Tag Archives: Blogging

What’s going on with me…writing and reading and hygge

win_20161127_23_02_17_pro

I’ve been awful at keeping this blog updated with what I’ve been up to this year.

So far in 2016, I’ve released a grand total of 0 books and… well, that’s going to be the 2016 total. Which is not to say I haven’t been writing. I have. I wrote and completed a new novel, am in the middle of a second novel AND am co-writing a third with Carolyn Crane, but none of those will come out till 2017. So this is the lowdown:

  • In April 2017, I’ll be releasing A GATHERING STORM with Riptide, part of the Porthkennack series. The Porthkennack universe, devised by the wonderful Alex Beecroft,  will feature stories by me, Alex, JL Merrow, Garrett Leigh and Charlie Cochrane. It will be a mix of contemporary and historical titles. I’ll be publishing one of each – A Gathering Storm is my historical, a Victorian-set novel that focuses on the twin Victorian obsessions of science and spiritualism. One of my heroes is an aristocratic scientist, the other the half-Romany by-blow of the richest family in Porthkennack.
  • In August 2017 (I think), my contemporary will release. This one doesn’t have a title yet. I actually wrote a whole song for his book, words and music–because I needed to hear it in my head for a key scene. This one is about abandonment and forgiveness.
  • In October 2017, I’ll have a short vampire story out in a charity anthology.
  • And finally, I’m hoping that in addition to the above, Carolyn and I will manage to get our co-written story out too. It’s a …God, how to describe it? It’s MM spies basically. I love our two characters, American Will and British Kit. I adore adore adore Carolyn’s writing (we’ve been CPing for each other’s stuff for about 7 years, I think) and I feel like we both bring something of ourselves to this book.

So, yeah, 2016 has been a publishing famine, but 2017 will be (more of) a feast.

And after that? Well… 18th century werewolves in Scotland. I’m planning a pair of books on that. It’s been brewing a long while.

So that’s my writing news. In other news, I’m all about the hygge at the moment. God knows, we all need a bit of hygge in the face of 2016’s horrors: Brexit, Trump, terrorist atrocities, the rise of right wing nationalism and… well, I could (sadly) go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m trying to be aware and outspoken during the day (in person) while finding a little kindness and sanity for myself and my family at night.

In the hygge spirit, I’m greatly enjoying my newly renovated front room, complete with new fireplace (which glows beautifully orange, even if it does look purple in the picture above).

And on the reading front? I’ve read some great stuff these last months that I’ve been very remiss in talking about. Most recently, Josh Lanyon’s fabulous Murder Between the Pages, a number of Keira Andrews’ books (both zombie apocalypse ones, Kick at the Darkness and Fight the Tide and the fab new baseball one, Reading the Signs), JA Rock’s latest two Subs Clubs books, 24/7 and Slave Hunt.  Oh, and Kim Fielding’s Rattlesnake. And then, of course, there’s audiobooks. Right now, I’m listening to Josh Lanyon’s The Mermaid Murders and enjoying it all over again. Murder in Pastel was another treat. My book listening has slowed down a bit recently though, as not every author I enjoy reading translates well to audio. As ever, any reccs gratefully received.  Part of my personal hygge is the time I spend walking to work each day in coat, hat, gloves, soaking in the city I love while listening to stories, or music.

I should go to bed now, but the husb just put another log on the fire…

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Shakespeare and senses – the Five Senses Blog Tour

Thanks to RJ Scott for inviting me to be part of her “The Five Senses Blog Tour” for autism – go have a look at the master post here. Today I’m talking about Shakespeare and senses! Why, you ask? More on that below – and a chance to win one of my books (your choice of an eBook or a signed paperback).  First check out the fascinating fact below about autism:

Autism Fact: A Singapore scientist, Dr James Teh, has invented the T-jacket, a vest that provides deep pressure that simulates the feeling of a hug. “Deep pressure is a form of calming agent,” said Dr Teh. “So it basically helps to provide a sensation which an individual with autism, for example, can focus on. It helps to shut out all the other sensory inputs from the environment.” A smartphone app controls the intensity of the hug that the T-jacket gives, with the maximum being akin to a bear hug.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/how-technology-that/1998210.html

So why Shakespeare? Because it’s only the dude’s freaking birthday! Yes April 23rd, as well as being St. George’s Day, is William Shakespeare’s birthday *throws rainbow confetti*.

This man, this writer above all writers, who invented new words and coined phrases that have become part of our everyday language and wrote exquisite beautiful lines – he above all writers endlessly revisits the idea of the senses being our gateway to the world and to understanding ourselves and everything around us – such as in this well-known speech..

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that…

Shylock, The Merchant of Venice

He uses this idea – of all the senses together – again and again when he writes of what it is love, whether because everything about the beloved is delightful…

Had I no eyes but ears, my ears would love. That inward beauty and invisible;
Or were I deaf, thy outward parts would move each part in me that were but sensible: Though neither eyes nor ears, to hear nor see, yet should I be in love by touching thee.
Say, that the sense of feeling were bereft me, and that I could not see, nor hear, nor touch, and nothing but the very smell were left me, yet would my love to thee be still as much; for from the stillitory of thy face excelling comes breath perfum’d that breedeth love by smelling.

Venus and Adonis

…or, because nothing is, yet still he loves.

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleased to dote;
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted,
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee…

Sonnet 141

Even his comic characters muse on the senses, though in Bottom’s case, in a rather muddled way:

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was…

Bottom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

And actually, this last, comic quote is the one I’m thinking of today as I muse on the purpose of this blog hop. Because what are our senses, really? They are like a shared language – blue is this colour, sour is that taste – and through this shared comprehension, of the world, we connect to others. But sometimes – as with language – our experiences are not the same. Sometimes our sensory language diverges. That doesn’t mean I can’t connect with you – it just means I need to take the time to understand what your experience is. And that’s what RJ’s blog hop is all about really.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a book – the winner can select either any eBook from my backlist or a signed paperback (paperbacks only available for Provoked, Beguiled, Enlightened, Unnatural, The Dream Alchemist or Unforgivable).

autism

 

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m talking about David and Murdo’s journey…

Over at Joyfully Jay’s today. Pop over for a chance to win all three books and a gift voucher!

Leave a comment

May 10, 2014 · 7:56 pm

Stop 1 on my compact and bijou Enlightened blog tour

Enlightened300

Heavens to Betsy! Is it 4th May already?

The third and final book, Enlightened, in my Enlightenment trilogy releases on Tuesday 6th May!

The luvverly Susan Lee has organised a small but perfectly formed blog tour to mark the occasion and the first stop is The Blogger Girls, where you can:

– read a lovely review by Heather C;

– read my take on Scottish romanceand

– be entered to win all 3 books and a gift card!

So many good things!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sex and Intimacy part 2 – reflections on particular books

key

As promised, I’m coming back to the topic of sex and intimacy in romance books, but this time I’m looking at a few recent reads and the stuff in them that I thought was interesting about how the sex scenes worked with the overall story. Time has moved on since my last post, and I am ever fickle, so I’m going to talk about a slightly different list of books than I mentioned in the last post.

First up is Unbound by Cara McKenna. Cara McKenna is a completely new to me author. I heard about Unbound when I noticed a couple of tweets about it. Jill Sorenson said (I think) that it had been a favourite of hers last year and that made me swipe my tablet screen to Amazon and get a sample before flipping back to Twitter. In such ways are sales made and gloms begun! I never sample or buy a book based on a promo tweet that tries to hook me in re what it’s about (When a were-pig meets a flame demon, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire!). It’s the word-of-mouth I go to Twitter for.

But I digress.

Unbound. This was story of American Merry, who has recently lost a lot of weight and is hiking in Scotland. She falls ill and has to seek help from Englishman Rob, who lives alone in the remote Highlands. At length, they get together and Merry discovers that Rob has a rope fetish and is submissive. At greater length, she discovers he is also an alcoholic who has isolated himself to get away from the temptation to drink.

This is a story in which one character’s very specific fetish is explored and analysed alongside the other character’s much more ‘normal’ sexuality. I thought McKenna did some very interesting stuff around how sex and intimacy relate to both characters’ personal development and the way they fall in love. It features, unusually in romance, a hero who in one scene is unable to perform (in an early vanilla encounter with the heroine). It also features a heroine who is frank about what she wants but not in an aggressive way – MacKenna portrayed Merry’s sexual straightforwardness in a way that read very truthfully to me.

Merry was a satisfying character all round. At the start of the book, she is partway through a journey towards gaining power over her life and her body – her confidence has grown already, following substantial weight loss – and she doesn’t need Rob to repair her or make her whole. But it turns out that giving Rob what he needs further builds her confidence and power and satisfies her too.

I loved that Merry didn’t discover some burning desire to be a domme. Rather, she falls in love with someone, gains satisfaction from giving that person what he wants, and finds her own power from asking him for what she wants too. For me, this book did something a lot more interesting than putting a whip in the heroine’s hand. It showed a heroine becoming truly active – both sexually and emotionally – leaving all conventional female passivity behind. Really, it’s about female independence and it’s beautifully written too.

Next up is A Case for Possession, book 2 in K J Charles Magpie Lord series. I loved this, more than book 1 even. I adore the characters in this series, but most especially Lord Crane who is everything I love in a hero – a mixed up ambiguous fellow if ever I met one.  So, what was it, sexually, about this book that bears mention?

K J Charles did something very interesting in this book – she shuns the typical approach to sex scenes in romance (see last post) with paced “set pieces”. Instead, she makes lots of delicious little sideways references to the two MCs’ very hot sexual relationship without doing sustained sex scenes.

As I read, I found myself thinking a lot about the conventions I am so used to, the deliberate escalation and variation of sexual content that is so much about reader expectation and romance convention and so little about character and story development. I was intrigued to find that KJC’s frequent but more passing references were more than ample to reassure me that the MCs are sexually compatible (important to me) and to give the book a sexy feel. Loved it.

Finally, I have to mention the book I am reading right now, Transcendence, by Shay Savage. This book may get a blog post all of its own because I am  loving it in many ways. However, I’m talking about sex scenes today, so I’ll limit myself to that aspect of the book.

This is a book in which the reader is invited to conclude – via the prehistoric hero’s internal (and very endearing) POV – that the heroine has arrived in his world through time travel. The hero, Ehd, lost his entire tribe years before Beh (Elizabeth) falls into a hunting trap he dug and he cannot believe his good fortune that a mate has dropped into his lap like this. Ehd has no speech and a very different view of the world than Beh (or us). He is something of a blank slate with virtually no cultural baggage regarding sexual behaviour. He is delighted by any sign of interest from Beh and makes no judgments about her behaviour beyond that.

Whilst the plausibility of this is probably up for debate, I’m not awfully interested in that – I think there are more interesting things going on. The fact is, this set up neatly disrupts the reader’s normal assumptions around what is sexually acceptable – there are no rules for Ehd and Beh. They discover sex together, openly and honestly, and that is the great joy of this book.

Transcendence also provides much food for thought on the universality of human love and desire as well as many entertaining nuggets on the eternal differences between men and women, but I’ll leave those observations for another day.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sex and intimacy

image

I’ve been musing a lot about sex scenes in romance novels lately. What function they serve. When they’re good and important, and when they’re not important at all, though possibly good – or not. When they just feel superfluous. And in musing about this I’ve noticed stuff in many of my recent reads that relate to this. Initially I planned to talk both about my general thoughts and the particular books I’d been pondering in this regard, but the general part ended up being a bit longer than I originally envisaged, so I’ll come back to the particular books in a subsequent post.

Some romance readers are very specific about what they like and/or tolerate sex-wise in their reads. Not so for me – I like books across the whole spectrum, provided they’re well-written and the sex scenes serve some kind of purpose. That’s not to say the purpose has to be serious – the purpose can be nothing deeper than a cheerful romp – so long as it works with the overall direction and theme of the book, I can get with it.

What I’m not awfully keen on is entirely sex-free romance novels – I like sex to be present, even if at a low level.  For me, a romance novel with absolutely no sex in it at all lacks something. When I re-read old and much-loved Georgette Heyer novels, I occasionally worry that the whole relationship’s going to go south as soon as the MCs try to consummate it. I loved Friday’s Child when I was 15, but now I can’t imagine Hero and Sherry having sex. (Actually, that is a lie, but I do have a vivid imagination).

That’s not to say that I need the sexual content of a novel to be a huge and graphic element of the narrative – I absolutely don’t. One of my favourite writers, Josh Lanyon, often writes fairly low-key sex scenes, but I find them amongst the most effective and satisfying ones I’ve read – I actually remember them, which is saying something, isn’t it? When you really think about it? All those thousands and thousands of identikit, paint-by-number sex scenes that have been written? You read them and some are good and some are awful but most fade away very quickly. There are Lanyon ones I remember years after reading them, because he did something that was genuinely meaningful in terms of plot or character development and it stayed with me.

It’s not just about the volume and detail of the sexual content either – it’s about approach. The extent to which romance authors use genre conventions and the ways in which they sometimes disrupt or play with those conventions. Take the clichés around ascension of intimacy. You see this both at individual scene level (*clears throat* I think you’ll find you have to the suckle the nipples before you go down there…) and as part of the overall story structure (*clicks pen and smiles brightly* So, we’ll be starting with a handjob, then a blowjob before we finally move onto the penetrative sex!).

These cliches are used because they work – both conventionally and unconventionally. That is to say, used conventionally, they can be a useful and satisfying way of showing (or mirroring) the slow breaking down of the barriers between the MCs and the growth of trust. Used unconventionally – say, the highly sexed MC who is incapable of emotional intimacy e.g. in Dirty by Megan Hart – they can challenge our ideas of what intimacy really is, what it means to share yourself with others.

Beyond all this though, you know what I’m looking for in a sex scene? And beyond that, in romance itself? You know what I actually crave? 

Sincerity.

Really good romance – and really good sex scenes – don’t wear a sneer, not in my book. Fundamentally, for me, romance is about ripping away all the protective layers and exposing the pulsing, vulnerable, bloody heart beneath. It’s about making a tough old beast (or beasts) willingly roll over to expose the soft little underbelly we all have. It kicks wise-cracking and eye-rolling in the teeth and asks – no demands – that the reader believe something – love something – that the World is generally inclined to mock.

My favourite sex scenes are usually a mix of the expected and the unexpected – something that honours the genre with a little bit of realism to dirty the edges. Or something fresh that chimes with me, at a sensory level. A new simile or sound effect can truly delight me when I’m traversing this most well-trodden of literary ground.

And what do I like least? (This is a personal list, feel free to disagree).

  • Paint by numbers sex scenes that read like a collection of worn out sentences that were thrown at the page
  • Mechanical choreography
  • Plodding observation of the proper use of sex toys and other hardware (if I want a manual…)
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Soap used as lubricant
  • Ditto hand lotion
  • Smirking
  • Coy euphimisms
  • Bodily fluids that taste like nectar

The books that I’ve been reading – and loving – that I want to talk about in another post are:

My Heartache Cowboy by Z A Maxfield

Unbound by Cara McKenna

A Case of Possession by K J Charles

Static by L A Witt

More to come. Meantime, I invite your wisdom.

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

On muses and musings

I have decided what to write about for my next project and am super excited about it. It’s an old project I set aside when I decided to start writing David and Murdo and very different from my historicals – a UF I suppose.

I was in two minds about even looking at the project again. I’d done a lot of work on it pre “Murvid”, but my lingering memory of it was that the characters felt kind of… dead. So, my first job was to re-cast. Step one was to change it from a M/F to a M/M, which wasn’t too taxing. The trickier bit came next though – creating personalities, goals, obstacles, dreams – stuff I realised my original characters didn’t have very much of (I’ve been learning by doing, people…)

For reasons that aren’t easy to put into words, this song was part of that process. This is The Killers’ annual Christmas song (although I don’t think it’s a Christmas song at all). It has a particular tone and feel that I find very beautiful and very poignant.

My book isn’t about Christmas or LA and doesn’t feature a character that looks anything like Owen Wilson. It doesn’t do anything, really, that in any way relates to this video or song except this: this song is how my guy feels.

2 Comments

January 11, 2014 · 5:24 pm

2013, 2014, and general new year reflections

Image

The picture above, courtesy of the Scotsman newspaper, is of New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh in 1964, at the Tron on the Royal Mile.

When I first came to live in Edinburgh in 1990, this is where everyone gathered at new year – totally spontaneously. Thousands of people, all bringing in the new year together, then walking up and down the Royal Mile, kissing and wishing each other Happy New Year. Bloody fantastic.

It’s very different now. Now it’s a very slick, organised street party with bands and catering and  people in luminous jackets keeping everyone moving along. Sometimes, in bad weather, it gets cancelled. You couldn’t have cancelled the old Tron festivities. You can’t cancel people just turning up.

It’s great now, though. Just very different.

2013 has been pretty cool. I’ve completed three novels this year (started the first one in 2012 but let’s not worry too much about that) and lost 30lbs of writerly-and-second-child-acquired flab.

And I read a LOT of great books.

I don’t maintain good reading records so I’ll undoubtedly miss some major ones, but stand out highlights include the following:

– S U Pacat’s Captive Prince #1 and 2 (will book 3 ever arrive?)

– Josh Lanyon’s new Haunted Heart series (so, so beautiful. Flawless)

– Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycop 7 (platinum, baby)

– Carolyn Crane’s new Associates series (rich, smart, fun)

– Alexis Hall’s Glitterland (hunjad puhcent!)

– As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann (an oldie but a goodie – not romance though)

– Lb Gregg’s welcome return with How I Met Your Father (fun, witty May/December romance)

– The. Magpie. Lord. By KJ Charles (believe the hype)

– ZA Maxfield’s Cowboy Heart series (so looking forward to book 2)

2014 looks promising, from both a readerly and a writerly perspective. There are so many books I’m looking forward to reading (some of which I already have on my Kindle right now). It will be odd to be not-writing about Murdo and David but I have a number of possible new writing projects to choose from. The next few weeks will be dedicated to deciding precisely what one to run with. Which will inevitably involve reflecting deeply, enjoyably, on what it is I love to read.

Because that’s the test, baby.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Would you like to rate this purchase?

review

There are many things that, as a buyer of books, you can do, but that is not to say you will do them.

As an author, what is reasonable to expect of readers?

Well, I’d like to think that people will access my books legally, whether by buying them or legitimately borrowing them.  I get very unhappy about readers downloading them illegally – that makes me angry.

But that’s about it in terms of my expectations.

Amazingly, though, some readers have exceeded these modest expectations by reviewing or rating my books on blogs and on customer and reader forums.  Not masses of people, but yeah, some.  In fact, some people appear to have gone to some time and trouble to set out their thoughts in detail, and I’m grateful to them for taking the time.

We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to share our customer experiences and to rate every purchase we make.  We are invited to ‘share’ and ‘like’ every product and service we utilise.

Has this endless participation in sharing user experiences  given us unrealistic expectations when it comes to our products? Have we reached a point where anyone with something to sell – whether it be a book or something else – thinks they’re entitled to some kind of response from their customers?  As though the customer’s obligations don’t end at the point they part with their hard-earned cash?

A couple of times recently I’ve seen comments to the effect that readers shouldn’t leave 1 or 2 star reviews of a book without some comment to back it up. I can’t fathom that view at all. Firstly, if someone hates your book, they hate your book. Frankly, any comment they leave to explain their feelings isn’t probably going to make you feel any better.  Secondly and more importantly though, once a reader’s paid their cash over, they can do whatever they want with your book.

Including saying nothing about it at all.

Every time Amazon sends me an email asking me if I’d like to rate a purchase, I feel a little frisson of rage. Then I delete the email.

Goodreads makes it really easy to rate and review books. But I don’t.

Facebook and Twitter make it simple to share the love. I don’t do that very often either.

This is how I feel about reading: I am not just a book lover, I am evangelical. If I love a book, I will press it on others.  It’s why I kept a reader blog going for five years.  Even now, I will occasionally have to  blog about something I’ve read – see for example my last post on Captive Prince – but I still don’t rate my purchases.

That makes it all the more remarkable to me that anyone’s bothered to do that for my books (and thank you, by the way, even if you disliked my books).

It strikes me that, aside from the dedicated book bloggers, there are two main reasons for readers to rate or review. One is that they are frequent users of the particular forum or site on which they are leaving their rating or review and as such, they tend to rate or review many/most of their reads (frequent reviewers).

The second reason is that the reader had a strong enough reaction to the book (whether positive or negative) that they were motivated to write about it (motivated reviewers).  I am a motivated reviewer.

So what do I take from all this, as an author?

Only that I’ll keep writing, keep trying to get better.

And I’ll do it with this objective in mind: if I motivate readers to speak well of me, maybe they will do so.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Long and Short Reviews Blogfest

christmas blogfest 2012 copy (2)

I’m participating in this blogfest and giveaway on 21st December but it’s going on all week – check it out.  Lots of authors giving away books and other goodies!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized