Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Dear Mona Lisa by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Title: Dear Mona Lisa
Author: Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Published: 12th August, 2017
Categories: Literary fiction, LGBT+, romantic and family themes
Purchase Links: Amazon UKAmazon.com

Blurb:
Tom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin. In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up. But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?
Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life. Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love. A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

Review:
Reading Dear Mona Lisa was a bittersweet privilege for me, bitter only because I had to wait to read this one like everyone else! For the curious, the story began from a Beaten Track call for submissions for a collection of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters, but you know how it is (or maybe you don't...). Stories take on a life of their own, and forcing Tom and Loz to fit the submission criteria would have been an unmitigated act of butchery.

I have no words to describe Dear Mona Lisa, or none that are good enough. It's not a romance as such, but there are strong romantic elements. Those familiar with Claire Davis and Al Stewart's work will find the usual mix of down-to-earth Britishness - the dry humour, the wonderfully colourful supporting characters, and a deeply emotional exploration of the fight some of us have to maintain the stiff upper lip our culture is famed for. Oh, and foxes. And colour - it's absolutely bursting with colour.

Dear Mona Lisa is a work of art. It's a painting in words, and like you probably wouldn't pick out a specific detail of a portrait ('ooh, look at her left nostril, all dark and...mysterious!'), it wouldn't be especially helpful to pick out the detail here to illustrate what a masterpiece this is. That said, there is one line that knocked me sideways, possibly a spoiler, so I'm saying nowt.

Read it. You won't be disappointed.



Wednesday, August 09, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Slow Ride) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 9th August, 2017:

9 sentences
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2).

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—Rob has left the police and is on his way to his leaving do. The ‘them’ in the first line is Rob and Jock (see previous snippets).

* * * * *
Given the way things were between them, there had to be an ulterior motive for the call—or else someone else would’ve made it—and Rob’s curiosity was threatening to get the better of him. For the time being, he put it out of mind and focused on his riding.

Even though it was well past rush hour, the roads were chaos, and he was beginning to regret not getting the train, but the bike would stop people buying him drinks all night. He needed a clear head; he was off up north first thing. He hadn’t been home since Christmas, and in the three months that had elapsed, he’d become both an uncle again and a great uncle—never mind that he’d had no idea his brother was seeing someone, nor that his youngest niece was pregnant.

Traffic was backed up from the junction, and Rob probably could’ve got past it, but instead, he settled behind a bus and let his mind drift again. With the prospect of a couple of weeks of proper holiday, he was well up for some quality family time and bit of R and R before he set the wheels in motion for his new venture. Of course, there was no guarantee it would take off, or, if it did, how long it would take to get fully established, and he was prepared for the possibility of failure. So long as it was moving in the right direction, he’d stick with it, but he had a back-up plan: as soon as he got back from his mum’s, he was going to sign on with an agency as a security officer.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Pastor's Last Drop - Links to Video Clips and Images

Read on WattPad:
https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/115931648-the-pastors-last-drop

I will update this post as I add more chapters to the story.
(images are all in the public domain, used under Creative Commons Licence)


Cover
(Derived from 'Liverpool from Wapping', John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875)



Chapter One

Jacques Brel - La Chanson de Jackie



John Atkinson Grimshaw painting
(snipped and edited from 'Glasgow Docks', 1881)



Cobblestones
(snipped from 'Last Call')



Chapter Two

Becker - Piketipeli
(snipped and edited from 'Piketipeli')

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Achieved) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 2nd August, 2017:

2 x 8 x 17 = 272 words
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2).

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—the first line is Jock’s, who’s called Rob as he’s about to head out for the evening.

* * * * *
“Bollocks. My timing’s good as ever, eh?”

“Why? What’s up?”

“There’s a few of us getting together this evening for a pint and catch-up.”

“Crap. If there was a way I could get out of it…” There wasn’t, or Rob would’ve been there like a shot. He hadn’t wanted a leaving do to start with, but would anyone listen? “How long are you gonna be out, d’you reckon?”

“Not sure. Depends on who’s got wives and kiddies to get home to.”

“Right.” Presumably, Jock had left his down in Brighton for the weekend.

“We’re meeting at Euston. Are you anywhere nearby?”

“Yeah, at the Quarterhouse. Five minutes away.”

“How about this, then? I’ll text—let you know where we end up. If you make it, all well and good. If not, I’ll call back tomorrow and we can sort something else.”

“Perfect,” Rob said. “Have a good one.”

“You, too, mate. Bye.” Jock ended the call.

Rob saved the number and put his phone back in his pocket, this time making it out of the door and onto his bike, but his thoughts were still on the conversation as he rode into the city. He hadn’t heard from any of his old army mates in over three years, because he’d been off the grid, and even before that, when they did meet up, it was with some reluctance that they invited Jock. He was one sadistic bastard and a racist to boot, but they’d had to work together, so they’d got on with it, although Jock’s attitude was one of the reasons Rob had come out of the army when he did.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Intercepted part two) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 26th July, 2017:

20+17 – 26 = 11 paragraphs
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2)—I’ve still got little idea of where the story is going.

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—the first line is Rob’s, and he’s taking a phone call from ‘Jock’. Just in case: bought a gaff = bought a house; still got flat feet? = are you still a police officer?

* * * * *
“How’re you doing, man?”

Rob caught the microsecond pause before Jock—aka Corporal Harry ‘Jocky’ Wilson—answered, “Yeah, I’m doing all right. You?”

“I’m doing great. I thought you were still OS.”

Jock barked out a laugh. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been back five years. Forty-five and retired. Not bad, eh? Bought a gaff down Brighton way. The kids hate it, of course.”

“Still just the two?” Rob remembered Jock’s second kid only because he was born the day after Lucas—eight years ago.

“Yeah. You had any more?”

“No, unfortunately. Zoë and I got a divorce.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Cheers.” Rob braced for the question of what had happened—it was the first thing most people asked when he told them.

“So…still got flat feet?”

Rob chuckled, relieved to be let off the hook so easily. “Ask me again in five hours. I’m just heading out for my leaving do.”
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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, July 24, 2017

The 13th Doctor - does gender matter?

When the 13th Doctor was announced, I didn't think anything of it - beyond 'hurrah, Capaldi's going!' I have no reason to dislike him. I'm sure he's an excellent actor, but sometimes there's just...something you can't put your finger on, and so, as I did when Peter Davidson took on the role, I stopped watching Doctor Who.

If it's not clear already:

a) I'm a moderately avid fan of Doctor Who (yes, I know it's an oxymoron - see above);

b) I don't think there's anything wrong with the 13th Doctor being played by a woman.

There's no canonical reason why the Doctor should always be of one specific gender, and it's a positive move in a series that began in the early 1960s - a time when all TV/movie heroes were male.

However...

I have a problem with why, because it smells a bit dodgy, like the 1980s 'multiculturalism' in the UK that caused a great deal of social disharmony (more a social meltdown) in some areas of the country, which was - I'm pretty sure - the intention of those who imposed it - a case of "Here, we've given you equality, now stop whining," closely followed by "See? We told you it wouldn't work."

So that's my first question about the decision. Is this a case of men (the producers and BBC TV execs) giving women a gift and expecting eternal gratitude? As Hans Hirschi says in his blog post about the 13th Doctor (which I was going to reply to and leave it at that, but I had far more to say) - what we need to do now is keep the pressure on the BBC to ensure that this is more than just giving women a turn before reverting to how it was before.

My second question is more complex to define, and an article published in The Herald touches on it. The characterisation of Doctor Who has always been 'quirky' - an atypical hero - and whilst the fact that Doctors 1-12 were all played by male actors IS significant and reflects broader gender inequality, the character has become even less stereotypically masculine with subsequent regenerations, so it's of no real consequence - in terms of presenting positive role models for children, regardless of their gender - that the 13th regeneration has taken a human female form.

And yet, the BBC saw fit to include in their report on the announcement: "the first woman to get the role" - an announcement made, with hilarious, couldn't-make-this-up irony, following the Wimbledon men's final.

I've watched Doctor Who - and Star Trek - for all of my living memory (with a few gaps, admittedly - in both memory and viewing), thus I started watching those programmes before I had a concept of gender or ethnicity. It didn't occur to me that Uhura's position on the bridge of the Enterprise was groundbreaking, nor that Doctor Who kept coming back as a man.

Perhaps that's my naivety, and the fact that I'm so accustomed to a white male model of normality that I'm blind to his omnipresence.

Whatever, should we return to casting only quirky male actors as the Doctor?

I'd say not. We need more diverse role models of all genders across all types of programming. We also need to listen to what young people have to say about their role models, not the opinion of some old fuddy-duddy journalist (or, indeed, blogger).

One final observation: the Doctor has consistently shown a (romantic) attraction to / connection with human women. It's not always explicitly represented onscreen, but in some cases (the Doctor and Rose, for instance) it has been a significant multi-episode (or even multi-season) story arc. No doubt, some would argue that, as the Doctor takes on some characteristics specific to each regeneration, the 13th Doctor does not necessarily have to be attracted to human women, but that attraction has endured for eleven(?) regenerations. To change it would completely undo any good that comes from casting a woman in the role - a simultaneous step forward and step back.

Doctor Who was my role model, my hero, and it had nothing to do with gender. It was about how the Doctor negotiated the burden of responsibility as the last Time Lord [sic], the depth of characterisation, the moral debates, the (generally) excellent writing - the series has been a formative influence on my own creative and political endeavours...after all, that's where the name 'Hiding Behind The Couch' came from - where you'd find us when the Daleks or Cybermen invaded - in the days when we had yet to know of the Weeping Angels! :o

Most importantly of all, the Doctor has the best jelly babies - I know, because I've tried them.

Oh, and jelly babies don't have a gender either.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Thursday, July 20, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Intercepted) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 19th July, 2017:

19 - 7  = 12 short paragraphs
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
A first snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2), which so far consists of around three chapters. I started with the cover, and I have very little idea of where the story is going at this stage.

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (not between Gray and Rob).

This snippet is the start of what is currently chapter one, but that may change.

* * * * *
Leathers over slacks and shirt, helmet in hand, Rob was at the door and ready to leave when his phone buzzed against his chest.

Leave it, answer it, leave it… If it was important, whoever it was would call back.

It stopped. Rob turned the catch and opened the front door a couple of inches at most before it started up again. With a grunt, he pushed the door shut and partially unzipped his jacket. There was a time when he could’ve ignored a ringing phone—the number onscreen was unfamiliar to both him and his address book, cold caller, more than likely—but he wasn’t prepared to take the chance.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Shaz?”

“Sorry, mate, you’ve got the wrong number.”

“Nah. I don’t think so.”

“There’s no-one here by… Ah, hold up. Jock?”

“Yeah. Alright?”

“Bloody hell. It’s been a while. How did you get this number?”

“Rang your landline. Your missus gave me your mobile.”

“Fair enough.” It wasn’t like Zoë to give out his number without checking with him first, but he’d worry about that later.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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, July 17, 2017

Book Review: Leaps of Faith by A.M. Leibowitz

Title: Leaps of Faith
Author: A.M. Leibowitz
Published: July 12, 2017
Categories/tags: LGBT literature, Christian fiction, bisexual, genderqueer, romance, contemporary, disability

Synopsis:
From Christmas to Easter and from childhood through the end of life, here are ten interconnected stories revolving around one couple and the people who love them. These are tales of friendship, family, sensuality, and all the intimate moments that make them who they are, together and apart. The stories, while standalone, also fill in the gaps before and around the events in the novels in the Passing on Fatih series. Included: a youth embraces his identity; two women build a life together; a former rebellious teen finds her way; a pair of lovers explore each other's minds and bodies; a man copes with loss and grief.

Review:
It's no secret that I love character-driven fiction, which is also why I love book series. Whilst a skilled author can realistically depict characters within a single volume, portraying them in such depth that I leave the book knowing them as well (if not better) than I know people in the physical world, it's a snapshot relating to a specific time period or event in those characters' lives. Yes, it may well be perfect as it is, but sometimes (when the author gets it right) I want more.

If reading a single book is like people you meet on holiday - where you might spend an intensive week or two in their company before a teary but welcome farewell - then a series is more like your neighbours: people you see every day over a prolonged period. You get to witness their ups and downs, and perhaps, if you're friends too, join in their celebrations and mourn their losses.

So to A.M. Leibowitz's most recent release: Leaps of Faith.

Awesomely for me, it's part of a series, along with Passing on Faith, Walking by Faith (both already available) and Keeping the Faith (due for release later in 2017).

Leaps of Faith potentially works as a stand-alone collection of short stories - it's hard to tell, as I've read (and reviewed - links at the end) the first two full-length novels, and I'd recommend everyone else do the same.

Note: there will be spoilers if you, um, leap right in there and read this collection first.

The recommended reading order:
Passing on Faith
Walking by Faith
Leaps of Faith
Keeping the Faith

Whilst the titles give a clear indication that religious belief factors significantly in this series, there's absolutely no evangelising. I'm an atheist, and I approach books with religious elements with a great deal of caution, but in these stories, there's balance between the main characters' different experiences with religion, and at times, it's heavy - emotionally as opposed to theologically.

And it's really, really good.

How I see Leaps of Faith is this: those conversations you have with friends whom you've known for ages yet still there are little mysteries to be uncovered.

I heard Micah's side...
Then Cat's side...

I know them pretty well, but then there's that night when we both drank too much wine and I asked, 'When did you realise such-and-such about yourself?' And they answered, 'Well, back in Sunday School, we were doing the Christmas play, and...'

Or we meet at the bus stop and I ask innocently, 'How's your friend Zayne getting on?' Anecdotes ensue, and it dawns on me what a privilege it is to be granted this extra peek into their lives.

Without giving anything away, Leaps of Faith offers glimpses into the extended lives of Cat and Micah, the beautifully complex couple at the heart of this series. The stories tackle some really hard stuff (the author includes a note at the beginning with an indication of content some might find difficult to read), but this is done with sensitivity and integrity. There's humour - even in the bleak moments - and there's sexy times too. But there's no artificial 'shock and awe' factor, no unnecessary titillation - just life, in all its pain and glory.

My review of Passing on Faith
My review of Walking by Faith

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


Thanks for reading,
Deb

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Two plus One is Three) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 12th July, 2017:

7 + 12  = 19 short paragraphs
from To Be Sure

Between illness and an overwhelming editing load, I didn't get around to visiting my fellow wippeteers last week - sorry, my loss. :( (There’s a link at the end of the post for where you can find more WIPpet snippets.)

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Suremy story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing).

This is my last WIPpet from this story, as I finished writing it a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to end with Saorla and Aileen arriving in England for Dylan’s (Saorla’s grandson) baptism.

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-one-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother, and Sophie is Sean’s partner/Dylan’s mum.

In this snippet, Sean has picked up Saorla and Aileen (Saorla’s long-term friend) from the airport and is driving them to their hotel.

* * * * *
“Have you eaten?” Sean asked once they were on the motorway.

“Not since home.”

“Right. We were thinking, we’ll get you checked in, and have tea at the pub. They do a great two meals for one on steak.”

Aileen gave a needy groan. “I haven’t had a steak in ages.”

Saorla bit her tongue. She’d almost said ‘me neither’, which was the truth. The household budget didn’t run to more than the essentials, and that was with all the extra bits and bobs Sean kept sneaking into her account. On the one hand, she wished he wouldn’t; he was her son, after all, and it was topsy-turvy. On the other, she was grateful; she’d have lost the house by now. Her pension and Finn’s meagre contribution—if he could make one at all—was barely enough to cover the bills.

“Who’s ‘we’?” she asked.

Sean pulled out and around a slow lorry, and listed aloud, “Soph, Dylan, Hay—”

“That’s the godmother?” Aileen asked.

“Aye. She and Soph went to school together.”

“Do you know her, Saorla?”

“I haven’t had the pleasure, I don’t think.”

“No, you haven’t,” Sean confirmed. “One of a kind, she is. She’s staying in the hotel as well, but nowhere near you, you’ll be pleased to know.”

“Don’t you start that again,” Saorla warned.

Sean made a quick manoeuvre back into the inside lane; a sports car zoomed by at an unnecessary speed. “Start what, Mummy?” he asked, innocent as anything.

“You know what.”

For his part, Sean looked puzzled, but then something clicked. “Oh! No, that’s not what I meant at all. I was talking about Hay’s nine-year-old triplets.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph…”

“Ash, Kai and Sage, actually,” Sean said with a grin.

“Funny,” Saorla muttered dryly, though she was amused, as was Aileen, who fairly had the giggles.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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, July 10, 2017

Visualising Characters #HBTC #amwriting

Wherever you look, my online profile will tell you: author, publisher, social scientist. I was twenty-eight, with two small children, before I graduated with a first-class degree in applied social sciences, and I'm bloody proud of it. I messed up school, lost faith in myself, started to believe I was stupid when I
really 
wanted to be clever. I wanted to join Mensa, have letters after my name, but all I ever seemed to get was 'U's and 'F's -

U must F***ing try harder...

My degree finally convinced me that I am clever. I know stuff, I can think about stuff on a higher level, and I'm OK at teaching that stuff to others. It also made me realise that the way I interact with the world is possibly unique, certainly unusual. I don't see physical characteristics, but in case there's any doubt, I don't see auras either. I see psychological
characteristics - personalities, beliefs, emotions, judgements. I see the person within.

It wasn't my degree that bestowed the ability upon me; I've always been that way. Whilst I had my boisterous moments as a child, I was generally quiet, shy and observant. I grew up in a house where the idiom 'children should be seen and not heard' was the set ideal. Without going into detail, my childhood and adolescence was not filled with innocent, warm days of sunshine and eternal summer holidays. It was oppressive, but it was also when I learned to interpret silence.

The silence happens between the words, within the actions, the unconscious presence of the person hiding behind social props of clothes, hairstyles, make-up, gangs, cigarettes, alcohol. The silence is the person; the rest of it is add-ons.

That shyness and introversion followed me everywhere - school, church, youth club, concert band, marching band - and still persists in my professional life as an educator. It's made worse by how quickly I analyse, think and spin up countless things to say, but how slow I am to sift through them and pick the right one. Back in school, I chose mostly to say nothing, although the quiet ones are considered dangerous, so I learned to answer quickly, only to mentally return to the situation over and over again, later realising, with some regret, what I should have said.

My first Daz3D characterisation
Thus, when it comes to my writing, I know - because it's been pointed out by quite a few readers and reviewers - that my stories tend towards the exploration of human psychology. My characters, unless I try really hard (i.e. because I have to describe their physical attributes for the reader), I don't 'see' them from the outside, only the inside.

At some point - 2008-ish, I think - I decided (for fun) to make a trailer for Hiding Behind The Couch, and in the process, I downloaded Daz3D with the intention on making a short animation. It was a tiny bit ambitious, but I did, in the process, produce character representations for The Circle - the nine friends at the centre of the series.

From those, I've been able to develop a very clear visual representation of what the characters look like in 'real life' (which may prove to be a bit of stumbling block when it comes to casting the TV series...one day). It also makes including models on book covers a tricky endeavour.

Even though there are nine main characters (or more at times), Josh and Shaunna are the most prominent characters in the series. Josh is the semi-omniscient narrator (he only thinks he knows everything), while Shaunna is 'the hub' that holds their friendship group together.

Here - for fun - are my Daz3D representations, along with book covers featuring Josh and Shaunna, and a couple of images that may find their way onto future book covers. Who knows?

Daz3D - Josh and Sean

Ruminations - young Sean and Josh

Chain of Secrets - Josh and George

Red Hot Christmas - Shaunna

Daz3D - Shaunna and Andy




I'd love to hear what readers think - is this how you see these characters?
And authors - how do you visualise your characters (if at all)?

Thanks for reading,
Deb

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Needs) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 5th July, 2017:

17 (year), 7 (month)  = 177 words
(not very mathematical, I know)
from To Be Sure

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from previous snippets. This is last bit of chapter one of my story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing).

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-one-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Finn had arrived home from wherever he’d been; he and Saorla are discussing their hotel arrangements for their upcoming trip to England. (This needs the previous snippets for context).


* * * * *
When she realised Finn had said no more, she asked, “So you’re getting a double room, then?”

“Aye. Right next door to yous, so yous’d best behave yourselves.”

“Finn!” She spun to face him, furious and horrified. His grin lingered briefly before he looked away, shame-faced.

“I’m joking with you, Mum.”

“Did your brother put you up to it?”

“What?”

“It’s funny you both have something to say about it today.”

“Sean didn’t say a word, and even if he had, would it matter?”

“I don’t know what the pair of you think’s going on. I’m a seventy-one-year-old woman, for Christ’s sake.”

“And that means you don’t have needs?”

Saorla’s face was burning, and so was the tea. She turned back to the stove and flipped the leftovers to brown the other side. “It’s not up for discussion—with you or Sean. Do you understand?”

“There’s nothing wrong with—”

“I said, do you understand?” She glared over her shoulder.

Finn raised his hands in surrender. “Fine. I won’t bring it up again. You have my word.”
* * * * *
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, July 04, 2017

Last night a gherkin saved my life #amwriting #BritishSummer

No kidding, at 1:30 a.m., when I was ready to chop off my head if that was what it took to stop coughing, I went online, typed:

How to stop a cough spasm

and read, fervently, desperately, dropping my phone at least twice in the midst of yet more coughing. Water, cough medicine, painkillers, cough sweets - did all that.

The internet said:
Use steam (in the middle of the night?)
Watch the humidity (watching)
Clean bedding (check)
Salt water gargle (hell, no)
Warm fluids (let's not think about the strain this much coughing puts on your pelvic floor)
...and so many quack remedies, but really, I was up for trying every last one.

I started with the more conventional:
Honey and lemon
Honey and tea
Honey and hot water
Honey and honey
Well, I've never seen a bee coughing...but no, the honey didn't work. Nor, I imagine, would menthol vapour rub on the soles of my feet, but I couldn't find it or believe me, I'd have given it a go.

Then this:
If your throat is left raw by a bad cough, grab a bottle of apple cider vinegar because germs can't survive in the acidic coating it'll form on your throat. Gargle with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in a glass of warm water; use several times a day if needed.
And this:
Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, to a glass of water helps to alkalinize the body. Creating an alkaline environment helps kill bacteria and viruses. Start drinking it at the first sign of illness and repeat several times a day until the symptoms subside.
I wasn't entirely convinced by the science, but I was in no mood for offering critique.

We didn't have any apple cider vinegar (which sounds kind of nice?) and balls was I drinking malt vinegar, but, I thought, cough there cough has cough to-be-some-way-to COUGH COUGH stop this! Aggggggh!

Pickles? suggested my well-shaken brain.

Pickles. Seriously?

And because it was well-shaken, and the dog was growling, and it was the middle of the night, I duly crept down the stairs, grabbed the first jar of pickles I found (I was thinking beetroot might be tastier as a solo medicinal snack, but still) and ate pickled gherkins (which are kind of like sweet pickles in the US, I think - maybe a bit sharper). The cough spasm...stopped!

Surely not, no, this cannot be.

Back to bed, head on pillow, zzzzz, straight through to my alarm!

Bloody brilliant! Placebo or otherwise, I don't care.
Last night, a gherkin saved my life, or at the very least my sanity.

Results may vary.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Sunday, July 02, 2017

No Filter - Multipurpose Fruit #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

Another Snippet from No Filter - a Checking Him Out / Hiding Behind The Couch crossover (the first being Hiding Out), featuring Matty (CHO) and Libby (HBTC).

Brief background: Libby and Matty first met in Hiding Out, when Libby was fifteen and Matty was an undergrad dance student. No Filter is a year later; it’s a very early work in progress, and it’s a friendship story, not a romance.

This snippet is from Matty’s point of view. Noah is Matty’s SO.
“Pew.”

“Huh?”

“Pew, pew!”

Noah peered over the top of my phone and held up his apple. “Want me to put it on top of my head?”

I grinned. “Yeah. I can boomerang it.” I turned the banana side on and got ready to launch.

“Maybe not.” Taking a huge bite out of the apple, Noah went back to reading off my phone.
* * * * *

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, June 28, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Trials) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 28th June, 2017:

28 + 6 - 17 = 17 paragraphs
from To Be Sure

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from previous snippets. This is from the first chapter of my story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing).

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-one-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Saorla had just got off the phone with Sean, and was preparing a meal while waiting for Finn to arrive home.


* * * * *
It was only when the front door opened that Saorla remembered the potatoes, which didn’t even have a lid on them, and they were all but boiled dry.

“That you, Finn?” she called and grabbed a fork. The click of Finn’s crutch preceded his answer.

“No, Mum, it’s the bogeyman.”

“Well, you look just like Finn Tierney,” she responded, as usual. The potatoes were soft enough—a bit crispy on the bottom, but they’d be fine once they were mashed up with the Sunday leftovers from the fridge. She passed Finn on her way to get them. She didn’t need to ask how the pain was today; the lips drawn tight over clenched teeth told her all she needed to know.

“Sean’s going to phone you about booking the hotel,” she said on her way back to the stove.

Leaning his crutch against the table, Finn pulled out a chair, holding his words until he’d eased into it. “He already did.”

“Did he now?”

“He did, aye. Couldn’t you have told him?”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d be needing separate rooms.”

“I’m a grown man, Mum.”

She had her back to him, but his tone was light, so she ventured further. “Are you an item again?”

“Trial period, so says Erin.”

“That’s probably wise.”

“For her. Not for me. Or you.”

“What’s it got to do with me?”

“Don’t you want me out from under your feet?”

This time, his tone was more cutting, and Saorla’s guilt gave her a jolt. “If I wanted you to leave, I’d tell you so.” Better he be a living burden than a dead one, and for that thought she refused to feel guilty after the strain of the past few months. God only knew where they’d have been without Erin and Aileen.
* * * * *
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, June 26, 2017

It's Life...but not quite #amwriting

I've just finished re-reading The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1) in preparation for writing Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2) - or, at least, making a good start on it - during July's CampNaNoWriMo. It led to a startling discovery (which I mentioned in my RainbowSnippets post on Saturday):

I'd accidentally situated characters from two different stories in different series in the same place at exactly the same time!

Eek!

On one level, that's rather fun, particularly as the location in question is a close approximation to Watergate Bay in Cornwall (pictured, with Newquay in the distance), which is quite possibly my favourite place to be. I say 'possibly' because I'm no longer sure if it's the real version or my fictional one that I love most - a point I'll come back to shortly.

So, my first response was 'how cool!' and it gave me lots to ponder. Would the characters have noticed each other? What would have happened if they had? Would they have chatted? Ignored each other? Is there a story in there?

Then another thought dawned on me. In both cases, I'd described the weather, and it didn't match!

Agh!

Did I panic? Noooo. Did I consider rewriting the scene in either story? Not at all. (Hah!)

Anyway, I'm pleased to report (you can be pleased with me if you like) that it wasn't exactly the same time; it was on consecutive days.

In The Making Of Us, Jesse reports Friday's weather as:
No rain today, but it was cold enough for me to have dug my giant hoodie out of my bag and brought it to the beach with me, although not quite cold enough to put it on.
Whereas in The The WAG and The Scoundrel (Saturday afternoon), Gray observes:
The wind wasn’t strong, although it was bitterly cold, which Gray had anticipated, and he’d brought a coat, hat, scarf and gloves. He put them on and zipped his coat right up under his chin before venturing down the slipway onto the beach.
And it's English weather, in November, so all is well. Phew!

It's not the first time I've slipped up with canon, although it doesn't happen often, and it's generally not disastrous...

Well, there was the time I counted Krissi's age from her first birthday instead of her birth and had to adjust ALL of the characters' ages to match. That was in the first edition of Hiding Behind The Couch (Tracy, if you're reading this, it's the one you have on your bookshelf), and it's the sort of detail that editors are unlikely to notice. In fact, the only person who probably will notice is the author.

The bigger and more complex a series becomes, the more chance there is for these errors to sneak through.

And, you know, I told Noah that the pub in Sol's hometown was called The King's Head, but he insisted it was called The King's Arms. Matty says it's like that skipping rhyme, 'Lord Nelson lost one arm...Lord Nelson lost one leg...' Hmm...a discussion for a future story, maybe?

I'll confess, here and now, that I get creative and write some of those smaller 'anomalies' into the stories. After I wrote The Harder They Fall (HBTC #3), I put together a calendar and a list of characters, mostly to keep track of characters' ages, but also because In The Stars (HBTC #4 and #5) was a logic puzzle of epic proportions (as in 382,000 words with something like half a dozen parallel/crisscrossing story arcs).

However, as I hadn't pinned the first novel to a 'real' year, the days and dates didn't match up to real years, and it all comes back to Krissi's birthday. Her 21st birthday is on a Friday (HBTC #1), so I took that day/date and built the calendar from there (using PHP - I'm not even thinking about the mess caused by the error I've just discovered whilst writing this blog post).

Thus, the calendar system for Hiding Behind The Couch is based on AJ (Annus Joshy :D). That's no bad thing - from the point of view of distancing reality from fiction - but it's a bugger to work with when I'm writing the stories.

Of course, I had to complicate matters further by writing a crossover between Hiding Behind The Couch and Checking Him Out, although when I wrote Hiding Out, I tried very hard to make it a single collision between the two worlds, which ends with this (not a spoiler):
“So you didn’t think much of Norwich then?”
“Mmm…it’s a nice place, but…well, it’s like another world, isn’t it?”
Josh slowed at traffic lights and met Libby’s gaze in the rear-view mirror. “Yes, it is,” he said.
The lights turned to green and they pulled away, heading back to their hometown, and to their own world.
Except...I'm currently working on a second crossover (No Filter) and they're not, actually, different worlds. When I wrote Checking Him Out, I was very lucky to have author Rick Bettencourt advising me on the parts of the story set in Boston (whence Rick hails), because Google StreetView is great, but it's not enough.


That, for me, was the distinction between the series: I'd deliberately set HBTC in a fictional location with no name - even though the characters visit Manchester and other named locations from time to time, and secondary characters live in named locations - whereas I'd set CHO in a real, named-on-page city.

The problem then becomes when I write an instalment that focuses on a secondary character in one of those named locations, which is the case with my main work-in-progress, To Be Sure (featuring Sean's mum, who lives in Derry, NI).

In the end, the locations in all my stories, whether identified by name or not, are fictional representations. Sol's hometown is somewhere in Yorkshire, name unknown; Norwich University doesn't exist (the uni in Norwich is the University of East Anglia). Magda Inc. Boston doesn't exist. Josh and Sean met at what would, geographically, be Keele University in Staffordshire, and they work in what is probably Edge Hill University, West Lancashire. I could even point to rows of terraced houses in West Lancashire villages that 'could be' where Josh and Sean live - likewise for the rest of The Circle.

The fictional depictions are an amalgamation of different places I've visited (really or virtually), give or take a few creative tweaks. Even 'the surfing bay in Cornwall' that appears in HBTC, CHO and Gray Fisher is not quite Watergate Bay.

On which note, I'm dogsitting this week for my mum, who is on holiday in Cornwall. Maybe she'll bump into Matty's nan at the shops! ;)

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Saturday, June 24, 2017

No Filter - Loaded Banana #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

Snippet #2 from No Filter - another Checking Him Out / Hiding Behind The Couch crossover (the first being Hiding Out), featuring Matty (CHO) and Libby (HBTC).

I should say deliberate cross-over, as today, I realised I’d accidentally (or maybe not?) put characters from both series in exactly the same place at the same time—even though they live 250 miles apart—although they don’t interact. I wonder if they even noticed each other? Hmm. (For those who are curious, it was in The WAG and The Scoundrel and The Making Of Us)

Brief background: Libby and Matty first met in Hiding Out, when Libby was fifteen and Matty was an undergrad dance student. No Filter is a year later; it’s a very early work in progress, and it’s a friendship story, not a romance. Now I’ve figured out where it fits in the timeline of both series, I sort of know what I’m doing. Possibly.

This snippet is from Matty’s point of view. Noah is Matty’s SO.
“Did you want me?”

A banana appeared right in front of my face, like, so close I could smell it. It made my mouth water—I didn’t even like bananas, or not much. Give me a Mars bar any day, especially after dance practice. Or a Crunchie. God, I love Crunchies. The way the honeycomb breaks off when you bite it. Not sure why it’s orange, though, when honey’s kind of yellow. “What’s this?” I asked.

“A banana?” Noah’s mouth stayed in a perfect straight line, while his eyes were proper laughing at my question.

I took the banana and peered along it, aiming it at him. “Is it loaded?”

“Yep.”

As was he—with fruit. “No chocolate?”
* * * * *

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, June 21, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Banging Heads) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 21st June, 2017:
It's my wedding anniversary! 18 years! :o

20 x 6 + 21 + 17 = 158 words
from To Be Sure

Sorry for any other WIPpet posts I missed last week. I was very late visiting and had to go a-hunting.

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from previous snippets. This is from the first chapter of my story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing). And I also have a cover!

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-one-year-old (I miscounted, as usual) woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Saorla had just got off the phone with Sean, and she’s waiting for Finn to arrive home.


* * * * *
To be fair, Finn was trying, and Sean was being the difficult one for a change. Not that much of a change, now she thought on; since Finn’s accident, the two of them had constantly been at loggerheads, and a lot of it was Sean feeling he had to stand up to his big brother whether Finn was in the wrong or not.

She didn’t have a favourite. Mothers should love their children equally; she’d always believed that. They thought otherwise, of course, and sometimes it was hard to treat them the same when Finn needed so much more, on a practical level, at least. Truth be told, they were as bad as each other, and after so long resisting the urge to bang their heads together, she didn’t hold out much hope of the two of them ever becoming pals, but if they could make it through the baptism without a set-to, that would be grand.
* * * * *
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, June 20, 2017

Release Day! The Making of Us #LGBTQIA #pridemonth #romance



It's here! Release day is finally here! I bet you're all really pleased about that. :D

That's the trouble with social media; no matter how many times we share our news, there will be some people who miss it entirely whilst others are thinking enough of the constant bombardment already!

So, yeah - sorry if you fall in the bombardment camp.

The Making Of Us is a story I didn't foresee, but in truth, I realise now that - like When Skies Have Fallen - it's a story I needed to tell.

Back in 2014, when I wrote the first instalment of the Checking Him Out series, it was my first foray into writing M/M Romance, and it was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek, quirky story - and a one-off! It's my most-read story, helped in no small part by being free - I'd have made a 'real' bestsellers' list had it not been free.

Checking Him Out is about Sol and Adam - two British guys (competitive, annoying, alpha-male types) who meet in the US, fall in love and move back to England. In the epilogue, I wrote a scene about Noah (Adam's younger brother) and his new boyfriend Matty - as a contrast to show how far Sol and Adam had come. Readers asked for their story.

So...I wrote Taking Him On - Checking Him Out #2 - which is Noah and Matty's story. Again, it's M/M romance...in which Noah introduces us to his best mate Jesse, and Noah and Matty get a new housemate - Leigh.

For Sol and Adam fans, I also wrote Checking In - #3 - which covers the same events as Taking Him On but from Sol's point of view. In both stories, we get to see a little bit of Jesse and Leigh...

And readers asked for Jesse and Leigh's story.
What could I do but oblige? (And gladly.)

The Making Of Us has the same mix of quirky British humour and big things in life as the previous books (and novellas) in the series, and it is a romance (or a love story), but it's less in your face - on matters of sex, at least. With the exception of Hiding Out (#1.2), all the previous stories have been sexually explicit, because all of the other characters are body-confident, whereas Jesse is not.

Thus, in The Making Of Us, while you'll find many romantic moments as Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, and there's some intimacy along the way, this is also a story about Jesse learning to love himself.

* * * * *

Blurb:
When English Lit. student Jesse Thomas meets Leigh Hunter, he has to reconsider a few assumptions he's made about himself.

Two years ago, Jesse joined Pride - the uni's LGBT+ society - to support best friend Noah, and Noah's boyfriend, Matty. As a straight, cismale ally, Jesse keeps a low profile - not difficult for someone as shy and body-conscious as he is.

Leigh Hunter is Noah and Matty's new housemate. Born with a life-threatening congenital condition, Leigh is intersex and identifies as queer - none of which alters Jesse's conviction that they are the most beautiful person in the world.

While Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, a new academic year begins in earnest, bringing with it the usual challenge of balancing work and play. Add in a week's holiday in Cornwall that Jesse and Leigh half-wish they hadn't agreed to, Jesse's unplanned involvement in the election of Pride's new officers, and some big decisions for Noah and Matty, it's going to be an interesting semester all round.

Purchase Links:

* * * * *

Excerpt:
It was at that point I realised I wasn't alone, as in, Noah hadn't followed me out, but I could hear someone in the henhouse...singing to the hens. The door fully opened, and Leigh emerged, shielding their eyes against the patio lights.

"Hey, Jesse."

"Hello." They were shrouded in shadow but it made no difference. At least my heart wasn't short of a good workout or ten.

"You OK?"

"Yep." Urgh. Where the hell were my words? This was starting get really annoying. I'd liked Leigh from the start - not the instant attraction/choking incident...well, obviously, I liked them then, but I was only counting from when we were properly introduced, and I'd realised that Leigh was just as beautiful inside as out. At first, my nervousness made me talk too much, but Leigh was chatty, too, so we just kind of gabbled our way through conversations, and it had all been a bit giddy and out of control, but we were talking. Now, I couldn't think what to say at all, and I was sure it was getting worse.

"What's up?" Leigh advanced and stopped a couple of feet away, frowning inquisitively, mixed with a bit of concern. I pointed at my mouth. "Sore throat?" Leigh guessed, but that wasn't what I'd meant.

"Lip," I uttered.

"Cold sore?"

"No. Yours."

"Oh!" Leigh laughed. It was enchanting, Leigh's laughter, a breathy 'hah' and a gasped inhalation over which their smile lingered. Honestly, sometimes I could've rolled my eyes at myself, because everything about Leigh was just...perfect. To me. They poked their tongue against the inside of their lip, flinching slightly.

"New piercing?" Woot! Actual words. Go, Jesse!

"Yeah. Got it done this afternoon. Do you like it?"

It was a perfect excuse to move closer, but my shoes seemed to have stuck themselves to the ground. I settled for nodding instead. "How many's that now?"

Leigh thought, at the same time reaching up a hand and feeling their way along one ear then the other, counting under their breath. "Eight? I think one's healed over. Has it?"

They stretched up towards me, but their hair was covering their ear. I clamped my lips between my teeth in an effort to make it less obvious that my breath was juddering with nerves. I lifted my hand and brushed Leigh's hair back, trying to stay focused on their ear, overwhelmed by their closeness, their soft hair tickling my fingers, the relative coolness of their skin where our hands touched...

"Three," I pushed out.

"Is there a hole at the top with nothing in it?"

That part of Leigh's ear was still in shadow. My fingers combed through the strands of hair - shiny midnight blue in the twilight - as I moved it behind Leigh's ear. "I think so."

"Eight, then," Leigh confirmed.

"OK."

"It was meant to be a snakebite - " Leigh poked at the lip piercing again, same result as last time " - but it hurt like hell."

"A snakebite? What's that?" I hadn't moved my hand away. I wasn't sure I could.

"One on either side."

"Cool." I liked piercings. They were fun, and if I'd been slimmer, or less bothered about not being slimmer, I'd have probably got my eyebrow pierced, although...maybe it would draw attention away from the rest of me.

I couldn't recall if Leigh had piercings when I first met them. I was kind of overwhelmed, and everything had gone a bit hazy and soft focus. Whether Leigh had them or not, I'd still feel the same, but the nose stud was definitely recent.

Would the one on their lip make kissing more difficult? Why was I even thinking about that?

Leigh had kissed me once. On the cheek. It was the day Matty was assaulted - by his dad. Leigh needed a shot of hydrocortisone, which they self-administered and everything was fine, but they still should've gone to the hospital to get checked out. Of course, they refused to - I didn't blame them, to be honest, but I kept that to myself at the time - and so, I accompanied Leigh home and hung around until Adam and Sol got back.

It was the quickest kiss, and it had only been to say thanks, or maybe it had been more. I just didn't know. We were both pretty shy in that respect. What if we were both also waiting for the other to be bold enough to ask us out on a date, or make a move or something? We might never get any further than this disjointed conversing that seemed to have replaced the ease with which we used to chatter.

"I'd better go in," Leigh said.

"OK." Please don't.

They turned and walked back towards the house, taking their time - were waiting for me to stop them? As they reached the door, they paused and called, "D'you need a drink or anything?"

Oh! "Er...yes, please. Diet Coke?"

Leigh nodded and smiled. "Be right back."

"Thanks!" I shouted, but they'd already disappeared inside. I swear I was gonna be Jesse the Puddle by the time they got back - why did it have to be so damn hot? Why did they?

* * * * *

Thanks for reading! :)
Deb x

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pride - an introvert's contribution #LGBTQIA #pridemonth

June is Pride month.

As a somewhat introverted and asocial author/academic, I find big social occasions (like Pride parades) a bit wearing (to say the least), but I can celebrate and fight in other, albeit quieter ways.

To this end, I've written this post to answer some of the questions I've been asked, mostly by those outside of the LGBT+ community (apologies if it comes across as 'splaining). This is my understanding. It's only one perspective, and I welcome respectful discussion.

I've also included a list of the LGBT+ characters in my stories, as this is another way in which I try to contribute to visibility and acceptance - as both an ally and member of the community.


What is Pride?

Wikipedia's definition is quite good (I don't usually quote from there):
Gay pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people [sic] to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_pride)

What is Pride month?

Pride month is a month-long (and longer, internationally) celebration of LGBT+ identities.

The reason it's in June is to commemorate the Stonewall Riots (June 28, 1969). On the night in question, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street, NYC (what these days we might call a 'gay bar'). This was a frequent occurrence and part of the ongoing persecution and legal prosecution of LGBT+ people at that time. On this occasion, the persecuted fought back. It is a watershed moment in LGBT+ rights and led to further organised protests and campaigning for rights.

In the UK, most Pride celebrations and parades are held in July/August. The first Pride parade in London was in 1972, on the 1st of July - the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

This page lists the UK Pride dates for 2017: https://pinkuk.com/events/gay-pride-2017


What's with the (expanding) acronym?
(or 'why not put ALL of the letters in there?' See also 'why not straight pride?' and 'why labels are important')

The history of the start of those letters is debatable, and I've seen the 'original' incarnation both as GLB and LGB. When I was at university, the society was called the LGB Society, and it changed to the LGBT Society in the three years I was studying. That was 1995-8, and during that time, the term 'queer' was being hotly debated in academic circles. I won't go into that here.

The current variations of the acronym (those that appear most often) are:

LGBT+
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans + anyone else who isn't heterosexual and/or cisgender (i.e. their gender identity matches that assigned at birth or corrected soon after)

LGBTQ
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer/Questioning

LGBTQIA
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual

LGBTQIAP
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual/Poly

QUILTBAG
Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual/Ally and Gay/Genderqueer

Now, I don't venture far on the internet. I use it as a research and marketing tool. Mostly, I stay within the confines of Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, the Open University and my blog and websites. This means I miss most of the trolling, in-fighting and ridiculous, ignorant statements made by those who have absolutely no right to pass comment (OK, freedom of speech is theirs for the taking, but exercising it responsibly - or at least after they've engaged their brain - would seem the way to go).

For all of that, yesterday I came across two separate 'debates' about:

1. Whether the 'A' is for ally OR asexual;
2. What the point was of 'all those flags'.

I'll come back to both issues in due course.

The main point here is that most of these terms were first used in a derogatory way and were reclaimed by non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people, because reclaiming the word also reclaims the power infused into that word and highlights the inequality, discrimination, exclusion and persecution to which those who are tarnished with that label are subjected. This is also the case with the use of 'disabled', 'black' and 'people of colour', as well as some more culturally specific terms.

Even within similar societies, there are cultural differences in the way these labels are applied. For instance 'homo' has been reclaimed (and subverted so that it becomes a positive label for those who use it) by many in the USA, but it is still considered profoundly insulting and homophobic by many gay men in the UK.

In almost all cases, the labels were NOT applied BY the people who wear them; they were stuck on by those who hold the balance of power - the political majority - as a way of marking someone as different, other, an aberration.

What do I mean by the political majority?
This is the group that has the most power - not necessarily the most members. Regardless of the percentage of the global population that is -

not white
not male
not heterosexual
not from Europe

- the global political majority is white, heterosexual, monogamous (and sexual), European (or of European descent) and male. This is the legacy of colonialism, slavery, imperialism and patriarchy.

That should give you the answer to 'why don't we have straight pride?'

It's the same (non)point people make when they retort 'all lives matter' when they see/hear 'black lives matter'. Our world is constructed by and for the political majority, who, 'naturally' (I contend not), make it the best possible place for themselves, almost always at the expense of others.

Seriously, if men didn't have to shit, I'd wager there'd be no toilets; only urinals.

So yes, of course all lives matter, and we should all be proud of who we are, but not at the expense of others. We don't matter more than anyone else, and we should use any privilege we do hold very wisely indeed. For instance, I'm white and European. More than that, I'm a UK citizen, which is the most privileged nationality in the world. My ancestors are responsible for slavery, genocide, rape and the desecration of so many cultures it beggars belief. They shaped the world we live in today:
The self-hatred of being black, and thus counting by definition as the weaker and the poorer, is great. Some are reluctant to identify themselves as blacks - they refer to their nation rather than to their real roots. Or they try to approach European beauty ideals. Smooth hair, pale skin; such things show the cultural damage the Europeans have left behind.

(Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama, cultural scientist,
translated from https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5416099&s=imani+tafari-ama/)
White Europeans have caused irreparable damage to this world (culturally, ecologically), and with our privilege comes a responsibility to fix what we can.

Why not put all the letters in there?
Well, I have to say I quite like SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) as a shorter, all-encompassing acronym. I also like LGBT+, but then that treats anyone who's not lesbian, gay, bi or trans as an add-on, and it doesn't exclude me, so I have no right to an opinion. Ultimately, the people generally asking the question are part of the political majority - those who assigned all those labels in the first place. It's your own fault, so butt out.

Allied to this question is 'what's the point of all those flags?' The discussion I saw of this yesterday was initiated by a white, middle-class, cisgender gay man. Yep, the rainbow flag is just dandy if you're hitting most of those privileges.

It's sad to see the in-fighting within a community that came together because of shared experiences of (often violent) discrimination and persecution, but it's understandable, given the diversity. But it's also why the labels (and the flags) matter. Fighting for LGBT+ rights, if those rights are defined by white gay men, still excludes the majority of LGBT+ people.

Here's a quote from my novel The Making Of Us - yeah, yeah, I know I've been harping on about it for weeks, but it's out tomorrow, so it would be remiss of me to not include this when it's salient. ;)

"...if we want Pride to be truly inclusive, we all must become allies. Our gay members can’t understand how it feels to be lesbian, nor can our cisgender members appreciate what it’s like to be trans or non-binary. Our female members still fight patriarchal privilege, and the male members amongst us will never have to deal with that."

I'm not talking about the 'allies' mentioned earlier (i.e. whether the A in the acronym is for ally or asexual). Those allies are cisgender and heterosexual, and whilst they can do great work supporting their LGBT+ family, friends and community, "...allies have a choice. Now, I know some of you would say you don’t have a choice, but you do. If being an ally meant losing your friends, family, job...you could stop, walk away." (Yes, I'm quoting myself. Again. It's allowed.)

Incidentally, The Making Of Us has the lowest number of preorders of the entire Checking Him Out series, and I envisage that's a lot to do with the couple on the cover not looking 'queer enough' - an observation, not a complaint as such. Or not a complaint about not selling books; this is about erasure and part of 'why we need labels'. Many bisexual, non-binary and trans folks 'pass' as being part of the political majority because people make assumptions based on their appearance/relationship status, particularly if we're not 'out and loud proud'.


Concluding Thoughts

'Pride' is a celebration and commemoration of/for a massive group of diverse people unified by their fight for acceptance and equality - something that has been denied because of their gender and/or sexuality. Equality is not about ignoring or homogenising difference, even if that would make it a far easier battle to fight.

If you're an ally and you want to join the celebration, please be respectful of the safe space that LGBT+ people have fought so hard for. And if you're LGBT+, look after each other and have fun! I'll be raising my coffee cup to you.

10 Ways to Be an Ally and a Friend (from GLAAD):
1. Be a listener.
2. Be open-minded.
3. Be willing to talk.
4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
5. Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.
9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at glaad.org.


LGBT+ characters in my books:

Note: some of these ARE DEFINITELY plot spoilers so proceed with caution.

'HBTC', 'CHO', 'GF' and 'SOT' are the series Hiding Behind The Couch, Checking Him Out, Gray Fisher and Seeds of Tyrone.

Lesbian
Aileen (To Be Sure/HBTC)
Poppy (Reunions/HBTC - secondary character)
Hay (To Be Sure/HBTC - secondary character)
Sarah (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Neema (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Lily (SOT - secondary character)
Jill (SOT - secondary character)
Molly (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Daphne (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Nic (Double Six)

Gay
George (HBTC)
Josh (HBTC - also asexual)
Ade (HBTC - also sub/poly)
Pete (HBTC - secondary character)
Gray (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF/HBTC)
Simon (Class-A/HBTC)
Sol (CHO)
Adam (CHO)
Noah (Taking Him On/CHO)
Matty (Taking Him On/CHO)
Calvin (CHO - secondary character)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - also trans)
Patrick (SOT)
Aidan (SOT)
Michael (SOT)
Harrison (SOT)
Paulo (SOT)
Sammy (Champagne)
Frank (Champagne)
Champagne (Champagne)
Leslie (Champagne)
Arty (When Skies Have Fallen)
Jim (When Skies Have Fallen)
Flavier (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Sven (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Jorje (Sugar and Sawdust)
Alec (Sugar and Sawdust)

Bisexual
Kris (HBTC)
Charlie (HBTC - also poly)
Saorla (HBTC)
Taz (Class-A/HBTC)
Will (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF)
Jesse (The Making Of Us/CHO)
Elise (CHO)
Chancey (SOT)
Seamus (SOT)
Tom (SOT)
Chris (Champagne - also poly)
Kieran (Of The Bauble - also asexual)
Jack (And The Walls Came Tumbling Down)

Transgender
Leah (Those Jeffries Boys/HBTC - secondary character)
Jazz (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character - also gay)

Queer/Questioning
Leigh (queer - The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/NB)
Lee Johnson (questioning - HBTC)

Intersex
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also queer/NB)
Nora (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)

Asexual/Aromantic
Josh (ace - HBTC - also gay/homoromantic)
Jason (aro - HBTC)
Xander (ace/aro - Ruminations/HBTC)
Aaron (ace/aro - The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also NB)
Kieran (ace - Of The Bauble - also biromantic)

Pansexual/Pansensual/Poly
Andy (pan - HBTC)
Charlie (poly - HBTC - also bi)
Shaunna (poly - HBTC)
Sean (poly - HBTC)
Sophie (poly - HBTC)
Ade (poly - HBTC - also gay/sub)
Chris (poly - Champagne - also bi)

Non-Binary
Aaron (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also ace/aro)
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/queer)
Jinn (Of The Bauble)

Thank for reading (if you got this far!)
Deb x