A Literary Salon

I think ‘salon’ is the right word to describe our Happy Valley Pride Festival reading event. Entitled ‘Lesbian Writers Read’, it was held in our local haberdashery in Hebden Bridge on Tuesday evening—in a delightfully intimate setting, surrounded by displays of coloured wools on the walls, ribbons hanging from a wall at the back, and filled with whatever the collective noun is for a group of lesbians.

jen_drink

Settling my nerves

And so I was reminded of the salons of an earlier century when like-minded people would gather in drawing rooms to discuss books, art, politics…or simply to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere.

readers

As the instigator of this event, I wasn’t very relaxed but it was ‘all right on the night’, as our host, Helen Baron, proprietor of the venue kept telling me. Four months earlier when I first sat down with her in Ribbon Circus to discuss the possibility of holding this event there, I was extremely nervous. Would any other authors want to come to our little town to read? Would anyone want to come and listen to us read?

My fears were needless, and Helen was right. Everything came together. Four other published authors were keen to come along and take part even though it meant travelling from afar – Nottingham and the Peak District. Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows were led astray by their sat-nav, ending up behind a herd of cows at one point. And they still managed to arrive in time.

group_discussion

As soon as the ticketing system went live on the Happy Valley Pride website, places were snapped up at a speed I couldn’t have imagined. Within days, the venue was fully booked.

The authors all did a fantastic job, both in reading and answering questions afterwards. It was Lise Gold’s first public appearance and if she was nervous reading from her second, recently released romance, Beyond the Skyline – it didn’t show. Cari Hunter was planning to edit out some of the swear words in her selected excerpt from the third book in her Dark Peak series, A Quiet Death – but after Helen’s robust introduction to the evening, she muttered, “I’m leaving the ‘fucks’ in.”

buyer

Brey Willows read from her book, Fury’s Bridge, the first in a series and left us wanting more by ending on a cliffhanger. Robyn Nyx’s reading from the first book in her Extractor Series, Escape in Time, took on an even darker hue leading us into the past in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

My reading was from my most recently published book, Running From Love. My wife asked me beforehand which bit I had selected. When I told her, she said, “Oh yes, the fridge and the cat.” Not quite how I would summarise that part. If you want to make your own mind up as to how it should be described – here’s a link to the podcast version.

signing

So a massive thank you to everyone who turned out on a wet evening and helped make this event a success. Plans for next year will be underway soon. And if a year is too long to wait, we might be persuaded to hold another Literary Salon before then.

helen_door

The event was free – but Helen told them no one was leaving before making a donation to Happy Valley Pride!

Also, many thanks to my publisher who provided sponsorship for the event – Affinity Rainbow publications. (If you’re wondering about the logo image – it’s a kiwi.)


6books

Buying Links:

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

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

Lesbian Writers Read

The Happy Valley Pride Festival committee chose the name Lesbian Writers Read as they wanted something snappier to put in the programme than my offering of ‘Reading Event’.

When I was interviewed on Hebden Radio by Bev McGregor (host of the regular Tuesday evening LGBeaTs show) she asked why it wasn’t just ‘Writers Read’. Why did we need to announce that the writers are lesbians? I didn’t have a particularly snappy answer to her question at the time. But I think the aim of the Festival organisers was to give us lesbians more visibility during the event than we had last year. This is only the second year of the week long festival taking place in Hebden Bridge from 7 to 13 August, so I’m just glad we have a ‘reading event’ this time…and that it’s a group of lesbians leading the way.

radio

On the radio with Bev

Bev’s question reminded me though of the fact we do need that visibility. Mainstream bookshops, for example, have erased their gay and lesbian sections. I asked a member of staff in a Waterstones bookshop if they had such a section and was directed to ‘Gender Studies’.

If you’re a well-known author, then having your book placed in the general fiction section is no doubt considered a major achievement. But for those of us struggling to make a name, it’s like we don’t exist. And for anyone wanting to browse through the shelves to find new LGBT writers, they’re going to have to visit one of the few remaining specialist bookshops like Gay’s the Word in London.

Anyway, that aside, I’m very much looking forward to our Lesbian Writers Read evening. A few months ago I didn’t think this was possible…to be able to put on something like this in our small town. But it is happening…on 8 August from 7pm at Ribbon Circus, 18 Market Street, Hebden Bridge.

I’m thrilled with the lineup of authors who are willingly donating their time to come along and read, talk about their writing, and sign books (that’s right – we will all have books available on the night). I would like to thank them in advance because I know they will do a great job…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows.

Thanks to Helen Baron for offering her shop premises as a venue (as well as calming my nerves as the event looms ever closer). And a heartfelt thank you to my publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, for sponsoring the event.

Lesbian writers read – and lesbian writers will keep on writing as long as readers, lesbian or otherwise, keep on reading.

lwr_poster

The festival week is packed with a wide variety of performances featuring art, music, dance, comedy, films, speakers, workshops…leading up to a full day of brilliant entertainment on Saturday and the Pink Picnic (including the Pink Pooch Parade) on Sunday. So come along if you can, and enjoy the fun.

hvp_park_banner


4bookmarks

Buying Links:

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

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

Ironing…what ironing?

A week ago I was in Chicago at the GCLS Conference knowing that there were only two more days to go. Looking back, seeing various posts on social media, I’m sadly aware of all the people I didn’t meet. Where did the time go? Not nearly enough time to talk to everyone.

Once the conference starts on Wednesday afternoon the time just flies by. I took part in two readings and a panel, went to some other readings and panels – and spent any available time at the Affinity Rainbow Publications vendor table, selling books and talking to anyone who stopped by. 

I did manage to venture out of the hotel on the Tuesday before the conference started. The main aim of the trip was to visit the American Writers Museum. And it was fascinating – very modern with innovative and interactive displays, but I couldn’t resist a nostalgic trip down memory lane, sitting at one of the old typewriters, listening to the sound of the keys hitting the paper.

typing

American Writers Museum

Thanks to Michelle Pond for being my guide to downtown Chicago. It was lovely to just walk along the ‘magnificent mile’ taking in the architecture and landscaping of the city. So much to see and, as with the conference, not nearly enough time to absorb it all.

tower_chicago

Downtown Chicago

I’ve attended two other GCLS conferences and sharing time with my Affinity sisters is always a joy. We have a lot of fun together. Our publisher supplied us with a denim shirt each to showcase the new logo. The shirts drew a lot of positive comments and we could have sold some if they had been available.

affinity_gcls2017

From left to right: Angela Koenig, Renee MacKenzie, Annette Mori, Ali Spooner, and Jen Silver

We talked to everyone who stopped by our vendor table even if they didn’t want to buy books. And to those who did, a heartfelt ‘thank you’! I was especially pleased that my latest book, Running From Love, sold out.

bookcover_logo

I read an excerpt from Chapter One in the Author Spotlight session on Friday morning:

The cupboard was bare, as was the fridge. Sam took out the lone bottle of Corona and popped the cap. Not even a lemon or lime lurking anywhere. She took a sip and wondered what she was missing. When she spoke to Beth the night before, giving her the flight arrival time, her wife had sounded a bit distant, but nothing that couldn’t be put down to Beth being tired after a full day’s teaching.

This wasn’t quite the homecoming Sam had anticipated. Maybe Beth was bringing home a takeaway. Sam sank into the recliner in the living room and kicked off her shoes. She closed her eyes.

The sound of a car door closing jerked her awake. She had been on the verge of dropping into a deep sleep.

Sam stood and stretched. She hoped Beth had picked up something tasty. The snack she’d had on the plane had been hours ago and her stomach was rumbling. Beth came into the room, still wearing her coat. She looked drained. It must have been a particularly bad class today. Sam smiled and moved towards her. “Hey, it’s good to be home. But I hope you’ve brought some food. I’m starving.”

“Sorry. I haven’t…”

“Okay. We can go out. The Thai won’t be too busy on a Thursday.”

Beth held up her hands to stop Sam embracing her. “I need to talk to you.”

“Sure, okay. Where’s Hermy, anyway?”

“Where she always is when you’re away for more than two days.”

“Oh, pigging it out at Barb’s, I suppose.” “No. She’s in a cattery.”
“What?”
“It’s very nice. She likes it there.”

“No way! She’ll be screaming the place down. How could you?” Sam stared at Beth. It was like looking at a stranger, not the woman she’d shared the last fourteen years with.

“Sam, sit down, please. There’s something I have to tell you.” “Something worse than abandoning our baby in a cattery?” “Um, well, yes. I’m leaving.”
“L…leaving?”

“Well, I’ve left, actually. I didn’t want to just leave you a note.”

Sam sat down again. Beth perched on the edge of the sofa.

“Why?” Feeling like she was trapped in a nightmare, Sam’s heart was pounding wildly.

‘I’ve met someone.”

“I see. And how long has this been going on?”

“Six months.”

Tears threatened. Sam could feel the prickling behind her eyes. It made sense now. The extra hours at work, going in on Saturdays sometimes, preparation for inspections, workshops on lesson planning.

Beth started to speak again. “It just sort of happened. You’ve been away so much recently.”

“After all the time we’ve been together, this just started to bother you?” Sam sniffed, determined not to cry. “Fourteen years. And those vows you made less than two years ago? Those meant nothing to you? Because I meant every word.” Her anger was building now.

“I’m sorry. I can’t explain it.”

“And who is she? This wife stealer?”

Beth looked away and said softly, “Lydia.”

“Lydia,” Sam repeated. “Lydia. Carmichael.”
“Yes.”
“So, you’re fucking the head teacher. Good move. Guess you’ll get that head of department job after all.”

“Sam, I…”

“Oh, don’t! I can’t bear to hear any more. Just get out!”

Beth pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “This is where Hermy is. I’ve paid the bill. They’ll be open tomorrow at nine.”

Sam closed her eyes, not wanting to watch the love of her life walk out on her. “Leave your keys.”

She slumped back into the cushions on the sofa. Heard the keys drop onto the table, waited for the footsteps to recede, the front door to close, and the car to drive off…then the tears came.

When she opened her eyes again, the room was dark. She groped around for the lamp’s switch. The circle of light reached across to the table in front of her. Beth’s keys lay on top of the cattery invoice. And next to them a ring; the twin of the one on her finger. The ring they had chosen together. The ring engraved with “Forever yours, Beth and Sam, 1 April 2014”.

April Fools’ Day. They had joked about it at the time but figured it was a date they would always be able to remember.

So the GCLS Conference is over and it’s back to the real world. Plenty to occupy me here at home…but I think I can ignore that pile of ironing for another day or two.


6books

Buying Links:

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

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

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

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

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

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

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


 

GCLS 2017

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

(from The Walrus and The Carpenter in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1972)

I’m sure over the next week many things will be talked about at the GCLS Conference in Chicago—possibly not any of the above.

Once upon a time I memorised all the verses of The Walrus and The Carpenter, as well as The Hunting of the Snark. That’s the kind of thing some of us did in the days before our time was taken up playing online games and checking social media alerts.

Anyway, I’m not planning on reciting what little I can remember from either of those two excellent works by Lewis Carroll.

However my schedule does include the following:

Tuesday evening: unpacking boxes with a team of volunteers

Wednesday morning:  laying claim to Affinity Rainbow Publications vendor table and generally helping out where I can

Wednesday afternoon: taking part in the Open Mic session where I plan to read from my short story, Con Virgin Convert – which is one of the stories included in the Conference Call anthology edited by Ann Roberts, which will be on sale at the conference – and can now be pre-ordered from Bella Books (available shortly after the conference ends).

BEL-ConferenceCall_2

Thursday morning: early doors – 8:30 panel session – Across the Genres, Why I Write What I Write. Our moderator is MJ Lowe and the other panellists are Erica Abbott, Donna K Ford, Catherine Friend, and Bonnie James.

Friday morning: 9:50 Author Spotlight with moderator, Suzie Carr. The other readers are Ann Aptaker, Stefani Deoul, Cheryl A Head, Micheala Lynn, Michelle Reynolds, Kenna White, and Barbara Ann Wright. I will be reading from my latest novel, Running From Love.

Then there is the author signing session, also on Friday from 5:30 to 6:30.

So, it’s looking pretty busy. In between times, I will either be at the Affinity vendor table, or attending other sessions. Then there’s all the excitement surrounding the Awards Ceremony on Saturday evening.

Please do drop by the Affinity table, always good fun and this year Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie, Ali Spooner and myself are joined by Affinity author and editor, Angela Koenig.

fireballs

Darla made us do it!

Sunday will roll around all too soon and I will be saying goodbye to old friends and new.


6books

Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / 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 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


 

Summer of love…GCLS and Happy Valley Pride

June is proving to be a busy month.

GCLS 2017

I’m getting geared up for my next adventure—attending the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in Chicago. This will be my third time at the conference. The first two—New Orleans in 2015 and Washington DC in 2016— were pretty amazing. How could they not be – with so many lesbians in one place!

I expect this one will be just as exciting…a chance to meet up with old friends and new. If you’re at the conference this year, please stop by the Affinity Rainbow Publications table. We’re a friendly bunch and always happy to talk with anyone who comes along—you don’t have to buy a book (really!!). The Affinity authors hanging out there with me this year are Ali Spooner, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie and Angela Koenig.

table_visitors

Two illustrious visitors who stopped by our table last year!

Amidst the serious business of readings, workshops, keynote speeches, book signings, and awards, there’s always time for fun and laughter…and hugs if Beth Burnett is anywhere in the vicinity. As she can tell you, I was a bit hug-averse at my first conference. But at the end of three and a half days, Beth told me my hug-ability had improved 110%. Not bad for a reserved Brit.

This year I’m on a panel moderated by MJ Lowe, entitled: Across the Genres: why I write what I write. My fellow panelists are Erica Abbott, Donna K Ford, Catherine Friend, and Bonnie James. We’re scheduled for the first session at 8:30 on Thursday, 6 July…so, set your alarms and bring coffee!

The Author Spotlight groupings have just been released and the group I’m with has the 10:10 slot on Friday. It’s going to be amazing…Suzie Carr is moderating and it’s an enticing line-up…Ann Aptaker, Stefani Deoul, Cheryl A Head, Micheala Lynn, Michelle Reynolds, Kenna White, and Barbara Ann Wright. I’ve started practicing reading, as I don’t want to mess up in front of anyone here, plus I know how strict they are with the five-minute timings for each reader.

Happy Valley Pride Festival

happylogo

Then just one month after I get back home from Chicago, it’s time for the second annual Happy Valley Pride Festival in my own backyard, Hebden Bridge. This is a whole week of LGBT fun. And this year we have a special event titled “Lesbian Writers Read” sponsored by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Rainbow logo

I didn’t have to twist their arms very hard…absolutely thrilled that these four UK authors will be joining me to read from their books…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx, and Brey Willows…on Tuesday, 8 August from 7 to 9pm at the Ribbon Circus. Check out the Happy Valley Pride website which will have regular updates between now and the start of the Festival to let everyone know about all the great events happening during the week.

New book release

run_final

And finally, I guess I should mention that my latest novel was released last week. Running From Love was certainly a labour of love, as I managed to combine writing about two of my favourite things…romance and golf. Sure to be a winning combination! You can read the first chapter on the Affinity website.


6books

Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / 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 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


 

Golf and romance

Golf isn’t just a game played by retired colonels and rich widows. A lot of lesbians play golf. We have a small ‘ladies’ section at the club I belong to – out of the 30 women who play regularly, at least seven of them are lesbians.

The straight women don’t mind. The married ones know we’re not interested in their husbands, and the widows know we’re not competing for the attentions of any available men.

34DE5726-F065-4258-A468-E01765060292

Bad hair day on the course – it looks like I have horns!

So when I was writing Running From Love  I wanted to portray the game as something that can be enjoyed without gender or sexual orientation bias. While I am well aware that not all golf clubs in the UK are compliant with equality and some are downright sexist, I know from my own personal experience that there are clubs that manage to get it right.

Running From Love is, essentially, a romance. But there is a golf theme as well. All the protagonists end up at a newly opened golf resort in Cornwall to learn how to play the game.

run_final
Back of the Book

Sam Wade returns home from a business trip to discover her wife of just two years has left her for another woman. Beth, a high school teacher, wants a divorce so she can settle down with her new (closeted) love, head teacher Lydia Carmichael.

To take her mind off the break-up Sam accepts an assignment to learn to play golf at the newly opened Temperley Cliffs Golf Resort in Cornwall. Beth and Lydia also plan their first summer holiday together.

Coming out, at whatever stage in one’s life, is never easy. Several characters in the story have to make decisions that will affect not just their respective partners but also how the wider world sees them. There is more than one way to run from love; from never having to make a commitment and say those magical three words, “I love you”.

Find out what happens when this diverse group of people find themselves together—sport, betrayal, jealousy, and love form an unforgettable fusion of emotions.

So, whether or not you’ve ever thought of playing golf, or think it’s just for people with nothing better to do with their lives than chase a small ball around a field, maybe this book will change your mind. Or maybe, you can just enjoy the romance and forget the golf.


books17

The books are available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.


 

Getting Down and Dirty

In a week’s time I’m off to Vindolanda again. This will be my fourth year of digging there as part of their volunteer programme. And this is their final year of a five-year project called ‘Frontiers in Transition’.

It is two weeks of hard work, but the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of everyone there is what makes me keep going back. Other people have pictures of children or pets as screen wallpaper on their computer/tablet/phone. I have a photo I took of the Vindolanda site and surrounding countryside. Just can’t wait to see the real thing again!

vindolanda_2016

I’ve blogged about two of my previous digs and how I was inspired to go initially in the interests of research for my debut novel, Starting Over. (May 2015 / September 2016)

I learned a lot of things on my first visit, not all of which made it into the story. The detailed planning was one aspect that really impressed me. Each year the archaeologists on site have a plan specifying which areas can be uncovered. I thought that as the Vindolanda Trust owns the land they would be able to dig anywhere, but they have to apply each year to the SMC (Scheduled Monuments Consent) to outline which areas they want to explore and the related research objectives. This was evident on my second year when we were told to stop when we reached a certain point in one of the trenches. When we asked why we couldn’t keep digging there, we were told it wasn’t in that year’s plan to extend beyond that section.

(News from the first 4 weeks of digging this season.)


Book news

Aside from the digging, maybe I will have the energy to write while I’m away. I’ve started work on a Christmas story and have another novel at the 40,000-word stage.

And on June 1st, Affinity Rainbow Publications will be releasing my new novel, Running From Love. Look out for some excerpts on Facebook in the next few weeks.

This week I was thrilled to see a new review of The Circle Dance, published by Lynn Lawler. She has taken the time to analyse each of the six main characters, which I found fascinating (and informative).


books17

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