UK Election 2017 – The Story So Far…

We have been steering clear of the news of late, because it is just too depressing, but we know that for some of you, Newsnibbles is the only thing you read, so we thought we’d give you the basics.

So, after saying she would not call a snap election, on April 18th, Theresa May announced a snap election for June 8th.  The aim of this was to increase the Tory majority, and and make a hard Brexit easier to achieve.

What Mrs May apparently had not considered, was the fact the 48% of the country voted to remain in Europe, the increasing popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, and the swing to the left to many of the young, who are tired of the ideological austerity imposed by the current government, which to many seems designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, perhaps a way to “decrease the surplus population”?  With the wealth divide at a high level, the NHS being systematically sold of to Richard Branson’s Virgin Care and NHS staff forced to use food banks, many of the country were saying enough is enough.

In the five week run up to the general election Labour closed the polling gap making it a very tight race.  Whilst pundits predicted the May would lose her majority, no-one predicted the 12 seat loss, and resulting hung parliament.  The nation had spoken, it wanted a change.

In what many see as a desperate attempt to cling to power, May has joined forces with the DUP, an Irish Unionist party, whose policies include criminalising abortion, decriminalising of LGBTQ discrimination, a return to the death penalty and the teaching of creationism in schools. That’s right, they believe the Earth is only 6000 years old.  Just let that sink in for a minute.  It is worth noting here that a number of these policies are in direct contravention of the Good Friday Agreement.   There is already a petition on Change.Org opposing the union, which to date has over 100,000 signatures.

The 10 seats they won in Northern Ireland will allow the Tories a slim majority and mean they can form a government, however, the combined numbers of The Labour Party, The SNP, The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and The Green Party form 48.3% of parliament, so if they agree to vote together it is likely that they will be able to block any reforms that a Conservative/DUP pairing attempts to pass.  UKIP has no seats, so there are no other Right Wing parties left to support this.

What Mrs May also seems to have failed to consider is the forming of this coalition was the 19 openly LGBTQ MPs within her own party, who could be her downfall if she tries to pass any DUP agenda which will negatively impact the LGBTQ community.  If fact, this election saw a record number of LGBTQ MPs elected, as well as a record number of female MPs, which seems to demonstrate that the majority of Britons are opposed to what could be called the backward facing policies of the DUP.

In an election that seems to have been fought on Social Media as much as anywhere else, it is not surprising that people have taken to Twitter to voice their opposition to this union.

It is difficult to say how things will play out. With so much public opposition it would be reasonable to hope that the coalition would be reconsidered, but then, 84% of the population oppose fox hunting, and she still wants to bring that back.

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Why Diversity Matters

Quite a while ago I decided the best thing I could do to make a difference as a writer, not only to people’s perceptions, but to the way literature is perceived is to lead by example.  I feel that my early work pandered somewhat to canonical expectations.  I tried to subtly include diversity, as side characters or sometimes even leaving it entirely open to interpretation.

More recently I decided that to celebrate diversity I would have main characters that are diverse, but that the story is not about their diversity, it’s just a part of what makes them, well, them.  My first attempt at this was with The Crew Chronicles series, which touches on gender perception and domestic violence, amongst other things, whilst still managing to be “a good deal of fun” (Altered Instinct).

The most obvious way I have diversified my characters, however, is in my most recent work, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse.

Described by Sabotage Reviews as “an elegant blend of humour and horror”, Heels is a satire, not only of apocalyptic fiction, but of our current political climate.  I diversified it by making almost all of the characters bisexual.  Anyone who has watched an apocalypse movie knows that one of the major tropes is that the characters find time to pair off, no matter what level of danger they’re in, there’s always time for sex!

I did not label the book as LGBT, anyone who knows me, knows that I hate having to label my work anyway, and choosing this label defeated the object, I felt, which was to diversify mainstream fiction, not put it in a subgenre.  I felt incredibly nervous letting this out for people to read.  It was the first time I had written anything like this and I was terrified that it would be badly received.  It was a huge relief, that not only did my fantastic team of beta readers love it, but I was also offered a publishing contract with micro publisher Wight Orchid Publishing.

It has received a couple of negative reviews from people claiming it was utter nonsense (or words to that effect), which is fair, it is. It’s a nod the the absurdist theatre movement of Beckett and friends, why else would there be a random talking badger, to add a touch of realism?  However, the vast majority of feedback has been incredibly positive, and made me feel confident enough to write a sequel.  I also submitted it to a number of review blogs, and have been delighted with the response.

However, the response of one review site gave me pause.  Not because it was a bad review, because it wasn’t, it was a very good review.  At least the first part was:

“I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse by C H Clepitt is an entertaining short story. I picked this book as I was attracted by its cover and genre. I am glad that I selected it because there were many dialogues/scenes that made me laugh. Kerry’s character is extremely relatable. Her need to prove her worth at a time of disaster is quite impressive. The side characters, Sam, Peter, Tyrone, and Petal, are also well written. Each of them has something special about them. The plot moved without any hiccups. It was quite easy to follow and entertaining — for the most part. Kerry’s trouble with the heels lasted for very less time than I would have liked. However, the author managed to make the most of those few moments, which is a relief, considering the title of the book has “heels” in it.

Despite this praise the reviewer only gave the book three stars, meaning that they did not have to post the review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or anywhere else, as it is the site’s policy to only publish reviews of four stars or above.  Basically the review is only visible to me, the reviewer has managed to keep it in the closet.

So, where did my two stars go?

The disconnect, for me, started when a lot of attention was on sexuality. I believe many lines were wasted on people talking about their sexualities and doubts regarding the same. This is a shame because the book was doing really good until then. There were hilarious moments and enough twists to keep me turning the pages. Even the discussion of the sexuality was fine until it kept coming again and again. I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse is perfect in every other sense and has a potential to be one of the best in the humor genres. Of couse, this is my subjective opinion and others might disagree with my point of view, but I believe that all the sexuality talks distracted and overwhelmed me. Hence, I could not enjoy the book as much as I know I would have.”

So, perfect apart from the sexuality thing? Having gays in my book basically lost me an entire two stars?  I felt like the victim of a hate crime!  It was horrible!  But then, maybe I was being over sensitive.  After all, my book is my baby.  So I posted on Facebook, so see what everyone else thought.

My sister, also a professional writer (playwright and dramaturge) made me laugh out loud with her succinct, satirical translation of what she felt the review was trying to say:

I liked the book. However, I am homophobic and expected a book with red patent heels on the cover to not be at all gay.  I also lack imagination and take book titles literally. Don’t get me started on The Turn of the Screw.

There were similarly supportive comments, a lot of people just saying it says more about the reviewer than the book, but what upset me more than the review, was those people who commented things like “it’s just her opinion, she’s allowed to share it”.  So, why did this upset me?  Because they are fellow authors who just don’t get it.  They live in a little bubble of privilege that they have never had a need to emerge from.  They have never been discriminated against, so they don’t need to write about it, because it doesn’t actually happen.  Discrimination is a thing made up by minorities to explain why they are held back.  They failed to see the distinction.  Had the reviewer said: “the disconnect for me was the focus on character relationships, I would have preferred more focus on the adventure and less time on the interpersonal”, then yes, this would have been an opinion, and it would have been a fair criticism, maybe.  But what she said was “sexuality”, not sex, not relationships, “sexuality”.  Let’s face it, there are very few lines spent actually discussing sexuality in any real sense, the rest is Tyrone using inappropriate language, which is funny. No, really, it’s funny, honestly.  My favourite line is when he calls Kerry a “kick ass lesbo”.

What the review, and the reaction to it demonstrates, is that it is still very important to write diverse characters; but what is equally important is to normalise them.  Not to label your book, or essentially warn people.  No-one warns you that a book contains straight people, do they?  If we continue to pander to people’s biases, and remain afraid to call them out on their prejudice then we’ll never progress.  It’s not the same as having an opinion.  Prejudice is not the same as opinion.  If we remain terrified of offending bigots, then we stand in the way of progress.  I’m sure A Taste of Honey offended racists, does that mean it wasn’t a good play?  Perhaps it would have been a good play if they hadn’t spent so much time on race?  Am I making my point yet, or am I still being too subtle?  Just to be clear, I am not saying that anyone involved here is a bigot, I am simply observing that, in a general sense, prejudice exists, and we should be standing up to it, not ignoring it.

I can almost guarantee, that had the book been labelled as LGBT, the reviewer would not have picked it up, but as it was, she enjoyed it, apart from the whole focus on sexuality, thing.  Maybe she’ll go on to read some more of my stuff.  Maybe, she’ll think it through and rethink her opinions.  Maybe she won’t, who knows?  The point is that I managed to reach someone who perhaps would not have picked up the book otherwise.

I’ve never been very good at conclusions, it’s why my books are always quite open ended. That, and ‘always leave room for a sequel’. So, I’ll just finish up by saying thank you to everyone who took the time to read any of my books.  Your support means a lot to me.  I am delighted that most of you really enjoyed them, and don’t worry, there’ll be more of the same in the next one, I haven’t been deterred.

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Writing is NOT Free

Yes, it’s come to that.  I’m having a rant.  You know you love it.

I am utterly sick of people thinking that writing is a hobby and the thrill of being published is enough to get you hand over your hard work and dance a little jig of glee! NO! Writing is a marketable skill! If it wasn’t you wouldn’t need to outsource it, you’d just do it.  Stop selling it as “experience”, or “exposure”.  You wouldn’t ask a plumber to come and fix your boiler for free, telling them it’d be great experience fixing future boilers, would you? Why? Because you want an experienced professional that you know will get the job done.

Writing’s no different, you pay for what you get.  If you get a good writer they pay for themselves, quality content improves visibility on your site and therefore your product.  Your website is a reflection of you and your business, and is often the first impression new clients receive.  Do you want to make a good first impression, or do you want to give someone “exposure” and save some money?

If we were living in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation, then money would be immaterial, and we would all do what we were passionate about whilst the world provided for our needs.  We don’t.  We live in a capitalist society, where the rich get richer by starving the poor, and making them do unpaid internships so as not to impact their profit margins.  Unpaid internships are wrong, and so is expecting a skilled professional to work for free.  You want to make money? Well, so do we.  If we are working in another job, because writing doesn’t pay, then we aren’t available during business hours to discuss your project.  Our time is valuable, expect to compensate us accordingly.

Which neatly brings me on to “free book?”  NOOO!  I have spent the better part of a year, writing, rewriting, editing, reediting, formatting and marketing my book.  I’ve arranged a launch party, bought in paper copies and arranged reviewers.  Why should I then give you a FREE BOOK?  That book is a year’s worth of work.  I deserve to be paid accordingly.  I am an excellent writer, you know that, that’s why you asked for a free book, but why do you get it for free? What did you do to deserve a free book?  Would you go into a cafe and say “free coffee?” No, so why is my book of no value?  I appreciate that with the rise of self publishing it is easier for inexperienced writers to sell what is frankly, poorly written, poorly conceived and poorly edited work to the masses, and that sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart, but that’s what the 20% sample is for.  You get 20% for free, then, if you think it’s good, and you’re enjoying it, you pay for it.  Here’s a tip, if you want to read on after 20%, it’s worth paying for.  If it’s rubbish, you can move on to another book.  Usually you know by the first chapter if it’s going to float your boat or not, be honest.

Arts funding has been cut substantially in recent years, and the constant barrage of free stuff on the internet only serves to devalue the efforts of artists.  So, why not take a stand?  If you like a book, a song or a painting, pay the artist, they gave you pleasure, they deserve it.

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Celebrate Pride, but Not Too Much

It has recently come to our attention that The Isle of Wight is celebrating it’s first Pride festival.  This should be great news, it has only taken the small island forty-six years to catch up with the mainland, not too bad at all, all things considered.

Unfortunately, the way it was brought to our attention was rather more

Badger

negative, than perhaps a festival that involves dancing and rainbows deserves.  In an article, which we can only assume is opinion editorial, rather than news, a writer for Isle of Wight County Press Online takes a position that has offended many of the LGBT community, both on the Isle of Wight, and further afield.

In the interest of being balanced, it is clear the author of the article is trying to be humorous, whilst absolutely and utterly missing the point, and causing offence to lots of demographics along the way.

She begins by defining LGBTQ for her readers, none of whom, apparently have a television, or access to any other kind of media other than her paper, who must never have broached the topic of homosexuality on the Island before, to require such a full explanation in this article.

Oooh, I hear you squeaking, surely “queer” is a no-no these days? Why, on the contrary, apparently it’s perfectly fine, though maybe not for Daily Mail readers who haven’t yet heard about this word’s official reclamation by Pride

Yes, the LGBT community reclaimed it, quite a while back, maybe you were concentrating on a knitting pattern at the time, easily missed if it’s not something that directly effects you, which clearly it doesn’t.  Feminists reclaimed a lot of words too, it’s a way of gaining control over bullies, essentially.  Read The Vagina Monologues  and “Reclaiming Cunt” for an explanation of why, if you’re interested.  She, clearly isn’t, as she goes on to say in the article:

I couldn’t care less what people do in their private lives. Do it whatever which way you like. Enjoy yourselves, especially if you’d prefer not to say what you’re enjoying yourselves with. But do you think the rest of you could shut up as well?

That’s not really the point of Pride though, is it? Pride is the one day a year where they get to shout out their love, be themselves, be loud, be proud of who they love, PRIDE.  They get one day.  You get all the other days, they get one.  Stop moaning, seriously.  Moaning about this suggests a certain lack of understanding due to white, heterosexual privilege.  Are the gay community really shouting in your ear everyday on that tiny little island you live on? Seems incredibly unlikely.  Is there even a gay bar?  Is there even one?

The prefer not to say is referencing a comment made earlier about being “other”, or preferring not to say.  She states:

Yes, I realise the thought of what “other” might involve is disturbing but we mustn’t be narrow-minded. There is, helpfully, a box for those who “prefer not to say”, though that also raises worrying possibilities.

Well, let us set your mind at rest, here, madam.  Those people who prefer not to say do so for a number of reasons, almost certainly none of which are due to some sort of sexual deviance.  It is possible, that they think it is no-one’s business who they sleep with, so prefer not to say.  Equally, they may not want to be discriminated against, so prefer not to say.  They could, prefer not to be beaten up in a back alley, so prefer not to say.  Or, they could not like the tick boxes on application forms that are totally irrelevant to how they do the job, so PREFER NOT TO SAY!  There is also the option to prefer not to say for “religion”. This does not mean that everyone who ticks it is a Satanist.  Just because someone ticks “prefer not to say” does not mean they are off shagging a sheep in their spare time, so don’t be worried, it’s fine.

Our man on the Island, Samuel Z Jones spoke to On The Wight, who offered a link to their piece on the article, and remarked “that it must be tricky to balance satire with real news.”  On the Wight is a separate news outlet from The County Presswhich published the article we are discussing.

What is perhaps more worrying that the tone of the article, which could be described as demeaning, is the editorial response to the letters of complaint received.  Whilst it apologises for offence caused, it does not apologise for the article.  It’s more of a “sorry, not sorry”, or “sorry you were upset” than an actual apology.

The editor states:

I would ask those complaining to read the article carefully before thinking too badly of Ms Hofton.

Look at phrases such as: “But while we are in many ways a more tolerant and understanding society, hateful bigotry still exists, and those of the Pride Community, understandably, feel the need to show their solidarity and celebrate in public their joy in being whatever they like in sexuality and gender terms,” before judging too harshly.

No, no. Don’t judge her too harshly, after all, there’s that paragraph.  Well found sir.  It’s not so much that paragraph that’s the problem, as ALL THE OTHER PARAGRAPHS.  However, since that’s the one you choose to reference, let’s break it down.  “their joy at being whatever they like in sexuality and gender terms”.  “Whatever they like, in sexuality and gender terms”.

Yes, we quoted it three times, for emphasis.  It’s not about being whatever you like.  It’s not, ‘I fancy having a go with this this week, yey, let’s do it’.  It’s about not being persecuted for who you are.  That’s what Pride’s about.  It’s about strength in numbers, it’s about being yourself and not being afraid.  If you don’t get that, then you suffer from a severe lack of empathy and understanding.  Still, it’s OK, as long as you keep your lack of understanding to yourself, and don’t flaunt it, for example in a newspaper article, we’re OK with it.  Whatever you think in your own bedroom is fine by us.

 

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News in brief…

…otherwise known as a sarcastic tabloid roundup…

So, you may have noticed that the death of a small child by drowning turned the “migrant crisis” into human, refugees who require help and our fearless leader has agreed to take a couple in, as long as they don’t cost too much.  In the meanwhile whilst he is discussing with Europe the practicalities of how best to take them, whilst trying not to sound like a selfish tosser with a plum in his throat, refugees are still piling into Hungary at an alarming rate, according to news reports.  The Hungarian government in all their wisdom decided the best course of action here was to arrest anyone illegally entering the country and put them in jail for three years, so they are giving them a roof and shelter for much longer than they would placing them in camps and helping them move to a country they actually want to be in.  Go figure.

After much excitement and buzz the Labour Party has a new leader, who, shock horror is actually left wing!  What are we going to do now all of the parties aren’t right, righter and REALLY right?  Despite telling all their readers to join the party and vote for Corbyn, in an attempt to make a mockery of the democratic process (rather like the moving of the boundaries in the general election?!) the evil tabloid army are now properly wetting their knickers that their ability to control the working classes will be threatened by a genuine left winger.  As a result they have launched a series of attacks on the new leader, from posting pictures of him wearing socks with shorts (the absolute horror of it all), and the fact that he stood in respectful silence during the national anthem rather than singing along.  You don’t notice them kick off when football and rugby players don’t join in at the beginning of internationals do you?  When they publish headlines like he will destroy the country in ten years they are scared, and it’s about time!!

Even the left wing press are up in arms about something, The Guardian  have criticised a lack of women in his new shadow cabinet.  Being the intrepid news reporting site that we are here at Newsnibbles, however, we have found a lady-woman-female in his cabinet of raging lefties, and guess what, she likes badgers!

According to The Spectator  the new Shadow DEFRA secretary, Kerry McCarthy is a vegan, vice president of The League Against Cruel Sports and against the badger cull! Badgers stand a chance, hurrah!

Of course, Brian May and his Save Me trust are still campaigning for badgers, most recently threatening the cull with high court action.

In entertainment news, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are taking on Hollywood sexism head on, with Bullock taking on a role originally intended for Clooney.  According to The Washington Post it was an easy rewrite to switch gender roles, and demonstrates that there could be a lot more films with a female lead.  We think the trailer looks fab, so check it out.

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On Genre

I was recently talking to one of my writer

Warning! May or may not contain Overt Feminism

Warning! May or may not contain Overt Feminism

friends about writing, different genres and the trials of marketing.  He commented on the fact that I had taken a break from writing and that he was pleased that I was coming back with my new Sci Fi serial, which will shortly be released on Kindle.  I admitted that I had become a bit disillusioned after publishing The Book of Abisan, at the lack of response to the work.  I am my biggest critic, and I know that this book is some of my best work, and I can’t seem to get people to read it.  He went on to tell me that he enjoyed the story, and he has given me permission to quote him as he went on to say:

The only crit I could find was that it had an overtly feminist angle. I like that, I grew up in a feminist household, but it may have limited the readership.

I had deliberately created strong female characters as I feel that the Fantasy Genre as a whole is incredibly male dominated, and at first I felt quite pleased that this was the only criticism he could come up with.  After having time to mull it over I thought, ‘how is that actually a criticism’?

People aren’t put off from reading Lord of the Rings because Sam and Frodo have “bromance” which makes it hard for women to understand, do they?

Female authors are breaking through into the Genre, after all, The Hunger Games was written by a female author, and featured a very strong female lead.  The thing that ruined the series for me though, was the ending.  I had been unable to put it down, took the trilogy on holiday and finished it in a week.  But why did she have to conform?  Why did she have to choose one of her men to be with at the end?  It was never a question of will they won’t they, just which man will she choose?  I felt a sense of disappointment that after fighting for her life on multiple occasions, leading a revolution and instating a coup, in the end all she wanted was to get married and have children.  Surely there had to be a different kind of ending?

I suppose that’s the problem with endings.  If you enjoy it then you don’t want it to end, so any ending is disappointing, but somehow I expected more.

The problem with genre is it’s all about ticking boxes.  You are forced to choose a special pigeon hole to put your writing into.  You call it “Fantasy” and people say, “oh, I don’t read fantasy, I don’t like it”.  So you’ve read one book, probably not all the way through, and therefore you know you won’t like mine?  Heaven forbid that you label your work “Feminist”, then you’re putting it into a niche that no-one will touch with a barge pole.  Even women are afraid to be labelled feminist today, forgetting that what feminism means is equality.  No matter how we like to pretend we live in an advanced society we still aren’t equal, no matter how you paint it, and the only way we will change this is if people start speaking out for equality.  Equality for everyone or no-one is truly free.

It is for this reason that I try to avoid staying within one genre when I write, and probably why I find it so hard to market.  Because when you pick one you instantly shut yourself off to all the people who like other genres.  One reviewer said of The Book of Abisan

I found this book to be rather more like a crime thriller with some sorcery thrown in for good measure rather than out and out fantasy.

I think that if in general we stopped trying to label things and just took everything on face value, deciding whether we liked things on an individual basis the world would be a happier place.

When I was promoting A Reason To Stay on a writing forum I was bombarded by comments telling me that “Chick Lit” was not their cup of tea, so no offence, but they weren’t going to read it.  Well, I took offence, not because they didn’t want to read my book, but by the term “Chick Lit”.  It is incredibly patronising and automatically belittles whatever you’ve written into some sort of “only suitable for women, as their brains are not as big as those of men”.  It also puts men off from reading it.  Society is still so interested in putting people into niches (not just books, everyone needs a label, man/woman/gay/straight/him/her) that a man who chooses to read “chick lit” must have something wrong with him, surely?!

A Reason to Stay is comedy.  Men like it, women like it and a number of dogs on Twitter like it:

Unfortunately we are not going to see a miraculous change any time soon.  People will still look to label each other, and still want to put books, films and TV shows into categories, it’s just easier.

You can be the change though, try not asking someone a personal question just because you’re curious, instead think “is it relevant, actually?” And pick a genre that you wouldn’t normally read.  Go on, give it a go!!

You can find C H Clepitt on Facebook.

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If You Aren’t Hip n Down wid da Kids…

So, if like me, you thought “twerking” was “Tweeting at Work” – which by the way, it isn’t, then allow me to enlighten you.  Having spent the last several month telling people I Twerk as part of my contract, as I run the work’s Twitter account, and facing off some very strange looks from people who did not feel the urge to tell me that it is not part of anyone’s contract unless they work in a strip club, I finally discovered, interestingly enough through Twitter, that “Twirking” is in fact weird sexy “dancing” which, rather like a car crash, once you see it you simply can’t look away, as witnessed by the video below. Enjoy.

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