A Philosophical Post

I was looking for something a bit different from my usual reading pattern that tends to be mainly a variety of lesbian fiction sub-genres – romance, crime, dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi. So when I read about a film that’s just been released based on a book about a teenager growing up in Montana who ends up being put in a Christian camp to ‘cure’ her lesbian tendencies, I bought it…The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (styling her name after e.e. cummings, I guess).

cameronpost

The first person narrative of the story feels authentic and is maintained all the way through. I don’t know if this is because it’s based on the author’s own experiences. I suspect it might be.

My teenage years were spent in a small town in Canada so I could see, smell, taste, the atmosphere of Miles City, Montana. The high school, the landscape, the people…all terribly familiar. I was fortunate not to have to endure an oppressive fundamentalist regime as described in the book when Cameron is sent to a Christian School and Center for Healing, God’s Promise, to have her sinful desires corrected.

I explored different religions when I was in high school. Late sixties and early seventies: reading Kahlil Gibran, The Way of the Tao, Confucius, Siddhartha, Gurdjieff, The Bhagavad Gita…soaring above the clouds with Jonathan Livingston Seagull…and trying to make sense of the hexagrams in the I Ching. The Beatles were dabbling in Indian mysticism, spending time with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“Nine in the fourth place means:

No fish in the tank.

This leads to misfortune.”

I Ching, Book of Changes

hair

In my long hair days

“Forget not the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran

When I discussed some of the ideas I was investigating with a teacher friend, he would shake his head and say, “All religions are cults.” It took some time for this message to sink in while my path in life led me to take part in a spiritual journey. I lived in a community for ten years, trying to match my ideals with the reality. It didn’t work.

Where would I be now if I hadn’t left when I did? Still cooking, cleaning, and ironing in the ‘service of the Lord’ – which translated into serving the men in the community.

Although my experiences were very different to those emily danforth describes in her book, the feelings evoked were similar.

In an entirely different way to her story, I attempted to give expression to that time in my life in my most recently published novel, Calling Home. Two of the characters grow up in a strict religious community. They are helped to escape as teenagers and lead different, separate lives, before meeting up again twenty-odd years later. In my case, though, I was an adult when I joined the community of my own accord.

Authors are often asked how much of themselves go into their stories. The answer is usually that it’s a synthesis of experiences…what we see, read, and hear in everyday life. In Calling Home, though, I can confess that the character, Ray Fisher, bears some semblance to my former self – particularly as she questions why she stayed in the community for so long.

(However, it is a work of fiction and the usual disclaimer applies in that any resemblance to persons, places or events are entirely coincidental.)

After all the years of searching for the meaning of life, I think it really boils down to the words of the old Beatles song, “All You Need is Love.” I’ve been fortunate to have the love of a good woman for the past 31 years. My life with her has been enriched in ways I couldn’t have imagined while peeling potatoes in the service of the Lord.

For Cameron Post and her friends, at the end of the novel, there is hope that they too will succeed in breaking free from the toxic confines of God’s Promise.


Calling_home_preview

Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.


 

ELLCon…Gromits and all

The build-up of nervous tension prior to a conference is familiar territory to me now having attended three GCLS events and a Diva Literary Festival. And it didn’t diminish with having had these experiences in the weeks leading up to ELLCon – the inaugural European Lesfic Literary Conference.

As well as preparing notes for the panel I was on, there were the big questions of how many books should I take? and will anyone want to buy them? (Luckily some people did – a big thank you to them!)

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this. The vendor room was buzzing with activity when I arrived on Thursday morning dragging my suitcase full of books and giveaway items. (Clothes were a secondary consideration in my packing…needing to make sure I could lift the case on and off trains on the journey to Bristol.)

With the table set up, there was still plenty of time before the first panel session of the day to chat with authors and other delegates, meeting some for the first time, including my Affinity colleague, Samantha Hicks.

affinity_table

The conference hotel was in a central location, next to the city’s impressive cathedral and close to the waterfront area – alive with bars, a funfair, and boats.

waterfront

I ventured out on Wednesday afternoon and found a few of the Gromit Unleashed2 sculptures but generally had to wait for the other Gromit-trail hunters to move away in order to get photos. So, along with the pics I took of Wallace and Gromit, I’ve borrowed this splendid one of Feathers McGraw from my friend, Jody Klaire. (She’s photobombing in the background.)

gromit2_trail

That was the extent of my sightseeing. Later on I met up with two other friends, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows for a Mexican meal. With a two-for-one offer on Mojitos, it was a good choice of venue! Lovely to catch up with these two who were celebrating their first year wedding anniversary and Robyn’s birthday.

Back to the business end of the conference, I took part in the last panel of the morning on the first day: When Writing Feels Like a Marathon – how to get over the finish line. May Dawney was our expert moderator and the other panelists were Nita Round, Harper Bliss and Jane Fletcher. I think I look somewhat petrified here as I know Harper is going to pass the mic to me next.

ellcon_panel

As with other conferences, I found the time slipped away quickly, and I know there were many missed opportunities for longer conversations and some people I didn’t chat with at all. But I have an abundance of precious memories.

So, what happened to the nerves I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, once the conference is underway and you’re meeting new and old friends, surrounded by smiles and hugs and laughter and the chance to spend two days talking about lesbian fiction…the nerves disappear and the joy of being in a loving, shared, safe space takes over.

Zara Wood and her team did an amazing job in preparation for the event and organisation throughout the two days. The city and the weather also played a part in creating a welcoming atmosphere.

ELLCon 2018 was a success…so roll on ELLCon 2019!


My latest book, Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesbian Writers Read…in Hebden Bridge

Happy Valley Pride is over for this year…and what a fantastic week it was. Congratulations to the trustees and volunteers who worked hard to make it all happen.

hvp_bag

With the success of the previous year’s Lesbian Writers Read event, the planning committee was keen to include it in this year’s programme as well. So I was thrilled to be asked to host another group of authors.

We were able to get a slightly larger, and accessible, venue this time…Squeeze cafe. The tickets sold out and it was standing room only by the time everyone ‘squeezed’ in. We had to turn off the fans for the readings, but the upsurge in heat caused the ice cream machine to start working overtime to keep the contents frozen.

group_reading1

Pictured from left to right: Deborah Delano, Lise Gold, Velvet Lounger, Helen Baron, Mayor Carol Stowe, Jen Silver, Cari Hunter, Jody Klaire, and Ferb

The mayor of Hebden Royd, Carol Stowe, came along for the first part of the evening before she had to fulfil her other festival obligation by attending the art exhibition and auction across the street at Nelson’s Wine Bar. When I met her at another event a few days later, she told me she had enjoyed the readings, hearing the different styles of each author…and (don’t tell the artists) would have liked to stay for the Q&A session.

hvp_6books

The featured books

Cari Hunter drew the short straw, literally, and read first. As she read from the opening scenes of her latest thriller, Alias, she had the audience drawn in to the story from the start. I’m sure they would have liked her to carry on, but she stuck to her five-minute time limit.

 

Our mystery guest reader for the evening was well known lesbian book reviewer, Velvet Lounger. There is quite a story behind the gathering together of a collection of stories published as The Velvet Anthology. She explained it very well before reading from the contribution by Erica Abbott, ‘Seize Her Salad’. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Golden Crown Literary Society Readers scholarship fund. Velvet’s book reviews can be found at the Lesbian Reading Room website.

I read from my latest novel, Calling Home…interrupted a few times by some latecomers and the need to raise my voice over the ice cream machine’s complaints about the heat. With the second interruption, I continued by saying loudly, ‘The toilets were at the other end of the room…’ – this wasn’t a health and safety announcement, it was part of the reading.

We then heard from another local author, Deborah Delano. Her latest book, The Portrait of Adie Denton, is a historical novel set in the 1920’s…but is also a love story…described on the cover as “a moving yarn of a working class girl mixed up in the glittering, but dangerous, bohemian world of the Parisian Demi-monde”.

Staying in France, Lise Gold read from her newest romance, French Summer. Lise spent a good part of this year in France, purely for research, of course. The setting and the romance that develops between the two main characters certainly resonate with authenticity…the sensual atmosphere of warm days in Provence, although the piece she read involved one of the main characters throwing herself into a ditch. An avoidance tactic with painful consequences.

Last to read was Jody Klaire. I was so impressed that Jody and Em travelled up from South Wales in a motorhome to join us for this event. Their golden retriever, Ferb, charmed everyone and had the audience captivated with his attempts to catch a fly while the reading was going on. Jody read from her newest book, which is due out in a few weeks, In Fashion. This is a romance set in the fashion world and from the excerpt she read, it features Jody’s delightful brand of humour.

(Ferb caught the fly.)

Another distinguished visitor in the audience was Zara Wood (our host next week at ELLCon), who had travelled from Bristol with her visitor from Brussels, Gerd Van Loock (stopping by as part of a Yorkshire sightseeing tour). Zara recorded some of the readings and the Q&A session that took place after the break. They are available to view on the ELLCon YouTube channel.

reading

The Q&A session: Jen Silver, Cari Hunter, Jody Klaire, and Ferb

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The Q&A session: Deborah Delano, Lise Gold, and Velvet Lounger

The whole evening was lovely…it was like reading to a group of friends. The Happy Valley Pride team led by Helen Baron did a great job of setting up the room, serving the refreshments (which included Welsh cakes from Em and Jody, and tiffin from Cari), and welcoming the audience. (Nothing they could do about the ice cream machine though…have I mentioned this before?)

And once again the authors provided a great mix of stories, giving voice I thought, to our Happy Valley Pride motto: Be Here, Be You, Be Proud.

During a stroll around Hebden Bridge earlier in the day, we stopped by one of the many window displays. One of the most delightful aspects of Happy Valley Pride is the way the community and local businesses show their support with window displays, contributions to the raffle prizes…and just overall enthusiasm for the event. Long may it continue.

window

With Jody and Ferb outside Noir


ELLCon

ELLCon-Logo-Header

So, I just have time to catch my breath before the next book-related event of the summer – ELLCon. A great deal of planning has also gone into setting this up. Congratulations to Zara Wood and her team for bringing it all together…the first ever European Lesfic Literary Conference.

With over thirty authors attending, plus delegates from all parts of the country and Europe, it’s shaping up to be a magnificent couple of days. Check out the list of authors attending and the programme here.

As well as sharing a vendor table with another Affinity Rainbow Publications author, Samantha Hicks, I will be taking part in a panel discussion on the first day. The topic is ‘When Writing Feels Like a Marathon: how to get over the finish line”. May Dawney is our fearless moderator with the task of keeping four of us on topic…Harper Bliss, Jane Fletcher, Nita Round, and myself. Should be fun!

I’m also looking forward to finding a few of the Gromit Unleashed statues and Zara kindly presented me with a brochure so I can find the ones nearest to the conference hotel.

gromit_brochure

So many books to explore! Enjoy all your summer reads.


 

It’s almost here…!

…Happy Valley Pride Festival 2018!

hvp_banner

This year’s programme is packed with lots of fantastic events…art, music, comedy, films, workshops, all leading up to Saturday’s Big Day Out and Sunday’s Pink Picnic…check it out here (and book your tickets – some events have already sold out).

For the second year running, I’m thrilled to be hosting the Lesbian Writers Read event…looking forward to welcoming back Lise Gold and Cari Hunter, and new on the programme this year, Jody Klaire, Lola Keeley, and Deborah Delano.

hvp_reading

The Happy Valley Pride Festival aims to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer life in Calderdale while also engaging the community in all the activities. As well as supporting the event through providing venues and safe spaces, some shops and businesses in the town also commemorate the week with rainbow-themed window displays.

forgetmenot_window

I’m also looking forward to wearing this year’s festival t-shirt with it’s very bold-looking design.

hvp_shirt

If you’re anywhere in the area next week, please come along and enjoy the festivities.


Calling Home

Complement your summer reading by picking up my latest novel, Calling Home. Romance with a tantalising mystery mixed in:

Sarah Frost enjoys her dream job as director of the Frost Foundation making her home at one of their writers’ retreats, The Lodge on the Lake. The general manager of The Lodge is Berry Fields, an old childhood friend.

Galen Thomas arrives at the island to fill the post of handy person, taking an extended break from her vet’s practice to help her decide how to shape her future life and career.

When the next group of writers arrives for their two-week retreat, along with Sarah’s grandmother, tensions start to surface. Magda Frost doesn’t approve of the appointment of the “vet” and still questions Sarah’s decision to hire Berry.

The island idyll is soon undermined by the revelation of events from forty years earlier, threatening the lives and loves of Sarah, Berry, and Galen. Calling home and what they now call home—all are affected by the disturbing legacy from the past.

Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.


 

A Goldie Finalist!

I couldn’t have imagined when I became a published author in 2014 that one of my books would achieve this accolade.

Changing Perspectives, my seventh novel published by Affinity Rainbow Publications, is one of five books on the 2018 Golden Crown Literary Festival’s finalist list for a General Fiction award.

genfiction_finalists2018

Just to see my book listed with these other wonderful authors is a thrill. I would like to congratulate everyone who has made it through to the finalist round. I’m particularly happy for another Affinity author, Renee MacKenzie – her book Pausing is a finalist in the Contemporary Romance (short fiction) category. (The full list of 2018 finalists shown here)

Whether or not Changing Perspectives is chosen as one of the General Fiction winners, I still have a 100% chance of being a winner. There are only two books in the Anthology/Collections (Fiction) category and I have a story in each of them.

anthology_finalists

New book release

Calling Home

The release date for my latest book is 15 June 2018. The first chapter is available to read on the Affinity Rainbow Publications website.

Back of the book description:

Sarah Frost enjoys her dream job as director of the Frost Foundation making her home at one of their writers’ retreats, The Lodge on the Lake. The general manager of The Lodge is Berry Fields, an old childhood friend.

Galen Thomas arrives at the island to fill the post of handy person, taking an extended break from her vet’s practice to help her decide how to shape her future life and career.

When the next group of writers arrives for their two-week retreat, along with Sarah’s grandmother, tensions start to surface. Magda Frost doesn’t approve of the appointment of the “vet” and still questions Sarah’s decision to hire Berry.

The island idyll is soon undermined by the revelation of events from forty years earlier, threatening the lives and loves of Sarah, Berry, and Galen. Calling home and what they now call home—all are affected by the disturbing legacy from the past.

Happy Valley Pride Festival news

I’m pleased to be able to announce the line up for the Lesbian Writers Read event being held during the festival week – on Tuesday 7 August. This year, Cari Hunter and Lise Gold are making a return visit. Jody Klaire is taking a road trip with Em and Ferb to join us. Along with Lola Keeley who is travelling from Edinburgh. Then there are two of us local authors – myself and Deborah Delano. More details to follow soon. (Report from last year’s event)

That’s all for now. I’ll be heading up to Vindolanda at the weekend for a two-week excavation session. Looking forward to it as always – although my wife refers to it as ‘extreme gardening’.

vindo14


7books

Buying Links:

Changing Perspectives: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy Omnibus edition: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords


 

 

 

 

 

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.

jen_drink

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.

readers

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.

group_discussion

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.

helen_door

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.)


6books

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


 

7 Year Cycles of Life

I was thinking about this the other day, having read once upon a time about how our minds and bodies change every seven years.

tbt_in_tree

Some of us reach the age of maturity later in life

As I’m now at the start of the tenth seven-year cycle, I decided to look it up to see what’s in store. Rather depressingly, it ends here. According to the Rudolf Steiner model, the ages 56-63 represent the final stage.

Another spiritually-based website put a more positive spin on this, calling it the Decision Cycle – at least in the first sentence, the second is a bit of a downer. “People, by this time, have a feeling about doing what they are here to do on planet earth, or not. If they do not become involved in their life purpose, they consciously, or unconsciously, begin the process of leaving the physical world and returning to the world of spirit.”

This tenth cycle doesn’t have a name but this is what the aforementioned website said about it: “In following through with decisions they make for what they feel is important, people can do their greatest work in these years.”

Another website claimed that “at 56 there is very often a tendency to let go of everything that has been, and to take on a whole new life style”. For me this happened when I turned 60 and retired from the day job. Since then I’ve been writing novels and enjoying my forays into the world of lesbian fiction.

So, rather than thinking of this cycle as an ending, I’m looking forward to forging more beginnings. Instead of winding down, this can be a time of revving up.

In writing this I was reminded of the old Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four”… and the lyrics which we laughed at when we were in our teens (the Identity Cycle)…when reaching the age of 64 wasn’t something we thought was going to happen to us. Mind you, the young songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, had a pretty limited view of what they would be doing at that age…mending fuses, knitting sweaters (their wives, obviously), gardening, going for Sunday rides in the car.

Personally, I’m hoping for a bit more fun when I turn 64.

maturity

Maturing nicely (and that’s just the wine!)


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Buying options for ebooks:

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


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.

fireplace

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.

woodclearing

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.


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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


 

Meeting the hosts

Time to introduce the couple at the centre of the story who own and run Winterbourne House.

beck

Something like the bourne – which gives Winterbourne House its name

Wil (Wilma) inherited the house from her adopted mother, Kim Russell. The back story for this is quite complex but is key to understanding some of Wil’s personality traits. She had a less than ideal childhood with a mother who never told her who her father was or talked about her own parents. They moved constantly from place to place until they came to Winterbourne village.

Whether or not it had been her mother’s intention all along to hook up with the reclusive lesbian novelist living in the village, Wil didn’t know for sure. But looking back, she wouldn’t have been surprised if that had been the case.

With the help of her partner, Gaby, Wil has turned the writer’s home into a successful guesthouse business. And in the process, has enjoyed a settled lifestyle for the past fifteen years.

This tranquility is about to be disturbed by the arrival of their first child. At the start of this story, Gaby is nine months pregnant and with a houseful of guests, plus friends and family, the four days over Christmas are not going to be peaceful. Wil wonders if she has what it takes to be a good parent, not having experienced much in the way of good parenting as a child.

Gaby (Gabriella) on the other hand has no such worries, growing up on a farm in Italy with loving parents and two brothers. In fact, her parents were more upset about her following Wil to England, than finding out their daughter was a lesbian. Gaby has an artistic flair that manifested itself through her contributions to the renovation of the house and gardens, as well as her cooking skills. She has also won awards for photography and is a valued member of the local photographic society.

flowers

The book is subtitled ‘A Memoir in the Making’ and this is one of the flashbacks – Wil’s memory of when she met Gaby.

Scene from Chapter One of Christmas at Winterbourne:

…It had been a hot day in Rome and Wil had spent most of it in the university’s library looking up references for the paper she was writing about the Etruscan people. Someone she’d met at a cafe had invited her to a party that evening and she almost didn’t go. As it was, she spent most of the evening leaning against a wall, watching people she didn’t know smoke and drink their way into oblivion. She sipped at a glass of red wine and refused two offers of badly wrapped spliffs. It really wasn’t her scene. Gabriella arrived with a group and at first Wil thought she was partnered up with one of them, but after a while they started to mingle separately. Wil finished her wine and decided to make a discreet exit. As she’d spoken to no one, she wasn’t likely to be missed. Standing outside the apartment building, she had just inhaled a welcome breath of fresh air when a voice behind her asked, in Italian, if she was leaving already. She turned around to find the dark-haired beauty she’d noticed earlier watching her from the doorway. Not trusting herself to speak, she simply nodded. Gabriella came up to her, took her hand, and asked her to please stay.

That evening they just talked. They met again in the following days, going for walks, sitting in cafés. Wil didn’t think it would go any further than that although she really fancied the woman. But she knew she would be heading back to England soon and didn’t want to start something that would end with a tearful separation and empty promises to keep in touch. Then Gaby asked Wil to go with her to see her parents. It was a family gathering for her younger brother’s birthday and she said she didn’t want to go on her own.

Several surprising things happened that weekend. First of all, Gaby’s family welcomed her wholeheartedly. Secondly, they obviously expected she and Gaby would sleep together and put them in the same bedroom. Wil hadn’t known what to do that first night. She waited until Gaby went to the bathroom, undressed hastily and crept under the covers. Gaby had laughed when she came back and saw her there. She had performed an extremely seductive striptease and jumped into bed. By the time they were on the motorbike, travelling back to Rome at the end of two days of family celebrations, Wil was in love…

Fifteen years later, Wil is still in love with Gaby. But is the impending birth driving them apart…?

 


Next week’s blog: Winterbourne’s ghost makes an appearance

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


4books

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?

mil_bug

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.

treedec

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.


4books

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