Monday, 9 April 2018

Update 9th April

Hello everyone. Once again, it’s been a little while since I did an update but here I am again. Strangely, last time I wrote a personal blog, I was watching sport and this time I’m watching the Commonwealth Games, namely Wales winning a medal in the gymnastics.
Some real-life stuff first. We are still waiting on completing on the bungalow. All the surveys and searches have been done, but now we wait on a few questions about the leasehold. We have a little work to do on the place – mostly converting the bathroom to a wet room to make life easier for me. It will be lovely to have access to the garden without the steps I have here, even though we are going to have to get someone in to take care of it. We have one of our university friends coming to stay in a few weeks and she may get caught up with us moving. All the sorting has more or less been done now. We have bags of stuff for charity to collect. The British Heart Foundation has been very useful. They collect bags and we’ll let them clear the house when we’ve moved.

We had to rush our girl cat to the vets on Good Friday as she couldn’t urinate and was in distress. Vet a bit grumpy being called out, but we couldn’t wait for them to open. Thankfully, it was cystitis, not anything more worrying, and after antibiotics and painkillers she is fine. As we lost cat the elder before Christmas, we were worried, but she’s running around much as usual now. It’s hard to believe she’s six this month. I still think of her as a kitten because she’s so tiny.

On the writing front, I’m happy to say there has been some writing. I have several ideas and a couple of incomplete stories, so unsurprisingly, I’ve started writing the story of a couple of characters from My Highland Cowboy. If you’ve read that book, this one will feature Cormac, the bad boy brother of Craig, the groom, and Lachie, one of the twins who work on the ranch. Unusually, it starts with them splitting up. So far, I’ve written around 8000 words. It’s slow as I can’t sit comfortably for long, but at least it’s something.

In other news, I’ve just signed a contract for Two for the Road with Pride Publishing. It won’t be out until early next year but could be earlier if they have a gap come up. This is my first May/Dec story, although it’s more like Feb/Aug. The MCs are Dylan, a young man on a mission, and Riley, who was Dylan’s father’s childhood friend, and is trying to move on from his past. It’s set in Lancashire, near where I live. Oh, and there are pets.

I’ve read quite a few books since my last blog. In Throwing Stones, Avery Cockburn did her usual great job. I also enjoyed Pretty in Pink by Jay Northcote, one of my favourites in this series, The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza, Taxes and Tardis by N. R. Walker, Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summers, and The Way You Are by L. J. Mile. Living on Air by Susan Mac Nicol was a tough but rewarding read. Other reads were Untouchable by Kay Simone and Ruthie Luhnow and Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer. Both of these suffered from the same problem for me. I liked the characters to begin with, but the stories went on for too long with too many misunderstandings and failures to talk to each other. I also read and enjoyed the first part of C. F. White’s District Line series. Looking forward to reading the rest when they come out as I love football—see below. There were a couple of other reads which didn’t work for me.
Box set watching continues. We’re now up to Buffy season 4 which we are combining with Angel season 1. Hard to believe it's twenty years since it started. We’ve also watched The White Princess, an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s book about Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII. Henry was far too pretty and, as usual, the story annoyed me. I know authors can interpret history, but I get irritated watching. We’ve also started film night on Saturdays. Watches include the highly recommended God’s Own Country. Call me by Your Name, which I enjoyed but it didn’t feel real enough to me. Paddington II was wonderful, Dunkirk impressive, though I think I enjoyed the John Mills version more, and the poignant, Film Stars don’t die in Liverpool. I’m excited to have downloaded The Last Jedi. I know I’m probably the last to watch, but as I can’t get to the cinema, I have to wait. I’m looking forward to it after all the controversy.

That’s enough for now. I continue watching football. I may have no nails left as Cardiff City are worryingly being pressurised for a promotion place. On the positive side, it looks like my local team, the wonderfully named, Accrington Stanley, may go up for the first time in their history to the third tier in the English Football League. This would be an awesome achievement for them.
Just a couple of extras. Please read the posts on R. JScott’s autism awareness blog hop, including mine, link. There are giveaways on every post. There’s also a giveaway on a post from last week, you can find here. This is a Q&A I did. If you follow Totally Entwined romantic deals, I’ll have a couple of books coming out there one for free and one at 99p. Keep an eye out for them.

I hope everyone is well and looking forward to some summer sunshine.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Autism Awareness Blog Hop 2018

Thank you for visiting my blog post in the autism awareness blog hop 2018. It is always a privilege to take part in this event. You can find the link to R. J. Scott’s main post here.

Autism and Football
Football is a sport close to my heart. I have been a fan of the beautiful game for many years. The 2017/18 season is proving to be an exciting one as two of my teams have a chance of promotion. Cardiff City, the team I’ve supported since I was a teenager, are currently second in the Championship, and Accrington Stanley, my current home town team, are top of League Two. For those who have no idea about the structure of football in Britain, there are four main leagues, The Premiership, The Championship, League One and League Two. But what you may ask, has football got to do with autism?

As someone who attended games in the past, I’m aware of how crowded and loud football matches can be. Many people with autism would find it difficult to attend a game which is a shame. I did a little investigation and found that one Premiership team, Bournemouth FC, have decided to launch a campaign to make it easier for those with autism to attend. This campaign was launched last December with Harry Redknapp, a well-known manager. Bournemouth have created a toolkit which they are hoping other clubs will adopt. You can find information about the campaign here. 

If you are a supporter of a particular club, large or small, why not ask them to get involved?

Sport brings people together. It should be inclusive. Just to finish off, here is some information about autism in the UK.

Thank you for visiting. I will give a copy of a signed paperback of any of my books available in print to one person who comments on this post.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Update 19th February

Hello. I know it’s been a while, but I thought it was about time I put fingers to the keyboard.
This week, I have mostly been watching the Olympics and editing. I love sport. I used to play netball and hockey in school which surprises people as I’m not exactly built like a sportsperson. I also used to swim a lot because I lived on the coast and my home town had at least four beaches and a huge open-air swimming pool. My school, which was built in 1971/2, also had an indoor pool which you were allowed to use unsupervised if you’d passed a bronze personal survival award. Strangely, sorting out, I found the certificate I’d earned aged fifteen among some papers this weekend.

As I write this, I’m watching people fling themselves in the air wearing skis. As someone who is terrified of ice and falling over, I sit in awe of these people. I love their attitudes. I also love watching the curling – see my current read below – and the figure skating. Who would have thought the Brits would dominate sliding down face first on a tea tray? I’m so happy to see athletes like Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy be able to be open about their sexuality. Their representation will mean so much to young people around the world.
Yesterday, I also spent a couple of hours watching a game of football between Tottenham Hotspur of the Premiership and Rochdale, a couple of leagues below. They were playing in the FA Cup. Now, I’m not a fan of Rochdale particularly, but they were the underdogs and they didn’t give up. They scored a goal in extra time to get a well-deserved draw and a reply at Wembley. I sat here clapping and cheering with a huge smile on my face. Sport does that. My team, Cardiff City, are also doing well this year and managed a win on Saturday with my little five-year-old nephew and his mum in the crowd. It was the first time they’d been after my brother’s death so I’m glad our team managed a win for him. Like his dad, he loves football and is a pretty good player. His mum loves the game too.

In other news, we’ve made an offer on a bungalow and had it accepted. Hopefully, in a few weeks we’ll be able to move in and I’ll get more independence back with having a bedroom and bathroom downstairs. We’re just hoping we’ll have enough room for all our books! It’s probably a good job I have a kindle as we’ve have another 600 to find room for.

On the writing front, the news is that I haven’t done anything new, but I am now at least editing. I sort of lost faith in one story in which I’d split 110K words into two and was hoping to write a third. Still not sure what I’m going to do with it. I love the characters, but I’m not sure my story does them justice. So, I put them to one side and took up my May/December story. I think it works. I’m on to the last few chapters now written before Christmas which are all over the place but sortable. I’m not sure of the end, and as usual could do with some eyes looking over it, but we’ll see. It would be nice to submit something.
As well as the Olympics, we have managed to watch a few box sets. Our current watch is How to Get Away with Murder and we are up to season three. We’ve also watched series two of Dirk Gently which I enjoyed more than series one. We continue to watch Supernatural and I’m really enjoying series thirteen. I’m hoping for the spin off Wayward Sisters to get a chance too. Next on the list is the latest Game of Thrones. We also watched God’s Own Country – watch it if you can. Yes, it’s dour in places and one of the MCs isn’t particularly likeable to begin with but the growth in their relationship is lovely. Next on our film watch is Thor Ragnorak followed by Blade Runner 2049.

As for reading, my current read is Throwing Stones by Avery Cockburn. I’m not sure I’d ever thought I’d read a great story centred around curling. I’ve also read all of Rosalind Abel’s Lavender Shores series. I enjoyed them and found her mix in the stories much like my own. Other reads have included Love Times Five by Lily G Blunt and Dream by Garrett Leigh, both different reads for me but enjoyable. I’ve also read Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story which had me really examining this current edit. Well worth a read.

That’s my update for now. I’ll get back to watching the ice dancing. Good writing everyone and happy sales. And I’ll just add you can also find me on Book Bub and Queer Romance Ink (though I need to add my books).

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Doubting Alexa

I’m still not sure about writing this, such is my level of doubt at the moment, but here goes.

Most writers and others will have heard of Imposter Syndrome. I’ve been experiencing this feeling for some time now, so much so that I’ve struggled to write anything for a while, and had little belief in the words I have committed to paper. I’ve told myself that this is a feeling many writers have, but I give myself the same reaction my mother did when I said other mothers allowed their children to do something – I am not them.

When my first book, Sporting Chance was published back in November 2014, I’m not sure what I thought would happen. To be truthful, I didn’t care because I had a book out with characters I loved, and still do. It did quite well, and is still my best-selling book. Since then, I’ve had eleven other stories published. Some have been better received than others, but none have sold in the same numbers, even with good reviews, and I can’t help wondering why. My Highland Cowboy had some great reviews, but has sold less than a third of Sporting Chance. Now, I know other people have experienced a drop in sales over the last few years for various reasons, and I tell myself I don’t do this for the money – which is true. I don’t have to live off my sales, so I could go on producing books while my publishers take them. The thing is, I feel guilty. I feel like I’m letting people down. And then I begin to wonder about the point of is of sitting staring at a screen, writing words, editing them, grinding out a synopsis and blurb – spending hours – for so few to enjoy or experience my words. Is it worth the effort and heart break? I could go back to writing fanfiction, something I loved to do.

Last year, I had two books and a short story published. While You See a Chance had two older characters. I spent ages writing and rewriting this one, maybe too long, adding bits and taking some away. It was hard. On the other hand, My Highland Cowboy just happened with little bother. It was my style – two MCs I loved, a smattering of secondary characters and sex. It wasn’t majorly angsty like some others I’ve written, but I’d intended it to be like that. The Matchmaker, a short story, is written in the same sort of vein—light and fluffy.

While these were the stories I had published, I began to write what I intended to be one long book. It got to 100K so I decided to split it and write a third with the same MCs to make a trilogy, but I wasn’t going to submit until I’d written all three. I love the MCs, especially Jonah, who I’ve wanted to write for a couple of years. He’s a large bloke with a tough background who has fought to gain confidence and overcome his problems. He believes in giving back and his friends love him. The other MC, Owen, is based on the experience of a well-known person who is mixed race and was adopted. He recounted his experience in a documentary some years ago. I wanted to explore their problems, but not do the old put them together, split them apart, put them back together story, although there is a little of that, and will be more in the third book, if it ever gets written. The thing is, I’ve lost confidence in the story. I have no idea if it is any good or whether I should even continue editing or writing more of it. I have another story that I stopped writing at 20K even though I had ideas for the rest of the story. I did write another story which was supposed to be a short Christmas tale, my first May/December story, which turned into 60K words and not quite so light and fluffy. Finishing it was hard, and I’ve no idea whether it worked as I haven’t dared read it back. And, all the time, I keep telling myself, why bother with any of them when no one reads them anyway. Making myself edit these stories is increasing my doubt even more, so what do I do?

I know other authors will have gone through this. I don’t want pity, or even to be told, yes, I can write, but I need ideas of how to get through this, and why I should bother. I’m savvy enough to know that outside forces, my arthritis, housing situation, trying to lose some weight, and the death of my brother have affected me and my levels of motivation, but in the past, I’ve been able to overcome my doubts.

This time, I’m not sure I can.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bye, bye 2017 and hello 2018

I’m still not sure about writing this, but here goes.

2017 was a difficult year from a personal, and in some ways professional, point of view. It began with a couple big changes for me. After suffering an injury, my physical health had worsened making getting about even more difficult, but on the plus side I’m not living on my own anymore. My family also had the sword of Damocles hanging over us in the form of my brother’s cancer treatment. As many of you know, in October, he died suddenly, leaving behind his wife, three children, my mother and me.

My brother and I didn’t live in each other’s pockets. I spoke to him when he was at mum’s house and sometimes on the phone, but his loss has hit me hard. He was my only sibling – the only other person in the world with the same ancestry. I’ve felt lonely knowing he isn’t there anymore. I’m heartbroken thinking of the two very young children he’s left behind. It wasn’t how I planned it. He was the one to stay at home while I left, firstly to go to university, and then to live and work two hundred miles away. My one consolation is that I was able to get to his funeral with help from some wonderful people. It was an amazing occasion with dancing to Boogie Wonderful included. I met people I hadn’t seen for over thirty years. It’s so hard to believe those teenagers I knew are now grandparents.

In the wider world, events have been incredibly depressing. Some days I’ve dreaded opening Facebook and Twitter. In Britain we’ve had the madness of Brexit and in the USA there has been the continuing circus around that man. Sometimes, it feels like the world has gone mad. On the other hand, it is more positive to see women and men speaking out against the culture that exists in so many organisations and society in general. Hopefully, change will come.

I’ve read lots of wonderful books this year. I think my reading biggest change has been reading much more historical fiction, something I’d avoided being a history teacher, and not the biggest fan of the Regency period. But KJ Charles sucked me in and Jordan L Hawk, Joanna Chambers, Ruby Moone, and Cat Sebastian kept me there. I’ve read around 200 books this year. Currently, I’m making my way though Rosalind Abel’s Lavender Shores series.
On the watching front, we’ve watched all seven series of The West Wing and wished there were more, and also all twelve series of Supernatural. Other watches are listed in other blog posts. Next lengthy watch will either be Buffy or How to Get Away with Murder.

Now, for my writing. In 2017 I had two novels and a short story published. My Highland Cowboy had some great review and was lighter than my usual stories. While You Take a Chance had two older MCs. I loved writing that one and wish it had done better for me and the publisher. The short story – The Matchmaker – featured in an anthology, Right Here, Right Now. This was another low angst feel good story. Over the year, I’ve completed five full novels, so I have three not published and, as yet, unsubmitted. Two of them have the same MCs and are set in Norfolk. There will be three books in the Half series and I have the last one to write. I’m not planning on submitting until all three are finished. I’ve also completed a May/December story called Two for the Road which needs editing, and half of another story which hit a brick wall at 20K, but I might get back to it.
I’ve no idea of plans for 2018. I haven’t felt like writing for a while now. If I get the muse back hopefully I’ll write book three, and edit them all, edit Two for the Road, finish the other story, and even do more than contemplate the idea I have for an historical story set in the mining industry of the early 20th century, inspired by two characters from How Green was My Valley, my own family history of mining in Tonypandy, and a side character from Rainbow Connection. It’ll need some research.

I will admit feeling somewhat disillusioned about writing. I tell myself I write because I want to and not because I want to sell books, but it would be nice to sell more. I know everyone is suffering from reduced sales in a crowded market, but it can be disheartening not to sell even when you’ve had lovely reviews. Oh well, I’ll see how the muse takes me.
That’s it from me for now. I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year in 2018 and good luck with those sales.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Round Up Post 11th December

Yes, you’re right, it has been a while, but I thought I’d write a little something today. We didn’t get the heavy snow as it moved further south, but still had a smattering and as I glance out of the kitchen window, the sun is shining on the icing sugar covered field behind us, and the canal is frozen. Cat the younger ventured out earlier but found her paws got cold and wet so hurried back in again and is currently in front of the fire.
As many of you who read this blog will know, we lost cat the elder last week. Pets are not people, but her loss added to the general feeling of sadness after the death of my brother. I tell myself not to, but I can’t help thinking that two months ago I had a brother and two cats, and now I don’t. Still, cat the elder had a good life for the last few years. She’d decided to leave her first home and take up residence with the nice old lady down the street. When the nice old lady had to go into a home, her fate was uncertain. I decided to take her in as long as she and cat the younger got on. I won’t say it was a match made in heaven, but they tolerated each other. Her sudden decline came as a shock, and the vets have no real idea what caused her strange condition, but we couldn’t let her suffer. Her ashes will be buried in the garden with the other three boys. We’ve usually played music for each burial, but we’re not sure of her musical choices as she was deaf and didn’t respond to sound. For boy 1, we played Lady Marmalade, Boy 2 had Figaro, and Boy 3 loved a diva, especially Liza Minelli!

Anyway, onto other things. Writing has been slow as my heart hasn’t been in it for many reasons. I’ve been suffering from a feeling of why bother combined with simply not being able to find the words. I did manage to finish a chapter and reckon I have another and the epilogue to go on WIP. Two for the Road is my first May/December story and will reach around 63K words. I intended to write a 30K Christmas story, but it grew. Once this is finished, I have to edit/rewrite Half Full and Half Time and write the third in the series with the same MCs. I also have 20K words written of another story that needs finishing.

The Matchmaker, my short story has received a few lovely reviews. As I expected, teenager, Tom, steals every scene from the MCs. If you want a sweet, short read this might be the one for you. In other news, Pride Publishing are having a sale with up to 60% off lots of great titles. This includes my first book, Sporting Chance, at half price and my most recent, My Highland Cowboy, with a third off. Both are at £1.99 or $2.68 for this month. I’ll put the links at the end if you are tempted.

I’m currently having an orgy of Christmas story reading along with a few non-Christmas stories – Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger, The Doctor’s Discretion by EE Ottoman and Spring Flowering by Farah Mendlesohn. Christmas stories read so far include The Clumsy Santa by Sue Brown, Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton, Snowflakes and Cinnamon Buns by Claire Castle and A Christmas Promise by K C Wells. Next up is A Mistletoe Kiss by Ruby Moone. I’m also reading Richard Coles autobiography for some variety.

On the watching front, we’ve finished up to S5 of The West Wing and have started on S2 of The Crown. We’ve continued to enjoy S13 of Supernatural and, I have to admit, watched I’m a Celebrity supporting Toff all the way. Although, I’m way behind with other CW programmes, even Legends of Tomorrow, I did watch the 4-day cross programme event, mostly because Wentworth Miller was back and kissing Russell Tovey. I wasn’t disappointed.
That’s it from me. I doubt I’ll blog again until after Christmas, so I wish you all a happy time. For my family, the holiday will be tinged with sadness, especially as it will be my brother’s birthday at the end of December. It would be wonderful if 2018 was a better year, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Our target for next year is to find a new single-story house.

To my author friends, happy sales, and to everyone else, happy reading. I hope Santa brings you what you want.

Book links

Sporting Chance 


My Highland Cowboy


The Matchmaker

Monday, 13 November 2017

On Kindness

On Friday we buried my brother. I live in the north west of England and my family are from Barry in South Wales. I have arthritis and can’t drive long distances. I had no idea how I was going to get there, or how I would manage once there. Lying awake this morning, I decided to write about kindness, then I discovered on twitter that today is World Kindness Day, so this blog seems even more serendipitous.

I am a great believer in kindness and letting people be kind. Having mobility issues has taught me that people like to help, people don’t always get it right, but I want to believe they are motivated by the best of reasons. The events of the last few weeks have shown me just how wonderful people can be.

We knew getting to Wales would be a problem. I rang a local taxi firm to enquire and they gave me a quote but didn’t seem too keen, then out of the blue one of my publishers offered the services of her husband. The wonderful Mr P hired a car big enough to take us and my walker and baggage and drove us there and back, clocking up many hours of driving and dealing with someone – me – struggling to get into the seat, panicking that I might not – and us singing along with the radio. I can’t tell you how grateful we were that this person, who we had never met before, went out of their way to take us and bring us back.

Once at the hotel, everyone again was kind and helpful. We stayed at a Premier Inn next door to a Beefeater Restaurant called Walston Castle. Some of the reviews aren’t complimentary online, but every person who served the tables were as helpful as they could be, from making sure doors were opened so I could get my walker through, to making sure we got the table nearest the entrance from the hotel so I wouldn’t have to deal with steps. Our waitress was lovely with my young niece and nephew on the first night there, and nothing but polite and helpful, constantly checking we were okay, especially after they discovered why we were there.

An old friend of my mum’s took us to the funeral, with her daughter driving and then onto the venue for the wake/disco. Again, I had fun getting in, but we managed. We did go to the wrong door so I couldn’t get into the main room due to many stairs, but they stayed with me and the place was so packed I definitely wasn’t alone. A lot of me was glad not to be sitting with him in front of me in that coffin as I find that so hard to deal with. The celebrant sought me out and introduced herself and the funeral directors also checked on me. My sister in law and her family were wonderful. How C did that speech about my brother, I have no idea, but she managed to stand there in front all those people and speak about him. So many people went out of their way to speak to me and tell me their stories. I’m not sure many of them would ever have been to a funeral where dancing took place before, but my brother loved dancing and Boogie Wonderland was his choice.

At the wake which had a DJ and disco, as he’d insisted, I met people I hadn’t seen for nearly forty years, people who we’d grown up who were now grandparents. Still, I could find no one who knew why my brother was nicknamed Ned. I also got a lot of questions about my writing – my mother and brother had told many that I wrote novels, so there I was talking about gay romance. When we left, the disco had started and many were up on the floor dancing as he’d have wanted, including my older nephew and my sister in law. I suspect there will have been a few thick heads the day after.

Leaving my mum and eldest nephew was hard, but I know C will look after them. I returned home to discover more kindness. I have an amazing group of friends online. We met through our love of Doctor Who. These wonderful friends had made a donation to Cancer Research on behalf of Ian. Such kindness brought more tears, and I’ve cried a few recently.

Lastly, there is one person without whom I could not have done this. She has been my best friend for nearly forty years. You know how important you are to me.

Sometimes, this world can seem like a horrible place when you read all that is going on at the moment, but out there are people who want to be kind. I am so grateful for that kindness, and wanted to state so publicly. We will never get over our loss, but the kindness of so many made the last few days just that bit easier.