What Is Social Work Fiction?

Social Work Fiction

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how my past social work experiences have had an influence on my story writing and I’ve begun to use the term ‘social work fiction’. I quite like it, enough to even include it at the top of my website.

It’s hardly an established genre, obviously nothing like crime fiction, science fiction or literary fiction, but a quick scout around the internet does reveal that the phrase is being used. Well, it’s being used a tiny bit. At any rate, it’s working for me. I think it has a nice easy flow to it. Social work fiction. It almost sounds like an established genre.

So what kind of writing might one expect when referring to something as social work fiction? What fictional ideas or images does the term summon up for potential readers?

A few rather overused social worker images spring to mind. Such as the well-meaning ‘do-gooder’ (I hate that expression, by the way, how did there come to be a derogatory term for people who do good?). She is a woman, probably blonde, young and attractive, and she works at a downtown (read New York) charity of some kind, and she ultimately needs rescuing by a worldly-wise, gritty man. I seem to recall a few 70s films with romantic subplots like this. Probably all starring Clint Eastwood.

And then there’s the other kind of social worker image found in fiction, probably even more common. An older, middle-class woman in a dowdy outfit (perhaps a twin-set outfit, pearls and glasses). She’s a ‘busy body’ – well-meaning (again) but misguided. And she raps on the door of a troubled family’s home only to worsen their plight by attempting to remove the children and place them into the black hole of government foster care.

And I can think of a third kind. A woman again (well, it is a female dominated profession) and she sits silently in a windowless room, watching while two policemen interview a wayward child or teenager.

Cobra Bubbles: not the regular-looking social worker. (C) Walt Disney

Lilo with Cobra Bubbles (right). I think you’ll agree, he’s not the regular-looking social worker.

Beyond the cliches, there are also some quite oddball representations. Lilo and Stitch is one film that immediately jumps to mind. The social worker is a man for starters (hooray for me), he’s ex-CIA and he goes under the name Cobra Bubbles. But of course, he still wants to place Lilo into foster care. At least he’s a little different to look at.

A social work fiction story with a marvelous difference is the horror flick from 1971, The Baby. This film is bizarre. A social worker investigates the ‘Wadsworth family’ – a mother, two daughters, and an adult son who behaves like a baby. Literally like a baby. ‘Trapped by three women with no way out,’ goes the pitch. The trailer is well worth checking out. It’s on IMDB here.

A social work home visit to the Wadsworths.

A social worker ‘homevisits’ the Wadsworths.

Happily, recently I’ve witnessed more respectful and inventive portrayals of social worker characters in fiction: competent care workers conducting supportive interventions to create positive change and secure social justice for their clients. But then of course, as drama demands, there’s an upheaval of some kind – a gruesome murder, perhaps – which upturns things and gets the story rolling.

While mostly documentaries, the blog site A Small Good Thing provides an interesting list of 23 powerful films ‘that shed light on social work, social workers, and the important themes and issues that social workers devote themselves to every day’.

Putting all of this to one side, for me, use of the term social work fiction is a personal thing. It’s a way for me to describe what I am writing and something I can fit alongside the more recognisable genre I might be writing in. For example, young adult fantasy. Social work fiction, for me, is a mindset. It’s a part of my writing voice.

So ultimately, that’s what I mean by social work fiction. It’s the lens through which I’m looking at the world I’m creating. For me, social work fiction stories are not just stories that happen to include a social worker in some way.

My play-around image for Christopher Reuben and the Curious World beneath His Garden

Some play around imagery for Christopher Reuben and the Curious World beneath His Garden.

For example, my latest completed draft novel, Christopher Reuben and the Curious World beneath His Garden, is about a 14-year-old boy with a strange new illness who escapes into an extraordinary world beneath his garden – a world that is under attack by a deadly weed, just as his own body is under attack by a deadly virus. Besides fantasy stories such as Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Gaiman’s take on Kipling’s The Jungle Book), Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz, to write the story I drew on the humbling experiences working as a social worker in HIV/AIDS and now cancer.

My traditionally-published book.

My traditionally-published sci-fi about a dangerous and highly addictive virtual video game.

In my first, traditionally published book, EleMental, I explore addiction. Set in 2050, a group of kids play a virtual game deliberately designed to be highly addictive (it’s meant for asteroid miners, to prevent them from wanting to go on leave back to Earth). As they play the deadly game, their perceptions of when they are in a game and when they are in the real world because hopelessly blurred until they find themselves trapped in the game world. While writing the story, I draw on my time working with those recovering from alcohol and drug addictions. It’s quite a complex book for a young adult novel.

The latest project I’m still busily working on does happen to feature a social worker. He is the main character, and it’s a novel for adults for a change. Set in the eighties, it’s about a group of social workers (and one in particular) struggling to be effective within the turmoil of a busy infectious diseases hospital that’s caught in the grip of the AIDS epidemic.

My social work identity makes up an important part of my writing voice, no matter what kind of story I end up writing. Sci-fi, fantasy, reality… It’s not deliberate, it’s just a part of me, as your experiences are an important part of you.

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In recent times I have come to enjoy finishing my posts with some recent photos.

A palm tree that once lived near me…

A palm tree down the street is moving out. Off to a cafe on the other side of town.

A palm tree off to a new residence – outside a cafe on the other side of town.

An orchid in my back garden is still going strong. It was a gift to my wife 15 years or more ago…

A cool orchid in my back garden. 15 years old?

I water it when I think to. It does the rest.

Lastly, two pics of Robert De Niro’s T-shirt from the fabulous New York, New York film.

Robert De Niro's shirt.

Robert De Niro’s T-shirt. (From a Martin Scorsese exhibition I went to recently.)

Here it is, in the film…

Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro. Such a great shot.

Robert De Niro’s T-shirt in context. (With Liza Minnelli.)

So long for now. 🙂

I have been busy on Wattpad

wattpad-review

I have been busy on something called Wattpad (not absolutely sure why it’s called that, but there you go). And at last I’m back and writing a post about it.

Wattpad is a Canadian-based online reading and writing community that has been around since 2006. And it’s a very busy place! Many are there as readers, but many others are also posting their own writing efforts — articles, stories, poems… And you are able to comment and like stories or join discussion groups.

 Just who is on Wattpad?

wattpad3

I have been dabbling on Wattpad for a few months now and it’s quite clear that most users — readers and writers alike — are women. Though I have come across men too, including a male video game designer. And many are teenagers. It’s terrific that so many young people are keen to explore their writing abilities. There are many good story ideas and I’ve spotted some pretty impressive writing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are plenty of stories written in the young adult romance genre, though sci-fi and fantasy seem very well represented too. I have also come across a fair bit of  fanfic, which I have to admit I am not so keen on. I am not that interested in reading imaginary stories about members of One Direction or about Justin Bieber. However, if someone on Wattpad grows into a great writer through writing about their favorite pop stars — that’s fine by me! (And besides, if the story’s good enough — they can always alter the characters a bit later.)

What have I been doing on Wattpad?

keep-calm-and-write-stories-on-wattpadMy main reason for being on Wattpad right now is to establish a presence with those who may be interested in my writing, i.e. young adult readers into sci-fi and fantasy. My hope is, if I establish some kind of presence on Wattpad, I can upload the draft of my next book there first. If I’m lucky, I may attract some interest in the story and receive some useful feedback prior to publication. Hence, maybe I can use Wattpad as a giant feedback workshop.

To gain some visibility before I introduce my next book, I have so far uploaded one short story, MotherCraft, which currently has just over a thousand reads, and I am in the process of uploading my first published novel, EleMental: A first-person Shooter. I am up to Chapter 20 in that book, so only 10 chapters to go. It currently has a little over 4,000 reads.

Just on this ‘read’ business, by the way, before you get too impressed. I doubt very much if over five thousand have assiduously read the short story and novel chapters I have uploaded to Wattpad. It’s all software-based counting remember. It has no idea what the ‘reader’ is really doing. But at least they’ve had a peek, eh? No matter how fleetingly. And some have gone on to read it, surely. (Tell me that’s true!)

When I have put all of EleMental on Wattpad, I will effectively be offering the ebook version of that first novel of mine for free through Wattpad. I will then make it free elsewhere also, and upload the first few chapters of MonuMental, my sequel to EleMental.

How to get to Wattpad

keep-calm-and-wattpad-on-3Here’s where you will find more info about Wattpad (complete with a Margaret Atwood endorsement): About Wattpad.

And here’s one of Wattpad’s many writers writing about how to use Wattpad (she gets 14 votes):  Wattpad instructions.

And here’s where you will find my Wattpad page: my exciting page on Wattpad.

Or you can go straight to a story:

  • MotherCraft – A father leaving home can be painful at anytime. Leaving the planet, doubly so.
  • EleMental – The future. It’s all about friendship, young love … and dangerous video games.

Keep on Wattpadding!

Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Tolkien and just about every sci-fi and fantasy film and TV show you could possibly think of. His ebooks EleMental: A First-person Shooter and MonuMental: The Hack’s Back are available through Amazon. (Just Google ‘Amazon’ and ‘Steven O’Connor’ to see). You may also like checking him out at one of his hangouts:

Website ¦ Wattpad ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook 

My books now available in the brand new Libiro store!

My books in Libiro

I am very happy to announce that my ebooks are now available in the brand new ebook store Libiro as epub files (readable on all other ereaders beside Kindles, such as kobos etc).

mothercraft - final cover (300 dpi) (no ss)

MotherCraft is free on Libiro

And MotherCraft is at last a free ebook. I have always wanted this little ebook to be free, but it was not possible through Amazon. There I had to sell it for a minimum of 99c, with a number of days where I was allowed to make it free for promotional purposes.

About Libiro

The name Libiro is a combination of libero and library. Libero is an Italian word meaning ‘free’ as in ‘independent’. (It was also the codename for the World War II partisan leader Riccardo Fedel, but that’s another story.)

Libiro, then, is an ebook store devoted to selling nothing but indie books by indie authors. Their aim is to be the No.1 place to shop if you want to buy self-pubbed. Publishing yourself, they say, is not tied down to market trends or a publisher’s business plan. Indie authors can write what they want, when they want. The result? A different breed of writing.

‘Indie authors can sometimes have trouble standing out on huge stores like Amazon, and constantly work hard to make sure their books are discovered. Here at Libiro, we want to make sure that indies have the best chance of being found, read, and enjoyed.’

Here’s where you can find my books on the brand new Libiro:

If you have a moment to spare – feel free to leave a quick review. I have none so far. 🙁

You can check out Libiro’s homepage here.

And they’re on Twitter here: @LibiroAtLarge

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

And now also as epub files in Libiro: EleMental ¦ MonuMental  ¦ MotherCraft (free)

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My MonuMental Book Tour

MonuMental: The Hack's Back by Steven O'Connor

I am having a book blog tour for MonuMental (and my first book, EleMental). This is my first go at such a thing and it’s already been a very interesting experience just setting it up with Orangeberry Book Tours. Below are the dates. I have something happening from this point on until the end of July. If you get a chance, I’d love you to drop in on one or two of my guest posts or interviews as I make my way around various blogs of the world. Feel free to leave a comment if you do!

Book Tour Schedule (UK times)

7th July – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

8th July – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

9th July – Book Review & Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

10th July  – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

11th July – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

12th July – Book Review & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

13th July – Guest Post at Blog-A-Licious Authors 

14th July – Book Review & Author Interview at Author’s Friend

15th July – Book Review at UK Book Club

16th July – Guest Post & Book Review at Me, You & Books

17th July – Book Review at Book Professor

18th July – Author Interview & Book Review at Brainy Reads

19th July – Guest Post at Paws on Books

20th July – Book Review at Gentleman Reads

21st July – Author Interview at My Life in Books

22nd July – Book Review at Journey’s thru Books

23rd July – Author Interview at Top Shelf Books

24th July – Book Review at A Novel Design

25th July – Guest Post at Non-Stop Reads

1st August – Excerpt at Quality Reads

1st to 31st August 2013 – Listing at OB Book Expo

8th August – Author Interview at Nobody Important

15th August – Guest Post & Book Feature at Book Connoisseur

22nd August – Excerpt at Next Big Book Thing

27th August – Author Interview & Book Feature at Just My Opinion

3rd September – Guest Post at Aspiring Books

17th September – Guest Post & Book Feature at High Class Books

Free sci-fi short story: 31 May

Mothercraft: A short story by Steven O'Connor

Free ebook

I plan to offer my humble sci-fi short story free from 31 May 2013 for five days. I would love this story to be free all of the time, but – alas! – Amazon disagrees. They will only allow me to make it free for five days every three months. So here it is once more within that allotted time, free for all downloads. (Well, come Friday, 31 May.)

More free stuff coming

This small offering is my little build to the main event. EleMental, my young adult sci-fi novel, will be free a short while later (from 7 June). And that will be the last time Elemental will be free. But more about that in a later post. For now, simply note 31 May in your diary and prepare for this little entrée before the main course. (MotherCraft, by the way, is based on a deleted scene from EleMental – a scene deleted by my previous editor, but which yours truly continues to like. And others too – thank you to those who have sent me feedback in the past.)

A quick word about the above cover

I have always loved the cover for this short story, which was put together by a graphic designer who based it on a picture by my son. The picture depicts a table at ‘The Lunching Pad Restaurant’. A fictitious restaurant at the (obviously) equally fictitious ‘Little River Spacedocks’. The cover features one of the better tables at the restaurant. That is, by a window with a view. And what a view! Rockets launching into space, to dock with their MotherCraft waiting in orbit about the Earth.

I included my son’s original picture inside the book.

If you don’t want to wait, the short story is available for 99c right now from Amazon here. And from Amazon UK here.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Part 3 – Pushed into indie publishing. So I jumped!

This is the third of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views about my journey as a writer. Here I chose to talk about my current  – and very new! – adventures in the land of indie publishing. Indie publishing is not easy. There is a lot of work involved in trying to be noticed among the many, many other highly active and very good indie writers. And you are responsible for every step of the way, which can sometimes be quite exhausting. However, there is reward in the sense of control, and it’s important to give things time to grow. You can check out the last of my three posts here.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Part 2 – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it!

This is the second of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views. I was invited by Silk Screen Views to write about my journey as a writer. Central to this post is a reflection on my family’s migration to the outer suburbs of an industrial town in Australia and the impact that had on my ambitions to write.

You can check it out here.

And, as I said yesterday, while you’re there, don’t forget to have a look around the rest of Silk Screen Views’ beautiful website.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Little Readings

I’m proud to present to you what I’ve come to call in my mind, ‘little readings’. This is the very first – my bash at an audio recording of a reading. I’ve dug up an old poem from the murky recesses of my computer’s hard drive and I’m pushing it forward as the guinea pig.

To create the recording, I’m currently grappling with some audio software called Ableton Live. It’s pretty cool stuff. DJs such as Deadmau$ use it.  But it’s complex too. Well, for me it is. I tried a few different ideas, but the one that I like the best is this one. It has some rhythm behind it to support the words. I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the creative process. I used some random notes from some favorite songs, but the overall rhythm is mine.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my first-and-only attempt so far. A short, post apocalyptic sci-fi poem called ‘Earth’s Last Inhabitant Walks Out’. (Don’t forget to like it. Hopefully you will!)

I have set up a specific page on my website for my little readings, and I’ve included the poem’s lines (or lyrics?) there, in case you want to follow what I’m reading. The Little Readings webpage is here.

Little Readings - Ship in the sky.

Little Readings – Ship in the sky.

And I have also set up a twitter page (@LittleReadings) which you can visit here.

If you have any little readings of your own, or you decide to make one, be sure to let me know. I’d love to tweet about it too. You can use my words, from one of my books, or your own words. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a short reading and you keep it G rated!

I hope you like my reading. I’m looking forward to creating another one.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Creating a MonuMental dragonbot

MonuMental’s dragonbot

I am proud to present a video of the artist Aaron Pocock creating the dragonbot from my book MonuMental. Aaron Pocock did this video off his own bat, and even performed the music. It’s wonderful to see something from one’s imagination come alive on the page at the gifted hands of another. Here it is:

In case you’re curious, here are three excerpts from MonuMental that I gave Aaron to help guide him in the creation of the creature …

1:

And from on high, steel talons spread, a dragon descended. It was the color of emerald and metal. It was a technodroid – Willis could see its fuel lines running under its wings and the rows of bolts up and down its body, giving its torso the appearance of an aircraft fuselage plastered in scales.

2:

The dragonbot pushed on through the air until it reached the far end of the rambling street. Then it dropped, releasing Trinity as it neared a rusty water tower. From this distance, she was the size of Willis’s hand. She fell to the top of the tower with a faint shriek. The dragonbot spun about and settled behind her, gripping the tower’s edge. It curled its wings and hunched vulture-like, but kept its head up, glaring back at them, as if defying them to mount a rescue.

3:

The dragonbot spread its great wings and arched backward. The fuel lines fixed to the underside of each wing and running up its scaly chest and neck tautened as petroleum flowed through them. Long jets of flame erupted from its snout and a wave of heat washed over them. It was as if the creature had understood Trinity’s words. It lunged forward, almost crushing her, and dropped from the tower, swooping at the three of them.

If you go to my MonuMental website page, you can see more pictures Aaron Pocock created before arriving at the final cover. And you can also check out more of his wonderful artwork here: That Space Between.

MonuMental1_sml

Finally, if interested, MonuMental (my new book, in case you didn’t guess!) is available here:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

MonuMentally worn out but EleMentally free!

Tired as Lemur

Tired as Larry the Lemur

I have been quiet haven’t I? In actual fact I’ve been tweeting like mad. And jumping around all over facebook. Telling everybody about how you can currently download EleMental, my first book, for free. This is all in support of my lovely new book, MonuMental.

The internet is a terribly big place and it’s easy to go a little unnoticed no matter all the hooha you’re trying to make.

And why have I been trying to make a hooha?

Because I just discovered that I was about to lose my current allotment of free days for EleMental if I didn’t hurry up and use them. And use them I of course do want to … for promotion.

Yes, EleMental: A First-person Shooter is currently free for download. It ends midnight Thursday, 14 March (US time).

It’s great bringing your book project to completion but it can also wear you out like a … lemur. Well, that lemur above, anyway. Having just come across its picture (and spontaneously named Larry). And that’s why this initial promotion has been rather quick!

Also note – this is absolutely the first time EleMental has been offered for free.

Here are the links for you to head over there right now and grab your copy …

If you’re reading this late and have missed out, don’t worry – this was a rushed affair. I will offer EleMental for free again in a much bigger campaign coming mid-year. (And MonuMental can always be read separately too.)

Yours monuMentally, eleMentally, everyTHINGally …