Writer of Dark and Light Fiction. Fact, fiction, poetry, short stories, articles and novels. Cross-genre, slipstream, non-traditional romance, gothic, horror, fantasy and more... Visit this diverse writer's site.

Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality

I’m a multi-genre author who has written several gay (m/m) romances, and one lesbian story in a polyamory fantasy series. I never intended to. Like many writers, I followed the nagging muse. I never considered the idea would lead to more titles, or that I would need to speak on the subject, to stand on any type of soapbox. A writer’s opinion, like anyone, is his or her own business; I sometimes write contrary to my beliefs, sometimes in keeping. I usually adhere to the golden rule of never discuss sex, religion, or politics. There’s always the exception. When invited to write for the blog hop — like with that first story — I let the words flow.


Hop for Visibility, Awareness & Equality

Do follow the rest of the authors on the hop by clicking the link.

The gay people I’ve known have been much like anyone — wanting a home, a partner with whom to share their life, to have love. I believe one is born gay, that it’s not something someone chooses. I’m not sure I adhere to the Kinsey Scale (developed by Alfred Kinsey in 1948) to describe sexual orientation. Sexuality can be complex. I’m unsure any ‘scale’ can suffice. I’ve known gay men who have had good relationships with women but felt something emotional was missing. I’ve known gay men who find the thought distasteful. For some, sex with the opposite sex is as impossible as is (for some) sex with the same sex. Objections often seem to stem from personal dislike and/or religious doctrine. Both state and church have changed its opinions throughout history. Once, these institutions condoned slavery. Now they know better. History documents scripture as edited and censored, scribes ordered to excise whole (blacked-out) passages. Language no longer has the same meaning, leaving such teachings open to mistaken interpretation.

”The church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example. –
Mark Twain


Regarding the current disagreement concerning the use of toilets for transgender people, I can see both sides. I appreciate and understand why women are afraid of mixed gender toilets, and won’t belittle the fears of any woman who may have been violated. I equally appreciate parents feeling uncomfortable. These concerns are genuine, but they are also lacking, not considering the subject on a broad enough basis.

“The grocery store is the great equalizer where mankind comes to grips with the facts of life like toilet tissue.”– Joseph Goldberg

I imagine many LGBT people live with the same fear of attack as that being discussed by heterosexuals may be as much, if not more, at risk. The feared situation already exists… for everyone. Sexual predators are already out there. A sign on the door will not keep such a person out, particularly if washrooms are isolated. Abusers bear no external markings. They wear no ‘badge of office’. They don’t don a certain uniform. A person likely to attack a child or a woman could be a next-door neighbour, be married with many offspring. Just like most heterosexuals aren’t offenders, LGBT people are not predatory. Predators come in all forms, genders, orientations, races, religions, economic levels, etc. Evil doesn’t differentiate, only people do.


“It’s not hard to tell we was poor – when you saw the toilet paper dryin’ on the clothesline.” –George Lindsey

I’m speaking as someone who has a nephew with special needs. I rarely discuss my family, but my nephew was born with a brain tumour. He’s now an adult, but will always need protecting. At all stages of his life, when his mother has been out minus an adult male companion, she’s faced the unenviable decision of what to do if there is no available disabled toilet. Fortunately, there often is — these days more so than ever — but in some situations those cubicles are still separated: segregated within ‘male and female’ facilities. She has categorically not been allowed in most of the male toilets and when she has taken her son into the female toilets, even when he was younger and even though from his appearance it’s possible to deduce he has special needs, she’s faced aggressive abuse. And I mean aggressive. I’m not arguing for or against. I’m specifying that the situation many fear has existed for years; many have simply been unaware of it.

“Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.” –Lewis Mumford

The only correct solution would be individual cubicles. I don’t mean rooms containing banks of separate toilets, rather — as I recently experienced during a weekend away where I went to a spa — a bank of individual ‘rooms’ to be used by the abled and lesser-abled, by children and adults, by men and women, and all sexualities, where people could go in alone, or have a helper if necessary. These ‘rooms’ were not hidden away but situated where spa personnel could readily find out if they were being used inappropriately. Naturally, such a solution means money, so it won’t happen soon, if at all.

“Like when I’m in the bathroom looking at my toilet paper, I’m like ‘Wow! That’s toilet paper?’ I don’t know if we appreciate how much we have.” — Peter Nivio Zarlenga


Some won’t like this idea either. People can be notoriously private about their toilet habits — a polite reserve I am sure must seem droll to many continental countries where I’ve seen an abundance of ‘squat’ toilets, restrooms that use different hygiene methods (with or without toilet paper), plumbing that cannot cope with any type of ‘wipe-clean’ material, where the cost varies. A woman in Yugoslavia once handed me a couple of sheets of paper for a few coins, the cost of which and meagre supply made me grateful I was only there to spend a proverbial penny. The French seldom have separate amenities. Open air public toilets usually designed only for men and definitely living up to the term ‘public’ is a fine and rather disgusting example of which I’ve seen in Bruges, but can be found in other parts of Europe. I heard even the UK city of Chester tested a form of these a couple of years ago. Attractive they were not.

“European toilet paper is made from the same material that Americans use for roofing, which is why Europeans tend to remain standing throughout soccer matches.” –Dave Barry

The subject of toilets can be comical, but safety is not a LGBT issue. Some will argue, but I can only speak from experience, and I see a sad fact in a sad world — personal safety is a problem we all share equally.

Giveaway: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of one of my LGBT related books. Winner’s choice.

25 May 2016: And my winner is Chris McHart as chosen by Random.org. I’ll be in touch.

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Error in Judgement

Just the other week I blogged about someone who contacted a writer suggesting she work for free. I noted how common this is. Many often meet these proclamations with disbelief. Fortunately, I stumbled across a news item that illustrates my claims.


The ad provoked outrage with posters taking to social media. Artist Conor Collins stated the supermarket should deduct funds from its CEOs so “‘starving artist’ wouldn’t have to be a thing.” People asked if they could claim a free food shop, and often referenced the company’s multi-billion turnover, lambasting them with the facts of less than 10k yearly salaries for artists.

The supermarket apologised and declared the advert as an ‘error of judgement’, but I see it reports they describe it as having occurred following a discussion considering ways to improve the canteen and ‘offer an opportunity to the local community’. Being asked to work for free is an ‘opportunity’ writers and artists are sick of. Yet despite the backlash, I’ve seen some posters stating they saw nothing wrong with this.

In plain English, it is the equivalent of someone saying toil in our office doing the filing for a month without pay and we’ll say thanks, pat you on the back, and send you out into the world with that on your resume. That may sound a reasonable deal if you’re a school leaver, if there’s a chance of a good reference, maybe even a job at the end of those four weeks.

The catch comes when they can get another school leaver in for the following month and the one after that, and perpetually have their filing done for free.

The catch comes when no one cares what you have on your resume and even views the free work as meaningless — after all, if you were any good, someone would have been willing to pay you, wouldn’t they?

The catch comes when you’re no longer eighteen, but ten years have passed, or twenty, and companies are still offering you the same ‘opportunities’ for exposure rather than pay.

This is feeding into all creative areas. Artists, writers, musicians, photographers… Wait, photographers? Yes. It’s an endless list. Watch those news items where the newscasters ask members of the public to send in photographs? Those photos are worth money! A friend of mine is a professional photographer, has worked for local newspapers for years. The highest paid photo earned £200, but that is far from the norm, and the chances are that amount would not be offered now because the paper could put out a call for anyone who had taken a photo on their phone to send it in for free. This friend has had work and payment for remaining employment halved, and most times no longer gets expenses. By the time the cheque has cashed, it hardly covers the cost of petrol to go out and take the shot. All the viewers sending in free photos to newspapers and news channels are making photographers unemployed.

Somehow, it’s become the ‘norm’ to ask for something for nothing. The creative arts are suddenly unimportant, regarded as ‘play’, not proper work, despite many in these enterprises working longer hours than the average office-worker for far less pay. Paintings, books, photos, music… these things are deemed as for leisure and in some bizarre twist have become meaningless. My solution to that is we’ll take them away. Imagine the world without these things. Imagine *gasp* no TV, because someone has to ‘write’ the story. Someone has to design the sets. Someone has to paint the backdrop.

If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you think it’s okay to ask anyone to work for free, you are the problem.

Sainsbury’s have had many slogans, one being ‘Live Well For Less’. I guess that’s a typo, and they really meant ‘Live On Less’. In 2005, apparently its slogan was ‘Making Life Taste Better’. Sorry, Sainsbury’s. You’ve left an appalling taste.

Don’t call yourself a fan. Don’t you dare!

This week I’m passing on this excellent post by Rosalie Stanton.

Read. Seriously. Read this. Follow the link and READ. To anyone who thinks the subject of asking a writer to produce work for free is okay, I’ve news. Anyone complaining about the cost of books needs to reconsider why they’re protesting.

Let’s compare creating a book with going to the cinema. Some people go often, some occasionally. Some think nothing of the cost of a couple of hours of entertainment. Others complain about the charge for the tickets and the food, but most still add popcorn and a drink to the price of entry.

Some of these patrons know that the cinema most often makes its money on ‘concessions’ — that’s the food and drinks. All that popcorn is often the only reason a cinema stays open, and it’s why the price is so high even though popcorn costs almost nothing to manufacture.

The ticket price mostly goes to the movie producers and we all know that movie-making, especially the big action blockbusters, is expensive. Look at the credits — that long list of people employed, all of whom ask for salaries. Some films now even list the number of jobs the project created.

Movie-making is an entertainment ‘industry’. A BUSINESS.

Making books is also a BUSINESS.

I don’t care if the writer writes for leisure, or hopes to make this a vocation, to the publisher it’s BUSINESS, and books often provide several hours, sometimes a lifetime, of pleasure.

Of course, there are self-published writers, but it’s still a business. They are going it alone and so every step falls to them. Chances are works from a publishing company or ‘good’ self-published books have undergone a process. This process involves writing the story — the hours spent by the person creating, researching, plotting, putting the words down on a blank page — and editing rounds. An author should undertake edits before they ever submit the work. A committee often considers the finished manuscript. Even accepted, the story is far from complete. Next stop is for the work to land in the hands of an editor. There are copy and line editors, proofreaders, and cover artists… all requiring payment. If there’s a marketing department that costs, too. With help or not, the author faces hours spent marketing their product. Yes, product. Let’s call the book what it really is for the rest of this blog.

If the PRODUCT goes to print, there are printing charges. If it’s an ebook, someone has to create the files and make sure all formats work. Sometimes both these costs apply. The publisher takes their cut. The writer gets his or hers. If there’s an agent to pay, that’s another share right there, and, last but never least, taxes.

It’s business. Profit needs to be made.

With ebooks, those who read and return or file share are nothing more than thieves. True, people lend print products but it’s a greyer area than many realise. It’s ‘allowed’ only because no one likes the idea of printed products being destroyed, because many are sold through charity shops so further good comes of passing products on, and the circulation of some products can gain an author more readers. But in all these instances the purchaser of the PRODUCT gives up their original copy and, with a loan, risks losing it.

People who share or duplicate work in a criminal act deserve nothing better than a hefty fine if not jail time. What that person is NOT any friend or fan.

To add to this already insulting state of affairs, Rosalie’s post focuses on a writer asked by a ‘fan’ to work for free. Her response and mine are not author meltdown. This is authors telling you like it is. It’s the equivalent of… you. Yes, YOU, the one reading this — it’s YOU going into the office, factory, shop, hospital… wherever you work, for free, and then trying to heat your home and put food on your table.

Since when did writing become a joke? Since when did it become a game?

How stupid does someone need to be not to understand writing is a JOB? Most writers already work for well below minimum wage. In what universe did a reader think it okay to contact a writer to ask that person to WORK for free? In many cultures, that would be called slavery.

Incidentally, where do you think the story came from so that they can make a fil?

I’ll leave Harlan here to speak for writers everywhere.

Decisions, decisions…

All writers get moments when they feel like giving up. It’s difficult to say why this is. A long wait for a response, a snarky comment at the worst possible moment, the longest winter that a person can remember… Bad news can make other areas of life seem unworthy and, for the writer, sometimes their work takes the brunt.

I doubt I will ever give up writing but I am aware I need to attend to more than just one genre — I love to write as I read, meaning anything and everything, and getting to join the Space, 1889 steampunk project was a proverbial deep breath of crisp air. It was also exhausting. One title had to be turned over at brief notice, was the second story I worked on and my first ever co-authored book. The first piece I wrote came out a few months later and required a good deal of research. It would probably amaze anyone reading to see the list of study material. It’s not immediately obvious, and no reason should it be — the whole point is the reader shouldn’t know it’s there.

I’m straying a little, though. The project reminded me of how I like many styles and genres, and that we all need a rest. I was with three publishers who take romance, two of which specialised in erotica, and one who was a multi-genre publisher. I had considered approaching a fourth, but at the fear of spreading myself too thin, I never did. Any decent writer or publisher will say it’s best not to have even the most delicious eggs (even chocolate ones) laid by one hen in one tiny basket.

Publishers go under. Writing is like any business. Sometimes people fall out, there are differences of opinion. Many reasons exist why a writer may one day wish to part ways with a publisher or vice versa. It’s good to have somewhere to go. Being with various publishers also extends an author’s presence and readership. And let’s not forget, different publishers are open to contrasting products. The best ‘business’ decision is choosing the right story and the correct publisher, matching a suitable pair, and deciding whether to spread the work or take on extra. Writing isn’t all about the story — it’s about seemingly straightforward decisions having consequences. Even the writer can be so immersed in the story to forget that.

The Next Big Thing

I did not know what to blog this morning, and then in clearing out old files, I came across this. As my m/m romance book, Hounding the Beat, saw a second edition release recently, this seemed a good time for re-posting this. (Note: I know of at least one reader who is begging for a third installment. It is on my to-do list, although it may not happen for some time for several reasons. I won’t go into that here as the timing is wrong, and that’s more appropriate to my romance site.):

First, a big thank you to Adera Orfanelli for asking me to take part in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. As I didn’t have a new WIP, I chose Mistletoe and Whine for my subject and made this a page post as the questions may interest the readers of both Hounding the Beat, and Mistletoe and Whine.

What is the working title of your book?

This question is simple. I knew from the outset I was going to call this Mistletoe and Whine (a play on words from the Christmas song). Sometimes I struggle with titles, but not this one, although it may give the impression it’s a lighthearted story, which it isn’t. These characters are a lot of fun and are perfect for some hysterical puns. There is fun in this story, but it has a darker edge than the first book.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s a sequel to Hounding the Beat, but can be enjoyed as a standalone read without picking up the first book. I wrote a follow-up because the characters remained vibrant and I discovered a couple of my readers were equally eager to hear from them again. I’d left a loose thread dangling from the first book — partly intentionally, partly because that’s how the story worked out — that I could pick up, and it just felt natural to do so. So the basic idea already existed. The title then popped into my head and filled in the gaps.

What genre does your book fall under?

Shape-shifting paranormal erotic menage romance, I guess, if that’s one genre all by itself. I blend subjects.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

I seldom visualise characters that distinctly, but at a push, I think Amanda Righetti (Grace from The Mentalist) would be a decent match for Chantelle. Although her features aren’t quite right (as beautiful as she is) she has the right body shape, the red hair, the essential feisty spark the character would need. The most difficult to cast would be Sam. I’m thinking, Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte in True Blood) but he’s not quite right either. He’s got a similar gaze — I know that sounds strange, but it’s true, and I can see my Sam’s ruffled hair. My Sam has been called ‘sour puss’ though, so whoever played him would need to portray a certain ‘moodiness’ along with a fierce sense of loyalty. And oddly enough Joe Manganiello (Alcide/True Blood) could be Bobby when wearing a suit as in this PHOTO, but he’d have to be a little more clean-shaven with tidier hair because of Bobby’s profession. He’s too tall, really, at 6’5” (I don’t visualise quite that amount of height discrepancy).

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When the peace of Bobby, Chantelle, and Sam’s lives come under threat, they have more to whine about than plastic mistletoe.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s being published by Changeling Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I usually aim for about 2000 words a day, five days a week when writing. As Changeling only takes shorts, I can usually draft a story for them within two weeks. Then there are edits, of course — my own before I sub and after acceptance — but fortunately neither Hounding the Beat nor Mistletoe and Whine required much editing. The story came to me as a clean copy.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Obviously, Hounding the Beat. I don’t think it compares to anything else. My stories at Changeling are all very different. I’ve written about a marooned astronaut, the fae, vampires, and a feel-good alternative history featuring a knight. I guess although this is paranormal, it has a similar feel to the contemporary stories as it has a modern setting. The only other menage I have out right now is Cosmic, available from Loose-Id, but that’s science fiction.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I was looking to write for the Protect and Serve series at Changeling — the series created by the wonderful Lena Austin, which meant *gulp* whatever I came up with had to please Lena and the usual suspects. I liked the series and wanted to be part of it. I first chose police as my topic — being able to put a spin on that as the British ‘Bobbie’. Then I had to choose what kind of shape-shifter to use. I’ve wanted to write shape-shifting huskies for a while, and so Bobby Pooch and Chantelle Shepherd were born (what did I say about the puns *grin*). And then there’s Sam Sanders, who’s human. Really, both books are largely Sam’s story, though I didn’t even realise it at the time.

What else about your book might interest the reader?

That this one may require a box of tissues, and I mean for the odd sniffle if not outright cry. Funny how a good old sob can be cleansing, especially when left with a reason to smile. The best books affect readers’ emotions, after all. Not sure I always succeed in that as much as I like, but with this one I know I did. I made those who went through the process with me have a lip tremble or two, including me and my editor.


Last week I mentioned a childhood favourite read: Snowflake by Paul Gallico. Oddly, the religious aspects of the story escaped me as a child. Whatever one’s belief this is such… I want to say gentle story, but I recall parts making me cry and the reading didn’t feel gentle at all. I was an infant and parts of the story left me feeling raw… and I adored every moment, the good and the bad. This is the full version read and accompanied by a song by Peter Gabriel.

Ten Memorable Titles

Someone tagged me some time ago on Facebook and again this week, so having answered this once before, I’m re-posting this. The way the game works is to list ten titles that have stayed with you. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books, and you shouldn’t think about it too long — just ten which have touched you and stayed with you. Then you nominate ten more people to play the game.

My problem was sticking to ten, and sticking to the ‘stayed with you in some way’, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as favourite books and authors.

Here, I’m including the list but with a variation on the theme adding explanations. Slight cheat — the first is two by one author, and there are a couple of trilogies.

In no particular order:

The Happy Prince/Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince read as a child, and I cried my eyes out. Well, not literally and that would be gross, but yes, I sobbed. Hey, I was like nine or younger, and the first time I heard the story, someone else read it to me. It would probably still make my lips tremble. It has everything: morality, romance, heart-wrenching pain. A Picture of Dorian Gray is just one of those stories never forgotten. As is often the case, my first awareness of this tale was the old black and white film. I didn’t get to read the book until my teens, but it’s an undeniable classic.

Gormenghast (trilogy/first two books) by Mervyn Peake

Not only a story that has touched and stayed with me, it’s one of my favourites, if not ‘the’ favourite owing to the scope of imagination, the names given to the characters, but most of all the richness of the language used, something sadly lacking in most books today.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I adore this ‘other world’ below London in this urban fantasy. For Doctor Who fans, it may interest you to know that Peter Capaldi played the Angel Islington in the 1996 television series, but it is the novelisation that stayed with me. Again, I love the names given to the characters, and the idea of an ordinary man dragged into an extraordinary world, especially one beneath London.

Wraeththu (trilogy) by Storm Constantine

This is possibly the author’s most well-known and outstanding work. A futuristic fantasy of post-apocalyptic proportions told through the eyes of three characters (one per book). The story follows Wreaththu — hermaphrodite beings who are skillful with forms of magic — and their interaction with humans. Romantic, but questioning perceptions of sexuality and people’s humanity/inhumanity to each other, there’s more going on here to those with an open mind.

Snowflake by Paul Gallico

A child’s book that I’ve seen nowhere since. I last tried searching for it about five years ago, but it wasn’t available, and I think I only found one listing for it. I have no need of an actual replacement, though mine is so old and well-read, it’s now lacking a cover and is just a very thin volume of aged yellowing pages. In short, Snowflake is born, goes on many adventures, falling in love with Raindrop and then, at the dramatic conclusion, returns to the sky. It had everything for a child — adventure, romance, and even self-sacrifice. I loved (and kept) so many of my childhood books, but this is my most-loved.

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

My first ‘adventure’ for an older reader, and I’ve chosen it because it’s linked to the one good clear memory I have of my mother. She read it to me long before I could read it myself. She must have read it, at my request, about three times before I was able to take over. I still have the little burgundy covered book she gave me. Owing to her ill health, I don’t have many memories like that so her reading Tom Sawyer is priceless.

Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh

Only read once, but I loved this book and remember it well. Some might see it as an argument against religion, but I think more than that it illustrates what man can do to each other using religion as an excuse. I especially like the story behind the book, that everyone turned it down, so Jill Paton Walsh self-published when it was much harder to do than it is now. It won a Booker prize — before they changed the rules to disallow self-published titles.

The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

It was a close call between this and I Am Legend, but this just pips it for me. My first memory of the story was once again the old black and white movie. Who can forget the battle with the giant spider? Some love spiders, some hate them, some have this strange love/hate affinity with them. I think their webs are beautiful and amazing. The spider is incredible. I just don’t want to come across one unexpectedly. In short, my earliest recollections were of that chill down one’s spine at the thought of battling a giant spider. I hadn’t read the book until recently, and likely had a preconceived notion of what to expect. The book, though accurate to the film, differs vastly in that it’s more emotional. I didn’t expect to experience so many emotions, including such sadness spliced with sympathy for the main character, in what many assume is a horror story.

Nocturnes by John Connolly

I like John Connolly’s work. I’m often perplexed by how he seems to break so many ‘rules’, particularly with his Charlie Parker novels — including both first and third person viewpoints, and even telling the story omnipresently when relating something that happened in the past. Not all writers can even manage point of view changes successfully, but it seems to suit his style, his ‘voice’. I included Nocturnes because I was surprised to come across a collection of short stories with gothic influences. They are both olde-worlde and new.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Best known for writing One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and the sequel The Starlight Barking. Yes, 101 had a sequel, and I have both books. I Capture the Castle has one of the best opening sentences. As John Steinbeck’s end to Of Mice and Men is startling, the most memorable thing about Dodie Smith’s first novel for adults has always been the line that begins, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”