Lockdown comfort reading

Books I’ve been re-reading over the last three weeks:

I started with Swallows and Amazons, a regular source of comfort reads. Coot Club and The Big Six are gentle stories about sailing on the Norfolk Broads. I’ve never sailed in my life and never quite mastered rowing or paddling a canoe either. But I love these stories and marvel at how self-sufficient these children are. However, when Arthur Ransome wrote the stories in the 1930s, it was a very different world.

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After messing about in boats, I moved on to more adult fare with Jasper Fforde. I read books 1 to 5 of the Thursday Next series. They’re all good fun but I think my favourite is the third one – The Well of Lost Plots when Thursday has to hide out in an unpublished novel and continues with her training as a Jurisfiction agent under Miss Havisham.

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Time then for a complete change of scene and on to some lesfic. My first stop here was an old favourite, which I discovered on the Mooch café’s Books for sale shelf five years ago. (I got it signed by the wonderful Karin K when I attended my first GCLS Conference in New Orleans in 2015.) Just Like That, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a delightful lesbian take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (And the glass of wine is relevant!)

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After that, I needed more Kallmaker and found I had her very first published novel on my Kindle. In Every Port is a great coming out story with historical overtones, set at the time of Harvey Milk’s assassination and the Jonestown massacre.

Sticking with old favourites, I then moved on to detective stories starting with Murder at the Nightwood Bar and The Beverley Malibu by Katherine V Forrest. KVF never disappoints.

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That brings me up to date as I’ve just started on the first of the Lauren Laurano series – Everything You Have is Mine by Sandra Scoppettone.

So, why all the reading? Apart from the obvious – only going out when necessary. The writing is just not happening. Making notes for this blog is the most I’ve been able to do. I’m at the halfway point in my next WIP – but it’s not progressed past there in the last month.

For something else to do, I’ve recorded myself reading Chapter One of Country Living. No need for any professional audio book narrators to be worried. I’m no good at character voices and don’t have the skill to edit out the occasional bleep or stumble. And I certainly can’t compete with the lovely Clare Ashton who is reading her book Poppy Jenkins chapter by chapter (available on YouTube). But here is the audio file, if you want to listen.

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Reviews for Country Living

There haven’t been many, but I am very grateful for the reviews I’ve received so far for Country Living. (All five stars!) This one appeared on the Amazon UK site on 27 March:

Heart warming, fast moving and so true to life!

After 20 years of living together, marriage and comfortable ‘rubbing along’, you think you know someone – but maybe you don’t! This cracking story so well written. I became fully immersed in the sadness of middle aged Peri who suddenly realises her wife has been cheating on her and has to start rebuilding her life. Set in Yorkshire, England, the vivid writing transports you to the hills, dales and farm life of this beautiful countryside. And as always with Jen Silver’s books the plot is multi layered delivering a cool and sparkling look at contemporary life and adding real ‘edge’ to the story. Balancing out the romances, there are secrets, intrigues and surprise twists. Young and middle aged characters have experiences so recognisable – I felt I truly reading about people I know. There are always high expectations of Jen Silver’s books and ‘Country Living’ is one of her best.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far. Hope you’re staying safe and maybe enjoying rereading some of your own comfort reads.


Country Living – published 1 March 2020 – availabe from: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon AU / Amazon DE / Amazon FR / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes


 

My top 3 Sci-Fi/Fantasy books

I’ve read a lot of science fiction/fantasy books in my time. Earliest ones were The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin (I’m a sucker for any books with maps – loved the hand drawn archipelago in these books), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the Narnia series by C S Lewis, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien (yay, more maps!).

So when I discovered there was such a thing as lesbian science fiction/fantasy, I was immediately in love with a whole new set of characters: female warriors, scientists, pilots…you name it…everything the boys could do, these women could do, and better!

So here are three of my favourites in this truly wonderful genre of lesbian fiction.

First up, Daughters of the Coral Dawn by Katherine V Forrest. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. I even have a ‘first edition’ published in 1984 by Naiad Press. This book and the two that complete the trilogy have been re-released with new covers by Bella Books. And although the new ones have modern-looking science-fiction-y covers, I like this one…with the haunting coral eyes of the woman who becomes the colonists’ leader on their new planet when they escape from Earth, Megan. Not sure about the hairstyle, no doubt very 1980s – but the description of Megan in the book is that she is always dressed in black and white – black pants, mid-calf boots, and white shirt. Very sexy.

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My favourite character though, is the narrator, Minerva the historian. Especially when she finds love with a younger woman, when she thought the time for loving another had passed her by.

Second, Return to Isis by Jean Stewart, the first in the series of five, originally published by Rising Tide Press in 1992. One of my ‘go to’ series to reread on occasions when I want a good blast of lesbian sci-fi.

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On first reading, there seems to be a clear distinction of the tightly controlled male dominated hetero-normative world of Elysium in the eastern part of the US and the utopian-styled Freeland in the west. But, as with any human attempts at achieving Nirvana, there’s always a snake in the grass, as warrior Whit finds out when she returns to her home colony after a few years undercover in Elysium.

The women in these stories go through a lot as they try to survive in a hostile world, fighting against outside forces as well as contending with their own internal battles of jealousy and intrigue.

I was sorry that the author stopped writing at novel number five in the series. I certainly wanted to read more about Whit and Kali’s adventures.

Third, but not least by any means, is Fires of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe, published in 1994 by New Victoria Publishers. This is the second in the series and although I do enjoy rereading the first book, Shadows of Aggar, it’s Royal Marshall Gwyn, the main character in Fires of Aggar who is my favourite. Her bondmates are two sandwolves and the connection the three of them have is a big part of the appeal of this story.

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Chris Anne created a fantastic medieval type world with Aggar and the society of Amazons who come from another planet to help the citizens of Aggar through difficult times.

Unfortunately the author succumbed to cancer at a very early age. A group of her friends have continued the series using outlines and notes Chris Anne left behind. But they haven’t really managed to match the tone and style of the first two books, in my opinion.

There is now a vast array of lesbian science fiction/fantasy novels to choose from. But these are my first three picks from a time when lesbian books of any genre were hard to find pre-internet and Amazon. I was thankful for the Silver Moon bookshop in London and the mail order service offered by West and Wilde in Edinburgh, my main book buying sources for lesbian fiction in those days.

I haven’t ventured writing a science fiction/fantasy novel myself. So I do admire those who have managed to create compelling stories that draw the reader into other worlds.


6booksBuying 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


 

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


 

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.

curiouswine

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.

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The Amazon Trail

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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.

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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