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.


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.


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.)


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.)


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.)


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?


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


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


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.


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!



  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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


The Winterbourne guests

The previous four blogs introduced seven of the main characters in the story. So for the final character introductions blog before the book is released next Tuesday (1 November – I may have mentioned this before!) – I thought I would give a brief overview of some of the others…collectively known as ‘the guests’.

Six guests arrive at Winterbourne House on the 23rd December for the start of the four day Christmas programme.

JJ and Shelley are from Manchester. They’ve had a long train journey to reach their destination. After arriving at King’s Cross, they had to take a Tube train to Waterloo station on the south side of London to then catch a train from there to Brighton on the south coast of England and from there another local train to Winterbourne Village. They probably could have driven down in the time it took to do all that. So, although JJ is enchanted with the place when they arrive, Shelley is in a bit of a mood.


JJ and Shelley didn’t have time to stop at Platform 9 and 3/4s as they rushed through King’s Cross station

Also arriving from London on the same train, via Hong Kong and Australia, is Clare Finlayson. She is an actress who specialises in playing kick-ass female characters in martial arts films. She has a nostalgic reason for coming back to Winterbourne.

Candice and Marguerite arrive in a rental car. They are from Canada and have been travelling around the UK and Ireland, as Candice is keen on tracing the roots of her family tree.

Sally Hunter lives in London and arrived by a later train, then walked from the station to the house, a distance of about five miles. She wants to write a biography of the former owner of the house, Kim Russell, and thinks that posing as a guest will help her gain the information she needs.

This scene from Chapter One is from Sally’s point of view when she arrives in the lounge for the pre-dinner drinks on the first evening.

When Sally saw the group gathered around the fireplace, her first thought was to grab a glass and a couple of the freshly baked mince pies and retreat to her room. Sherry wasn’t something she was prepared to drink, even to be sociable. Dipping into the bottle of Irish whiskey she’d brought for a medical emergency would be acceptable, though.

She recognised two of the women seated on the sofa. They had stopped their car on the way up the drive to ask if she wanted a lift to the house. She had declined, even though her rucksack was feeling heavier by the minute as the lane wound uphill. And the woman seated on the easy chair in the corner, well that was an unexpected bonus. This was going to make missing out on her usual round of Christmas parties in the city worthwhile. To top it all, she would be able to prove that cantankerous old woman wrong. On the long walk from the station, that had been foremost in her mind.

“This looks cosy. Mind if I join you?” She pulled up the upholstered stool next to the sideboard and placed it conveniently between the two from the car and the subject of her interest. “I’m Sally.” She smiled brightly, letting her gaze travel around the room.

“Oh, yeah. We saw you walking up the lane. That’s some trek from the main road.”

“I walked from the station.”

“What? Are you nuts? That’s like five miles.”

Sally figured the accent for American. “Well, it wasn’t raining. That’s always a bonus in this country. And living in London, a walk in the country is something to be treasured. I feel tons healthier already, just breathing in proper fresh air.”

“I’m Candice and this is my partner Marguerite. That there’s Shelley and,” she pointed to the figure lounging in the other easy chair, “JJ from Manchester. And this, can you believe it, is Shay Finch from AR4 and 7. Sorry, hon, I don’t remember your real name.”

Sally thought she heard the woman in the chair next to her mutter, “They never do.”

The door opened and the cute little red-haired butch who had greeted her at the front door came in carrying an armful of logs. She dumped them in the basket by the fireplace, sat herself down on the stone hearth and looked around at the group.

“Hi, I guess you’ve had time to introduce yourselves, so I won’t ask you to do it again. This is the welcome speech but I’ll keep it short, and if you have any questions, feel free to butt in. We like to keep things informal here. There is a Christmas programme that you will have seen, but please don’t take it as written in stone. It’s just a guide to activities which you can either take part in or not. The evening meals and buffet lunches will be supplied as advertised. Breakfast, however, is up to you. The cupboards in the kitchen are labelled so you can find what you need. One of us will be up early enough to get the coffee pot going. There’s also a selection of teas. Fresh eggs and bacon are available if you want to cook your own. We just ask that you clean up after yourselves and leave the place tidy. My partner, Gaby, is nine months pregnant but still insists on taking care of the catering. She won’t let me anywhere near the kitchen when she’s cooking, but she might be amenable to letting you help out if you feel so inclined.

“And if you want a change of scene, we can recommend the pub in the village. It’s run by two good friends of ours, Toby and Mark. They’ll be joining us for the festivities on Christmas day, as will Felicity and Rose who run the stables, and our two friends and business partners from London, Ade and Rita. You’ll also come across Gaby’s parents at some point, Teresa and Guido. They’ve been here a number of times so they’re also a good source of information. Any questions?”

Sally glanced around at her fellow guests and wondered who would be the first to ask a question. The instructions they had received after making reservations had been very detailed but no one ever took time to read such things properly.

The one called JJ spoke up. “When can we use the pool?”

A mental tick. Yes, that was on the sheet.

Wil Tyler didn’t blink. She just said calmly, “There’s a key on a hook inside the back door. You can use it anytime. We ask that you lock up the chalet and return the key. It’s kept locked, not because we usually have any trouble with local kids wanting to get in, but if anyone did we would be considered negligent if we left it open. There are towels in the cupboard down there. Just leave them in the laundry basket when you’re finished.”

“We booked a riding session online.” Candice ventured.

“Yes, that’s right. I’ll be going out with you. Just turn up at the stables about ten minutes before and we’ll sort you out with riding hats. Oh, and dress warmly. Also, for anyone else visiting the stables, there are two dogs in residence, Daisy and Raffi. You might also see them roaming the grounds. They’re Labradors and very friendly but please don’t feed them. Even with all the exercise they get around here, it’s an effort to keep their weight down.” She stood and gave the group another once over. “Well, if you’re all okay for now, I’ll leave you to it. Don’t eat too many mince pies. It’s champagne and canapés in half an hour.”

When she closed the door behind her, Candice sighed and said, “Well, isn’t she just the cutest thing. I could listen to her talk all day.”

And which part of small town America are you from? Sally wondered. She glanced at the woman slouched in the chair next to her who was looking like she wanted to blend into the background. Getting her out of Candice’s clutches would be Sally’s first task. It made her job easier. She would be able to gain her trust. Yes, she thought, the old woman was going to be made to eat her words.


Scenic winter woodland

So, only a week to go and you’ll be able to find out more about what happens over the four day Christmas holiday at Winterbourne House.

Read the beginning of Chapter 1 from Christmas at Winterbourne on the Affinity website. The book is due for release on 1 November 2016 – on the Affinity website and Amazon.


Buying options for the 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


The Ghost of Winterbourne

Time to introduce a character who has been mentioned in the previous three introductory blogs…Kim Russell… the character who isn’t there but who is central to the story. She died in a horse riding accident fifteen years before the start of the novel.

Kim was the author of a successful series of novels featuring an Australian sleuth, Amy Ransom. The novels were also made into films. The reason most of the guests book into Winterbourne House is because of the author’s fame. Fans come from all over the world to stay.


Winterbourne House was Kim’s home and she left it to Wil Tyler. The reasons for that are explained as the story unfolds.

One of the guests for the Christmas holidays wants to write Kim’s biography and there are a number of people present at the house that she wants to interview…Wil, who was like a daughter to Kim; Ade, her best friend; Felicity, housekeeper and stables owner; and as a bonus, one of Kim’s ex lovers.

However they are all keen to preserve their memories of Kim and the would-be-biographer finds herself increasingly frustrated at their lack of willingness to talk.

Memories surface throughout the story and this is one of Wil’s, the last serious conversation she had with Kim before going on an extended holiday to Rome:

…[Wil} arrived at the house to pick up a few things she needed and was dismayed to find Kim slumped on the floor in the study with an empty bottle of Glenfiddich at her feet. It wasn’t an unusual sight, and one that had become more frequent. With difficulty she managed to rouse Kim and get some coffee into her along with a few rounds of toast. They had gone for a walk, taking it slowly as Kim’s movements had the lethargy of someone wading through deep slushy snow.

It was up to Wil to keep a conversation going. She talked about the work she was doing for her master’s degree. After finishing with a first in her BA Honours degree in linguistics from UCL, she was continuing with more research on the Etruscan language. The subject fascinated her but she realised by the time they reached the pond at the edge of the woods that she’d lost Kim some time before.

“That’s great,” Kim said, when she stopped for breath. “But who are you screwing?”

Wil winced. It was almost word for word the same question Ade had asked her the week before. “No one special at the moment,” she said, repeating her reply to Ade.

“But you do have a sex life, I hope.”

“Sometimes. It’s just a distraction, though. I’m not ready for any long-term relationships.”

Kim gave a snort of something that might have been an attempt at laughter. “You mean you don’t want to follow my example. Sorry I’m such a shit role model.”

“It’s not that. I just haven’t met anyone I like that much.”

“What about the Chinese girl you brought down at Christmas?”

“Lin? Yeah, well she was sweet, but it was never going to last. She was just experimenting. I think she really just wanted to know if my pubes were the same colour as the hair on my head.”

Kim really did laugh then. They had reached the clearing and sat down opposite each other on the logs. Kim picked up a stick and poked at the ground between her feet.

“I want you to find someone who’ll love you.”

They’d had this conversation before and it disturbed Wil. She loved Kim and worried about her constantly, especially when she saw her looking as frail as she did now. Grace’s visits always left Kim in an unbalanced state of mind. She had recognised Grace’s lingering scent in the hallway when she’d arrived that morning. She went over to Kim and sat next to her.

“I will find someone. But I’m only twenty-one for fuck’s sake.”…

The clearing in the woods with log seating around a fire pit is still a special place for Wil. It’s where she goes when she wants to be on her own to think things through…the place where she feels a strong connection to Kim.


The closest image I have for the clearing in the woods – and there’s the fallen branch that looks like a horse

Next week’s blog: Introducing the guests

Read the beginning of Chapter 1 from Christmas at Winterbourne on the Affinity website. The book is due for release on 1 November 2016.


Buying options for the 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


Meet the Londoners

Continuing the introductions to characters from Christmas at Winterbourne, I would like to introduce Ade and Rita…Adriana McPherson and Rita Clarke, to give them their full names.

These two are friends and business partners of Wil and Gaby, the proprietors of Winterbourne House. However, they generally refer to the two younger women as ‘the kids’. There is a twenty-year age difference but Ade and Wil have always had a close friendship, initially bonding over their concern for their mutual friend, Kim Russell.

Ade is now a retired IT Consultant. She spent all of her working life in London and in the 1990s she was part of a team of computer specialists helping companies prepare their systems for the Millennium Bug. Does anyone remember this these days…the fear that planes would fall out of the sky and bank systems would crash at the start of 1 January 2000?


Y2K – the Millennium bug

It seems there were a few minor glitches at the time but still some debate now as to whether or not it was worth spending billions to do the computer fixes. Anyway, Ade benefitted from getting paid well for the work and is a firm believer that it was necessary.

Ade is six feet tall, well built, with a mix of Caribbean and Italian heritage and was born in Scotland. She likes to joke that she ticks quite a few boxes for employers in terms of filing diversity quotas with being a lesbian as well. And if anyone dares to tell her to her face she should go back where she came from, she’s likely to tell them she’ll be going back to Glasgow – either just before or after she decks them.

Rita was born and raised in Islington, north London, with an English mother and Nigerian father. Both her parents were teachers, so that was the profession she chose as well and she taught mathematics at a secondary school in nearby Highbury. Always smartly dressed, whenever a new member of staff asked how they would know her, they were told – ‘she’s the one who doesn’t look like a teacher’. After twenty years, Rita left teaching to become a schools inspector.

They met at a party in 1994 and after a period of courtship dictated by Rita, they moved in together. When the marriage equality law came into effect they converted their civil partnership to a marriage. To friends and family they seem like an unlikely pairing, but it works for them.


Christmas celebrated in English country house style

Here’s a scene from Chapter One in the book – their arrival at Winterbourne House for the start of the Christmas festivities:

“I would like to get there in one piece, Adriana.”

“I thought you were asleep.” Ade glanced over at Rita who was gripping the sides of her seat, feet braced against the floor. The clipped tone of voice and use of her full name meant her wife was well and truly stressed.

“Keep your eyes on the road, for God’s sake.”

“Keep your hair on, love. I’ve driven this route a million times. It’s dark. If anyone’s coming the other way I’ll see their headlights in good time.”

Rita didn’t relax her grip on the seat until they turned into the drive.

“So, what’s going on with the kids?” Ade asked as she parked the car in front of the house next to a rental vehicle.

“I don’t know,” Rita sighed. “I’ve had Gabs on the phone every day, in tears.”

“I’ve tried to talk to Wil but I think she’s deliberately ignoring my calls.” Ade popped open the boot and unfurled herself from the front seat. She loved driving the Jag but it was a bugger to get in and out of. Even with the seat as far back as she could get it, and still reach the steering wheel, her six-foot frame felt squashed.

Rita stretched as she emerged more gracefully from the other side of the car. She was almost as tall as Ade and also felt the need to move her lower limbs to get the feeling back. Ade passed her the bag full of presents and took out their suitcase. When they had discussed coming down for Christmas, it was initially only going to be for a few nights. But a sense of something troubling the relationship of their two young friends had grown over the past week, so they had packed for the contingency of staying longer if it proved necessary.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for that drink Wil owes me for not answering my calls.”

“I’ll settle for a nice cup of herbal tea.”

Rita opened the door into the hallway and was immediately entranced by the large tree that filled most of the space. “Oh, that’s wonderful! I told Gaby the red and silver would work.”

Ade glanced at the decorated tree. “Yeah. Nice. Look, I’m going to get changed. Will you be joining us for a drink?” She started up the stairs.

Rita followed slowly. “Maybe. I’ll check on Gaby first.”

Setting the suitcase on the bench under the window in their room, Ade located the sweatpants left in a drawer from their last visit. She changed out of the jeans she’d been wearing and discarded her leather jacket. Rita had already disappeared to put the kettle on. She found her in the kitchenette looking through a selection of herb teas.

“I think the rosehip will be good for both of us.”

“I’m not drinking it.”

“It’s for me and Gaby. You go and find out what’s up with Wil.”

Ade wrapped her arms around her and nuzzled the sensitive area behind her ear. “Love you,” she murmured.

“Yeah, I know.” Rita wiggled her backside into Ade’s groin. “But save it for later, stud. Gabs and I have some serious girl talk to catch up on.” She moved out of Ade’s grasp and retrieved two mugs from the cupboard by the sink.

The kettle boiled and Rita waited a few moments for the bubbling to settle before pouring the hot water onto the bags in the two mugs on the counter.

“Smells disgusting. Are you sure that’s good for a pregnant woman?”

“It most certainly is. Now go. And don’t drink too much. We have some catching up to do as well.”

Ade was still smiling with that lingering thought as she walked back down the stairs to the ground floor.

Next week’s blog: Meeting the hosts at Winterbourne House – Wil and Gaby

Read the beginning of Chapter 1 from Christmas at Winterbourne on the Affinity website. The book is due for release on 1 November 2016.


Buying options for the 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

Introducing the horsewomen

Maybe it is too early to start talking about Christmas. But I can’t get away from it if I’m going to talk about my next book, due out on 1 November…Christmas at Winterbourne. 

Not a particularly compelling title but it says what it is. Winterbourne is the name of the lesbian guesthouse – almost a character in its own right. And the story takes place over Christmas when guests arrive for a seasonal holiday programme starting on the 23rd through to the 27th of December.

With five weeks leading up to the release of this, my fifth novel, I thought I would drip-feed some information about the house and the characters involved. I hope I’m not going to put off some potential readers by revealing that there are fifteen characters with an active role in the story. And that’s just the human ones.

There are also horses and dogs because this is, after all, a country estate. So I’ll start by introducing the two oldest characters, both in their late 70s.

The approach to Winterbourne House is up a long, winding drive with woodland on either side. Entering the drive from the road, the first building you see is the Lodge. The stables are located behind the Lodge.


This is the domain of Felicity Evans. The previous owner (we’ll come to her in a later blog) gifted the stables, the Lodge and ten acres of land to Felicity to ensure her security for her old age. With plans to continue giving riding lessons and boarding horses, Felicity advertised for a stablehand. Everyone expected she would hire one of the youngsters from the village who came for lessons. The candidate she chose, however, was a woman her own age.

Rose Hobday was a surprise appointment, not so much for her age, but for the fact she had no previous experience of working with horses. Felicity would say that it was her love of the game of Bridge that swung it. They formed a formidable Bridge partnership feared by opponents throughout East Sussex.


It was clear to those who know Felicity well, that the real reason was that she was attracted to Rose from the start. They had both recently lost their partners. Felicity’s husband had died of a heart attack the year before, and Rose’s lover of thirty years had broken her hip and succumbed to a severe bout of pneumonia while in hospital.

They may have bonded initially over shared empathy with loss and the grieving process but living and working together soon developed into a closer intimacy. (I’ll let you imagine them rolling about in the hayloft.)

The current proprietors of Winterbourne House (we’ll come to them in a later blog) rely on Felicity and Rose for providing, not just physical help in running the business (Rose is a good cook and Felicity knows all there is to know about the house and the land), but for their moral support. They are very much part of the family.

One thing Felicity has never revealed to anyone is how she lost the index finger on her left hand. Well, a woman is entitled to have her secrets.

Next week’s blog: Meet the Londoners

Read the beginning of Chapter 1 from Christmas at Winterbourne on the Affinity website.


Buying options for the 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