Cover Reveal: Keeping it Together

Keeping it Together is getting a re-release!

First published in volume 3 of LT3’s Rocking Hard anthology, Keeping it Together is now a standalone book. You’ll be able to buy this as an ebook come the end of this month (official release date 28th of November, preorder here).

And I have to say, the cover art, designed by Aisha Akeju, is absolutely stunning.

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Look at how beautiful it is!!

Now, to tell you a little more about the book, Keeping it Together is a contemporary f/f novella of approximately 32,000 words (around 130 pages) with both bisexual and lesbian main characters.

Summary: Sian should be tucked up in bed when she meets Alisha Hart—beautiful, talented, and the star of a band that’s on its way up. Alisha doesn’t have to worry about curfews or homework or overprotective parents; in fact, she doesn’t seem to care about rules at all. She makes her own, and lives life her way—something Sian can only dream of, and which draws her helplessly to Alisha. But love is complicated, and if there’s such a thing as fate, it seems dead set against them.

I can’t wait to share this story as a standalone work! Alisha and Sian are a great couple and not to toot my own horn, but the book has some good side characters too 🙂

Keep an eye out for preview snippets and a chance to win a free copy!

Cover Reveal: Keeping it Together

Wales

I spent the morning sitting in the conservatory at my dad’s house, watching a red kite swoop over the pond. He couldn’t get anything out – this is why there’s a net covering it. I’ve only ever seen them from a distance before, black silhouettes with forked tails hovering over the hills, gliding on the updrafts. It’s easy to forget how huge these birds are. There are tales of them carrying off small dogs, but I think they prefer an easy meal, road kill or food that’s left out for them. This one didn’t seem to be going for any of the live fish, he was swooping for a dead one floating on the surface.

We then left for Devil’s Bridge, and had a good wander around the falls, testing my fear of heights with Jacob’s Ladder.

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Jacob’s Ladder

We stopped for a while by The Robber’s Cave, where the legendary Bat’s Children had their hiding place, and where I got the idea for my book of the same name. Being here makes me think a lot about that story, walking the same paths that my characters walked, seeing, more or less, the same landscapes. It’s nicer in the summer, but the dark dreariness is probably more the setting I envisaged as I was writing.

Outside of the falls, it’s a lovely, bright day, with the gorse in bloom and lambs darting around the fields. I’m a bit tempted to smuggle one home with me.

Wales

Reflection & Resolutions

I learnt a lot in 2016. Not all of it good. Most of my time was probably spent watching political news as though as it was some really tense disaster movie, or more likely the prequel to one (except probably worse because it was real). But I won’t dwell on the bad things about 2016. We all know what they were.

Let’s focus on the good stuff instead, like David Attenborough surviving the year. Actually, I’m just going to talk about good stuff in my 2016, like finally getting my first tattoo, and then my second a few months later. I’ve wanted tattoos since I was a kid, but for years I didn’t know what to get or whether I should get one. Then I found an old Norse symbol I liked and just thought ‘fuck it’, and got it done a couple of days later. I lost three rats in 2016, including my heart rat, Ren, but gained another five (despite declaring I was going to take a break from animals for a while). It seems like it never happened now, but I fostered a rabbit and learnt a lot about their care, like how much space, food, and attention they really need (hint: it’s a fuck of a lot). I got to be a bridesmaid and watched two of my best friends get married. I spent four days in August at a music festival (only my third one), saw some great new-to-me bands and ended up queuing for something called The Big Ride which turned out to be a children’s wheeled horse pushed by a mime. Bat’s Children was published and it was nice to see that to completion, especially as it’s the first totally new publication of mine in about two years. The value of the pound dropped so I got paid more in royalties (always a plus side). And I finally got properly started on a novel (my first!) after months of thinking about the story and how it would work, and many scrapped beginnings.

For 2017 I have a couple of resolutions. One is something I should have been doing this year, but failed at miserably, and that’s to fucking budget. Since I got the job I’m in now, I’ve developed the tendency to throw money away on silly little things that all add up, when I could be saving it for those rainy days that are always lurking somewhere up ahead. So I’ve worked out a reasonable budget for at least the first three months of 2017 and that’s what I’m going to stick to. I’m going to stop slipping into my god damn overdraft and get some savings together. This means no more takeaway pizza or Best Buy samosas whenever I feel like it, and a lot more cooking from scratch.

The other resolution is to finish a few stories that really need finishing. These are: Continue reading “Reflection & Resolutions”

Reflection & Resolutions

Wintering

I finally saw Sisters of Mercy, a band whose music I’ve loved since I was about thirteen years old, live last week. It was far more packed in there than I expected, but then they’re probably right at the top of the popular goth music list and I didn’t see anyone younger than us there (sob). It wasn’t as good as I expected to be honest as the vocals kept sinking into the music and I couldn’t really make out the words which was a shame, and the band was mostly hidden in smoke (which was kind of cool but maybe like 5% less smoke for some visibility would have been good). I enjoyed the night though despite being stuck on the stairs dancing like my arms were glued to my sides and trying not to accidentally grind on the woman in front of me, and yeah, I’d probably still see them again because Sisters of Mercy!

The next item in my calendar was Glastonbury’s Frost Fayre, which was an afternoon of eating Christmas cookies and drinking mulled cider, listening to drums and choirs and folk music. I haven’t been to Glastonbury in years so it was really nice to go back again, especially when it was so busy because it’s a place packed with strange and wonderful people. I got a couple of Christmas presents there and some books for myself, because Glastonbury has some great book shops that are pretty cheap and naturally they’re all stocked full of mythology, spiritualism and occult titles. Very handy inspiration and reference tools for writing.

I stood and watched a band for a bit and then found myself in the middle of a crowd of witches and wizards waving wands and broomsticks. Nothing to do with the fayre, just a joint stag and hen do going past. Things closed down a bit earlier than expected, and by 8pm the bustling, crowded streets were dark and empty so we took refuge in The George and Pilgrim, a supposedly haunted pub dating back to the 15th century. Eventually we had to leave and I jumped on a bus back home, back to light and noise and city fumes.

There was a rather tense moment when the couple sat on the bus next to me started having a very loud argument because the bloke wanted to get off at an earlier stop for a piss, and the woman wouldn’t let him. For a while I was genuinely worried I was going to get this drunk stranger’s wee on my coat (obviously moving wasn’t an option because British). Thankfully they eventually decided to get off the bus.

My foster rats are back with me now after their stay at the rescue, and they’re settling back in pretty well, although they were in a foul mood the first night I had them free roaming and Mahogany bit me twice. I think she’s trying to establish that she’s boss, but considering our size difference I’m pretty sure she loses that one. Meanwhile Porcelain is trying out some new meds for her mycoplasma — I have to count out exactly ten grains from a tablet meant for dogs twice a day which is just as exciting as it sounds.

It’s now December, so I’m spending most days fighting through the crowds at the Christmas market to get home, and switching the heating on every ten minutes when it goes off. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very cold winter this year, as the last few days have been around or below freezing and we actually had mist inside the hall the other day. (Cue people from Scandinavia rolling their eyes at me – I know 0 degrees is nothing, okay, but I’m cold.)

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                                                  Frosty.

I have a pretty quiet week ahead of me, hopefully, and plan to just focus on my paranormal detective story because I really need to work out the knots I’ve gotten myself into there. Step one is to finish reading The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure (for those of you trying to write crime in the UK it’s absolutely fantastic and up-to-date so far!) This means taking a little break from the internet, which is surely the hardest part of any kind of work. I think I might have actually started to get somewhere this evening. At least I hope so! Fingers crossed.

Wintering

Obsessing over Rats (again)

It’s hammering it down outside today. My clothes had only just dried after getting to work soaked when I had to leave again. When I got back, I found it was raining inside my boiler as well, meaning no heating. So my clothes are still drying five hours later and everything from the boiler cupboard is in a big sopping mess in our hallway. I’m just surprised it wasn’t the internet that broke, because that’s what usually goes.

I’m a bit stuck on the story I’ve been working on lately. I hit 40k and now I’ve stalled. It’s like I’ve dug half a pond and hit rock. Bit frustrating to be honest because I’ve no idea what to do about it. I need to sit and figure it out but I’m balking at the idea a bit because I’m worried it’ll mean starting again. I’ve restarted this story so many times! And I’ve just come way too far now to do that again. I suppose if I must, then I must, because I want to do these characters and their story justice, but… argh.

On to better things: tomorrow I’m seeing Sisters of Mercy, one of the few bands I’ve loved and listened to since I was a young teen and I’m so excited! It’s going to be pretty great, even if I can’t drink that much because school night.

This week I’m also going to be picking up my two long stay foster rats, Porcelain and Mahogany, from the rescue after their viewing last week. It didn’t go so well. Mahogany sat stuffing her face whilst ignoring everyone and Porcelain went and bit the rescuer in front of her prospective new parent and that was pretty much the end of that.

Whilst there I will hopefully get a chance to fawn over a group of boys the rescue currently has, which includes two rexes and a marten. One of my first rats was a beautiful blue rex girl and I loved her curly little whiskers. And martens… well I’ve never even seen one before. I’d love to have them but I’m late to the party as they’ve had lots of interest and really, I shouldn’t anyway. I’m meant to be taking a little ratty holiday. Plus it would mean having two separate cages and doubling the time spent free roaming them. Still, I’m probably more excited to just go and stare at this marten rat for a bit than I am to see one of my favourite bands. Here’s a picture of him – he doesn’t look happy, bless him, but I’m sure he’s settled now and been given lots of treats. The other boys below certainly look happy enough with their dinner.14918924_10154751634904644_521091455180730298_o15025268_10154758718014644_456424192634479249_o

Aren’t they gorgeous? Obviously I stole the pictures. Both images should link to the rescue facebook page in case you’re in or near south west England and want some rats – but probably not these lucky boys.

Obsessing over Rats (again)

On Naming Characters

Naming characters is maybe one of my favourite things in the writing process. It’s fun, interesting, and sometimes a little frustrating. I’ve been writing in one way or another since I was a kid, and for my 12th birthday one of my best friends bought me a baby names book. She probably bought it for me just so I’d stop calling my characters things like Topaz and Obsidian. I think that book really sparked my interest in names and their meanings, and yes, I did stop choosing ridiculously frivolous names (well, mostly). That book is now very well thumbed, creased and annotated, and the pages are a bit yellow, but I still have it.

Although that book still sits on my shelf, I don’t really use it any more. I find the internet to be a much more comprehensive resource, and when I already have a strong sense of who my character is or needs to be, I can search names by meaning. Nothing is more annoying than a naming site that doesn’t have a meaning search. Of course, with a meaning search, you get names from all over the world. Many of those won’t be suitable for your character. If they’re a pale-skinned freckled nerd born and bred in Ireland, they’re not likely to be called Zakiyyah or Yu-Jie. I mean, they totally could be (maybe they’re adopted or their parents are well travelled, or Mum’s best friend in school was also called Yu-Jie), but it’s just a lot less likely.

My other big resource for names comes from my day job. I work in a student hall and I have access to about three years worth of student registers, so often names these days come from there. Especially if they’re more middle or upper class characters. A lot of the names we get here are things like Benedict, Tarquin, Quentin, Beatrice and Penelope. There are also quite a lot of good Asian and European names from our international students, so I can get quite a wide range of interesting names from these lists.

Even if you don’t have access to name registers, there are names everywhere: on the sides of buildings, official documents, emails, or on your bookshelf. Libraries, too, are a good resource. They might well have county records–births, marriages, deaths–that you can access. These might be especially good if you need a name that’s era specific.

I always try to avoid using the same name twice, even for side characters, even if I last used the name four years ago in a short story hardly anyone read. This means that there are some names that jump into my head for a character that I just can’t use, so I have a few stock names I sometimes use as placeholders until I can find something better. For instance, I might start out with a soft-spoken character called Daniel and he’ll eventually progress into an Arthur or a Noah, a Julian or a Florian, depending on his other characteristics.

For Bat’s Children, it was important to me (and the story) to use old Welsh names. Ceryn I just adapted very slightly from Cerys (love). Arwel (prominent) and Emyr (ruler) were from an online list of Welsh boy names and they just sounded right. It wasn’t so much about the meaning with them but the general feel of the name. That said, if Emyr had actually meant ‘flower’, I doubt I would have chosen it. Unless it was specifically a poisonous flower, or the kind that eats insects and small birds. All of these names are also relatively easy to pronounce from the way they’re spelt, which isn’t always the case with Welsh and Irish names (and I’m sure many, many others). I mean, Siobhan, anyone? But I would totally still use traditional spelling, e.g. Niamh over Neeve, a lot of the time, partly because I’m an arsehole and partly because it might just suit the character’s background better.

Names are often shorthand for the character’s background: where they’re from, what social class they belong (or don’t belong) to, even where they went to school or what job they’re in. For example, Tarquin Emerson Wedmore-Smythe is probably not a plumber from a council estate; he’s clearly from a family with quite a rich, upper class history, and probably rather wealthy. He most likely went to a public (private) school like Eton. He’s certainly not an ‘everyman’ character.

Another thing I consider is whether or not I’ll want to shorten the character’s name. In the Romance genre in particular, a lot of authors like a softer abbreviated version of the character’s full name to be used to convey familiarity, especially in emotional moments. I personally don’t use these that much. I don’t use them in real life either. I keep to what I know. How a person is introduced to me is usually how they stick in my head until the end of time, regardless of how many syllables their name has. But if I had wanted to do this, it’s unlikely I would have picked a name like Arwel, because really, there’s no way you can chop that and make it sound good. ‘Welly’ doesn’t exactly shout ‘badass highwayman’.

Once I’ve chosen a name, I Google it. It could already be a big main character in a popular show, or a well known actor, football player or serial killer. Several years ago I read a book where the main characters were called Grant and Cary, both perfectly acceptable names on their own, but put together I couldn’t stop picturing Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace.

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I often spend a lot of time choosing the right names for my characters. Names are important. They’re usually the first thing a reader learns about a character, and can influence their opinion of who that person is. Ultimately, it’s all down to personal choice, but a good name is important to make the character come alive. Plus they’re just plain fun to research!

Below is a short list of online resources for naming characters (or babies, I suppose):

http://www.meaning-of-names.com/search
http://www.babynameworld.com
http://www.welshboysnames.co.uk
http://www.welshgirlsnames.co.uk
http://www.surnamedb.com

On Naming Characters

Starting on a Down Note

Well, September has kicked off to a good start. To cut a long(ish) story short, I now have no rats of my own, and am just down to the two foster rats. I lost Ren a couple of days ago, my favourite rat probably ever, literally the day after we lost Milo, the funny little rat I took on for a friend not even three weeks before.

It’s going to be very weird when the foster rats leave. I’ve been keeping rats for four and a half continuous years now. I’m so used to having them around. Feeding them, talking to them, cuddling with them, and just having them out to run around the living room has all been part of my daily routine for a long time now. I’m used to having animals around. With the exception of my three years at university, I’ve always had animals in the house.

So I don’t know how long my pet keeping break will be. I might well get more rats in a year or so, but for now I’m tired of being constantly in and out of the vets’, tired of having to be on guard for any sign of a crackle in their breathing, or red staining around their noses. My fucking bank balance is tired. Really though I’m just tired of losing them all the time. I love rats. They’re one of my favourite animals for sure. But they only live 2 years on average. It’s not really enough time, not when you get attached to them, and there are some rats, like Ren, that you get attached to very strongly in a very short space of time.

Tomorrow I’m going in early to the tattoo studio to get something to commemorate Ren, and all of my rats. Pretty basic, just a little rat paw print. I’m a bit excited and a bit nervous. My first tattoo hurt a lot more than I expected (to everyone who ever told me they don’t really hurt, I hate you and I want your lack of nerve endings). I feel like I need it though.

I’ve got a week long holiday now and not much planned so I’m going to spend most of it writing. I’m working on a paranormal story (surprise surprise) that I really like. The characters are really jumping out at me and I find myself just wanting to sink into their heads and get their story down on paper. It still needs a bit more planning plot-wise, but everything else, all the characters and relationships and internal drama is pretty much already there with very little effort on my part. So I’m looking forward to not having to do anything else but that for a few days.

Starting on a Down Note

Bat’s Children: Release Day

Last week Bat’s Children was finally released. I celebrated with a bottle of Old Mout cider and some vegan chocolate, and revelled in the fact that I have no more blog posts to write or proofs to look over. It was also the first day I hadn’t felt like crap in about two weeks, so that was nice, too. I was able to get through a whole film without having to pause it for a coughing fit.

I’m quite nervous and excited about Bat’s Children being out there now, although so far the reviews have been lovely. I love the characters of Bat’s Children, Emyr and Tomi in particular, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of them. Okay, so I probably know already that very few people will like Emyr, but he was so much fun to write (let’s not focus on what that might say about me) and I really like difficult characters.

Mostly now I’m tapping out a few ideas for stories, and reading a lot of politics articles because the UK has somehow managed to tangle itself up into a bitch of a knot that’s going to take a very long time to untangle. We now have a brand new unelected Prime Minister who hates the poor, the working classes, immigrants, human rights in general (although she did stop Boris Johnson blasting people with water cannons), who is pro-hunting and shaky at best on gay rights. Fuck equality, amiright?

The Labour Party are being a great big bag of dicks right now, too. I feel like Corbyn is just about the only hope (Help me, Obi Wan Kenobe) left for mainstream politics and the party are trying to kick him out despite members voting him in only, what, nine months ago? If they succeed I’m pretty much giving up on them. Plus Jay and I have realised that our MP (labour) seems to have voted on pretty much nothing since being in office, which… how?

The good thing in the news this week is that there’s an official Evil Tory Party theme tune, courtesy of David Cameron. And… that might well be it. Unless you like sports. Or Pokemon.

After work today I’ll be heading over to my local rodent rescue to pick up some new girls who I’ll be fostering until they find their forever home. I will then have more foster animals than my own. At least this pair won’t cost me a small fortune unlike Mr. Rico, as the rescue pays their vet bills and I’m already well set up for rats.

I also have mice in my wall. They like to scratch out their tunnels right behind my head while I’m watching scary films.

Bat’s Children: Release Day

Sweet Release!

Today The Lightning Moon is finally being released into the world. I’m half-eager to read, half-dreading the reviews (assuming, of course, that I get any). The story is set in a version of Bristol (England, of course) where magic is real. Arrow is a witch, using his gifts to a very simple end:  to make money. Whatever the job, Arrow will usually take it, but he finds a little more than he bargained for on this particular job, something that, just maybe, he could give up his old life for. But when it comes to it, that is easier said than done.

I wrote The Lightning Moon back in February last year, and it is a world I keep returning to in my head. Perhaps, if I can get around my ‘writer’s block’ (for lack of a better word to describe no time and little motivation), there will be more, not of these characters, but of the world they inhabit.

Sadly, I am still without internet (I have spent the last hour in the staffroom after my shift ended and now everyone thinks I live here), but once I have a more reliable source I will organise a giveaway. When this will be, however, your guess is really as good as mine.

You can buy The Lightning Moon here, or check out ratings and reviews (or leave them) here.

Sweet Release!

Hallowe’en Prompts!

Hallowe’en has to be, by far, my favourite festival. As children we’d dress up in bin bags and witch’s hats, carve a pumpkin and do some apple bobbing, although the general consensus in this country seems to be that trick-or-treating is an American tradition that annoys people and looks like begging. The one time my mother relented we were staying in a holiday park, and those poor people were completely unprepared. We came away with a couple of sweets and a bit of spare change. Luckily for them we were easily pleased and my brother was allergic to eggs. These days I mostly just do the same stuff but with more alcohol.

Because I love writing ghosts and ghouls and really, anything a little bit paranormal, and because I have no ideas of my own right now, I’m going to be taking prompts over the next few days, up until the 31st, for short stories around 500 words. These can be any genre or pairing you like (just not smut, please, because me trying to write that is mostly just me bashing my face against the keyboard and yelling at myself, and I don’t want my new housemates to think I’m weird). You can use pictures, lyrics, poetry as a prompt, or just a set of keywords for me to work in. Whatever you like.

So if you want a little spooky story for Hallowe’en, just leave me a comment below (:

Hallowe’en Prompts!