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Snippetry

Time for another totally random snippet of a work in progress – because there always in a work in progress even if the progress is sometimes veerrrryyy veeerrrryyy sloooooow.

Here’s a bit – rough as a badger’s – of Close Shave, book 2 of the Pemberland series, in which barber Terry plies his trade:

Market day in Pemberland was always a crush. The market hall, echoing abode of pigeons on most days, was cleared out and stalls set up. Cars lined the streets, many of them genuine off road jobs with mud to the hubcaps and dog hair, binder twine and sheep shit on the back seats. If the farmers, their kids and spouses only came to town once a week they had a lot to fit in and hair-cuts were popular.

Typical of bloody Kevin, Terry thought. Why did he have to pick now to play the family card.

Not that Kevin was family – not any more. Julie had fled their grim little flat in Pemberland and had returned to the family home with her kids and just what they had stood up in. Terry and his Dad had to go to the flat to collect her clothes and the kids’ things and Rob had come along to, as he put it, provide some muscle. The state the place had got into, just in the week since Julie had left it, had been shocking. Kevin just didn’t seem to be able to see that being a layabout might hurt his family but the final straw for Julie was when he’d forgotten, again, to pick them up from school and their six year old twins had been found trying to walk home in the rain. Terry could have killed Kevin for that alone, but Julie had admitted that was the least of it.

“I don’t mind working,” she said, “and I don’t mind being the responsible one, but he drinks every penny and his friends – oh dear lord, his friends make me sick and that Wiggy… He’s just not normal and Kevin thinks the sun shines out of his arse. I don’t think Kev’s normal either, not when he’s on the cider.”

“Like father like son,” Dad said. “Though I guess you wouldn’t have had this trouble with Rob.”

Terry thought wistfully of Kevin’s brother who had led the tweedy little museum curator astray and seemed to have moved into in the flat upstairs. Not that Terry and Rob had ever… Not really each other’s type. And not that Mal was little – everyone seemed a bit on the small side to Terry – but their blissful domesticity sounded so nice.

He made one last sweep of the razor across Gary’s gleaming scalp and wiped the blade with a towel.

“You’re done,” he said. “If you could settle up with Lil on the way out?”
They all drew back as Gary called Morris and the mountain of fur got up and padded after him to the door. “Rugby practice Monday?” Gary asked.

“Usual time, usual place,” Terry said. “Next.”

“That’d be me.” Kevin began to get up.

“No it wouldn’t.” The heavy set farmer next to him nodded to the other room. “It’s that young bloke in there, then me, then Alwyn, THEN you.”

Terry, who knew exactly who was where in the queue but had been giving Kevin a chance to do the decent thing, leaned into the doorway of the ladies’ salon. “Mal, your turn.”

Mal was perched on a stool by Lydia Garth and seemed to be showing her photos on his phone. He grinned at Terry, murmured to Lydia, making her laugh again then got up and hurried in.

“Lydia’s going to London to see Kinky Boots,” he said as he got into the chair. “Lucky lady. She’s offered me a lift to Hereford.”

“Meeting at County Hall again?” Alwyn Derry looked up from his copy of the Chronicle. “What’s it about this time?”

“Budget cuts, as usual.”

“What do we need a museum for anyway?” Kevin muttered, levelling a poisonous look at Mal. “It’s shameful the way they’re wasting our tax money and cutting benefits to people who need ’em.”

“Since when did you need them?” Alwyn turned a page in the paper. “When I was in Rowbottom’s he said he’d given you a job clearin’ out those old garages.”

“Yeah? So? That’s why my back’s bad now, isn’t it?” Kevin rolled his eyes then went back to glaring at Mal. Terry caught his eye in the mirror and Kevin flushed and turned away.

“Now Mal,” Terry ran his fingers through the fine brown hair still holding its shape well from the last cut but a little shaggy around the ears. “Just a trim is it or do you have something more ambitious in mind.”

“Oh God no, just a trim please.” Mal grimaced. “Got to look smart and professional if I’m going to beg, haven’t I?”

Terry snipped away at the fine brown strands until he felt Mal passed muster – smart but not too traditional – then rubbed some product into the hair and combed it into a rather racier shape than, he knew, Mal could be bothered to achieve on his own.
“There,” he said. “Knock ’em dead.”

“I’ll try.” Mal grinned his thanks as he got out of the chair. “I’ll go keep Lydia company, she must be almost done.”

“Cool, and can you send Adrian in to sweep up?” Terry waved him out of the way. “Next.”

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Snippetry

I’m out of the habit of posting snippets. Mostly because I don’t write as much. But here’s a little bit of Midnight Flit [working title], a sequel to Eleventh Hour set in 1931.

Miles and Briers are back together after six months apart:

Miles felt squashed and sticky, breathless and bruised – because the cushions weren’t that thick despite the layer of bedding and the carefully positioned towels Briers had laid down. He also felt bloody marvellous.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“No – thank you,” Briers said. “Can’t remember the last time I came that hard.”
“I do,” Miles said grinning at the street lamp light on the ceiling. “It was in that meadow above Chamonix when we were having a roll in that haystack and those hikers came along and had a picnic round the other side of it and we were both already too far along to stop. You said the same then. I think danger must sharpen the sensation for you or something.”
“You think?” Briers shifted enough to bite Miles’s ear. “I didn’t notice you being a shrinking violet. I didn’t notice you saying “no, no stop it immediately”. I mean, if you’d really wanted me to stop I would have done.”
“Oh, but when would we have got another opportunity. Perfect haystack, perfect view of Mont Blanc. There were even goats.”
Briers snorted. “And you acted out a fantasy you’d had ever since reading Heidi, you lovely little pervert, you.”

More another time.

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This will be available on November the first but is up for pre-orders now. Personally, I can’t wait for my copy.

Seventeen stories, thirteen authors, a second war. Once again Manifold Press’s writers explore the lives of LGBTQ+ people and their war-time experience in cities, towns and countryside across the world.

Amidst war and peace, in the thick of violence or in an unexpected lull, these stories of the Second World War take the reader far and wide: through Britain, Europe, Asia and South America, from loss and parting to love and homecoming. As for home, it may be an ordinary house, or a prison camp, or a ship: but it is, in the end, where you find it, however far you have to go. Read this book, and make the journey yourself.

An anthology edited by Heloise Mezen and featuring authors:

Julie Bozza – Barry Brennessel – Charlie Cochrane – Andrea Demetrius
Adam Fitzroy – Elin Gregory – Sandra Lindsey – JL Merrow – Eleanor Musgrove
R.A. Padmos – Michelle Peart – Megan Reddaway – Jay Lewis Taylor

94,500 words/TBC pages
$6.95

Please note: All proceeds will be donated to the British Refugee Council (Registered Charity No. 1014576).

Publication 1 November 2017 but the book is available for pre-order now

Amazon US pre-order link | Amazon UK pre-order link | Smashwords link
Barnes & Noble pre-order link | Kobo pre-order link

More information, including a complete line up of all the stories, is available from the Manifold Press website.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

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Plot bunnies

I’ve been out of bed for half an hour – awful night thanks to the cat who spent several hours thundering around the house and is now curled up on my lap sleeping the sleep of the totally knackered. And in the half hour I’ve been up I’ve been very severely plot bunnied. Normally the stealthy little so and sos creep up on me over months so i get multiple ideas that coalesce into something useful but often I’ve forgotten where they come from. Bt today they all happened so fast that I thought I’d share the thought process.

It’s all Nigella Lawson’s fault.

Photo from BBC iChef

Yes you can smile, you baggage!

So there I was under the cat, cwtched up to the dog, zombily sipping tea with Saturday Kitchen on the telly when Nigella said something about not wanting something to come to a ‘rollicking boil’.

Wham! There was a title AND a character. Rollo Boyle, Irish, of course, a groom turned off by his last master who moved up in the world and wanted someone posher and more servile to run his stable, so, totally pissed off, Rollo heads for home but ends up – wrong place, wrong time – hunted as a highwayman.

Charles Keeping of course, from his illustration series for Albert Noyes rollicking poem

Thump – now I’ve got that damned ‘riding riding riding’ hoofbeat rhythm running through my mind.

Naturally Rollo is a gentleman highwayman, rather than the reality which were mugging bastards who’d smash the fillings from your teeth if they saw the flash of gold. Maybe something along the lines of Jack Carstares in Heyer’s Black Moth?

There are better covers but this is the one on MY copy.

The Black Moth reads like the ecstatic outpourings of a dedicated fangirl – and that’s about right because it’s Heyer’s first book and she was only 19 when it came out. So much angst and passion!!

*considers* naaaaah I cant do that but I can have a bit of fun with the trope. Naturally Rollo must have a great love and make an amazing ride to save him but who could that be? Working on the principle of Sellar’s and Yeatman’s adage that history is what you remember, how many highwaymen do people know about – errrrrrmmmmm – YES Swift Nick!

So Swift Nick was Dick Turpin’s apocryphal sidekick and I don’t see why Nick, Dick and Rollo can’t be a love triangle. Come to that Turpin can be the villain, Rollo’s past employer be a receiver of stolen goods, and at the end Rollo and Nick embark on a ship from Bristol to the Indies where they can enter into happy matelotage.

Believe me when I say that if you read the Newgate Calendar some of the REAL guys did things that the average m/m reader would say ‘no too far fetched’.

And highwaymen were popular subjects of popular songs:

Did you ever hear tell of Rollicking Boyle,
A hero of great renown,
Who boldly bestraddled a galloping nag,
Eastward of London Town

Now when he rode on the highway,
He always had money in store.
And whatever he took from the rich
He freely gave to the poor.

He ne’er robbed a poor man of tuppence
And he ne’er took innocent life.
But the militia took to the road in his wake
Because he’d ne’er take a wife.

And probably a whole load more verses but my head is spinning now and I need another lie down.

Anyhow, yeah – that sort of violent invasive plot bunnying happens to me frequently.

So remember today, because if ever a book called The Ballad of Rollicking Boyle comes out you’ll know you can blame Nigella Lawson.

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Treasure!!

Treasure is such a fun thing to write about but today I’m posting because it’s RJ Scott’s Birthday Treasure Hunt!

What you do is – you go from blog to blog, there’s a list, picking up clues and finding the answers then on September 3rd you enter the answers on RJs blog.

So, to save you time, here’s Clue Eight – RJ’s favourite season to write about.

Don’t forget to go to RJs blog to fill in the answer.

And now, just to pad the post out a bit, here’s a treasure related snippet from my pirate story On A Lee Shore, because all this talk of treasure has made me feel a bit nostalgic. Kit Penrose, ex-Royal Naval lieutenant, currently a very reluctant pirate, is doing his best to keep to the straight and narrow. Griffin, pirate captain, is determined to lead him astray:

By the time Ciervo was hull down and Kit left his perch to go in search of Griffin, the deck was covered in boxes, barrels, and chests with whooping pirates poring over and pawing through them. Kit picked his way through the mess and found Griffin standing in the shadow thrown by the quarterdeck and looking through a package of charts.

“Kit,” he said, by way of greeting. “Have you come to join in the fair and equal sharing of the spoils?”

“Hardly,” Kit said with a laugh. “And I warned Davy too, not to touch any of it. I might have assisted in sea robbery but I don’t have to profit by it!”

Griffin rolled his eyes. “Foolish boy,” he said. “What you have done today truly makes you a part of the crew. Does it not, Jago?”

“Oh, aye,” Jago said. He was seated on a sea chest with reales spilled about his feet. “And that ought to be marked somehow.”

“It should,” Griffin agreed, his broad grin making Kit feel uneasy. “In fact I have arranged a small ceremony.”

He nodded, and Kit barely had time to protest before many hands grabbed him and someone slung their arm around his neck.

“Hold you still now,” Protheroe said, laughter in his voice. “You’ve earned this.”

“What? No!” Kit struggled, but Protheroe’s forearm was tight across his throat, and he had no choice but to still and watch from the corner of his eye as Lewis dipped a sail needle in brandy, ignited it from a candle, then brought it and a cork close to Kit’s head.

“Don’t get any of that grease in it,” Saunders advised. “We don’t want his ear to rot off.”

“That’s a point,” Lewis said and swabbed around Kit’s ear with brandy.

“But I don’t want—” Kit swallowed the rest of the sentence at the bite of the needle. He glared at Griffin, who laughed at him until the job was done and they released him, an unaccustomed weight dragging at his damaged ear. A whooping cheer went up, partly derisive for they had marked him one of their own despite his wishes, and partly genuine good will.

“Very fine, Kit,” Griffin said, taking him by the shoulders and turning him to look at his adornment. “And we have the mate of that one should you be careless enough to lose it.”

Kit raised a hand to his ear, winced as Saunders slapped his wrist, and brought his fingers away bloody.

“Leave it alone, let it heal,” Saunders advised. “Griffin, Jago, it’s nearing sunset. Should we not be on our way?”

“No rush,” Jago said. “I vote we divvy up here. Make the most of having this fighting platform under our feet.”

Griffin shook his head. “That was not our agreement, Jago. Let it stand. We’ll away to Curacao to careen Garnet and strip this ship at our leisure. Lord knows the Santiago’s boats are more useful to our trade than she is. Come, let us be on our way.”

Jago stirred the silver coins with his boot, his eyes on the sky. “And I say we have no reason to be hasty,” he said. “At the very least let’s put some of the treasure on our own ships in case it begins to blow and we lose touch. Expenses—what do you call them—and we’ll have the proper division when we make port and can get something better than this rot gut sack.” He took another swig from the bottle in his hand and grimaced.

Kit stepped aside as the treasure was sorted and made safe, the quartermasters making two sets of notes and consulting with each other. They even came and looked at Kit’s earring, noting it down as “item, one earbob, gold and emerald—10 reales” which made his eyebrows climb a little.

“You didn’t think I would stint, did you?” Griffin said with a grin when Kit commented on it. “A laborer is worth his hire, and you have served me well in this.”

That brought Kit up short. “Hire,” he said. “I did not do this for hire.”

“Of course.” Griffin nodded and dropped his voice to a murmur. “But for the moment, in present company, let them think that you did. You and I will know better and later—when there is the time and opportunity—I will be happy to show you how very grateful I am.”

There on the deck of the Santiago, surrounded by hallooing pirates, Griffin lifted Kit’s grease-laden hair away from his newly pierced ear. Kit assumed that if anyone noticed they might have thought Griffin was looking at the earring. Only Kit could feel the stroke of fingers at the nape of his neck and the gentle pressure of Griffin’s thumb down his throat. A kiss, Kit decided, would feel even better.

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Chuffed!

I know that ebooks are real books too, but there’s something so nice about actually holding a paperback in your hands!

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Today I’m more than delighted to welcome my very good friend guide and mentor, Charlie Cochrane, who is celebrating the release of her latest Cambridge Fellows story – Lessons in Loving Thy Murderous Neighbour – by sharing some thoughts about how the technological progress of the 20th century opened up all kinds of exciting possibilities for novelists.

There’s also a giveaway so read on:

People say the world is changing fast nowadays, but there have been periods in the past where the same would be true. One innovation happens—the steam engine, the internet, powered flight—and it opens the gates for a flood of inventions or changes to lifestyle that utilise that new technologies. Imagine when cavemen invented the wheel and all the possibilities that opened. (I wonder if the older generation of cave people shook their heads, tutted and said, “It’ll never catch on.”?)

The late 19th and early 20th century saw many changes to both technology and society, and even the University of Cambridge and its colleges had to move with the march of time. In St John’s college, for example:

  • 1892 Electric light installed in hall, chapel and undergraduate reading room.
  • 1901 First Indian Oxbridge fellow elected (had to mention him as he was one of the inspirations behind my character Dr. Panesar.)
  • Also 1901 Telephone in the porters’ lodge!
  • 1911 Electric light installed in the rest of the college.
  • This may seem small beer to us, but gas/electric lighting had huge implications in terms of how buildings could be constructed. No longer did the layout have to make the most of natural light and no longer did readers have to squint over their books, struggling by the illumination of a candle or gaslight. The arrival of the telephone not only gave instant communication (assuming the person you wanted to talk to also possessed a connection, naturally) but would have been a boon to my gentlemen sleuths. No more waiting for a reply to a telegram, and having to accept its stilted format. Being able to hear the voice of someone miles away, to read into their intonation and words the subtle information that no abbreviated telegram or letter could convey. Making appointments to see people with an ease not available a generation before.

    Transport—the arrival of the internal combustion engine and man taking to the air—also changed life greatly, although maybe too late for the huge number of horses who were employed (and often died) in WWI. The horse drawn carriages of Jonty’s childhood have given way, at least on his driveway, to the automobile which doesn’t need stabling or grooming or feeding with hay. It also meant that he and Orlando had the freedom to go investigating at will locally, without relying on the train to get them there. And indulge in car chases, too, which adds excitement for their official biographer (me).

    I’m no Luddite, so I’m all for innovations that make a difference to people’s lives. People sometimes yearn for “the good old days” but would we really want to live in a time before antibiotics, heart bypass surgery, washing machines, equal rights and all the other things which make modern life great? However, modern technology makes things difficult for the writer. I have much more of a challenge producing a believable storyline for my contemporary series (Lindenshaw Mysteries) than I do for the Cambridge Fellows because I continually have to get around problems like, “Why doesn’t he just use his mobile to ring for help?” It’s much easier in the days when there was no CCTV, DNA profiling or internet databases.
    I wonder what Orlando would have made of those…

    Giveaway:

    Comment below for the chance to win an audio copy of Lessons in Love. One winner to be drawn from total comments from all blog tour stops.

    Other stuff:

    Biog: Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lethe and Bold Strokes, among others.
    A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

    Title: Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour (m/m mystery)

    Blurb: Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith like nothing more than being given a mystery to solve. But what happens when you have to defend your greatest enemy on a charge of murder?

    Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

    Excerpt:

    Cambridge 1922
    “Owens? Owens?” Orlando Coppersmith’s voice sounded louder, and clearer, from his chair in the Senior Common Room at St Bride’s than it had ever sounded before. And with good cause.
    “Steady on, old man. We’re in enough of a state of shock without you making sufficient noise to wake the dead.” Jonty Stewart smiled at his friend’s uncharacteristic outburst. Although friendship would hardly be the most accurate way to describe their relationship. Even the description “lovers, companions, colleagues and partners in solving crime” didn’t quite cover the depth of the bond they’d build up in nigh on twenty years. If their hair bore the odd silver thread, their ardour hadn’t cooled.
    “Wake the dead or, harder still, wake some of the dons,” Dr. Panesar agreed, mischievously.
    “Good point, Dr. P.” Jonty sniggered. “Some of them give the impression they’ve been asleep since 1913.”
    A quick glance around the oak panelled room supported his assertion. St. Bride’s may have been one of the most forward looking of the Cambridge colleges, embracing the fact the year was 1922 rather than pretending it was still 1622, but some aspects of the university, including crusty old dons, seemed to be an immutable fixture.
    “In which case,” Orlando pointed out, “we’d have ten years of history to explain to them, much of it unpleasant, let alone this latest scandal. St. Bride’s men being asked to defend Owens. What is the world coming to?”

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