Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

mueum storage facility stacked with boxesI’ve been trying to thin out some of our stuff mountains at work. See the photo to our left – that’s well ordered museum storage. Some of our museum is very like that with dexion shelves stacked with neatly labelled boxes. But there are other parts where we have boxes, bags, envelopes, and brown paper packages tied up in string of donated items that we are processing and finding safe homes for. Since we went over to lone working, had our hours cut and our volunteers only come in one morning a week, we have a bit of a backlog. Add to that the normal detritus you get with a business where we are ordered to keep all correspondence for 2 years and everything financial for seven years AND the museum mindset that says “OMG you can’t throw that away, it might be important” and we look a bit more like hoarders than collectors.
So I’m chucking out masses of bits of paper, snipping relevant articles out of newspapers – all the usual – and sometimes come across things that are baffling. For instance, a scrap of paper with a transcription of what appears to be part of a probate inventory:

Imprimis bookes in folio about fower scores
Item of semi-folio about seven and twenty
Item of Quarto large and small about one hundred and [hole in page]
Item of sixto and octavo large and small and severalle others of duodecimo about three hundreds and sixtie
Appriased at thirtie eight poundes and fifteen shillinges

And there’s a squiggle that I think might be 1748. A pretty good library for the time, I think. And now I have recorded it here I can throw the bit of paper away.

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Put a star in your diary by 22nd February, 2020.

This is when the next ShiMMer event will take place. A whole day dedicated to just MM Romance, with various entertainments and a wide variety of authors, from the very biggest UK names in the genre to – well – me. I’ve booked a table too. Just need to get some books to put on it and oodles of the type of swag that readers are less likely to bin 😀

So if you’re in Birmingham on the 22nd and have time to spare, come along to Jury’s Inn and join the fun.

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book cover showing young man with ripped torso
You can read this as a stand alone but there will be a lot of referral back to previous books

Title: Aria 

Published By: eXtasy Books

Authors: Cheryl HeadfordS.L. Danielson

ISBN: 978-1-4874-2523-4


Word Count: 114271

Estimated Publish Date: 12th July 2019

Series: Upstaged #4

Heat Level:

Categories: ContemporaryLoveStoryGayGLBT,


You think you’re holding someone close, but if you’re not paying attention, they could slip right out of your arms and fall.

Asher and Erik are getting married, but Asher isn’t happy about the pressure being put on him by their families and unwittingly by Erik himself. Issues that have plagued him for a long time come bubbling to the surface and threaten to overwhelm him. Although he cries out for help, no one hears; instead they write it off as Asher throwing a tantrum again. Only Angel sees the cracks, but it’s too much for him to handle on his own, although he tries.

The pressure builds, and even though there are breakouts, still no one sees the extent of the problem until the night before the wedding, when Asher is confronted by Erik in front of all their family and friends, and bolts.

Fortunately, Asher is rescued by Vince’s Uncle Tony, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

The Band heads off to London for a three-month tour, and not everyone is happy about it. Vince is stressed out and worried that Angel is not being entirely faithful. Should he say something? Then Connor meets an old friend, just when he starts having doubts about his relationship with Angel, and the fur starts to fly.

Will any of the couples survive?



The sunset over the fields was a breathtaking sight. Asher couldn’t help but appreciate the wonderful view of the surrounding countryside, such as it was, from Vince and Billy’s home. Three sides consisted mainly of houses with large gardens. On the fourth side, however, there were woods and fields all the way to the horizon, and over them, the sun was going down.

He had never watched a sunrise or sunset and failed to be moved. He loved everything about those times. There was a different quality to the light that appealed to his artist’s eye, and a feeling of clarity that calmed his mind. Tonight, however, he wasn’t calm. Not even the drawing pad on his knees and the charcoal pencil in his hand could bring him the peace he usually felt when he was immersed in his art.

Truth was, he hadn’t been able to find peace for a long time—weeks, maybe more. He was blaming it all on the wedding, convincing himself that when it was all over the peace would come again, but the truth was, he didn’t know if it would. Another clearer, more honest corner of his mind was telling him the wedding wasn’t the problem at all.

Asher sighed and put down the pencil, hugging the book to his chest, and stared out into the gathering dusk. He thought about his other sketchbook, the one he always left at school. He thought about all the sketches he’d been working on so feverishly, more and more and more. What was he thinking? What the hell was he thinking? He was playing such a dangerous game, and sooner or later he was going to get caught. Then what? He should stop. He knew he should stop. He should never have started, but—

Erik coughed to announce himself. “It’s gorgeous out here, isn’t it? They chose the perfect spot. The yards are so manicured…the meadows, the woods…a beautiful backdrop.” He stepped closer. “Billy and Vince make such great decisions together…they always have. Do you know what the best decision I ever made was, Asher?”

“No, but I know what the worst one was.” He looked up at Erik, taking in the tall figure with his broad shoulders and long blonde hair. Erik was his Viking, his Nordic god. He was too good for him, way too good. Asher was nothing but a screwed up emo freak, with a mind so twisted it was only a matter of time before it imploded. What the hell was Erik even doing with someone like him? “We should never have got together in the first place. You’re too good for me. You deserve someone who isn’t a fucked-up nutjob.”

Erik shook his head and sat down next to him. “Wrong. The correct answer was asking you to marry me. As for you being a fucked-up nutjob and me being too good for you, are you kidding me?” He laughed and picked at the grass. “Asher, you’ve driven me crazy since the beginning, and granted, I didn’t know how to handle a lot of it, but we got through it. We survived the insanity in London all on our own. Look at me.” He tipped Asher’s face to look at him. “You’re the love of my life, and nothing you say will persuade me otherwise. Do you even realize that? You can’t get rid of me.”


S.L. Danielson began writing at the age of six. She knew it was her calling from the moment she put pen to paper. In her teens, she began writing alternative works, and the genre stuck. She also wove more elaborate tales and finally, in her college years, began to weave her new love of male romance into long novels.

She is classically trained in business, accounting, and education, holding both undergrad and graduate degrees. Her other hobbies include painting, gaming, and spending time with her husband and two cherished cats.

Contact S.L. at:


or follow her blog at:


Cheryl Headford was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was sixteen, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden, and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry, and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews, and cousin, and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller, the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close.

Website: http://cherylheadford.com/

Blog: http://nephylim-author.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nephylim.author/

The Upstaged Series also has it’s very own Facebook page


And if you want exclusive snippets, gossip, more information about the group and what our boys look like as Sims then you can have an exclusive Backstage Pass



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Title and cover: The Nature of the Game

 Series: Stick Side #2

 Publisher: self-published

 Release Date (Print & Ebook): May 7, 2019

 Length (Print & Ebook): 87,000 words / 330 pages

 Subgenre: m/m contemporary romance

 Tropes: second chances

 Warnings: N/A

 All buy links or pre-order links:

Amazon: https://geni.us/NatureoftheGame

iBooks: https://geni.us/NatureoftheGameApple

B&N: http://bit.ly/NatureGameBN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/NatureGameKobo


Book synopsis: Six years ago, an ultimatum forced Dan Greyson to make a choice that cost him everything he loved most. One of those things? His boyfriend, hockey player Ashton Yager. Now that they’ve crossed paths again, Dan isn’t about to let the opportunity slip away. Ash’s reappearance in his life is just the catalyst Dan needs to escape the rut he’s fallen into…and win back Ash’s trust and love.

Ashton Yager, once burned and now a little bit shy, didn’t mean to publicly come out as bisexual. But now that he has, he’s got to deal with the consequences, including the fact that it might’ve cost him his NHL contract. With his job on the line, he needs to keep his head down, work hard, and play the best hockey of his life. Rekindling things with Dan? That’s not exactly keeping a low profile. It’s also never going to happen, not after Dan walked away once without an explanation.

When a hurricane forces Ash to seek shelter out-of-state, he and Dan find themselves in the same B&B, where old feelings resurface. But with everything Ash has on the line, does he dare play with fire again?

The Nature of the Game is a second chance romance between an NHL player who’s recently publicly come out as bisexual and a suncatcher maker stuck in a job he’s indifferent about. It features making amends, reconnecting over a late-night baking session, and proving that second chances are sometimes worth the risk.



Running a hand over his face, Dan glanced over to the hallway Ash had disappeared down, and then kept staring, waiting for Ash to reappear again like some smitten teenager who couldn’t control his hormones.

He was so very cool.

Tearing his eyes away, he scanned the restaurant, his gaze snagging on a woman sitting with a group of friends. In her early twenties, she had brown hair to her shoulders and purple glasses were perched on her nose. She sunk into her chair with a grimace when Dan caught her ogling him, her lips twitching up in embarrassment. Dan smiled back at her despite the across-the-room flirting doing nothing for him. All he could think about was Ash. Ash’s arms streaked with dust; Ash’s muscles straining as they moved furniture around; Ash’s laughter when Dan nearly swallowed a dust bunny; Ash’s mad scramble to the other side of the apartment when Dan came down the stepladder with the spider colony; Ash’s expression when he talked about hockey; the emotion in Ash’s eyes when Dan had shown up earlier.

It was Ash. It had always been Ash.

Dan’s smile grew when the man himself reappeared next to him.

“Who are you smiling at?” Ash stood next to the booth, hands on his hips. His scowl would scare small children away.

“Um, you?”

Assuming they were leaving, Dan stood . . . and ran into a wall of muscle when Ash didn’t budge. Ash was warm and big and strong, and Dan forgot all his words. He swallowed hard and told himself the shiver was from the air conditioning.

Ash looked over his shoulder, scowled some more, and growled, “We’re leaving.”

They left. The walk back to Ash’s apartment was silent but for Ash’s stiff shoulders proclaiming his unhappiness with Dan, dinner, or the world at large. Who knew.

“Are you okay?”

“Just…” Ash gestured wildly, arms flying. “I’m trying to sort some stuff out. In my head.”

“O…kay.” Whatever that meant.

Reaching Ash’s apartment, Ash slammed the door behind them and whirled on Dan, hands on his hips. “Do you want to date women?”

“Like, right this second?” I only want to date you. “Not particularly.”

“What about the woman from The Tavern?”


“You know.” Ash’s gestured. “The one you were smiling at.”

“Why are you being weird?”

“I’m being weird.” Ash huffed and paced away. “You were the one eye-flirting while I took a two-minute bio break.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No idea what I’m…” He trailed off, jaw ticking, his eyes fire and fury. Pacing back to Dan, he clamped a hand behind Dan’s head, pulled him forward, and kissed him.

Ash kissed him.

Ash kissed him.

Ash kissed him.

Dan stood shocked and immobile.

“Gonna kiss me back?” Ash murmured against Dan’s lips, walking him backward until his back hit the wall next to the door. “Or just stand there like a corpse?”


Author Information:

Amy started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with her classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in her head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, Amy is a marketer/fundraiser at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, her interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking. She binge watches too much anime, and loves musical theater, Julie Andrews, the Backstreet Boys, and her hometown of Oakville, Ontario.


Website: https://amyaislin.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amyaislin/

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/amyaislin

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/amy-aislin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_aislin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.aislin

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AmyAislinAuthor

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ddvWFv

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amyaislinauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16693566.Amy_Aislin

Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/amyaislin

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/amy-aislin/

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I’m delighted to be hosting RJ and VL today as a celebration of their ice hockey series about the Railers team. It’s always sad when a series ends, but it’s something to celebrate too as the authors go on to explore the lives of new characters. So let’s hear how the Railers stories came to be and wish all the beloved characters well.

hockey team logo, locomotive and Harrisburg Hockey Railers

Building the Railers

Building any kind of team for a writing project, be it hockey players or a SEAL team, or a group of friends, can be approached in so many ways. Believe me when I say Vicki and I have learned a lot about building a team in our hockey writing, mostly by trial and error, and always with a lot of fun.

For example when we created the Railers, we didn’t really have a sense of who the team were. We knew that the Railers were a fairly new expansion team, and we knew what our storyline was for book 1. Other than that the team itself was a blank slate.  As new to each other co-authors we were literally flying by the seat of our pants for Changing Lines (Railers 1) and the May/December, best friends little brother, story, just fell out of us in only three weeks.

We had our star, we had a coach, we even had a Russian goalie who didn’t speak very good English. What we didn’t have was the rest of the team, and for the Railers series, that happened very organically after book 1. We kept a google doc that we could both access with names, relationships, positions, age, and most importantly country of birth.

A hockey team is made up of guys from all different countries. From the big contributors like Canada and the USA, there are also swedes, Finnish, Russian, Norwegian… the list goes on. As the team grew, so did the spreadsheet of information, and the spread of countries we represented in our writing. Then not only did we need our players, but we required a person in marketing, another to control social media, even the name of the security guard that became a focal point in a couple of the books. Not to mention we had to name an arena!

For the spin-off, Owatonna U (NA series), we created a team of character names to start with. Sitting in Vicki’s house in Pennsylvania we came up with characters and the positions they played first. We already had Ryker, he is the son of Jared Madsen in book 1 of the Railers, but the rest were all new to us. As we wrote names down we got over excited with small character sketches – “his dad drives the bus!”, “He’s lost his brother”, “He gets to be in the NHL draft!” and just by sitting together and coming up with names we also came up with the stories we wanted to tell.

Slowly but surely our teams have become more, and with the release of the final Railers novella we not only have teams, but we created family.

The seven bookcovers of the Railers series, plus information that it will be available on Kindle Unlimited for 90 days.

Changing Lines (Harrisburg Railers #1) – Jared & Tennant

Can Tennant show Jared that age is just a number, and that love is all that matters?

First Season (Harrisburg Railers #2) – Layton & Adler

Layton wants success, Adler wants family, how can love made both these things possible?

Deep Edge (Harrisburg Railers #3) – Trend & Dieter

One man’s passion, another man’s lies. Can love fix even the darkest of hearts?

Poke Check (Harrisburg Railers #4) – Stan & Erik

One scorching summer in each other’s arms could never be enough.

Last Defense (Harrisburg Railers #5) – Max & Ben

A hockey player with a medical secret, meets the owner of a no kill shelter. Two men afraid to feel have to make choices that could end up breaking down their defenses and leading them back to love.

Goal Line (Harrisburg Railers #6) – Gatlin & Bryan

Fear and sadness mark Bryan’s life, can Gatlin show him that you have to trust before you can love?


There’s a giveaway too, which you can enter by clicking the Rafflecopter Link 








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book cover showing water liliesI haven’t actually had time to read this one yet, but I have a copy and am looking forward to it enormously.

Constantinople, Byzantium or Istanbul, is one of the places I would love to visit but probably never will, so I’ve made a habit of seeking out stories set there – from Russia with Love and Pawn in Frankincense for instance. I’m very excited to add this one to the bookshelf.

Title: Scent of Lillies

Author: Sarah Ash

Publisher: Manifold Press.

Genre: M/M historical set in Byzantine Constantinople

Rating: Sweet.

Gabriel wants to be an artist. His father wants grandsons. His teacher wants refuge. And the ghost of a young woman who drowned for love of one of his ancestors wants revenge. When events spiral out of control Gabriel heads to Constantinople, but his past is not far behind.

Damien isn’t sure what he wants. He doesn’t want his father’s business, whatever his stepbrother thinks. He doesn’t want his betrothed even though she may still want him. But he does want beauty, and he may find that in the yet to be consecrated church of Saint Thekla, a personal project of the Emperors.  But is it in the painting he will find beauty, or the painter?


 Sarah Ash read music at New Hall, Cambridge for four years, studying with Robin Holloway and John Rutter for her finals. Her interests in music and drama led her into teaching where she has been lucky to work with many dynamic and talented young people.



“Full moon.” Old Marta clicked her tongue disapprovingly and closed the shutters with a bang, crossing herself as she did so.

“Why shut out the moonlight? It’s so beautiful.” Gabriel had been dozing but his nurse’s voice brought him back from the edge of sleep.

“Has your mother never told you? But then she’s not from these parts, she knows nothing.” There was thinly disguised resentment in Marta’s voice as she came waddling back to tuck him in. The reek of ale on her breath mingled with the green scent of the parsley stalk she had been chewing to freshen her mouth.

“Told me what?”

“You’re eight, old enough to know these things. Old enough to be warned where not to go.” She plumped herself down on the bed beside him like a hen settling itself on its clutch of eggs. “Haven’t you ever heard tell of the Ninufarim?”

“Never.” He was fully awake now.

“Pretty child.” She leaned forward and smoothed down his wayward curls, murmuring. “Such pretty hair, even if it is the same colour as your mother’s.”

He shook his head free of her hand, hating to be touched.

“You must never leave your shutters open when it’s full moon.” She wagged a finger at him. “And you must never, never go walking by the lake. For that is when the ninufars rise to the surface and the Ninufarim are abroad.”

From Amazon USAmazon UK, Kobo and Books2Read from April 14th


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A notable day

Blue pink and white striped flag with the words "March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility"

By clicking on the picture above you will be taken to the website of the Human Rights Campaign and a page of information, resources and interviews for and by and about transgender people worldwide. Some of it is very interesting and uplifting, some of it is heartbreaking, all of it is worth watching/reading. And it’s a really good reminder that, while today is THE day to look across at our transgender friends and say “I see you and you’re admirable”, we should be putting the suggestions for how to be a good ally into practice EVERY day. Of course there will be times when we fall short, through ignorance or thoughtlessness, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again to do better.

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Saturday Book Recs

Ooh boy, this one is book 1 of a fantasy trilogy. It’s creepy, scary and not a book to get too fond of secondary characters because the author is ruthless! Oh yes. Great characters and a fascinating series of skin crawling worlds for them to inhabit. Enjoy!


Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

A Darker Shade of Magic

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My latest guest in the series of interviews celebrating the release of the latest anthology from Manifold Press, is Mel Logue, author of Firebrand. Rainbow Bouquet is available now from the usual vendors [links below]

Welcome, Mel.

For how long have you been writing?

Hm. About forty years, this year! I started writing “stories” – possibly because my own childhood was rather dull and grim, being the daughter of two alcoholics – back in the days when primary school children were expected to present a narrative of the things they did in their happy normal homes. Mine almost invariably revolved around going to the pub (which was true) with two fictional horses called Napoleon and Josephine, who did much more amazing things than I did.

And I haven’t really stopped making stuff up since!

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

Book cover showing a sprig of rosemary, 17th century embroidery and the hilt of a cavalry sabre

Red Horse: Book 1 of the Uncivil War series

So basically, my first series of novels (hark at me, my first series!) is set in the 1640s and it’s the continuing adventures of a troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the British Civil Wars. Now as it falls out one of the main characters throughout the middle of the series is genderqueer; she’s a soldier, and a brutal and efficient one – she just happens to pee sitting down and, occasionally, have sex with either men or women depending how she feels at the time. So that’s always a clear and present dynamic in those books. The idea of women who dressed and fought as men was enough of a thing that Charles I got quite cross about it and denounced it publicly, but it wasn’t really right to explore that character any more fully in what are essentially adventure stories. On the other hand, it resonated with me, and when I saw the brief I thought it was an opportunity for me to think more about gender fluidity and independence and sexuality in the period, and how entwined they were.

What inspired your story?

Aphra Behn, pretty much! A year or so ago I’d started writing about an actress called Galatea Farrinor, who’s a Restoration actress existing in the same sort of physical and moral limbo inhabited by Affie Behn: a strong, independent woman making her own way in what’s essentially a male-dominated world.

Aphra Behn, 17th century lady in a low cut russet colour gown.

Aphra Behn by Peter Lely, c 1670

Initially Gally just had a short story, but I can’t help thinking that it didn’t stop there, with those two. I’m not sure how it goes on – it isn’t, I don’t think, an ongoing will-they won’t-they romance, I think they’re both far too sensible for that – but having burnt their bridges with convention, the world is pretty much their oyster. Possibly a mystery. Definitely an adventure,

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I have three ongoing currently – plus a number of short stories, I like to dip in and out!

The third book in the Thomazine & Major Russell series published by Sapere Books, which is the sort of Happy Ever After of one of the characters from the 1640s series. If your idea of a HEA involves being shot at, intrigued at, half-drowned and knocked on the head by ne’er-do-wells, then the Russells’ marriage is a veritable fairytale. On the other hand, it’s enormously fun to write – someone grumpily said “but if the series is named after the two of them, you know they both survive, and where’s the tension in that?” To which I can only say, chum, you’ve never been married, have you…. The first is out now and is called An Abiding Fire. The second will be out soon – I’ve seen the cover and it’s lovely – but I don’t know when, and it’s called A Deceitful Subtlety, and that’s the one where the Russells tangle with Aphra. In more than one sense. You’ll have to read it….

The seventh (!!!!!) Uncivil Wars book, the bald outline of which is – the aftermath of the battle of Marston Moor, the siege of Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire, and the creation of the New Model Army.

And a timeslip romantic comedy involving a widowed archivist, a stately home in Cornwall hat needs to be saved from developers, and a troop of temporally-displaced cavalry. This started as an in-joke between friends, a sort of 1640s Outlander spoof, and took on a life of its own….

Could we see an excerpt?

This is from the timeslip romance, which is provisionally entitled The White Devil – it’s an Elizabethan proverb the white devil is worse than the black, meaning self-righteousness is worse than just plain badness. And believe you me, there is no one more self-righteous than Penitence Corder at the beginning of the book… So this is Pen, trying to play the forbidding officer in charge, having just walked into 2019 by accident.

He stalked from her presence with what he hoped was a suitably commanding demeanour, back out into the hall, and into his own quarters.

And then sat down on his own, rackety, held-together-with-rag-and-a-prayer stool, which gave its customary warning of impending collapse, and even that was reassuring – bending down and thumping the loose leg back into place with the heel of your hand, because at least it was real and solid and you knew where you were with a stool that was not intended for someone of your height –

Pen gulped, and tasted acid. And was not going to puke on his own correspondence in fear of a woman. Was not.

(Was going to lean out of the window and do it in the bushes outside instead, and then lie shivering over the sill with his hair tangled up in the lavender until he felt something like ordinary. Listening to his own company squabbling and thumping in the house, and his own remounts cropping the grass, the swish and thump of horses at peace picketed together -)

He had heard none of that in her now. Her now had smelt different, sounded different – it had felt different –

He slid off the windowsill and sat on the floor with a thump, head on his knees.

What if she had been telling the truth?

– oh, that scared him –

What if there were two nows going on at the same time,and he had walked into hers all unknowing?

Pen, Esther said in his head, I might have known thee could do nothing so ordinary as court a nice girl from Bristol.

That’s not funny. And anyway, she’s not – I’m not courting her, not like –

Surely. Thee was always sick when we were courting, too. It was the excitement. I marked it a hundred times. I only married thee in pity, for fear thee would waste away to a nothing an I did not.Thee is courting, Penitence Corder, even if thee will not own it. And about time too, I should say, for thee needs a woman like –

“A hole in the head,” he said aloud, and the door jerked open a crack.

“You all right, sir?”

All he needed. His dead wife, on the one side, offering helpful hints on a nonexistent courtship, and bloody Mayhem eavesdropping on the other. “I. Am. Fine,” he snarled, and Mayhem sniffed.

“Sitting in the dark banging about and talking to yourself is not your normal presentation, sir. If you don’t mind me saying.”

It was not so much the idea of another now, or her in it, or even him in it. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” Pen said, and Mayhem shoved the door right open and said, “Who are you talking to in here, then?”

“I was – contemplating,” he said with dignity.

“You’re sitting on the floor.”

“The stool finally surrendered.”

“Looks all right to me… sir. You’ve not finally… you know?”

“Lost my wits altogether? Probably, lieutenant. I spend too much time with you.”

“I have never sat on the floor talking to myself, sir.”

“No, Mayhem, indeed you have not. This is possibly because if you were left alone in a darkened room you would dig your way through the floorboards to feminine company, if necessary. You have never been required to talk to yourself. You can’t be on your own for long enough.”

Where may we follow you online?

Twitter I am – predictably – @hollie_babbitt

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Stories of love in the past, present and future…

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I’m going to be honest with you, my lovelies, and get a bit wordy so the tl:dr version is “2018 hasn’t been a good year for me” and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re just here for the book recs. There’s a sentence in bold where you can pick them up.

So, yeah, 2018 has sucked in so many ways.

Living with long term clinical depression with a stonking side-order of anxiety and good medical reasons why the usual drugs are a Really Bad Idea isn’t fun however you look at it, and it’s exacerbated when you’re having to do all the emotional heavy lifting for family members who are in a state that’s as bad or even worse. The other half is still trying to adapt to not being invulnerable – a very hard thing to do when one is used to being the strongest, fittest, toughest, most independent person in ones friendship group and then suddenly isn’t. It hasn’t gone well. Then there’s Mum, who’s dementia diagnosis surprised nobody in the family but her and whose lack of inhibition is letting out secrets that she’s kept for years and might have been better unvoiced. And at work – ooh boy, everyone’s miserable there too – budget cuts, reduced hours to do the same amount of work, redefinition of roles, expectations for the same level of service. Yeah, it wears you down. Any one thing is doable on it’s own but stacking them up makes it more difficult. I am sure there are people who thrive on challenges who might read that and think “How incredibly feeble and whining. I wrote 50 best selling novels while battling cancer and bringing up quads” but, let’s face it, we aren’t all resilient. We aren’t all robust. Some of us are a bit wobbly even when nothing particularly bad is happening. Some of us are Eeyore even when the sun is shining. Depression lies. Depression tells you that it’s not worth getting out of bed, or washing, or looking after your health or keeping up with friends. It suggests that a jump off a high bridge would be a good solution to all your problems and sometimes it’s all too easy to believe it. All you can do is keep on carrying on and hope that snide and sneering little voice becomes less compelling with time.

Normally writing is my refuge and comfort but the potential closure of Manifold Press – meaning I might have to self publish – made the idea of packing the writing game in very attractive. So I lost faith in all my potential works in progress and my muse fucked off to sit on a beach somewhere working on his tan. With zero mental energy I read: vast amounts of old favourites both e and paper, and works of reference just for the heck of it. I rediscovered the joys of fanfic, reading in fandoms where I had no idea who the characters were or who I should be cheering/booing. I’ve been hugely grateful to the people who have allowed me to beta read – it’s nice to feel useful – and to UK Meet as something to look forward to and companionship from the committee.

I’m also very grateful to the authors whose books I have enjoyed so much this year. I’m just picking 8 for special mentions because each of them came along at a time when I really NEEDED to be out of my head for a while. Plus they are all 5 star reads in their own way.

The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durresson is a short but delicious paranormal historical filled with delightful descriptions of winter in the countryside and the type of christmases I remember from when I was small. Lit by a warm low sun, embellished with frost flowers and scented with pine and cinnamon, it has a haunting and beautiful love story to enjoy.

Bitter Legacy was the first book by Dal Maclean that I’d read, so I have laid seige to her demanding more fiction. Poor Dal must be sick of me by now but has obliged with Object of Desire, equally good, equally unusual. Exciting, harrowing, and incredibly satisfying, both have romances as part of the plot but are approached more as murder mysteries.

Hunger Makes the Wolf and Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells are one long story and I devoured them like a ravening beast over about 72 hours when I only put my Kindle down to go to work, and that with very poor grace. These are science fiction, and fantasy and adventure and refer to real life historical events so that I was biting my nails, knowing and fearing what was coming. Also there are fabulous female characters and – oh i want these to be made into films SO DAMN MUCH!!

Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward and Bad Judgement by Sidney Bell were recommended to me on the same day by different people and I read both over the course of a week. Very different in execution and mood they both made me very happy indeed.

KJ Charles features very heavily in my folder of ‘comfort reads’ for when things are getting to be too much to handle. Also I’m a fan of the pulpier Victorian and early 20th century classics so you will understand how much I was looking forward to The Henchmen of Zenda, her rewrite of The Prisoner of Zenda with all the bits in that the original narrator left out to make himself look good. I love it to bits, even [or possibly because] it’s not the usual HEA type of romance. I wanted to BE Jasper Detchard throughout the book.

The Last Sun by KD Edwards is honestly the only book I’ve ever bought due to a bit of fan art. Book one of a series, with fantasy and magic in a modern setting. Such good stuff, exciting, weird – oh so weird sometimes – and scary. Book one wraps up in a satisfying manner but there are loose threads still to be tucked into the weave of it. I found it absolutely absorbing and am looking forward to reading book 2, The Hanged Man, due out early this year.

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As I said earlier, my own writing took a seat at the back of the bus until Manifold seemed likely to continue. I fooled around with a rewrite of The Lunar Imperative – my werewolves in spaaaace novelette – and thought it was finished until a beta pointed out that I had been writing as though I planned to submit it to the Warhammer 40K blokes and had put in no female characters at all, just a couple of cardboard cut out stereotypes. So, because that’s the way my mind worked, I settled down to a vast world building project, with proper female characters with strength and weaknesses and agency of their own, until I realised I’d need to write at least one, possibly 2 full length novels, scared myself and put it away. I might go back to it at some time.

I did have one new release in 2018, or was it late 2017? – Calon Lan, a Great War set novelette, with a female POV of a sister observing the romance between her brother and his friend – and re-releases of A Taste of Copper [medieval fantasy mm] and Sheep’s Clothing [contemporary comedy paranormal]. The rest of the year I spent poking my sequel to Eleventh Hour – Midnight Flit – until October when I was asked, very nicely, if I might possibly finish it. I did and submitted it and am waiting to hear whether it’s good enough. I already know there are some bits I left out, but there wasn’t time for my usual multiple draft, angsty second guessing approach. I suppose we’ll see!

2019 is a new year and I hope it will be a better one, both in terms of mental health and in productivity – since they are inextricably linked. I’ve been warned that I can’t carry on the way I have been so must set aside time to do other things that I have abandoned – artwork, calligraphy, letter writing by hand, walking in the open air to get those endorphins moving, and maybe shed a pound or two from me and the dog.

I suppose we’ll see about that too.

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