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Today is my turn to play host for RJ Scott’s annual Autism Awareness blog hop.

Previous hosts and those that cover the dates for the rest of the month may be found here on RJ’s blog.

As you will know by now, if you have followed all the posts in the blog hop, autism manifests in a lot of different ways. For some people, like Andy Warhol and Tim Burton, it gives them a unique view of the world that brings them celebrity, for others its a challenge to be faced but there are still joys to be experienced and big wins to be celebrated.

Every child should be given opportunities to try new things, see new sights and enjoy new experiences so they can find the things that give them joy and will help them to be stronger and happier adults.

 

Let’s not deny people their opportunities to shine, to stand up and crow and say ‘Look, I did that’.

Just because someone doesn’t do things the same way as most people, it doesn’t make their achievements less important.

All these quotes are taken from the Autism Speaks website which can be found Here.

More information on autism can be found on these websites:

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/myths-facts-stats.aspx

http://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/autism-fact-sheet/

http://kerrymagro.com/68-things-to-know-about-autism-for-autism-awareness-month/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

And here, again, is the link to RJ’s masterpost – http://rjscottauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/autism-awareness-blog-hop-2017.html

Since this is a blog hop and blog hops mean presents, if you leave a comment with your email I will pick a winner at the end of the month and we’ll have a chat about what you would prefer to receive. Until then happy hopping.

xxx

 

 

 

Out today!! The second in the Village Love series. I read this when it was under construction and it really rocks!

Here’s the blurb:

Smudge really needs to get laid, if only to stop himself wondering about the softness of Raleigh’s curls and why he keeps running away.

After his tumultuous teenage years, Smudge has settled into his quiet life in the sleepy English village of Slopy Bottom. He’s his own boss with the time and space to indulge his artistic creativity. And he has friends. He’s happy. Satisfied. Lonely. And the pool of potential soulmates is almost non-existent. His friends, Rick and Mal, flush with their own happy romance, keep trying to set him up with the most incompatible men, and he’s never finding true love on Grindr. Hell, he’s not even going to manage a hook up based on the kinky messages he’s been getting recently. He’ll just have to slake his desire to find his own HEA in the pages of bosom-heaving romance novels.

Raleigh is the darling of Slopy Bottom’s blue rinse brigade: church organist, mobile librarian, and apparently wedded to his trademark cardigans. He seems to be the polar opposite of the artistic Smudge, whose brightly coloured mohawk and piercings should be a red flag to Raleigh. Yet he’s yearning for company too. It’s just that Raleigh has less expectation and definitely less courage to chase after it, for reasons that he keeps very close to his chest. Reasons that don’t stop him from being drawn irresistibly to Smudge.

Smudge is sure that the way Raleigh runs from him whenever he sees him is cruelly deliberate. A reflection on his bad boy looks and his disdain for Raleigh’s precious church. So why can’t he stop thinking about the softness of Raleigh’s curls and his delicate body? Then Raleigh offers an olive branch of sugar and caffeine, Smudge’s favourite combination, starting them on a road to an awkward truce. And when they are conned into working together on a community project at the local hospital, the proximity ignites a spark that can’t be ignored. But navigating the murky waters that could take their relationship beyond tentative friendship all depends on whether Raleigh can release his secret fears – and whether Smudge is the man to share and allay them.

Buy Links

Amazon US // Amazon UK // Kobo // Payhip // Smashwords

 

R J Scott’s Autism Awareness Blog Hop is kicking off today with a terrific line up of authors, most of whom are offering prizes.

Don’t forget to check the masterlist, daily, to be taken on a tour of some of the best authors’ and bloggers’ sites on the web. You can find a link HERE.

March 31st is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility and I think that it’s more important to celebrate it this year than ever.

If you don’t already know, here is an easy peasy infographic to tell you why:

I would be very interested in hearing how the experiences described in that picture compare with the experiences of transgender individuals in the UK. I would hate to think that things are as bad here, especially since, according to the Independent, the number of British people who wish to change their gender has soared.

I should say that ‘wish’ is the wrong word there. It should be ‘need’ and nobody should suffer for wanting to live their lives truly and honestly as themselves.

One person who was brave enough to do this is Caroline Paige.

Caroline’s story in her own words is well worth a read – you can find it here – but here is her comment about TDOV:

Visibility was important, but it wasn’t enough, people still needed to understand. I volunteered my story publicly, revealing the good and the bad, and people listened, they understood, they appreciated being given the awareness and opportunity to respect difference. The military evolved, in fact it became a leader in diversity and inclusion, a safer place to be openly transgender, or gay, or just different. This is the power of visibility and revealing lived experience, the power of seeing, of understanding, of change. This is the purpose of TDOV.

The courage, the absolute bravery, of both Caroline and the people I see every day on facebook or Twitter, people who have made the decision to live their lives as they should be lived, is inspiring and heartwarming. And I offer them all my love and support in my small sheepish way.

My guest today isn’t just a blinkin’ good author but also a dear friend and mentor, a fellow UK Meet Committee member, a stalwart of the writing community and an all round good egg.

Charlie is here today to celebrate her brand new release – In the Spotlight. a bundle of two stories about men who tread the boards.

Charlie, what inspired you to write these stories?

My love of sport and the theatre. In the case of All That Jazz, I was once going to a rugby match at London Irish and I saw two blokes having a row in the club car park. My mind went into overdrive and by the time I’d considered all the possibilities why they’d been arguing, I had the makings of a character. At a similar time, the all-male productions at the Globe made me wonder if an all male Chicago would be a goer – so when these two ideas conflated I had the germ of a story. (Any more detail would give it away.)

If Music Be came from another mixing of ideas. I love Will Shakespeare’s work, especially Twelfth Night; the sexual politics and gender bending in that play are mind boggling. It’s something I’ve explored before and no doubt will do again. When hubby got given a Military Wives CD, it made me wonder about military husbands and – again – these two seemingly disparate things came together to make a tale.

Have you tackled the theatre in other stories?

Oh, yes. The Cambridge Fellows found themselves embroiled with an all male production of “The Scottish Play” and “Awfully Glad” concerns a WWI officer who appears in a concert party dressed as a woman (do I detect a theme here?) I guess it’s a matter of writing about what I enjoy watching or reading about!

“The Roosters”, an army concert party started in 1917 with the donation of a 100 drachma note by a Surrey wicket keeper and continued to perform for over 30 years

There’s something comfortably camp about the behavior of theatrical types, including the straight ones. They certainly seem happy touching each other when being interviewed on the television. Any thoughts?

Plenty! Cultures develop around professions and settings, so the language and interactions in the theatre will be different to those in accountancy. I’m sure the fact that actors spend a lot of time pretending to be someone else in an artificial setting must have an influence, too. Perhaps it loosens the inhibitions or something.

Mind you, that relaxed physicality can be seen in my beloved rugby, too. One of the factors must be the close contact on the pitch (hands and heads go places in scrums and rucks that they don’t go in other sports). But it isn’t just during the game – the lads are very tactile when celebrating a try, or after the match. I also see tweets from them along the lines of, “In bed with my pal x, watching TOWIE”. They’re clearly sharing a bed in the way Morecambe and Wise platonically shared a bed, as has been customary through time, but you can’t imagine a footballer making that sort of tweet, for fear of snide comments. I wonder if it’s because rugby players have nothing to prove in terms of their masculinity? After all, the world’s top rugby referee is “out” and nobody bats an eyelid.

What are you working on at the moment?

Something rather different and a bit daft, about which I’m giving no more details as I don’t want anyone else to nick the idea. J

Can we have an excerpt?

Of course! Here’s a bit from All That Jazz:

“Are you looking for someone?” An incongruously quiet voice sounded beside him.

Hardly the most original chat up line. Francis eyed the stranger warily. He’d got past the point of being impressed by smooth lotharios sporting smarmy clichés although this bloke didn’t seem like one of them. If Francis had been a betting man he’d have put twenty quid on the remark being genuine and heartfelt.

“Not really.” Francis used his huskiest tones, ones belying the clothes he wore, tones intended to impress. Whoever or whatever the bloke with the clichéd lines was, he had a stunning smile to accompany them. And an honest fresh face—as complete a contrast to Rhys fucking don’t trust him as far as you can throw him Mannering as you could get.

“Sorry, you just looked a bit lost.” The stranger turned face on, his smile now shy and losing some of its lustre.

“Maybe I am. Not sure I know anyone here.” Francis couldn’t believe he was uttering the words, and in such a bashful manner. He was used to being the confident, pushy one in these sort of joints. Or at least he’d been good at acting that part once Mannering had gone. He’d had to learn to make the running, determined not to let that poncy sod ruin any more of his life than he already had done. So why was he now admitting to some beddable bloke that he was anything less than Mr. Confidence? Especially tonight when a beddable bloke and a bottle of beer were top of his shopping list.

“You do look a bit out of place.”  Another devastating smile. Why the fuck did beddable bloke make you feel like you’d never been in a bloody gay bar before?  “It’s not your average pub, this place. Most of the team hang out here and it’s coloured the atmosphere.”

“The team?” Francis cast a quick glance around. The rainbow flag over the door might well have been false colours, given the butch, well built appearance of the bar’s clientele. It looked more like your average suburban local than a haunt of the spenders of the pink pound. Perhaps the flag had actually been flying over the Brasserie next door and he’d missed it in his foul temper? No, the looks and nudges he’d had were genuine enough, and he wasn’t so dragged up that he could really be mistaken for a bird.

~~~~~~

In the Spotlight

Blurb:

All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn’t like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness “nowadays”?

If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?

Link: Amazon UK Amazon US

Bio and links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes.  Romances, mysteries, sometimes historical and occasionally hysterical. Rumours that she has written about weresloths are true.

Charlie’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, and regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

You can reach Charlie at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com (maybe to sign up for her newsletter?) or catch her on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, her website or her blog.

 

Smashwords are celebrating Read an Ebook Week from 5 to 11 March 2017 – and what that means for readers is deep discounts on awesome titles!

Manifold Press is participating, with all of our titles, backlist and new, discounted by 25%. (The only exception is our charity anthology, A Pride of Poppies.) Now is the time to stock up that TBR pile, and maybe try some new stories you’ve been pondering.

Browse the Manifold Press catalogue on Smashwords – or browse the full catalogue of all the discounted ebooks across the site. We’re 100% sure you’ll find something to love!

PS. That 25% discount includes Eleventh Hour if you fancy a copy.

comfy chair My guest today is an old friend and a person whose work I adore, so please join me in welcoming Heloise West to the Comfy Chair.

Welcome, Heloise and thanks for answering my questions.

~

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Situation and character strike me first. For Ardent, the origin scene was Benedetto working to make that fine pigment wash, sandwiched between two situations—the death of the master painter and the arrival of a new master, the latter of whom he’d taken temporary solace from the pain of a bad breakup. My old historical critique group sent me back in time to get up to that point—I do sometimes start too late in the story, or stick too long with the first moments of the scene that’s risen to the surface, not seeing that it’s not the first scene, just a pivotal one.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

 In my first novel, Hitting Black Ice (contemporary romantic suspense from Loose Id) Hunter pretty much arrived fully fledged. I knew he had a traumatic background and an idea of what it was, but he always had that bubble-off-plumb sense of humor, calling himself Mata Hairy at one point when he’s taken up a bit of recon.  The love interest in trouble was a mystery man, even to me, and readers wanted to know more about him, so he got more screen time in the sequel.

In Ardent, Morello was the less complicated of the two and determined to both do the right thing and to have what he wants.  He was easier than Benedetto, who had to be equally determined though his needs and wants were at war with each other on a larger scale. It was hard to keep Benedetto from being a flake, but I like the way he turned out.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

Historical mysteries are my heart and soul, and I’m hoping to find a slice of time to work on a few of them soon. I can’t seem to make myself write straight romance, but I have a few bunnies hopping around. I have to say I avoid writing science fiction like a rattlesnake because I’m so bad at science in general. I’d definitely be putting the fiction in science, lol.

Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?

Yes!! I got to a point in a recent manuscript, the third in the contemporary romantic suspense series, when I had a very strong feeling, wishing it was a plain old mystery I was writing and not a romance. (I always, always wanted to do the “Ellis Peters thing.”)

 I use beat sheets and structural how-to books for some books and veering off from the romance arc has been appealing lately.  Sometimes I lay scenes out physically with post-its and huge sheets of paper taped to the wall, scribbling all over the place. It’s tempting to follow the nonromance arc and see where it goes.

I think it’s the emotional map that’s different.  In a romance, you’re focused on just these two and whatever emotional landscape they share between them. That takes precedence. This landscape is different in a mystery, everyone’s emotions are important to solving the crime/mystery, how they felt about the victim, their reaction to the crime. A puzzle with more pieces, I think.

I’ve got to get these mysteries down and work on them so they won’t jump in front of the romances. I feel like an overburdened bookshelf some days. Most days, lol. I write slowly, so there’s quite a backlog messing up the works.

When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?

Sharp-eyed critiquers and beta readers. I’m too disorganized to make and keep a series bible.  Thank goodness for the search capability in Kindle, so if I do question something, I can check it faster.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

At this point, I find myself wrestling with three main characters who have done something awful and unforgivable, and they aren’t straight and narrow good characters to start with. But somehow I have to redeem them, bring them back from doing more damage to the world or themselves. It’s damn hard. It goes against my own McJudgey morality, but it’s doable because, hey, it’s fiction, and I still have to make this redemption believable and the characters really have to work at making it realistic, too.  I think that’s more interesting and challenging than plain evil. Though I do have a particularly nasty villain in If I Were Fire, a novella set in 18th century Tuscany (from Dreamspinner Press). He was fun to work with. But no one wants to romance him–ick!

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

So, yeah, the three main characters from the novels I’ve been working on and about to embark on: The third in the Heart and Haven series, Nick, is on submission, but it’s bounced back to me once for clarification edits—it might come back again. Nick is…complicated, and not in a good way. He was the antagonist in Hitting Black Ice, but he got a shot at redemption and took it. (My editor liked him.)

ootbk

The second novel is William, from the Order of the Black Knights multiauthor series, the brainchild of Thianna Durstan. The knights traded their souls to become warriors in an evil wizard’s army during the middle ages. They are doomed to be killers and mercenaries to the end of time, unless they can forgive their enemy and free themselves from the curse and the cycle of rebirth. I’m half way through this one.

Falcone, from Ardent, has a mystery to solve and love to redeem him, like the guys above, but he’s not easy to get along with. He was born in the slums of Florence and has lived on the streets most of his childhood. From Ardent: “Of loving parents he had no experience, Leo had once explained, a man-child who craved the light, but feared to leave the familiar darkness.”

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

In Ardent, Chapter Two, Benedetto wants Morello to teach him to swim…

“Some find it strange to put their faces in the water,” Morello went on in a slightly lecturing tone. It gave him distance from the beautiful man naked beside him. Why had he thought this would be a good idea? “Or their whole heads. Hold your breath and – ”

“I’m not an infant,” Benedetto scolded lightly. He took a breath and sank beneath the surface completely.

When Benedetto rose again, the water running loving tongues down his body, Morello said, “Then on to floating. If you relax, the water will buoy you up, like so.” He went face down into the water, arms and legs spread out, acutely aware of his naked ass, but he liked being naked with Benedetto. He floated there a few moments before turning onto his back and beginning to move his hands and feet slightly in the slow-moving water. “Now you.”

Benedetto flopped down face first in the water, thrashed about, then stood again, chagrined. “You make it look easy.”

“Let’s go deeper.” Morello pulled him a few arm’s-lengths farther out into the river. “Maybe you don’t trust me.”

“I trust you,” Benedetto said quickly.

Morello thought his answer more polite than true. “You can trust me. I would not hurt you for the world, Benedetto. I won’t let you drown. Is that what you fear?”

“I don’t know why or what I fear,” Benedetto murmured. “I think I can trust you, Morello. I want to.”

“On your back,” he said gently, trying not to think about whispering those very words by lamplight, in his own bed, Benedetto spread out against the bolsters. Well, his imagination had ever been his master, had it not? Morello put his arm under Benedetto to support him, and the man did not thrash about as he had before. He put his hand to Benedetto’s flat, hard stomach, and did not allow it to wander. “Gently. Relax. Close your eyes if that helps.”

###

Ardent from Manifold Press

Cover image: © Kiril Stanchev | shutterstock.com

Cover design: © Michelle Peart 2017

Historical M/M Romantic Suspense

Renaissance Florence

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words

Publication February 1, 2017

Preorder links:

Barnes and Noble

Manifold Press

Kobo

 

About Heloise West:

Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of fourteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

Where to find Heloise:

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