What I did in my summer hols…

A familiar topic, no doubt, to anyone who had to write about this during the first week or so back at school. This is my report before the start of the new term in September.

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View from the 18th tee of The Glen golf course, North Berwick

It has been a wet and windy summer for the most part. The best weather was in Scotland for our golf holiday in East Lothian. We played the Glen golf course on the first day – which is where the crow stole my chocolate biscuit (it was wrapped in clingfilm). I’d left it on the open shelf at the front of the golf cart and the bird lost no time nicking it while I was in the pro shop.

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Crow checking the coast is clear before making off with a tasty snack

Also in June, on another fine sunny day, we visited the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds. The main objective was to visit the crossbow range to shoot some bolts. That was fun. And, of course, I enjoyed seeing the variety of bows on display and the lifelike models of horsebow archers in the Oriental gallery.

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I enjoyed some success with my longbow in June at an away shoot…claiming the prize for the Best Gold.

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July was a busy month with preparations for the Lesbian Writers Read event, part of the weeklong Happy Valley Pride Festival. Many thanks to everyone who came along to hear us read and talk about writing.

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From left to right; Jody Claire, Clare Ashton, Sam Skyborne, Clare Lydon, Andrea Bramhall, myself, and our MC, Velvet Lounger

We also had time to join in the fun of the Steam Punk Weekend before that.

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With Hebden Royd Mayor, Carol Stowe and her consort, Sean Pert

August included a visit to the Vintage Weekend…lots of classic vehicles on display…cars, motorbikes, tractors, and this rather fabulous truck. I would need a ladder to get into the cab!

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Then we took a trip further north. I wanted to visit Vindolanda to see what they’ve been up to with the excavations this year. Absolutely captivated by the magic of the place, as usual.

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We then drove over to the east coast, visiting first Seaburn with its lovely beach.

Seaburn

The next day we headed further down the coast and discovered the Royal Navy museum in Hartlepool…featuring the wonderful exhibit…the restored 19th century frigate, Trincomalee.

Trimcomalee

On board the Trimcomalee

No more trips or events lined up for the last two weeks in August. I’m working on some amendments to novel number 10, Country Living. I think the final draft is almost there (that is to say, the final draft for submission).


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Part of the summer also involved the release of my first audiobook, Changing Perspectives.…available from Audible, Amazon, and Apple iTunes…narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent. (Links available on the Lesbian Audiobooks website)


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


 

How important are book covers?

When this question comes up in discussion groups there’s generally a mixed response. Some readers say they don’t make their buying decision from seeing the cover; others are definitely drawn in by the image displayed.

I’ve now had nine novels published with varying degrees of success. My debut novel, Starting Over, sold quite well considering I was an unknown quantity as a lesfic author. This cover is a favourite with me because I took the background photo. Anyone who lives in the part of England will recognise it as Saddleworth Moor. And the woman on the motorbike I thought was apt as this represents a significant turning point in her life and in the story.

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Book four, The Circle Dance, also did okay sales-wise…possibly due to the image of the sexy cyclist on the cover. Affinity’s cover designer also managed to find a background to represent the setting for the novel, which is in and around the Hebden Bridge area. There’s no circle dancing in the book. I hope no readers were disappointed with that lack. The title actually refers to stone circles as one of the characters is writing a science fiction novel.

The Circle Dance

However, book seven, went off the scale for my expectations of sales in the first few months. Changing Perspectives features just a single image of a woman’s face. This video clip by LESBIreviewed perfectly describes what the designer had hoped to achieve. The character represented on the cover, Dani, is one of my favourites. She’s been with me a long time as I started writing the book in the early 1990s when I was living and working in London and the story is set in 1993.

LESBIreviewed video clip

It’s too early to tell how number nine, Deuce, will fare. Potential readers may be puzzled by the title over the image of statue, completely naked and clutching something, which may not be immediately recognisable as a seal’s skin. The two main characters are a marine biologist and an ex professional tennis player. I’m sure that makes the cover and title choice as clear as mud!

Deuce

Any thoughts on whether or not covers impact your buying decision, I would love to know.

Happy reading!


Buying links for Deuce: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

A Literary Salon

I think ‘salon’ is the right word to describe our Happy Valley Pride Festival reading event. Entitled ‘Lesbian Writers Read’, it was held in our local haberdashery in Hebden Bridge on Tuesday evening—in a delightfully intimate setting, surrounded by displays of coloured wools on the walls, ribbons hanging from a wall at the back, and filled with whatever the collective noun is for a group of lesbians.

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Settling my nerves

And so I was reminded of the salons of an earlier century when like-minded people would gather in drawing rooms to discuss books, art, politics…or simply to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere.

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As the instigator of this event, I wasn’t very relaxed but it was ‘all right on the night’, as our host, Helen Baron, proprietor of the venue kept telling me. Four months earlier when I first sat down with her in Ribbon Circus to discuss the possibility of holding this event there, I was extremely nervous. Would any other authors want to come to our little town to read? Would anyone want to come and listen to us read?

My fears were needless, and Helen was right. Everything came together. Four other published authors were keen to come along and take part even though it meant travelling from afar – Nottingham and the Peak District. Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows were led astray by their sat-nav, ending up behind a herd of cows at one point. And they still managed to arrive in time.

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As soon as the ticketing system went live on the Happy Valley Pride website, places were snapped up at a speed I couldn’t have imagined. Within days, the venue was fully booked.

The authors all did a fantastic job, both in reading and answering questions afterwards. It was Lise Gold’s first public appearance and if she was nervous reading from her second, recently released romance, Beyond the Skyline – it didn’t show. Cari Hunter was planning to edit out some of the swear words in her selected excerpt from the third book in her Dark Peak series, A Quiet Death – but after Helen’s robust introduction to the evening, she muttered, “I’m leaving the ‘fucks’ in.”

buyer

Brey Willows read from her book, Fury’s Bridge, the first in a series and left us wanting more by ending on a cliffhanger. Robyn Nyx’s reading from the first book in her Extractor Series, Escape in Time, took on an even darker hue leading us into the past in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

My reading was from my most recently published book, Running From Love. My wife asked me beforehand which bit I had selected. When I told her, she said, “Oh yes, the fridge and the cat.” Not quite how I would summarise that part. If you want to make your own mind up as to how it should be described – here’s a link to the podcast version.

signing

So a massive thank you to everyone who turned out on a wet evening and helped make this event a success. Plans for next year will be underway soon. And if a year is too long to wait, we might be persuaded to hold another Literary Salon before then.

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The event was free – but Helen told them no one was leaving before making a donation to Happy Valley Pride!

Also, many thanks to my publisher who provided sponsorship for the event – Affinity Rainbow publications. (If you’re wondering about the logo image – it’s a kiwi.)


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Buying Links:

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


 

Lesbian Writers Read

The Happy Valley Pride Festival committee chose the name Lesbian Writers Read as they wanted something snappier to put in the programme than my offering of ‘Reading Event’.

When I was interviewed on Hebden Radio by Bev McGregor (host of the regular Tuesday evening LGBeaTs show) she asked why it wasn’t just ‘Writers Read’. Why did we need to announce that the writers are lesbians? I didn’t have a particularly snappy answer to her question at the time. But I think the aim of the Festival organisers was to give us lesbians more visibility during the event than we had last year. This is only the second year of the week long festival taking place in Hebden Bridge from 7 to 13 August, so I’m just glad we have a ‘reading event’ this time…and that it’s a group of lesbians leading the way.

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On the radio with Bev

Bev’s question reminded me though of the fact we do need that visibility. Mainstream bookshops, for example, have erased their gay and lesbian sections. I asked a member of staff in a Waterstones bookshop if they had such a section and was directed to ‘Gender Studies’.

If you’re a well-known author, then having your book placed in the general fiction section is no doubt considered a major achievement. But for those of us struggling to make a name, it’s like we don’t exist. And for anyone wanting to browse through the shelves to find new LGBT writers, they’re going to have to visit one of the few remaining specialist bookshops like Gay’s the Word in London.

Anyway, that aside, I’m very much looking forward to our Lesbian Writers Read evening. A few months ago I didn’t think this was possible…to be able to put on something like this in our small town. But it is happening…on 8 August from 7pm at Ribbon Circus, 18 Market Street, Hebden Bridge.

I’m thrilled with the lineup of authors who are willingly donating their time to come along and read, talk about their writing, and sign books (that’s right – we will all have books available on the night). I would like to thank them in advance because I know they will do a great job…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows.

Thanks to Helen Baron for offering her shop premises as a venue (as well as calming my nerves as the event looms ever closer). And a heartfelt thank you to my publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, for sponsoring the event.

Lesbian writers read – and lesbian writers will keep on writing as long as readers, lesbian or otherwise, keep on reading.

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The festival week is packed with a wide variety of performances featuring art, music, dance, comedy, films, speakers, workshops…leading up to a full day of brilliant entertainment on Saturday and the Pink Picnic (including the Pink Pooch Parade) on Sunday. So come along if you can, and enjoy the fun.

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Buying Links:

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


 

Summer of love…GCLS and Happy Valley Pride

June is proving to be a busy month.

GCLS 2017

I’m getting geared up for my next adventure—attending the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in Chicago. This will be my third time at the conference. The first two—New Orleans in 2015 and Washington DC in 2016— were pretty amazing. How could they not be – with so many lesbians in one place!

I expect this one will be just as exciting…a chance to meet up with old friends and new. If you’re at the conference this year, please stop by the Affinity Rainbow Publications table. We’re a friendly bunch and always happy to talk with anyone who comes along—you don’t have to buy a book (really!!). The Affinity authors hanging out there with me this year are Ali Spooner, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie and Angela Koenig.

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Two illustrious visitors who stopped by our table last year!

Amidst the serious business of readings, workshops, keynote speeches, book signings, and awards, there’s always time for fun and laughter…and hugs if Beth Burnett is anywhere in the vicinity. As she can tell you, I was a bit hug-averse at my first conference. But at the end of three and a half days, Beth told me my hug-ability had improved 110%. Not bad for a reserved Brit.

This year I’m on a panel moderated by MJ Lowe, entitled: Across the Genres: why I write what I write. My fellow panelists are Erica Abbott, Donna K Ford, Catherine Friend, and Bonnie James. We’re scheduled for the first session at 8:30 on Thursday, 6 July…so, set your alarms and bring coffee!

The Author Spotlight groupings have just been released and the group I’m with has the 10:10 slot on Friday. It’s going to be amazing…Suzie Carr is moderating and it’s an enticing line-up…Ann Aptaker, Stefani Deoul, Cheryl A Head, Micheala Lynn, Michelle Reynolds, Kenna White, and Barbara Ann Wright. I’ve started practicing reading, as I don’t want to mess up in front of anyone here, plus I know how strict they are with the five-minute timings for each reader.

Happy Valley Pride Festival

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Then just one month after I get back home from Chicago, it’s time for the second annual Happy Valley Pride Festival in my own backyard, Hebden Bridge. This is a whole week of LGBT fun. And this year we have a special event titled “Lesbian Writers Read” sponsored by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Rainbow logo

I didn’t have to twist their arms very hard…absolutely thrilled that these four UK authors will be joining me to read from their books…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx, and Brey Willows…on Tuesday, 8 August from 7 to 9pm at the Ribbon Circus. Check out the Happy Valley Pride website which will have regular updates between now and the start of the Festival to let everyone know about all the great events happening during the week.

New book release

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And finally, I guess I should mention that my latest novel was released last week. Running From Love was certainly a labour of love, as I managed to combine writing about two of my favourite things…romance and golf. Sure to be a winning combination! You can read the first chapter on the Affinity website.


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Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / 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 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

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


 

Bicycle thoughts

It’s the anniversary of the release of my fourth novel on 14 March—The Circle Dance. So I started thinking about my relationship with bicycles.

The first bike I owned as an adult was a 3-speed Raleigh. After a few years I graduated to a 10-speed Apollo. This was at the time I had a part time job working in a bike shop. It was piecework; I got paid for each bike I assembled. I fell in love with the Apollo and it travelled with me when I left British Columbia for Ontario and then on to the UK. Cycling in London was an adventure and I feel fortunate not to have come to grief on more than one occasion. I don’t think I could do it now.

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A much younger me on the beloved Apollo

When I moved north, I thought I would enjoy riding along the canal towpaths, a tranquil alternative to the roads. This didn’t last long as the narrow tires on the Apollo weren’t well suited for the rougher terrain. So I traded it in for a mountain bike. My canal riding days didn’t last as I soon became involved in playing golf in my spare time. And in the last six years I’ve added archery to my outdoor activities. And, I guess, I just wasn’t in love with the mountain bike.

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Canal path near Hebden Bridge

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t have given up my bike-riding days. It’s very much the in sport around here. The coffee shops in Hebden Bridge are filled with cyclists on a Sunday morning, taking a break from their fifty-mile journeys—a little exercise for the day. The town is a good place to stop before tackling either the long climb up onto the moor above, or going the other way, taking on the Cragg Vale challenge—which holds the title of the longest continual ascent in England, climbing 968 feet in five and a half miles. Whenever I pass cyclists in the car, powering their way up, I admire their determination and tenacity. But I know it’s not something I want to attempt.

For the leisure cyclist, electric bikes are gaining popularity—so you don’t even have to exert yourself to get up the steep hills.

The Circle Dance

Jamie, a main character in The Circle Dance is a cyclist and I think the story possibly evolved from seeing the legions of lycra-clad enthusiasts pedalling through our village.

This is a scene from Chapter Two – when Jamie arrives home, having cycled the fourteen miles from where she works. She thought she was meeting Van at the local wine bar for their first date, but Van surprises her by appearing on her doorstep. This scene is from Van’s point of view.

Van followed, enjoying the view of Jamie’s well-toned lycra clad legs and butt as they climbed. Not many people could successfully carry off the lycra-look, but this woman rocked it. Out of breath by the time they reached the top, she promised herself she would start an exercise regime soon.

Once inside the room Jamie set her bike against one wall and unclipped the water bottle. She drank the remaining liquid and put the empty bottle on the floor.

“I’ll hit the shower. There’s a bottle opener on the bookcase.”

The bookcase was something Van hadn’t seen since her student days; two long roughhewn planks supported by bricks. She found the opener and popped the cap on both bottles. Looking around for a table, she was shocked to realise there wasn’t one. An upturned plastic crate and a legless armchair by the windows at the far end of the long room were the only other bits of furniture. Jamie had disappeared behind a screen, which she guessed was where there might be a bed, possibly just a mattress if the rest of the minimal decor was anything to go by.

She took a swig of beer and crouched down to look at the books. Some computer manuals she recognised and a meagre selection of paperbacks that looked like they’d come from charity shops. She picked one up that she thought she’d read before.

The chair, once she’d lowered herself into it, was surprisingly comfortable. She balanced the beer bottle on the crate and opened the book. It was one she’d read some time ago. One of Felicity Lemon’s early crime novels. She recalled that the clever twist at the end had left her feeling cheated. It was upsetting when the perpetrator turned out to be either a cop involved in the investigation or a character that only showed up in the last thirty pages.

Jamie appeared again looking stunning in a pair of loose fitting jeans and red polo shirt. She picked up the other bottle of beer and joined Van by the window.

Van put the book down, sensing the other woman’s discomfort. “Look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have barged in on you like this.”

“It’s fine.” Jamie ran her fingers through her still damp hair. An endearing habit Van thought she would never tire of seeing.

Jamie drank some of the beer, tipping her head back, giving Van a view of her strong neck muscles. She sipped at her own beer to distract herself from the hormonal urges that were building.

“You still okay with going to the wine bar? The only beer they have is bottled.”

“Hey, your territory, your choice. I’m easy.” No doubt about that.

“Right, well I like the food there and it’ll be quiet at this time.” She finished her beer and gave Van that smile; the one that melted her already softened insides. “Good to go.”

Van struggled up from the chair, vowing once again that she would renew her gym membership.

If you would like to listen to me reading an excerpt, not very expertly, this is available here: Reading from Chapter One of The Circle Dance. This is the scene where Van and Jamie first meet at a friends’ house.


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

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



Happy Valley Pride: Coming out in Hebden Bridge

I’ve done readings in New Orleans, Washington DC, and Urmston (Manchester UK) – and now Hebden Bridge.

Why is this noteworthy? Because although my novels are set in and around Hebden Bridge, last week was the first time I’ve made a public appearance in the town.

This opportunity was made possible by the organisers of the Happy Valley Pride Festival, the first of its kind…and hopefully the start of an annual event.

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At the Festival Box Office

Throughout the week, I enjoyed meeting lots of wonderful people…from my volunteer stint at the Festival Box Office in the Town Hall, attending the Poetry evening (where the resident poets were happy to let me do a reading from The Circle Dance), enjoying a glass of wine at the launch party at Nelson’s Wine Bar, selling and signing books during the main Festival activities day on Saturday, and sharing some moments in the park during the Pink Picnic on Sunday.

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My book stall as part of the Expo on Saturday – a great success – I didn’t take many books home!

Just walking around town wearing my Happy Valley Pride t-shirt brought smiles to the faces of many and helped initiate random chats with a variety of locals and visitors.

It’s been a blast – and I think the organising team, Mike, Darren and David, will probably be hibernating for a while to recover. During the week, they were everywhere, making sure everything ran smoothly. And it did. Even the spells of drizzly rain on Saturday failed to dampen the spirits of the crowd at the Town Hall who enjoyed the activities on the terrace – particularly the Pink Dog Show. The cakes in the Bake-off competition were of a high standard as well.

The stated aim of the Festival was to ‘celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer life in Calderdale’. And they succeeded. Thank you to everyone who took part…looking forward to next year already!

Keep up with Happy Valley Pride events throughout the year by visiting their website. And the art exhibition will be on display at Nelson’s Wine Bar until 1st September – so still time to visit and take a look at the wide range of works by local artists.


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

Happy Valley Pride Festival

Hebden Bridge will be host to a very special event next week and I’m proud to be part of it. I attended a volunteers’ meeting last night and came away enthused and excited about the whole thing.

The organisers have done a fantastic job of creating the Happy Valley Pride Festival and this is the inaugural event.

 

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Information on the website

If you are in the area, please come along and take part. There are a series of fringe events leading up to the main day of celebration that takes place on Saturday 13 August.

I’ve volunteered to help out at the poetry evening on Thursday 11 August and although I don’t have any poetry to offer, I will very likely be able to do a short reading sometime during the evening. Also on Thursday I will be on hand at the Festival Box Office in the Town Hall, selling tickets and merchandise from 12 til 2.

Festival Day: Saturday 13 August

There are a lot of fun family-oriented things planned which will be free of charge such as a treasure hunt, pink dog show, plus a bake-off and cake auction – all taking place in the Town Hall where there will also be a number of stalls, and I will be there to sell and sign my books as well.

At 4pm, Peter Tatchell is giving a talk at the Birchcliffe Centre titled: The Unfinished Battle for LGBTQ Rights. Then on the Saturday evening it’s party time with the Happy Valley Pride Main Stage at the Trades Club –live music and DJs, also featuring David Hoyle and Huddersfield Ska rockers Wobbly Bob.

From 4 August to 1 September, the Happy Valley Pride Art Exhibition is available to view at Nelson’s Wine Bar showcasing a wide range of work by local artists.

That’s just a flavour of what’s happening. Please check out the progamme and see what catches your eye. If you can’t make it to the festival, there are two regular events that take place year round – the Happy Valley Pride Social Evening and the Happy Valley Pride Poets Society.

All good fun – with the aim of bringing the community together to celebrate just being who we are and being free to express that in so many ways, particularly through the arts.


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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

Notes from Trouser town

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book called Juliana by Vanda, which is set in early 1940s New York. The narrator in the story is initially a naïve young woman who doesn’t understand her attraction to a talented singer, Juliana, and fights the idea that she is one of ‘them’ – the pariahs that mainstream society then considered homosexuals to be. Still the case, I know, in many places now. But there was no public recognition at all back then.

Vanda’s portrayal of the times has been well researched. And I know I’ve read about it before – the time when women could be stopped by police and asked to prove that they were wearing the requisite number of items of women’s clothing. But in Juliana, the author really brings home the terror of just wearing trousers in public that could to lead to not just verbal and often physical abuse but also the threat of being imprisoned. (Read more about Vanda’s work here)

juliana

I was never subjected to abuse of this kind growing up as I did, mainly in Canada. At the schools I went to there wasn’t a uniform but girls were expected to wear skirts. In winter I would wear trousers to school with the understanding that I would change into a skirt when I arrived. However, I would try to get away with keeping the trousers on as long as I could.

The one time I was challenged about wearing trousers at work happened almost thirty years ago in London. My boss didn’t seem to mind that I wore trousers in the office. Then one day we were attending an event at Canada House and I spent an enjoyable few minutes conversing with the Canadian High Commissioner. The next morning my boss called me into his office and asked me if I was trying to make a statement.

I didn’t have a clue what he meant. He had to spell it out for me. It turns out he was enraged by the fact that I dared to talk to the CHC dressed as I was. I have no idea how I responded to this verbally but I’m sure the bubble over my head would have said, “silly old fart”, or words to that effect.

This was at the time when I had just started seeing the woman who is now my wife. I told her about my boss’s comment and that evening she came over to the office after everyone else had left. We took a great deal of pleasure in making out on his office floor. Thinking about that still makes us smile…it’s the little things…

Nancy Spain also came to mind when I was writing this. Rose Collis’s biography of her was called A Trouser-wearing Character. One of the stories told about Spain is that when she appeared on TV she was allowed to wear trousers as long as she was seated behind a desk.

If you’re wondering about the title of this blog, Hebden Bridge, near where I live now, was known as Trouser town. Mills in this area were famous for manufacturing corduroy fustian cloth. When considering a suitable installation for the town’s square, a large-scale replica of a fustian knife was eventually commissioned. The sculpture also serves as a giant sundial with the point of the knife facing north.

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The fustian knife sculpture pointing North

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History in the square

No surprise then that this year’s Hebden Bridge Arts Festival had a Trouser town theme.


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The Jen Silver collection

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

On Ilkley Moor…

This was a golfing week for me and my wife – playing four courses in six days. Three of the courses were in North Yorkshire: Rudding Park, Harrogate and Bracken Ghyll near Ilkley.

Bracken Ghyll has fantastic scenery all around with many of the views looking out towards Ilkley Moor.

brackenview

Just the name Ilkley brings to mind the well-known folk song, ‘On Ilkla Moor, bar tat’ – which translates from Yorkshire dialect into English as ‘On Ilkley Moor without a hat’. The song goes on to outline the dire consequences of being caught out on the moor without a hat.

I found a use for this song in my latest book, The Circle Dance. One of the characters gets stuck on the moorland above Hebden Bridge when a sudden mist comes down. Phoebe is a crime writer, but has recently branched out into sci-fi/fantasy. Her prospective publisher has suggested some outdoor research might help to inject more atmosphere into her story. Now, while Phoebe isn’t a particularly likeable character, I didn’t want her to die on the moor.

Excerpt from Chapter 8

The mist descended from nowhere. One minute it was a bright, sunny day, the next she couldn’t see past her outstretched hand. The words of the song came into her mind “On Ilkla Moor bar tat,” which ended badly for someone she recalled, dying and getting eaten by worms. And all because they were out on the moor without a hat. She had brought a hat.

Phoebe shrugged the backpack off her shoulders and felt around in the main pocket for the nice red woolly hat with a bobble on top. She’d bought it only the day before in one of the local shops, thinking it might come in handy. It wasn’t an item of headwear she would normally be seen about in. Hat on, she felt better. No point in dying for the lack of a hat. Now she just had to remember which way it was to the road…

…Phoebe leant back against the rock and wondered how long she could survive on the meagre ration of a single pack of Kendal Mint Cake. It tasted vile. Why hadn’t she brought a Mars bar? She struggled out of her boots and sighed with relief. She couldn’t have walked another step with her ankles protesting in agony. She tossed the offending items away. No point dying with her boots on. But she wasn’t going to die. She had a hat.

Bloody Philip Pearlman. “Bring it to life,” he had said. Ha. Find a stone circle, feel the power. What she needed was power all right. A powerful light.

Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths. Stay calm. Stay in the zone. She’d read that somewhere. One of the self-help books she sometimes bought, thinking they would help. Help with what? Help being a better lover. Maybe that’s why Sasha was running after her ex. What did that computer nerd have that she didn’t?

Well, she wasn’t lost on top of a fucking moor for a start.

Maybe she could find some wood, start a fire. Oh yeah, she hadn’t made it through the first two Brownie sessions without wanting to nut Brown Owl. She was a little light on outdoor skills. She could write, however. Write a light, light a write. Shine a light, had she even remembered to bring a torch? A torch. A flaming piece of wood. With a torch she could set fire to the mist.

What was that bloody poem, one she had to learn in school? Oh yeah, that oft-quoted ode by Keats, “To Autumn.” She spoke the first two lines aloud, just wanting to hear her own voice, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…” All she could remember. That and giggling with her best friend over the word bosom. They thought mellow fruitfulness was pretty funny, too. How old were they? Thirteen.

Survival techniques, books she should have read. It wasn’t too late—she could Google it. She poked her phone and the screen lit up. Her connection with the world, the world of safety. No signal. Damn, damn, damn! She was going to die up here after all. Her epitaph could say—at least she wore a hat.

That girl from Game of Thrones, Arya. She comforted herself in dire situations by reciting the list of people she wanted to kill. Phoebe started with Philip Pearlman, Jamie Steele, the girl in Year 5 who pushed her over in the playground and stole her ice cream—hell, she’d forgotten her name. Her list of real people was too short. She’d have to resort to the fictional characters she killed off in her crime series.

Maybe it was the mint cake. She was starting to see shapes in the dark. Sheep? No, there it was again, just out of reach. Dancing giants, forming a ring of light.

One reviewer said “The strength of this (story) is that whilst there is romance, the whole story is infused with a strong dose of reality. You can believe that these characters could exist and that life rarely works out perfectly, but it can get pretty close for some.”

If you want to find out how things work out for Phoebe, just check out the book links here.


Where to buy my books:

4books

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