7 Questions

Today’s 7 Questions is with chief tester, Huxley at Huxley Hound’s “Better than Raw” dog treats.  He is a very busy daschund, but has taken some time out from his tasting schedule to chat to Newsnibbles about Better than Raw.

1.Tell us a bit about your product and what inspired you to create it.

Well Rolo and I are raw fed boys and Mum is a bit careful about our food and our treats – so she started making her own.  She played around with lots of different ingredients, made a bit of a (huge) mess in the kitchen and we got to try everything she made.  Rolo will eat anything but I am a bit more selective – so it became clear what worked – and what didn’t.  Mum wanted to make sure the treats were low fat and healthy – nothing hidden or added. The preference was also to be organic and British.  As lowriding sausage dogs we really need to keep our waist lines in check so with this in mind, along with the industry figures that show that over 3.5 million dogs out of the 8 million or so dogs in the UK are now considered overweight – it seemed that there would be a place for our veggie treats.  Mum took to the kitchen with little shop-bought dehydrator and it wasn’t long before “our” treats were being handed out to friends left right and centre and it seemed that was the start of our story.

2.If, hypothetically speaking. you were to open a “Better Than Raw Dog Restaurant”, what would be the dress code?

Well we wouldn’t really want to be too exclusive but we do love a tastefully dressed dog.  Nice bow tie for the lads, nice colour and lead for the girls??  However we would like our restaurant to be organic, ethical etc so we would probably aim for the au naturel for the four-legs!  We have been known to dress up – sorry – I mean be dressed up!!  Mum doesn’t have the same taste as us so we usually sit and wait patiently for our treats while she humiliates us!  We do have a nice line in lumberjack shirts and red tees from our friends @animalattire who cater for the longer bodied hound – which are much better than the various Halloween (Halloweiner!) and Christmas outfits!!

3.How do you feel about pet couture, and has this influenced your answer to question 2?

I guess we are slightly governed by the family and their need to dress us up occasionally.  However – we feel each to their own and if the cap fits – literally!

4.What has been the general response to vegetable based dog treats?

It is has been a learning curve – for us and our growing customer base. Overall – it has been very positive.  You will always have some who think that dogs do not need vegetables through to those that take time out to write to us to thank us for making our new range of organic veggie treats – either as an alternative to meat or grain treats or indeed some for medical reasons such as low protein diets.  It seems like the growing trend to incorporate vegetables into dog food is growing as a whole which is great.  So, the response has been great and at our launch to trade in March we were overrun both days and our stockist list is growing every week.

5.Does Rolo feel a bit left out that Huxley got to be brand name?

We don’t think so.  Our little Rolo is slightly afraid of the world so I think he is happy to take back step from the limelight – happy in his home environment being a funny little thing – entertaining the family and friends.  Occasionally he will venture out for the organised Dachshund Walks.  Rolo obviously gets to share the Chief Tasting Responsibilities with me but whereas I am always happy to take centre stage – we don’t think the world is ready for level of noise from such a little fella!

6.Describe your ideal sandwich.

Well call me an old softy with tones of cheesy pick-up lines … if Rolo and I pin Mum down on either side – where we get fuss and treats – that seems like the best kind of sandwich a small sausage loves!

7.What’s next on the agenda?

Well … there is some rather exciting stuff in the pipeline all going on behind the scenes at the moment.  All a bit secret squirrel.  So perhaps we can talk later in the summer when all will be revealed…

And you can find out more about “Better than Raw” on Huxley’s Website.


Monday Mystery Mime

You know the drill, guess the mime, if you get it right you get the mime of your choice performed.  You have until Friday. Answers revealed with next week’s mime.

And congratulations to Judith, who correctly guessed that last week’s mime was a meerkat.  When her mime is complete we will post it here.  So, guesses in the comments, either here, on Facebook or on the Youtube Channel.

Good luck Nibblers, this week’s clue is BBQ.


Monday Mystery Mime

We’re not late, maybe you’re late, did you think of that?

So, you know the drill, guess the mime, post your guess in the comments.  It’s fun.  The last mime was a snake being charmed out of a basket.  Winners have been notified, if you haven’t been notified you didn’t win. Never mind, try this one instead, you never know.

As always entries close midnight Friday. Good luck.



Book Reviews, Ala Badger

Well, I’ve made it through four more books, and as I’m posting on Amazon and Goodreads, I figured I may as well share it with you lot too. I reckon some of you can read at any rate.  So, for those of you who missed the first book review post I did, I grade up to ten stars, because I don’t think five is enough.  However, we know that ‘reads and the ‘zon only have the option for five, so I will post my rating, then explain how that transfers across.  Enjoy.

Fandri’s Adventures: Hunters of Reloria series prequel, by Kasper Beaumont

The book started promisingly, as a fantasy tale, somewhat reminiscent of The Hobbit.  However, the characters lacked motivation, just meeting and deciding to go on a journey, for example, or later breaking away from the group, all for no apparent reason.  I was also made to feel rather uncomfortable by the amount of kissing and naked women who felt the need to kiss our protagonists, who were only supposed to be 13/14 years old.

I liked the pictures, however felt that they implied I was reading a children’s story, which the amount of semi naked ladies and deep kissing seemed unsuitable for.  Equally, I felt that the female characters on the whole were just there for this purpose.  I would have liked more motivation with all of the characters, even the minor ones.

I felt the story concept of an adventure was good, and the book was very well edited and formatted, but it really needs to work on character development, and decide who the desired audience is and focus the content to them.

As you can tell, the book wasn’t really for me, and so, on my scale I would give it four out of ten.  This translates as two on Amazon.  Unfortunately five being the limit makes it difficult, and I have given books I felt were better and enjoyed more three stars, so this is only fair.  Of course reviews are just opinion, so why not check out the sample below and see what you think for yourselves?

Jane, by Rose Montague

I really enjoyed Jade by Rose Montague, and as this was the sequel it simply had to be done.  It was just as exciting and fun as the first, as we followed Jade and Jane in pursuit of the devil himself.  The issue for me was that I didn’t like Jane as a narrator.  I didn’t feel she cared about much of anything, so when she was telling us what was happening, it felt that she was distant and not involved.  It is for that reason that I couldn’t understand why she was doing things, it was as though she was going through the motions, there was none of the intensity of emotion that there was in Jade.  This perhaps comes from being a vampire, once you’ve been alive for a certain number of years maybe you’re able to emotionally distance yourself from even events that are closest to you, and remain objective in even the most difficult circumstances.  But her objectivity and lack of passion made it difficult for me to be on her team the way I was with Jade.  Let’s be clear, this is my only criticism, and perhaps that’s why I felt the need to focus on it, because it’s dropped stars for me because of it.  However, in the most part it was funny, exciting and I read it over a few days.  Of course I will be buying Jill to find out how the series ends, and will let you know what I think.

So, this one was seven out of ten for me, or four out of five.

Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

I had this one in audio, narrated by Tony Robbins and I felt that he did beautiful justice to the humour that was the awesome Sir Terry.  It’s funny how through satire, truths can be told, and I felt a lot of the things that happened were a bit to close to the mark.  In these days of fake news and demonising minorities, a lot of the humour was too close for comfort.  I listened to it whilst doing some decorating, and found myself snorting alone with my roller on occasion.  I would say it was worth getting, just to hear the funny voices given to the characters.  As a general rule I don’t like my favourite books being turned into audio or film because once you’ve imagined the characters a certain way, this can be ruined by someone else’s imagining of them, but on this occasion I rather enjoyed it.  I had read the book years ago, and whilst bits of it started to come back to me, I found myself able to enjoy it for what it was, and it made a boring task a little more enjoyable.

I won’t bother star rating this one, it’s Pratchett, you know it’s good.

The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters

I read Affinity by Sarah Waters and found it so compelling that I couldn’t put it down.  Obviously I wanted to see what else she had in her collection, and went with The Night Watch.  This is a non-linear tale that spans through and just past World War Two.  What I liked most about it, as with all of her books (I am now on The Paying Guests) is that your are firmly given a sense of period, and you are fully immersed in whatever period in which the book is set.  I had a real sense of the oppressive nature of the blitz, the feeling of living for the day, the excitement and tension between the characters.  What is brilliant is that nothing is glamourised, we see all of the characters in real settings including toilets!  Whilst I didn’t find any of the characters in this terribly likeable (perhaps they were too real), I did find them all empathetic, and found myself forced to read on to find out what happened with them.  The story goes backwards, so you know how it ends at the start (although of course it’s not really an ending) and you find yourself reading to learn how they arrived at this point, rather than what was going to happen next.  I loved being immersed in the lives of these people.  Sarah Waters writes characters that history has forgotten, and creates them with such realism and clarity as to compel you to want to know more.

Earlier this month I wrote about the importance of diversity in literature, and she achieves this so elegantly that it is hard to find fault anywhere within her writing.  It is for this reason that The Night Watch gets ten out of ten, or five out of five.


Monday Mystery Mime

What do you mean, we’re late? Maybe you’re late? Ever think of that?  So, you know the drill.  Every week the amazing folks at Feathers and Toast perform a mystery mime.  All you have to do is guess what it is for a chance to have the mime of your choosing performed by Tallulah herself.  We won’t make it complicated, just post your answer in the comments. Go on, have a go.  A Nibbler won the other week, and we have posted their mime below.

Last week’s mime was a lollypop melting. No-one guessed it, so have a go this time, you never know.

Now, without further ado, the mystery…

And just to prove it really does happen, Judith requested an elephant being washed, and below is said mime. It is incredibly realistic, you can almost see the trunk.


The Grumpy Badger Guide to Getting Online Attention

You voted, this is what you want to know about, so here it is!


Today’s Grumpy Badger Guide focuses on how to get attention on social media. Clearly there are lots of you out there struggling with getting adequate online attention, feeling unloved, dejected, in need of a virtual stroke.  Fear not, the Grumpy Badger Guide to getting attention on online is here to help.

For the purposes of this guide, I will be using the fictional account of one Vince McCool. He will be modelled by prolific fantasy author and friend of Newsnibbles, Samuel Z Jones.  Vince is one cool dude, and has the whole getting online attention thing down, so hopefully you can learn something from him. Newsnibbles would also like to thank “The Master”, for donating a photograph of a plate of chips for the purposes of this illustrated guide.

As with the Grumpy Badger Guide to Writing Erotica, all characters in this guide are completely fictional. Any resemblance blah blah blah.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Be Ambiguous

There’s no point revealing everything.  If you give out all of the information straight away no-one will have a need to comment.  You might get the odd like or share, but that’s not what we’re after here, we want proper interactions, so the more vague the better.  Below is an example from Vince’s page.  On this particular day, the local corner shop was out of full fat milk, and Vince had to buy semi skimmed.

OMG, I have no idea how I’m going to last the week! LOL

Here, you can see that Vince has reacted badly to the need to purchase semi-skimmed milk, but he hasn’t actually given us anything to go on, forcing us to ask.  He has finished the post with a LOL to show it’s nothing serious and not to worry.  You may want to leave the LOL off depending on how much attention you want.  This particular post lead to a comment from Sharon Peebody, one of Vince’s many friends.  She asked.

OMG, babe, what’s up? U ok hunni? lol xxx

Here you see that Sharon is so concerned, she hasn’t even taken the time to write full words.  Her lol is lower case, and more of a nervous titter than the uppercase guffaw that Vince used in his original status.  Girls are more likely to comment with kisses than boys, but using three here has she has, Sharon is most likely also flirting with Vince.  We will observe flirting in a later section.

Put yourself down so that everyone else can build you back up.

Vince takes a long time taking mirror selfies, arm length phone selfies and laptop selfies.  He knows his fans want to see him, but he doesn’t want to appear vain, so he posted the following caption with this one:

Just testing the camera on my laptop, LOL! Reckon it’s got an ugly filter, hehehe.

Obviously Vince knows he’s not ugly.  No-one with self esteem issues would post as many selfies as he does, but a post like this received 39 hearts and 27 comments telling him how good he looks.  Sharon was one of the first to comment with:

No, babe. It’s got the well sexy filter on. lol. Love your tshirt hehehe.

So, you see, by posting with a self deprecating comment, Vince ensured compliments whilst not appearing vain. Also, he is maintaining the interest of the lovely Sharon. 

Everyone is fascinated with your life, don’t be afraid to share.

Vince already has an extensive fan base, which is why we’re using him as an example, but you have to think big.  Be like Vince. Your friends are not just your friends, they are your fans.  Any little tidbit you give them is like virtual gold.  Nothing is boring, pointless or annoying to share.  See below for an example of Vince trivia gold.

OMG, I just put my dinner in the microwave, and accidentally set it to defrost instead of high!  It was still cold! LOL

Vince also included photographic evidence to prove he really did have dinner, and was not making this up. You may want to evidence your posts too.


Here you see that Vince wants to share the hilarity that has just ensued at home in his kitchen with his fans, so that they can feel like they were there too, and somehow, in some small way a part of his life.  This latest status resulted in a total of 220 “likes” and 144 comments, but we will focus on Sharon again for consistency.

PMSL babe! Ur soooo funny. xxxxx Did u eat cold chips? LOL

Here you can see that he has amused Sharon so much he earned 5 kisses in the middle of a comment. This definitely says flirting, Vince will play it cool for a bit longer, but the defrost comment has definitely earned him points. She has also included a question, so he has to respond.  You have to give to get, it’s no good getting a reputation for not responding.  See below.

No, babe! LOL! I put em back in on the right setting. PMSL.

Here you see Vince has answered her question and acknowledged that she was making a joke. Both important in developing the relationship.

Be vulnerable. Have no secrets.

In the world of online attention, there’s no point having secrets.  What’s the point in having a feeling or an emotion if you can’t tell everyone about it?  After the chip conversation, Vince privately messaged Sharon, asking her out for chipshop chips, and promising they would be hot lol xx. Of course, this happened in private, so his fans didn’t know.  This can be rectified with a single status, see below:

Got a date with the prettiest girl online! So excited and nervous! Can’t wait to see you babe xxxxx. – Sharon Peebody

Here you can see Vince has declared his love to all of his fans, making it official, and also tagged Sharon to ensure she doesn’t miss his moment of vulnerability.  Fortunately she has found a way to set up an alert, and receives an email every time someone tags her, so was able to respond virtually immediately, to reassure Vince that his feelings are reciprocated.

OMG! Me 2 babe! cant wait 2 c u! So excited about chips. Hope they’re hot like you! xxxx

So, Sharon has reassured and complimented him, and all his fans can see just what a ladies man he is.

Things happen fast, don’t be afraid to tell everyone.

In a world of superfast broadband, microwave meals and instant messages, one date does a relationship make, and you immediately need everyone to know how happy you are.  Change your relationship status immediately, and tell the world.

Vince McCool is in a relationship with Sharon Peebody.

This particular status resulted in 798 likes.  There were also 294 comments of “congrats” and “u guys r so cute”.  Sharon also commented:

OMG babe! I luv u sooo much! Can’t wait to c u tonight. I’ll bring the chips, lol xxxxxx

Even when you’re with the person, the world still needs to know.

Vince and Sharon now live together, but as they met online they still find it easier to communicate on statuses, and that way the fans still get to observe, partly envious, partly glad to be, in some small way involved in the fascinating lives of Vince and Sharon.

OMG, LOL! Vince just farted so loudly I thought it was an earthquake! I knew we shouldn’t have had beans with our chips! It’s a good job I love him! – Vince McCool.

Wot can I say? Better out than in! LOL! Love you too baby.xxxxx

Here Sharon’s status and Vince’s response collectively received 1982 likes and comments.  Not only does it show they’re real people, but it proves that they have someone in their lives that loves them. All it needs is one person to love you for everyone else to love you too.

That’s it from this Grumpy Badger Guide.  We hope you found it useful.  If you have a topic you would like covered in a Grumpy Badger Guide, please comment below and let us know.


Monday Mystery Mime

It’s that time of the week again, when the extremely talented team behind Feathers and Toast perform a mime for your guessing pleasure.  Get it right, and the mime of your choice will be performed by Tallulah herself.  Entries close midnight Friday and the winners will be announced next week.

And congratulations to last week’s winners, Judith Evans, Paul Uhler and Joe Pranaitis, who all correctly guessed “Spring Chicken”.

So, without further a do, here’s the mime.


7 Questions

Sarah Dahl is the author steamy historical romances, known for their gritty

realism and authenticity to the period in which they are set.  She is not afraid to shy away from difficult issues, and if you enjoy the occasional Viking (and you know who you are) then you’ll probably like these.  We are catching up with her to chat about her latest release: The Current – A Battle of Seduction

1. Your work seems to focus on unusual things that perhaps you wouldn’t find in other stories, can you tell us a bit more about this?

In my historical fiction I look at ‘normal’ people (as opposed to the often over-used elite and their power plays in other works of historical fiction) and show them in slightly unusual situations, which in my sensual works often turn into something sensual, steamy even. I’m interested in this often overlooked side of human lives: their passions, dreams, the force of seduction, this game between man and woman (and sometimes other constellations, as you will see in the upcoming “Monk” ;-)). So what makes my stories different is not the Viking-ness as such, but that I ignore the elite and their power plays; I’m not interested in politics and intrigues, but simpler people’s lives. I zoom in on the more common encounters, and what these characters yearn for. So that is the difference to many Viking historical fiction books, which often focus on intrigue and battle. I’m interested in the smaller worlds, not the rulers and their big worlds 😉
The other thing that I hope is different genre-wise in my stories is that I try to steer clear of a language that screams “erotica”. I don’t see my stories as pure erotica, because they are plot-focused and historically authentic, tasteful, and just happen to be sensual, often (not always).

2. What would you say was the common theme in your work?

The common theme in this collection of short stories (of which “The Current” is the first story) is that love and lust can lead to a change of life. There is so much more attached to these moments of carnal desire or sweet seduction. Men and women reveal their desires, their cores, become vulnerable. In the course of the stories, my people change, their perceptions and outlook on life change. They find love, or break free, or feel a more internal change. As J.D. Lexx put it: “Ms. Dahl has a way of making scars sexy and luring out the vulnerability in the invulnerable.”

3. New book? S’that about then?

Every one of my short stories explores one life-changing theme: In “The Current – A Battle of Seduction” it is: The right fight (a sexy one!) can be healing. My warriors use their sexy banter and physical power play to let off steam and recover, to restore the sanity of their minds after the frenzy and madness of real battle:
Marked from the latest battle, Aldaith wants to recover by a stream. But instead of finding solitude, he stumbles on the fearless shield maiden Nyssa. The fierce beauty invites Aldaith into the water to engage in a very different kind of battle — one for which his training leaves him unprepared.

4. Where do you stand on the topic of pet couture?

The Vikings had pets: dogs and cats roamed around their grounds and were vital support troops to fight the common mice and rats and other intruders. When women married, they were often given a cat as pet and to keep the houses free from unwanted little mammals. Dogs were often used for hunting and herding, and they protected the rural farms. So yes, Vikings loved their pets, but I’m not sure the term “couture” is quite accurate if you needed your animals to perform the tasks they were assigned. 😉 But then: We know that the Vikings were the best-groomed people of the era, famous for their washing and combing and general cleanliness…so maybe, maybe their pets received the same degree of grooming at least? It sure wouldn’t surprise me.

5. Describe your ideal sandwich.

My ideal sandwich would be: wedged between two well-groomed, handsome warriors … But seriously: I want my bread to have a crust that crunches. Same goes for men. As long as both aren’t limp and pale, all is good. Add some cheese, cucumber, bacon, and lots of sauce…and I’m happy 😉

6. What is it about Vikings that appeal?

It’s hard to pinpoint what makes the Vikings so appealing to me and so many other people these days…For me it’s that there is so much more behind what we remember today. They were NOT filthy, ruthless warriors. They were well-groomed farmers, or young men seeking honour in battle and by raids. They were NOT interesting in rape and harming people without reason, for that wasn’t honourable and didn’t add to their reputation at home. There are accounts of women running TO the Vikings instead of fleeing them, as they could expect better treatment from these men than most medieval men of the time (stemming from a general respect for the female sex that made even throwing a snowball at a woman a serious offence!). There was no honour gained in violating weaker humans. Plus, they were taller, more muscular and cleaner than the average early medieval guy, as far as I can tell (all that fighting training and rowing!). And their wives had their respect – and power: they controlled the farmstead, could choose exotic professions, and could get a divorce quite easily if the man didn’t perform as expected. So what’s not to like? 🙂

7. Would you grow a beard if you could?

I can totally see myself in a shield wall, so for that purpose a good, thick beard would mean acceptance. And it could help to just once live with a beard to know what I’m talking about when I write about bearded men on a daily basis. But for my everyday female life: Not so much. I’d rather ogle the bearded 😉

Additional note from Sarah:

The first in the collection “Tales of Freya” is “The Current – A Battle of Seduction”. It releases April 24th.
Available as ebook at all major retailers: https://sarah-dahl.com/book/the-current/
It is perma-FREE, and kicking off the series of sensual short stories set in the Viking age.
There’ll be a new story every two months, and I recommend hopping aboard my dragonboat here: https://mailing.sarah-dahl.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=2 – be the first to hear about new stories and take part in awesome Viking giveaways!
My blog (not only about Vikings and/or writing!): https://sarah-dahl.com/blog-posts/


Monday Mystery Mime

Days are just labels, and we don’t need no damn labels, right? So, in case this is your first visit to Newsnibbles, the Monday Mystery Mime is a weekly slot where our friends Feathers and Toast perform a mystery mime. All you have to do is guess the mime, and you win the chance to have the mime of your choice performed by Tallulah herself.

And congratulations to last week’s winner, Michele Morrison, who correctly guessed ‘egg rolling down a hill’.  Your mime will be performed shortly.

The winner will be chosen at random from all of the correct entries. Any obscene entries or suggestions will be disqualified and the user blocked. Newsnibbles and Feathers and Toast reserve the right to disqualify any entry they deem unsuitable, without explanation. The closing date for entries is Friday 28th April 2017, 00:00 EST


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.