My top 3 Sci-Fi/Fantasy books

I’ve read a lot of science fiction/fantasy books in my time. Earliest ones were The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin (I’m a sucker for any books with maps – loved the hand drawn archipelago in these books), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the Narnia series by C S Lewis, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien (yay, more maps!).

So when I discovered there was such a thing as lesbian science fiction/fantasy, I was immediately in love with a whole new set of characters: female warriors, scientists, pilots…you name it…everything the boys could do, these women could do, and better!

So here are three of my favourites in this truly wonderful genre of lesbian fiction.

First up, Daughters of the Coral Dawn by Katherine V Forrest. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. I even have a ‘first edition’ published in 1984 by Naiad Press. This book and the two that complete the trilogy have been re-released with new covers by Bella Books. And although the new ones have modern-looking science-fiction-y covers, I like this one…with the haunting coral eyes of the woman who becomes the colonists’ leader on their new planet when they escape from Earth, Megan. Not sure about the hairstyle, no doubt very 1980s – but the description of Megan in the book is that she is always dressed in black and white – black pants, mid-calf boots, and white shirt. Very sexy.

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My favourite character though, is the narrator, Minerva the historian. Especially when she finds love with a younger woman, when she thought the time for loving another had passed her by.

Second, Return to Isis by Jean Stewart, the first in the series of five, originally published by Rising Tide Press in 1992. One of my ‘go to’ series to reread on occasions when I want a good blast of lesbian sci-fi.

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On first reading, there seems to be a clear distinction of the tightly controlled male dominated hetero-normative world of Elysium in the eastern part of the US and the utopian-styled Freeland in the west. But, as with any human attempts at achieving Nirvana, there’s always a snake in the grass, as warrior Whit finds out when she returns to her home colony after a few years undercover in Elysium.

The women in these stories go through a lot as they try to survive in a hostile world, fighting against outside forces as well as contending with their own internal battles of jealousy and intrigue.

I was sorry that the author stopped writing at novel number five in the series. I certainly wanted to read more about Whit and Kali’s adventures.

Third, but not least by any means, is Fires of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe, published in 1994 by New Victoria Publishers. This is the second in the series and although I do enjoy rereading the first book, Shadows of Aggar, it’s Royal Marshall Gwyn, the main character in Fires of Aggar who is my favourite. Her bondmates are two sandwolves and the connection the three of them have is a big part of the appeal of this story.

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Chris Anne created a fantastic medieval type world with Aggar and the society of Amazons who come from another planet to help the citizens of Aggar through difficult times.

Unfortunately the author succumbed to cancer at a very early age. A group of her friends have continued the series using outlines and notes Chris Anne left behind. But they haven’t really managed to match the tone and style of the first two books, in my opinion.

There is now a vast array of lesbian science fiction/fantasy novels to choose from. But these are my first three picks from a time when lesbian books of any genre were hard to find pre-internet and Amazon. I was thankful for the Silver Moon bookshop in London and the mail order service offered by West and Wilde in Edinburgh, my main book buying sources for lesbian fiction in those days.

I haven’t ventured writing a science fiction/fantasy novel myself. So I do admire those who have managed to create compelling stories that draw the reader into other worlds.


6booksBuying 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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


 

Crime and Plotting

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Checking the programme for ‘Alibis in the Archive’

I spent last weekend listening to authors and publishers extolling the virtues of a life of crime at an event held at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, along with eighty other interested people. In mainstream fiction, crime pays. We were told that it is the best selling genre. We even had a presentation on the various ways and means to poison someone. Luckily nowadays you are less likely to get away with it than you were in the nineteenth century when forensic science was an emerging discipline.

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The speaker’s platform in the library

I was particularly encouraged though to hear two successful writers admit that they don’t plot their novels ahead of time. These were Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera and Shetland detective novels, and Stella Duffy OBE who has crossed several genres with her books—notably crime and historical.

They were also impassioned presenters, speaking for forty minutes without notes, sharing anecdotes and insights into their thought processes with the audience.

Some members of the audience were astounded to discover that you can write a good crime story without knowing the ending at the start. Ann Cleeves said that when she started writing the first Vera book, The Crow Trap, she didn’t even have the character in mind. She was three chapters into writing the story when someone opened a door and there was Vera.

Stella Duffy is currently working on finishing a Ngaio Marsh novel, Money in the Morgue. Marsh left three and a half chapters and some notes—however with nothing to indicate whodunit or even the names of a lot of the characters. This sounds a rather daunting task but having seen Stella speak, I am sure she is up to the challenge.

I can’t compare myself to either of the above-mentioned authors, but this is very much how my stories develop. Sometimes the direction a story takes comes as a complete surprise.

For example, when I started writing the second book in the Starling Hill Trilogy, Arc Over Time, this scene in Chapter Two came out of nowhere and put a whole different spin on how Jasmine Pepper’s character was going to develop.

Just walking up the road to Max’s house was a thrill. This was a part of London she could only dream about living in. Her parents had helped her pay the deposit on her small garden flat in Stoke Newington and she was still paying off the mortgage ten years later.

She stopped outside the large white Georgian house, the engorged purple flowers of the climbing wisteria vine hanging lusciously over the front door. Taking a deep breath, Jas lifted the brass knocker but the door opened before it fell back in place.

“Ms. Pepper. Please come in.” The speaker was dressed in a maid’s outfit, although a more risqué version than any worn by those employed at nearby royal palaces. When the maid turned to lead her down the hall, Jas got a view of the young woman’s bare cheeks. She swallowed nervously. What was she letting herself in for?

Max was leaning against the fireplace in the large sitting room where the scantily-clad maid had taken her. The sight of her hostess looking imposingly handsome dressed in a close-fitting tuxedo dispelled her misgivings. Whatever this evening was leading to, it was likely to be more fun than a lonely night in front of the telly watching repeats of Rizzoli & Isles.

Interesting what happens when a door opens.

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Gladstone’s Library

It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and I can recommend a visit to Gladstone’s Library. I will certainly be keeping an eye on their yearly programme of events as a return visit is definitely on the cards sometime in the not too distant future.


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

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


 

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).


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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


 

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.

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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

 

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!).

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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.

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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


 

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.”

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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.

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


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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


 

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.

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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!

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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