Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I'd hoped to update this blog a little more in the week leading up to Christmas but simply haven't had time in the welter of running around, packing, gift wrapping, getting stuck to the ceiling with sellotape, shopping, shopping and more shopping.

I finally seem to have finished all the preparations now, though, so have time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, a good relaxing break, and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

I'll be back in a day or two, once I've finished stuffing myself stupid, snoozing on the sofa, and watching terrible old films on tv.  Well, it is Christmas...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

National (theme) park

You'll remember my posts about the Lake District National Park and their love for chopping things down over the past few months.  Well, it seems as though I'm not alone in being less-than-impressed with their methods.  This is the somewhat caustic response from the Westmorland Gazette's resident cartoonist, Colin Shelbourne.  I should warn you that following the link is likely to damage your computer screen and keyboard when you spray coffee on them.

Making Plans for Brockhole

My own favourite of the collection is the one about invading Brantwood, which was so completely unexpected it made me shout with laughter - so loud that Dave came scurrying downstairs to see what all the fuss was about.

It would be nice to think that the powers that be at the LDNPA would listen to nice people like Mr Shelbourne poking fun at them, but somehow I doubt it.  They appear to be on a Mission From God to turn the Lake District into a giant theme park.  A depressing thought.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Instagram photo sharing

A quick word of warning to anyone who uses Instagram, the photo sharing arm of Facebook.  Facebook are looking to use it to sell users' photos to advertisers, without warning, and may also sell on other information such as cookies, log-on data etc, following a big change to their privacy contract.

You can see the whole story here, but this paragraph is particularly worrying:

"Facebook's photo-sharing site Instagram has updated its privacy policy giving it the right to sell users' photos to advertisers without notification.  Unless users delete their Instagram accounts by a deadline of 16 January, they cannot opt out."

In other words, if you're away or taking it easy over the holiday period and don't switch on your computer, you're likely to miss the deadline.  So, unless you want your private photos to be sold to companies you know nothing about, and used for purposes you might not even approve of, I suggest you opt out now.  And please pass the information on to anyone you know who uses Facebook.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Slippers, lilies and mince pies

The other day I wrapped up in several extra layers of clothing and braved the arctic blast to attend a talk by local author Deborah Swift at Windermere library.

Ms Swift writes historical novels set in the seventeenth century, and has had two published to date - The Lady's Slipper and The Gilded Lily.  Unlike many other historical novelists, she writes about ordinary people rather than royalty/aristocracy, and her books have been partly or wholly set in the Lake District, which is why I wanted to go along and hear more.

The talk, which concentrated on research and the processes of writing the books rather than the books themselves, lived up to my expectations and more.  It was fascinating to hear about the differences between researching daily life in London and Cumbria in the seventeenth century, for instance.  Apparently, although there are far more records for London, that in itself is limiting because everything is already known, so there's less scope to shoe-horn new characters, events or places in.  In Cumbria, which was very rural and had far fewer records, there's more space for artistic licence.

It was also fun to learn the differences between British and American readers' perceptions of book covers.  Britain prefers warm, vibrant colours, lots of gilt, and large script that stands out on the shelf, but all of those things spell 'trashy' to American readers who expect small fonts and dull colourson the covers of any books percieved to be 'literary'.

The whole event lasted for nearly two hours, and although the group was quite small, that made it all the more chatty and interesting, as the audience were able to participate - asking questions and comparing Ms Swift's experiences to our own - far more than if the room had been full.  And considering we got all that, plus tea/coffee and a mince pie, and an opportunity to buy books and have them autographed, all for the princely sum of £1, it was an afternoon of exception value and enjoyment.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mmm... chocolate...

Christmas is fast approaching and as usual we seem to have left everything to the last minute, so on Saturday we drove into Kendal determined to make a start on the present-buying.  Needless to say, we couldn't find anything we wanted, and came away with three 2013 calendars for us, and nothing for anybody else.

It was bitterly cold out and after an hour we were so frozen we decided to call in somewhere for a coffee to thaw out.  There are simply masses of cafes and coffee shops in Kendal, and we trip over new ones every time we go.  This time we spotted a blackboard outside a wonderful old building on the steep lane leading out of the market place, which advertised tea, coffee and all manner of chocolate goodies.  Hardly surprising as the shop is called The 1657 Chocolate House and specialises in, well, chocolate.

Inside it positively creaked with character - squeaky floorboards, wonky walls, low ceilings and beams.  The coffee was lovely, and although we couldn't face chocolates or gateaux at half past ten in the morning, the aforementioned goodies looked very tempting.  I suspect we'll be back at tea time one of these days to sample some of their wares.

We're still puzzled by the name, though.  Reading a brief 'biography' on the back of the menu suggested the building dated from the 1630s, and the chocolate shop itself can't date from 1657 because it's had all sorts of other uses in the meantime.  So why 1657?  Answers on a postcard, please...

Friday, December 07, 2012

The tottering reading pile

I've just finished reading 'The Sparrow Conundrum' by Scottish crime author Bill Kirton.  I won the book as a prize a good few months ago now (ahem, probably last year) but I'm always slow to finish e-books because I'm not good at reading long passages on screen.  I really wish I'd read it sooner, though, because the book is tremendous fun.

Unlike the author's other works this is pure spoof, as a gaggle of gloriously inept secret agents bungle their way round Scotland inventing silly codes, shooting themselves in the feet, and generally failing to accomplish their missions in a quite spectacular way.  I don't think I've giggled as much in a very long time, and the postman and the exploding rose bed were pure magic.  I did guess the identity of the super-secret agent taking everybody and everything over, but it didn't detract at all from the mayhem or the entertainment.  This is definitely one to re-read, preferably on a miserable winter Sunday afternoon when I need cheering up.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

New story accepted

I had some good news the other day as Shotgun Honey, the online crime/noir specialist magazine who published my short story Gran Torino last year, have now accepted another little tale.

The Swimming Lesson is a dark, even chilling tale of a holiday fling where all is most certainly not as it seems.  It was inspired in part by a photograph of a man standing up to his knees in a beautiful blue sea and beckoning to someone on the shore, but the twist at the end is the product of my own, er, twisted imagination.

The story should be appearing in the magazine in February next year, so I'll post a reminder and link nearer to the actual date.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Next Big Thing blog hop

The Next Big Thing blog hop has been proliferating over the internet like a measles epidemic lately and now it’s my turn to be suckered... oops, I mean tagged, by fellow British author Sharon M Bidwell. Thank, Sharon. I think.  Heh.

The questions are all aimed at discussing my latest work in progress, but I tend to prefer not to say too much about projects while I'm working on them. Partly this is to avoid tempting fate - gabble on endlessly about how exciting it all is and you can almost guarantee I grind to a sticky halt a few days later. Partly it’s also a little more selfish than that - the novel I’ve just started work on is rather unique and I’m reluctant to spill the beans too soon in case someone else nabs the idea! So, I’ve cheated. I’m going to talk about a novella I finished a couple of years ago instead. It’s not a complete cheat, mind you, since I have yet to find a publisher for the book, and in any case I suspect it needs more work. Which, um, makes it a work in progress, doesn’t it?

So, on with the questions:

What is the working title of your book?
"Got Ghosts?" after the name of the television programme featured in the book, where a film crew investigate a haunted house over a single weekend.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Watching some of those awful daytime tv programmes about haunted places, almost all of which are formulaic, filled with manufactured tension, histrionic mediums and screaming presenters, and obviously faked for the cameras.

What genre does your book fall under?
Paranormal comedy romance, with roughly equal parts paranormal and comedy, and a little romance on the side. It's a weird mix, but someone has to do it!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
This question seems to be flavour of the month but it's a tricky one to answer, for me at any rate. I don't write my characters with specific actors in mind, and trying to match one to t'other afterwards isn't easy. There are plenty of actors who are good enough to take on the roles, of course, but nobody who really looks and 'feels' exactly like what I had in mind. If I had to choose, though, I'd say that Ben Whishaw, who played Q in 'Skyfall', would suit Adam's kooky personality, and Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter movies) would be perfect as the demented medium Stella.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?
Scatterbrained Adam's cosy yet haunted world is turned more upside down than usual when the Got Ghosts? film crew come to call.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
Neither.  I have nothing against self publishing but feel that a good publisher has access to more markets than I would ever be able to; whilst I've still never plucked up courage to approach agents.  So I'll be submitting it to publishers myself the same way I always do. Whether any of them accept it or not is another matter!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It's hard to remember now because it was a couple of years ago, but it would have been at least a year. I do tend to work quite slowly - my recent novel Gleams of a Remoter World took me almost ten years to finish.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hard to say really since it's fairly unique. It probably has a similar 'feel' to some of Georgette Heyer's dafter crime novels - especially Footsteps in the Dark - but the plot and characters are all mine.

What else about your book might interest the reader?
It's set in an ancient English country house full of hidden passages, secret chambers, ghosts good and bad, and eccentric characters - from the dotty vicar to the artistic Great Uncle Alfred.  Unlike Gleams of a Remoter World, the setting isn't based on real locations, but is a hotch-potch of many places I've visited over the years - and the staircase which features towards the end is loosely based on the one in my grandparents' house!

And now for details of my own victims... oops, I mean willing volunteers.  Many thanks to both Cameron Lawton and Erastes for agreeing to take up the baton and run with it.  Don't forget to check out their blogs in one week's time, on Wednesday 12th December, to see how they tackle these questions.

Cameron Lawton

Friday, November 30, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

This year has gone by in a blur, what with moving house and having two books published in the space of six months.  And somewhere in the chaos I seem to have completely missed out on the fact that Paragraph Planet published another of my 75-word ficlets back in April.

The story is called Armed and Dangerous, it's a very tongue-in-cheek little piece about a raid on a pub, and you can still catch it at the magazine's April archive if you'd like to take a look.

Better late than never, I suppose...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raining veg?

I know the weather has been atrocious lately, with months' worth of rain falling in a handful of days and half the country affected by floods. 

But I was still startled to see the Daily Specials board in a Kendal cafe the other day, which offered the interesting dish of "Leak and Potato Soup".  Ten out of ten for honesty, perhaps, although we didn't dare ask if it tasted like dish water...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Riptide selling print

Year-old publishers Riptide are continuing to spread their wings, and their latest development is to sell paperback versions of their books from their own catalogue.  Previously they've only sold e-books directly and readers have had to order print books from third party distributors.

I suspect this won't make a huge amount of difference to UK readers since the cost of shipping from the US will probably outweigh any benefits.  However, for readers in America it makes a lot of sense, since any purchases, whether print or electronic, will qualify for the various discounts, deals and offers on the Riptide catalogue.  Currently, for instance, all paperback books are on sale at 20% off list price, so readers might want to take advantage of that while it lasts.

Books that are available in print include longer works (novels over around 60,000 words); anthologies; and the most popular titles.  Both 'Riptide Rentboys' (including my novella Necessity's Door) and Gleams of a Remoter World are included in this list, so if you want to buy a print copy of either and benefit from the discount, now's your time!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gallows humour

Those of you who know my writing also know I possess a mischievous, even macabre sense of humour at times - so you won't be surprised to find that this slightly gruesome video really hit my funny bone.

'Dumb Ways to Die' was originally a safety video issued by an Australian train company which has now gone viral.  Proof if proof were needed that it's possible to get a serious message across using humour and a catchy tune.

That tune really is catchy, by the way.  I make no apology for the fact that you may get it stuck in your brain for the next 364 days....

Monday, November 26, 2012


When we had the kitchen done we loved pretty much everything... except the cupboard and drawer knobs.  I'd ordered a rich, darkish oak, but when they arrived they were very pale and we've never quite shaken the suspicion that the supplier palmed us off with beech, which is a much cheaper timber.  We've managed with them for a year because they worked perfectly well and weren't broken, but they did look a little strange with the rest of the kitchen.

So I was delighted to find the website of Wooden Knobs & Handles recently.  They're relatively local, and they make all their knobs to order from a range of beautiful timbers, in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.  I chose walnut, ordered half a hundredweight since there's a lot of cupboards and drawers, and they turned up within days.  We swapped them out over the weekend and they look really smart, and it didn't even cost very much.  A great way to get a cheap make-over.

While we were at it, we decided to re-oil the wooden worktops.  You're supposed to do it every month or so, but we've had so much going on that it's kept slipping our minds and they had started to suffer.  Dave hauled everything off every worktop - microwave, toaster, kettle, loads of storage jars and general junk - sanded them down where they needed it, and applied a couple of coats of Danish Oil.  Then we opened the window to get the stink of fish and varnish out, and settled back to wait for it to dry.

And waited.

And waited....

By the time six o'clock came round and I needed to start cooking the evening meal, the worktops were still too sticky to put anything down on them.  That meant I had nowhere to prepare anything, chop veg, peel spuds; nowhere to put utensils during cooking; and nowhere to serve out the meal.  We considered juggling things in mid-air, or preparing everything in the dining room (which was already full of all the stuff we'd moved out of the kitchen), and in the end we realised it wasn't possible.  So the local Chinese take-away came to the rescue... and then we found we couldn't even do the washing up!

Mercifully everything has dried overnight so I've spent the morning putting the kitchen back together, and the worktops do look stunning.  Memo to self, though - don't expect two coats of Danish Oil to dry quickly in the winter.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Short, sharp interview

For some strange reason I seem to have completely missed blogging about my recent interview over at fellow Brit-writer Paul D Brazill's site.  Paul specialises in gritty crime and noir and I first 'came across' him via Byker Books, since he had stories in a number of the same Radgepacket anthologies I had.  He runs a very popular blog called You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? and often features fun little interviews with other authors writing in similar genres.

You can see my feeble efforts at Paul's blog, dating from a few weeks ago now.  Apologies for not passing on the link sooner - either Blogger ate my original post or in the words of the Queen song, I'm going slightly mad...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Truth is stranger than...

The case which provided some of the inspiration for Necessity's Door has just come to court, and some of the details now being revealed are more lurid and hair-raising than anything I could have invented.  You can read the full report on the BBC web page, but basically the allegations involve several police officers who, whilst working undercover, are said to have befriended women, tricked them into having sex, and in one case apparently even attended a family funeral.

I suspect this case will run and run.  The Metropolitan Police want it held behind closed doors, for obvious reasons.  (Nobody likes it when their employees are accused of nefarious practices, least of all when those employees are themselves supposed to be upholders of the law.)  The women who were allegedly wronged, on the other hand, want every last detail made as public as possible.  They say this is to highlight the issue of "police misconduct and the extent to which police officers can invade the personal, psychological, and bodily integrity of members of the general population"; although you can't help wondering, cynically, if they're also trying to win themselves larger amounts of compensation.  (And of course, they're quietly ignoring the fact that if they hadn't been involved in illegal activities themselves, they would never have been targeted by the undercover officers in the first place.)

It's all rather sleazy, and does indeed raise interesting issues about just how far the police should go in pursuing criminals, but it's going to be fascinating watching the case unfold.  If nothing else, reading about all the salacious details might just sow the seeds for another book... 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Death of the bookstore?

The other day I gathered my courage in both hands and asked at my local book shop whether they'd be willing to carry a few copies of Gleams.  The owner was both charming and deeply apologetic, but the answer was a firm 'no', and here's why.

He's been running the same store in the same location for over twenty years.  Currently his annual rent is somewhere in the region of £25,000 (which probably equates to around $35,000 or even $40,000 for those of you across the pond).  And thanks to the rapid emergence of e-books, Kindle and the like, he simply can't sell enough books to make ends meet.  He told me he honestly doesn't know how much longer he can keep going, is unlikely to still be there next year, and for that reason can't commit to carrying any additional stock, even if it's from a local author.

Particularly galling for him is that more and more people are using him as a sort of 'shop window'.  They go in, scan the covers of the books they want on their mobile phones, and then go out again without making a single purchase, to order the books more cheaply online.  Fair enough, vast online stores are always going to be cheaper - they don't have the same overheads as a small, one-man-band operation.  Even so, that does seem a little... I don't know... underhand.  The least they could do is buy a single paperback, or even a bookmark or a birthday card, while they're in the store.

I have a feeling that the next five years could see the end of the traditional book store here in the UK.  It's a crying shame because they are wonderful places, full of opportunity to browse the shelves, find new authors, be transported to a magical new world.  When was the last time you discovered a completely new book or writer on Amazon?  It's far more likely you go online with existing details, and simply buy the book you want.

However, change happens, and I do think that the owners who manage to adapt their book stores to the current economy (perhaps by offering coffee, or an internet cafe where buyers can order their books online) are the ones who are going to survive.  In the meantime, I wish my local book shop all the best, and can only hope it lasts longer than the owner thinks it will. 

And that I can find other places to stock my book...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comets and curry

Sounds like a weird combination, doesn't it?  But actually, it was the highlight of a weekend away to celebrate Dave's upcoming ::ahem::ieth birthday.

Dave has always been a huge fan of astronomy and all things 'space' oriented, so as a special treat I booked two nights in a local hotel and two tickets for a special event at Herstmonceaux Observatory science centre in Sussex.  It meant another almighty drive (the third to the south-east corner in a couple of months) but boy, was it worth it. 

The hotel wasn't up to much, mind you - booking over the internet can be a hit-and-miss affair - but it was cheap, reasonably comfortable and only a couple of miles down the road. 

We had the opportunity to explore the area on Saturday, having never visited East Sussex before.  Hastings turned out to be a big disappointment (although I think we might have missed the more insteresting Old Town) but both Eastbourne and Lewes were amazing.  So much so that we've said we must come back, have a holiday in the area, and trawl through the sights at our leisure.

The crowning event, though, was the Comets and Curry night at the Observatory.  We rolled up just before 7pm, had some time to look round the exhibits (mostly in the form of child-friendly experiments but still great fun), then trooped into a geodesic dome in the grounds for our plate of curry and complimentary glass of wine, followed by a fascinating talk about the origins of comets and meteorites by one of the Observatory staff.

After that, we were let loose on the telescopes.  Herstmonceaux was used as the Royal Observatory for a period after the second world war, and has six separate observatory domes as a result, each housing an amazing and (in several cases) very old telescope.  As part of the evening, we went into four of the domes, not all of which are open on a regular basis.  We saw the copper-clad roofs rotating to line the telescopes up with different areas of sky.  We saw one dome raise its own floor so we could reach the huge telescope which is so heavy it's easier to move everyone up to it, than to move it down to ground level.  We looked through three different telescopes and were able to see Jupiter and four of its moons, Uranus (not visible with the naked eye), and even the Andromeda galaxy.  We talked to members of both a local astronomy society and a local amateur radio society.  And we saw several shooting stars - the result of the annual Taurid meteor shower.

Remarkably, since it had been raining all day, the skies cleared and everything was pin sharp, and because the Observatory is sited out in the countryside there are fewer lights around to cast everything into an orange glow.  I was delighted to be able to see the Milky Way, and individual stars in the Pleiades cluster, both for the first time.  And Dave was like a small boy in a sweet shop the entire evening and enjoyed every second.  Which, after all, is why I did it in the first place!

We're back at home again now, tired from the travelling, heartily sick of motorway service stations, but very, very happy that we made the effort.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Want to help victims of Sandy?

Then you could do worse than buy a book or two from the Riptide online store.  The staff at Riptide have been personally affected by the aftermath of the hurricane, and have taken the unanimous decision to donate 25% of all their onsite proceeds this week to the American Red Cross, to help pay for the clear-up efforts.

The offer stands until 10 November (Saturday) so if you'd like to do your bit, hurry along to the Riptide store and place your order.  Any book you buy will qualify for the donation, be it large or small, one or many. 

Thanks for listening, and thanks for your help.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tree petition fails

All efforts to save the beautiful monkey puzzle tree at Brockhole Visitor Centre failed yesterday, when it was felled without notice - ostensibly on health and safety grounds, but more likely to prevent protestors gathering at the site.

I'm really sad about this.  Over two hundred people had signed an online petition to keep the tree; a recent survey by the Lake District National Park Authority showed that only one out of 1000 people asked was in favour of the felling; and local people in general were horrified at the idea.

And yet the LDNPA has disregarded the feelings and wishes of all of the above and cut the tree down, on the dubious grounds that it 'wasn't in the original plans for the gardens' at the house.  Well, nor was the zip-wire tree-top trek they've just opened, but I can't see them getting rid of that any time soon.

It's a crying shame, and leaves me nervous about the fall-out.  The LDNPA are the local planning authority for all properties within the National Park, and up to now they've been quite severe about refusing to let mature trees be chopped down on a whim.  But how can they refuse permission for other land owners when they've gone ahead, in the face of strong local opposition, themselves?  It doesn't bode well for the local landscape.

I've removed the link to the online petition as there's no longer any need for it.  Sadly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghostly discount for Halloween

A quick heads-up: Riptide Publishing are offering super discounts on Gleams of a Remoter World just for Halloween.  The e-book version is on sale at a massive 50% off the cover price, but to get your hands on this chillingly good reduction you'll have to act fast, because it's for one day only!  All discounts cease at midnight EST (US time) on Thursday 1 November.

Don't lose out.  To get your hands on a spooky read at half price, hurry along to the Riptide store now.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lost tourists and lamps

The weather suddenly turned cold on Saturday, with clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and a wind straight from the Arctic steppes.  Even at midday there was still ice on the roads above 1200 feet, but it was so pretty we decided we couldn't possibly stay indoors.  So, after a brief foray into Ambleside for cold-weather walking gear, and a slightly less brief stop for yummy pub grub in Glenridding, we set off into the foothills near Helvellyn for a walk.

Mind you, 'walk' is a bit misleading.  The first few hundred yards were fine, and then the path plunged off up a slope that was steep enough to have us hanging on by our eyebrows, heaving and puffing and heaving some more.  Gradually, it got steeper.  Gradually, it got wetter underfoot, until it was more like a stream bed than a path.  Gradually, it got rougher and stonier.  And the sun was so low it was shining straight into our eyes and we couldn't see where we were putting our feet.  After a few more hundred feet of struggling, we decided it was simply too dangerous to carry on, and found another path that led in a loop down a somewhat gentler slope further up the valley.

Part way down that, we bumped into a family of south-east Asian tourists, coming the other way.  Could we help them, they asked.  Could we point out where they were, and how far it was to the tarn they were trying to find.  Sure, we said, and grabbed the 1:25,000 scale map we'd been clinging to for dear life for the last hour.  Oh, no, they said, we can't use one of those.  Show us on our map.  And produced a tiny, roughly printed leaflet on pink paper with a sketch plan on the front cover - the sort of thing that's sold for about £2.50 in all the local gift shops.

Well, we tried.  But those maps are for guidance only, not to be taken literally.  The scale is ridiculously small, with half a mile compressed into something the size of a child's thumbnail, and they're also notoriously unreliable.  With the aid of our map and our local knowledge we managed to put them on the right path, having told them not to trust their map because it wasn't suitable for the terrain - something we're still not sure they understood.  And it was only when they'd wandered off, in roughly the right direction, that we noticed they were wearing trainers, and presumably had no map, no compass, no torch, no whistle... and there's no mobile phone signal whatsoever in that valley.

We haven't heard that Mountain Rescue was called out, which is good, but afterwards we were kicking ourselves for not being responsible adults and telling them forcibly to abandon their walk and head back to the village....

By Sunday the weather had changed completely, and it bucketed down all day.  We headed towards Lancaster to visit a vast antiques centre I recently saw featured on a tv antiques programme, because we needed a new standard lamp.  All the modern ones are made of metal, which I don't like, and far too short, so the light only reaches the floor, so it made sense to look for something older.  And we came up trumps.  The centre is indeed huge - roughly the size of an aircraft hangar with stall after stall after stall of antiques, collectibles, retro stuff, vintage stuff, and (if I'm honest) just plain junk, and we soon found half a dozen standard lamps that were suitable.  We chose the nicest, with a turned wooden base and 'pole' (and a hideous pink faux silk shade), forked out the huge sum of £36, wrestled it into the car boot, and drove straight to the nearest Homebase to find a better shade.  The end result is a little... unique, with a modern snazzy shade on top of a vintage lamp base, but it gives out a really good light for reading, looks eclectic and interesting, and cost about half what we'd have paid for a modern one in the shops.  Which is always nice.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gleams blog tour - Day Five

I seem to be blogging about nothing but... well, blogging, at the moment!  Bear with me - this is the last one for a little while, at least, since this is the last day of my virtual blog tour to celebrate the release of Gleams of a Remoter World.

And where am I today?  Well, apart from up the wall and round the bend, you can find me at Under the Covers, with a post about music.  Or, more specifically, which music would make a good backing track assuming Gleams was ever made into a film.  There's everything from 80s pop to Gregorian Chant on the list, so why not head over for a closer look.  You might even want to settle down with the book in one hand and your tablet in the other, checking out the tracks on YouTube to see why they're so appropriate.

And, of course, there's that store credit giveaway to remember as well...  ;)

Keep your truncheon in your trousers!

This is the title of my latest guest blog post, which I've just discovered appeared over at Romance Junkies on 17th October as part of the Riptide anniversary blog tour.  The title refers to a banner unfurled by women protesting outside New Scotland Yard over the antics of certain undercover police officers, and the post is all about the thorny issue of police breaking the law whilst working undercover.

This proved to be a controversial aspect of my recent book Necessity's Door, and the post is my attempt to set the record straight - yes, I really did do some research, and yes, this sort of thing really does happen, although you might never get a serving officer to admit it!

Do pop along to Romance Junkies, read the post, follow the links to various relevant newspaper articles, and join in the fun! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gleams blog tour - Day Four

I'm due over at Ed & Em's Reviews today, with a little something about the settings I used in the novel. 

Many of the locations are based on real places, visited during a holiday Dave and I had in Connemara about ten years ago.  So if you want to know where Kilveenan really is, or the truth about the harbour or the ruined church, then look no further than my guest post, which should hopefully be appearing soon.  (At the time of posting this it hadn't yet been uploaded, presumably because of time differences around the world, but keep watching.)

Yet again, commenters can give themselves the chance of winning Riptide store credit so don't forget to add your thoughts at the end of the post (there, not here!).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gleams blog tour - Day Three

Day three of my blog tour finds me washing up at Mrs Condit and Friends Read Books, with a so-called 'missing scene' with a difference.  The scene isn't from Gleams of a Remoter World at all, but from the novel the main character, Chris, settles down to write towards the end of the book.

Confused?  Don't worry, hopefully all will be explained if you read the blog post at Mrs Condit.  The book the scene is from is called Moondust and Memories, and it does actually shed some light on events from my own novel.  Honest!

And yet again, don't forget to leave a comment to enter yourself in the Great Riptide Giveaway.

Gleams blog tour - Day Two

Sorry, sorry, this is going up a little later than planned owing to the fact that muggins here got the address for the guest blog wrong.  head::veryhardagainstnearestwall...

Anyway, the good news is that the second of my guest blog posts has gone live over at Well Read, and this time the subject is all the archaeology involved in the novel.  Find out what it's doing in a book about ghosts, and why I love it so much!

You can find the post here, and don't forget that there's a chance to win Riptide store credit if you leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back in one piece

Well, we finally stumbled through the door after our marathon trip round Britain for Dave's grandmother's funeral.  Cumbria to London via North Wales, and back, in two days flat is NO JOKE, but we're glad we went to support the rest of the family and join in the occasion.

These things are always sad, but this particular one was also fascinating.  Dave's grandmother was born and brought up in the east end of London over ninety years ago, and the funeral followed east-end tradition with a carriage and four matched black horses with huge black plumes on their head-harnesses instead of a hearse, plus a procession through the local streets.  The cortege consisted of a standard hearse filled to the brim with flowers, the carriage, three limousines stuffed with family, and at least two ordinary cars following on behind.  It travelled at a slow horse-walking-pace along the local high street (where it stopped the traffic and people were so amazed they were taking photos) and then all the way to the crematorium, about five miles away across a couple of London suburbs.  It was quite a sight, and a lovely way to make sure the event was remembered for good reasons as well as sad ones.

The carriage was rather like this one, except that we had four horses:

Monday, October 22, 2012

E-book and blog tour - day one

Just popping in for a second from the closing stages of the funeral to say that 'Gleams' is now also available in e-book format - see my webpage for further details.  I'm having a few problems connecting to the internet via a mobile dongle-thingy so if it isn't working today, many apologies, and it will definitely be updated with all the details you could possibly need (and a few more...) by tomorrow.

Today is also the first day of my virtual book tour around the net, where I visit various blogs which were kind enough to have me and rabbit about myself and the book.  Today's victim, ooops I mean kind hostess, is Amara and you can read a brief interview with yours truly.  Don't forget - leave a comment at Amara's site to give yourself the chance of winning $10 Riptide store credit!

I'll be checking in there whenever I can and will try to reply to any comments either later on today, or early tomorrow.  Please bear with me - it's a 7 hour journey each way and there's nowhere to plug the laptop into in the car!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It's out! 'Gleams' in print...

Yesterday brought some truly exciting news - my novel Gleams of a Remoter World has made it out in print!  Apparently Amazon quite often jump the gun in terms of release dates and they've done it again.  The novel will be out in various electronic formats from Riptide Publishing on Monday, but you can buy the print book today.

You can find the book here, or to discover more about it go to either my webpage or Riptide Publishing.  In both cases you'll find a blurb, the odd review, and a good chunk of the novel to read as an excerpt.  In Riptide's case this is the first four chapters; on my website I'm a little more limited on space so I've only uploaded the first chapter, but hopefully that will be enough to whet your appetite.

I really hope that you enjoy the book and the mysterious otherworld that the wonderful north-west coast of Ireland inspired me to create!

And watch out from Monday onwards for both the e-book, and my virtual blog tour, which will be kicking off at Amara's Place with an interview with yours truly.  Why do I write?  Why do I write about ghosts?  Why did I write Gleams of a Remoter World?  All that, and you can win Riptide store credit too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amazon author central update

A couple of weeks ago I set myself up with an author profile page on Amazon UK but didn't have time to transfer it across to Amazon US.  Now I've put that right, and American readers should be able to find details about me here.

I've even managed to link this blog to the page (I think...) although I can't now find how to do that on the UK page.  Sigh.  Why is nothing ever straightforward?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shotgun Honey presents Both Barrels

The online crime magazine Shotgun Honey, who ran one of my stories a few months back, have announced the release of their brand new anthology 'Both Barrels'.  This is a collection of short, sharp crime fiction by a mixture of established and new authors (or, as the magazine's editor puts it, "those we'd already published and those we had incriminating evidence on").

There are twenty-nine different stories, and as Shotgun Honey themselves say: "We’ve got a little bit of everything with stories about abusive spouses, down on their luck gamblers, ill-fated drug deals and even some cyborg lesbian vampires thrown in for good measure."

Like the sound of it?  It's available on Amazon right now as a paperback or a Kindle edition, so what are you waiting for?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sad times

Sadly, Dave's elderly grandmother passed away at the end of last week, and the funeral has been set for next Monday, 22nd October.

This is the very day my novel Gleams of a Remoter World is due for release and there's a possibility I won't have computer access for a couple of days while we travel to London, stop over, attend the funeral and travel back again.  If I can't get online, please bear with me in terms of updates about where and when the book is available.  I'll get onto it as soon as I possibly can.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gleams blog tour announced

The release date for my new novel Gleams of a Remoter World has just been announced, and it's going to be 22nd October - a week on Monday.  Starting that day, I'll be heading off on a virtual book tour around various blogs, with a variety of guest posts on subjects as varied as the settings for the novel, why it contains so much archaeology, and which songs might make a good backing track if it was ever made into a film!

On top of that, there'll be a giveaway with one lucky commenter at each stop winning themselves $10 of Riptide store credit, so do come along and join in the fun.

The various dates and stop-offs are as follows (and there's also a complete list on the events page at my website, just in case):

October 22, 2012 - Amara's Place
October 23, 2012 - Well Read
October 25, 2012 - Ed & Em's Reviews
October 26, 2012 - Under the Covers Book Blog
It's all getting really exciting now - I can hardly wait another ten days!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Safety Last - on an organ

The Royalty cinema in Bowness isn't one of the biggest or the grandest, but it does have a surprising amount of history.  Built in 1926 and opened as a cinema the following year, it's the proud possessor of the only working Wurlitzer organ in a cinema anywhere in Europe.  After a major restoration project, the cinema celebrated both the organ's new working status and its own 85th birthday with a couple of fun events.

The first of these was an organ recital concert, which we didn't go to.  The second was a showing of several genuine old black-and-white silent movies with organ accompaniment, which we did.  And boy, was it fun!

The programme started with an early Charlie Chaplin film about a boxer or prize fighter.  The bits we could see were very amusing, but sadly the film stock was in such poor condition that a lot of it was too dark to see what was going on.  Next came Buster Keaton's 'The Paleface', which was thoroughly non-pc but laugh-out-loud funny - and a must-see for anyone who loves Johnny Depp's performance in 'Pirates of the Caribbean 2'.  Then just before the interval we saw an old Laurel & Hardy title.  I've never been a big fan of theirs - too often their humour involves smashing things up and the jokes tend to be repeated ad nauseam - and it was interesting that this probably got the fewest laughs of the evening, but it was still pleasantly silly.

After an interval with a real usherette selling real ice-creams off a real, round-the-neck tray, we settled down for the main event - a showing of Harold Lloyd's 'Safety Last', complete with organ music and special effects.  It was an absolute scream.  Comedy filming had clearly moved on considerably since the Chaplin-Keaton era; there were more close-ups, more stunts, and a much more sophisticated approach.  Watching Lloyd climbing the tower-block and dangle dangerously off the hands of the clock at the top still gave us a real thrill even after 80-odd years, and the whole audience laughed their socks off pretty much the whole way through.  And the succession of bells, clanks, whistles and bird calls mixed in with the delightful organ music (reminiscent of old Tom & Jerry cartoons) really added to the atmosphere.

The cinema will apparently show other silent movies, also with organ accompaniment, in future and we're watching the listings to see when they will be, because this is something we'd definitely want to do again.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Riptide anniversary - 'Necessity's Door' on sale

As mentioned earlier, October is the month Riptide Publishing celebrate their first anniversary, and they're doing it with a mass online party and all sorts of goodies. 

Not only can you win yourself all sorts of swag and freebies by following the blog tour, but any book published before July 2012 is on special offer for the whole of October.  This means 'Necessity's Door', my novella about an undercover police officer, has a whopping 15% off the cover price if you order a copy during October.

So, what are you waiting for?  Discounts on Riptide books, fun facts and guest blog posts, cake, more fun, and the e-book of Necessity's Door for only $3.39.  It's got to be worth checking out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing on the walls

Last weekend we visited another new National Trust property in the area, Wray Castle.  Like Allan Bank, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this has suffered over the years, although in this case it was from neglect and general knocking-about whilst run by a couple of management training companies over the last few decades.

As with Allan Bank, the Trust aren't yet furnishing the house, but have left it mostly bare to show off the structure, and leave the interpretation of the rooms open to the visitors.  As with Allan Bank, there are activities for the kids, displays on the local archives, a reading room.  And as with Allan Bank, you can write on some of the walls.

In the former library, the walls have been lined with paper covered in pictures of blank books, and visitors are encouraged to fill in the title of their favourite book, and sign with their own name.  It's a lovely idea, and judging by the fact that all four walls have been filled, and more book outlines are being drawn on above where the paper ends, it's proved amazingly popular.

And I'm afraid I couldn't resist.  Faced with opportunity like that, I clambered on a stool, drew in an outline of my own, and filled it in with the title and publisher of my forthcoming book.  Here's the rather blatant result:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ghosts with the Guinness

I've had some really exciting news this morning, courtesy of my publisher - my novel Gleams of a Remoter World is available right now for pre-order.

The book is best described as a paranormal mystery romance, featuring a couple of paranormal journalists who are sent to the wild west coast of Ireland to investigate tales of hauntings at a ruined church:

"Paranormal journalists Chris Mullins and Jo Perry are sent to Ireland's remote west coast to investigate tales of hauntings at a ruined church. Chris, who has an inbuilt sensor for ghosts, is drawn to the old priest’s house next door, where he faces an otherworldly encounter so strong it leaves him reeling. Their research leads to a tangled web of forbidden love, family rows, and even, possibly, murder.

Chris jumps at the chance not only to solve the mystery, but also to aim for the coveted Moondust Award, a prize for the first journalist who proves that ghosts exist. Jo, though, is less enthusiastic, both about the award and her on-off relationship with Chris. Things become even more confused when Chris finds himself falling for Paulie, one half of a gay couple on holiday in the same village.

Only the wild, haunted landscape of Ireland can give Chris the answers he so craves, but to find them, he may have to choose between the Moondust Award and the matters of his heart."

Once again Riptide's cover artist L.C. Chase has done a stellar job with the cover, as you can see above. I couldn't have got it more perfectly suited to the story, or the book's poignant, spooky atmosphere if I'd painted it myself! If you'd like to order a copy of the book (which means not only that you'll receive it a couple of days ahead of the official release, but also that you'll be entered in a prize draw to win free e-books for a whole year) then hurry along to the Riptide Publishing website right now!

And please excuse me if I rush around the house shrieking for a while...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First trees, now badgers

Those of you who know me have already spotted that I'm passionate about wildlife, the environment, and the countryside. That includes trees (see post about the Brockhole monkey puzzle below) and also wild animals - not least, badgers.

Recently the government have issued culling orders for badgers in two English counties where bovine TB is a problem. The idea is that badgers spread the disease to cattle, and although that has never been conclusively proved, the solution is to kill all the badgers in a particular area and hope that stops TB in cattle.

Former rock guitarist and environmental campaigner Brian May has started up an online petition to try to get the government to reconsider, and it's proving popular. So far, it has well in excess of 100,000 signatures (over the amount needed to debate the matter in Parliament) and that number is growing by the hour. If you'd like to support this cause, please hurry along to the petition website and add your name to the list. And once again, thanks for listening.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Riptide's first anniversay

It's official - Riptide Publishing, the mob who published Necessity's Door and will shortly (I hope!) be releasing Gleams of a Remoter World, are one year old. Or will be in a week or so's time, in October. To celebrate, they're holding a mass online party - not just for the day, but for the entire month!

There will be blog tours and contests and giveaways, and chances to 'meet' and find out more about all the authors, and possibly some of the staff as well. The full schedule is too long for me to reproduce here, but it's available on Riptide's website so do head over there to check out what's happening when.

And keep your eyes peeled, because at some stage I'll be 'appearing' on at least one of the blogs, and will of course post details here as soon as I know which one.

All this and virtual rainbow cake too!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Amazon Author Central

Following some great advice from other delegates at the UK Meet conference, I finally got round to creating my own author page on the Author Central service at Amazon UK. This now contains a picture of yours truly, a biography, and a list of all my current books with easy-peasy links to more detail such as blurbs and buying info. I'm still trying to set up the same thing on Amazon US, but in the meantime if you'd like to take a peek you can see the page here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Save a tree continued

Good to see that the campaign to save the Brockhole monkey-puzzle made the local BBC News broadcast the other night. Apparently the National Park authorities conducted a survey of over 1,000 visitors to Brockhole, and only one said it was okay to cut the tree down. Yet still they want to proceed, which makes no sense at all.

The petition is still gaining names, but slowly (I suspect because nobody knows where it is). If you'd like to add your name to the list, click the button in the sidebar to the right which will take you straight to the relevant page. Something has to get the message across to these officials that their policy is unpopular with locals and visitors alike.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And back again...

After a marathon journey I arrived home, still mostly in one piece, and glowing from the weekend. I enjoyed the chance to explore Brighton again - it's suffered, like most places, in the recession but areas like The Lanes and North Laine are still fascinating: full of cafes, restaurants, and intriguing shops. I enjoyed our stop-off on the way down at Waddesdon Manor, where we wandered round the gardens and ate a sandwich perched on a bench in blazing sunshine. And most of all, I enjoyed the conference.

For starters, it was lovely to meet everyone, and put faces to names that have previously only been at the bottom of emails, or on the flyleaf of a book. The event was staggeringly well-organised, with goody bags stuffed with swag, lunch laid on, free tea and coffee on tap (although the jelly babies are another story...) and everything running to near-perfect time. The panels were interesting (how to market your book without losing the will to live is always going to be a subject dear to my heart) but most of all it was good to just mingle with like-minded people. As Charlie Cochrane, organiser and fellow author, said, here nobody had to explain why they wrote what they wrote, or read what they read, or liked what they liked. One of the bracelets in my swag bag had a motto which read 'Our difference is our strength'. It pretty much sums up the attitude to reading, writing and life in general on display amongst the delegates.

And when I read out the first few lines of my novel at the Novel Openings panel, everybody cheered, which didn't exactly hurt!

Next year's event has already been pencilled in for July, in Manchester, and I'll be first in line for a ticket.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a resounding success.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off to sunny (?) Brighton

I'm busy packing ready for my trip to Brighton at the weekend, to attend the UK Meet 2012 convention.

This is an annual event aimed at readers and writers of, and anyone the least bit interested in, gay fiction. This year, it's being held at the Hotel Mercure in Brighton, and the last I heard there were well over sixty people coming along to meet up, chat, swap notes, buy, sell and sign books, and generally have some fun. It's not all pleasure, though, because there are plenty of panels and talks, guest speakers and one-to-one sessions with authors arranged as well. I'll be reading out the first 150 words of my latest book at the Novel Openings panel, and hope to attend a session on marketing without losing the will to live.

I'm likely to be away from my desk, and possibly even a computer, for several days while we travel down and back. But as soon as I am back, I'll report on how it all went. There may even be photos. And if you're attending too, I'll see you there!

I just hope it stops raining long enough for me to wear my Necessity's Door t-shirt...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rising from the ashes

On Sunday we buzzed over to Grasmere to visit Allan Bank, a National Trust property with a difference. The Trust have owned the house since 1920, when it was left to them in the will of Canon Rawnsley, one of their original founders. Since then, though, it's been tenanted and not open to the public. But last year it suffered a devastating fire which came close to destroying part of the building, and in trying to raise money for repairs they've opened the place to the public.

But my goodness, what a difference from the usual stately home, stuffed with furniture and valuable paintings and quite often bristling with signs saying 'Do Not Touch'. Here at Allan Bank there's nothing. Virtually no furniture, bar a few sofas by the fire in the reading room. No soft-furnishings; no knick-knacks; no paintings. Even the wallpaper and carpets have gone. But what's left is the house. The basic, raw, architectural structure of the house, which is normally hidden away behind all that surface gloss, but which is revealed here in all its fascinating detail. Floorboards, plaster decoration on walls and ceilings, fireplaces, window frames - you can see the lot, in exactly the way the house's original architect would have intended.

Better still, you can interract with it. Because the house is in an unfinished state you can sit for hours on the window seats with a cup of tea, or touch the stone, scuff the floorboards, even (I mean it) write on the walls. The Trust are looking for ideas on what to do with the house once they've finished conserving it from the fire, and are actively encouraging visitors to write their ideas on any surface that comes to hand.

The results are interesting to say the least. A few suggest specific uses for the house - a base for wounded soldiers, an animal rescue centre. But the vast majority want it left as it is, so future visitors can also appreciate the house, and the unique atmosphere it holds, for themselves. You can add us to that list.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Passing showers...

Ever since we moved into our city crash pad, we've been having problems with a leaking shower. Take a bath and it's fine, but the minute anyone runs the shower you could practically sail boats across the bathroom floor.

We've been scratching our heads and trying one thing after another to stop the flood. Replacing all the mastic between the bath tub and the wall. Running an extra shower curtain across inside the existing shower screen. Mopping up and starting again when neither of those worked.

Then this morning I stuck my head round the bathroom door while Dave was in the shower, to see if I could spot the leak. I'd expected to have to grub about under the bath for ages, checking various pipes and tubes, but in the event it was much easier than that. The minute I opened the door I was met with a small but persistant cascade, from underneath the plastic strip that joins the shower screen to the wall. The mastic there had failed completely and it was quite literally running with water, which was then spreading out across the rest of the floor.

We didn't have time to fix it, but at least now we know what the problem is. Dave will take a mastic gun to both sides of the joint and blast the gap into extinction, and hopefully after that the water will stay inside the bath.

Every new property has its teething problems; let's hope this one was ours.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Currently reading

I've been promising myself I'd get hold of a copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ever since I spotted it had won the Orange Prize for fiction. Finally, on Friday, I treated myself to the book and started reading it over the weekend.

At first I didn't think I was going to like it, in spite of the fact that it's a m/m historical in the vein of Mary Renault, who wrote some of my favourite books. The language was very simplistic and the style seemed to be very much 'show not tell' with the narrator, Patroclus, looking back to his childhood and reporting on events in a dispassionate, measured style that lacked any hint of emotional impact. Somehow a sentence like "I remember that my father was very angry" doesn't conjure up the same visual image as a brief scene with the same father, scarlet in the face, banging his fist on a table and yelling at his son.

However, as I read on the action picked up. The book's second main character, Achilles, was introduced and suddenly, intentionally or otherwise, the whole thing has come to life. Now I'm looking forward to bedtimes when I can put on the reading light, curl up under the duvet and read another wadge of pages about Patroclus and Achilles' friendship.

I'm only about a third of the way through (although that's not bad going for two days!) so will post again when I've finished it and have a better idea of the book as a whole. But so far, so good, I think.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Facebook author app

A friend of mine passed on a rather dire warning about the Author Marketing App on Facebook, which many authors probably aren't aware of. As with so many of these things, it seems it pays to read the small print. More particularly, the bit of the small print which reads:

"You grant to Agile Marketing the unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual fully-paid and royalty-free right and license to host, use, copy, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, resell, sublicense, display, perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, modify, make derivative works from, retitle, reformat, translate, archive, store, cache or otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content to which you have contributed, for any purpose whatsoever, in any and all formats; on or through any and all media, software, formula or medium now known or hereafter known; and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed and to advertise, market and promote same."

In other words, you're signing away all rights to any content, including any excerpts or short stories you post, for all time, without any form of compensation.

Read it and weep. And more importantly, avoid this app like the proverbial plague unless you're happy with losing all control over any of your work that you add to it.

I knew there was a good reason I didn't like Facebook...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Allergy test

For some time now I've been having what seem suspiciously like anaphylactic shock reactions to something I eat at some restaurants. So far I haven't turned blue, but I have fainted and it's a little unnerving, as much for my companions as for me. The NHS specialist I saw several years ago was unhelpful to the point of being rude, but the attacks have kept on coming and finally, on Saturday, I plucked up courage to go for an allergy test at a local health food shop.

I have to admit I was dubious. The test was by means of a Vega machine and when I researched the process online the results were very negative. At best, I thought it would identify a few 'usual suspects' that I might be intolerant to. At worst, it would be £50 down the drain. But in fact, I was pleasantly surprised. The operator was clearly very experienced (and very sensible), and she'd set the whole thing up as a controlled experiment, so that neither of us knew the results in advance. I wasn't allowed to tell her what I thought I might be allergic to, so there was no way she could influence the results. And in turn, I had no idea which substance I was being tested for, so I couldn't influence the results.

And the results were interesting to say the least. Mild intolerances to citrus and tomatoes, a much more unusual intolerance to carrots (yes, really - she checked three times!) and a high intolerance (bordering on danger levels) to monosodium glutamate and several food dyes.

The mild intolerances aren't a problem - I simply cut out those foods as much as possible for a couple of months before reintroducing them gradually to my diet, which should hopefully give me time to build up tolerance to them. The higher level results for MSG, tartrazine and carmine red are much more of an issue, and are almost certainly what's causing my allergic reactions. How strange that the NHS specialist couldn't or wouldn't test for those, instead of selecting a couple of ingredients at random that I told him I hadn't eaten.

Of course, it's going to be difficult to avoid additives, particularly when eating out, but I can try to avoid cheaper restaurants which are more likely to use cheaper ingredients, and I can now press my GP for an epi-pen to carry around with me. And I no longer have to feel like a hysterical, middle-aged female who's imagining the whole thing, over-excited by the prospect of eating out, or trying to gain attention by fainting in public. Yes. Those really are some of the things that were suggested by the specialist.

Homeopathic testing gets a bad press (and sometimes probably deserves it). But in my case so far, it's homeopathy five, conventional medicine nil. And the best £50 I've spent in a very long while.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UK Meet guest blog post

The UK Meet (for readers, writers and lovers of gltb fiction) is rapidly approaching and we're starting to do a little promotion of the event, and ourselves, in the lead-up.

Today, it's the turn of a guest blog post over at Jessewave's m/m review blog, where various authors who'll be heading to Brighton for the event are given the chance to say what they're hoping to get out of it. Other than sore feet from too much standing, sore throats from too much yakking, and a goody bag, of course.

Muggins here has added her twopence worth, so if you'd like to know more about my reasons for attending - and check out some of the other writers who'll be there - then pop along to Jessewave's blog for the lowdown.

Oh, and ps - there are still a few places available if you want to come along yourself. The place - Hotel Mercure in Brighton. The time - Friday 14th to Sunday 16th September, although you can just come for the Saturday. The cost - um, I can't remember, but you can find that and a load of other details on the UK Meet website. Do come along - it's going to be fun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The first round of edits on Gleams of a Remoter World have landed with a thump in my inbox, so I'm likely to be a little inundated for the next few days until I've worked my way through them.

Thankfully, so far, they don't seem too horrendous and thankfully I've now got to grips with the latest version of Word, so I'm not fighting to get every comment or comma in the right place! Even so, it's always hard work making sure I've dealt with everything I'm being asked to. So if I'm a little absent please bear with me. I will be back. And I'm very excited about the prospect of having this novel published.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Walking weekend

The good weather continued (mostly) unbroken throughout the weekend. We took one look at the blue skies and sunshine and said 'hang the chores', grabbed our boots and went out for a couple of lower level but still lovely walks.

On Saturday afternoon we chugged our way round about two thirds of the so-called 'Windermere three peaks' route - a slightly tongue-in-cheek description for an ascent of the three small fells at the back of the town: Brant Fell, School Knott and Orrest Head. I wimped out after the first due to the heat, which is fine when you're sitting elegantly in the back garden but a killer when toiling up one in four slopes with no shade. Dave, though, went on to complete the second as well and is hoping to add the third in the next few weeks. And even I must have walked a good three miles, much of it very uphill.

Yesterday we took the car out a short distance from the town, on narrow winding lanes through countryside that was like a step back in time. I'm not going to say exactly where we ended up because it was so utterly unspoilt and peaceful that I don't want to accidentally popularise it and spoil it for ever! But we parked by a small tarn and took off walking in the general area between Troutbeck and Kentmere, along a track that was simply plastered with wild flowers. I must have counted 25 or 30 different varieties in a four mile walk and haven't seen flowers like that for years. Setting off it was sunny with a fresh breeze, but after we'd been walking about an hour the clouds rolled in, the humidity level shot up, and the sky looked dark and threatening. We carried on for a short way, but thunderstorms on the fells can be unpleasant at best so in the end we wimped out again and headed back to the car. Needless to say, by the time we got back the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining as bright as ever... but we still had a really enjoyable Sunday afternoon stroll.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tourists for a day

Dave and I both have exceptionally busy periods coming up - him with travels all over the place, including abroad, and me with edits on my novel. On Wednesday the sun was shining for a change so we decided to make the most of the opportunity, and a relatively free day before the 'deluge', to become tourists for the day.

We headed over the Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding, grabbed about the last place in the huge car park there, and bought tickets for a boat trip on Ullswater, which I last did when I was about eleven, and Dave had never done before. The scenery around the lake is stunning, with high mountains at the head and more pastoral scenes at the foot, but usually Dave is manhandling the car round bends and past other traffic and can't take his eye off the road. We thought this would give him the chance to actually see the surroundings for a change.

Trouble was, we'd reckoned without the crowds. The boat we were on had not one but two entire coach parties stuffed into it before they even started letting us ordinary passengers on. Consequently we found ourselves down in the bowels of the boat, on stools in the bar area, with hardly any view... as the boat sailed past some of the most spectacular scenery in England. Never mind, we thought, we'll get off at Pooley Bridge, have a wander round and a cuppa, and catch a later boat back when the crowds have died down a bit.

We did exactly that, but everyone else had the same idea and although we got seats on the top deck on the way back, they were under an awning and facing backwards, so we still couldn't see much of the mountains. Sigh.

Never mind, it was a fun trip out, we grabbed a handful of photos from the pier at Glenridding, and we saw what looked suspiciously like the Lake District's only remaining golden eagle soaring over the crags near High Street. A magical moment that made the whole trip worthwhile.

If we do this again, though, it will be firmly out of season when the boats are quieter and we can get a decent seat!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Come to Brighton, win a Kindle!

The organisers of the forthcoming UK Meet in Brighton have just let those of us who will be attending know that there's a chance to win one of three Kindles:

"The organisers of UK Meet 2012 are delighted to announce that delegates will have the chance of winning one of three (count em!) Kindles, thanks to the generosity of one of our sponsors, Silver Publishing. We'll be putting one into the raffle in aid of our link charity (Albert Kennedy Trust) while the others...well, wait and see on the day."

It's still not too late to book your place at the event; anyone who reads, writes or is remotely interested in gltb fiction is more than welcome to attend and there's already a long list of fascinating panels to go to, as well as the chance to meet some of your favourite British (and even non-British) authors.

Yours truly will be popping along on the Saturday and reading out the first 150 words of my latest work at the 'Novel Openings' panel.

So if you're free on 14th, 15th and 16th September (or even just the 15th), and fancy a trip to Brighton and the chance to win yourself a Kindle, see the UK Meet official website for more details.

See you there!

Monday, August 06, 2012

'Necessity' in print - update

The Rentboy Collection anthology, containing not only Necessity's Door but three other super titles on the theme of sex bought and sold, is now fully available to buy in print.

The four stories are by yours truly; fellow British author Anne Brooke; Cat Grant; and the writing pair of Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane; and the stories range from the back streets of Birmingham to New Orleans in the floods.

If you'd like to treat yourself to the collection in print (complete with stunning cover artwork) then hurry along to the Riptide website where you can read excerpts, find out more, and place your order.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Celestial music

Last night we went to a concert with a difference, celebrating the life, work and music of William Herschel, the famous astronomer. It was held at Keswick's newish Theatre by the Lake, which does exactly what it says on the tin, being a theatre right by the side of Derwentwater - and a very nice venue at that. We'd never been before but thoroughly enjoyed our comfy seats at the top of the stalls with a grandstand view of the stage.

The concert itself consisted of ten different pieces of chamber music by Herschel, his friends, relatives and contemporaries, played by The 18th Century Orchestra. They specialise in playing (hardly surprising) 18th century and Baroque music, on instruments authentic to that time, by candlelight, while wearing 18th century costume. It was different, fascinating, colourful and fun, and gave a great impression of what music concerts would have been like in the days before microphones and stage lighting. In between the pieces of music an actor took the part of John Herschel, William Herschel's son, to read out snippets about the astronomer's life, discoveries, work, and music, all in a wry style that was very amusing.

As to Herschel's music, we didn't even know he'd composed any and it soon became apparent why it doesn't get played much. You could even say it was a good job he didn't give up the day job, except that astronomy is actually a night job! Even so, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening and something completely different. Well done to the organisers of the Lake District Summer Music festival for including something so unusual in their repertoire.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Not going for a walk...

The weather wasn't too bad this morning, comparatively speaking. It was cool, cloudy, windy and with frequent showers, but compared to most of the past week that's good, so we decided to get out for a walk while it wasn't bucketing down. After a session with maps and guide books we picked the area known as 'Potter Fell', at the back of Staveley, which is reasonably close to home, reasonably free of crowds, and not too strenuous. Or muddy. Which is a bonus after all the hours of rain.

The walk starts off from the lane between Staveley and the neighbouring village (hamlet?) of Bowston, a road known as the 'back road' which is narrow, twisting, amazingly lost given that it's only about 5 miles from the 21st century bustle of Kendal, and startlingly free of parking spaces. According to our Wainwright book, there was space for one car a few yards from the start of the walk, but that was in the 1970s when the book was last updated so for all we knew it might have disappeared.

It was still there, and would have been perfect for the walk. The only problem - someone was doing construction work in a nearby field, and had put 'no parking' bollards across the parking space, presumably to leave room for trucks and equipment. And there was nowhere else to park.

It was disappointing, but hopeless. We gave up, drove into Kendal instead, had a coffee and a mooch round (me with walking boots and a rucksack) and bought a couple of cookbooks from the discount book shop. We enjoyed the stroll, but it wasn't our nice walk to Potter Fell, Potter Tarn, and the wonderfully-named tarn of Gurnal Dubs. We'll save that for another day, and hope the building work ends soon. And that it isn't bucketing down again by then...

This is what we could have seen if we'd gone: Gurnal Dubs in typical local weather conditions. It looks so atmospheric that I'm even crosser we missed it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bold Strokes Nottingham event

I've just been made aware of the following gltb event, organised by Bold Strokes Books and taking place in early August at Waterstones book shop in Nottingham. Because I only found out about it yesterday I can't make arrangements to attend myself, but it sounds as though it's going to be quite a blast, with eleven glbt authors attending, panels etc over two whole days, and a Saturday night party at a local gay club.

Here's the event poster, or pop along to the event webpage for further information.

I can't say 'see you there' but if you do decide to go, have fun and perhaps someone could tell me what it was like?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Necessity in print!

As promised, Necessity's Door will shortly be available in print, as one of the four titles in the Riptide Rentboys anthology. The book is already available to pre-order at the Riptide website, from either Barnes & Noble or Amazon, and orders will be shipped in August (only a week or so away).

My author copies arrived in the post yesterday and I have to say the book is smart, snazzy, and well-produced, with a stunning cover - and the stories are terrific too. This is a real opportunity to get your hands (quite literally) on a print copy to place on your bookshelf and keep for posterity. Great value for $16.99 in my humble opinion!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Save a tree!

The title of this post sounds rather like one of those silly car-window stickers you can buy in holiday resorts - 'preserve wildlife - pickle a squirrel'. ;)

It isn't, though. This time I'm serious. The powers-that-be at the Lake District National Park authority have decided, for reasons best known to themselves, to cut down a large and beautiful monkey-puzzle tree in the grounds of their HQ and main Lake District visitor centre at Brockhole, on the shores of Windermere.

The tree is old, and a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. But apparently it wasn't in the original plans for the garden at Brockhole and therefore it has to go. Even though the public like it. Even though there's nothing wrong with it physically. And even though those same powers-that-be have recently installed a tree top zipwire and boardwalk thingie that would certainly not have been in the original garden plans.

It's all very silly, not least because a garden is an organic entity that constantly grows and changes. Who's to say the original owner of the garden wouldn't have planted a monkey-puzzle himself if he'd been given a sapling or some seeds? Who decides that later changes to the garden are somehow 'wrong' and have to be ripped out? And who decides to destroy a healthy, beautiful and rare specimen on a whim?

If, like me, you'd like to add your name to the growing list of people anxious to save the tree, you can sign a petition here:

And thank you!

Friday, July 06, 2012

We've moved!

I seem to have spent the last week clambering over, around, and even in and out of cardboard boxes, and trying to decide where to stuff their contents. The good news, though, is that the move is now complete, we're settled in our new place, and apart from one broken glass and a small dent to one of the dining chairs, everything survived unscathed.

It's been a completely exhausting process, mind you, and leaving the old house was more of a wrench than I expected. Especially as two of the friendliest neighbours came round at the exact moment we were locking the door for the last time to see us off. It was lovely of them to think of it, but I was struggling to hold back the tears and managed to set all four of us off!

I'm taking it easy this week, catching my breath and trying to get myself back into a frame of mind where I can work, rather than fretting constantly about where things are, how much more unpacking there is to do, and where on earth we can store half the things we own. Moving house is not conducive to writing... but I have managed to get going again on the rewrites for Gleams of a Remoter World, and hope to do more, and chat more, next week.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

And waffling on...

I've only just noticed that the UK M/M Romance blog posted an interview with yours truly a few days ago. I'd been keeping my eyes peeled and would have dropped a line on here with the details but what with the house move and all the general rushing about I'm afraid I missed it. Mea culpa.

You can still read the interview, though, and find out a little bit more about me and my writing in the process. Just click here - and I hope you enjoy it. Blog owner Sue Brown asked me some fascinating questions; please excuse the rather waffly replies!

Following the torch

Popping in briefly to say that I've just posted over at Carrying the Torch, a blog which follows the Olympic Torch Relay around the country with a new post by a m/m author every day.

Today it's the turn of Birmingham, which just happens to be the setting for Necessity's Door. If you want to find out about some of the real-life Birmingham places I used in the book, head on over to Carrying the Torch today! There's also a new excerpt from the book.