Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New story accepted by Riptide

It's funny how things work out, isn't it? I'd only just mentioned Riptide Publishing in a post the other day, and then I got the terrific news that they've accepted one of my own stories. And remember my post about meeting that very tight deadline on a call for submissions a week or two ago? Well, it was that very story that they've decided to take.

The story is called Necessity's Door (based on a quote by Daniel Defoe) and tells the tale of Jake, an undercover copper who poses as a rentboy and finds himself getting sucked into the life he's forced to lead. Will he get out with his life, honour and virtue intact or will the temptation be too much for him? Will his partner Mac help, or will it be left to new man in his life Graham to ride to the rescue? Although it sounds like straightforward smut it's actually a little more serious and thought-provoking than that, and was inspired by a sort of 'what if' moment: what if an undercover detective really did find himself in that situation? What if he liked the life, or the benefits it might bring?

You'll be able to find out for yourselves in May, which is when the book is due to appear. It'll be published in both electronic and print formats and to say I'm over the moon about the acceptance and looking forward to the release is the understatement of the month. I'm running round the study screaming!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm on Goodreads

The title says it all, really. One of my writer friends first recommended Goodreads a couple of years ago now but it's taken me this long to sit down, register myself with them, get a profile and start collecting books.

I have to say it isn't the easiest social networking site to join. I found the process very unintuitive and it took me a whole hour to realise that the microscopic icon on the top right hand side of my 'books' page was the link to my profile. And I still haven't worked out how to get a blog on there, or link that blog to my own blog here, or even how to review the books I've read and rated. But using any of these sites includes a steep learning curve and I'll keep on fiddling and ferreting until I've cracked it.

What I did want to say was that I haven't yet tracked down many of my fellow-victims, er, I mean members, on the Goodreads network. So if you're a member already and would like to link to me, or even just browse my bookshelves and poke around what I enjoy reading, then hurry along to my profile and feel free to 'friend' me from there.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dark day on the fells

We were all set to go out for a walk on Saturday but events conspired against us so we went yesterday instead. Inevitably, the weather was less kind (chilly, damp and grey) but at least it wasn't pouring with rain, blowing a gale or covered in ice. Everything is, however, absolutely squelching with mud after all the rain and many of the smaller or higher level paths are so disgusting they're not really safe, so we chose the Coppermines Valley at Coniston which is on good, stony tracks (actually old miners' tracks to the vast network of historic mines and quarries in the area).

It was surprisingly enjoyable. Thanks to bad weather, frequent trips back to Birmingham and various work commitments we've not been out walking since Christmas Day, and even that was a short toddle up Post Knott, hardly one of the highest peaks in the land. It was lovely to get out into the fresh air, get the old legs moving again and see some scenery close-hand rather than through the windows of the car. And what scenery! Coppermines is a classic hanging valley, almost flat once you heave yourself up the steep slope out of the village and over the lip, and it positively bristles with evidence of its ancient mining past. To some people this would be dark, dreary and depressing but we love it. It's so full of atmosphere you can almost hear the miners, the pit ponies, the old rail trucks clanking down the slopes filled with ore... and the whole place has a wildness and remoteness about it that's extraordinary considering it's only a mile or so from the centre of the village.

Here's a couple of photos I took, with the mist down over the fell tops and drizzle blowing in the breeze, to show you what I mean. Pretty it ain't. Stunning, yes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Door to nowhere

We have a brand new door on our landing... but it doesn't go to a room, or a corridor, or even a set of stairs.

This doesn't mean we've discovered a hole in the space/time continuum, or a new way into Narnia, or even a portal to another universe. What it does mean is that we've been moving furniture in my study again.

I think I've mentioned that my study (really more of a box room) is very small and an awkward shape. Recently I treated myself to a new desk, to replace the rag-tag of hand-me-downs I'd been managing on, none of which really fitted the space. The new desk is a proper full-height adult one with drawers to give me better storage and fits into my 'writing corner' beautifully. The only slight drawback is that my large bookcase won't fit in next to it any more.

No problem, I thought. There's an odd little entry-way to the room and the bookcase should fit in there. The only problem with that was that there was a door in the way - the door to the room. So Dave got busy with a screwdriver the other night and took that off its hinges, and moved the bookcase into the space where the door had been.

The bookcase is fine. It looks a little odd, but then this house is full of quirks and kinks and corners so it fits right in. The only problem now is... what to do with a full-sized door. Dave left it leaning against the banisters on the landing, where it looks thoroughly surreal and where I can trip over it ever time I leave the bedroom. Hopefully, we can find somewhere else to store it before long. Until then, I'm very tempted to try opening it, and see if there's anything unexpected on the other side...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I've won a book!

Rather to my surprise, actually, since I almost-to-never win anything, and I had no idea I was taking part in a contest!

It turns out the contest was being run by fellow author Anne Brooke to promote her latest book launch at Riptide, a new(ish) publisher specialising in gay fiction. I commented on one of Anne's blog posts to congratulate her on the new release and hey presto! the very next day she told me I'd won the contest and could choose any book from her impressive back list.

The one I've selected is called The Bones of Summer and is a gay mystery thriller involving missing persons, amnesia and a disastrous past love affair. Oooh-er. It sounds right up my street and I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How many endings?

I caught part of an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning with author Caroline Smailes, who has apparently written her latest novel with no fewer than eleven different endings which the reader can choose between. Apparently she did this after readers complained the endings of her last two novels were 'too gloomy'.

I missed hearing how the technology is supposed to work but this article in The Daily Telegraph has more detail. It seems that the book will be published electronically and the readers will have to answer questions and depending on the answers the software will select an ending for them. This sounds a little too much like those quizzes that turn up on people's blogs from time to time, where you answer a bunch of random questions to find out which chocolate centre you resemble or what sort of an elf you are.

It's an intriguing idea and one that explores the possibilities of new digital technology, but I don't think it's for me. Not as a writer, and certainly not as a reader. When I read a book I'm not aware of turning the pages, I'm not aware that it is a book. Instead I slip inside the world the author has created and become a part of it, only to surface again when I turn the final page. If I have to stop and answer questions about my mood or my favourite colour it will pull me right out of the story, which surely defeats the object of the book.

And as a writer, it would simply drive me wild. The BBC also interviewed author Josephine Cox at the same time and she explained that her characters 'write' her books and that they themselves choose their own, natural, ending depending on the events they've been through. This is very much the way I write and I'm not sure a book would feel properly finished unless I'd written the last sentence and drawn a (metaphorical) line under it.

I suspect that like most new technologies it will become something of a fad for a while, but would you really want to have to do this for every book you read? Wouldn't you rather the book's author had already done the hard work for you?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stars (of both varieties)

We've just arrived home after a long weekend away in London attending the annual 'AstroFest' conference. Dave started his lifetime ambition of a degree in astronomy last year and managed to bag one set of free tickets for the event, so we bought ourselves another set and indulged in a two-for-the-price-of-one weekend away, while using some of his vast store of hotel points to stay in a large hotel in Kensington for only the price of breakfast.

The conference was a blast. Highlights for me including the particle-physisist Simon Singh (who turns up on learned programmes on BBC4) setting fire to a gherkin live on stage; and collecting a smile from Brian May. Yes. That Brian May. He was attending in his 'doctor of astrophysics' persona, not as a rock guitarist, but I've been a fan of Queen for years so it was still rather special.

The talks were fascinating and much to my amazement I enjoyed the super-scientific ones (Lucie Green on the structure of the sun's surface; Don Kurtz on the role of the Kepler mission in discovering new exo-planets) much more than the more historical ones. Given what a duffer at maths and physics I was at school, that was a major surprise.

In addition to cramming in sixteen talks in two days, we also managed a bit of sight-seeing, including lots of exploring round the local streets. Kensington is an area neither of us knew very well and we fell in love with it. It's full of stunning houses; rows of old mews cottages half-hidden down back alleys; blue plaques to famous residents like Benjamin Britten, Hubert Parry, T S Eliot and Alfred Hitchcock; churches; and garden squares. It's also home to some of the most expensive property anywhere in the country so I doubt we'll be moving there any time soon. Add in a run round the natural history museum and a more sedate visit to the science museum, as well as several nice meals out, and all in all it was a very successful trip. Apart from the train journey home, which should have involved one train and taken about two hours. Four hours, three trains and one bus later we finally made it home. Sunday rail travel is a bugger.

Oh, and the gherkin? Dr Singh hooked it up to an electrical current to show the sodium ions (in the pickling brine) glowing orange... and accidentally left it connected just a little bit too long. The smell was interesting, at any rate.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


The story is finished and sent, so I finally have time to drop in and report a couple of slightly strange experiences from the previous week.

The first involved finding a very large bright green caterpilar making its way determinedly upstairs. Nothing odd in that, you might think, except that it's the middle of winter and we're having a particularly cold spell outdoors. Added to that the stairs are in the middle of the house, about as far from any doors and windows as you can get. And caterpilars aren't exactly the Speedy Gonzalezs of the insect world... and it can hardly have flown. Just where it had come from, and where it was going, are still creeping me out.

Two days later the doorbell rang and when I opened the door there was nobody there. Nothing unusual in that either, of course - kids do it all the time, not to mention a tradesmen or two when they realise they've got the wrong address. But this was different, because I was right by the front door when it happened, and I could see through the glass panels that there really was nobody there. Our front garden is small and the gate is in line with the front door, so unless someone folded themselves up and escaped down a crack in the paving slabs, there was nowhere for them to have gone. So who or what rang the bell? It's still a complete mystery to me.

Mind you, nothing can hold a candle to this photograph in the Westmorland Gazette, of a woman's figure at the window of an empty house.

I don't think I really believe it's a ghost - it looks more like a reflection of someone outside and is probably too small for the proportions to work. But it's a wonderful picture nonetheless, and just creepy enough to send shivers down your spine!