Background for Deuce

I wrote a piece for a recent Affinity Rainbow Publications newsletter titled ‘An Author’s Tale’. The idea was to give readers some background on how the story came about and this is what I came up with:

I began writing this book for my own amusement back in the late 1980s. Originally it was a fairly simple love story between a tennis player and a marine biologist. Charlotte, the biologist, is researching a disease that’s causing the devastation of the grey seal population of the North Sea. When her research vessel sinks without trace, Jay, the tennis player, is bereft and that’s where I left the story, as I didn’t have any idea how to come back from that abrupt ending of the romance.

Fast forward to 2018 –I decided to take another look at the pages mouldering away at the back of a drawer. It seemed a shame to waste these potentially good characters. The ideas gradually started to take shape and I decided that Charlotte didn’t have to die (it’s great being an author – bringing people back to life!).

Jay also needed something to stop her falling into a never-ending cycle of despair. She’s left holding the baby, literally. Charlotte gave birth to the child a year before her disappearance. So Jay quits the tennis circuit, trains as a physiotherapist and starts up a physical therapy clinic.

The story restarts twenty-three years after Charlotte’s supposed demise. She is starting to regain her memory and wants to get back to Jay and the baby she left behind. Meanwhile Jay, now fifty years old, is engaged with the wedding to Amanda only a few weeks away. Amanda doesn’t know anything about Charlotte or where Jay spends her weekends – a cottage that belonged to Charlotte on the Norfolk coast.

Plotting this novel was tricky but I’m pleased with the outcome. I could, perhaps, have called it The Return of the Seal Wife (ref: the image on the cover) but the selkie legends don’t have happy endings. I hope readers will enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed resurrecting it and giving the characters new life.

I did a bit more on my writing process for this book in a recent guest blog on Women and Words. In that one I talked about points of view and the decisions I had to make, particularly when it came to writing Charlotte’s POV. The answer to that came as a surprise but I think it worked out well.

So, I hope readers will give Deuce a chance. Apologies to sports fans – there isn’t much tennis action in it. The focus, as usual with my books, is on the relationships between the characters…most of whom are in the older age bracket of 40+.

Happy reading!

Deuce


Buying links for Deuce: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Amazons in Britain plus Rexit and Hexit

I enjoyed this book – reading about the warrior women who rode into battle, skilled with bows and arrows, and other weapons.

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But what really excited me was finding out that archaeologists discovered the remains of Amazons (possibly from Sarmatia, part of the ancient Scythian empire) at a Roman cemetery in Cumbria, near Hadrian’s Wall.

The reason for my excitement is that it validates my entirely hypothetical notion that Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes tribe in northern Britain could have had a female warrior lover. (Ref: The Starling Hill Trilogy)

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Sadly, during my time excavating at Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall, the only bones I uncovered were from cows. The Roman legions based there ate a lot of beef!

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Rexit and Hexit

I’m trying not to read too much about Brexit although it’s hard to avoid, especially now. But it occurred to me we’ve had two continental splits in the past with different outcomes.

There was Rexit – when the Romans left Britain. The country then descended into 600 years of the ‘Dark Ages’ with tribal warfare breaking out everywhere. Although there is now some archaeological evidence to suggest that it wasn’t all a dark time. Just that we have no written records. And those of us of a romantic bent are happy to believe that King Arthur was a real person and was successful in uniting the tribes.

And then there was Hexit – when Henry VIII gave notice to the Pope that he wasn’t following the church’s rules on divorce anymore. Instead of the country hitting a downward slide…it reasserted itself strongly on the world stage during Queen Elizabeth the First’s reign…particularly with the exploits of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.

I can’t possibly predict how this current ‘exit’ will work out. Maybe sometime in the future historians and archaeologists will be able to fathom what actually happened. At the moment it feels like we could be on the brink of another ‘dark age’.


My latest book, Deuce, doesn’t have anything to do with Amazons, Roman Britain, or Brexit. It’s romantic fiction.

Deuce

Positive reviews are always a joy, knowing that your written work has connected with a reader. This reviewer has  encapsulated what I was trying to achieve with this book…describing it much better than I have managed to do in previous blogs.

“The story is so well told. It has love, unexpected family complications, passion and surprises. I could not put it down. I wanted to know what happened next to these characters. They felt real and I began to care about them. They each had to face the fact that time does not stand still and people change. Sometimes that means accepting differences and sometimes it means putting yourself in their shoes. Jen Silver has a talent for crafting characters and storylines that really resonate. She subtly weaves real events into her work and that makes the reader feel more engaged. ‘Deuce’ may be my favourite of her novels so far.”


Buying links for Deuce: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Seals, Surrogacy, Second Chances

Three books

Three books

I’ve used these words as a tagline for my latest book, Deuce.

Why? Because I think the title isn’t really too indicative of what the story is about. When someone asks me to describe the plot, I have difficulty putting it into words, in any coherent way.

Seals: This has relevance as Charlotte, one of the main characters, is a marine biologist and her specialist subject was studying the grey seal population in the North Sea. Particularly poignant at a time when they were dying in great numbers from a mysterious disease.

Surrogacy: This word also concerns Charlotte. She gave birth to one child when she was at university and gave her up for adoption…in an arrangement with a lesbian couple.

Second chances: Again, Charlotte…her research vessel was lost at sea and she’s been living on the Faroe Islands with no memory of her life before. The reader meets her in the prologue when she seas a beached seal and her memories start to return. She remembers that she had a lover, Jay, and a new baby…the one they were going to bring up together.

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Jay is an ex professional tennis player. That’s where the deuce analogy comes in. Her life after Charlotte’s ‘death’ has felt like one of those matches where gaining two points to win seems out of reach…continually returning to ‘deuce’…an even score.

Chapter One starts twenty-three years after Charlotte’s disappearance. Jay is engaged to be married. Both children Charlotte left behind are grown up.

In preparation for doing a reading from the book at the now cancelled Diva Literary Festival, I recorded the piece I was planning to read. In this scene, Jay’s fiancée Amanda comes to her house wanting to know about Charlotte and also where Jay spends her weekends.

Does she get the answers she wants? How does Charlotte’s return to ‘life’ affect those she left behind all that time ago?

Read the book to find out.

Deuce


Buying links for Deuce: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

How important are book covers?

When this question comes up in discussion groups there’s generally a mixed response. Some readers say they don’t make their buying decision from seeing the cover; others are definitely drawn in by the image displayed.

I’ve now had nine novels published with varying degrees of success. My debut novel, Starting Over, sold quite well considering I was an unknown quantity as a lesfic author. This cover is a favourite with me because I took the background photo. Anyone who lives in the part of England will recognise it as Saddleworth Moor. And the woman on the motorbike I thought was apt as this represents a significant turning point in her life and in the story.

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Book four, The Circle Dance, also did okay sales-wise…possibly due to the image of the sexy cyclist on the cover. Affinity’s cover designer also managed to find a background to represent the setting for the novel, which is in and around the Hebden Bridge area. There’s no circle dancing in the book. I hope no readers were disappointed with that lack. The title actually refers to stone circles as one of the characters is writing a science fiction novel.

The Circle Dance

However, book seven, went off the scale for my expectations of sales in the first few months. Changing Perspectives features just a single image of a woman’s face. This video clip by LESBIreviewed perfectly describes what the designer had hoped to achieve. The character represented on the cover, Dani, is one of my favourites. She’s been with me a long time as I started writing the book in the early 1990s when I was living and working in London and the story is set in 1993.

LESBIreviewed video clip

It’s too early to tell how number nine, Deuce, will fare. Potential readers may be puzzled by the title over the image of statue, completely naked and clutching something, which may not be immediately recognisable as a seal’s skin. The two main characters are a marine biologist and an ex professional tennis player. I’m sure that makes the cover and title choice as clear as mud!

Deuce

Any thoughts on whether or not covers impact your buying decision, I would love to know.

Happy reading!


Buying links for Deuce: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

A question of prologues

Why use a prologue when starting to tell a story? Obviously it’s used mainly so the author can introduce readers to something that happens before the start of the story…maybe some background details, setting up a foreshadowing of future events, a pointer or two.

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One of the hardest things to decide when writing a novel is where to begin. Usually I like to get stuck straight in to the action. Of my eight novels published so far, I’ve only used a prologue twice.

Carved in Stone was the third book of the Starling Hill Trilogy and the beta readers thought a recap was needed as it was released eight months after the second book. But was a prologue strictly necessary? For readers who had read the first two books (and have good memories), it probably seemed like a tedious information dump that they could skip. (I did try to keep it as short as possible.)

In Running From Love, I used the prologue to introduce the two main characters …one who wants a divorce and the other who isn’t happy about it. I thought this was needed to give readers an early insight into the parting couple’s relationship. Then in part one, I take the reader back six months to show why they are getting a divorce. (An author’s prerogative…messing with timelines!)

I didn’t have a prologue in mind when I started writing Deuce (my next novel, due out on 1 February). But the character, Charlotte, only appears in person in the second part of the story and I thought readers might need some clue that this was going to happen…and why. Also Charlotte has a first person point of view, whereas all the other characters with a POV are third person. (Another author’s prerogative…messing with narrative points of view!)

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So, after the book’s release, it will be an anxious wait to see what readers think…not only about the prologue…but also about the shifts from third to first person in the second part of the story.

And then there’s the question of epilogues…a topic for another blog.

Happy reading!


Check out my books page for descriptions and links.

Introducing the seal wife

A statue of Kópakonan—the seal wife— stands on the shore at Mikladalur, a village on the island of Kalsoy. She features in a well-known folktale from the Faroe Islands and like most of the selkie legends it is a romantic tragedy.

This may seem like an unlikely starting point for a contemporary romance. But it fit with several of the threads in my new novel, Deuce, which is being released by Affinity Rainbow Publications on Friday 1 February.

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As with some of my other books, I started writing about the two main characters a long time ago. I enjoyed watching women’s tennis back in the late eighties, early nineties, before all the grunting started. And I had in my mind to write a story about a successful female British tennis player.

Of course, it was total fantasy. And I didn’t think anyone was ever going to read this story, writing purely for my own pleasure. My sexy, butch lesbian tennis player, Jay Reid, won the 1988 Wimbledon Women’s final. (No, she didn’t. I know very well who did win in real life. But it fulfilled my desire to see a British player hit the heights of the tennis world.)

Although Jay’s sexual preferences were fairly obvious, the fact that she had a long-term girlfriend was a well-kept secret. Charlotte, a marine biologist, kept a low profile, while Jay started to make her way up the tennis rankings. When Charlotte disappeared during a research trip surveying the fate of the grey seal population in the North Sea, Jay’s world fell apart.

That was as far as the story went. Bringing it into the present meant finding out what happened. How did Jay handle losing the love of her life? When I started writing the story again, Jay’s wedding to Amanda is only a few weeks away, a child Charley left behind is grown up…and (not a spoiler – as this is mentioned in the blurb and the prologue) Charlotte isn’t dead. She has been living on one of the Faroe Islands, with no memory of her previous life.

Back of the Book description:

When Jay Reid was in her twenties, she had it all. A professional tennis career, Charlotte, the love of her life and a new baby. It ended far too soon when Charlotte’s research vessel, RV Caspian, was lost at sea, leaving Jay to raise their child alone.

But Charlotte was, in fact, the sole survivor of the RV Caspian. Rescued by a local fisherman, with no memory of her life before, she lives on the Faroe Islands as Katrin Nielsen. Seeing a beached seal one day triggers her memory and slowly her other identity comes back to her. She returns to England to try to reclaim her life with Jay and their child.

Twenty-three years is a long time. Is the love they once shared strong enough to be rekindled or have too many years passed eroding all hope of a happy ever after?

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Deuce is my ninth published novel. I’m working on number ten. In the meantime, if you’re still in the mood for a Christmas story, novel number five, Christmas at Winterbourne is still available on Kindle Unlimited until the end of February.

Happy reading!


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

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2018 review

Not a lot of words here, but it was an event-filled year in many ways.

January to March saw our front garden being remodelled – hedges ripped out, fencing installed and a new garden layout. And then the Beast from the East arrived just after the new plants were installed. (This is photo in the back garden – miraculously all the plants survived.)snow_2018

In April we visited Shibden Hall for the first time (only having lived in the area for 24 years!) – just before it closed for the filming of the Anne Lister story, Gentleman Jack.

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My fifth year as a volunteer excavator at Vindolanda took place over two weeks in May. Many exciting discoveries as usual.

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June 1st was the release date for my eighth published novel, Calling Home. Later in the month, I submitted novel number 9 to Affinity Rainbow Publications. (It was accepted and is due out in February – cover reveal and blurb coming soon!)

Calling Home

In July we visited Settle to view the Flowerpot exhibits – many wonderful creations spread throughout  the village

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My 7th novel, Changing Perspectives was a finalist for a Goldie Award at the GCLS Conference in Las Vegas.

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2018 Goldie Finalists: Changing Perspectives in General Fiction – and short stories included in each of the finalists in the Anthology category (Winner: Our Happy Hours)

August was also a busy month with the Happy Valley Pride Festival and another successful Lesbian Writers Read event. This was followed a few weeks later with the inaugural European Lesbian Literary Conference (ELLCon) in Bristol. And we managed to fit in a trip to Manchester to see the magnificent bee sculptures.

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In September I took the initiative and contacted Gay’s the Word bookshop in London to see if they would be interested in stocking some of my books. (They were – and here they are pictured on a shelf, next to Ali Smith’s books!)

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We visited Bolton Abbey in October. The last time I was there would have been many years ago with my grandparents.

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November was a time for reorganising and redistributing books as we had new carpets and flooring installed throughout the house.

All this leading up to Christmas and a fantastic five days spent at a country house hotel on Lake Windermere. We’ve spent seven Christmases now in similar locations in the Lake District. (Where do you think I got some of the ideas for a house party in Christmas at Winterbourne?)

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Looking forward to 2019…and more adventures, more reading, more writing…and just more living!


 

Winterbourne revisited

I’m happy to announce that Christmas at Winterbourne is on Kindle Unlimited for the month of December. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, and you’re a KU subscriber, now’s your chance to experience a four-day Christmas holiday in a lesbian guesthouse.

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The number of characters may look daunting but they all have roles to play in the story. I initially started writing it to submit as a short story for Affinity’s 2014 Christmas Collection. But I soon realised that was unrealistic, as I’d already introduced eight characters in the first two and a half thousand words (and that’s not including the horse, or the dogs who come in later). To tell the story properly it was clearly going to need a longer treatment.

Back of the book description:

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.

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I also love Christmas cracker jokes, so I enjoyed including some of these in the story.

Q: Why was the snowman rummaging in the bag of carrots?

A: He was picking his nose.


If you’re not convinced yet to give Christmas at Winterbourne a try, check out these reviews: Lesbian Reading Room / Clare Lydon’s top festive pics


Christmas at Winterbourne – Kindle Unlimited links: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon AU

The team at Affinity Rainbow Publications love Christmas and have a selection of treats so it’s worth a visit to the website to check out other Christmas-themed books.

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Free on the Affinity website

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Available from Affinity /Amazon US / Amazon UK


 

Exploring new worlds

My bookshelves are full of fantasy and science fiction novels…from my childhood days of traversing through Narnia, Middle Earth, and the Earthsea Archipelago. Then I moved on to stories by Isaac Asimov, J G Ballard, Brian Aldiss, William Gibson, Samuel R Delaney, and Ursula K LeGuin’s adult novels.

Rediscovering lesbian sci-fi and fantasy has been a fairly recent development in my reading habits. I do have some much loved books on my shelves from the 1990s…Jean Stewart’s Isis series and  the first two Aggar books by Chris Anne Wolfe which I reread occasionally.

The reboot of reading newer stories in these genres started a few years ago with Fletcher DeLancey’s marvelously envisioned world of Alsea starting with The Caphenon. I’ve now read all the books in the series, including the recently released seventh one, Resilience. (When we’ve got intergalactic space travel underway, I want to visit Alsea.)

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When I was at ELLCon this summer, I exchanged books with two other authors at the event, and perhaps it was just serendipity that both fall into the dystopian genre.

I started reading Chosen by Brey Willows during my four-hour return train journey from Bristol to West Yorkshire. Having read Brey’s Aftelife Inc series, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. I couldn’t tell you which stations we stopped at as I was totally engrossed in the story from the first page.

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A few days after getting back from the conference, I knew I would be spending a long afternoon in A&E so I took along May Dawney’s Survival Instincts. This seemed like an appropriate choice for the occasion to keep my mind off the tests I was undergoing for my breathing problem.

Both books deal with the aftermath of when humankind has succeeded in destroying the resources of the planet, and taking down civilisation as we know it. This could make for grim reading, but the message in both books contain the elements of hope and restoration at the hands of the few who have the courage and determination to rebuild something from the ruins.

It would be remiss of me not to mention another writer who has ventured into the dystopian genre, one of my fellow Affinity authors, Renee MacKenzie. The first two books in her Karst Series are available now, with the third on its way to publication next year. Renee’s New America is struggling to live up to the ideal of creating a better society than the earlier one (ours, I guess).

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When I was with the Affinity team at the 2017 GCLS conference in Chicago, Renee had been considering publishing the series under a pen name. Mainly because she felt they were so different from her other novels. However, when the first book, Kai’s Heart, was released, I was pleased to see that she had decided not to do that. Anyone who has read Renee’s other books shouldn’t be put off by the change. She is a fabulous writer and these books demonstrate her ability to deliver compelling stories in another genre. The second in the series is called Naomi’s Soul, published by Affinity Rainbow Publications in September and the third book, due out next year, is called Misha’s Promise.


Which two books of my own did I exchange at ELLCon…one each of the last two published:

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Available from:

Calling Home: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Changing Perspectives: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords /  Apple iTunes


 

Our Happy Hours revisited

It’s a year since the publication of this collection of stories, essays, anecdotes and poetry…Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars…and I still feel a glow inside that my story was accepted…especially as the project was spearheaded by two authors I admire, S. Renée Bess and Lee Lynch. (Also thrilled that the book won a Goldie this year!)

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I set my story in London, 1968. I was neither there nor old enough to enter a bar then. I drew the story out from my wife’s anecdotes of moving to London from Scotland in the 1960s and her efforts to find other lesbians.

However, one part of the story comes from a direct experience. The main character finds out about the Gateways club from a hairdresser. This idea came from the time we were visiting my parents in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I decided I needed a haircut and couldn’t wait until I got home. The young man cutting my hair was quite obviously gay so I didn’t hesitate to ask him if there were any gay clubs in town. (Bear in mind, this was some time ago – pre-Google.)

He told me there was one, called BJs (now called Paparazzi, I believe). So my wife and I went out for dinner one evening and I’m sure my parents wondered why we were so long. They knew the restaurant we’d gone to and it wasn’t known for slow service. The club wasn’t very busy when we got there and we did feel a bit awkward. I know we talked to a woman who was sitting on her own and we danced to a few songs.

That was in the early 1990s and while writing the story it struck me that it was just as hard then to get information about gay life as it had been thirty years earlier.

My contribution to Our Happy Hours is called ‘Gateway to Heaven’. In this excerpt, my character is gathering her courage to take the next step on her journey to find a place where she belongs.

She licked her lips and then rested her head on the wall. Could she really go through with this? Maybe she should have gone to see the play instead.

The clothes she’d bought on her Saturday excursion to Carnaby Street were a loose fit. She hadn’t been able to try them on, telling the salesman they were for her brother. At least she knew how to knot her tie; her old school one, but no one here would recognise it. The tie was in her jacket pocket. Tom, the hairdresser who had told her about this place, had told her to wait until she was inside the club to put it on.

Her aunt hadn’t been pleased when she spent her first week’s wages on a short haircut, unimpressed that it was the look favoured by Twiggy, now a famous model. “You don’t want to look like that stick insect. Oh, your beautiful hair. You must let it grow back before your mother sees you.”

She had no intention of letting it grow too long again. Now with it slicked back, she hoped it gave her the image she was trying to achieve. All the doubts that had assailed her during the week attacked at once, keeping her rooted to the spot. Would she be able to talk to anyone, ask anyone to dance? These city women wouldn’t be interested in a country hick like her. Did she look the part? What if they didn’t let her in? Did she look gay enough?

Taking that next step can be hard at any point in one’s life. My fictional story and the many contributions within this collection speak of many such moments of taking the plunge and being finally able to discover and enjoy the safe spaces in which we can be ourselves. May we never let anyone take that away.

Buy this book and tell your friends about it. Proceeds from sales go to supporting two LGBTQ youth organisations.

Bella Books / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble

List of contributors (in order of appearance in the book):

Ann Aptaker, Dontá Morrison, Rae Theodore, James Schwartz, Jennifer Morales, Cheryl Head, Heather Jane, Beth Burnett, Cindy Rizzo, Stephen Reigns, Clay Kerrigan, Earlon Sterling, Sallyanne Monti, Karen DiPrima, S. Renee Bess, Richard Natale, Mercedes Lewis, Martha Miller, Liz McMullen, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Penny Mickelbury, Johnny Townsend, Merril Mushroom, Brian Heyburn, Lee Lynch, Joan Nestle, Ian Cassidy, Angela Garrigan, Nahshon Anderson Fuentes, Ardy Tibby, Katharine E. K. Duckett, Rachel E. Bailey, Darryl Denning, Lisa Carlson, Katherine V. Forrest, Jen Silver, Shelley Thrasher, Kitty Kat, Jamie Anderson, Shawn Marie Bryan, Ann Laughlin, JP Howard, L. K. Early, Patrick Coulton, Michael Ward, Karin Kallmaker and Bonnie J. Morris.


My latest romance…with some added mystery. Available from: Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.

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