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?

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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.

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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.


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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

Working in magic

Vindolanda is a magical place—a site occupied by the Romans over several centuries. Evidence from the ongoing archaeological digs suggests that it was in use before Hadrian’s Wall was built.

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First view of Vindolanda approaching from the east

This was my third year of taking part in a volunteer session and each time, even though it is ten days of unaccustomed physical work, I am always reluctant to leave.

It is such a privilege to be part of the excavation team. Scraping away at the soil with a small trowel, uncovering pieces of pottery and animal bones, nails, boot studs—and if we’re lucky, a coin or a ring—it is a thrill to think that these objects have lain undisturbed for almost two thousand years.

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I was working in the fort, known to be the last stone fort built on the site, as I have done for the last three years. Hard to believe that four years ago it was a grass-covered field. Layer upon layer has been removed to provide the archaeologists with a growing portfolio of evidence of how life was lived in the fourth, third and second centuries.

A large part of the fort was a barracks for the cavalry and the soldiers would have slept with their horses. On the second day, I was working in the decurian’s house. His position entitled him to more luxurious quarters that even included a section of under floor heating.

Visitors often stop by the fence to watch the excavation in progress, usually to call out—‘have you found anything?’ The more knowledgeable ones add—‘of interest?’ I didn’t mind the questions as they afforded a chance to get up off my knees for a few minutes to explain what we were doing. One of the visitors made me laugh when she said the kneepads I had placed on top of a wall section looked like a large bra. I told her they were useful for when I needed to lie down to excavate.

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Kneepads

Along with the team of diggers there’s a post-excavation crew who work tirelessly cleaning and cataloguing the daily finds.

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Some finds – before cleaning

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Some finds – after cleaning

Excavating the fort is relatively clean work compared to working in the vicus, the civilian settlement. The moist conditions here help preserve the artefacts. This year alone, over 400 shoes have been taken out of one ditch. But extracting these requires painstaking sifting through each barrow load of claggy mud. Dog and cat bones were also found—no human remains as yet.

Volunteers and visitors come from all over—Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, Europe, and all parts of the UK. Volunteers’ ages for this particular session ranged from 19 to 79. It is a fantastic experience, not just the digging, but also spending time with people who share the same enthusiasm for this period of history—being able to see it, feel it, touch it.

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A misty morning in the fort

I didn’t know that the excavation bug would take hold during my first dig session in 2014. The main reason for going was to undertake research for my debut novel, Starting Over. The sequel to this book, Arc Over Time, was released during my second visit in 2015. I told one of my trench-mates about my writing and he promptly downloaded Starting Over when he got back to where he was staying. This year I felt more comfortable telling anyone who asked that I wrote lesbian fiction when I wasn’t excavating. Although I don’t expect a massive upswing in sales, it did feel good to be able to talk about it and I was encouraged by the positive responses.

This magical place continues to linger in my memory until the next time I visit and I hope I will be able to do so for many years to come as more secrets of the past are revealed with each layer of soil removed.

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Chesterholm – part of the gardens behind the museum

Detailed information about the extraordinary work carried out at Vindolanda is available on the website and blog. And if you’re in the area, it’s worth taking the time to walk around the site and visit the museum.


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Book links:

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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

GCLS 2016

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

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

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

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

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Ali Spooner has it covered!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annette with her Goldie…look at that smile!

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

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

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

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

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


Where to buy my books:

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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

GCLS firsts

In just over a week’s time I will be setting off to the GCLS Conference, held in Washington DC this year.

Last year, I attended the conference in New Orleans. I was a ‘Con Virgin’ at that event—so I can now say I lost my virginity in NOLA.

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Last year’s ‘Con Virgin’

GCLS 2015 saw many ‘firsts’ for me…first public reading, first signing of my books in public, first panel discussions, first time in New Orleans (and, of course, first hugs from Beth Burnett).

I expect I will feel just as nervous when it comes to doing the reading in the Author Spotlight session this year. I can only hope I remember to breath this time and don’t lose my voice part way through.

This year, sees another first—being asked to be a presenter at the Awards Ceremony. That sounds like fun as well as a tremendous honour. (Note to self: don’t trip on the way up to the podium)

My conference timetable:

Tuesday evening: check out the Affinity table in the Vendor Room

Wednesday morning: meet up with Affinity authors to set up the table with a wonderful array of books, t-shirts, bookmarks and other promo items.

Wednesday afternoon: Author Spotlight from 2:00 to 3:00, reading from The Circle Dance

Thursday evening: Helping to host the Affinity authors’ dinner

Friday afternoon: Author signing session

Saturday morning: Taking part in The Politics of Poetry Panel from 9:40 to 10:30

Saturday afternoon: Dry run for Awards Presenters from 3:30 to 3:45

Saturday evening: Attending the Awards Ceremony and probably avoiding dancing if at all possible.

I don’t know if it’s a first for my publisher, Affinity eBooks, but they have four finalists in this year’s award categories – listed here in no particular order:

Requiem for Vukovar by Angela Koenig in Dramatic/General Fiction

The Presence by Charlene Neil in Paranormal/Horror

Locked Inside by Annette Mori in Traditional Contemporary Romance

Locked Inside cover by Nancy Kaufman for the Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design Award

Keeping everything crossed for all our finalists – and congratulations whatever the outcome as there’s a lot of talent on show here.

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Aiming for ‘Affinity and beyond’ – with Annette Mori and Ali Spooner (sorry, no pic of Renee MacKenzie again – she wasn’t hiding – just seated at the other end of the table)

In between times I can likely be found at the Affinity Vendor table. Please stop by, even if you don’t want to buy any books. We’re a friendly bunch and love talking to people. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Affinity is being represented this year by Ali Spooner, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie and myself.

I also plan to take in a few other conference sessions when I can as well as trying to fit in some sightseeing, so these few days are going to pass very quickly, I feel. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone I met last year, plus others I didn’t. I’m not looking forward to Sunday when it’s time to say goodbye again.

The last item on my itinerary is for Sunday afternoon and beyond when the post-conference withdrawal symptoms start to surface. The best way to banish these feelings is to start planning to attend the 2017 conference in Chicago.


Another first closer to home is seeing my books on the ‘Books to buy’ shelf of one of the local cafés. The paperbacks are also available in the Book Case, the independent book store in Hebden Bridge.

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Lots of older lesfic books available at The Mooch Café in Hebden Bridge – and some newer Jen Silver books!

 

Also last week, not a first, but my second Book Clip appeared on The Lesbian Talk Show podcast site – a reading from the first book in The Starling Hill Trilogy, Starting Over. (All the LTS podcasts are available on Podbean, iTunes and Stitcher – and well worth a listen.)


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The Jen Silver Collection

Where to buy:

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 in Washington DC

Counting the days…has it really been almost a year since last year’s GCLS Conference in New Orleans?

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GCLS 2015 – Author signing

I feel the time is passing quickly and July 6 will be upon us very shortly. Especially now that I’ve checked the schedules and discovered that I’m on the very first Author Spotlight session on the Wednesday afternoon. So after you’ve registered, caught up with friends and met new ones, you’ll be able to listen to me and three other authors reading from our books. I’m thrilled to be in the same session with Jane DiLucchio, MB Panichi, and Chris Parsons. I think it’s quite an eclectic mix of writing styles. And Catherine Maiorisi has the moderator’s job of keeping us in line.

On the Saturday morning, I’m taking part in The Politics of Poetry panel. When my friend and moderator for this panel, E M Hodge, asked if I would be willing to participate, I was rather hesitant. I’m not a poet and I there’s not anything I know about politics that I would like to share in a public forum. But now the full line up has been revealed, I can relax. Jewelle Gomez is on this panel. Jewelle Gomez! I think the rest of us should just sit back and let her do the talking. Who wants to hear what I might have to say about the politics of poetry when you can listen to Jewelle Gomez?

I thought nothing could top last year’s GCLS with the abundance of lesbian icons in attendance…Dorothy Allison, Lee Lynch, Rita Mae Brown, J M Redmann. But the GCLS conference organisers have done it again. If anyone’s not sure about the value of attending a GCLS conference, just take a look at the line up. As well as the aforementioned Jewelle, there are authors I’ve admired from afar for many years…Katherine V Forrest, Karin Kallmaker, Lee Lynch, Radclyffe, Georgia Beers, Fay Jacobs…to name a few.

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Annette Mori, Jen Silver and Ali Spooner with C.d. Cain – who we had obviously coerced into buying our books, but she’s still smiling!

In the not-so-famous corner, Ali Spooner, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie, and myself are representing Affinity eBooks at the conference this year. Please come along and talk to us at the Affinity book table. We will have some super swag to give away…plus an awesome range of books for you to buy. (Apologies – no photo of Renee here – she was probably wrestling with an alligator somewhere.)

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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 / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

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

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

My Writing Time

When I’m working on a novel, my morning goes like this: out of bed by 6am or 6:30 at the latest (panic sets in if its later than that). Make breakfast for myself and my wife. This consists of putting together two bowls of oats, yogurt, banana, a few prunes, seeds, various dried fruit. I drink some orange juice while I’m doing this. We make our own coffee. I like proper coffee dripped through a filter, she likes instant (yecchh!). How did we ever get together, you may well ask?

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That morning coffee

Take coffee and breakfast bowl into the living room, sit in chair, glasses on, open iPad. Quick scan of emails and Facebook. Open up newspaper app. Read a few articles that interest me and then look at the weather…endlessly fascinating for anyone living in the British Isles. As we live in the middle of the country, it’s often wrong.

After washing up my bowl, spoon, coffee mug, filter, I pour myself a large glass of water and go upstairs to my office. Resisting the temptation to have another look at Facebook, or maybe a peek at Twitter, I open up my writing program, Scrivener.

Usually I will have had some thoughts on waking up about what I think is coming next in the story, which scenes I need to tackle. If I’m lucky, the day before I might even have added a few notations into blank scenes with the name of the character so I have a clue as to what I was thinking then. Better still, I might even have made some notes in the notebook I have for the novel.

Distractions, other than social media…glancing out of the window I watch the young man across the way getting ready to cycle to work. He’s a bit OCD about it, taking a long time to check and double check everything. Then the neighbor whose garage backs onto the lane directly across from my window opens her garage door and I gauge by her clothing what her activity is… gym, golf, picking up her mother to go shopping.

Back to my own screen and a new blank page. I need to get into the head of this character and describe what happens next in the story.

The man with the bike is almost ready now. I know the signs. He’s locking the side door, checks it once, twice. Goes to the back of the house and checks the patio door is locked. Back to the side door, puts his cycling gloves on, carefully. Checks again to make sure the side door is locked and gets on his bike. He’s gone, so now I can get on with writing something.

My goal every day I’m working on a novel is to write one thousand words. This mostly works and generally averages out over the week if I miss that target for the day.

The closer I get to finishing the first draft, the more this writing time gains in importance. I’m monitoring my word count, checking the chapter lengths, wondering if the title makes sense now that I’m near the end of the story.

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Mugs for writers

Five hundred words on the page. I finish my glass of water. Go downstairs to make another coffee. The cat next door is staring out of a bedroom window and follows my movements with inquisitive green eyes.

Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they don’t. I remind myself that no one is making me do this. It’s my choice to sit in front of a screen and try to put the words one after the other on the page. But when I’m not doing it, I miss it. So I need to make the most of my writing time and enjoy the process.

Is it time for another cup of coffee yet? It’s a nice day, maybe I should go for a walk.

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The canal in Hebden Bridge


Books by Jen Silver

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks/Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & NobleBella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting Over: Affinity eBooksAmazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Arc Over Time: Affinity eBooksAmazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in Stone: Affinity eBooksAmazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

It’s In Her Kiss

Affinity eBooks is publishing a special holiday anthology in May and all proceeds go to charity. The chosen charity is the Montrose Center, which is a full service community-based LGBT centre in Houston.

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Affinity asked all their authors to submit a holiday-themed short story for inclusion in this collection. We could choose any holiday or special day we liked – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Saint Patrick’s Day – anything at all.

They may have regretted giving us free rein, as I chose a fairly obscure event although I gather it is still celebrated with vigour in some places, not just Britain. I’m really pleased, not only that my story was accepted, but also that the anthology is being released in May – because my story revolves around Beltane, which in ancient societies was their way of welcoming the return of summer on the first of May.

Beltane is a pagan festival not appropriated by Christians…perhaps because it involves celebrating fertility with naked dancing in the woods followed by couples consummating temporary ‘marriages’. I’m not sure how much of this goes on nowadays – and anyone planning to engage in outdoor activities this year will be in danger of freezing their bits off as we are having a cold snap with snow forecast in many places over the weekend.

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Optimistic campers out in the field today!

My story for the anthology is entitled Beltane in Space and it is a continuation of The Christmas Sweepstake story published by Affinity in their 2014 Christmas Collection – which is available FREE on the Affinity website.

Beltane in Space

The crew of the Heraklion is back for another long inter-galactic flight, only this time with a new captain at the helm. Convincing the by-the-book captain to let them have a Beltane festival was pretty easy, but will sexy chief engineer, Tess, be able to convince her to take part in a more personal celebration?

The other stories in this collection range from New Year’s Day through to Christmas with contributions from Alane Hotchkin, Erin O’Reilly, Erica Lawson, Ali Spooner, Lacey Schmidt, Annette Mori, Charlene Neil and TJ Vertigo.

So why not see what’s ‘in her kiss’ and give to a worthwhile cause at the same time.


Books by Jen Silver

Links for The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks/Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Ebook links for The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting Over: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Arc Over Time: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Carved in Stone: Amazon US / Amazon UK

 

Let’s get naked

At last year’s GCLS Conference I attended a number of panels and readings. From the sessions I attended this one line from Dorothy Allison stands out. She was talking about writing and said that writers need to have “the willingness to be naked on the page.”

Dorothy demonstrated through all her talks, including the emotive reading she did from Bastard Out of Carolina, and in her keynote speech, that she is willing to be naked in public as well (not literally, of course – maybe only for private readings).

I thought of this “nakedness” again over the past few weeks. I’ve been reading my way through J M Redmann’s Micky Knight series.

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I read the first in the series, Death by the Riverside, probably about twenty-five years ago, so it’s been fascinating to rediscover the books and see the stories from the perspective of my older self. (Also, the books are set in New Orleans and I can feel another level of  connection from my brief time in the city last summer.)

The author doesn’t hold back when describing the awfulness of Micky’s early years. And her character’s way of dealing with the past isn’t particularly healthy as Micky loses herself in drink and random sex with just about any woman who crosses her path.

In the first book, Micky is well on the road to self-destruction. Her journey through the eight books is a massive roller coaster ride. Just when you think she’s moving towards a happy ever after, Hurricane Katrina arrives and knocks everything sideways.

As a writer of romance novels, I’m always hoping for the perfect HEA. This, however, is dangerous territory for Micky, especially in the beginning, when she doesn’t think she deserves to be loved.

Reaching the end of this series, I know I’m going to have withdrawal symptoms. For all her faults, Micky is a thoroughly believable character. I’d love to spend an evening sitting on a bar stool next to her, sipping Scotch and listening to her stories.

Other characters that come close to engendering the feelings I’ve experienced reading these books are Katherine V Forrest’s Kate Delafield and Jaye Maiman’s Robin Miller. Flawed and edgy; great at making the big decisions in order to catch criminals, but not so good at relationship choices.

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Maiman

With any genre, writers are putting themselves on the line. My romantic stories are softer in tone than the ones featuring toughened detectives. How hard is it to be completely “naked on the page” when writing a love story? However, I do at times wonder if I’m subconsciously censoring my own writing with the subliminal thought hovering in the background – “I can’t write that, my mother’s going to read this.”

I doubt that I will ever be able to create characters with as much depth as those created by the authors I’ve mentioned here. But I hope I have, so far, created characters and situations readers can recognise as real people. I may not be completely naked yet – maybe just down to my bra and panties.

I’ll leave you with that image (but no photo!).


 

 

Ebook links for The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks/Amazon US / Amazon UK / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

And don’t forget to take a look at The Starling Hill Trilogy – still available on Kindle Unlimited:

Ebook links for The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting Over: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Arc Over Time: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Carved in Stone: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Relationships and dreaming bones

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The trilogy is here!

I was asked to describe my books using only one word in the Q&A for my author profile on the Lesbian Review website.

The word I chose after much deliberation, and consultation with my wife, was: relationships.

Not a terribly sexy word but it covers a lot of territory.

The characters in the books go through different phases of relationship. In Starting Over, Ellie and Robin are struggling to maintain their long-term one. For a large part of Arc Over Time, Denise is trying to get Kathryn to commit to a relationship, not willing to suffer through a continually frustrating LDR. And Jasmine discovers something about herself that leads to happiness. In Carved in Stone, Jo finds a love interest whose lifestyle is pretty much the opposite of her own wandering one.

Some readers have commented that they don’t think Robin and Ellie are a good match and don’t hold out much hope for Kathryn and Den to succeed in their relationship either. But, as in real life, what do we know about other people’s relationships? We’ve all met couples where we’ve thought – ‘how on earth did they get together?’ – or – ‘what does she see in her?’ We make judgments all the time that generally turn out to be wrong. And that is the joy of both reading and writing. We can get inside people’s heads and in the process some things will resonate about our own relationships, both good and bad.

 

Bones can dream

This almost became the title of Carved in Stone because of the character who isn’t there but who pervades the imaginations and subsequently, the actions, of the other characters.

In Starting Over the bones of a long dead historical figure are discovered at Starling Hill farm. They turn out to be the bones of Cartimandua who was the chief of the Brigantes tribe in Britain when the Romans turned up in force in AD43. I hesitate to use the title ‘Queen’ because I doubt that was a title bestowed on her by the tribe. It was used by the Roman historians who wrote about the period much later. We have no written records of this time in Britain. However, for the sake of not having to ascribe other words to denote her leadership, she is generally referred to as Queen Cartimandua.

Archaeologists in this country would love to be the discoverers of Cartimandua’s final resting place. No one knows where she went once her reign ended.

In these stories, and particularly Carved in Stone, Cartimandua becomes another presence. It is her influence on their lives that brings all the characters together one way or another.

This is fiction, of course. But I hope that one day Cartimandua’s actual bones will be found to give archaeologists the chance to piece together her life and what happened to her in those final days.

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Digging at Vindolanda – finding mostly cow bones!


Book links:

Starting Over: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Arc Over Time: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Carved in Stone: Amazon US / Amazon UK

(All three books are available on Kindle Unlimited for the next 3 months)

 

 

 

Celebrating the ‘playpen’

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I’m a member of a golf club. And contrary to popular belief amongst non-golfers, that doesn’t mean I’m a posh git with more money than sense. For one thing, the club is at a municipal course – so the annual membership fee is on a modest scale…not the price of a new Mercedes. (Okay, so non-golfers, feel free to leave out the ‘posh’ and make a comment about ‘a good walk wasted’.)

I mention this because while I was recuperating from my recent hysterectomy operation I received Get Well cards from some of the women in the club.

When I read the handwritten message in the one from our current oldest member (80), I was in danger of bursting my stitches. She’d had this operation many years before and apparently a nurse told her: “Don’t worry, dear…the cradle is gone, but the playpen’s still there.”

I was thinking about her the other day, not just because the comment in her card still makes me smile, but mainly with all the talk about the film ‘Carol’ and the fuss about it not being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. (Hollywood misogyny – or just plain old fear of celebrating lesbians living happily ever after?)

Anyway, my 80 year old golf friend would have grown up in the post-World War II era and lived her whole life with the understanding that you didn’t talk about your sexuality. Although I know she’s a lesbian and she knows I am, we’ve never discussed it. It’s not something we mention while chasing that little ball around a field or in the bar after the round.

However, she has now discovered lesfic. And I’m proud to say it is through me. A surprising (to me, anyway) number of straight women at the club have read my books. And one of them passed on her paperback copies to this older woman.

Before I went into hospital I got a phone call from her. She’d looked at the ‘Other Books’ section at the end of one of my books and asked if she would be able to buy any of these in a bookstore. I told her they could only be ordered online and as she doesn’t have a computer, I could do that for her.

Well, I haven’t heard from her since she received those three books. There were fairly explicit sex scenes in one of them, so maybe she’s busy. After all, she still has a ‘playpen’.

Right, well on that note, I’m going to sign off. Maybe go to the driving range and see if I can remember how to hit a ball.


 

The Oscars usually pass me by as I don’t know many of the films, but this year I will be rooting for the Shaun the Sheep movie to win Best Animated Film. As for Carol, my prediction is that it will win the Best Costume Design award. (This will no doubt be a revelation for those in Hollywood who still think lesbians only wear dungarees and check shirts – so it’s a breakthrough of sorts.)


 

Coming soon: Book III of The Starling Hill Trilogy (and the re-release of the first two books)

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Publications:

Arc Over Time – available from Affinity eBook Press /Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / iTunes.

Short Stories

There Was a Time and The Christmas Sweepstake – both available FREE on the Affinity website