all about content warnings

As you may have noticed, I’m trying to be a bit more of a community animal recently. That has included blogging more frequently, more interacting, generally spending a bit more time interacting with both readers and writers. I’m enjoying it- I thought it might be awful, I’m a real recluse, generally speaking- but because it’s mostly online, if I get too overwhelmed I can run away and put a paper bag on my head and take deep breaths for a while if necessary.

Anyway. One of the things I’ve forced myself to do is to set up a Bookfunnel Promo. This is where a load of authors get together on Bookfunnel, sling a free e-book/story in to the pot and then when the time comes, promo the heck out of the thing as a whole, so all the participants get the benefit of each other’s followers. It’s worked very well for me before, but there aren’t that many for LGBTQ books and I thought… well, in that case, I’ll do my own. It’ll be open for readers to download free stories in September, although that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I have only relatively realized that it would be helpful for readers to have content warnings for potentially triggering things in the blurb for each book. And then I went looking for an article about common trigger warnings and couldn’t really find anything both comprehensive and comprehensible for authors new to the concept to send out for my promo participants, because my Google Chi seemed to have collapsed that day.

Eventually though, I found this article from the University of Michigan, which although it’s about content warnings in academic teaching, is very clear, sensible and easily applicable to fiction and sent it out to participants. I’ve copied their list of common content warnings to the bottom of this post.

Then Missy Welsh took the time to email me with this useful blog post by Jami Gold, Content Warnings: How and What to Include?  which is extremely on point and also links to a post by Suzanne at Love in Panels: Content Warnings, What and Why Are They? Suzanne points us to a crowd-sourced list of content warnings on a google-sheet. So it turns out that there is a load of stuff out there, it’s just I was rubbish at finding it. Thank you to all of them for writing such clear and accessible pieces.

I think it’s important to emphasize that it’s impossible to content warn for every reader’s triggers. It’s just not possible. Everything is a trigger for someone. However, that doesn’t mean that as writers we shouldn’t do our best to help readers navigate to stories that are right for them. Authors arguing that we don’t have that responsibility and setting up the ‘everything is a trigger for someone so why bother at all‘ defense as their straw man are being spurious.

As a writer, I don’t want to drive a reader in to the sort of fugue I sometimes end up in when I read about sexual violence or miscarriage. I don’t understand why authors wouldn’t want to help their readers avoid that. It’s just being a good human, isn’t it?

Having said that, some of my blurbs are not yet updated with appropriate CWs. But I’m getting there.

Next week: August’s reading roundup


Common content warnings

    • Sexual Assault
    • Abuse
    • Child abuse/pedophilia/incest
    • Animal cruelty or animal death
    • Self-harm and suicide
    • Eating disorders, body hatred, and fat phobia
    • Violence
    • Pornographic content
    • Kidnapping and abduction
    • Death or dying
    • Pregnancy/Childbirth
    • Miscarriages/Abortion
    • Blood
    • Mental illness and ableism
    • Racism and racial slurs
    • Sexism and misogyny
    • Classism
    • Hateful language directed at religious groups (e.g., Islamophobia, antisemitism)
    • Transphobia and trans misogyny
    • Homophobia and heterosexism

research rabbit hole: historical lamps

As you know, I self-id as a complete and utter history nerd and I regularly get sucked down research rabbit holes. I find that I get stuck on how something would work so fixedly that I can’t move on with the story until I’ve worked it out in my own head. A lot of this doesn’t make it in to the book, because it’s simply not necessary for the plot for everyone else to know how corn was harvested in 1920, or what precise underwear working women wore in the mid-eighteenth century, or, in this particular case, what lanterns someone would have used to explore a cave system in the Himalayas in 1780.

This stuffed me for lighting solutions, because advances in oil lamp technology didn’t actually happen until 1780, with the invention of the Argand Lamp by, wait for it, Aime Argand.

Jones and Edith were therefore left with either a candle lantern or a more primitive oil lantern for their explorations. I have allowed them a few candles brought with them from home. But the lighting in the region was primarily from oil lamps, usually using clarified butter or vegetable oil. So I thought that Jones, being very well prepared, would probably have an oil lantern and a candle in her pocket for emergencies. Oil lanterns can have more than one wick for additional light – this YouTube video is a really worthwhile watch.

After watching that, I made myself a little lamp with olive oil and a bit of cotton string supported out of it with some wire, in a glass jar. It gave enough light to hang out and chat, but not really enough to read by unless you were right next to it. I guess more wicks in the jar would make a difference.

My next project is to take the cream off our fortnightly milk delivery, make butter, clarify the butter and see how I get on with that.

One thing that shouldn’t be underestimated is the very real risk of fire with all of these open light sources. There’s a reason that there were stiff penalties for having an open flame below decks on a ship. Horn lanterns, with scraped thin panels of animal horn to protect the flame, served a double purpose – to protect the flame from being blow out, but to also slow down fire if the lamp was dropped or toppled over.

Don’t try this at home without something close by to extinguish flames if something goes wrong!

 

interview: Nell Iris comes to chat!

I’m really pleased to introduce a New Thing this week! I’m going to occasionally invite other authors to answer questions about themselves and their work and anything else they want to chat about. The first person brave enough to subject themselves to this is Nell Iris! Welcome, Nell.


Firstly, why are you doing this interview? Inquiring minds need to know!

Because answering questions is always fun? 😉 Nah, just kidding. I have a new book coming out on August 3, a M/M contemporary short (app 5500 words) story called Team Luker. It’s a story about a couple, Jools and Ellery, who have been together for 25 years and who love each other dearly, but now face some difficulties in their lives.

What started you writing?

I’ve always adored books and reading. I learned to read as a very young child due to my mom’s illness that made her unable to be as active as she wanted, so to keep me occupied, she taught me how to read. Since then, I’ve always existed with my nose in a book and have always been interested in the art of writing.

I’ve always loved writing, since my early school days. My teachers encouraged me and for a while, after high school, I thought writing was something I was going to pursue. But then life happened, as it so often does, and my plans for my future changed. Not until decades later, when at 39, me and my husband left our old life in Sweden behind and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, did I decide to actually try to achieve my dream. It wasn’t even my idea at first; when I was out to dinner with my husband one evening, he looked at me and said, You know, honey, I think you should write a book. So I did.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I have actually written in some form or other most of my life. I started a personal blog back in 2006 and wrote every day until 2018 when I decided I was done with that blog. In my day job back in Sweden, I did a lot of writing: I wrote routines for our customer service, I wrote offers, I composed letter templates, and I wrote campaign letters.

So I guess I’ve been writing my entire life. But not until 2016 did I sit down with the intent on writing a book I would try to get published.

Where do you write?

Most of the time I write at my desk, that’s jammed between the couch and the dining room area of our living room. It’s where I have all my pens and notebooks (I write longhand), where I have a little Funko-Pop Professor Snape glaring at me if I don’t do the work, where I feel most comfortable. But sometimes, I take my notebook and venture outside the door. Sometimes I like sitting in a coffee shop, or someplace I can have a glass of wine and write. Mostly, because I don’t want to end up becoming a complete shut-in recluse 😊

What do you like to read?

Right now, I read mostly M/M romance books. But I also love poetry and am so happy about the Instagram poets who are bringing back interest to this long ignored artform. I’m also in love with children’s books, mainly middle-school books. It’s before all the teenage drama sets in, when kids are curious and still innocent, wondering about the world and their place in it. Where they still believe in magic and are open-minded, and the books written for that age group reflects that. My dream is to one day write for kids.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

The Complete Works of Jane Austen (it’s ONE book, I swear, I have it!!) – because it’s six fantastic stories in one (all right, five, I’m not that fond of Northanger Abbey) and I love Jane Austen.

I would bring the book of Catullus’ poems. Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Roman poet who wrote love poems to a married lady who he called Lesbia in his poems, and some witty, and very vulgar stuff, about life in Rome. I discovered him in my Latin classes in high-school and have read and loved them ever since.

And I would bring Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren (the author who wrote Pippi Longstocking) because it was my favorite book when I was a kid and all Lindgren’s female characters are strong and independent and excellent role models even for grown-ups.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I’m a member of a Goodreads M/M writing group which is currently not very active, but it’s where I met a couple of my most cherished writer friends. And over the years (I haven’t been active for that long yet) I’ve collected a couple more. All my writing friends are online; I currently live in Malaysia where homosexuality is against the law, so my genre isn’t very big here. I don’t know of any other M/M writers here, and only one reader that I’ve encountered so far (Hello Amanda! *waves*)

I kind of like it that way most of the time, because I’m an introvert who easily gets overwhelmed in busy social situations. But sometime,s when my friends are going on writing retreats, I wish I could go. Maybe someday 😊

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I LOVE reading. I read all the time, every second I get. Music is also very important to me and I listen to it a lot. I like to listen consciously, and by that I mean not just something that’s on in the background as I do other stuff, but put on a vinyl record (yes, we have those!), pour a glass of red and listen. I love going out to dinners with my husband, I like drinking bubbly with my friends (not too often though, introvert remember?), I love my bullet journal, going to bookstores, and drinking tea. And I’m currently trying to revive my old German skills (I took a lot of languages in school – except for Swedish since I’m a Sweden, I learned English, French, German, and Latin) and right now I’m trying to un-rust my German. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy learning languages.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

My husband had a health scare recently, of the “we have to rule out cancer”-kind. For a while, I was really frightened and anxious; we’ve been together for more than 25 years, he’s my best friend, and I can’t imagine my life without him. And the c-word is just so damned scary, especially considering a couple of my friends have just recently battled it (or is currently battling it). So to deal with my anxiety, I decided to write.

The words poured out of me and I finished the story in a day. Granted, it’s only about 5500 words, but I sat down, wrote a beginning, a middle, and an end in only one day (then it needed some beta reading and editing and all the other frills, of course, like books always do).

The story is about Jools and Ellery and it’s inspired by my husband’s health scare and my feelings at the time. I loved writing it because it gave me something to focus all my nervous energy on, instead of just sitting around thinking “what if?”

In the end, the story turned out great and my husband doesn’t have the big scary C, and when it comes to Jools and Ellery…well, you just have to read their story and see what happens to them, don’t you? 😊

Nell’s new release, Team Luker, is out on August 3rd.

What if this is the last time we lie like this?

Uncertainty is keeping Ellery Luker awake at night and robbing him of his appetite. It’s been five days since the love of his life and partner of twenty-five years, Jools, went to the doctor. Five days since the biopsy. Five days of going crazy with worry and what ifs?

What if Jools suffers from the same disease that stole Ellery’s mother when he was just eleven?

What if all Ellery’s worst fears come true?

What if…?

Read an excerpt and buy from JMS Books


Find Nell elsewhere!

Email:  contact@nelliris.com

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