Never too late to visit Middle-earth

Someone I know, who is a lot younger than me, posted on social media yesterday that she’d just bought the complete set of books – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And she’s an LOTR virgin!

I don’t know many people of my generation who would fit that category. My wife is one, though. She didn’t make it past the first page of The Hobbit. Shock, horror – this wasn’t real. She couldn’t read about furry creatures who live in holes in the ground. (Surprising, perhaps, that our relationship didn’t founder there and then. But we’ve now been together for 33 years.)

Anyway, after telling Carol that I had copies of these books that are older than her, I said I would post pictures and here they are.

First up, The Hobbit paperback published in 1974. (Note: price on the back – 65p.)

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Next, The Lord of the Rings trilogy in one volume…also from 1974.

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Both these books travelled with me through journeys to France, Canada, and back to England in the mid 1980s.

I couldn’t resist buying the 50th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit (1987). I recall the bookseller saying he was disappointed the publisher had the anniversary banner printed on the cover instead of a sticker that could have been removed. It’s a lovely version of the book though with maps on the front and back inside covers and some previously unpublished illustrations by the author.

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No surprise then that I also couldn’t resist buying the book of Tolkien Treasures (2018) when I saw it in our local bookshop last year.  The author has compiled many of Tolkien’s illustrations and maps that are held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It’s a fascinating overview of his life and work.

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So, to Carol, and any other readers who haven’t yet read the books, hope you enjoy the journeys and adventures that all start from a Hobbit hole in the peaceful surroundings of the Shire.


Print and eBooks by Jen Silver are available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes

Audiobooks:

Starting Over  is available from: Audible UK / Audible US / Audible DE / Audible CA / Audible AU / Amazon UK / Amazon US  / iTunes

Changing Perspectives is available from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook


 

New Audio Book

Starting Over is now out on audio and I’m thrilled with how it sounds. Nicola Victoria Vincent did an amazing job with the narration and the range of voices for a wide variety of characters, young and old, from different walks of life.

StartingOver

This was my debut novel, published by Affinity Rainbow Publications in October 2014. I started writing it in 2013 and really had no idea where the story would go at the beginning. But I decided one of the main characters, Ellie Winters, would be a potter. And while I was researching pottery, I came across the Vindolanda website. I’ve always been interested in British Roman history so I was fascinated to read about the ongoing archaeological excavations still taking place there, not far from Hadrian’s Wall.

Somehow I knew that archaeology was going to feature strongly in the story. And so it turned out. Another turning point was when my mother gave me an old history book she had on the Brigantes. This provided the information I needed for the final twist in the tale. The story is set in and around parts of West Yorkshire, particularly Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge. This area was part of the Brigantia territory as well as the ancient Celtic kingdom of Elmet. The landscape is another character in its own right.

I had a fine mix of ingredients to work with – pottery, archaeology, history, journalistic skulduggery, and of course, romance. I loved the story and the characters so much, I was inspired to write a sequel, Arc Over Time. And then had to make it a trilogy with Carved in Stone.

I think it’s a journey worth taking – whether or not you want to read the book(s) or listen to the audio.

Have a listen to this taster from the end of Chapter 3 in Starting Over:

 

 


Audiobooks

Starting Over  is available from: Audible UK / Audible US / Audible DE / Audible CA / Audible AU / Amazon UK / Amazon US  / iTunes

Changing Perspectives is available from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

Print and eBooks by Jen Silver are available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes


 

Missing Vindolanda

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vindolanda Trust. However, they’ve had to suspend their excavation season that would have started a few weeks ago as well as closing the site and the two museums. Like many other businesses, they are holding some online events. A good way to help them survive through these uncertain times, would be to donate and/or buy something from their shop. Visit the wesite here.

I enjoyed my times digging there, from 2014 to 2018. As well as the thrill of seeing what comes out of the ground from nearly 2000 years ago, there was the interaction with the other volunteers and the on-site archaeologists. I was lucky enough to be able to book into the Hedley Centre, which generally housed up to 8 people per session. I could look out of my bedroom window and see the ramparts of the barracks on the top of the hill.

So, these photos are just a few of my fond memories of being there. It’s a magical place and I hope they will be able to reopen some time this year so many more visitors (and excavators) can enjoy the experience of walking through history.

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My first view of Vindolanda from the road, approaching from the east.

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View from the Hedley Centre

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First close up view of the excavations in 2014

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On my knees in 2014

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Into the wet stuff in the vicus…2017

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Coin found on the last day of the 2017 dig – as it came out of the ground

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Visiting in 2019

As I’ve said a number of times before, just being there is magical.

When I first went there to do research for my debut novel, Starting Over, I didn’t know if I would enjoy two weeks of scrabbling around in the dirt wondering if my knees and back would hold up. I thought it would be a one-off experience. Not a chance…I could hardly wait to book again for the following year…and the year after that…!

The Starting Over audio book narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent is in the ACX system, awaiting approval. I’m hoping it will be available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes very soon.

StartingOver


Books by Jen Silver…available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes

 

Lockdown comfort reading

Books I’ve been re-reading over the last three weeks:

I started with Swallows and Amazons, a regular source of comfort reads. Coot Club and The Big Six are gentle stories about sailing on the Norfolk Broads. I’ve never sailed in my life and never quite mastered rowing or paddling a canoe either. But I love these stories and marvel at how self-sufficient these children are. However, when Arthur Ransome wrote the stories in the 1930s, it was a very different world.

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After messing about in boats, I moved on to more adult fare with Jasper Fforde. I read books 1 to 5 of the Thursday Next series. They’re all good fun but I think my favourite is the third one – The Well of Lost Plots when Thursday has to hide out in an unpublished novel and continues with her training as a Jurisfiction agent under Miss Havisham.

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Time then for a complete change of scene and on to some lesfic. My first stop here was an old favourite, which I discovered on the Mooch café’s Books for sale shelf five years ago. (I got it signed by the wonderful Karin K when I attended my first GCLS Conference in New Orleans in 2015.) Just Like That, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a delightful lesbian take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (And the glass of wine is relevant!)

Karin_that

After that, I needed more Kallmaker and found I had her very first published novel on my Kindle. In Every Port is a great coming out story with historical overtones, set at the time of Harvey Milk’s assassination and the Jonestown massacre.

Sticking with old favourites, I then moved on to detective stories starting with Murder at the Nightwood Bar and The Beverley Malibu by Katherine V Forrest. KVF never disappoints.

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That brings me up to date as I’ve just started on the first of the Lauren Laurano series – Everything You Have is Mine by Sandra Scoppettone.

So, why all the reading? Apart from the obvious – only going out when necessary. The writing is just not happening. Making notes for this blog is the most I’ve been able to do. I’m at the halfway point in my next WIP – but it’s not progressed past there in the last month.

For something else to do, I’ve recorded myself reading Chapter One of Country Living. No need for any professional audio book narrators to be worried. I’m no good at character voices and don’t have the skill to edit out the occasional bleep or stumble. And I certainly can’t compete with the lovely Clare Ashton who is reading her book Poppy Jenkins chapter by chapter (available on YouTube). But here is the audio file, if you want to listen.

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Reviews for Country Living

There haven’t been many, but I am very grateful for the reviews I’ve received so far for Country Living. (All five stars!) This one appeared on the Amazon UK site on 27 March:

Heart warming, fast moving and so true to life!

After 20 years of living together, marriage and comfortable ‘rubbing along’, you think you know someone – but maybe you don’t! This cracking story so well written. I became fully immersed in the sadness of middle aged Peri who suddenly realises her wife has been cheating on her and has to start rebuilding her life. Set in Yorkshire, England, the vivid writing transports you to the hills, dales and farm life of this beautiful countryside. And as always with Jen Silver’s books the plot is multi layered delivering a cool and sparkling look at contemporary life and adding real ‘edge’ to the story. Balancing out the romances, there are secrets, intrigues and surprise twists. Young and middle aged characters have experiences so recognisable – I felt I truly reading about people I know. There are always high expectations of Jen Silver’s books and ‘Country Living’ is one of her best.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far. Hope you’re staying safe and maybe enjoying rereading some of your own comfort reads.


Country Living – published 1 March 2020 – availabe from: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon AU / Amazon DE / Amazon FR / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Out in the country

Nine days on from release day, and I’m in thrall to the beauty of the paperbacks that arrived last week.

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So, I’m taking a break from stroking the cover to write a few words about my latest book. It’s a romance, but with a few twisty bits that I think will surprise readers. The blurb gives something of this away…mentioning temptation, betrayal, and intrigue. However, it’s a romance, so everything will turn out all right in the end, won’t it?

The first chapter is available to read on the Affinity Rainbow Publications website.

But here’s a taster from Chapter Five of Country Living – certainly not a spoiler if you’ve read the blurb and sampled the first chapter.

Peri refilled their glasses and sat back, feeling replete. She gave her friend a quizzical glance. “Okay. I’m intrigued as to why you’ve driven all this way to treat me to lunch. Something that couldn’t be discussed by phone or email. Are you and Sharon okay?”

“Oh yes. More than okay. I know you thought I was crazy to move in with her after meeting online and going on three dates, but it just felt so right.”

“That’s great. So why do I get the feeling something’s wrong?”

Dana sighed. She bent down and retrieved her iPad from her bag.

“Don’t tell me. You’re having trouble with a plot line and want my magic editorial advice?”

“If only.” Dana opened her photos app and clicked on an image. “These are screenshots from Karla’s timeline. I’m not Facebook friends with her, but Rachel is and saved the pictures for me.”

Peri took the tablet and studied the images on the screen. Her brain seized.

Karla was wearing a minimal bikini she’d never seen before, arm around a stunning looking blonde who had the sleek look of a supermodel, also clad in very little material. Both were sporting identical smiles, and Peri recognised Karla’s post-sex satisfied expression.

“There are others, if you swipe across to the right.”

“I can’t…” Peri dropped the tablet on the table and rushed over to the nearest flowerbed. The contents of her stomach covered the nascent marigolds with a projectile of vomit. She stayed bent over, shoulders heaving.

“I’m so sorry. I couldn’t not tell you. It’s been eating me up ever since Rachel sent me the first screenshot yesterday.”

Peri sat back on heels. “Water,” she croaked.

“Oh, yeah. Be right back.”

It was a perfect day, the kind Peri had imagined enjoying, sitting outside revelling in the beauty of the countryside, savouring the clear, country air. Now, all she could taste and smell were the sour remnants of her lunch. She gulped back the large glass of water Dana handed her and spat out the last mouthful.

Life in the country…never a dull moment! I hope you’ll enjoy discovering how things work out for Peri and Karla.

Affinity’s two releases for March featured on the Bella Books for the month. I’m delighted to share the spotlight with Annette Mori’s The Panty Thief, which is a thoroughly entertaining read.

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Available from: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon AU / Amazon DE / Amazon FR / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Coming soon

January was a busy month with editing and proofreading my next novel to be published and also approving the audio files for my second audio book.

The novel, Country Living, will be out in March, published by Affinity Rainbow Publications. This is Affinity’s 10th year in publishing and, coincidentally, Country Living is my 10th published novel.

I love what Irish Dragon Design has done with the cover – managing to include the chickens, sheep, and a glass of wine for one of the main characters.

CL-Final

Back of the book description

When Peri Sanderson achieves her dream of moving from London to a cottage in the English countryside, she expects her domestic bliss will be complete when her wife, Karla, leaves her London job to join her. Peri sees their future together as growing vegetables, tending some chickens, and chatting with the locals by a roaring log fire in a quaint village pub.

Sexy urbanite, Karla, has other ideas and they don’t include a move to the countryside.

Secrets are everywhere. Peri quickly senses something not quite right among her rural neighbours, and Karla is not quite the worldly wise woman-about-town that she thinks she is.

Temptation, betrayal and intrigue combine to change the lives of both women beyond anything they could have imagined.


New Audio Book

StartingOver

The audio book which I’m hoping will be available later this month has been expertly narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent. Starting Over was my debut novel, published in 2014. So it feels good to bring it back to the fore now. Like Country Living, a lot of the action takes place on a farm – with chickens, but no sheep. Nicola did a great job with all the different accents for a diverse group of characters. I hope you’ll enjoy a listen.

Back of the book description

Ellie Winters, a successful potter, is living on a remote hilltop farm inherited from her parents. Her well-ordered life is shaken apart when her past meets her present.

Robin Fanshawe, Ellie’s philandering long-term lover, has a fragile truce with Ellie. The arrival of women from Robin’s present threatens to break that tentative pact.

Charming Dr. Kathryn Moss, an archaeologist and an old lover of Ellie’s, arrives on the farm searching for a new site to dig. When she discovers a previously unknown Roman settlement and ancient burial site on Ellie’s farm, Ellie allows her to start an archaeological dig of the area.

Will Ellie also allow the rekindling of an old romance or will she stay with Robin? Can that long term relationship, albeit tentative, recover from this collision or will an old romance trump everything she knows?

Will Robin, seeing the interaction between Ellie and Kathryn, leave her womanizing ways behind? Will she take a chance on giving herself wholly to the woman she loves?

These questions and the mystery of whose royal resting place is disturbed at Starling Hill are answered in this classic romance of simmering passions, anguished loss, and the wonder of love.


Changing Perspectives, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

Christmas by the Lake

Is it January already? Time for another blog. A dreary January day seems ideal for a reflection on the wonderful time we had over Christmas. We’ve spent a few Christmases at Lake Windermere. This year was lovely, as it always is, regardless of the weather. Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were both wet days, but Christmas Day the sun came out.

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This was a contrast to the same place ten years earlier when we made snowbears by the lakeside.

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Clare Lydon invited lesbian fiction authors to take part in a Festive Lesbian Book Club Podcast. I was happy to answer her questions and this was the result with myself, Jae, Clare Ashton, Melissa Tereze, Lise Gold, Jody Klaire and SR Silcox answering the following questions: First, favourite lesfic of the year. Second, favourite festive lesfic ever. Third, what we’re hoping for from Santa. Fourth, what we like to eat & drink at Christmas. Finally, our publishing plans for 2020. Clare also added her own answers to the questions.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you to everyone who took advantage of Affinity’s December sale and bought copies of Christmas at Winterbourne, as well as the other books on sale during the month. Always worth checking out the Affinity Raingbow Publications website for free books and special offers. Subscribers to their newsletter can also benefit from the monthly flash sales.


2020 is starting out slowly for me. But it will be picking up speed in the next few weeks. I’ll be doing edits for my book due out in March – Country Living. Nicola Victoria Vincent has started recording Starting Over which will be the second one of my books to make it into audio. And I’m working on a new novel!

So let’s get on with more happy writing, reading, and listening this year!


Changing Perspectives, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

Books by Jen Silver…available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes

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Wintry tales

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Winter warmers in story form…if you haven’t encountered it already, I recommend joining the cast of characters in Christmas at Winterbourne for an unforgettable interlude at a lesbian retreat in Sussex. One reviewer came up with a summary that encapsulates the story far better than I’ve managed: “The characters are incredible and unique. They all have their own personalities, strength and weaknesses. A mixture of very different women. Sharing a few days with those characters is pure joy. I loved the whole atmosphere, the warm kitchen, the log fires, the cozy setting. It all felt so real. A story of love, loss, secrets, humor, friendship, compassion and a caring community. Reading this book is like falling into a warm bed on a snowy day…A perfect romance and just what I was looking for and a delightful read to put you in the Christmas mood.”

Check out the December price of Christmas at Winterbourne on Amazon: $3.99 on Amazon.com / £3.09 on Amazon.co.uk

 

christmas_medley

Affinity’s 2017 Christmas Medley has a delightful mix of stories. My offering, Maybe this Christmas, was summed up beautifully by one reviewer: “…set in Hebden Bridge, the lesbian mecca of the north of England. I loved the setting and the sweet story of Emma and her struggle to get past heartbreak and feel love again.”

I’ve recently started thinking about expanding the story of Emma and her friends into a full-length novel.

 

Wanted for Christmas

JM Dragon, renowned Affinity Rainbow Publications author, just loves Christmas and has released a new novella.

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Venturing away from the world of lesfic, this is the time of year when dedicated fans of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence start thinking about re-reading the books. The time to start reading the second book in the sequence, The Dark is Rising, is on Midwinter’s Eve (21 December) when Will Stanton, 11 years old, is drawn into the ancient battle between the forces of the Light and the Dark.

Puffin Books has just released the books with new covers and foreword by Robert McFarlane. Although the new covers are good, I still prefer the cover of the 1973 version that I have, published by Atheneum.

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Other old favourites that I like to revisit at this time of year are Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome…a seasonal visit to the Lake District…and a trip into Narnia with  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis.

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Plans for the New Year

My new novel, Country Living, is due out in March, published by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Blurb preview:

When Peri Sanderson achieves her dream of living in a cottage in the country she expects her life will be complete when her wife, Karla Sykes, is able to join her. Peri has romantic visions of growing her own vegetables, nurturing a few chickens and finally getting around to re-reading all her favourite books.

Karla has told Peri she can’t make the move from their London home for at least six months as she has a number of important projects to finish up before she can leave her job. Unknown to Peri, Karla has plans of her own that don’t include a move to the country.

Peri’s nearest neighbours on the hilltop sheep farm above the cottage seem like a nice family and help her to settle in and feel less lonely, but they all have secrets of their own.

Will Peri’s dream turn into a nightmare? Will Karla’s romantic adventure bring her the release she seeks?

 

And a new audio book: Starting Over…Nicola Victoria Vincent to start recording in January.

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Changing Perspectives is already out on audio, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

Books by Jen Silver…available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes


 

To Autumn…

The first line of Keats’ ode to this season is all I can quote from memory: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.… so I had to look it up to find the next line, which I really should have been able to recall: “Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”.

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November is almost here so I began thinking about what I’ve done these past two months. We(s)t Yorkshire has lived up to its name with long bouts of rain every week. However, I have evidence of one sunny day when I was on the archery field.

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The day of our visit to Sutton Hoo, the site of the famed 7th century Anglo-Saxon ship burial, was overcast but the wet stuff stayed away. Although I had read about the dig that took place on the eve of the Second World War, it brought it into sharper focus to see the landscape, the burial mounds, and the size of the ship that would have been hauled up the steep side of the valley from the river.

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It was sunny for our brief trip to Edinburgh in October, but very cold. I’m looking quite frozen here with the Sir Walter Scott memorial in the background. (A good excuse to sample some whisky.)

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The Pumpkin Festival in Hebden Bridge is the precursor to Hallowe’en in the town. Local businesses get into the spirit of things with wonderful window and street displays. The Heart Gallery won the Business award last year and has excelled again with this tribute to Anne Lister.

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Book related things

All quiet on the writing front. However, at some point in the next few months I will be embarking on the editing process for my next novel, Country Living, due out in April.

Deuce, which came out in February, hasn’t garnered many reviews but the feedback I’ve had from people who have read it is that they enjoyed the story. I’m pleased to note that our local bookstore, The Book Case, has sold two copies. (One still left on the shelf the last time I looked). Paperbacks are also available at Gay’s the Word in London.

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The LesFic Eclectic anthology was released last month… a great collection of stories from new and established authors…and it’s FREE! Grab your copy here.

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LesFic Eclectic contents

That’s all for now. Happy reading!


Changing Perspectives is out on audio, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

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Books by Jen Silver…available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes


 

Starting Over is 5 today!

Five years ago today my debut novel, Starting Over, was published by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

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A lovely bunch of flowers from my mother to celebrate the occasion (and champagne from my wife).

Here’s an excerpt from a blog posted in January 2015:

When the book came out in paperback I gave a copy to a friend, a former English teacher. Weeks passed and she didn’t mention it, and I was afraid to ask. Then just before Christmas my partner and I were enjoying a glass of mulled wine in a local café and my friend’s husband came in. After ordering their drinks he sat down at a table nearby. Looking over, he recognised me, and to my surprise said, “Oh, I’ve read your book. Really enjoyed it. But it was a bit steamy.”

I really didn’t think there were any major ‘steamy’ scenes in it. No shower scenes, anyway. But then my brother, who was reading the book while visiting my mother at Christmas, kept saying things like: “Oh my god, they’re doing it in the kitchen.”

Neither of these men could be considered part of my target audience and had no previous experience of reading lesbian fiction. So even the mildest contact between two women might be considered ‘steamy’ and my brother clearly thought nothing other than cooking could possibly take place in the kitchen.

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Another first – seeing my book on the shelf of our local bookshop, The Book Case in Hebden Bridge.

The first reviews from experienced lesfic readers were very much on the positive side, so I was greatly encouraged to continue with this writing adventure.

Two of the early reviews for Starting Over:

Rainbow Book Reviews

Wilde Times Tavern

I’d already completed a sequel and Affinity accepted it, somewhat reluctantly, with the proviso that sequels didn’t often do well. But that didn’t stop me from writing a third book to complete the trilogy. Sales of Arc Over Time and Carved in Stone were pretty dire – so I can only conclude that – a) my publisher was right, and b) readers weren’t as invested in the characters from Starting Over as I was.

I recently reread all three books for the first time since they were published. And, you know what, I really enjoyed them. (What a great bunch of characters!) It also helped me make the decision on which of my books should next get the audio treatment. It will be Starting Over and Nicola Victoria Vincent has agreed to do the narration.

Book signing

Signing the first paperback copies.

So, if you’re looking for a not too steamy romance with archaeology and a bit of Romano-British history thrown in, why not take a look at Starting Over.


The Starling Hill Trilogy

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Books by Jen Silver…available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes