lizwilliams: (big gothic)
If anyone has subscribed to the latest short story sub, and has not had a first quarter set of short fiction from me, could you let me know? At the moment, things are extremely fraught: my father is seriously ill and we are spending 2-3 hours at the hospital every day. Given this on top of everything else, I am conscious that I am not keeping up with correspondence: I am trying to do so, but it's going to be slow.

The next Chen novel is, however, being written, if somewhat intermittently, and it's going well. I'm on track for delivery to you in September, though possibly later in the month rather than sooner.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Last year, in Glastonbury, some members of the OTO, Aleister Crowley's Thelemite order, held a conference. It was well-organised, well attended and generally it's considered locally that it was an excellent event and we hope they'll repeat it. The one sour note was the presence of an attendee who was somewhat obnoxious during the event, enough so for people to start looking into his background, and very soon it turned out that he had a conviction for child abuse, and aggravated assault (he assaulted a senior female detective, but unfortunately one can't convict for arrant stupidity per se). He was promptly banned from future conferences, his name and multiple aliases were shared and noted, and he is likely to be pre-emptively banned from other organisations' events as well as future versions of the one he attended. We've also banned him from the shop, because he has been a customer. Another occult organisation of which I am a member dealt similarly with someone else who also has a conviction for grooming and assaulting an underage girl.

With these cases, both were dealt with efficiently and swiftly. There has never been any question that these people ought to be banned. So let's look at recent events. I do not, in fact, think that survivors of assault should be automatically be believed (or, God forbid, automatically be assumed to be lying, either): like any crime, it's a matter of evaluating the evidence and keeping an open mind until all the evidence is in. But I would suggest that a sizable part of the evidence with regard to Marion Zimmer Bradley lies in her own legal deposition: I read this through, when the matter arose on the internet a couple of weeks ago, and some of her comments are frankly sinister. In the case of her husband, the evidence seems overwhelming (on a much more minor criminal note, he was apparently known in the Bay Area as a book thief, as well, and was banned from a number of bookshops - they don't seem to have had a problem with barring him from the premises). Reading some attempts at the time to excuse all this (also contained in the legal depositions) make unpleasant reading.

I'm not going to go into Bradley's work here in depth because my opinion of it is actually irrelevant, but I suspect future critics will be looking closely at the Catch Trap and some of the Darkover novels (why Mists of Avalon is hailed as a feminist classic baffles me, since the women in it spend most of their time stabbing one another in the back. I'd suggest a revisiting of the manipulative, ruthless Viviane might pay dividends, however).

But, outrage at Bradley, whilst understandable, is safe. She's dead, and so is Breen, so unless you know a really good necromancer, there's unlikely to be much comeback (You can decide what you want to do about supporting her work - her royalties go to her estate, apparently not to her children, and I understand that Moira Greyland has suggested that people who want to support MZB's children more directly take a look at her brother's artwork). What about people who are still walking around? Why was James Frenkel allowed back into Wiscon this year? If Wiscon have new evidence which exonerates him from groping women, great: we'd like to hear about it. If not, then why on Earth wasn't he banned? It's not difficult. Why did it take so long to extract Ed Kramer from con-running? Why is Samuel Delany's association with NAMBLA not being looked at more closely? A number of people who are quick to call out anyone making a not-currently-accepted linguistic error have been silent on the issue of someone who, hello, has expressed his support for a pederasty organisation. (And is this even legal in the US? There was something similar here in the UK but it disbanded in 1984 after its committee members were arrested for guess what). Delany, whom I have only ever met briefly, is an interesting writer but he's not God, and he's not above the law. He may not in fact be a paid up member of NAMBLA, but surely he could clarify that, and whether he still supports it? He's on public record as doing so. Until he does that, would I be happy to take a child to a convention where he's appearing? No, I bloody wouldn't.

This sort of thing is not a witch-hunt. It's not political correctness gone mad. It's asking serious questions about the behaviour of a small percentage of individuals, some of whom have actually been convicted of crimes or who have a long track record of abusive behaviour.

If the followers of Aleister Crowley* can get their act together and expel people whose behaviour is beyond the pale, then what's been so wrong with fandom over the years? I'd suggest a combination of cowardice, expediency, and sycophancy (in the case of Bradley). This is particularly reprehensible because, if fandom was dealing with, say, members of some secret police force, with the threat of real reprisals (doors kicked in, guns to head) there might be some justification for timidity, but we're talking about writers. Writers have no genuine power in the world: you might think they do, but they don't. Neither, really, do editors. Samuel Delany is a bloke with some dodgy interests who sits down every day and writes words. Marion Zimmer Bradley was an ordinary, if apparently abusive, woman who employed her imagination and got paid for it. By all means give those of us who are pro writers some credit for our hard work, imagination and discipline, but don't pussyfoot around someone's crappy antics because they've had a few novels published. The only social power is the one that you lend them: if people other than her victims knew what she was up to and were too scared of MZB because she was A Writer to say anything about it, then that's completely fucking reprehensible.

*As opposed to the 1920s, when sexually assaulting people was practically compulsory if you wanted to be a Thelemite. (I'm joking. But only slightly).

And what is it with 'the Great Breen Boondoggle?' Only fandom could rename a paedophile scandal as something that sounds like a bad 60s band.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Many thanks to everyone who has signed up for this. The latest Chen story decided not to behave itself, but then suddenly sorted itself out, and I'm just putting the finishing touches to it, so it will be with you soon, along with the other tales if you've ordered those. And thank you for your patience!
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
This post originated in a Facebook discussion yesterday of the less ‘fashionable’ writers of the last hundred years; the quieter writers, who nonetheless present a wider variety of ways in which women can be than many current novels suggest.

At the moment, women in urban and high fantasy, SF, detective fiction and chicklit are subject to a surprisingly limited range of characterisational tropes, which as Kari Sperring has pointed out, are subject to predominantly masculinist narratives. Typical protagonists in SFF are feisty, angry, often battle-trained, often damaged. They resist romance, but engage in it, and there is still an expectation that they will work towards relationships as a goal, if not the primary goal. They often look down on other women, are isolated, and don’t seem to engage in firm female friendships. I came across a blog entry in which Inari, in the Chen series, was criticised for not being feisty enough. How could I, the female blogger asked with genuine bewilderment, as a modern woman write a character who is so traditionally portrayed? But Inari is not that kind of person; there is not only one way for women to be.

There are exceptions – Wren in Laura Anne Gilman’s Retrievers series, is someone whom other people don’t notice (that’s the whole point of her ‘talent’). But she has strong connections with others and she solves problems through intelligence and guile. Ken McLeod, who in my opinion writes very good female characters, portrays the protagonist in Intrusion as being in a fairly traditional female role, but she just doesn’t want to do what she’s told: she doesn’t go out with guns blazing, but she does dig her heels in.

Mid twentieth century narratives, outside genre, offer other choices. Dora Saint, writing as Miss Read, depicts a woman who is happy alone – it’s clear that she is an introvert and recognises it: she prefers to be alone at the end of the working day. She actively resists romantic attachments: when a potential suitor appears, and the community try to matchmake, Miss Read is delighted and relieved when the man's estranged wife appears. In Jane Duncan’s ‘friends’ books, based on her own life, her protagonist does marry but is widowed, and gets through it with the help of a male gay friend. Elizabeth Goudge, too, portrays a variety of women, from autocratic matriarchs to popular women in their twenties to dreamy, imaginative small girls, and one of the nastiest female villains ever: the slimy headmistress in The Rosemary Tree.

In most respects, all of these protagonists are ordinary women. They’re not like Bridget Jones or Ally McBeal - they’re competent and capable, not klutzes (the default character quirk of much contemporary chicklit) – but they’re not Anita Blake, either. They don’t regard other women as competition, or as embodying characteristics against which they need to defend themselves. So many protagonists in urban fantasy don’t seem to like being female - they behave in ways which are stereotypically considered as male, and they lose something in translation. The solitary female PI, stemming from V I Warshawski, was fresh when she first stepped onto the genre stage, but she, too, has become a stereotype (ironically, the only female PI I know is both a wife and a mother). ‘Cosy’ mysteries seem to have more variety. This is not, by the way, about being ‘good’, conforming or behaving, although that may be a choice that is made for reasons other than oppression. Miss Read’s heroine has no reluctance to speak her mind; Goudge’s women say what they think. Quite a few of them aren't particularly nurturing, either: they're not saccharine stereotypes in the opposite direction.

We are not comparing like with like here: genre has different expectations to ‘literary’ fiction. But it seems to me that genre is increasingly narrowing down women’s choices, in portraying protagonists who fit only a restricted range. It’s not only about diversity in race and gender, although that’s a big issue. It’s also about diversity in terms of the personality of characters. The majority of the heroines in urban fantasy blur into a single stereotype for me: there’s so little real individuality there.

Other people have asked where the mothers are in genre (there are some – Briar in Boneshaker, for instance). Where are the women who just aren’t interested in intimate relationships, happy with their own company? The women who aren’t angry or hurt, who are just getting on with their lives? The girls who are not tomboys, who prefer dresses and reading to archery and swordfighting? (Those girls get their choices criticised with considerable and ironic ferocity: the ire directed at Anne in the Famous Five books is an example, but I was more like Anne than George). Or the girls who like both? Not all girls want to be boys, and not all women want to engage with the world in a masculinist way (neither do all men, either). When I was growing up my mother, who is also a writer, brought copies of Spinrad and Dick back from the library and has had a long term interest in steam trains and hill walking, but she also liked cooking and dressmaking. She has some interests which are traditionally feminine, and others that aren’t. She is as complex as most of us are in real life, so why isn't this reflected on the page? Do female characters in contemporary genre have interests which go beyond either gender or the demands of the plot? I can’t think of many examples, if any. What about the women who are reasonably satisfied with their society? It’s a greater challenge for the writer to portray those women, because narrative tension has to come from elsewhere, but it can be done.

So, are current heroines a reaction to earlier ones, and have we thrown out the baby with the bathwater? And if so, what is the reaction actually to: unconvincing women in the earlier days of SFF, or to the quieter heroines elsewhere? Is it a pendulum swing, and has it, like most such swings, become stuck at one end of the spectrum? Am I completely wrong, and if so, where are these characters to be found?

Kari said yesterday, and I hope she does not mind my quoting her: “We need to honour our quiet ancestors as much as the showier ones, or else we deny half our history.”

So let’s hear it for the quieter ones: Rumer Godden, E M Almadingen, Margery Sharp, Dora Saint, Rosamund Lehman, Jane Duncan, Dodie Smith, Dorothy Dunnett, Barbara Pym, Elizabeh Bowen, Rosamund Pilcher, L M Montgomery, Dorothy Sayers, Anne Stevenson, Louisa Alcott, Susan Cooper. I welcome your thoughts, as this is a very incomplete list: predominantly British, predominantly white, too.

And I also welcome counter examples.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
I was tagged by Claire Weaver (http://claireweaver.blogspot.co.uk/) so do go and read her posts, too.



1. What am I working on?

I’m currently writing a number of short stories, both for private subscriptions and for magazine consideration. The final (for now) Chen novel will be announced shortly and I’m also working on a new book, which is a sort-of fantasy, set here in Somerset. I rarely write so close to home and using the folklore of my current county is proving interesting.

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I’m not sure what my genre is. I mix and match a lot: I’d say that a lot of of what I write is old school science fantasy. I don’t like using standard tropes, and I try to take a hard look into the forms that societal change would actually take (whilst I understand where a lot of 1970s matriarchal utopian writing came from, for instance, I’m by no means convinced that an all-female society would be any kinder or less corrupt than its male equivalent, hence the Mars of Banner of Souls and Winterstrike). My writing is sometimes described as ‘difficult’ and I think people have a hard time figuring out my agenda: story, worldbuilding, prose and ideas are important to me. If it helps, I’m more likely to criticise my own politics than other people’s, and quite frequently won’t do either. Both novels and short fiction are varied. Ghost Sister was a critique of the extremist end of the environmental movement; Empire of Bones was written as an attempt to address first contact stories that are always set in the West, and Nine Layers of Sky was based on living and working in Central Asia.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I like telling stories and exploring ideas. Gender has often been an aspect of my work, but it’s irritating to expect female writers to be solely concerned with gender. When I first started reading – Bradbury, Vance, LeGuin, and fantasy writers such as Julian May and Lloyd Alexander – my primary concern was worldbuilding rather than gender. I’ve never particularly been concerned with whether ‘I’ was represented in fiction, because the point of reading, to me, was to have the experience of becoming someone else. I read a lot of William Burroughs at one point, and his concerns are very much not my own, but I learned a great deal from what was to me a very alien point of view. For me, the purpose of reading SF is not to learn about myself, but to learn about others (that’s obviously problematic if the genre becomes too uniform in who it depicts and I do think that it would benefit from increasing its diversity as much as possible). I’ve always been more interested in reading about aliens rather than humans: I think it increases the scope and depth of understanding, and it’s a great challenge for the writer. The work of Gwyneth Jones, Hal Clements, Mary Gentle, C J Cherryh, and Jack Vance, to select but a few, are cases in point.

I’m also a fan of occult fiction, which tends to get neglected when people talk about fantasy, but which has been a domain of female writers since at least the Golden Dawn and the big esoteric societies in the late 19th century: Edith Nesbit, Dion Fortune, Ithell Colquhoun, and Joan Grant, for example, tend to get left out of analyses of fantasy, but are highly regarded by occultists.

4. How does my writing process work?

'Process,' eh? I write what I can, when I can. I run a business and teach as well as being a writer, and I can’t afford to be particularly precious about when and how I work. You just have to get on with it!

Nominated next on the blog tour: Neil Williamson, author of recently released The Moon King, and David Clements (davecl.wordpress.com), who has a non-fiction book on Infrared Astronomy coming out near the end of the year.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Many thanks to all of you for your support for these novels over the years. All the Chen backlist is now available, both as print and e-copies, with Open Road Media in New York (you can find them here: http://www.openroadmedia.com/snake-agent).

The last few years have been very difficult in terms of writing, due in large part to the struggle of trying to keep a small business going through a very bad recession. I have been focusing on the short story subscriptions and the witchcraft shop books, but the time has now come to return to the final (for now) Chen novel, to finish the story threads that have been building over the previous books: the tension between Heaven and Hell with Earth in the middle; some mysteries about the badger teakettle; Jhai and Zhu Irzh's marriage, and Chen and Inari's baby.

The book is partly written, and Open Road have very kindly given me permission to float this as a privately produced e-book first, so that's what I am doing here. The money raised will go directly towards paying back an extremely generous friend, whose intervention essentially saved the business. I'm thus floating pre-orders now, and the book will be sent out in September 2014. It is called MORNINGSTAR.






lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Many thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered: I will be writing to you all soon, and I will be starting work on the next set of stories soon, too.

*


The last set of stories have gone out for 2013-14 (email me if you'd like to order these - they are still available), and I am floating a new series of stories for the next year.

THE MIX: I will be writing 8 stories.

CHEN: and 4 more stories for Chen and friends!

The first set of these will be with you in June 2014, and thank you all for your support!




Short Stories




lizwilliams: (big gothic)
You are cordially invited to join us for one of the two Milford Sf Writers' conference weeks to be held in August and September 2014.

Some of you no doubt will be heading for London in August 2014 for Worldcon (Loncon3) and you may like to know that the Milford committee is holding an additional Milford SF Writers' Conference in August from 23rd to 30th August to enable overseas writers to attend both events on one plane ticket - and you even get five days between events to be a tourist. How cool is that? Please tell your overseas friends.

There's another Milford week being run in September at the usual time from 13th - 20th September 2014. For those who prefer to keep Worldcon and Milford separate (or don't do cons at all) you are welcome to join us for either week.

Milford can take a maximum of 15 writers for a week of formal peer-to-peer critique, informal chat, good food and good company amidst the georgeous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park in spectacular North Wales. Full details can be found at http://www.milfordsf.co.uk. We'd love you to join us for a week of writerly battery-recharging.

There are only 15 places (maximum) for each week. Just to remind you if it's a long toime since your last Milford experience - attending writers are asked to submit up to 15,000 words of writing in one or two pieces for formal critique sessions. Mornings are free for catching up with reading or whatever takes your fancy from yomping up mountains to writing your magnum opus if you're ahead in the critiquing. The afternoons are formal critique sessions. Evenings are all about a shared meal and social time in the library. There's no bar, but you are welcome to bring your beverage of choice. (There's a variety of teas and coffees available 24/7 if you prefer.) If we've finished all the crits Friday is usually a group outing, often to a castle, but can be to wherever our fancy takes us.)

The total cost per person is £605. (A deposit of £115 payable with the booking form and the balance of £490 payable upon attendance to Trigonos by cash or cheque.) This represents the cost of your accommodation, three meals a day and snacks and drinks plus only £10 to cover Milford's administrative expenses.

At the time of writing we have nine places available for September and six places available for August. The first eleven to book either week get the ensuite rooms at Trigonos. The last four will have shared bathrooms. We'll be putting a lot of flyers out at Eastercon, which is when Milford bookings traditionally open, so if you are coming I would recommend getting your booking form (downloadable from the website) before Easter if possible.

Trigonos is not a hotel - it's a conference centre providing a perfect environment for learning, discovery and retreat set amidst the beautiful scenery of the Snowdonia National Park just 9 miles from Caernarfon and within sight of Mount Snowdon itself. The food is freshly prepared, simple, nourishing, plentiful and enjoyable, with much produce being home grown. The centre specialises in vegetarian cuisine, but offers meat dishes when required. They can meet a wide variety of special dietary requirements. http://www.trigonos.org/ Those of you who have been in recent years where the food has been mildly eccentric can rest assured that as of last year there's a new chef in the kitchen and I can personally report that all the meals in 2013 were fabulous.

Please email me (mevennen(a)hotmail.com if you would like further information.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
The last set of stories have gone out for 2013-14 (email me if you'd like to order these - they are still available), and I am floating a new series of stories for the next year.

THE MIX: I will be writing 8 stories.

CHEN: and 4 more stories for Chen and friends!

The first set of these will be with you in June 2014, and thank you all for your support!




Short Stories




lizwilliams: (big gothic)
As some of you will know, I have been offering manuscript appraisal services for some time now, and a couple of years ago was joined by historical novelist Maria McCann.

I am keeping prices constant for 2014 (see contact details below).

Maria McCann's first novel, As Meat Loves Salt, was published to considerable acclaim in 2001 and was an Economist Book of the Year. Described as a 'fat juicy masterpiece', it has never gone out of print. The Wilding (2010) was longlisted for the Orange Prize and was one of eight novels selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club out of a hundred and sixty titles submitted by publishers. She has also published shorter pieces in anthologies and magazines.

Maria has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan. For nearly a decade (until December 2010) she ran the Creative Writing courses at Strode College in Somerset, helping writers of all levels of ability to nurture their creative processes and to craft their work. Alongside historical novelists Emma Darwin, Rose Melikan and R N Morris, Maria appears at literary festivals as part of a panel discussing aspects of writing and researching historical fiction; from January 2011 she will be one of three writers (along with poet Daljit Nagra and playwright Nell Leyshon) selected to mentor upcoming talent as part of the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.

I will be dealing with SF, Fantasy and Horror, or any related sub-genres. Maria will be dealing with literary fiction and historical fiction. We will be offering:

- manuscript proposal appraisal (first three chapters and synopsis)
- full manuscript appraisal (novels and short fiction)
- submission package assessment

We can also offer tailor-made packages, depending on your needs and requirements. If you want an assessment of your initial three chapters, to see whether a manuscript is worth continuing, we can look at this. If you have a whole novel, and would like it taken up to the point where you are ready to submit to an agent, we can structure a timetable for you and take you through a chapter-by-chapter assessment. This process is likely to take about a year (unless you’re a very quick writer!) and we will suggest that you rewrite if we think it’s necessary.

You can start at any point. We are both very thorough – this is aimed at the serious writer who is aiming at a professional career. We start with an appraisal, and if we think your expectations are unrealistic and that you would not benefit at this point from a full appraisal program, we will tell you. However, we are solution-oriented and our criticism will always be constructive!

The aim of this process is to prepare work for publication. Obviously, we cannot guarantee that, although I would note that my last student has just had her first novel published as part of a 3 book-deal. I can put you in touch with former students if you wish. For other genres, including detective fiction, post-colonial fiction or other, let me know if you would like details and I will pass you on to a wider mentoring agency.

If you would like to discuss this with either Maria or myself, please email me at mevennen(at)hotmail(dot)com for further information, including a full breakdown of costs.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Since September, I've been working on a series of short stories, mostly old ideas or half-finished fiction that I've put on the back burner, but decided after Milford to finish. This has been successful, and I am now on number eight. They're a mix of SF and Fantasy, the latter mainly drawn from UK folklore, but a couple of them verge on horror.

I have not contributed much to the recent SFWA issue, having been disgusted with 90% of the reaction on both sides and the apparent inability of people who profess to be genre writers to put themselves into other people's shoes (again, on both sides). I think anything I have to say about gender is in the novels, which is where it should be - I think one's work is more important than one's blog - and that may be all I have to say about it (I also find that I am getting increasingly tired of the sound of my own voice on the non-fictional page). I've been looking back over my early reading, which consisted of a combination of male and female writers, and when I was in my early teens, whether the protagonist was male or female was largely irrelevant to me. What mattered more were the worldbuilding and the prose (hence Vance, LeGuin, Bradbury, Cooper, to name but a few). I have always been more interested in the alien than the human (invoking the alien leads us, in any case, to comprehend ourselves), and in landscape. That set of preoccupations has remained with me, along with a deepening interest in folklore and nature writing: I am increasingly reading people like Robert MacFarlane, Roger Deakin and Sara Maitland for pleasure, whereas SFF is confined to work, although there are exceptions and like most of us, I go through phases.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
...but everywhere else is. South of here, large parts of the Somerset Levels are underwater, people have been evacuated from the toxic slurry of sewage, rainwater and decomposing animal that now fills their homes, and all political parties are bickering and doing very little. The only people helping have been locals, the Army (who obviously have to be mobilised first) and independent organisations such as the Khalsa Trust, who are a Sikh aid charity based in the Thames Valley and who normally only work abroad, but said that since no one else seemed to be doing anything, they would.

For anyone who thinks that it's just rich farmers who are affected, a friend's ex, who has had mental health and other problems and was living on a boat, was moved to a section of river due to flooding and then fell out of touch with his support network: his case workers seem not to have done anything pro-active to contact him, but his friends mobilised and got the police out to him. They found him very ill, and he was hospitalised that day, but died a few hours later.

Glastonbury itself is not flooded, but it is obviously impacting on trade. We're taking things as day-by-day as possible, and we have not yet been unable to get into town: the flood measures along the local small river, which is tidally affected, are working up to a point.

Meanwhile it is currently raining and sunny, and this morning was overcast with snow.

In other news, my father is still in hospital but with serious noises being made about his release. He's been getting on well with the physio.

Kittens have now been with us for almost a year. Basically, you should see Sid as Snape (black, grumpy, secret heart of gold), Henry as Draco (sucks up to Sid), and the kittens as first years. Ruby and Wesley are clearly in Gryffindor but I suspect the sorting hat would place Jane Austenesque, observational Rosie in Ravenclaw. Henry actually reminds me of one of those boys in the 20-24 age range who is super-fastidious and spends ages locked in the bathroom gelling his hair, then goes out and steals someone's car.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
As some of you will know, I have been offering manuscript appraisal services for some time now, and a couple of years ago was joined by historical novelist Maria McCann.

I am keeping prices constant for 2014 (see contact details below).

Maria McCann's first novel, As Meat Loves Salt, was published to considerable acclaim in 2001 and was an Economist Book of the Year. Described as a 'fat juicy masterpiece', it has never gone out of print. The Wilding (2010) was longlisted for the Orange Prize and was one of eight novels selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club out of a hundred and sixty titles submitted by publishers. She has also published shorter pieces in anthologies and magazines.

Maria has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan. For nearly a decade (until December 2010) she ran the Creative Writing courses at Strode College in Somerset, helping writers of all levels of ability to nurture their creative processes and to craft their work. Alongside historical novelists Emma Darwin, Rose Melikan and R N Morris, Maria appears at literary festivals as part of a panel discussing aspects of writing and researching historical fiction; from January 2011 she will be one of three writers (along with poet Daljit Nagra and playwright Nell Leyshon) selected to mentor upcoming talent as part of the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.

I will be dealing with SF, Fantasy and Horror, or any related sub-genres. Maria will be dealing with literary fiction and historical fiction. We will be offering:

- manuscript proposal appraisal (first three chapters and synopsis)
- full manuscript appraisal (novels and short fiction)
- submission package assessment

We can also offer tailor-made packages, depending on your needs and requirements. If you want an assessment of your initial three chapters, to see whether a manuscript is worth continuing, we can look at this. If you have a whole novel, and would like it taken up to the point where you are ready to submit to an agent, we can structure a timetable for you and take you through a chapter-by-chapter assessment. This process is likely to take about a year (unless you’re a very quick writer!) and we will suggest that you rewrite if we think it’s necessary.

You can start at any point. We are both very thorough – this is aimed at the serious writer who is aiming at a professional career. We start with an appraisal, and if we think your expectations are unrealistic and that you would not benefit at this point from a full appraisal program, we will tell you. However, we are solution-oriented and our criticism will always be constructive!

The aim of this process is to prepare work for publication. Obviously, we cannot guarantee that, although I would note that my last student has just had her first novel published as part of a 3 book-deal. I can put you in touch with former students if you wish. For other genres, including detective fiction, post-colonial fiction or other, let me know if you would like details and I will pass you on to a wider mentoring agency.

If you would like to discuss this with either Maria or myself, please email me at mevennen(at)hotmail(dot)com for further information, including a full breakdown of costs.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
I have the following in paperback:

SNAKE AGENT - 1 copy

DEMON AND THE CITY - 2 copies

PRECIOUS DRAGON - 2 copies

THE SHADOW PAVILION - 2 copies

IRON KHAN - 2 copies

They are £10 each; p&p £4.50 to the US (if you buy more than 1, I will have to sort out the postage rates), £2.50 UK (ditto).

If you're interested, email me on: mevennen(at)hotmail.com and we'll sort it out. First come, first served! - but you can now order them from elsewhere, and I'll be making an announcement about that in a day or so.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
...I actually posted, but there you go. In the last two weeks, I have been in London, at a panel on Medieval Science Fiction (no, we did not know what its remit was either) at King's College, with Edward James and Andy Sawyer, Bristol for Bristolcon, and World Fantasy. Hectic, in other words. London was brief but a lot of fun: I visited Borough Market, and a very nice Middle Eastern restaurant. At Bristolcon, I met most of the people I know (and was given a Thing), and a WFC, where I was barconning it, I saw them again, and a whole lot of other people, as well. Great to see Brighton once more, and spend time with friends, despite a level of stormy weather which had us nearly horizontal along the sea front. I am pleased to be back and not going anywhere, however!

Kittens

Jul. 11th, 2013 08:29 pm
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
As T remarked, 'this latest batch is working well.' When Henry arrived, Sid (eldest cat) treated him rather as Snape might treat a young and impudent Malfoy Jnr. There were yells, sarcasm and bashing. Henry stole Sid's food and stalked him with occasional ambushes. Sid stepped back, affronted, and let his food be stolen in injured silence.

Then kittens came, and the zeitgeist now is rather like the current intake of Hogwarts' first years. Henry is now a teenager, is clearly a prefect, and gets on well with Sid; they sniff noses and are outraged by the appalling behaviour of the new bugs. Little Wesley is clearly a Weasley: he steals Sid and Henry's food and they both step back, affronted, and let their food be stolen in injured silence.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
As announced a few weeks ago, I am floating a new series of stories for the next year. The first set of these has just gone out to subscribers so if you have not heard from me today, and you have signed up, let me know!

THE MIX: I will be writing 8 stories set in the different worlds of my novels (Winterstrike, Mondhile, Empire of Bones, The Moon in Daylight and Nine Layers of Sky).

CHEN: I will be announcing the final (OK, the sixth) Chen novel shortly, but have not yet finished the back stories - I have done four of these, but there are more characters, so.....

Thank you all for your support!




Short Stories




lizwilliams: (big gothic)
For the record, I've never been harassed at a convention, here or in the US. Many people have. Some of the stories coming out over the last 10 days have been truly appalling.

A significant amount of the harassment seems to have been coming from established writers.

This is what you need to know, as a reader, a fan, a young or not-young attendee: you do not and should not have to put up with this abuse from someone who essentially holds very little power. It is not written into publishing contracts that an author has droit de seigneur. I have never observed the clause that says - "We'll pay 20% of the advance on delivery and by the way, you are hereby allowed by the universal cosmos to grope women's breasts."

Fans sometimes think that authors have power over what happens to other people. In fact, they don't. They really don't. They might give the impression that they do, that they can blight your career, etc etc - but this is not so. If anyone - editor, writer, publisher - essentially assaults you, something can be done about it. It is a very small pond and pretty much everyone on a pro level knows one another. They know about abusers and this is why the current offender has come to light.

If I, as a pro writer, get to hear of someone abusing a female member of a convention which I'm at, the subsequent ruction will be heard from here to kingdom fucking come. It doesn't matter if the abuser is a friend of mine. I am used to banning people in my social circle from the shop - about 5 so far - and even kicking people out from the pub, which I obviously don't own, because they've done something unacceptable and other people's safety comes first. If they then decide never to speak to me again: so what? Good riddance. They have no power over me and I am not afraid of anyone.

Conventions should be, and are, developing anti-harassment policies. That's great. I will say here and now that if I am at a convention, and you have a problem, then tell me about it and I will go to the con com and make a fuss. I hope my fellow female pros would do similar - and I'm sure some of the men will, too. In the unlikely event that it's a malicious claim - which can happen - we'll evaluate the circumstances. These people may be editors, but we're not in a cult here: their power is severely limited and they don't have license to turn your nice weekend into a nightmare.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
There have been a number of very thoughtful blog posts, from Judith Tarr and others, across the net lately on the changing scene in publishing. I've been pretty much in the middle of this, from having been pro-published for some years, critically acclaimed, award nominated, but low on the sales side. Eventually this has meant that I've been squeezed out of the big publishers, have gone to the smaller press with mixed results, and finally gone indie. The latter was more or less forced onto me by economic circumstances and it's been interesting. On balance, I would prefer to continue to be pro published: it's much easier and less of a scramble, but I do enjoy the indie work (for those of you waiting for the new subscription stories, by the way, the first 3 should be with you next week).

I've never anticipated an easy ride with writing, because I watched my mother go through all this with her novels in the 1970s. When Robert Hale stopped producing her work, she continued to write privately and at the age of 85, still does. It is much more likely that you will stop being published than the alternative. I have always kept up a day job, usually several and in the year that I did go entirely freelance, I found that I did not necessarily write more. People quite often say things like 'I don't know how you get so much stuff done' and the simple reply is that I don't want to lose the house. 'Getting so much done' has pretty much taken me to the limits of my energy and health and this year, that's had to give.

I'm still writing, obviously. I've done a succession of short fiction this year, for anthologies and for the subscription, have embarked on a series of articles for the Guardian, have been mentoring other people's manuscripts and teaching creative writing classes. I'm likely to be co-authoring a non-fiction work, and possibly writing a second, across 2014. 'Diary 2' came out in 2013 and we need to plan a launch party this summer. I have a novel in very slow progress, but have not worked on this at all this year.

So in terms of other people's thoughts on all this, particularly other women writers, I'm in broad agreement. I would very much like to see the younger female writers get to grips with it, and am working on some ideas as to how I can facilitate their work - there are a couple of options here, which I will be discussing offline with people in due course. The only thing that I would take slight issue with on a personal basis is the use of the term 'shattered': for me, not being published is not shattering. Multiple bereavements and other people's cancer is shattering; ending a career isn't, at least not for me. It's tedious, but not more than that: I am more than a writer.

On a related note, both Judith and Kari have commented on anti-women posts elsewhere in the blogosphere. I'm not going to add much to this, as I had a go at Pox Day on his own site back in the winter, which whiled away a couple of evenings. Libertarians throwing their toys out of the pram are always mildly entertaining for a bit. He obliquely threatened to set fire to me, but I'm not taking that seriously. Beale's comments on both race and gender are foul, but par for the course: he uses attacks on currently published writers to boost his own profile, as it generates publicity which he wouldn't otherwise have. Regardless of his political views - and I am being very objective here - I view it as something of a shame that he can't seem to carry the writing style of his blog into his fiction: he's frequently quite funny and caustic in the blog, but his fictional prose is the most godawful putrid Mills-and-Boon-esque slop, all tossing mahogany locks and flashing emerald eyes. He does seem vaguely aware that prose isn't his strong point, although I'm not sure what is.
lizwilliams: (big gothic)
I have only just come across this, not being a current member of the SFWA (for the record, I left it years ago because I'm based in the UK, it wasn't doing anything for me, and it was expensive), and don't think I am totally up to speed on the latest row, but the comments on LJ and various women's resignation letters have reminded me irresistibly of the row in Gaudy Night:

"Harriet wrote a tart letter to the paper, pointing out that 'undergraduate' or 'woman student' would be seemlier English than 'undergraduette'... The only result of this was to provoke a correspondence headed 'Lady Undergrads' and a reference to 'sweet girl-graduates'. She informed Wimsey - who happened to be the nearest male person handy for scarifying - that this kind of vulgarity was typical of the average man's attitude to women's intellectual interests. He replied that bad manners always made him sick; but was it any worse than headlining foreign monarchs by their Christian names, untitled?"

I gather there was a quote from an, ahem, gentleman writer suggesting that we “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.” I will note only that I will maintain quiet dignity as and when I damn well see fit, and should I choose to respond loudly and obnoxiously instead, I shall do so. (As you might have noticed on previous occasions, regardless of the target). One of the advantages of age, I find, is a remarkable decrease in the importance of anyone else's opinion; I might not be able to rock a chainmail bikini these days, but I find that I possess a correspondingly substantial ability to say what I think.

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