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

excerpt: the flowers of time

As promised, this week I have an excerpt from The Flowers of Time for you. Set in the 1780s, in England and Northern India, the main characters are Jones, a non-binary archaeologist who has lived in the mountains for most of her life, and Edith, who is a botanical illustrator.


If Pater hadn’t made Jones promises to leave straight after the funeral, she wouldn’t have gone at all.

“You promise?” he’d asked, again and again as his strength waned in the flicker of the butter-lamps. “You promise you’ll go, Frank? You need to get away. Take the green-bound book and go.”

“Yes, Pater,” she had reiterated again and again. “I promise. I’ll go. I’ll go straight down to Bombay, to John and Richard. And I’ll take ship as soon as I can. You’ve already written to Aunt Caroline, I sent the letter myself. I’m ready.”

She had been sniveling to herself as she spoke, hoping he wouldn’t notice how distressed she was in the dim light. She didn’t want to be having this conversation at all. He looked yellow-faced and sunken-cheeked even in the daylight and in the flickering light of the dim lamps at night it was worse. He was already corpse-like.

He moved a thin, clawed hand to cover hers. “My dear, I love you so much. I have perhaps done you a disservice by not sending you home to Caro before now, when you were younger.”

“I didn’t want to go,” she said, roughly. “It’s all right, Pater. I’m all right. I’ll go, as soon as is possible.”

“I should never have kept you out here, once I realized that the book has some truth behind it,” he said. He had been rambling a little about his books in the last week or so, as he had become weaker. “You must take it back with you. And put it in the library at Stamford Hall. That’s where it came from. Put it in the library, up high, on one of the top shelves to the left of the arched window. Use the ladders. And then it will be safe.” He drew a rattling breath. “Promise me, Frank.”

She turned her hand over beneath the fragile skin of his own on the counterpane and clasped it carefully. “I promise, Pater.”

“And don’t do what I did,” he added in a harsh whisper. “Don’t search for the source. All these years,” he said, “All these years I have been following the trail, looking for the source. And now, here we are. And it’s not a source for good, my child. It’s not a source for good at all.” He was lapsing in to rambling again. “I want you away, Frank. I want you and the book safe.” Finally he slipped in to the restless sleep that was consuming more and more of his time. She bent her head over his hand as she clutched it. He was the only family she had ever known and she was terrified to lose him.

“It won’t be long now.” The soft voice of one of the older monastery healers came from behind her in the slow Bhoti they used with her. “But you know that.”

She turned slowly on her stool, not letting go of her father’s hand, and nodded. “Yes. I know. Thank you, Jamyang. I do appreciate everything you are doing for us.” Kalsang was behind him, she noticed, his apprentice and shadow. “Thank you for helping him wash earlier, Kalsang.”

“You are most welcome, Jones.” Kalsang nodded with all the formality a teenager could muster.

“He wants me to go home. To England. To my aunt.” She swallowed and looked up. “It’s all arranged. He’s written. Sonam will take me down to Bombay.” She heard Kalsang’s indrawn breath of shock. Bombay was months of travel away. She had only been once herself, about fifteen years ago, when Pater had made the trip to take some artifacts down to send home.

“Will you come back?” Jamyang’s voice was unchanged, still calm and unshocked.

She met his gaze. “Yes. Yes. He wants me to stay in England a year. So I can learn where I come from.” She disengaged her hand gently, not waking her father, and stood. “He’s right, in a way. I should know. But my home is here. And my work is here. His work. It’s so important the people at home in England learn about the wonderful things here in the mountains. There are buildings and people here that people in England never even imagine. Things so old, so precious! I want to keep documenting it all, keep exploring.”

Jamyang watched her, with a small smile and then patted her arm. “You are a good person, Jones,” he said. “You are your father’s child. Franklin has been my friend for decades now, since you first came here when you were a tiny child after your mother died.” He stepped forward and took her hand. “We will welcome you back when you come, child. You will always have a home here with us. But do as your father wishes, now. Take the book he speaks of back to England. And leave it there. He has protected you from it for this long. Now, your protection must rest on your own shoulders.”




 

 


Next week, my monthly ‘what I’ve been reading in July’ roundup!

research rabbit-holes for june

The last few weeks’ research rabbit-holes have been pretty varied. I’m still flailing around in the Himalayas and in eighteenth century India for Flowers of Time and on top of that I’m still fact-checking for Inheritance of Shadows.  This is the stack of reading I took away on holiday last week.

It turns out that Rob in Inheritance needs to know about Trench Code, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started researching codes used by the British in World War One. I’m reading Secret Warriors by Taylor Downing to get some background on Rob’s career in Signals. Or… was he involved with something more Intelligence-led? I’m also reading A Country Twelvemonth by Fred Archer to give me a chronological background to the farming year in the 1920s and I may give Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee another read – I haven’t touched it since it was one of the set texts for my O-levels in 1986. Although I enjoyed it before then, deconstructing it for an exam completely soured me to it.

The pile also includes a couple of books about Kew and Marian North, who was a Victorian plant collector and illustrator. Edie in Flowers of Time is inspired by her, although Edie predates Marian by a century.

Tabs open in my browser this morning include Keeping Clean in the Eighteenth Century, Ladakh, the index to Lady’s Magazine, a google search for images of deserted forts of the Himalayas, a page about the monastery of Phugtal Gompta, the abstract of an article about eighteenth century circulating libraries, and (still) the article about the eighteenth century seed trade, because I keep going back to it to absorb a bit more.

That’s it for this time!

here, there and everywhere

This week’s post is a lazy one, just a heads up to a couple of other things I’ve written in the last few weeks. (I’m on my holidays this week, in Devon with the family).

Firstly, my monthly newsletter has got some ramblings about where I am with work and dachshunds, plus a link to some free LGBTQ+ books on Bookfunnel and new releases by Elizabeth Noble and Julie Bozza. You don’t have to sign up to look at it, because I am a positively amazing technical wizard and have worked out how to link to the web version from here. (If you want to though, that would be lovely! There’s a sign-up form here).

And secondly, I’ve committed to writing a few posts for Scott over at Queeromance Ink and this month I’ve introduced myself and talked about being semi-closeted in rural England. I’m taking suggestions for future topics, so please do let me know if you have any ideas or questions. I love QRI – it’s one of the places I go to find new LGBTQ+ reads and they are a lovely bunch of people. Also, Queer Sci-Fi. What’s not to like?

That’s it! I told you I was being lazy.

(I’ve experimented with iFrames to embed those posts here and if it’s rubbish for whatever device you’re reading on, please let me know and I will find another way if I do it again)

works in progress: progressing, and that’s about all

I’ve done a load over the last month, but not much of it actual writing.

Because of the shenanigans with MailChimp pricing levels, I’ve ported my newsletter over to MailerLite, which I think will be a good thing long term, but was a pain in the neck to do at the time. And I’ve done the same for Mr AL, who has a much more complex set-up than I do, so it took ages. That done, I’ve also set myself up a proper Ko-fi page that will act as a sort of combination of things I blog here and exclusive content that first goes out to newsletter subscribers.

I’ve also committed to doing some posts for the Queeromance Ink Blog, about author-life in general rather than more bookish things. This involves me sitting down and actually writing them, but they’re coming together in my head.

Which brings me to actual writing! Inheritance of Shadows has another three thousand words, which went out yesterday – newsletter usually goes out on the first Tuesday of the month, barring disaster. If you’d like to get the monthly installments of Matty and Rob’s adventures, just hop on here. You will also be able to follow on Ko-fi as a supporter if you’d rather do it that way. I’m reading Secret Warriors: key scientists, code-breakers and propagandists of the great war by Taylor Downing as background, because Rob needs to know some stuff and I need to know the stuff before he can know the stuff. It’s fascinating.

Flowers of Time has had another few thousand words, but I’m still sidetracked by Katie Hickman’s She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen and feel like I need to get that under my belt before I write any more. I’m writing completely outside both my historical period and my geographical area and I don’t want to mess either up.

This month promises to be more of the same, hopefully with less opportunities for prevarication. Watch this space!