Talking about books

I was interviewed this week and one question – which tends to crop up in interviews – was: What books have most influenced your life?

If I’m calling myself a writer, I should probably answer this with – Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ or Strunk & White’s ‘The Elements of Style’. Well, excellent as these are, they are reference books essential to the trade, such as a dictionary, thesaurus and manual of style…all of which are handily placed next to my desk.

The real story though lies on my bookshelves – books I have kept through the years and various house moves, sometimes country moves. These are books I reread or refer to for the reference points in my life.

Three books

The three books pictured here have travelled with me through several decades. ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ was the book I wanted for my 10th birthday. I had a picture book on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table but the stories didn’t really grab me. My parents wouldn’t buy ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ for my birthday as they, quite rightly, thought it contained too much adult content. Anyway, being a sneaky little git, I coerced my grandmother into getting it for me. And I devoured it. But re-reading it years later, I could see why my parents didn’t think it suitable reading for a ten year old. Apart from all the blood and gore described in the many fight and jousting scenes, there was incest, matricide, infanticide…and more. Well, all this passed over my head at the time. To me, at that time, it was the pageantry and tales of courage and heroism that caught my imagination.

‘The Hobbit’ was a sort of continuation of the Arthurian obsession. It wasn’t much of a leap to take in a world full of goblins and elves and dragons. Ursula K LeGuin’s book of essays, ‘The Language of the Night’, then helped to define and give credence to what is blindingly obvious to lovers of fantasy…this stuff is real; it lives in our heads.

My wife doesn’t read this stuff. When we first got together, I offered her The Hobbit. After page one she put it down and said, ‘this isn’t real. I’m not going to waste my time reading about a hobbit that doesn’t exist.’

We’ve been together for over twenty-eight years, and some of you might now be wondering how if we can’t share a love of imaginary worlds. Well they say opposites attract, so I guess that must be it. She has many other redeeming qualities.

Back to the interview question – I probably answer it slightly differently each time I’m asked – depending on the day of the week and whether or not I’ve had my second cup of coffee. So, a sample here of my bookshelves to remind myself mainly, of the wide range of books and authors I love. (And this isn’t even touching on the lesfic books!)

Bookshelf 1

Bookshelf 2

Bookshelf 3

Bookshelf 4

Bookshelf 5

Link to interview with Fiona McVie

Two novels (dragons not included):

Arc Over Time – available from Affinity eBook Press / / / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / iTunes.

The telling of stories

Where did the telling of stories start?

There’s this story of when I started Kindergarten. My teacher was concerned that I wasn’t taking part in activities. Apparently I would just sit in a corner and watch. My mother was surprised when she was told this at a parents’ evening because I would come home and happily tell her all about my day at school.

So, is this when the telling of stories started?

I can remember making up stories in my head from an early age—a way of amusing myself if I was waiting to go somewhere or on a long car journey. I don’t think I ever had an invisible friend as some children do, but I did have the characters that populated my stories to keep me company.

I suppose this is why I always felt different from others my age, all through school and beyond. I liked the games where we made things up—role-playing. But my stint in the Brownies didn’t last long, maybe two sessions before I was fed up sitting around a fake fire in the village hall and having to be a kelpie. One day, not long after I quit, I was playing in the woods near our house, having a fine old time by myself with homemade bow and arrows. I had ventured out onto the road just as the Brownie troupe came by on an organized field trip. Brown Owl stopped the group and asked if I would like to join them. From this distance in time I don’t know what I replied, possibly just a shake of the head before retreating into the woods.

Happy days

Happy days!

So, running about with a bow and arrow and a wooden sword, I wasn’t buying into the stereotypical princess role model for little girls. I wanted to the one slaying dragons and winning archery tournaments to impress fair maidens. I could live out those stories in my head.

Not much different now, really. Time to go – I sense a fire-breathing dragon heading this way!

Two novels (dragons not included):

Arc Over Time – available from Affinity eBook Press / / / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / iTunes.

Loving the Professor

Since the release of my second novel, Arc Over Time, I have focused on two of the characters in previous blogs: Denise, the journalist and her friend, Jasmine, a PR executive. They are both Londoners and enjoy the city life. However, in the first novel, Starting Over, they found themselves drawn out into the countryside. And not just the nice, fertile downs of nearby rural Surrey, but the sparser, northern moorlands, 200 miles to the north of the big city.

What brings them out of their comfort zone? Well, love, of course. For Jasmine, this doesn’t work out and she retreats to the city. But for Den, what started as a casual fling turns into something more serious in book two. She has fallen in love with the professor, Dr Kathryn Moss.

Several reviewers picked up on this aspect of the story and expressed the situations in the book with marvellous clarity:

“Dr Kathryn Moss is still obsessed with Ellie Winters, despite Ellie’s obvious commitment to and happiness with wife Robin. Despite her unrequited yearning the buttoned up professor has continued her affair with journalist Denise Sullivan – what Dr Moss hasn’t realised is how Den’s feelings are developing.” Velvet Lounger, July 2015

“Dr. Kathryn Moss is a bonafide archaeologist and university professor. She also appears, at times, to live within several isolated segments. Additionally, she does not understand how confusing and sometimes stupefyingly upsetting she is to women currently close to her and those previously close to her. I love how much she enjoys and executes her professional assignments, but her obliviousness to the concept of long-term relationships and even simple courtesies makes it complicated to be on her side. Possibly her parents missed a few vital steps in their childrearing practices or it may simply be Dr. Kathryn Moss at her most clueless. Amazingly incongruous!” J Johnson, Rainbow Book Reviews, June 2015

In this excerpt from Chapter Three of Arc Over Time, Den has travelled up north to see Kathryn give a talk at Huddersfield Town Hall. The professor hasn’t responded to any of her text messages or phone calls since the last weekend they spent in London together – so it was her plan to turn up unexpectedly and find out what was happening:

The lights dimmed and the hum of conversations died down with the occasional cough and sniffle. There was a brief introduction from Dr Ed McLaughlin who Den knew was a close colleague of Kathryn’s. She had seen him at the site the year before but hadn’t spoken with him. He kept his introductory remarks brief, as he was well aware the audience hadn’t come to see him. When Kathryn walked onto the stage there was a big round of applause. The professor waited for the noise to die down, acknowledging the crowd, smiling and glancing around.

The next hour was a torment for Den. She wondered why she had thought attending the lecture would be a good idea. Watching Kathryn as she gave a polished and commanding performance, she was aware only of the heat gathering between her legs and the tight knot in her chest. When the question-and-answer session started it was all she could do to stop herself from jumping up and shouting, why haven’t you answered my calls?

Ed McLaughlin came out onto the stage again and brought proceedings to a close and the audience rose as one to give Kathryn a standing ovation. The lights went up in the hall and people started to shuffle around looking for bags and jackets. Den stood and stretched her legs. She moved to one side to let the other people from her row out. Her eyes briefly caught Kathryn’s as she stopped by the lectern to pick up the notes she hadn’t used. Den raised her hand to wave and then let it drop limply to her side as Kathryn turned away without acknowledging her and walked out of view.

A wave of self-pity hit her. Why had she bothered? Tears threatened to fall as she tore her gaze away from the stage and the movement of the crowd carried her out into the foyer.

“Hey, Den! Is that you?”

She turned to face the voice and found herself looking into Robin Fanshawe’s hazel eyes.

“Wow, it is you? What brings you this far north without a minder?” Robin was smiling at her, looking as happy and healthy as when Den had last seen her, at her wedding six weeks earlier.

Den swallowed. She wasn’t sure she could speak. All she could do was look at Robin and shake her head. The tears were on their way and there was nothing she could do to stop them.

Kathryn does appear to be rather emotionally challenged in the scenes that follow from this. Can Den overcome these obstacles and continue to pursue the professor in the hopes of a proper relationship? Is Kathryn hoping to have another chance with Ellie Winters as she thinks Robin won’t be able to live up to her recent marriage vows?

I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out…and if you’re still undecided, here are the links to the two reviews quoted above: by Velvet Lounger by J Johnson


Arc Over Time – available from Affinity eBook Press / / / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / iTunes.

A time for literary festivals

The experience of attending the 2015 GCLS Conference has left me wanting more. It was such a wonderful few days of sharing – not just our love of books but also a sense of community and acceptance—a time of meetings on many different levels. (Selection of photos below)

So, I’m thrilled to have been invited to be part of the inaugural Lesbian Authors Festival at the Hideaway Café in Urmston (Manchester UK). This is the brainchild of the Sponge Sisters (as Cari Hunter has helpfully pointed out – this means they make cakes, not take baths). An afternoon of readings, discussions, book signings…with cake…is scheduled for 12 September starting at 2pm. The authors lined up along with myself are: Cari Hunter, Karen Campbell, I Beacham, Veronica Fearon, Michelle Grubb and the recent winner of a Goldie, Andrea Bramhall who received an award for Best Lesbian Romance for her book, Nightingale, at this year’s conference.

Hideaway Cafe

Please come along if you are in the area. The Café’s Festival also includes displays of work by local artists plus live music…oh, and cake. (Facebook page link – check here for updated info and location details)

It may be no coincidence that the Hideaway Café’s Festival precedes the Manchester Literature Festival which runs from 12 to 25 October – with a number of preview events being held in September. The MLF features a high profile lesbian presence with talks by Jeannette Winterson, Val McDermid, and our poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. And that’s just a small part of a programme that has 85 events to choose from including workshops, performances and tours.

Photos from GCLS (I didn’t take many – too busy doing something I didn’t’ think came naturally to me – talking to people, taking part in readings and panels…and enjoying it all!)

Reading from Starting Over Beignets With Annette Mori With Erin O'Reilly, Annette Mori and Ali Spooner

Ready to sign books

Affinity authors Final day - packing up

…until next year! Hope to see you there…

Romance abounds in these two books:

Arc Over Time, released by Affinity eBooks in May 2015 – available from Affinity eBooks / / / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

My debut novel, Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook PressAmazonBarnes & NobleBella Books,Smashwords, and iTunes.