Relationships and dreaming bones


The trilogy is here!

I was asked to describe my books using only one word in the Q&A for my author profile on the Lesbian Review website.

The word I chose after much deliberation, and consultation with my wife, was: relationships.

Not a terribly sexy word but it covers a lot of territory.

The characters in the books go through different phases of relationship. In Starting Over, Ellie and Robin are struggling to maintain their long-term one. For a large part of Arc Over Time, Denise is trying to get Kathryn to commit to a relationship, not willing to suffer through a continually frustrating LDR. And Jasmine discovers something about herself that leads to happiness. In Carved in Stone, Jo finds a love interest whose lifestyle is pretty much the opposite of her own wandering one.

Some readers have commented that they don’t think Robin and Ellie are a good match and don’t hold out much hope for Kathryn and Den to succeed in their relationship either. But, as in real life, what do we know about other people’s relationships? We’ve all met couples where we’ve thought – ‘how on earth did they get together?’ – or – ‘what does she see in her?’ We make judgments all the time that generally turn out to be wrong. And that is the joy of both reading and writing. We can get inside people’s heads and in the process some things will resonate about our own relationships, both good and bad.


Bones can dream

This almost became the title of Carved in Stone because of the character who isn’t there but who pervades the imaginations and subsequently, the actions, of the other characters.

In Starting Over the bones of a long dead historical figure are discovered at Starling Hill farm. They turn out to be the bones of Cartimandua who was the chief of the Brigantes tribe in Britain when the Romans turned up in force in AD43. I hesitate to use the title ‘Queen’ because I doubt that was a title bestowed on her by the tribe. It was used by the Roman historians who wrote about the period much later. We have no written records of this time in Britain. However, for the sake of not having to ascribe other words to denote her leadership, she is generally referred to as Queen Cartimandua.

Archaeologists in this country would love to be the discoverers of Cartimandua’s final resting place. No one knows where she went once her reign ended.

In these stories, and particularly Carved in Stone, Cartimandua becomes another presence. It is her influence on their lives that brings all the characters together one way or another.

This is fiction, of course. But I hope that one day Cartimandua’s actual bones will be found to give archaeologists the chance to piece together her life and what happened to her in those final days.


Digging at Vindolanda – finding mostly cow bones!

Book links:

Starting Over: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Arc Over Time: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Carved in Stone: Amazon US / Amazon UK

(All three books are available on Kindle Unlimited for the next 3 months)




Plans for 2016…or no plans?


Some writers are very disciplined and actually have a proper plan of what they are going to achieve each year.

My writing career has so far been of a more organic nature. In other words, I’m making it up as I go along.

I started along the path of being a published author in the middle of 2014 when Affinity accepted my manuscript for Starting Over. (How we got to this point is pretty well described in this first guest blog I did for Women & Words).

Suddenly I found that it wasn’t just about writing. Along with the publishing process of editing and making decisions on cover artwork – there was also the job of keeping up with Facebook posts, writing blogs, and generally trying to make a name for myself.

So for most of 2014 and all of 2015, I didn’t have a plan at all. Things happened. I knew that I would be attending the GCLS Conference and as well as doing a reading there, I had volunteered to be on two panels. These were firsts for me.

An invitation to be part of the inaugural Lesbian Authors Festival at a venue closer to home was unexpected. The Hideaway Café in Urmston (Manchester, UK) provided an excellent opportunity for seven authors to read, answer questions and sell a few books. (Plus they had awesome cakes!)

Having a hysterectomy wasn’t part of any plan and I only discovered that I needed to have one a few days after the Hideaway Café event. Luckily the operation went well and I’m now on the road to recovery (and, no, I won’t be posting photos of my scar – although it is very neat).

To help with promotion, as well as participating in author Q&A sessions on Facebook, I’ve done guest blogs on the Women and Words and UK Lesfic sites and taken part in several online interviews, including a podcast. I would like to thank the interviewers for their time and effort: Lynn Lawler, Fiona McVie and Clare Lydon. (Links to the blogs and interviews are on the ‘Guest Appearances’ page.)

2016 promises to be another busy year. I have two books, possibly three due for publication. The first of these is Book 3 of the Starling Hill Trilogy. Carved in Stone completes the journey undertaken in Starting Over and Arc Over Time. Book 3 is being released on Valentine’s Day – so make a note in your new diaries – 14 February 2016. Although each book can be read as a standalone, I think readers will enjoy the story more if they read all three (well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?).


Christmas promo for Books 1 and 2 of The Starling Hill Trilogy

Another book, due out in March, is a completely new story with different characters and is called The Circle Dance. No archaeology in this one, but there is a nod or two to the surfeit of stone circles in the UK. You don’t have to go far to find one here. Not all as magnificent as Stonehenge, but compelling evidence of an ancient culture’s communication network. That’s one theory, anyway. The circles are thought to be the sites of ritualistic gatherings – I prefer to think of them as precursors to the modern pub and that maybe the people who met at these places just sat around and told each other stories. (A lot of people are out celebrating the winter solstice at Stonehenge today.)


Met Office photo of Stonehenge

A third novel due for publication in 2016, title to be confirmed, is scheduled for later in the year as it has a Christmas theme.

So, there will be more promoting to do for each of these books. So far the only event I’m planning to attend is the GCLS Conference in Washington, DC. I’m looking forward to meeting up with many of the people I met in New Orleans as well as meeting those I didn’t have a chance (or time) to talk to then.

Will 2016 be any different in terms of planning? I somehow doubt it. I will continue to make it up as I go along. Having to undergo a major operation, the timing of which coincided with the terribly sad and sudden passing of Sandra Moran, has left me with the notion that I can only take each day as it comes. And to appreciate each day fully – which is easy to forget in the midst of everyday occurrences.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday, however you celebrate at this time of year…I wish there was more peace and love in the world, but perhaps we can all just do our bit wherever we are and hope it spreads.




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.

Short Stories

There Was a Time and The Christmas Sweepstake – both available FREE on the Affinity website

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.

Taking my books to market

Sh!…don’t tell anyone…writing stories is fun. Living many lives through your characters is wonderful. Having your stories published is fantastic. Receiving positive comments from reviewers and readers is amazing.

Trying to get your books noticed in a crowded marketplace isn’t fun. So I was thrilled when another author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in doing an in-depth interview for her blog. Lynn Lawler has done some great interviews with other authors I admire, so I was pleased to be asked.

Lynn asked questions about my books, what the characters mean to me, as well as questions about my life – which I tend to think is rather uninteresting. Doing the interview though, I was surprised at how much I found I had to say.

Doing the interview was fun. A big thank-you to Lynn for helping to get the word out there about my books and here are the blog links (Lynn has two blogs):

Vindolanda, May 2015

I’ve already shared this photo on Facebook and Lynn has included it in the interview, but it’s the only one I have of me on my knees at the dig site this year. Anyone who has read the books and/or followed my ramblings on here and FB will know that one of my interests is archaeology and I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue it with taking part in the dig at Vindolanda for the last two years. 2014 was much warmer even though I went to the site six weeks earlier. This year, May has been very cold, wet and windy. I’ve been asked for more information about the dig – so I’ve included a link to this article that features some of the most recent finds:

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, is available from Affinity eBook PressAmazonBarnes & NobleBella Books,Smashwords, and iTunes.

Journeys back in time

hotelnorthTaking a break from digging, my partner joined me for a weekend in a country house hotel where we indulged in a glass of champagne to celebrate the publication of my second novel, Arc Over Time.

On the Saturday we drove over to Vindolanda so that Anne could see the dig site. It was her first visit and she was amazed by the sheer scale of the work being undertaken there. The Vindolanda blog gives a good idea of what is being uncovered this season and what they hope to find with the help of the many volunteer excavators. I was there for period 4 of the digging season – May 10 to 22. During that time we uncovered a Roman road, the remains of a roundhouse from the year 209, found coins, small blades, a ring, lots of broken pottery and animal bones and teeth. In the vicus, the settlement outside the fort, the archaeologists are excavating at a much deeper level, six feet down. Only last week, this is where they found large sections of a leather tent, in excellent condition, made from goat skins. As well as enjoying the dig experience, I also met some lovely people – volunteers from all over the UK as well as Australia, Canada and the US.

Anne and I managed to dodge the raindrops during our walk around the fort and after a tour of the museum, we drove to a place called Alston to take a short trip on a railway line that is being restored along with the steam engine and train carriages. Below is the quintessentially English countryside view from the window.


All in all, it has been a busy few weeks. But now I need to carry on – promoting my new book and preparing myself for the GCLS Conference in New Orleans. Hope to see some of you there.

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

The adventure continues

Two years ago, when I retired, I thought of things I might do with my time. I even told friends and family that I was going to take up cooking. My wife was delighted and presented me with a Delia Smith cookbook when I arrived home from my last day at work. Two years on, Delia is still languishing at the back of a cupboard. (Nigella – I might have taken the book out to look at the cover once in a while.) However, during this time I have written several novels, two of them published.

Unfortunately for the cooking venture, I had already embarked on writing the first chapter of what became my debut novel, Starting Over. No one in the book makes anything more complicated than scrambled eggs. (Vegetarian lasagna gets a mention, but don’t ask me how to make it.) In fact, scrambled eggs make several appearances. (This is something I can cook…write about what you know!)

During my research on pottery—as one of the main characters is a potter—I stumbled across Vindolanda, the site of a Roman fort near Hadrian’s Wall. My interest was further piqued when I discovered they had an ongoing volunteer dig programme. I could actually volunteer to spend two weeks on a real live archaeological dig. So, I booked a place for the start of the next digging season, April 2014.

I drove up to Northumberland on a beautiful early spring day. It’s roughly a three-hour drive from where I live so I took my time, but even so I was too early to book into my accommodation. To fill in time I visited Housesteads, the largest excavated fort site on the Wall. It was a rainy, windswept day and looking out from the high point of the North Gate, I could imagine how bleak it was for the soldiers on duty.

From there it was just a short drive to Vindolanda. Approaching it from the north, I realised I had chanced on the best way to see it for the first time. The sun came out and lit up the landscape. It was an impressive sight, when I turned off the main road and saw the excavation laid out below.


Why is Vindolanda so interesting? One of the main reasons is the discovery of the writing tablets. (The Romans gave us a lot of things, but no, they didn’t invent the iPad.) From the 1970s onwards, a number of these postcard size scraps have been found each year – small strips of wood with writing on them. It’s taken decades for scholars to translate the Latin handwriting, and the words offer amazing insights into how the occupants of the forts lived. And there is more than one fort – thought to be at least nine separate forts dating from the first century to the fourth.

So, I find myself on the verge of a return to Vindolanda. It won’t be the same…a different group of volunteers, later in the season, and seeing what was uncovered after I left the year before. But I’m looking forward to spending another two weeks on my knees, scraping away in the dirt, culling the debris of the past.


And it helps pass the time while I await the publication of my second novel, Arc Over Time – published by Affinity Ebook Press on 15 May 2015. Head over to their website if you want to read the first chapter.

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