Book browsing…in days gone by

Looking back to the days before the growth of the World Wide Web and certain online bookstores…how did I manage to find and purchase lesbian books?

When I lived in London in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I would visit Silver Moon Books on Charing Cross Road. It wasn’t always easy to fit in a trip there, as the places I worked tended to be in another part of the city. But when I could, I spent many a happy hour browsing the shelves and picking out books from a range of authors I knew nothing about.

When I moved out of London, I had to find another way to feed my addiction. Luckily there were several mail order options. Silver Moon had their own newsletter, as did West & Wilde in Edinburgh. Diva magazine had a books order section. And I also subscribed to the Libertas newsletter…a bookstore in York, now closed down.


Mainstream bookstores at the time also had separate Gay and Lesbian sections. I was in Waterstones in Manchester recently and asked where this section was located. I knew the answer, but wanted to see what they would say. The nice young man on the desk told me there was a section on the next floor up. I wandered around looking at all the labeled areas, but could only find something called Gender Studies. When I paid for the crime novel I’d selected, I asked the clerk why they didn’t have a separate section and she waffled something about the company policy of inclusion. I asked her how I was supposed to find any books by lesbian authors if they were mixed in with all the others. I would have to know what I was looking for, possibly only being able to pick out a few well-known names like Sarah Waters or Jeannette Winterson. I’m sure I would never have discovered Fiona Cooper, Jaye Maiman, Nisa Donnelly – or any of the books in this photo – if this policy had been in place in the ‘80s and ‘90s.


I think bookstores should review this policy. It’s just another way of making us invisible. Imagine if they mixed all the crime books in with general fiction.

So, now my book browsing is done online – either on the big ‘A’ or on publishers’ websites. There is an overwhelming amount of choice these days.

And, it’s not quite the same as standing in front of a bank of shelves, picking out books, looking at the covers, reading the blurbs…and out of the corner of your eye checking out the woman a few feet away wondering what she likes reading. (Of course, I wouldn’t be doing that now – my wife would not be amused.)

Buying options for Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes


Giving birth

I’ve heard the analogy that writing and publishing a novel (or any other form of artistic endeavor) is akin to giving birth.

This can hold true in some respects. Depending on the gestation period – vacillating between bouts of sickness, anxiety, and elation followed by a delivery that can either be a long, painful process or a quick entry into the world of the treasured newborn.


Canada geese with gosling

I have never given birth to a child, and before anyone feels sorry for me, this isn’t something I ever felt the need to do. But I have now birthed five novels.

In the fifth one I created a character who was nine months pregnant. As the story takes place over four days, it was inevitable – and I’m not giving away any spoilers here – that at some point during that time she was going to go into labour.

This character is Gabriella in Christmas at Winterbourne. It is her first child and she’s thirty-seven years old. Gabriella had always planned on a home birth with the help of a neighbouring midwife. With Winterbourne House becoming snowbound, the options are narrowed down to Gaby’s mother and Felicity, who runs the stables and has experienced assisting in the birth of many foals. Somehow this isn’t reassuring for Wil, Gaby’s partner.

As I neared the halfway point in the story, I realised I was going to have to deal with an actual birth scene. Writing credible romance is one thing; I have actually experienced this and know the emotions that come with falling in love, etc (there you go…a fade to black if ever there was one). But how could I describe a birth?

While I was pondering this, I recalled the time I was on a residential writing course. There were sixteen of us—fourteen women and two men. At one point during the course we all had to do a five-minute reading of something we’d written. One of the young men started reading to the group and soon had everyone in stitches. For some reason, known only to him, he had written a scene in a hospital with a woman giving birth. I don’t think he had meant it to be funny, but it was. Luckily he took the laughter in good heart and wasn’t discouraged by the response.

So I figured any attempt I could make at describing childbirth would be about as successful. I kept putting off writing the scene as my mind worked around ways of doing it.

If you want to find out how I managed this, you’ll have to read the book. The opening scenes from Chapter 1 are available to read on the Affinity website.


Budding tree in spring

(Note: with no actual baby photos to show, I’ve resorted to a budding tree in spring and a gosling. The pic of the geese is a bit fuzzy—I guess I won’t be taking up nature photography any time soon.)

Buying options for Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella BooksSmashwords /Apple iTunes


Why do I write?

I considered not posting a blog today with so much despair circulating around the USA election result—but I had it prepared, apart from the last two paragraphs, so here it is.

Why do I write?

You may wonder why I’m asking this. I’ve had five novels and three short stories published in just two years so I must be some kind of writing machine, right?

Not really.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In the years I lived in London and commuted to work and back by train, when I wasn’t reading, I would fill notebooks with stories and ideas. None of the stories ever reached completion. They stayed in a drawer. Getting anything published was only a distant dream.

When I got my first home computer, a Macintosh LC II, I typed up some of the longer pieces in ClarisWorks – my first experience of WYSIWIG, as it was known then (What You See Is What You Get). It was a joy to have black type appear on a white background, as the favourite office word processing software at the time was WordPerfect – yellow type on a blue background. (Honestly, kids today don’t know how lucky they are!)


A younger me at work, 28 years ago

These bits and pieces of stories got printed out (my first laser printer cost more than the Mac) and filed away. Over the years I would take them out at times and think about maybe finishing them.

We moved north and I was driving to work, so the writing become more intermittent. It wasn’t until I was nearing retirement that I started to think seriously about trying to publish something.

Since then, just over three years ago, I’ve hardly stopped writing. When I started though, I could never have imagined I would have an Amazon Author page with a line of books showing.


All those years ago, when I was commuting, I wrote stories to entertain myself. Now that other people are reading my published work, it’s become a job. In some ways that makes it more difficult as I feel I have a responsibility to my readers to give them a good story. Thankfully, I’ve been encouraged, not just by Affinity’s willingness to publish my books, but also by readers who have commented either privately or by leaving a positive review saying how much they’ve enjoyed the stories.

When I knew I would be posting a blog today, I thought it would be a chance to celebrate a historic moment in United States history. Instead America has woken up to a nightmare. And the idea of a woman President remains a dream that may never be realised (in my lifetime, anyway).

I write romances and always aim for a happy ending. So I will carry on writing the stories that make me happy and hope they bring some happiness to others, offering a form of escape perhaps from the gloomy outlook of the world around us.

Book number 5, Christmas at Winterbourne, available from: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords /Apple iTunes


Number 5 is here!

My fifth book is published today. It is an incredible feeling to see five books that I’ve written out there. A massive thank you to my publisher, Affinity eBook Press, for having faith in my stories and also for the many readers who have bought the books and given positive feedback.


Flowers sent by my mother on the publication of my first book (champagne supplied by my wife)

A fifth book release is just as thrilling and nerve-wracking as it was the first time. Thrilling – to see it online. Nerve-wracking waiting to find out what readers think of it – particularly friends and relations.

My older brother is very supportive and buys my books, although he’s a bit squeamish about reading lesbian love scenes. He wanted to know if there was any mud in this one – maybe he has fantasies about women mud wrestling. I told him there was no mud, but there is some skinny-dipping. He might find that too much to deal with.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think there is something for everyone in this story. In the first review received for the book, the reviewer commented that she was so taken with the setting she wanted “to book a stay there”. I’m sure the hosts at Winterbourne House would be very welcoming. Snow at Christmas in southern England is not guaranteed though.


Back of the book blurb for Christmas at Winterbourne:

The Christmas festivities for the guests booked into Winterbourne House have all the goings-on of a traditional holiday. The only difference is that this guesthouse is run by lesbians, for lesbians.

When the guests arrive, tensions are already simmering between the house’s owner Wilma (Wil) and very pregnant partner, Gabriella. Wil has a lot on her plate… ensuring the smooth running of the events, looking after all the guests, including her in-laws and business partners. What she hasn’t planned for is a ghost from Christmas past.

Wil inherited Winterbourne from her adopted mother, Kim Russell, author of a series of successful lesbian novels. Most of the guests who stay, do so because they are fans of the author.

One guest, Sally Hunter, is on a mission to write Kim’s official biography. She meets with resistance from the people at the house she tries to interview, stirring up memories from those who knew the reclusive writer well.

For a bit of extra spice to the festivities, add in an unexpected snowstorm, a disappearing guest, and an imminent birth. Join the guests and staff at Winterbourne for a Christmas you’ll not soon forget.

So, I hope you’ll visit Winterbourne House and immerse yourself in the holiday spirit.

(Note: The pool is open, swimming costumes optional!)

Buying options for Christmas at Winterbourne: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords /Apple iTunes


Buying options for the first four books:

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/ Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes