bigger, Brighter Things! The CW Class of 2017

On Tuesday the 4th of April, the third year class of the University of Winchester’s Creative Writing programme all gathered together for an evening of celebration, smiles and prizes!

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend part of the evening and hear some of the performances given by the students. Short stories, poetry and non-fiction – the variety and quality blew me away and exhibited, once again, the diversity and range of the students at the University. I was able to also see the first batch of prizes that were given out for excellence in different areas of the course, including script writing for mainstream television, and fiction.

During a brief break, where were given the chance to refill our drinks, there was also a little quiz given out – with us (the lecturers!) as the subject. Students were asked to identify, from a list, which book we wished we’d written, which book we’d read forever, and what the title of our own books would be! Needless to say, as I meandered about about under the guise of photographer, I was able to take a peek at some of their answers, curious to see who they really think we are.

Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the duration of the evening, however I am confident when I say it was a roaring success. The Creative Writing class of 2017 should be proud of themselves and everything they’ve achieved. I wish them all the best as they venture out into the world to bigger, brighter things…

Or just stick around at the University, like I did.

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Mag Mell Publishing is currently looking for authors to contribute to our Diverse Fairy Tale Project!

What is the Diverse Fairy Tale Project?

From 2017, Mag Mell Publishing will be putting together our own anthology of our favourite Fairy Tales. The twist—the project is all about diversity. We’re looking for new, fresh versions of these popular stories that will represent minorities – including having POC and/or LGBTQA+ main characters.

We are particularly interested in hearing from minority authors who would be interested in contributing a short story between 3,000-8,000 words. Authors will be paid between £10-£20 ($12-$24) per story.

This would be a Kickstarter funded project. Authors would not be expected to undertake any work until funding and payment was guaranteed for them.

To get involved, or find out more about the project,visit our webpage here!

COLOURING COMPETITION

YES! THAT’S RIGHT – YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY

To celebrate the re-release of The Sons of Thestian, I will be holding a colouring competition between October and November 20th.

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A small series of Harmatia Cycle art (Including above designs by Amelia Mackenzie) will be released, and you will have the opportunity to colour the images. Entries can be done digitally, or printed out and coloured traditionally! What’s more, there are no limit to the number of entries permitted, meaning you can colour all the images if you want, or even do the same one twice!

There will be a number of prizes available, and top entries will be featured on my website and on my tumblr.

For more details about the prizes, and how to enter, please check back to my website in October, or subscribe to my newsletter and have all the details and download links sent straight to your inbox at the beginning of the month!

THE HARMATIA CYCLE – PUBLISHING NEWS

Hello my wonderful readers!

I have some very important news for you all. Last night, my Publisher The Zharmae Publishing Press announced that they would be closing down. As of the 31st of August, The Sons of Thestian will no longer be available for purchase.

The news came suddenly, but fortunately I have a back-up plan, which I will now be implementing.

For those of you waiting for Blood of the Delphi, it is still going to be released! I have decided to self-publish my work, and though I may have to push the publishing date (possibly to December), I am going to be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the book is released this year!

What’s more, I will be publishing the 2nd Edition of The Sons of Thestian hopefully at the same time, for any who want a new, matching set.
I will be working on making sure the prices for the books are lower, that the quality is higher, and that they are more easily available for anyone who wants to read them.

As I try to sort through this process and get everything together, I
cannot guarantee that there won’t be further delays. These delays are as frustrating for me, as they are for you, and I hope you will all be patient with me. Your readership, your support, is incredibly important to me, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate it and your loyalty.

I hope you will continue to support me, and my work. I will post updates as regularly as I can, and the moment I have more information, I will make it available.

In the meantime, you can expect the following from me:
1) I will be publishing a short-story with the Random Writers this September. This is a short based on my next project The Kestrel Saga, and I am incredibly excited to share it. More details to follow.
2) I will be releasing images for the Cover-art for Blood of the Delphi, and will be commissioning new matching cover-art for The Sons of Thestian, which will also be released soon.
3) I will be working on designs for merchandise, and other nick-knacks for any fans who may be interested (Message me, and tell me what you’d like! – Notebooks? Stickers? Badges? Posters?)

I am, as always, open to any questions or queries, and will remain highly active in the coming months. I will be seeking the advice of other writers who have gone down this path, and will be doing my upmost to get it all right and perfect for you guys.

Again, I ask your patience during this time, your continued support and thank you for everything you’ve done so far. I have some exciting plans for the future, and I hope you’ll all be there to see me realise them!

In the meantime, if you would like to keep track of what’s happening, please show your support by subscribing to my monthly newsletter here!

Many thanks everyone!

Creating Loki – Writing for Video Games

I wrote the following article as part of a series for Enigmatic Studios to promote our upcoming game A Tale of Three – Loki. The original posting can be found here.

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Loki began, as so many characters and stories do, with a question. It was a question about the qualities I felt most represented me as an individual, and about which of those, if I found myself bound into a fictional universe and dosed in magical juju, would define me.

The answer of course, was story-telling. It’s just what I do. And that’s where Loki began.

I feel it worth stressing here that Loki is not, and has never been, just another version of me. She was merely born of a part of me that allowed me and my associates to fill her out and create the world around her. Before we knew anything else about Loki, even before we knew her name, and the world she came from, we understood a fundamental aspect of her: she was a story-teller like all of us. And from there, the rest of it all grew.

The decision to name our bard Loki was based on two elements. The first was the Nordic setting we decided to focus on, feeling that this was the best place to put our bard, and let her flourish. The second was the fact that Loki was a bard, and there is no greater weaver of lies and stories in Norse Mythology, than the mischievous Loki, of whom I have studied for years. Now Loki (the god), has always been of interest to me, not least because of his interpretations in modern fiction – I’m looking at you Marvel – and because of the general understanding of him as a villain. I, personally, have always understood Loki (the god) differently. He – or she, as Loki lived several lives and was want to switch genders and, occasionally, species – was someone who had a greater understanding of humanity than the rest of the Asgardians put together. He lived several lives as a human, going through cycles, living amongst them, weaving tales and spreading mythology, being child, mother and then grandmother. Loki’s purpose, as I saw it, was to be a bridge between the worlds, and to bring the lofty Asgardians down from their high-horses and remind them always of their own mortality and infallibility. He insulted them, he tricked them, he mocked them, and ultimately he destroyed them.

Our Loki, thus, came from a similar mold. Whilst not a god, we chose to make her a Mage, able to use her voice to hypnotise and control, as any good story-teller strives to do in captivating their audience. And just like the god she was named after, Loki too once stood among the powerful and great, and left their lofty halls to live a simple life among humanity, weaving tales. We also gave Loki the same flaws as the god, which is that whilst she is capable, and almost designed to topple the tyrants, she stands the risk of forgetting, or disregarding her own mortality in the process.

And thus, we had Loki’s background, her personality and a basis for the world she lived in. We knew who she was. And that led us to our next question:

If Loki was now living a life of peace, pursuing her passion of storytelling, then what could bring her back into the fray of danger?

The answer to that, well…We got the plot to our game.


 

To find out more about Loki, and the game, why not follow us on facebook, or find more articles from our coders, writers and artists on blogspot!