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.)

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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


 

Celebrating Christmas Crackers

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I love Christmas Crackers. One of the reasons I set my current novel, Christmas at Winterbourne, at this time of year was so that I could share some really, truly, awful cracker jokes with readers.

Some examples – not all used in the story (answers at the end of the blog):

  1. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
  2. Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
  3. What did the beaver say to the Christmas tree?
  4. Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
  5. What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?

I could go on, but I won’t.

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It may seem like a peculiar tradition to people in other countries—pulling apart a roll of decorated cardboard—to reveal a paper hat, a fairly useless toy or trinket, and a terrible joke which you can share with everyone at the table.

But to me, a Christmas meal feels incomplete without it. My sister obviously shares the same ‘cracker’ gene. I dedicated this book to her because as noted in the Acknowledgments, “she is responsible for providing the tale of a misguided attempt to smuggle Christmas crackers into Amsterdam.”

So, I hope you’ll join in the festivities at Winterbourne House and pull a cracker or two with the staff and the guests…a lot can happen in four days!

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Answers:

  1. Frostbite!
  2. A mince spy!
  3. Nice gnawing you!
  4. Because their days are numbered!
  5. Jingle Smells!

(Note: The answers have exclamation marks because if you know the answer or announce it to the other people who can’t get it – you yell it out with glee!)


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


 

Book browsing…in days gone by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


 

Giving birth

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

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

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Canada geese with gosling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Budding tree in spring

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


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


 

Number 5 is here!

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

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

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

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

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

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Back of the book blurb for Christmas at Winterbourne:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


4books

Buying options for the first four books:

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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