How important are book covers?

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

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


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

The Circle Dance

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

LESBIreviewed video clip

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


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

Happy reading!

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


Our Happy Hours revisited

It’s a year since the publication of this collection of stories, essays, anecdotes and poetry…Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars…and I still feel a glow inside that my story was accepted…especially as the project was spearheaded by two authors I admire, S. Renée Bess and Lee Lynch. (Also thrilled that the book won a Goldie this year!)


I set my story in London, 1968. I was neither there nor old enough to enter a bar then. I drew the story out from my wife’s anecdotes of moving to London from Scotland in the 1960s and her efforts to find other lesbians.

However, one part of the story comes from a direct experience. The main character finds out about the Gateways club from a hairdresser. This idea came from the time we were visiting my parents in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I decided I needed a haircut and couldn’t wait until I got home. The young man cutting my hair was quite obviously gay so I didn’t hesitate to ask him if there were any gay clubs in town. (Bear in mind, this was some time ago – pre-Google.)

He told me there was one, called BJs (now called Paparazzi, I believe). So my wife and I went out for dinner one evening and I’m sure my parents wondered why we were so long. They knew the restaurant we’d gone to and it wasn’t known for slow service. The club wasn’t very busy when we got there and we did feel a bit awkward. I know we talked to a woman who was sitting on her own and we danced to a few songs.

That was in the early 1990s and while writing the story it struck me that it was just as hard then to get information about gay life as it had been thirty years earlier.

My contribution to Our Happy Hours is called ‘Gateway to Heaven’. In this excerpt, my character is gathering her courage to take the next step on her journey to find a place where she belongs.

She licked her lips and then rested her head on the wall. Could she really go through with this? Maybe she should have gone to see the play instead.

The clothes she’d bought on her Saturday excursion to Carnaby Street were a loose fit. She hadn’t been able to try them on, telling the salesman they were for her brother. At least she knew how to knot her tie; her old school one, but no one here would recognise it. The tie was in her jacket pocket. Tom, the hairdresser who had told her about this place, had told her to wait until she was inside the club to put it on.

Her aunt hadn’t been pleased when she spent her first week’s wages on a short haircut, unimpressed that it was the look favoured by Twiggy, now a famous model. “You don’t want to look like that stick insect. Oh, your beautiful hair. You must let it grow back before your mother sees you.”

She had no intention of letting it grow too long again. Now with it slicked back, she hoped it gave her the image she was trying to achieve. All the doubts that had assailed her during the week attacked at once, keeping her rooted to the spot. Would she be able to talk to anyone, ask anyone to dance? These city women wouldn’t be interested in a country hick like her. Did she look the part? What if they didn’t let her in? Did she look gay enough?

Taking that next step can be hard at any point in one’s life. My fictional story and the many contributions within this collection speak of many such moments of taking the plunge and being finally able to discover and enjoy the safe spaces in which we can be ourselves. May we never let anyone take that away.

Buy this book and tell your friends about it. Proceeds from sales go to supporting two LGBTQ youth organisations.

Bella Books / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble

List of contributors (in order of appearance in the book):

Ann Aptaker, Dontá Morrison, Rae Theodore, James Schwartz, Jennifer Morales, Cheryl Head, Heather Jane, Beth Burnett, Cindy Rizzo, Stephen Reigns, Clay Kerrigan, Earlon Sterling, Sallyanne Monti, Karen DiPrima, S. Renee Bess, Richard Natale, Mercedes Lewis, Martha Miller, Liz McMullen, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Penny Mickelbury, Johnny Townsend, Merril Mushroom, Brian Heyburn, Lee Lynch, Joan Nestle, Ian Cassidy, Angela Garrigan, Nahshon Anderson Fuentes, Ardy Tibby, Katharine E. K. Duckett, Rachel E. Bailey, Darryl Denning, Lisa Carlson, Katherine V. Forrest, Jen Silver, Shelley Thrasher, Kitty Kat, Jamie Anderson, Shawn Marie Bryan, Ann Laughlin, JP Howard, L. K. Early, Patrick Coulton, Michael Ward, Karin Kallmaker and Bonnie J. Morris.

My latest romance…with some added mystery. Available from: Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and 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?


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.


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.


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