Covid Interruption

About this time I should prepare my monthly update, but I’m putting that off until next week, and I didn’t blog last week because despite doing all the right things when we could and going above and beyond, having food delivered, not having seen family since Christmas 2019, and living like hermits, we’ve had Covid.

Of course, the husband knew the weak spot was his work. His supervisor allowed someone coughing and sneezing to stay — he’d done 2 lateral flow tests, both of which said negative. We’ve since learned lateral flow tests are only for people not showing symptoms. It understandably upset us, especially as we were due to visit family on the 19th for a week, and now do not know when we’ll be able to.

And double-jabbed person to double-jabbed person, to the husband, to me. Would interest us to know what strain it is. He got a PCR test right away. Unfortunately, not thinking, I didn’t arrange one at the same time and by then it was too late to do so. I could have had one sent to my home, but I was too poorly by then to post it back, and Test and Trace had advised for everyone in the household to isolate (though we’re confused by this as the regulations are changing, and so many ‘rules’ don’t seem to make sense). As I didn’t have a PCR test, they won’t add it to my medical records. Trust me, I KNOW I had. What that tells me is all those daily figures of infections are ‘only’ PCR positive results. Anyone who doesn’t know they’re infected or simply doesn’t get a PCR (and you may not even qualify sometimes) isn’t registered. So those infection numbers must be way down.

As to the question of how they developed these vaccines so fast, I had it explained to me they didn’t. They tweaked an existing vaccine, and that is all they do nowadays. And as for those saying you’ll just get ‘flu’, I can reliably state this is worse than flu. It’s truly horrible. I’ve had nothing like this and never want it again. Our breathing was fine, which was the main thing.

My symptoms started with a slightly dry throat and barely there headache. Then I ended up with a metallic taste, especially icky when drinking plain water, though that’s the best thing to drink. Splitting headache, sometimes migraine level, 24/7. Painkillers took the edge off but didn’t block it. Head ‘full of cotton wool’. Sinus pain. Coughing (though intermittent. Flu-like ache all over the body, but also PAIN in large muscle groups — like thighs and biceps. Pain in joints, particularly elbows and knees. Flash pain — came and went throughout the body; I had it 3 ‘flash pains’ in my right foot during one night. It’s like it attacks any weak spot in the body — if you’ve an ache somewhere, you’ll feel it more. Loss of appetite. Nausea. Vomiting. Fever (mostly the husband; though my head was hot, I didn’t perspire). Sleeping sickness. Sleep is what we mostly did around the clock. Fatigue. Making a cup of tea called for another 2 hours of sleep. We shuffled around like a pair of geriatrics.
And yes, despite all this, I believe we did well. The worst of the illness lasted about 4 days. Once we ate, we got well, so my advice is don’t let it weaken you.

Looking ahead, I don’t know what we’re going to do. If there’s a chance of continually catching this, what might it do to you? And who wants to feel lousy several times a year? Flu… I can go 5 or 7 years without catching. This I can imagine catching 4 times a year without precautions, so how we’re all supposedly going to live with it only time will tell. For now, we’re left with an occasional dry cough and our taste has diminished about 20%. The thing I can taste the most is chocolate; just a pity it’s not permissible to live on it, eh?

Cosmic re-released

Though I’ve posted this around elsewhere, I’m a week late announcing this on my primary site because of pressing life issues and I also felt last week’s blog too important to overshadow. Originally published by Loose Id, I have re-edited this edition for greater characterisation and depth, but the story remains essentially the same.

Can three hearts break harder than two? While on a mission, the last thing the crew of the Sovereignty expects is to gain an addition crew-member, but when an unknown assailant attacks, Axel has no choice but to beam the stranger on board the spacecraft. Already in a sexual relationship with ‘Snake’, a rare species of alien, Axel certainly isn’t looking for another person to complicate his already challenging existence.

The trouble is he cannot deny his growing attraction to the newcomer, who is a striking and intelligent woman. Sela’s so intelligent she’s already worked out Snake is an alien and the two men are in a somewhat turbulent relationship. Still, Axel isn’t the only one who likes Sela. Snake likes her too, and Sela doesn’t appear to mind the idea Axel and Snake are lovers, especially after she sees them together… But can they truly battle their differences and natural distrust, while fighting a corrupt government and dealing with a zealot of a leader? One man, one woman, and one alien; two males and one female, all fighting corruption and their own desires. In a universe at war, it’s natural to keep secrets, but can too many confidences mean they’ll never find peace?

Available from all good outlets, but if possible, please consider purchasing directly from publishers (in this case, JMS Books — if in the U.S.) to support smaller publishers and authors.

Re-edited and re-released

Happy to announce I’ve taken one of my books from my backlist and given it a makeover. My writing has changed in recent years for the better and I felt this story deserved a wider audience as it was much loved in the past.

An Act of Generosity is now available from JMS Books (for those in the US) and widely in other recommended outlets.

Robert’s a responsible adult and a dedicated businessman. He hesitates to hire Lee, who’s applied for the position of PA at his firm, knowing how hard it will be to deny his attraction to the younger man. Lee knows Robert’s has feelings for him, but can he get the proper English gentleman to admit they might share more than lust? And what will happen when Robert discovers they share a past?

My Writing Process (past blog tour)

In 2014, I was nominated for a blog tour without my knowing. I could trust my co-writer and editor, Andy Frankham Allen, not to tell me. I guess he counted on me reading his blog…and it appeared he was right. This was my entry, which I reproduce here with updated footnotes. 2014…where has the time gone?

Q1 What are you working on?

Not as easy to answer as it should be. I’ve recently finished one lot of edits for a steampunk work and had decided to write a third in a published series of romance titles only to realise a need to edit books one and two as I reread them. That turned into an exercise of shock mixed with the delight of seeing how well I’ve improved in five or six short years. And while I did that edits for another book arrived. I’ve just returned the first round but don’t expect it will be long before the second arrives (there’s usually two before line edits etc), so I’m jumping about at present. Interruptions and having to hop between works is one thing I never accounted for.

UPDATE: The romances I mention were finished up and published, despite personal problems and a necessary move causing a good deal of interruption.

Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?

A genre is a bit of a painful topic for me. I’ve been calling myself a multi-genre writer, but I realise that’s not an easy achievement. Readers will seldom follow a writer through multiple genres — a fact that had never occurred to me. Yes, I know, naïve, but then I’m a reader who will stick with writers I love no matter what they do. I’ll at least give all their works a try, and I read so widely it seems strange to think there are people who read a single genre. I cannot imagine life without reading at least two or three different types of stories. I always say I write as I read, meaning anything and everything. While this is true, branding is everything these days, so lately I’ve been giving serious consideration to what I do.

I hit on the romance/erotic romance market mostly by accident rather than intent and I call this side of my writing ‘non-traditional’ romance in that I’ve written a large portion of gay or ‘m/m’ titles, also menage, and those in themselves have ranged from contemporary, comedy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. I want to have a serious try at writing a hetero romance, but I’m sure it will have a paranormal setting so I say ‘non traditional’ to explain that I write a range of pairings and sub-genres.

Of my non-romance work…again, it varies, but I realise that many of my stories seem to contain a dark thread. I’ve a short story, Bitter and Intoxicating, in the anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe (edited by Mitzi Szereto, foreword by Kelley Armstrong) that is a perfect example of this. It’s erotic gothic romance with more than a touch of horror. My one and only short story available at Untreed Reads called The Texture of Winter is impossible to describe. It’s about loss and pain and the end of life, and yet I feel the tale has a bittersweet quality. Both stories are unusual and yet both contain a dark thread. I kind of pride myself in being able to write almost any genre, but I’m trying to pin down what I most want to focus on, so I recently re-branded my site and myself as a ‘writer of dark and light fiction’, which at least seems to cover all possibilities. When I get a little ‘breathing space’ I plan to write a novel with that dark side in mind, just think ‘outside the box’ to see where it takes me.

UPDATE: Texture of Winter is currently out of print. I subsequently divided my romance and darker work and now use 3 versions of my name. I’ve started my first dark fiction novel.

Q3 Why do I write what I do?

An innate love of books, of stories, of story-telling. Books have been companions throughout my life. They seldom let me down. They’re a way to explore life, to live and experience other lives, to be someone you are not. They’re time machines, both into the past and the future. Stories are for enjoyment and exploration. They can teach or simply hold the reader’s hand through good times as well as trauma. I’d love to make a living at writing, but realistically so few writers do. Many writers write because they don’t know how not to. It’s a driving force. I’ve referred to it akin to breathing.

Q4 How does my writing process work?

I’m not sure. Every project feels different, and the process isn’t always the same. I call myself a pantser — a term in writing circles to mean fly by the seat of. Andy is mostly a plotter. When we co-authored a book, I found it a little exhausting, and it wasn’t just because we were stepping in at short notice and had limited time. Andy is fast, and he knows exactly where he wants to go. I can be fast, but not always, and not when plotting. Writing with someone else requires a certain amount of plotting to be inevitable, but I seldom know where I’m going, so following any kind of pattern felt alien to me. I may start a work based on an opening scene that’s come to me. I may have an idea where I want my characters to end up, but not have a clue how they will get there. On rare occasions I’ll know the end, but nothing or not much leading up to it. I have written things based on nothing more than a title or a handful of words given to me. Characters may come to me without a story, or I’ll connect two random events and realise there’s a plot hiding there. I really cannot explain how my ideas form because it can happen in many ways.

The writing process itself can also differ. I usually write from beginning to end, as if I were reading a story. Occasionally I’ll write random scenes or jump a few scenes ahead and then connect them, sort of in the way they produce a film. The writing can come easily or take forever. It’s a wonderful feeling when it’s flowing; other times…I can only say there’s an excellent reason writers refer to it as proverbially pulling teeth. When the writing drags it drags big time, yet I can’t base how good the writing is on how easily the work flows. Sometimes it feels as if a story wrote itself and poured out of me; other times I’ve had to wrench out every word, but in neither case does that tell me a thing about the quality of what I’ve produced until I shelve it for a while and come to the editing. That’s the one thing about my process — I like to shelve work before I do an edit. I may edit a little as I go, I may read over the previous day’s work to get me back into the story and tweak it, but before I do a first major edit, I prefer to let work sit a minimum of two weeks, preferably two to three months or even longer.

Q5 What’s new from you?

I’ve a short story called The Night Train in a magazine, Night to Dawn, and I’ve recently finished The Draco Eye a steampunk work for Space 1889 so that’s likely to be the next available longer work from me. The intrepid crew of Sovereign are heading for Jupiter and find the most fantastical creature yet…which the amazing cover reveals.

Coming next…current edits are on a book tentatively entitled Going Nowhere — a title that will probably end up changed owing to the publisher’s list of titles already in use. This is a gay erotic romance paranormal detective type thing that will be available from Loose id though I don’t have a release date yet. Who said a writer can’t mix things up?

UPDATE: Going Nowhere ended up releasing as Wildest Dreams, but is out of print. Loose Id ceased trading recently. I’ve had more work in Night to Dawn since.

Update August 2019

OUT AND ABOUT:
I visited Tintagel on what must have been the hottest day of the month. Far too manic with many paying the exorbitant fee to cross the (IMHO) horrible bridge to the castle ruins. Not something I will do and, as the cost has risen so much, I dare say my walks on the island are now a thing of the past, remembered with some wonderful photographs of the view.

While there I met with a friend for breakfast and then went on elsewhere fast. I think I need to hibernate in July and August and go out the rest of the year. I wonder how many will be surprised to hear many living in the South West don’t go out on Bank Holidays. Was also unhappy that someone in a flash car yelled at my friend (who was driving) to ‘get over’. I quickly looked out of my side window and there was nowhere to ‘get over’ to. Unfortunately, visitors anywhere can be thoughtless. And yes, I’ve been one of them, but I’m always aware that the place I’m visiting is where people live and I act considerately. People playing music at volume, walking in the road, leaving dog mess behind…I did none of this and tire of this as anyone. Please be considerate when on holiday and on the subject of dog faeces, please bag up and dispose sensibly. I heard a news report of people regularly picking up down a country lane and throwing the bags into a nearby field. Ponies in the field accidentally ate the bags and died. Behaviour has consequences.

FILM/TV:
I’m more of a Marvel person than DC though both universes have wonderful characters. I had to watch Aquaman and not only for Jason Momoa. Unsure how I feel about the film, neither loving it nor loathing it. I found it enjoyable but likely forgettable, perhaps owing to the ladened effects although I cannot see a way to tell this story without them. For anyone still into their zombies, but who wants something a little more innovative complete with political machinations and if one doesn’t mind subtitles, they might want to check out Netflix’s ‘Kingdom’. I’m waiting for the second series now.

One noteworthy film for me was Bad Times at the El Royale. I’d not heard of this film but the cast caught my attention. Reviews seem mostly good though I’ve read mention of a Tarantino style film that doesn’t quite pull it off. I think it’s good that’s it’s not quite a clone of someone else’s work. People arrive at a hotel and then strange things happen. It’s not possible, to say much without spoilers. Turned out to be the circular storytelling I love with surprises thrown in. The type of thing I wish I’d written. Plus Chris Hemsworth. What can I say? Sue me.

READING:
NOS4R2, by Joe Hill reads like a children’s book for adults blended with a dark thriller. Though surreal, perhaps bizarre, the increasing conflict kept me enthralled. It’s been a while since I felt I couldn’t put a book down and while I maybe didn’t feel like that all the way through I did for most of the novel. This may be in part because Joe Hill has created a better heroine for me than many blockbusting movies. Victoria may be a mess but she’s a mess with reason, has stamina, purpose, tenacity, and a whole list of exceptional traits that many female leads lack. Perhaps some belief edged close to the line but in a world where Christmasland exists a thought or bike ride away I’m prepared to suspend my doubts for the sheer enjoyment of reading. I like the way he stretches the story over time told at different points in the characters’ lives. I may never enjoy Christmas in quite the same way but will happily live with that too for such a well-thought and excellently presented story which tugs on so many emotional strings.

Voice of the Night
A reread as part of a hoped-for book clearance though I didn’t remember this story at all so, first time around, it couldn’t have made an impact and I can’t say it did this time either. As with much of early Koontz it’s a book of its time. The oft sexual violence as imagined by one character is particularly off-putting as it should be but it’s still dated. Oddly, this book breaks a general rule of publishing in that if the protagonist is a child, then the book is for children but there’s no way this book would be for suitable for kids or, as the boys in question are teens, for a Young Adult readership. Nothing to do with the book but it crossed my mind to wonder whether this would have ever seen print these days. Another thing that ages the book is a ‘boy’ of Colin’s age would likely not, these days, sleep with a nightlight. I perceived the boys as much younger, maybe 7, 8, or 9, and Colin’s father is particularly devolved. The good parts of the book for me is Colin’s perceptions of the dark, a haunted house, a creature ready to jump out of the shadows having lain in wait for him, wonderfully described.

WRITING:
THE INFINITE TODAY, featuring Matt’s Smith eleventh Doctor and companion, Jo Grant, read by Jo herself ‘Katy Manning’ is up for pre-order at Big Finish Productions. https://www.jms-books.com/erotic-romance-c-29_94/swansong-p-2867.html

I also re-released a short GLBT romance story that previously featured in a charity anthology, a story I’m proud of for the layered construction. Swansong is available from JMS books and other reputable outlets for 99c/p:

Richard stands at the door of his living room watching a young man move about the room examining mementos of his life. He has brought this man here for one reason — to lay both he and a ghost to rest. Like the poster hanging on his living room wall, Richard has lived a sepia life for too many years. With his wife gone but not forgotten, his grief is complicated, yet Gloria’s presence lives on guiding him towards a happier future.

Richard believes what little love he had in his life has withered but before she died, his darling Gloria unlocked her silent throat.  Now the time has come for Richard to sing his own song, to face the future, to make the right choice.

Swansong Re-release

Richard stands at the door of his living room watching a young man move about the room examining mementos of his life. He has brought this man here for one reason — to lay both he and a ghost to rest. Like the poster hanging on his living room wall, Richard has lived a sepia life for too many years. With his wife gone but not forgotten, his grief is complicated, yet Gloria’s presence lives on guiding him towards a happier future.

Richard believes what little love he had in his life has withered but before she died his darling Gloria unlocked her silent throat. Now the time has come for Richard to sing his own song, to face the future, to make the right choice.

Purchase from JMS Books and well-known outlets.

This story first appeared the charity anthology, I Do, published by MLR Press. Now re-edited by the author and re-published as a independent read by JMS Books, releases on Wedsnesday 21st August 2019. This is a short story with a more serious tone and literary feel.

The Beholder’s Eye

We’re told beauty is in the beholder’s eye, but awful book covers exist and, for a peculiar reason, a high proportion of poor art has appeared on romance books. I’m glad to report this trend is shifting and, as with the content, many covers reflect a discerning audience; good news for writers and readers.

If you’ve not read a romance in a while, they have changed. Aside from classic literature from authors such as Bronte or Austen (my first literary introduction to a romantic heroine was Jane Eyre), most young girls of my generation had their first taste of romance in the form of a Mills and Boon’s book. At age fourteen or fifteen, this gave girls a perverse view of romance and of what men expected of women. For those that love such books, I’m not knocking them. There are many good examples and they are intended to be fantasies.

I’m referring more to a sign of the times and of how things have evolved from when I was a teenager. As a friend exclaimed there was never an erection in a Mills and Boon’s when she was young, and while I am sure that despite our feminist backbones, many women appreciate the image of a handsome man sweeping them off their feet, these days it’s more a case of mutual support. Today’s heroines are as likely to pick up a baseball bat, or gun, or sword, or high-power laser particle whangamado gadget in defence of their man should the need require they take action. Heroines and their heroes now stand together (or a hero with a hero, and a heroine with a heroine or whatever combination one wishes), as, in an ideal world, love should conquer ‘all’. In love, both parties fall at the feet of the other. Equality is the key and, even in surrender, both can stay equal.

This new era of romance crosses age, class-distinctions, social taboos, even universes, for it crosses genres. If you look for the animal in your man or woman, you will find them in the form of vamps and shape-shifters of every description. Whether you read sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or westerns, if you can think of it, likely there’s a romance to suit your tastes. These stories now contain adventure, danger, excitement, and a soupcon of erotica.

What has this to do with the cover? From the writer’s point of view, one of promotion. People often ‘do’ judge a book by its cover. What caught my attention was during an author chat someone raised the question how do authors ‘choose’ their covers. The simple answer is that they don’t, and this goes for all genres. Sometimes, an author may even face having their beloved title changed, either for better promotional purposes, or, in a case of a publisher having two books with the same title, a wish not to confuse readers; they will ask the second writer to choose another option, but I have heard cases of publishers doing so without consultation.

The same applies to book covers. many publishers will do their utmost to create something pleasing to both the author and the expected readership. Others… well, even with the best of intentions mistakes happen, and, depending on the company’s policy, the author may have no say, no comeback, not even see a preview of the work before publication, which can lead to proofreading errors that are beyond the writer’s control.

Fortunately, many reputable publishers consider their authors’ feelings. A poor cover is terrible news for everyone — the publisher wants a book to sell as much as the author does. Mostly, yes, a good cover can be a good indicator, but, making a decision purely on what the eye sees is risky. I’ve discovered treasures hiding under awful wrapping paper and some dreadful works presented with spectacular artwork.