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.

newton

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.

bl_entrance

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.

awards2

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.

lee

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.)

hvpride

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.)

digging

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.)

agincourt16

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?

libertine

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


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


 

My Christmas message

 

wine

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.

hotelsheep


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


 

Reading Habits

Six years ago we bought our first Kindle. It was supposed to be ‘ours’ but we quickly realised that wasn’t going to work.

I remember the first ebook we purchased for the allegedly joint device – choosing it together – Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey. Brilliant story, which I would like to reread, but it’s on what soon became my wife’s Kindle.

Six years on, we not only have separate Kindles, but also our own iPads. Sharing the first iPad went the same way as the e-reader.

The main reason for getting a Kindle in the first place was because we’ve run out of shelf space for paper versions of books. We still buy books and Christmas is the time when we accumulate more. Instead of trying to think of what to buy each other for Christmas, we just exchange book lists a few months before. Then on the day when we unwrap them, we can say, “Oh, great! I forgot I asked for this.”

xmasbooks

Last year’s haul of Christmas books

So, how have our reading habits changed?

For one thing, I no longer know what my wife is reading on a daily basis. As a result we don’t talk much about the books we’re reading. She knows I’m usually reading lesfic or another fiction genre that she’s not interested in. But I really have no idea what she’s reading unless I ask. It’s most likely to be something fact based: science, history, and biographies. Occasionally she will read a crime book. I know that Ann Cleeves is a favourite.

The other main thing I’ve noticed is that we both spend less time reading, especially if reading on the tablet. Then it’s ten minutes reading before switching to checking Twitter, Facebook, or playing a game.

Love them or loathe them, I think the e-reader is a necessity for us. Otherwise we would have to move to a bigger house or hire a storage unit.

books1

A small selection of the books in our house – mostly old and a few new favourites


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


 

Celebrating Christmas Crackers

crackers

I love Christmas Crackers. One of the reasons I set my current novel, Christmas at Winterbourne, at this time of year was so that I could share some really, truly, awful cracker jokes with readers.

Some examples – not all used in the story (answers at the end of the blog):

  1. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
  2. Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
  3. What did the beaver say to the Christmas tree?
  4. Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
  5. What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?

I could go on, but I won’t.

xmashat1

It may seem like a peculiar tradition to people in other countries—pulling apart a roll of decorated cardboard—to reveal a paper hat, a fairly useless toy or trinket, and a terrible joke which you can share with everyone at the table.

But to me, a Christmas meal feels incomplete without it. My sister obviously shares the same ‘cracker’ gene. I dedicated this book to her because as noted in the Acknowledgments, “she is responsible for providing the tale of a misguided attempt to smuggle Christmas crackers into Amsterdam.”

So, I hope you’ll join in the festivities at Winterbourne House and pull a cracker or two with the staff and the guests…a lot can happen in four days!

christmas1

Answers:

  1. Frostbite!
  2. A mince spy!
  3. Nice gnawing you!
  4. Because their days are numbered!
  5. Jingle Smells!

(Note: The answers have exclamation marks because if you know the answer or announce it to the other people who can’t get it – you yell it out with glee!)


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