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


GCLS Books…a reader’s paradise!

For someone who can’t pass a bookstore without wanting to go in and buy a book (only one, I can hear my wife say…but she’s just as bad), attending the GCLS Conference and being in the Vendor room for most of the time was pure torture. Aware of how little space I had in my suitcase, I was constantly balancing the number of my books that I sold with the number I could take back home.

But there were three books I wasn’t going to leave Washington DC without purchasing.

Curious Wine by Katherine V Forrest – not just because the book was this year’s recipient of the Lee Lynch Classic Award, but also because I lent the original Naiad Press copy I had to a friend many years ago and it was never returned. (An ex-friend, needless to say.) Katherine very graciously signed the book for me as well. Last year I had brought my old and oft-read copy of Daughters of a Coral Dawn with me for KVF to sign, but I somehow missed connecting with her at the conference.


Curious Wine


The Amazon Trail by Lee Lynch – well just because Lee is wonderful and this book is a classic in itself. I heard her read from it at last year’s conference and was very much moved by her words. Her experiences as she has expressed them in this book will continue to resonate over time.


The Amazon Trail


After the GCLS 2016 Awards Ceremony with the fabulous Lee Lynch (and thanks to Lainie for taking the photo)

(And extra special thanks to Lee’s wife, Lainie, who purchased two of my books to add to the two she already has.)

I said there were three, didn’t I? Because there’s always three, as Sandra would say. The third book, which I would have purchased even if it took my suitcase weight limit over the top, was State of Grace by Sandra Moran.

I finished reading it only two days ago and it will stay with me for a long time. The publisher that originally turned down the opportunity to publish this book could go down in history as making the most serious editorial misjudgment since the one that passed up on Harry Potter.

State of Grace is an amazing story and told with such finesse that it is hard to believe this was Sandra’s first novel. Well, maybe not that hard, as her subsequent novels, published prior to this one, attest to her fabulous talent.


State of Grace

I could easily have bought twenty books at the conference and had them personally signed but, with my already overloaded suitcase in mind, I settled for making note of ones I will buy now that I’m back home (and have finished reading the ones on an already lengthy ‘to be read’ list). I won’t be entering a bookshop anytime soon (don’t tell the wife, but I may pop on to a certain website in the very near future though).

Where to buy my 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

GCLS 2016

In my previous blog posted on 27 June, I wrote about my GCLS firsts from attending the 2015 conference in New Orleans.

I can now report back on my experience at the 2016 Con in Washington DC. From start to finish I can truthfully say I had a wonderful time. It was lovely to touch base with old friends and meet new ones.

Arriving late afternoon on Tuesday, 5 July, I had plenty of time to settle into my room, shower and then make my way down to the bar area to see who was around. Ali Spooner and I had arranged to meet there and it was already filling up with lots of familiar faces.

Wednesday morning was set up time in the Vendor Room and it didn’t take the four of us long to get our book displays ready. Annette Mori and Renee McKenzie had been late arriving the night before so this was the first time we’d met up since the previous year. The morning passed very quickly with sorting out our table, registering and just generally finding out where everything was.


Ali Spooner has it covered!

My first session was an Author Spotlight reading on Wednesday afternoon. As there were only four of us, we were given an extra minute to read, so I felt more relaxed than I had the year before. I was joined by Jane DiLucchio, MB Panichi, and Chris Parsons with moderator, Catherine Maiorisi.


From a book selling point of view, the conference was a resounding success. Of the 25 books I had available, only one has returned home with me. Many thanks to everyone who bought books and to all who stopped by for a chat and a laugh.


Two of our distinguished table visitors: Lee Lynch and Mercedes Lewis

For the Author signing session  we were supposed to be seated alphabetically to make it easier for signees to find us. It was a bit of a scrum and I somehow ended up between Kenna White and Caren Werlinger. But no one seemed to mind. We had a nice time chatting anyway. I was pleased to find out that Caren also plays golf and has dabbled in archery.


I wasn’t sure I would survive the Politics in Poetry panel as the only non-poet. But I managed to say a few things and not much could really go wrong with such an awesome line-up.


Politics of Poetry panel: Moderator E M Hodge with Mercedes Lewis, Lucy Madison, Jen Silver, Carol Rosenfeld, and Jewelle Gomez

The awards evening came around all too quickly. The group photo was taken before the start and I think that is Annette’s ‘trying not to panic’ face. She managed not to trip on the way up to the podium on her high heels and did a lovely acceptance speech when accepting the Traditional Contemporary Romance Award for her book, Locked Inside. Although she did say the word ‘crap’ a few times and forgot to thank the readers – for which she has apologised profusely on Facebook.


A winning team: Ali Spooner, Jen Silver, Annette Mori, and Renee MacKenzie


Annette with her Goldie…look at that smile!

So, it was an incredibly busy and fast moving four and a half days. As a group we also hosted an Affinity dinner on Thursday evening.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show karaoke was another highlight. I’ve never seen the film so hadn’t brought a costume. These characters more than made up for my lack of foresight though.


Dr Frank N Furter, Brad, a bemused Jen, and Janet

Many thanks to the organisers of the event and the many volunteers who helped with the preparations and the intricacies of managing such a packed programme.

The planning for the 2017 conference is already well underway. Will I make it to Chicago next year? I certainly hope I can. Watching everyone have so much fun from afar would be painful.

Where to buy my 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