The Vera Effect

There comes a point in the books I’ve written so far, which I’ve named “the Vera effect” after the detective in the TV series set in Northumberland.

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DCI Vera Stanhope (photo credit)

In most episodes, Vera and her sergeant will have spent three quarters of the allotted two hours talking to various people and trying to make connections that will lead them to the killer. Eventually she tells her team to gather round in their very nicely appointed squad room. They sit on the couch and stare at the crime board they’ve built up during the case and Vera will say: “What are we missing here?”

crimeboard

Crime board (photo credit)

Very often it is a minor detail that they missed early on. One of the detectives will make a comment that seems insignificant or off the wall, and it switches on the light bulb. Vera and her sidekick (it was Joe, now it’s Aiden) charge off to apprehend the right person, finally—usually in the last five minutes.

So, I find this relates to my writing. I’ve set up the situation, the characters and their backgrounds and have gotten a fair way along in the story when it hits me. What am I missing here?

It’s time then to step back and look at the whole picture. This means re-reading what I’ve written so far, checking through any notes I’ve made. And then something will stand out. When I was almost at the finish line with my first novel, Starting Over, I made a discovery that led to writing a sequel, and then a third book to complete the trilogy.

I could keep you all guessing and when there was only the one book this would have been a spoiler. But as anyone can now read the back of the book blurbs and look at the cover of book three, the revelation is out there. (But if you really don’t want to know, stop reading now!)

When two complete skeletons are discovered on Starling Hill Farm in Starting Over along with a lot of quality bling, I decided that my archaeologist, Dr Kathryn Moss, had made the discovery that would be the envy of anyone involved in searching for British antiquities. One of these set of bones had to belong to Cartimandua, leader of the Brigantes tribe at the time when the Romans came back for a second go at adding Britain to its empire. (Her final resting place hasn’t been discovered, so I was able to take some historical liberties here.)

Not a lot has been written about Cartimandua. However, Roman historians, writing a century or so later, clearly had a way of keeping their readers interested. One of the things they do say about the queen of the Brigantes wouldn’t be out of place in a modern soap opera. She, apparently, had an affair with her husband’s armour bearer, Vellocatus. So, it seemed to me, that when she disappears from historical record, she could have gone somewhere with her lover. And then came the light bulb moment. Why couldn’t Vellocatus be a woman?

I’m sure it would have been very difficult to pass as a man in the first century, particularly amongst Britons who had adopted Roman habits, such as communal bathing and bathrooms. However, I’m writing romantic fiction, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to worry about such details.

So, if you like the idea of a lesbian tribal leader in the 1st Century, take a trip into the hills above Huddersfield, West Yorkshire…and read all about it in The Starling Hill Trilogy.


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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


 

Bicycle thoughts

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

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

tbt_ten_speed

A much younger me on the beloved Apollo

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

canalsep

Canal path near Hebden Bridge

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

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

The Circle Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Buying options for ebooks:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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



Life stories

I don’t read biographies generally, preferring fiction to non-fiction. However, I’ve just finished a biography that was every bit as fascinating as any romance. I read it as avidly as I would a gripping novel.

b_grier

I knew the name as I have read a good number of books published by Naiad Press in the past. However, this book provides a valuable history lesson as well as an insight into the life of a fascinating woman. Her dedication to promoting lesbian written work was formidable. And at a time when coming out was dangerous.

The biographer, Joanne Passet, has a lot of material to draw from, as her subject was a consummate letter writer and, fortunately, an assiduous archivist.

It makes me wonder what biographies in the future will look like…a trawl through Facebook memes and tweets, perhaps.

Reading this book I realised I had also read Jane Rule’s autobiography, so it was interesting to meet her again through her friendship with Barbara Grier.

j_rule

I have read two biographies of Virginia Woolf – one written by Quentin Bell and another by Hermione Lee, as well as the letters between Virginia and Vita Sackville-West.

v_woolf

With other writers, like Ursula K LeGuin and Doris Lessing, I have read some of their collections of essays and talks.

dancing_ukl

d_lessing

All amazing people and a reminder that women’s stories need to be told, their voices need to be heard. As the recent film, “Hidden Figures”, demonstrates…too many times female achievements are pushed into the background or claimed by male counterparts. It happened in the past and is still happening today.

Anyway, if you are interested in a history of lesbian publishing as portrayed in Indomitable, I can recommend it. (And it’s worth the price of the book for the inclusion of a photo with a youthful Lee Lynch!)


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

Buying options for ebooks:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

The name game

I’ve now written seven novels—five published, one due for release in June, one submitted, fate unknown. And I’ve started on number eight.

As I was thinking of character names for the new story, it occurred to me that in the interest of not repeating myself, I needed a list of previously used names in each book and short story.

So I created a table in a document and slotted in names. There are a lot. And it’s not just people; there are cats, dogs, and horses too. Combining all the characters and pets in The Starling Hill Trilogy, I came up with 37. And I may have missed a few of the minor characters.

trilogy_names

The start of the lists

Of the standalone romances, I thought Christmas at Winterbourne would be the winner with 26, but the June book with 35 has topped it. No need for alarm though, readers. There are only six main characters, the rest are the supporting cast, some of whom are only mentioned in passing. But in the interests of being thorough, I’ve attempted to put all named characters on the lists.

fish

The book coming out in June features fish – they don’t have names!

I have had to resort to searching baby name websites at times. But names mostly come to me as I start to write and I get a feel for if the name fits the characters.

This list of the Top 10 American Girls’ names in 1967 was useful and I noted that I’ve used six so far.

Lisa / Kimberly / Michelle / Mary / Susan / Karen / Angela / Tammy / Melissa / Jennifer

This list reminded me—I also named the ten hens and two roosters in Starting Over, which brings that book’s total to well past Christmas at Winterbourne and level with the June release. The residents of the chicken coop at the farm were all named after Roman goddesses and gods: Juno, Ceres, Aurora, Venus, Flora, Fortuna, Diana, Bellona, Minerva, Luna, Apollo and Jupiter.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Scrivener as a writing tool. With having multiple points of view in my novels, it’s very good for helping me keep track of character movements as their interweaving stories develop. By naming each scene, I can easily find out where I left a particular character in a previous chapter.

winterbourne-scenes-scriv

From Christmas at Winterbourne

Listing the names started out as an exercise to avoid repetition. But it has also served to give me an overview of the number of characters in each book. I was rather overwhelmed to see just how many there were – and, giving you fair warning, there’s more to come!


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

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Buying options for ebooks:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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

 

My Latest Squeeze

No, I’m not being unfaithful to my wife. Let me introduce “Squeezy”.

squeeze

Meet Squeezy

My physio recommended I squeeze something regularly to counteract the repetitive strain I experience in my right arm caused by too much mouse action when I’m writing.

I could, I suppose, have found a nerf ball, or similar. But when I saw this creature in the toy section of the supermarket, I thought it was ideal. Its presence on my desk is a daily reminder to squeeze. (I’m not at all familiar with the game, but the label on it informed me that this is the baby ocelet from Minecraft.)

Valentine’s Day is imminent but it’s not an occasion we make too much of. This summer we will be celebrating our thirtieth year together. This is the anniversary we commemorate…not the date of our Civil Partnership in 2006 or the day we converted the CP to marriage in 2014. The day we moved in together thirty years ago is the special one.

It was a risk for both of us. None of my previous relationships had lasted very long, whereas she had been with the same woman for many years. But we took the chance and here we are, thirty years later.

firehouse

Celebratory dinner – a few weeks early

I know it looks like we’re sitting in a tiled bathroom, but this is actually one of London’s trendy eating places – the Chiltern Firehouse. A fantastic meal – and we had a great view of the chefs at work.

kitchen


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

books17

Buying options for ebooks:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

British wording and other things

The team at Affinity eBooks, beta readers and editors, try very hard to weed out any obscure British-isms in my books. They are mostly successful. I get the manuscripts back during the editing process with polite comments in the margin: “Perhaps you could find another way to say this”.

I thought they did a very thorough job with my fourth published novel, The Circle Dance, but then I received an email from my American friends saying there were two phrases they didn’t understand.

The first one is, I think, a particularly Yorkshire phrase (although if anyone can put me right on the origin, I would be grateful). Taylor, the teenage girl in the story is complaining about her brother saying “and then he goes and dobs me in.”

I thought it was fairly obvious from the context that her brother had snitched on her, telling tales. But clearly this was not a phrase these readers had come across.

The second one they picked up on was from the scene were Phoebe is lost on the moor and bemoaning her lack of outdoor skills. She reflects on the fact she didn’t last more than two sessions in the Brownies “without wanting to nut Brown Owl”.

This was a bit of personal history creeping in. I quit the Brownies after two sessions, as I didn’t want to spend precious Saturday mornings sitting around a plastic fire in a draughty village hall pretending to be a kelpie. For a start, I had no idea what a kelpie was. It just sounded a bit lame, even to a seven year old who liked reading fairy stories. If I’d been told they were mythical water horses, I might have been persuaded to stay.

kelpies_sunny_day

The Falkirk Kelpies (photo courtesy of photo everywhere)

A few weeks after I left the Brownies, I wandered out of the woods near our house armed with my homemade bow and arrows and was dismayed to see the Brownie troop marching down the road towards me. They were on a nature hike. Brown Owl stopped to ask if I would like to join them. I’m sure she was a lovely, caring woman. I just shook my head and disappeared back into the woods to carry on playing my favourite game, emulating my hero, Robin Hood.

Happy days

Happy days!

Anyway, back to the ‘nut’ expression: to nut is equivalent to a head-butt. At the age of seven, I wouldn’t have been tall enough to ‘nut’ Brown Owl unless she was kneeling down. And I don’t think it would have occurred to me to try it. My character, Phoebe, has a more aggressive personality.

A head-butt is also known in the UK as a “Glasgow kiss”. This would be my wife’s preferred method of attack. She’s from Glasgow originally and I think it’s ingrained in Scots from birth.

I did Taekwondo for a number of years and loved doing the patterns but never could quite master the aggression needed to win a fight. I took part in one and came second. My wife, however, would have no problem. When I stopped doing Taekwondo, I tried Tai Chi. After I’d attended a few sessions, my wife said she’d like to come along to see if she would like it. I had told it was good exercise as well as being a martial art.

Because she was a newcomer to the class, the instructor took her to one side to show her the basic moves while the rest of us carried on with performing the pattern we were learning. He told her to grab him by the throat so he could demonstrate how to escape. She grabbed him and he had no chance. She wasn’t letting go.

After the session, she decided Tai Chi wasn’t for her. I’m sure the instructor was relieved.

taekjen1

Clearly, a posed photo – but I think it looks like I mean it!

If anyone has come across other British-isms that may need interpretation, please let me know.


In other news – I’m pleased to say that the paperback version of Christmas at Winterbourne is available on Amazon. Links: Amazon UK / Amazon US


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Buying options for ebooks:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

The Library

libview

The British Library’s courtyard with the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel rising up on the far side

This past weekend we escaped into another world, ensconced in the British Library. On previous visits to London, I’ve passed the building many times but this was my first time going inside.

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Sir Isaac Newton

First though, we walked through the courtyard with the impressive statue of Sir Isaac Newton, created by Paolozzi from a sketch made by William Blake. Overwhelmed by history already and not even past the entry.

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British Library entrance

 

The view of the King’s Library tower rising up through six floors in the middle of the building is another magnificent sight. George III, mainly renowned for going mad, was a keen collector of books (so, maybe not so mad – if ebooks hadn’t been invented, I would need a book tower like this!).

george_books

In front of the King’s Library

My wife and I were taking part in a course on Classic Crime fiction. While it covered authors we’re familiar with, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers…there were many more we hadn’t heard of. So we now have lists of numerous books to be explored.

 

As part of the course, we were able to view some first editions including one of the original ‘puzzle’ books. These were popular for a time. The reader wouldn’t know the answer of the ‘whodunnit’ until they completed the accompanying jigsaw puzzle.

jigsawpuzzle_book

Although I enjoy reading crime fiction, mainly of the cosy variety—not too gory—it’s not something I feel I could write. I’ll stick to romance for now.

Part of the romance of the trip was travelling on the Grand Central train from Halifax to King’s Cross and back.

train

grand

All in all, a spectacularly enjoyable few days…talking about books, soaking in the atmosphere of a great British institution, and discovering a deep reservoir of classic books to read.


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Buying options for my books:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

Resolutions and Repetitions

I gave up making New Year resolutions some years ago. No point in putting pressure on myself to achieve things I’ll likely give up on in the first few weeks. Several friends have decided to do a ‘dry January’. One of them is now suffering from headaches, withdrawal-type symptoms. The other one lasted three days. I’m with her.

Plus, I’ve got 5 bottles of whisky to start making inroads on. All Christmas presents, two from my beloved and the three-bottle F&M selection from my brother. My resolution, should I decide to make a belated one, could be to finish these by the end of the year. (My wife is Scottish, but hates whisky – so I’m on my own with this one!)

whisky2

I was asked fairly recently—by a young man—whether it was necessary to drink a lot to be a published author. I guess he was thinking of someone like Hemingway. I do most of my writing in the morning when the only liquids I’ve consumed are orange juice, coffee and water (in that order).

Non-resolutions aside, my first task of 2017 has been to try and finish another novel. So last week I read through the first draft of my current work-in-progress and marked areas that needed attention as well as spotting repetitions. Using the handy ‘Find’ feature in Word, I discovered I had used ‘then’ 144 times in a word count of just over sixty-one thousand. So that was an hour of my life gone as I worked through the document to reduce the total number.

Then, I moved onto the second word I had noted. This time 209 instances of the word ‘well’ were found. Well, well, well!

wordcloud

 

It seems I have a habit of starting dialogue with this word. “Well, isn’t this fun?” I suspect this stems from my own conversational tic. When I’m uncertain of what I’m going to say, I will probably use ‘well’ as a stalling device. Less obvious than a stuttering ‘um’ or ‘er’, perhaps. But not if overused.

So, another hour or so passed as I went through the document discarding ‘well’ wherever it appeared. As with ‘then’, I left some in.

‘Usual’ was another high scorer in my repetition league table but not as high as ‘well’ or ‘then’. I was pleased to find I had only used ‘wetness’ twice and ‘wet’ fourteen times. I thought I could get away with the latter as the story is set in the UK and some of the ‘wet’ words refer to the weather.

On my next read-through, I’m sure I’ll find plenty more repetitious words but I’m hoping not as many as this time. Maybe I should just put the whole document through a word cloud generator.

Back to the writing now to knock this WIP into shape. Then I can submit it and…well, hope for the best.


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Buying options for my books:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

2016…what a year!

2016 is almost at an end – and I should think we’re all mostly pleased to see the back of it. However, I will concentrate on a number of positive things that have happened in my life this year.

In Roman history, 69 AD is known as the year of the four emperors. For me, as an author, 2016 will be known as the year of having three novels published.

This may never happen again.

So, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year. Carved in Stone, Book III of The Starling Hill Trilogy, came out in February. Having this published was a thrill because when I wrote the first book, Starting Over, I had no idea there would be a second, let alone a third

The Circle Dance followed quickly, in March, and is a standalone romance set in the same area of Yorkshire as the trilogy books. Writing this was another ‘starting over’ moment, if you like – new characters, different plot, and one very special black cat.

I signed the contract for Christmas at Winterbourne in November 2015 – so it was a yearlong wait for its release in November 2016. I’ve described the process of writing this book in a guest blog for the UK Lesfic website called Journey to Winterbourne…and in part of a guest blog for Women and Words called Five and Counting.

I also contributed a short story to Affinity’s Holiday anthology, It’s In Her Kiss. Affinity authors were invited to submit stories for whichever holiday event took their fancy and the collection includes a wide range – Christmas, New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Hallowe’en. My story is called ‘Beltane in Space’, so you can see where my mind was going – fertility rites and so on – with an all female crew on a spaceship! The proceeds for this book are going to the Montrose Center, which provides services to the LGBT community in Houston, Texas.

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Affinity’s 2016 team of authors: Ali Spooner, Jen Silver, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie (Annette’s looking nervous – this was before the ceremony – when she collected a Goldie for Locked Inside.)

In July I travelled to Washington DC for the annual bun fight known as the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. This was my second time attending so it was good to meet up with friends made the previous year – and to meet new ones. Also wonderful to meet so many people I communicate with on Facebook. The conference offers plenty of opportunities to interact with authors and readers through discussion panels, readings, book signings…and book buying. (Lesson learned from the first year – take a bigger suitcase.) Years ago when I first started reading lesbian fiction, I could never have imagined meeting such iconic authors as Katherine V Forrest, Lee Lynch, Karin Kallmaker, Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, Jewelle Gomez…to name a few…plus the host of talented authors who have come along since then.

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Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of Lee Lynch?

A few weeks after getting back from GCLS, I discovered there was an event happening closer to home…the very first Happy Valley Pride, being held in Hebden Bridge…a whole week’s worth of activities. So, I immediately volunteered to help out, as well as taking the opportunity to do a reading at the poetry evening (the poets very graciously let me read prose), and sell some books. The whole range of events throughout the week was well supported by the community and the Happy Valley team is already preparing plans for August 2017. The Christmas Festive Fundraiser earlier this month was fantastic fun as well…with the lip-sync competition as a highlight. (If you want to see photos, visit the Happy Valley Pride page on Facebook.)

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Volunteering at the Happy Valley Pride Box Office

In September I took part in what has become a yearly pilgrimage for me…two weeks on my knees at Vindolanda, the large ongoing excavation of Roman forts near Hadrian’s Wall. It is voluntary and I do love scraping away with a small trowel unearthing pottery and cow bones. Other volunteers found coins, toga brooches, numerous shoes and evidence of child cremations – but I’m not suffering from find envy – not much. Again, it was a lovely group of people to be with and the two weeks passed all too quickly. (Note: I have booked to go again next year.)

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In the trenches!

In October I had a visit from my mother. She lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island, so we don’t see each other very often in person. We have weekly chats via Skype, but it was wonderful to have some quality time with her.

The annual Azincourt Longbow shoot also takes place in October – on the anniversary of the famous battle. Famous in England and celebrated for the last 600 years, because we won. Nothing against the French, of course, but I was pleased with my three arrows on this target – the ones with the red and black fletchings. (Oh, and we dress up in mediaeval type costumes – woolly hat optional.)

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November 1st saw the release of Christmas at Winterbourne …quickly followed by signing a contract with Affinity for another book, which is scheduled to be out in July. This one is a golf themed romance and the title is Running From Love.

And then it was Christmas! Where did this year go?

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So, politics aside, I feel I’ve had a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to 2017.


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Buying options for my books:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

My Christmas message

 

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I can’t compete with the Queen. She’s no doubt already recorded her Christmas message, which will be broadcast on Christmas Day. I don’t know what she will say, but analysis has revealed that her most commonly used words in the previous 63 speeches she has given during her long reign are: Commonwealth, children, families, peoples. She’s not supposed to air any political opinions so we won’t likely hear what she thinks of Brexit or the result of the US Election.

Her most memorable speech was for Christmas 1992 when she labeled it her “annus horribilis”. It had been a horrible year in personal terms for the royal family with a devastating fire at Windsor Castle and the breakdown of three of the Queen’s children’s marriages.

Perhaps, collectively, this is our “annus horribilis”. Is it likely to get any better or will the human race be wiped out like the dinosaurs with a cataclysmic event beyond our control?

Maybe there is a meteor hurtling towards us with “Earth” written on it. The dinosaurs didn’t have any pre-warning as to what was going to hit them, but we will. With astronomers monitoring the skies and full-on media outlets, we will know exactly how and when it will happen.

But, I digress. Back to the present, and a reflection on what Christmas has come to mean in our society. Christmas nowadays, in this part of the world anyway, seems to be very much a secular occasion with the commercial focus on children’s expectations of presents they want, families thrown together for enforced jollity, and single people left feeling a deeper loneliness than during the rest of the year. (There – I’ve managed to use all the Queen’s favoured words in this paragraph – except for Commonwealth!)

I have no control over any of this. I can only carry on with my life and hope that in some small way, with the publication of my books, I bring a little love and laughter into other people’s lives.

My message is simple…be kind to yourself and to those around you.

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five_books

Buying options for my books:

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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