Playing in the woods

I took up archery eight years ago. It was something I’d enjoyed doing as a child when I made my own bow and arrows, played at Robin Hood in the woods by our house. And I guess it never really left my thoughts. So when I discovered there was an archery club nearby, I signed up for the next beginners’ course.

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Playing in the woods

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The adult version – would you believe?

It seems fitting then that in my eighth novel, Calling Home, I’ve managed to include an archery reference. One of my characters, Galen, is taking a sabbatical from her vet’s practice to work at The Lodge on the Lake, a writers’ retreat. Her role is to take care of the gardening as well as providing outdoor activities for the guests. She gets permission to set up an archery range in the woods. Like myself, she is a longbow archer and whether or not any of the writers in residence wish to take up the sport, it will give her the chance to keep her hand in.

There is an attraction developing between Galen and Berry, the general manager of the Lodge. In this scene, Berry has followed her to the range, initially staying out of sight. Galen is aware of her presence though and invites her to try shooting a few arrows.

Excerpt from Calling Home:

Berry’s appearance hadn’t taken Galen by surprise. Knowing she was there, Galen’s concentration had wavered, so she was pleased when the second arrow hit the centre.

What did surprise her was the strange feeling that took over her body when she was standing close to Berry. Her fingers tingled from touching her briefly to attach the arm guard and then to guide her when she was drawing back the bow.

Berry seemed to tighten up and Galen didn’t know if it was the fear of doing something wrong in handling the bow, or if it was Galen’s presence that unsettled her. She couldn’t think of anything she’d done to upset the woman. They had worked together easily enough the day before when setting up the afternoon tea.

They walked back to the house together after Berry shot a few more arrows. She needed to get the chicken in the oven so that dinner would be served on time.

“I wonder if Lois has surfaced yet?” Galen thought this was a safe topic with which to break the silence.

“There was no sign of her all morning. Bit of a relief.”

“Do you often get trouble with people drinking too much?’

“Occasionally. But it’s usually with the larger groups. I didn’t anticipate having any problems with this lot.”

The closer they got to the house, the more relaxed Berry seemed to become. Galen hoped she’d enjoyed the archery session but she hadn’t given any indication that she wanted to do it again.

Yelps of outrage reached their ears as they approached the house. A croquet match was in progress and when they reached the edge of the lawn, Lois could be seen giving Pamela a filthy look.

“That was unnecessary.”

“It’s part of the game. I’m supposed to stop you from scoring.”

Lois stomped over to a ball that was hovering on the edge of the path. “Can I move it onto the grass?”

“No, you have to play it from there.”

“Don’t be so picky. It’s not fucking golf.” Lois placed her ball a good foot away from the path.

Pamela caught sight of Galen and Berry who had stopped to watch.

“Hey, did you catch anything?”

Galen was going to respond but Berry got in first.

“No, the fish aren’t biting today. It’s too calm.”

As soon as they got inside, Galen looked at Berry and they both burst out laughing.

“That was a good line,” she said as soon as she managed to stop.

“Yep. They fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.”

Galen loved the way Berry’s smile transformed her face. The shadows under her eyes had lightened since she’d first seen her in the woods.

“I’ll put the fishing rods away and then I can help you with dinner.” She didn’t want their time together to end.

“There’s not much left to do, but you could set the table. There are only six of us tonight. Sarah and Magda have gone across to the Inn.”

“Really. I wouldn’t have thought pub dining was Mrs Frost’s style.”

“Looks are deceiving. It has a very fine restaurant.”

“Maybe we could go sometime.” Galen felt a hot flush of embarrassment. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with your cooking, but…”

“Actually, tomorrow would be good. I’m going over in the morning to pick up supplies. We could have lunch. It will give you a chance to meet the landlord there and Alfie’s wife.” Berry gave her another smile.

“Does she have a name? I’ve only ever heard anyone refer to her as ‘Alfie’s wife’.” Galen hoped that Berry couldn’t hear her heart pounding.

“Sorry. Bad habit, I guess. Her name is Zofia. Like Sophia but spelled with a Z. She’s Polish, but she speaks English better than me.”

Berry turned to go into the kitchen and Galen hurried off to put her archery equipment in her room. The idea of having lunch with Berry the next day was both exhilarating and scary.

Where Berry is a complete novice at archery, Galen has no experience of relationships. Feeling an attraction is one thing, but will she be able to take it to another level of emotional and physical involvement?

Calling Home


Calling Home is available now from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.

Number Eight

My eighth novel is on its way…publication day is imminent…June 1st!

Calling Home wasn’t an easy book to write. It’s the first of my novels to include police investigations for a start. But my main focus, as always, is on romance.

Calling Home

Calling Home

Setting the story at a writers’ retreat on an island in a lake was an important element and I was able to draw on my own experience. In 2014, a few months before my first novel was published, I attended a week-long residential writing course. The location wasn’t quite as remote as the one in this story but there was no wi-fi or internet connection and although we could bring our own alcoholic beverages – if we ran out, then we had to use the public telephone to ring through an order to the wine shop in the village for a delivery.

This would seem like a recipe for disaster, leading perhaps to drunken orgies. Everyone was remarkably well-behaved although the number of empty bottles overflowing from the recycling bin at the end of the week led the organisers to say that our group were the highest consumers of alcohol they’d ever had. We even out-drank the poets. Which, apparently, is quite a feat.

Lumb Bank

A writing retreat

Now, I’m not saying my characters in this book drink a lot. They enjoy a glass or two of wine with their evening meal. (Although the poet does overdo it on a few occasions.)

Anyway, back to the romance. Here’s an excerpt that doesn’t include the consumption of alcoholic beverages:

Galen collected her archery equipment and set off for the range. Although she wanted to hurry to get there before Berry, she made herself walk slowly. No point in working up a sweat, replacing the one she had just washed off.

She set up both bows in case Berry wanted to have another go. Berry arrived just after she had shot her first three arrows. Perhaps aware of her impending approach, Galen felt her concentration was off and the result had been disappointing. Two arrows in the blue ring, and one slightly better in the red.

Berry was holding a Booth’s carrier bag in one hand and a picnic rug in the other.

“Might as well dine in comfort,” she said, putting both items down behind Galen’s backpack.

“Um, do you want to shoot first and then eat, or…” Galen felt her nervousness returning.

“Or, what?” Berry stepped in close to her.

There was no mistaking the spark in her eyes. Galen let her instincts take over and bent her head to kiss Berry’s inviting lips. This time the tug of their mutual desire left no room for hesitation. When Berry’s lips parted, Galen knew it was an invitation to explore with her tongue. The sensations coursing through her body were startling in their intensity. Even with no experience to draw on, this felt so right…like coming home. The movement of Berry’s body against hers was intoxicating, and the sudden onrush of warmth between her legs, added another dimension to their connection.

When they had to stop for air, Berry whispered, “Let’s get more comfortable.”

She slipped out of Galen’s embrace and reached for the rug. Galen helped her spread it out on a flat piece of ground. Berry lay down and patted the space next to her. Uncertainty swept through Galen’s mind. Her body wanted whatever was going to happen next, but her brain hadn’t caught up. She slowly lowered herself onto the blanket, lying flat, staring up at the patches of blue sky above the treetops.

Berry raised herself on one elbow and looked at her.

“I’m sorry. I’m a complete novice. I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t have that much experience myself.” Berry was smiling but her eyes were serious. “If I do anything you don’t like, just tell me to stop, and I will.” She leaned forward and kissed her again.

Galen felt her body slowly relax as she enjoyed the contact once more. After a few minutes, Berry tentatively slid a hand under her shirt. Just that light touch sent a jolt of desire through her. When Berry’s hand cupped her breast, Galen moaned.

“This would be easier if we took our clothes off. Are you okay with that?”

Powerless to speak, Galen nodded. She sat up to remove her shirt and bra, then wriggled out of her shorts.

The book is available now for pre-order on Amazon. After the release date of 1st June, it will be available on other sites including Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Bella Books and iTunes…as well as Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Pre-order links: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA

Other news for the summer:

Book number seven, Changing Perspectives, is a finalist for a Goldie award. Check out the complete list here on the Golden Crown Literary Society website. Winners will be announced at the conference presentation ceremony on 7 July at the Las Vegas.

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Changing Perspectives: Goldie Finalist 2018

Happy Valley Pride‘s plans for the 2018 Festival are coming along nicely. The Lesbian Writers Read event is on Tuesday 7 August from 7pm – venue to be announced. The authors taking part are: Jody Klaire, Cari Hunter, Lise Gold, Lola Keeley, Deborah Delano and myself.

EllCon is also taking place in August…the first ever European Lesfic Literary Conference on 23/24 August in Bristol. Check out the list of authors attending – and book your place, if you haven’t already.


Happy reading!

2016…what a year!

2016 is almost at an end – and I should think we’re all mostly pleased to see the back of it. However, I will concentrate on a number of positive things that have happened in my life this year.

In Roman history, 69 AD is known as the year of the four emperors. For me, as an author, 2016 will be known as the year of having three novels published.

This may never happen again.

So, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year. Carved in Stone, Book III of The Starling Hill Trilogy, came out in February. Having this published was a thrill because when I wrote the first book, Starting Over, I had no idea there would be a second, let alone a third

The Circle Dance followed quickly, in March, and is a standalone romance set in the same area of Yorkshire as the trilogy books. Writing this was another ‘starting over’ moment, if you like – new characters, different plot, and one very special black cat.

I signed the contract for Christmas at Winterbourne in November 2015 – so it was a yearlong wait for its release in November 2016. I’ve described the process of writing this book in a guest blog for the UK Lesfic website called Journey to Winterbourne…and in part of a guest blog for Women and Words called Five and Counting.

I also contributed a short story to Affinity’s Holiday anthology, It’s In Her Kiss. Affinity authors were invited to submit stories for whichever holiday event took their fancy and the collection includes a wide range – Christmas, New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Hallowe’en. My story is called ‘Beltane in Space’, so you can see where my mind was going – fertility rites and so on – with an all female crew on a spaceship! The proceeds for this book are going to the Montrose Center, which provides services to the LGBT community in Houston, Texas.

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Affinity’s 2016 team of authors: Ali Spooner, Jen Silver, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie (Annette’s looking nervous – this was before the ceremony – when she collected a Goldie for Locked Inside.)

In July I travelled to Washington DC for the annual bun fight known as the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. This was my second time attending so it was good to meet up with friends made the previous year – and to meet new ones. Also wonderful to meet so many people I communicate with on Facebook. The conference offers plenty of opportunities to interact with authors and readers through discussion panels, readings, book signings…and book buying. (Lesson learned from the first year – take a bigger suitcase.) Years ago when I first started reading lesbian fiction, I could never have imagined meeting such iconic authors as Katherine V Forrest, Lee Lynch, Karin Kallmaker, Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, Jewelle Gomez…to name a few…plus the host of talented authors who have come along since then.

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Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of Lee Lynch?

A few weeks after getting back from GCLS, I discovered there was an event happening closer to home…the very first Happy Valley Pride, being held in Hebden Bridge…a whole week’s worth of activities. So, I immediately volunteered to help out, as well as taking the opportunity to do a reading at the poetry evening (the poets very graciously let me read prose), and sell some books. The whole range of events throughout the week was well supported by the community and the Happy Valley team is already preparing plans for August 2017. The Christmas Festive Fundraiser earlier this month was fantastic fun as well…with the lip-sync competition as a highlight. (If you want to see photos, visit the Happy Valley Pride page on Facebook.)

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Volunteering at the Happy Valley Pride Box Office

In September I took part in what has become a yearly pilgrimage for me…two weeks on my knees at Vindolanda, the large ongoing excavation of Roman forts near Hadrian’s Wall. It is voluntary and I do love scraping away with a small trowel unearthing pottery and cow bones. Other volunteers found coins, toga brooches, numerous shoes and evidence of child cremations – but I’m not suffering from find envy – not much. Again, it was a lovely group of people to be with and the two weeks passed all too quickly. (Note: I have booked to go again next year.)

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In the trenches!

In October I had a visit from my mother. She lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island, so we don’t see each other very often in person. We have weekly chats via Skype, but it was wonderful to have some quality time with her.

The annual Azincourt Longbow shoot also takes place in October – on the anniversary of the famous battle. Famous in England and celebrated for the last 600 years, because we won. Nothing against the French, of course, but I was pleased with my three arrows on this target – the ones with the red and black fletchings. (Oh, and we dress up in mediaeval type costumes – woolly hat optional.)

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November 1st saw the release of Christmas at Winterbourne …quickly followed by signing a contract with Affinity for another book, which is scheduled to be out in July. This one is a golf themed romance and the title is Running From Love.

And then it was Christmas! Where did this year go?

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So, politics aside, I feel I’ve had a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to 2017.


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Buying options for my books:

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

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


 

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 /Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

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