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My visitor today is Sean R Robinson, author of More than Starlight, More than Rain in the Rainbow Bouquet anthology.

Welcome Sean and thank you for answering my questions.

For how long have you been writing?

I think I wrote my first book in elementary school, about four pages long and colored with crayons. Professionally, my first publication was in 2015.

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

When I was in graduate school at the University of Southern Maine, I read Farah’s Rhetorics of Fantasy and it really changed the way I thought about the genre — from something that was kind of “fluff” into something that mattered, and could be considered academic. The opportunity to share a story in an anthology she was editing made me really excited, and after looking through my work, I thought I had a piece that would be a good fit. So here we are.

What inspired your story?

My story is about a space marine, Gavin Rourke, who is at the end of his life looking back. These themes have always appealed to me: hyper masculinity juxtaposed against genuine emotion. Gavin has loved and lost, and that’s another place that I like to mine creatively. Beyond that, I want love stories that are about love rather than labels. Gavin is in love with a person who happens to be another man, and that’s the story, and it provides visibility without turning it into a story other than a love story…or a ghost story.

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I’m working on a novel with a writing partner. After a few faltering stops, I think we’ve started building momentum. It’s high fantasy, and I’m just trying to enjoy it as I go, regardless of how silly it may sound.

Could we see an excerpt?

The coach was a grand thing, all gilt and gold, pulled by a pair of matched horses. Mathilde would have known what their color was called, and what breed they were. I almost asked her, but as we rolled down the drive, she had pulled the curtains open, looking at anything but the rest of us.
“Shut that window,” Housekeeper said. “do you want to be robbed?”
Mathilde blinked her eyes slowly. “Yes?”
I laughed, because there was no other answer. My sweet, violent sister.

Where may we follow you online?

On Twitter @Kesterian or my website http://www.seanryanrobinson.com

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Stories of love in the past, present and future…

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I’m delighted to welcome Garrick Jones – author of O, Canada in Manifold Press’s latest anthology Rainbow Bouquet – to my blog today.

Thank you, Garrick, for so kindly answering my questions.

For how long have you been writing?

I retired from an active performing career in 1999, taking up the position as Lecturer in Music at CQUniversity in tropical northern Queensland. Always having been a keen letter writer (remember those days?) and having done three university degrees while performing (two in research) I found academic writing right up my alley. I retired six years ago and started to explore the LGBT literature, finding very little dealing with Australia that wasn’t angstful. While much of it was excellent (Holding The Man, Head On, etc.) there wasn’t anything about gay men and our history, other than non-fiction. So I decided to see what came from my fingers. I happened to run across some very helpful professional writers, who steered me in the right direction. Having my first professional edit was an eye-opener. I suddenly realised it was something I could do, and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve only, in the past seven months had the courage to submit to editors, with a deal of success. What is it about us writers and self-worth?

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

I wanted to try my hand at writing a Romance story. Romance is not really my thing; my books have romance in them, usually as a thread throughout the story, but it’s not the focus.

What inspired your story?

A combination of two real-life stories. Canada, because I went there on an exchange program in 1963 at the age of fifteen, and was mesmerised by the handsome airline pilot sitting at the tour desk in the lobby of the Hilton Hawaiian Hotel. He became a fantasy as I gradually grew into my sexuality. The roses? Ah, my wonderful Craig, who remembered every occasion, whether real or imagined with flowers and gentle whispers in my ear.

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I’m at an interesting crossroads right now. One work ready to go to the editor, another just come back from betas, the third with a theatre historian to check details, and the fourth a book I half-finished over a year ago, but found it too confronting to continue with. I’m currently looking at it to see if I can go on. However, the next book you might see in print is The Cricketer’s Arms, a book beta-read by the wonderful British author, Charlie Cochrane. It’s an old-fashioned, pulp-fiction style detective novel, set in 1956, involving cricket match fixing (and written before the dreadful controversy this time last year, how prescient of me) gang wars, and sex trafficking. It’s a cracker of an action mystery story, even if I say so myself.

Could we see an excerpt?

I’ve attached the first section, with the knowledge that it may not end up word for work in the final version once the glorious Victoria Milne has had her way with it.

I’d just put a fresh sheet of paper in the typewriter, typed the date at the top of the page, “Tuesday, 17th of January, 1956,” lit a cigarette, and stretched back while I got the first dozen or so words sorted out in my head, when someone thumped at my front door.
“Who is it?” I called out, as I walked down the hallway.
“It’s me.”
“Fuck off!” I said.
“Come on, Clyde. Open the door. It’s business.”
I turned and leaned against the wall of the hallway, out of sight of the ripple-glass panels of the door, and ran my hand through my hair. I didn’t want him here—not now, not ever. He began to pound at the door, and I began to worry about the neighbours.
“Clyde! I’m not going anywhere. Open the fucking door!”
I strode to the door in a fury, pulled it open, grabbed him by the tie and one lapel of his jacket, and then dragged him into my hallway, slamming the door shut behind us with my foot. Something in the kitchen rattled. We stood for what felt like five minutes, but which could only have been the same number of seconds. But, in those five seconds, I’d inspected every square inch of his face, fought the feeling of his body pressed up against mine, and taken a deep lungful of his breath in my face—he still smelled the same. Damn him.
“Hello, Clyde,” he said, cheekily, and then ran his hands up between mine and forced them apart. I let go of his tie and jacket. He took my cigarette from my mouth and took a puff. “Still smoking this shit?”
“What’s it to you, Sam?”
“You used to call me Sammy, Clyde.”
“You used not be to be an arsehole.”
He laughed in my face. We hadn’t moved, the toes of our shoes touching, our knees the same. I cursed myself inside. I had no self-control. I tried to move away from him, but he grabbed my shirtsleeve.
“Let go,” I growled.
“Or what?”

Where may we follow you online?

Website – https://garrickjones.com.au

Sign up for monthly newsletters about LGBT history, and interviews with well-known authors.

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Stories of love in the past, present and future…

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I forgot to post this yesterday but hey it’s never too late to share something good, is it?

My recommendation today is for something I saw recommended on Twitter and it’s just delightful – historical, but with everything tweaked a bit, a little mystery and not one but two love stories. I enjoyed every second of it.

Blurb: On a night when the whole city is looking for love, two foreigners find it in the last place they expected.

The famous Psobion festival is about to begin in the city of Boukos, and the ambassador from Zash has gone missing. Marzana, captain of the embassy guard, and Bedar, the ambassador’s long-suffering secretary, hunt for him through the streets and taverns and brothels of Boukos. There they find unexpected help from a beautiful widowed shopkeeper and a teenage prostitute. Before the two Zashians learn what became of their ambassador, they will have to deal with foreign bureaucracy, strange food, stranger local customs, and murderers. And they may lose their hearts in the process.

One Night in Boukos is a standalone romance featuring two couples, one m/f and one m/m.

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I’m delighted to welcome Cheryl Morgan – the author of The Poet’s Daughter in Manifold Press’s latest anthology Rainbow Bouquet – to my blog today.

Thank you Cheryl for so kindly answering my questions.

For how long have you been writing?

Since I was at school, which is many decades ago.

book cover showing frieze of Cretan womenWhat attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

Farah has been a friend for a long time. When I saw that she was getting
into publishing I wanted to support her.

What inspired your story?

Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey.

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I don’t have any stories on the go right now, mainly because I have been
frantically writing talks for LGBT History Month and don’t have any
space in my head for fiction.
Steampunk diver and soldier with Clifton suspension bridge in background
The next story I will have published will be in Airship Shape & Bristol
Fashion 2, which is due out from Wizard’s Tower Press later this year.

Could we see an excerpt?
Sorry, no, but I can tell you a few things. It features a cavalry
officer who is trying to come to terms with surviving the Charge of the
Light Brigade. There are trains. Brunel gets his heart’s desire. And
Lord Palmerston gets to yell, “No one blackmails the British Empire!”

Where may we follow you online?

My blog is at https://www.cheryl-morgan.com

And I am @CherylMorgan on Twitter

There’s a list of all of my published fiction HERE

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Stories of love in the past, present and future…

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Rainbow Bouquet – an anthology from Manifold Press – will be available from today and in celebration of this over the next few days I will be sharing some information kindly provided by some of the authors.

Stories of love in the past, present and future…

The Man of My Dreams by Harry Robertson
Proof of Evil by Ed Ahern
A Hatred of Wednesdays by Victoria-Melita Zammit
Ubytok — umu pribytok by Erin Horáková
The Poet’s Daughter by Cheryl Morgan
Duet for Piano, Four Hands by Sarah Ash
Stronger Than Death by Kathleen Jowitt
More than Starlight, More than Rain by Sean R. Robinson
O, Canada by Garrick Jones
Firebrand by MJ Logue

 

The Authors:

Harry Roberts is naive romantic who blames Disney and old Hollywood films for his high expectations and current single status.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred stories and poems published so far, and three books. Ed works at Bewildering Stories, where he manages a posse of five review editors.

Victoria-Melita Zammit was taught how to write by her father and she hasn’t stopped since.

Erin Horáková is a southern American writer and academic who lives in London. She’s currently finishing up her thesis on the history of charm as artefact, literary effect and affect.

Cheryl Morgan is an award-winning critic, editor and publisher.

Sarah Ash is a fantasy novelist whose love of music often finds its way into her fiction.

Kathleen Jowitt is a writer and trade union officer from Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Sean R. Robinson is a teacher of language and literature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA.

Garrick Jones was a professional opera singer for thirty years, after which he lectured at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music. His first novel, The Seventh of December, is published by Manifold Press in January 2019.

MJ Logue is the author of the Hollie Babbit stories about a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry, which begins with Red Horse.

Rainbow Bouquet

Sequels!! OMG

I don’t have a for certain cover or blurb yet but I’m delighted, and very anxious, to say that Midnight Flit, the sequel to Eleventh Hour, is due to be released on March 14th this year. This, of course, is assuming there are no meteorite strikes and that the editor doesn’t point out an enormous plot hole that demands a rewrite.

It is set in 1931, Miles and Briers have continued their relationship at long distance, which isn’t particularly satisfying for anyone, and their reunion is complicated by the presence of Miles’s mother and that she has come into possession of information that puts her life at risk. Full steam ahead to get back to London before the bad guys do her in! Millie is back too. I do enjoy writing Miles as Millie.

And while I wait to hear what needs to be done to Midnight Flit I am playing around with the 30k words I have so far of Close Shave, the sequel to The Bones of our Fathers.

This one is set a few months after the end of Bones and, while Mal and Rob are very much in it, follows the activities of a different character, Terry Skidmore the barber, his large and rather unruly family and the little gang of lads who meet on Fridays at the White Horse.

Writing Pemberland and its satellite villages is like going home. Relaxing and comfortable but oh so easy to be self indulgent!

But anyway, here’s a snippet from Close Shave, because I like sharing snippets:

Phil Rother’s plans to convert the gentle curtain twitching members of Pemberland’s Neighbourhood Watch Scheme into a legally armed fighting force was the talk of the White Horse on Friday evening. Terry settled in his usual seat with a pint and joined in the bitch fest with delight.
“While one has to admire the fighting spirit that manned the decks at Trafalgar and stood firm in the lines at Balaclava to further our abhorrent colonial practices all over the globe, there’s a time and a place for everything.” Rodney Merrick, ex-Major, RE, raised his g&t and took a sip. “Fighting crime is a young man’s game. Or at least a trained man’s game. When you get to my age, you must be aware of your limitations. Keeping my eyes open and having a cell phone to hand is about the limit of my usefulness.”
They all made the appropriate rubbishing noises and Rodney smoothed his pale pink cashmere sweater over his belly and gave them an approving nod.
“Not sure I want to be in the same county as Phil Rother with a taser,” Dai Beynon said.
“Hear hear!” Harry Farriner’s well-bred yelp caused Dai to eye him with suspicion. “What? I can agree with you, can’t I?” Tonight Harry was wearing pink too, was sporting the world’s curliest man bun and had big silver hoops in both ears. Dai was leaning away from him in case some of the fabulous transferred.
Rob Escley waved his pint glass to draw attention to its emptiness. “Phil’s always wanted to be Action Man. He’s got about the same amount going on in his pants too.”
“Oh, that’s harsh. None of us can help how we’re made.” Mal Bright got up, reaching for his wallet. “My round. Terry, Rodney? Leo, can I put another slice of lemon in your tonic?”
“No, this is fine, thank you.” Once Mal was at the bar Leo picked up his almost full glass and nodded to Rob. “I hope the security at the museum is good.”
“It is but Mal said Brian told him that all the robberies have been after cash, jewellry, phones — stuff you can sell down the pub, or booze and fags. One place they took a pack of chocolate digestives.”
“Kids then?” Terry scowled. “So even if we caught ’em there’d be nothing much that would happen to them.”
“If they are kids, you’re probably right.” Leo frowned. “Someone must know who they are. They’ll be caught out eventually.”
“Better we did and gave the little buggers a hiding,” Rob said, “than they get caught by the police and get a record and decide it’s not worth trying to go straight any more.” That was pretty much what had happened to Kevin, and Terry suspected that Rob blamed himself. Terry blamed other people far more. When you came right down to it, it was usually the parents’ fault.
“Even so,” Leo spoke softly but with authority, “being tased by some wannabe vigilante isn’t going to get anyone back on the straight and narrow.”
“Hear hear,” Rodney said.
“Swipe me.” Harry made big eyes. “Leo said “wannabe”. The man can be taught.”
“Who can?” Mal put a tray on the table and began to distribute the drinks.
“Leo said ‘wannabe’. Right context and everything. I’m so proud.”
“Stop teasing Leo.” Mal sat down again. “Are we still destroying Phil Rother’s reputation?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “He was giving your apprentice a hard time yesterday, Terry.”
“Adrian? What the fuck?”
“I think Adrian must have bumped into him or something and he was shouting at him. I had Grandpa with me and we “accidentally” walked between them. Phil couldn’t do anything without looking bad and it gave Adrian a chance to make a break for it. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And the things Phil was saying. Okay, Ade probably shouldn’t wear those skinny jeans with those legs. He looks like a croquet hoop. But all the same…”
“I saw that, but was on the other side of the street.” Mal scowled. “Rother is such a shit. Surely I heard Adrian’s got a girlfriend?”
“He has,” Terry said. “Nice little thing, lives over by the church. Name’s Sarah and she’s doing her A Levels. I’ll have a word with Ade and if necessary I’ll have a word with Phil. I kicked his arse when we were twenty and he knows I can still do it.”
“I’ll hold your coat,” Rob promised.
“And I’ll defend you in court,” Leo added, “when you’re arrested for assault.”

I’m going to be honest with you, my lovelies, and get a bit wordy so the tl:dr version is “2018 hasn’t been a good year for me” and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re just here for the book recs. There’s a sentence in bold where you can pick them up.

So, yeah, 2018 has sucked in so many ways.

Living with long term clinical depression with a stonking side-order of anxiety and good medical reasons why the usual drugs are a Really Bad Idea isn’t fun however you look at it, and it’s exacerbated when you’re having to do all the emotional heavy lifting for family members who are in a state that’s as bad or even worse. The other half is still trying to adapt to not being invulnerable – a very hard thing to do when one is used to being the strongest, fittest, toughest, most independent person in ones friendship group and then suddenly isn’t. It hasn’t gone well. Then there’s Mum, who’s dementia diagnosis surprised nobody in the family but her and whose lack of inhibition is letting out secrets that she’s kept for years and might have been better unvoiced. And at work – ooh boy, everyone’s miserable there too – budget cuts, reduced hours to do the same amount of work, redefinition of roles, expectations for the same level of service. Yeah, it wears you down. Any one thing is doable on it’s own but stacking them up makes it more difficult. I am sure there are people who thrive on challenges who might read that and think “How incredibly feeble and whining. I wrote 50 best selling novels while battling cancer and bringing up quads” but, let’s face it, we aren’t all resilient. We aren’t all robust. Some of us are a bit wobbly even when nothing particularly bad is happening. Some of us are Eeyore even when the sun is shining. Depression lies. Depression tells you that it’s not worth getting out of bed, or washing, or looking after your health or keeping up with friends. It suggests that a jump off a high bridge would be a good solution to all your problems and sometimes it’s all too easy to believe it. All you can do is keep on carrying on and hope that snide and sneering little voice becomes less compelling with time.

Normally writing is my refuge and comfort but the potential closure of Manifold Press – meaning I might have to self publish – made the idea of packing the writing game in very attractive. So I lost faith in all my potential works in progress and my muse fucked off to sit on a beach somewhere working on his tan. With zero mental energy I read: vast amounts of old favourites both e and paper, and works of reference just for the heck of it. I rediscovered the joys of fanfic, reading in fandoms where I had no idea who the characters were or who I should be cheering/booing. I’ve been hugely grateful to the people who have allowed me to beta read – it’s nice to feel useful – and to UK Meet as something to look forward to and companionship from the committee.

I’m also very grateful to the authors whose books I have enjoyed so much this year. I’m just picking 8 for special mentions because each of them came along at a time when I really NEEDED to be out of my head for a while. Plus they are all 5 star reads in their own way.

The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durresson is a short but delicious paranormal historical filled with delightful descriptions of winter in the countryside and the type of christmases I remember from when I was small. Lit by a warm low sun, embellished with frost flowers and scented with pine and cinnamon, it has a haunting and beautiful love story to enjoy.

Bitter Legacy was the first book by Dal Maclean that I’d read, so I have laid seige to her demanding more fiction. Poor Dal must be sick of me by now but has obliged with Object of Desire, equally good, equally unusual. Exciting, harrowing, and incredibly satisfying, both have romances as part of the plot but are approached more as murder mysteries.

Hunger Makes the Wolf and Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells are one long story and I devoured them like a ravening beast over about 72 hours when I only put my Kindle down to go to work, and that with very poor grace. These are science fiction, and fantasy and adventure and refer to real life historical events so that I was biting my nails, knowing and fearing what was coming. Also there are fabulous female characters and – oh i want these to be made into films SO DAMN MUCH!!

Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward and Bad Judgement by Sidney Bell were recommended to me on the same day by different people and I read both over the course of a week. Very different in execution and mood they both made me very happy indeed.

KJ Charles features very heavily in my folder of ‘comfort reads’ for when things are getting to be too much to handle. Also I’m a fan of the pulpier Victorian and early 20th century classics so you will understand how much I was looking forward to The Henchmen of Zenda, her rewrite of The Prisoner of Zenda with all the bits in that the original narrator left out to make himself look good. I love it to bits, even [or possibly because] it’s not the usual HEA type of romance. I wanted to BE Jasper Detchard throughout the book.

The Last Sun by KD Edwards is honestly the only book I’ve ever bought due to a bit of fan art. Book one of a series, with fantasy and magic in a modern setting. Such good stuff, exciting, weird – oh so weird sometimes – and scary. Book one wraps up in a satisfying manner but there are loose threads still to be tucked into the weave of it. I found it absolutely absorbing and am looking forward to reading book 2, The Hanged Man, due out early this year.

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As I said earlier, my own writing took a seat at the back of the bus until Manifold seemed likely to continue. I fooled around with a rewrite of The Lunar Imperative – my werewolves in spaaaace novelette – and thought it was finished until a beta pointed out that I had been writing as though I planned to submit it to the Warhammer 40K blokes and had put in no female characters at all, just a couple of cardboard cut out stereotypes. So, because that’s the way my mind worked, I settled down to a vast world building project, with proper female characters with strength and weaknesses and agency of their own, until I realised I’d need to write at least one, possibly 2 full length novels, scared myself and put it away. I might go back to it at some time.

I did have one new release in 2018, or was it late 2017? – Calon Lan, a Great War set novelette, with a female POV of a sister observing the romance between her brother and his friend – and re-releases of A Taste of Copper [medieval fantasy mm] and Sheep’s Clothing [contemporary comedy paranormal]. The rest of the year I spent poking my sequel to Eleventh Hour – Midnight Flit – until October when I was asked, very nicely, if I might possibly finish it. I did and submitted it and am waiting to hear whether it’s good enough. I already know there are some bits I left out, but there wasn’t time for my usual multiple draft, angsty second guessing approach. I suppose we’ll see!

2019 is a new year and I hope it will be a better one, both in terms of mental health and in productivity – since they are inextricably linked. I’ve been warned that I can’t carry on the way I have been so must set aside time to do other things that I have abandoned – artwork, calligraphy, letter writing by hand, walking in the open air to get those endorphins moving, and maybe shed a pound or two from me and the dog.

I suppose we’ll see about that too.