Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reunions - Ade and Barbara have a confab #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQ

Well, I wanted to post a New Year’s Eve snippet, but the only part of Reunions I’ve written for NYE is about Shaunna and Andy, and they’re not LGBTQ. But! I do have a scene from Christmas Day that links to the NYE scene by one degree of separation. ;)

Brief explanation:
Shaunna and Andy are a couple. Ade (in the snippet) is with Kris, who was married to Shaunna. Barbara (in the scene) is Andy’s mum. They’re all at Barbara’s rather grand house for Christmas dinner, and there’s some (huge) awkwardness going on between Kris and his stepdaughter (Shaunna’s daughter). Barbara is worried it will ruin the day for everyone.

Here's the snippet:
“It won’t,” Ade assured her. “Kris respects you. I’d even go as far as to say he loves you. You’re his second mum.”

“I’m very fond of him, too, and it’s lovely to see him happy at last. Well, I imagine he was happy with Shaunna…” Barbara pursed her lips before she said something she ought not.

Ade made a point of looking around the room they were in. “That window lets in a lot of light, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does, especially considering the time of year. The rest of the house is a little on the dark side, mind you.”

Ade nodded, still facing the other way. “Did Andy crush on her as badly when he was young?”

“Oh, he was shocking,” Barbara admitted with a certain amount of relief. For a minute, she’d been worried she’d offended Ade, but judging by the sweet smile he offered her, it wasn’t so.

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Louise Lyons #lgbtq #scifi



How exciting! This is my first cover reveal for another author, and I feel like I've been holding this precious secret for ages. At last, I get to share it with everyone else. What a privilege! :)

Before that, though, here's what you need to know about the book:

Title: Regeneration
Author: Louise Lyons
Release date: January 15, 2017
Genre: Gay fiction, science fiction, MM romance
Length: 75,000 words
Cover design: Simon Searle

Blurb
In the 23rd Century in the galaxy of Sigma Kappa, Kim Fortune was the first surviving experimental enhanced human—a regenerate. Aged fifteen, he escaped the lab and years later, his failings as a regenerate and the suspicion of regular humans, leave him lonely and lacking in self-worth. Stranded on an abandoned planet, the arrival of a stricken ship and its crew give him hope that he may finally find what he always longed for—love.

Christian Novak is a successful regenerate with all the intended attributes—including lack of human emotion. Despite their immediate attraction to each other, Kim's failing confidence, and Christian's inability to empathize are a recipe for disaster. But war, imprisonment, and danger throw them together, and after each saves the other's life, their feelings begin to change.

Can a seemingly unsuitable pair ever find love, or is a future together destined to fail?

Pre-Order Links
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NAL4NJ8
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NAL4NJ8
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/688822

And here is the cover!


This has a wonderful Star Trek Generations feel to it (IMO), which is one of my favourite films, so it's all good. :)

Author Bio
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy.

Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late twenties. Posting stories based on some of her favourite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing "hobby" more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad dog called Casper, collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races home afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and job, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.

Social Media

Facebook: www.facebook.com/louiselyonsauthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/louiselyons013
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/louiselyons013
Instagram: www.instagram.com/louiselyons013
Blog: www.louiselyonsauthor.com
Email: louiselyons013@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Writing Round-up Part 1: Those Jeffries Boys


I made the decision this year, to take a couple of weeks off for Christmas. You may well be reading this and thinking 'that didn't go very well, did it?' which would be fair comment, although my intention was to take time off from Beaten Track, and I've stuck to it with one exception, which was a Boxing Day discount event on All Romance eBooks. Obviously, that couldn't wait, but the twelve emails I've set aside can.

The break from publishing was mostly so I didn't miss Christmas again (that's what's happened the past couple of years), and it's been lovely to spend time at home, mostly with Nige + dogs and cat. Jasmine comes and goes - more so than Beth, which is amusing, as Beth's left home and Jasmine hasn't (she says she's never leaving).

It's also been a chance to do some writing-related stuff that needed my attention long before now, and I'm really going to try to properly set aside time for my own writing in 2017 and beyond. Partly, it's about re-conceptualising. Regardless of how often I've told other people that their creative pursuits are important, I still treat my own writing as a reward to be enjoyed when all the other work is done. And the other work is never done.

2016 has been a tough year on a personal level. Nige was diagnosed with cancer and had fairly drastic surgery that earned him the nickname of 'Nearly Headless Nige'. He got the all-clear post-operatively and in his six-month follow-up.

We also lost both my dad and Nige's stepdad (I can hear my sister saying, 'We didn't lose Dad - he's under the desk.' We have no idea what to do with the ashes.)

All of this is balanced against #1 grandson going from strength to strength after a 12-week early start in life in September 2015.

In case we were getting complacent, #2 grandson is letting his presence be felt.

I'll briefly mention that my mum's had eye surgery and her gall bladder removed (she's doing great, she says). She turned a rather glamorous 70 this month...

 Beware of mothers bearing knives... :D
My sister made that cake - how good is that!

...which brings me quite nicely to the theme of my first writing round-up post of 2016 - first ever, in fact - which is parenting, kind of, although I didn't write with that specifically in mind. It began with this online conversation with my BF/editor:
Andrea
Ooer excitement in the office
Eye candy

Deb
Oh?
Tall, dark, handsome?

Andrea
CHECK
Like a long lost Jeffries maybe

Deb
Dayum

Andrea
Maybe not as handsome as a Jeffries
but as close as I'm going to get
And ended with me writing Those Jeffries Boys. For Andrea. Mostly. Yes, OK, I wrote it for me, too. I'll come back to those fine chaps in a moment.

See, with all the madness of this year, my perception is that I've barely had time to write, and yet, when I updated my 'Deb's Catalogue' spreadsheet in preparation for this post, I had to wonder: was I writing in my sleep? Granted, I'm about 100k words down on the previous three years, but I've written 392,478 words this year. Goodness!

So anyway, back to Those Jeffries Boys. The novel was released on 26th May, 2016, part of Hiding Behind The Couch, and it's a character special featuring Mike, Andy and Dan Jeffries. Andy and Dan are main characters in the series, and they are 'alpha males' with all the associated traits this notion conjures (competitive, sporty, muscular, etc. etc.)

For the purposes of Those Jeffries Boys, the story is told from Mike, Andy and Dan's points of view (a chapter each) with a bit of Shaunna's point of view along the way, because she's a push-in.

Speaking of Shaunna, here's her #1 fan (and father of aforementioned grandsons - the 'superhero' - folding laundry (and Shaunna, just for you, Ashley ;)):


Here's a better pic:



Now, at some point, I made illustrated excerpts for marketing the book. I think I posted them. It's all a bit of a blur. Whatever, I thought I'd include them here, as part of an illustrated/excerpted blurb (click images to see larger versions):

* * * * *

Those Jeffries Boys

cover design:
Decorous Anarchy Studios


Three brothers: doting dads, dealing with the everyday challenges of fatherhood.



Following the imprisonment of his ex-girlfriend, Mike Jeffries has one priority: his six-month-old daughter, Bethan. Between caring for her and being a self-employed painter and decorator, he's already got enough on his plate, without his sisters-in-law insisting he's ready to date again. Now Bethan's grandmother intends to fight him for custody, and Mike's not sure he can rise to it.

Always up for an adventure, Andy Jeffries has finally found the perfect challenge: keeping the woman he loves satisfied and raising their twin daughters, Rosie and Sorsha. The problem is everyone else thinks he needs more, and dealing with his brothers' trials and tribulations means he's getting it, whether he wants it or not.

Dan Jeffries is about to become a father for the second time, and he's terrified, not that he's the kind of man to admit it. But after the premature birth of his daughter, Shu, he's taking no chances until his son is safely delivered into this world, which means putting a hold on his hunt for the perfect family home. However, the house he wants comes with a very big price tag, and not of the monetary kind. 

* * * * *

Those Jeffries Boys is available as an ebook (epub, mobi, PDF) and at some point I will make the paperback.

Buy Those Jeffries Boys:


As always, I'm happy to answer questions/talk about my writing, so if you fancy leaving a comment, that would be awesome.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Monday, December 26, 2016

Checking Him Out For The Holidays - Free until January 1st 2017

I've extended the giveaway to the end of Hanukkah.

Here are the links and coupon codes:

Smashwords: https://is.gd/bfjmQG (coupon: KV22Z)
Beaten Track: https://is.gd/3XBEKT (coupon: KV22Z)
All Romance eBooks: https://is.gd/nGRgDO

Blurb:
Freelance engineer Sol Brooks doesn't do the festive season. He thinks it's boring and overly sentimental. With the rest of the household laid up with 'the flu', Sol's planned on using the time to crack on with some work.

His mother, however, has other ideas.

And so does Sol's husband, Adam.

A stand-alone holiday special featuring Sol and Adam from Checking Him Out.

* * * * *

WARNING: this story contains sex acts between consenting male adults.

* * * * *

In this series:
Checking Him Out (book 1)
Checking Him Out For The Holidays
Hiding Out
Taking Him On (book 2 - Noah and Matty)
Checking In (book 3)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (with the Davenports part 3) #amwriting

WIPpet numbers for 21st December, 2016:
21 for the date and 7 Davenports = 217 words :D

* * * * *

This week, I’m following on from my last WIPpet post, when Pete made a saucy remark and (mostly) got away with it.

In context, Eleanor is one of ‘The Circle’—the nine friends at the centre of the Hiding Behind The Couch series. Now aged 40, she’s the eldest of the Davenport ‘children’. Charlotte—aged 35—is third eldest and still lives with their parents, as does Pete—the youngest at 23.

This scene takes place on the last Sunday before Christmas; the Davenports are getting ready to go to church before heading down to Ben’s (second eldest) for the Davenport family Christmas.
“We’ll wait in the car,” Eleanor said curtly. She thought she’d got the gist of Pete and Charlotte’s conversation, and she wasn’t impressed. With a firm grip on Toby’s hand, she ushered her mother out of the house.

Charlotte stood to zip her jacket. Pete’s mischief amused her, but she didn’t dare show it in front of their mother and Eleanor. “I hope your knees are in good shape this morning, matey.”

“Why?” Pete asked.

“You’ve got some serious praying to do.”

Pete crammed the rest of his toast into his mouth and took his plate to the sink, gulping down the glass of juice in one go. He covered his mouth and belched. “Excuse me.”

“Excused. Come on, or she’s gonna kill us.”

Pete followed his sister into the hallway and grabbed his coat. “You know there’s only one reason I’m coming, don’t you?”

“To keep Mum happy?”

“OK, two reasons.”

“What’s the other?”

“The new tenor.”

“Who? Norman?”

Pete shoved Charlotte out of the door. “Norman joined the choir when I was still singing soprano, and he’s really not my type. The new guy—”

“Vital statistics?” Charlotte interrupted.

“Twenty-five, single, brown hair, hazel eyes…”

“Hot?”

“They had to top up the font for the christening last week. The water evaporated when he walked by.”
* * * * *

Christmas Freebie of Checking Him Out For The Holidays
(available until 28th December):
On Beaten Track (coupon: KV22Z)
On Smashwords (coupon: KV22Z)

* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pet Peeves of a Writer #amwriting

I've been tagged by the gloriously talented author Jonathan Hill to write a blog post on writer's pet peeves. If you haven't read any of Jonathan's stories, go and do it right now! My blog post will still be here when you're done.

OK, so, pet peeves, hmmm... I'm not sure I have any. Ha. Who am I kidding? (No-one, I imagine). I have loads, although they're either so ginormous they're less 'pet' and more 'keep in a safari park in an enclosure marked PLEASE KEEP YOUR VEHICLE WINDOWS SHUT AND LOCK ALL THE DOORS!', or they're so tiny and fleeting they're gone and forgotten before I can get too peeved.

I love writing. There is not one story I've written that I don't at least like, and of the 'works in progress' on my computer, there are only a couple I'm not fond of...right now. It's more a case of how daunting the task is of turning them into stories I'd be happy to put out there for others to read.

I guess that's pet peeve #1: redrafting a story I'm not fond of, because the process of unpicking and restitching plots can be a right pain in the neck. For instance, I have a novel (around 100k words) called Meredith's Dagger, where history and the present / fact and fiction collide.

It's steeped in the local history of Ormskirk and Lathom in West Lancashire, and there's a strong feminist current to the plot (specifically, the way in which, throughout history, independent women have been demonised and/or deemed mad).

The novel needs a tiny bit more than a bit of a polish. I'll get there. I'm confident of that. :)

Pet peeve #2 is related to the above: simultaneously having the time and the motivation to write is a rarely experienced joy. I'll look forward to a day earmarked as a writing day and when it finally arrives, I stare at the page and think...nah. I'll just play around with creating book covers instead. (So far, I have three finalised covers for books - Love's Folly being one - I have not yet written.) It's not even a case of writer's block. I could write, but I'm not in the mood. Conversely, when I am burning to write, I haven't got a pair of minutes to rub together.df

Pet peeve #3 is the reason there's a random 'df' at the end of the previous sentence, courtesy of one of the three pet peeves who share my house/writing space (and no I don't mean my husband and daughters, although... ;) )

George (cat) does like to add his own little contributions, or decides he needs fuss right here and now, in front of the screen and on top of the keyboard.

Trig and Moo (dogs), on the other paw (and particularly Moo - pictured) like to lure me from my computer for walks, or to open the front door to invisible callers, or open the back door so Moo can peer out and give me the look that says: 'It's too cold/hot/wet/windy/dark. I'll cross my legs for now, thanks. Can I have a treat?'

For all that I've included them in this list, I wouldn't be without them. They're wonderful company and so much easier to get along with than humans.

I'll stop there, because being peeved is the stuff of grumble monkeys, and no-one likes a grumble monkey. Writing is hard, but it's also rewarding and sanity-saving.

I'm passing the grumble torch to Louise Lyons and Caraway Carter, both of whom are amazing. I've had the privilege of working with Caraway on quite a few stories, including his most recent novella 7 With 1 Blow, and I've read enticing snippets of Louise's stories, but not a whole story...yet! I can't wait to read her upcoming release Regeneration, which is out on January 15th, 2017.

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reunions - Kris and Ade do Christmas #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQ

It’s the first day of my Christmas holiday. Hurray! I’m cracking on with Reunions…soon. I haven’t written any more of it yet. But I have marzipanned (yes, it is a verb, for sure) the cake (that I definitely didn’t buy pre-made). We’ve got a tree and lights and everything, so it’s all going according to plan. Mostly. Sort of. OK, there is no plan.

Anyway…

Rainbow Snippet time.

Snippet context: It’s Christmas morning. That’s all you need to know. :) 

Here’s the snippet:
“Good morning, Mr. Johansson,” Ade sang—actually sang—holding the ‘-son’ for a count of four as the curtains swished open on a still-dark world. The bedside lamps came on, first one, then the other, and Ade clambered back into bed.

“Good morning, Mr. Simmons.” Kris fought a smile, endeavouring to hide his amusement and surprise. Ade was not a morning person. “It’s—” Kris lifted his head and squinted at the clock “—five-thirty? That’s early even for me.”

“All the more day to do Christmas with,” Ade said, his tone decidedly sultry as his hand slid under the duvet.

* * * * *

Christmas Freebie:
A Midnight Clear (available until 19th December)
On Beaten Track (coupon AB54V)
On Smashwords (coupon AB54V)

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Thursday, December 15, 2016

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (with the Davenports part 2) #amwriting

WIPpet numbers for 14th December, 2016:
((14x12)/16)x(2+0)=21 paragraphs

* * * * *

I’ve missed a chunk out to keep this as short as possible, but this week, I’m following on from my last WIPpet post, when readers wanted to know: “Who’s staying in Pete’s bed?” Read on!

In context, Eleanor is one of ‘The Circle’—the nine friends at the centre of the Hiding Behind The Couch series. Now aged 40, she’s the eldest of the Davenport ‘children’. Charlotte—aged 35—is third eldest and still lives with their parents, as does Pete—the youngest at 23.

This scene takes place on the last Sunday before Christmas; the Davenports are getting ready to go to church before heading down to Ben’s (second eldest) for the Davenport family Christmas. Toby (in the snippet) is Eleanor’s son. Note: this is ‘hot off the keyboard’.
“Who’s Pete got staying?” Eleanor timed the question badly, as her mum was on her way back down and heard her.

“It best be nobody,” she grumbled on her way to the toaster. She slammed two slices of bread into the slots, gave the kettle a shake to check the water level and switched it on, checked the time and switched it off again. “He can have juice and like it.”

“I dunno,” Charlotte answered belatedly. “Did you ask him?”

“Hm. He told me to go and say hello. I’m not going in there. It’s a pig heap.” Eleanor tossed her head back to indicate broadly in the direction of Pete’s bedroom. As she did so, something soft and heavy collided with her shoulder, and she spun in her seat, ready to thump whoever was responsible. “What in— Well! Would you look at the size of that!” She got up at the same time as Toby launched from his chair, but she wasn’t close enough to catch him and could only watch in perceptual slow motion as he dived head first towards to floor…and into the enormous pillow. It had to be at least six foot long.

“Golly. That’s a big one.”

“Ah!” Charlotte managed to say before the giggles took her again. “You thought… The pillow… Someone staying…” She bent over double. “Oh, God, it hurts.”

“Charlotte!” their mother hollered. “Enough!”

Undaunted, Pete gestured to his eldest sister—“Ellie, meet Mr. Cuddles”—and then to the pillow—“Mr. C, this is Ellie.”

“Funny, you are not,” Eleanor said.

Pete grinned and crouched down to Toby. “Good, isn’t it?” he asked.

Toby nodded enthusiastically and rolled away, clinging to the giant pillow with both arms so that it was on top of him, then underneath him, then on top of him—a toddler lint remover, gathering all the bits of fluff from the kitchen floor.

Eleanor shook her head, disconcerted. “To think of the fortune I’ve spent on toys when I could’ve just got him one of those.”

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought,” Pete confirmed. “And it was great value. Free P and P. I could’ve got a second one for half price, but there’s no room for a third.”

“A wh…” That was as far as Eleanor got, because Charlotte instantly stopped giggling and gawped at Pete with a mix of horror and amusement. They’d lost Eleanor; one glance in their mother’s direction confirmed she didn’t understand, either.

Their mother dumped a plate on the table. “Get that down you, quick,” she told Pete. “We need to leave in ten minutes.”

“That’s ages yet.”

“And you haven’t shaved.”

“Can’t go to church with a beard,” Charlotte said before their mother could.

“Why not?” Pete protested. “The disciples had beards.”

“You’re not a disciple. You’re just a sad single man who shares his bed with a man-size cushion.”

“And Jesus.” Pete gave Charlotte a surreptitious wink.
* * * * *

Christmas Freebie of A Midnight Clear
(available until 19th December):
On Beaten Track (coupon AB54V)
On Smashwords (coupon AB54V)

* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, December 12, 2016

O Christmas Tree, Of The Bauble new YA story + free ebook


Yesterday, we finally got around to putting up our Christmas tree...which means we first had to buy one. A few years back, in an attempt to persuade the rest of my family, I compared the ecological impact of having a real tree every year vs manufacture and disposal of an artificial tree, thinking I'd win with logic and statistics. I lost.

Unless we were to keep an artificial tree for more than five years, it's greener to stick with the real deal, especially if it's recycled after Christmas, which ours always is.

However, finding a real tree this year was a bit of a trial. The place we used to buy from was only a mile down the road from us, but they stopped selling Christmas trees a couple of years ago, so we've had to go further afield. I also insisted on a Scots pine, which - according to the seller we got our tree from this time - is rarely being grown for the Christmas tree market because they're less reliable and not as uniform as the spruces.

So now you know.

At our first port of call, we found five spindly Scots pines that would've made Charlie Brown proud; second stop, not a Scots pine in sight, but we hit the jackpot on our third attempt (which would've been our first if I'd got my way, but hey-ho).

Then there's the cat. Everyone, this is George:


The fact his name and colouring match up to a couple of members of one of my fictional families is a fun coincidence - I promise he came with that name, and we didn't dye him ginger. ;)


Christmas Freebie of A Midnight Clear
(available until 19th December):
On Beaten Track (coupon AB54V)
On Smashwords (coupon AB54V)

Anyway, George is - so far - unimpressed by the tree. We thought he'd be all over it, and we're kind of disappointed he isn't, in spite of us purchasing baubles that have bells inside them, which means, in essence, we've decorated our tree with twenty cat toys!


On which note...we also bought all new tree decorations yesterday, because Nige was worried he might find an enchanted bauble in amongst our decorations stored in the attic.

How was that for a lead-in to a shameless plug? :D

Not so shameless, if I'm honest.

This Thursday - 15th December - is release day for my Christmas novella, 'Of The Bauble'. It's a fantasy romance with a dash of humour, suitable for 13+ readers.

In fact, I wrote it specifically with LGBTQIA young adults in mind (in particular, B, Q and A), and it was great to be able to draw on my fourteen years' experience as a high school teacher (I always knew it would come in handy for something). Of course, spending time with young people isn't the same as being one, and it's quite a while now since I was a teenager. It makes the feedback I received from a young adult who read an advance copy all the more important - huge thanks to JM, for reading and sharing your thoughts.



The blurb:
When nineteen-year-old Kieran O'Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.

Box includes:
- a hapless but not altogether helpless student
- a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or...well, quite a few)
- a funky older sister
- the coolest mum in the world
- a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
- an insightful ex-girlfriend
- twinkle lights
- tinsel
- baubles

* Warning - may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it's a book by Debbie McGowan - did you expect anything else?) *

Of the Bauble is a young adult, biromantic/non-binary fantasy romance.



You can read the first chapter on my website.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Of The Bauble - #RainbowSnippets #YA #LGBTQ

Well, I knew I hadn't taken part in Rainbow Snippets for a while, but I was horrified when I discovered the last time was August! :o

I'll leave the explanation at it's been a helluva year for all of us and move on.

This week, I'm gearing up to the 15th December release of my Christmas novella - Of The Bauble. It's a young adult humorous fantasy romance, which hopefully readers of all ages (13+) will enjoy.

Here's the blurb:
When nineteen-year-old Kieran O’Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.

Box includes:
- a hapless but not altogether helpless student
- a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or…well, quite a few)
- a funky older sister
- the coolest mum in the world
- a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
- an insightful ex-girlfriend
- twinkle lights
- tinsel
- baubles

* Warning - may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it's a book by Debbie McGowan - did you expect anything else?) *

And here's the snippet:
“Let me try this.” Jinn leaned towards me, but I dodged out of the way. “You do not wish for me to kiss you, Kieran?”

“Can we clarify the semantics first? I don’t wish it.”

“Ah!” Jinn laughed. “Nor do I wish for you to wish it.”

“Besides,” I said, “it’s better in private.”

“A bench at a bus stop is private—” Jinn nodded towards my first-kiss bench and then pointed down at the pavement “—but here is not. Yes, I see.”

I felt myself blush. “It was dark,” I reasoned, which was true, and there had been no one else around to witness it.

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (with the Davenports) #amwriting

It's WIPpet Wednesday! Hurray!

So...I chose this particular scene from Reunions (which at this rate won't be finished until 2018!) because it's the 7th and there are seven ‘children’ in the Davenport family.

In context, Eleanor is one of ‘The Circle’—the nine friends at the centre of the Hiding Behind The Couch series. Now aged 40, she’s the eldest of the Davenport ‘children’. Charlotte—aged 35—is third eldest and still lives with their parents, as does Pete—the youngest at 23.

This scene takes place on the last Sunday before Christmas; the Davenports are getting ready to go to church before heading down to Ben’s (second eldest) for the Davenport family Christmas. Toby (in the snippet) is Eleanor’s son.

As it was every Sunday, the most difficult part was getting Toby washed and dressed in time for Mass, but for once, it wasn’t Eleanor tearing her hair out whilst her terrible toddler screamed blue murder. She hid behind her mug of tea and tried to keep her face straight, but it wasn’t easy with her younger sister’s silent giggling fit going on across the table. It was horrendous when Charlotte got the giggles. They could last for hours, and at some point—probably around halfway through the Eucharist—they’d infect Eleanor, too. Then she’d be for the high jump.

“Make sure the boys are ready, please Ellie,” her mum said, as if ‘please’ made it less of a direct order.

“Boys,” Charlotte wheezed out and covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders jigged violently with her out-of-control mirth.

“Oh, be quiet, child!” their mother snapped, which, of course, had no effect whatsoever. “Well, what’re you waiting for?” The death glare homed in on Eleanor.

Fighting the urge to answer back, she set down her cup and calmly left the room, making sure she was well on her way up the stairs before she let go of the breath she’d been holding. She took out her phone and sent a text message to Charlotte:
Make me laugh in church and I’ll tell Mum about the spare room.

With a smug grin, she put her phone back in her pocket and knocked on Pete’s door. A grunt came from inside the room. Pressing her face close to where the door met the frame, she called through the gap, “You up, Pete?” Another grunt. Her phone vibrated.
WTH?! Who told you?

That was exactly the response she’d expected. Charlotte could’ve feigned ignorance—The spare room? What about it?—but it had only ever taken ‘if you don’t do X, then I’ll tell Mum Y’ for her to cough to everything.

Eleanor hit reply and typed NOYB. In fact, no-one told her, or not the whole story. Her mum had phoned one night to complain about finding a condom in the spare room—Teddy’s old room—which Charlotte had just decorated. Charlotte said she’d found it under the bed and blamed Teddy, even though he’d left home five years ago. Eleanor thought nothing of it at the time; contrary to the way their mum spoke to them—and the way they were behaving—they were all adults, and anyway, their mum had always said she didn’t care what they got up to as long as they did so safely.

A couple of weeks later, Eleanor and Shaunna were chatting online and Shaunna mentioned... [spoiler removed!] He was a good-looking guy, maybe not husband material. There again, Eleanor didn’t imagine Charlotte was on the market for a spouse of any kind. She had her coaching and her career. It didn’t leave much time for relationships.

Eleanor knocked on Pete’s door again.

“All right, already,” he shouted, followed by a mumbled, “For Christ’s sake. I didn’t even say I was going.”

“Like you have a choice,” Eleanor said as the door was flung open and her youngest brother stomped past in a sleep-crumpled heap. Eleanor glanced into his dark room and spotted the lumpy form in the bed. “Err, Pete?”

“What?” He stopped, one hand on the bathroom door.

“Who’s…” Eleanor thumbed in the direction of the bed.

Pete smirked, said, “Why don’t you go and say hello?” and disappeared into the bathroom.

And...

If you'd like to know what happened in the spare room, you can find out in Those Jeffries Boys, which is free until 12th December from Beaten Track, All Romance eBooks or Smashwords (use coupon code FE49B for Beaten Track/Smashwords).

What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, December 05, 2016

Where haven't I been? A post-November update, snippet and freebie

I haven't posted in almost a month, which is madness, but then, my work schedule has been full to busting. Between teaching for the Open University (three assignments to grade within a month) and preparing ten separate publications (one of them an anthology) for November/December releases, I've stopped only to sleep...and to win NaNoWriMo by the skin of my teeth.

And I wrote a Christmas novella, which is out next week (15th December) - more on that next time. For now, you can find out more and/or (preferably and) preorder it via the links on this page:


 

So...all of that means I've missed the Wednesday WIPpets and the Rainbow Snippets for ages. It's about sharing, and I didn't have time to fulfil my part in that, but I'm hoping to get back on track over the next few weeks.

Well, I'm hoping to finish writing Reunions and do some reading for pleasure, actually.

I also have a few editor reviews to catch up on (as in, all the publications I've worked on since September - sixteen of them! :o).

For now, here's a snippet from Reunions. This is from one of the many scenes I wrote during November in a mad frenzy that means I'm reading back now with barely any recollection of writing the words in the first place. Funny things, brains.

The scene: Adele and Dan's house on Christmas morning. Shu is four; Robbie is three months old - and if you're a series follower, and you're wondering when Robbie arrived, have a peek at Those Jeffries Boys.

In fact, here's a one-week offer of a free download of Those Jeffries Boys (expires 12th December 2016):

Just because I can. :) After all, what point is there to writing if you don't get to read? And if you feel bad about not paying for it, please give that money to someone who needs it, or buy someone a hot drink or a pair of gloves, or whatever. I'll leave it up to you.

Anyway, here's that snippet I mentioned a bit back:
Adele switched her phone to her other hand and covered her ear to block the shrieks of excitement from Shu. She had to raise her voice to be heard. “So it looks like we’re stuck with it in the house until spring.” At the other end of the line, Shaunna was finding the whole situation hilarious. “You might well laugh,” Adele grumbled. “You haven’t got a gigantic playhouse taking up half your living room.” Another wild shriek from Shu; Adele covered her eyes and turned her back on them. “Oh my god! He’s left Robbie to come down the slide on his own.”

“Just how big is this thing?” Shaunna asked.

Massive!” Adele said, more despondent than bragging, and she wasn’t exaggerating. Including the stilts, the cabin-style playhouse was seven feet tall, with a balcony that was three feet off the ground, complete with a slide, miniature deck chairs, little square windows, curtains, cushions… Dan even planned to fit it with central heating. A playhouse with central heating. The man was insane!

Thanks for reading. :)
Deb x

Monday, November 07, 2016

Blog Tour - Walking by Faith - A.M. Leibowitz - Review, Excerpt, Interview

Title: Walking by Faith
Author: A.M. Leibowitz
Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Length: 261 pages

Goodreads

Categories/tags: LGBT literature, Christian fiction, bisexual, genderqueer, romance, contemporary, disability

Purchase Links:
Amazon | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Publisher

Synopsis:
For Becket “Cat” Rowland, falling in love has never been easy. The summer he meets Micah Forbes, the intensity of his feelings brings back all the memories of eight years earlier.

Following a brutal attack that left him nearly dead, Cat is a mess inside and out. To cope with the trauma and with his view of himself that he’s nothing but an empty shell, he’s taken three vows: simplicity, chastity, and silence. His once colorful, trendy, and often feminine wardrobe has been replaced with jeans and t-shirts, and he’s sworn off men. He locks himself away from the world, using the memorized prayers of his childhood as his only speech.

Cat is lost to himself and everyone around him until another hospitalization introduces him to nurse David Simms. David takes Cat’s silence in stride, caring for him without pushing and slowly building Cat’s trust.

Outside the hospital, Cat discovers he has more in common with David than he knew, and they begin to build a friendship. As it slowly grows into love, David reveals his own need for someone to take him as he is. Cat begins to let go of his vows one by one, only holding onto the silence.

Despite how far he’s come, Cat’s increasingly severe panic attacks threaten to undo everything David has helped him build. Cat’s only hope is to break the final vow and tell the truth about the night of his attack. When David fails to keep a promise he made to be there for him, Cat has to stand on his own and prove to himself he’s strong enough to survive.

Prequel to Passing on Faith.

Review:
Walking by Faith is the prequel to Passing on Faith but published after Passing on Faith, although this isn't really a sequential series, and the books do NOT need to be read in any particular order. I did read Passing on Faith first, but I plan to read them the other way around someday, when I've forgotten the stories (I'm not entirely convinced I will ever forget them).

Where Passing on Faith tells Micah's story (in which Cat Rowland is a prominent feature), Walking by Faith is about Cat, and A.M. Leibowitz has done something rather clever here (aside from the eloquent vocabulary and exceptional knowledge of medicine and religion that underpins the narrative, that is). When I was reading Passing on Faith, I kept thinking 'I really want to know Cat's story', as Micah is constantly in the foreground (right where he likes to be, I'd wager). Walking by Faith delivers in that regard. Yet, had I read this book first, I'd have been rewarded with snippets of Micah - the future beyond Cat's formative years - and I'd have been thinking 'I really want to know Micah's story'.

In short, whichever way you read these books, there are teasers for the one you didn't read first, which is...cunning, and fun.

I use the term 'fun' loosely. Walking by Faith is Cat's story, and it's a harrowing one. Note: this is not a 'romance' in the narrow sense to which we have become accustomed; there are love stories that unfold in both books, but they are part of a whole, and this is less fairy tale, more gritty reality. It's impossible to explain what I mean by that without spoilers, but readers should be prepared for some heartbreaking moments.

In this respect, I'm glad I read Passing on Faith first; it helped me to prepare for what was ahead.

The blurb makes mention of the 'brutal attack' that left Cat nearly dead, as well as David's role in helping Cat along the road to recovery, of both body and soul. Their friendship/love is complex, and it develops organically. It's a relationship that requires some ingenious communication workarounds and a whole lot of patience (on David's part). However, it is not the mainstay of the novel. There's certainly enough there for those who enjoy a love story, but it is only part of Cat's journey through self-imposed purgatory.

Cat is queer, and in his 'natural' state, he's a colourful, lively character whose clothes - a kind of gender mix 'n' match - and make-up reflect his personality and identity. The impact of the attack is vividly manifested through his attempt to cast out the 'pretty' and 'queer' aspects of his self-identity; one of the most poignant scenes in the novel is Cat's fight to resist the lip gloss his sister LR gives to him.

From Cat through to the guy in the piercing place, the characterisation is consistently outstanding. This, for me, is the key to a good story. I'm not interested in action-packed plots or adventure, although those are fine, so long as the characters are solid. I need to 'see' the character in my mind - not their physical qualities so much as their conscious presence. If an author gets this right - which A.M. Leibowitz does - the reading experience is intense, the proverbial emotional roller coaster. All of the characters in Walking by Faith are authentic. Some are...really not nice, yet at the same time, I found myself affording them the benefit of the doubt I afford people in real life who act despicably. Well, all except one, and if in book three, that one gets their comeuppance, I won't shed any tears. That said, having read a few of this author's stories, I know they have a knack for redeeming the seemingly irredeemable.

All in all, Walking by Faith is not an easy read. It deals with some difficult issues, specifically: the consequences of a violent attack, the challenges of handling long-term medical conditions and the effect these both have not only on the individual, but on their family and friends, their relationships - their life. Yet, for all of that heavy stuff, there's humour, love and intimacy, and plenty of good times.

This is definitely one to keep on the shelf to read again.


About the Author:
A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.

Social Media:
Blog | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | Tumblr | Google | Pinterest

Tour Stops:
Charley Descoteaux – November 1
Caraway Carter – November 2
Shan Jeniah’s Lovely Chaos – November 3
Fallon Brown Writes – November 4
Nephy’s World – November 4
De-blog – November 7
Louise Lyons author – November 7
Dawn Sister – November 8
Governing Ana – November 9
PenPaperPad – November 10
Mann’s Ramblings – November 11

Excerpt:
Bryce had made him feel dirty.

Why do you have to be so gay?

Landon had made him feel dirty.

You’re very pretty.

Cat stifled a tiny, wounded noise, letting go of his nipples and raising his eyes to look at his face. His hair had grown so it brushed his shoulders. He’d always liked it longer, though not enough to tie it back. When he was with Bryce, he’d had it chin-length. A memory surfaced of being in Bryce’s bed. Bryce had loved Cat’s hair, at least until he started pulling away and claiming Cat was too girlie.

With a snarl, Cat pushed the memory aside. It was his fault for always wanting what he shouldn’t, and now he was going to make it right. He turned to the sink and grabbed a pair of scissors LR kept in the vanity drawer for trimming her bangs. Standing in front of the mirror again, he lifted handfuls of hair and cut them off, not caring how jagged he made the locks. He cut and cut, clumps of red-gold landing on the tiles at his feet.

Not pretty. Not pretty. Not pretty.

Dry, angry heat burned behind his eyes in his cheeks as he shredded his hair, and a sob caught in his throat. When he couldn’t cut any more, he let the scissors clatter to the floor. He dropped down too, leaning against the vanity with his knees drawn up. He felt so lost, no longer sure who he was.

He almost missed the knock on the door. “Kitty Cat? You okay in there?”

Cat wrapped his arms around his knees when LR opened the door a crack and peeked in. She looked from Cat to the piles of hair on the floor, and her face turned from worry to shock back to worry.

“Oh, Kitty,” she said. “Oh.”

LR stepped in and closed the door again. She sat down with him, not even complaining that he was stark naked when she folded him into her arms. She rocked him, stroking what was left of his hair and waiting for him to stop shaking.

Interview:
What inspired you to write this story?
People kept telling me how much they loved Cat in Passing on Faith, so I wanted to tell his story. But I didn’t want to simply re-tread his romance with Micah from his perspective. This was sparked by a quote in PoF where Cat’s sister says he’s in “shut-down mode” and won’t talk to her. I wondered why not.

Is there a character you feel especially connected to? Why?
To Cat, of course, although he is really only one aspect of my inner self. His questions and mental dialog about his gender mirror my own. But I also feel linked to Cat’s mom, as a parent myself.

What was the hardest part of writing this?
Getting the emotions just right. It is really hard to show the kind of gender dysphoria both Cat and I experience, and I also sometimes find it hard to pour feelings out on the page—as though I’m revealing too much of myself in them.

Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.
I’m working on several things: The next part of my Notes from Boston series; a young adult coming of age novel; and the last part of Cat and Micah’s story, Keeping the Faith. I’m always busy working on something.

What led you to write in your genre?
A cross between stumbling on slash fan fiction and my desire to write snark about my state’s public education system. It was all downhill from there.

What misconceptions do people have about your genre?
That it’s straight women writing for straight women. That is true in some circles. But some of us are specifically LGBTQ+ people writing for an LGBTQ+ audience. I don’t mind if straight women enjoy my books, but it’s important to me that it’s clear my work is intended for other rainbow folks.

What do you wish people understood about your genre?
That would take a whole blog post. Mainly I want people to understand that LGBTQ+ voices should take center stage in books where LGBTQ+ people are the stars.

Word Sprints!
  1. What’s your favorite season? Summer

  2. What’s the best part of the day? Late morning

  3. What superpower do you wish you had? Invisibility. Wait…I’m bi, so I have that. *wink* (LOL)

Thank you, A.M. Leibowitz, for stopping by with another wonderful story.
*Still rooting for a miracle.* ;)

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bookkeeping (punny) - Hiding Behind The Couch #amwriting

I posted my author 'review' for Those Jeffries Boys on Goodreads yesterday. The book came out back in May this year, but it was only when I posted the review that I discovered a couple of readers of HBTC had missed it. Sorry about that!

So, I thought I'd write a quick update on the Hiding Behind The Couch series – as a whole, and where I'm up to with writing. All of the titles (except Reunions) are links to the Beaten Track listings, where you will find the links to order from your favoured vendor.

Most recent additions:
The Wag and The Scoundrel – 22/09/16
Those Jeffries Boys – 26/05/16
Chain of Secrets – 14/02/16

Upcoming releases:
Class-A – 01/12/16
Reunions – TBC

That's where I'm up to with writing. Reunions is about half written, maybe. It's currently around 106,000 words (I have no end goal on word count – when it's done, it's done), but it's a bit all over the place. This year has been a tough one for finding blocks of time to write, which is what I need when I'm working on one of the 'seasons' or I lose the threads and have to read back to pick them up again.

You can read a lengthy teaser from Reunions in last week's blog post.

All titles (most recent releases first):
The Wag and The Scoundrel 22/09/16
Those Jeffries Boys – 26/05/16
Chain of Secrets – 14/02/16
Hiding Out – 18/05/15
Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium – 05/04/15
Two by Two – 31/03/15
Ruminations – 14/02/15
Red Hot Christmas – 15/12/14
A Midnight Clear – 01/12/14
Crying in the Rain – 11/11/14
Breaking Waves – 01/06/14
In The Stars Part II – 01/06/14
In The Stars Part I – 01/01/14
First Christmas – 01/12/13
The Harder They Fall – 14/06/13
Beginnings – 31/05/13
No Time Like The Present – 15/11/12
Hiding Behind The Couch – 01/07/12

All titles (reading order):
Beginnings
Ruminations
Class-A
Hiding Behind The Couch (Season 1)
No Time Like The Present (season 2)
The Harder They Fall (Season 3)
Crying in the Rain
First Christmas
In The Stars Part I (Season 4)
Breaking Waves
Chain of Secrets
In The Stars Part II (Season 5)
A Midnight Clear
Red Hot Christmas
Two by Two (Season 6)
Hiding Out
Those Jeffries Boys
The Wag and The Scoundrel (Gray Fister 1)
Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium
Reunions (Season 7)

Box Set One (ebook) is also available, which consists of:
Beginnings
Ruminations
Hiding Behind The Couch (Season 1)
No Time Like The Present (season 2)
The Harder They Fall (Season 3)
Crying in the Rain
First Christmas

Thanks for reading. :)
Deb x

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions - liquid fire - #amwriting

What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404

* * * * *

It's a long one, but I wanted to post the full scene. I wrote this part of Reunions a while back, but I've missed Josh and Shaunna, so I thought I'd post something about them. Plus, the maths works:

(2016+10)/27=75 sentences

In this scene, it's Christmas Eve, and Shaunna is on Josh-sitting duty whilst George (his husband) is attending a neurology appointment.

Here's the WIPpet:
It was a prime viewing spot; from his location, at one end of Shaunna and Andy’s kitchen table, Josh could see all the way to the bottom of the garden, although his focal point was far closer than that.

“Didn’t you put up the fences at your old place?” he asked Shaunna but with his gaze still fixed on Andy.

“Yep,” Shaunna said, also watching Andy, who presently stopped working, pulled off the thick woolly pullover he was wearing and used it to mop his sweaty brow. Throwing the pullover to one side, he picked up the next fence panel. His jeans slipped down, his t-shirt rose up, his back muscles tensed, and Shaunna and Josh gave a mutual, dreamy sigh.

“According to him, I’m not allowed to do it in my condition.”

Josh nodded thoughtfully, on the outside a calm, contemplative veneer, underneath it a swirling blur of ponderings about how George was doing with Rab McAvoy, if Libby was coping, whether they’d got enough food for all their Christmas guests, if Sean had remembered to mark the third-year essays before he left for— “What condition? Are you pregnant again?”

“Not a chance.”

“He’s being sexist?” Josh’s hair bristled, and he narrowed his eyes.

Shaunna glanced his way and laughed. “I’m too hot for fence-fixing, apparently. I’ll distract the neighbours.”

“Oh!” Josh blushed. “What are your neighbours like?”

“This side—” Shaunna tilted her head to the left “—is Mrs. Lane. She’s lovely, but a major nosey parker. She knows everything about everyone. That side—” Shaunna thumbed to her right “—is the Cousins family. Jo and Mark and their three kids. They’re OK…mostly.”

“Why only mostly?”

“They have…” Now Shaunna blushed. “You know how our house is joined to theirs?”

“Hm?”

“Their bedroom is on the other side of the wall to ours.”

“Oh. Erm, well…music?”

Shaunna grinned. “Yeah, that does drown them out. It’s more…if we can hear them, then…”

“Oh! I meant were they playing loud music, but you mean you can hearing them doing…it?”

“Yep. And they aren’t that noisy. It’s the bed banging on the wall, and—” Shaunna noticed how pink Josh was and burst out laughing. “Sorry. But you did ask.”

“Ah. Hm. Yes, I did. Why don’t you ask Jason where he got the soundproofing for the studio?”

“I would, but it might weird him out.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s my daughter’s best friend.”

“She knows you have sex.” Josh rolled his eyes. “Obviously. She wouldn’t exist if you didn’t.”

Shaunna gave him a funny look.

“What?”

“Nothing.” She’d seen Josh in this kind of mood a few times now. It was so different to his usual quiet seriousness that sometimes she didn’t know what to say. Now being one of those times. And he was starting to fidget. She reached up and unclipped her hair. “Here. This’ll keep you busy for a while.”

Josh was already on his feet. Moving to stand behind her, he lifted Shaunna’s long wavy locks and ran them between his fingers, smoothing out any knots before he separated her hair into two sections and began plaiting.

“Have you ever considered a career as a hairdresser?” she asked.

“Not even once. Do you think I’d be good at it?”

“You’ve got the listening skills, and a…fascination with hair.”

“Obsession. Yes. But only with your hair.” Josh sighed in contentment, and Shaunna chuckled. She knew what was coming before he said it. “Liquid fire.”
Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Losing my Religion

I've just watched/listened to Pentatonix singing 'Hallelujah', almost to spite the constant posts on social networks that kept declaring it would give me chills.

Well, that backfired gloriously.

I used to be a Christian. A real, actual practising Christian. I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday of my own free will from the age of three or four - I don't recall how old exactly; my memory doesn't stretch back that far.

I loved Sunday school so much, even though I now know that when Mrs. Joss and her grown-up daughter Katrina (who might have only been fifteen, but that was grown up to me) told me 'that's excellent, Debbie' in relation to my paintings, they were lying through their teeth. Still, I guess it's not a sin to lie if it preserves a child's self-esteem, but the fact is, I can't paint now, never mind when I was three, or four, or at any age since.

The Josses held Sunday school Christmas parties at their house, which was exciting, as I didn't get out much, partly because I was asocial and unpopular, partly because of my upbringing.

Imagine that in 2016: Sunday school leaders hosting kids' parties in their houses.

Whilst I loved Sunday school, for the learning, the activities, and the encouragement, my love of the church was of a very different kind. I remember our vicar - who had always been known as 'Father'...something, he had glasses and dark hair - being replaced by the 'Reverend' RJ Brunswick. Regardless of his formidable presence - we lived between the vicarage and the church, and he used to waft past in his black robes like some kind of malevolent dark mist - the people of the parish called him Father anyway. He was, in actuality, very nice, if not a little stern - certainly not the kind of laid-back vicar we were used to.

The church was Anglo-Catholic - or 'high' Church of England - with a sung Mass, although it was sung in English. I loved that, too - the minor keys, the power of the organ reverberating into the rafters, the unity of a hundred voices singing the Gloria, the Credo, the incredible dynamics that we had all learned and perfected -

pp ...he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, mf and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, ff and ascended into heaven, pp and sitteth on the right hand of the Father...


- standing for the procession and recession, kneeling to pray, singing hymns at the top of my voice, examining my surroundings in extraordinary detail during the sermon - the stations of the cross, the painting of Jesus on the cross behind the high altar, the stained glass windows, the carvings in the pulpit, pews and font. Every single last thing about being in the church, joining in Mass, was  awe-inspiring to me.

This, in spite of my dad, who was 'lapsed' Orange Order, telling me I attended a redneck church. It was said tongue-in-cheek, even though it was a time of immense political upheaval in the North of Ireland, and we felt the ricochets in the North of England even before the action geographically shifted our way.

A lot of children lose interest in the church when they reach their teens. Now, this may be a distinctly English phenomenon, or a distinctly Deb phenomenon, but my parents didn't go to church with me, and there was no parental pressure to continue. And I believed. I believed in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Holy Trinity. I'd felt its presence, its power.

I did try other churches - all Christian - during my early teens. I attended an independent methodist church and affiliated youth club for a while. I even attended a Roman Catholic church a few times because it had the only Brownie pack with vacancies, and I attended a different methodist church for Girl Guides, but I returned to my church every time, and on the last occasion, it was to join the Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade.

I was confirmed by the Bishop of Liverpool, which allowed me to move up the ranks in the Brigade. After I moved from the North-West to London, I was promoted to warrant officer, and...

This is where I skip the bit about breaking commandments, because all of the above is really no more than a factual preamble, and my moral downfall had no effect on my faith nor the opportunity to continue practising it.

So many times I felt...uplifted - what Christians will tell me is the power of the Holy Spirit entering my soul. Simply being inside the church, with the incense and the echoes and the organ and the everything had a profound effect on me, emotionally, physiologically, spiritually.

Later, I went to university and studied social science, and still I held on to my conviction that I was a Christian, even though I heard the restrained contempt for my ignorance in my lecturer's 'OK. Fair enough.' By then, I'd also been thrown out of the parish church worship group for writing a stage show that condoned homosexuality. The vicar's ultimatum was that we (Nige and me) rewrite it so it was in keeping with the Scriptures or we were out. I argued with him for two hours, because all he had was that Old Testament Sodom and Gomorrah stuff. He didn't mention Paul's letters, and neither did I, because I was winning, apart from the being kicked out part.

The new vicar came to see us a few years later and made a vague attempt to lure us back into the fold, but I'd got the message. Our kind were not welcome in the Church, and so be it. I could keep my Christian faith and still despise/pity/forgive the people who bent God's word and Jesus' teaching to their will. I could still be a Christian...

Until I wasn't.

I don't know when it happened. It wasn't a sudden switch - Christian one minute, atheist the next. Sometime between graduating and the vicar's visit, my faith dissolved. Here and now, I can go as far as believing Jesus existed but as a revolutionary, not the son of God, and I can even accept there being the potential, in a universe of infinite possibilities, for this whole shebang to be intelligent design.

I am an atheist, and I do find it difficult to respect other people's beliefs, although usually when they use them to persecute 'sinners' and incite hatred, because nowhere in any translation of the New Testament was that the kind of man Jesus was. Or perhaps I'm recalling through a rose-tinted looking glass. It's a while since I read the bible.

Mostly, I don't miss my faith. I don't feel bitter or miserable or smugly terrified that when we die that's it. Nor do I necessarily believe in life after death, or not life as we know it (Jim). I rather like Carl Sagan's contention that we are all starstuff. We came from the stars, and we return to them. There's my heaven, out there in the universe.

What I do miss is that overwhelming tingle-shiver-wow. I sense echoes of it from time to time when I read a brilliant line in a story, or hear a musician blessed with natural musicality. I get a sense of it from other people and their everyday miracles, although my need to keep my emotions in check (I don't do crying...in public) mutes the impact.

There's no denying that Christian songs are the ones that most often evoke this response in me. I mock it, but Graham Kendrick's 'Shine Jesus Shine' has the tingle factor, as does O Holy Night in pretty much any form (except Mariah Carey). My favourite is the version by BarlowGirl.

On the other hand, I get a different sort of buzz from MelodySheep's Symphony of Science remixes. It is these that have inspired me to want to learn, and maybe one day get my head around physics. It's still a strong reaction, but it's more...cognitive, less 'spiritual'.


Symphony of Science - We Are All Connected


And then there was Pentatonix singing the 'Hallelujah'. Tingle-shiver-wow, and out.


Pentatonix - Hallelujah


Thanks for reading,
Deb x

St. Luke's Church - photograph © Copyright Alex McGregor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.