Christmas by the Lake

Is it January already? Time for another blog. A dreary January day seems ideal for a reflection on the wonderful time we had over Christmas. We’ve spent a few Christmases at Lake Windermere. This year was lovely, as it always is, regardless of the weather. Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were both wet days, but Christmas Day the sun came out.

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This was a contrast to the same place ten years earlier when we made snowbears by the lakeside.

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Clare Lydon invited lesbian fiction authors to take part in a Festive Lesbian Book Club Podcast. I was happy to answer her questions and this was the result with myself, Jae, Clare Ashton, Melissa Tereze, Lise Gold, Jody Klaire and SR Silcox answering the following questions: First, favourite lesfic of the year. Second, favourite festive lesfic ever. Third, what we’re hoping for from Santa. Fourth, what we like to eat & drink at Christmas. Finally, our publishing plans for 2020. Clare also added her own answers to the questions.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you to everyone who took advantage of Affinity’s December sale and bought copies of Christmas at Winterbourne, as well as the other books on sale during the month. Always worth checking out the Affinity Raingbow Publications website for free books and special offers. Subscribers to their newsletter can also benefit from the monthly flash sales.


2020 is starting out slowly for me. But it will be picking up speed in the next few weeks. I’ll be doing edits for my book due out in March – Country Living. Nicola Victoria Vincent has started recording Starting Over which will be the second one of my books to make it into audio. And I’m working on a new novel!

So let’s get on with more happy writing, reading, and listening this year!


Changing Perspectives, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

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

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Wintry tales

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Winter warmers in story form…if you haven’t encountered it already, I recommend joining the cast of characters in Christmas at Winterbourne for an unforgettable interlude at a lesbian retreat in Sussex. One reviewer came up with a summary that encapsulates the story far better than I’ve managed: “The characters are incredible and unique. They all have their own personalities, strength and weaknesses. A mixture of very different women. Sharing a few days with those characters is pure joy. I loved the whole atmosphere, the warm kitchen, the log fires, the cozy setting. It all felt so real. A story of love, loss, secrets, humor, friendship, compassion and a caring community. Reading this book is like falling into a warm bed on a snowy day…A perfect romance and just what I was looking for and a delightful read to put you in the Christmas mood.”

Check out the December price of Christmas at Winterbourne on Amazon: $3.99 on Amazon.com / £3.09 on Amazon.co.uk

 

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Affinity’s 2017 Christmas Medley has a delightful mix of stories. My offering, Maybe this Christmas, was summed up beautifully by one reviewer: “…set in Hebden Bridge, the lesbian mecca of the north of England. I loved the setting and the sweet story of Emma and her struggle to get past heartbreak and feel love again.”

I’ve recently started thinking about expanding the story of Emma and her friends into a full-length novel.

 

Wanted for Christmas

JM Dragon, renowned Affinity Rainbow Publications author, just loves Christmas and has released a new novella.

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Venturing away from the world of lesfic, this is the time of year when dedicated fans of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence start thinking about re-reading the books. The time to start reading the second book in the sequence, The Dark is Rising, is on Midwinter’s Eve (21 December) when Will Stanton, 11 years old, is drawn into the ancient battle between the forces of the Light and the Dark.

Puffin Books has just released the books with new covers and foreword by Robert McFarlane. Although the new covers are good, I still prefer the cover of the 1973 version that I have, published by Atheneum.

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Other old favourites that I like to revisit at this time of year are Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome…a seasonal visit to the Lake District…and a trip into Narnia with  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis.

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Plans for the New Year

My new novel, Country Living, is due out in March, published by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Blurb preview:

When Peri Sanderson achieves her dream of living in a cottage in the country she expects her life will be complete when her wife, Karla Sykes, is able to join her. Peri has romantic visions of growing her own vegetables, nurturing a few chickens and finally getting around to re-reading all her favourite books.

Karla has told Peri she can’t make the move from their London home for at least six months as she has a number of important projects to finish up before she can leave her job. Unknown to Peri, Karla has plans of her own that don’t include a move to the country.

Peri’s nearest neighbours on the hilltop sheep farm above the cottage seem like a nice family and help her to settle in and feel less lonely, but they all have secrets of their own.

Will Peri’s dream turn into a nightmare? Will Karla’s romantic adventure bring her the release she seeks?

 

And a new audio book: Starting Over…Nicola Victoria Vincent to start recording in January.

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Changing Perspectives is already out on audio, narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent – available to download from: Audible / Amazon / iTunes / Beek / Chirp / Scribd / Google Play / Kobo / Nook

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


 

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


 

What’s in a name?

(Paraphrasing from Shakespeare: ‘Would a Rose sound as sweet.’)

With eight published novels, (number nine is at the editing stage and number ten is in embryonic form), and five short stories…finding names for characters is becoming something of an art form.

I now have a spreadsheet with all the names I’ve used. I don’t like to use the same name twice, particularly for the main protagonists. For the benefit of readers as well as myself, it’s good to have different names in each book to keep track of who’s who.

I did have to change one character’s name in Christmas at Winterbourne. The backstory for that novel was written many years before and not published. One of the main characters was called Jamie – a name I like. But then I used it in The Circle Dance as it seemed to fit the personality of that particular person.

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Can you guess which character’s name I changed in Christmas at Winterbourne?

Sometimes I’ll change a name during the editing stage. Usually only when there are two names that look or sound similar, or even just start with the same letter. Less confusion all round.

Another thing I’ve learned to watch out for is avoiding names that are easy to trip over when reading aloud. There’s a character called Laurel in The Circle Dance. That shouldn’t be too hard to say, you would think. However, I wished I’d used Laura instead as I kept stumbling over it.

In Changing Perspectives, I deliberately chose Camila with this spelling as I wanted her name to have a Spanish pronunciation…Ca-mee-ya. Again, when it came to doing a podcast, I thought maybe should have stuck with the English version and I suspect readers will be interpreting it as Ca-mill-a (as in the Duchess of Cornwall) anyway.

The other thing I’ve noticed about my naming convention, if I can call it that, is the tendency to use androgynous names for butch characters and more feminine ones for femmes. So it’s a bit of clue for readers if a couple gets together and the names don’t match this way. For example: in Running From Love, Lydia and Beth clearly aren’t going to make it in a long-term relationship. So is Beth going to end up with Jordan or Sam?

It’s also a good idea to be flexible. Sometimes halfway through a novel, I’ll think a name isn’t working, as the character develops and grows into the story. Or I see two names starting with the same letter or sound, so I’ll change one of them.

I do enjoy the process of naming. All part of the fun starting a new book and finding out who these people are whose stories are going to be revealed. (I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, so that’s always a mystery until about half way in.)


On another note:

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My publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, is doing flash sales every month from their back catalogue of books by their authors. Sign up for the Affinity newsletter to receive notifications of these bargain prices, plus upcoming releases and author news. (October newsletter)

The site also offers a selection of free ebooks including my first ever published short story, There Was A Time.

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Happy reading!


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Buying links:

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

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

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / 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

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity 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 Starling Hill Trilogy Omnibus edition: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords


 

Winter Solstice reading

Celebrate the return of the light (in the northern hemisphere) as the shortest day has arrived!

Discovered on Twitter this week – fans of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising read the book every year, ideally starting on Midwinter Eve (20 December). This is something I do ever since I came across the book in a Toronto bookshop sometime in the late 1970s. The copy I have was published in 1973. Although The Dark is Rising is the second book chronologically in the series, it was the first one I read and remains my favourite of the five books.

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1973 edition of The Dark Is Rising

The 2007 film version, “The Seeker”, was largely a flop. Fans of the book weren’t impressed, particularly as it was so Americanised. There was nothing of the contrasts of the young hero’s cosy family life in a Buckinghamshire village pitted against the ancient battle between good and evil – based primarily on Arthurian themes and a mix of other myths and legends.

Some of the family’s traditions in the book remind me of my own childhood. We didn’t burn a Yule log, but I recall making paper chains and bringing in the live Christmas tree on the 24th of December to decorate. I may have been told then, but I didn’t register the religious significance of the twelve days of Christmas – only that the tree was brought into the house in preparation for the first day – and taken down afterwards on January 6th.

I think this musician, Handspan, has caught the atmosphere of the time of the story brilliantly with his musical compositions. He’s putting a different tune on his Soundcloud site every day – the previous one will disappear after 24 hours. And if you want to join in with the Twitter discussion group just follow this link or put in #TheDarkIsReading.

A little bit of magic at Christmas appeals to my inner child. I’m sure anyone who read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at a tender age still remember the horror of reading about a place where it was always winter but never Christmas.

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Another book from my childhood (and let’s face it, my increasing adulthood) that gets read every year is Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. Of the twelve books in his Swallows and Amazons series, this one remains a firm favourite. The story takes place after Christmas and the children are hoping that the lake will freeze over before they have to go back to school. They want to be able to skate to the ‘North Pole’ at the far end of the lake. It doesn’t seem likely until their holidays are extended by a month when one of them gets mumps and they’re all quarantined. Although no magic is involved, the story feels magical, within a world suspended by the onslaught of snow and ice.

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For my wife and I, Christmas gift buying shrinks each year. We’ve reached the conclusion there’s no point in getting each other anything other than books. So we exchange lists.

This year I’ve asked for Philip Pullman’s new one, The Book of Dust, La Belle Sauvage. The start of another trilogy—I can’t wait to delve into Pullman’s magical world.


For a different kind of magical journey, you could take a trip to Winterbourne House, a lesbian retreat, in Christmas at Winterbourne.

And for variety, the Christmas Medley anthology offers eight Christmas-related stories from Affinity authors.

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Buying links:

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

Christmas Medley: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK


 

Pull a Christmas Cracker!

With Christmas only a few weeks away, it’s time to revisit Winterbourne House.

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Writing this story was an absolute joy and I loved being able to get in a number of Christmas cracker jokes. When the book was in the beta editing stage, my American editor informed me she didn’t know what a Christmas cracker was and thought I needed to expand the context in the story for the benefit of overseas readers.

I found this a rather shocking revelation. Surely not a whole nation deprived of sharing Christmas crackers, pulling them apart with eyes scrunched waiting for the bang, to gain access to a (very likely) useless gift, a paper hat, and a joke that’s guaranteed to make everyone at the table groan.

Excerpt from Christmas at Winterbourne:

…JJ insisted on silence while she read out the joke from her cracker.

“Okay, everyone. Can you guess the answer to this? How did Scrooge win the football game?”

With a collective groan, they all shook their heads.

“The ghost of Christmas passed.”

More groans and a quick shuffle of hands digging the small slips of paper out from the rubble of the cracker debris left on the table.

Clare was the next to join in.

“Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor?” She looked around the table. “No takers. Okay. Because he had low elf esteem.”

Rose followed this. “What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?”

To Candice’s amazement, Mags jumped in. “Oh, I know that one. Jingle smells.”

They carried on around the table and only stopped when the next course was brought in.…

That was at the dinner on Christmas Eve. The guests had another chance to open crackers during the Christmas day lunch.

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I was delighted when Clare Lydon posted her top festive picks and Christmas at Winterbourne was first on the list. Here’s what Clare said about the story:

Not a romance but rather an ensemble piece, this book is based in a rambling old estate in Sussex, run by lesbians and now a lesbian retreat. There a truckload of characters to get your head around at first – I got dizzy keeping up at one point – but once you do, you’ll find you’re a guest at the house, too, along with the couples young and old, the newly blooming romances, the heartbroken and the about-to-give-birth.

This book is a gentle observational snapshot of Christmastime in a house full of lesbians, replete with a touch of drama, along with lashings of mulled wine and mince pies. It’s an easy read that draws you in and has a bumper crop of cracker jokes, along with skinny dipping, snowball fights and flowing champagne.

Yes, there are a lot of characters and I make no apology for that. Just come on in and enjoy meeting the ‘ensemble’ as Clare said.

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.

And while we’re on the subject of Christmas, don’t miss out on Affinity’s Christmas Medley – a collection of stories from eight Affinity authors.

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

Christmas Medley: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK


 

Christmas cheer

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Eight Affinity authors took up the challenge to write a Christmas-related short story. The task was to write a longer short story this time so the stories in this anthology range from 10,000 to 20,000 words.

This was definitely out of my comfort zone for writing a ‘short’ story, having only managed between 3,000 and 5,000 word stories in the past.

However, once I was over the 4,000-word mark, I knew that it was going to go the distance. The story is titled Maybe This Christmas, inspired by a song from Tracey Thorn’s “Tinsel and Lights” album.

Synopsis:

Emma Jones has had a bad year. Her girlfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve and now with December 25th looming once again, she can’t avoid the constant reminders of the festive season. Her friends try to be supportive by either telling her it’s time she got over it, or by attempting to set her up with other women. Emma hasn’t succeeded in getting over it, and her friends haven’t had any success in getting her interested in anyone else. Until Suzanne (Zan) Phillips walks into their local pub one night and sets her pulse racing.

Zan is a newcomer to the area, having moved from London to start a job in a northern town where she doesn’t know anyone. She takes the initiative by asking one of her new work colleagues where she can meet lesbians. Unknown to her, Sassafras (Sass) Scott is one of Emma’s best mates. When Zan accepts an invitation to join Sass and her friends in a pub one evening, she doesn’t expect to meet a woman she is immediately attracted to.

Can Emma overcome her fear of having her heart stomped on again? Will Zan succeed where others have failed?

I grew to love these characters and I’m seriously considering expanding their adventures into a novel-length story.

If you can’t wait for that to happen, you can delve into Christmas at Winterbourne – and immerse yourself in the festivities at a lesbian guesthouse over the holiday period.

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One reviewer’s comments sum it up well:

“This is a love story with great humour, relationship angst and deep emotions running through it. The fact that it is set at Christmas makes it all the more special, with a cosy, traditional feeling. I felt as if I was there with them all. The setting is beautifully described and Jen Silver has got me so convinced that I want to book a stay there!”

Happy holiday reading!


Buying links:

Christmas Medley: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK

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

The name game

I’ve now written seven novels—five published, one due for release in June, one submitted, fate unknown. And I’ve started on number eight.

As I was thinking of character names for the new story, it occurred to me that in the interest of not repeating myself, I needed a list of previously used names in each book and short story.

So I created a table in a document and slotted in names. There are a lot. And it’s not just people; there are cats, dogs, and horses too. Combining all the characters and pets in The Starling Hill Trilogy, I came up with 37. And I may have missed a few of the minor characters.

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The start of the lists

Of the standalone romances, I thought Christmas at Winterbourne would be the winner with 26, but the June book with 35 has topped it. No need for alarm though, readers. There are only six main characters, the rest are the supporting cast, some of whom are only mentioned in passing. But in the interests of being thorough, I’ve attempted to put all named characters on the lists.

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The book coming out in June features fish – they don’t have names!

I have had to resort to searching baby name websites at times. But names mostly come to me as I start to write and I get a feel for if the name fits the characters.

This list of the Top 10 American Girls’ names in 1967 was useful and I noted that I’ve used six so far.

Lisa / Kimberly / Michelle / Mary / Susan / Karen / Angela / Tammy / Melissa / Jennifer

This list reminded me—I also named the ten hens and two roosters in Starting Over, which brings that book’s total to well past Christmas at Winterbourne and level with the June release. The residents of the chicken coop at the farm were all named after Roman goddesses and gods: Juno, Ceres, Aurora, Venus, Flora, Fortuna, Diana, Bellona, Minerva, Luna, Apollo and Jupiter.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Scrivener as a writing tool. With having multiple points of view in my novels, it’s very good for helping me keep track of character movements as their interweaving stories develop. By naming each scene, I can easily find out where I left a particular character in a previous chapter.

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From Christmas at Winterbourne

Listing the names started out as an exercise to avoid repetition. But it has also served to give me an overview of the number of characters in each book. I was rather overwhelmed to see just how many there were – and, giving you fair warning, there’s more to come!


Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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Buying options for ebooks:

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

 

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.)

digging

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.)

agincourt16

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?

libertine

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