The Secret to Finishing a Book

We’re half way through November now, which must mean that we’re also half way through NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month. I’ll come clean, I’ve only ever ‘won’ Nanowrimo once, and that was with a book that I had already started beforehand and had stalled on. I used NaNo to write the final 50,000 words and finish the thing. That was the novel that (after another 8 months of editing) became False Colors.

Even that probably doesn’t count, because you’re supposed to go into Nano having written none of your novel beforehand. So technically that was a fail.

However – and I think it’s an important however – I have now finished and published fifteen novels and eight novellas. So one thing I can claim I know about is how to get to the end of a story.

While writing all those stories, I’ve noticed an interesting thing – I have a regular emotional cycle which I go through without fail every time and with every book. Identifying this cycle has made the emotional journey of novel writing a little easier to cope with. Now when I absolutely cannot get myself to the page and I am considering offering to scrub my neighbours’ toilets rather than write, I at least have the comfort of knowing that feeling like this is part of my regular process.

Talking a thirty chapter novel, here’s how writing a novel goes for me, in terms of emotion and enjoyment:

1. Chapters One to Five

Ooh, this is fun! I really like my protag. There’s so much about this idea which is intriguing. I can’t wait to learn more. This is fantastic, and – you know what – I think I’m actually writing fairly well too. I love being a writer! I can’t wait to be back at the keyboard.

2. Chapters Five to Ten

I don’t know. Maybe I should have started with a different plot. Maybe this secondary character would have been better as the protag? I’ve written all the scenes from the wrong points of view, haven’t I? And no one wants to read a [whatever this novel is] I’d do a lot better to write that [guaranteed bestseller] instead.

This is your first point of danger. At this point, many writers do start again, reworking the book with a different protag, different plot points and/or different points of view. They may even decide to abandon this book and start a different one which will, of course, go better. If you do any of these things, the real result is that you end up back at step 1. And you will inevitably get to step 2 again with that project too.

What to do at this stage? Make a note of the ideas generated. If some are really good, incorporate them into this book from this point onwards. You can change the first few chapters to match after you’ve finished the book. But this is the first point where you have to deploy your mantra – which in my case is “you can’t stop until you’ve finished this book” – and push on regardless.

3. Chapters Ten to Twenty

Ugh. This is a lot like hard work, isn’t it? I have no motivation. I’m not exactly bored, but chewing my way through this is like being a woodworm having to chew their way through a church pew. There’s a certain satisfaction in having got the daily word-count done, but getting my butt in the chair to do it is like wrangling a reluctant mule. Work, work work. I thought being a writer was supposed to be more glamourous than this. Also I’m pretty sure I’m a hack. My writing is as dull as I feel. I really don’t want to do this any more.

This is the famous ‘slump in the middle.’ Your motivation’s gone, procrastination is through the roof. Nothing you’re writing seems really interesting any more. You can see all the ways in which your characters’ motivations don’t make sense, your story is a cliche, your sentences are ugly and there is nothing worthwhile about any of it.

It’s so hard not to believe this feeling. You don’t really want to write the book any more, so it’s almost a relief to allow yourself to believe you’re a terrible writer and you should just stop. But fortunately – if you’ve already finished a few novels, or if you take the word of someone who has – you know that this feeling is a lie. If you finish the book, you will find that it’s actually pretty good. You’ve just got to finish first.

What to do at this stage? This is the ‘nobody said it was going to be easy’ stage. Why should writing be less like work than digging a garden or making a road? No one lets a gardener or a road builder quit half way through because they’re bored and discouraged, so why should you? Deploy the mantra again – “You can’t stop until you’ve finished.” You might hate it, but go and do your daily wordcount anyway.

4. Chapters Twenty to Twenty five

Oh, I’m nearly at the end! Past the middle, at least. I can see the end from here. And, you know what? This is not bad, actually. A bit of sprucing up in the editing stage and it’ll be a good book. I’m totally glad I didn’t do that re-write in chapter five, because this is fine as it is! Exciting, isn’t it? I’m nearly there!

What to do at this stage? Enjoy it. But don’t be too disappointed when along comes…

5. Chapters Twenty Five to Thirty

I can’t do it. I just can’t. I don’t know why I’m sitting here obsessively refreshing Tumblr but I can’t get up and write. I don’t even know why not. I just can’t.

The end of novel road-block. Son of Slump. The mid book slump is back and he’s meaner than ever. I call this a road-block because it is very much like running into a wall. Sometimes, unlike the middle, there aren’t even any discouraging thoughts or emotions attached. You know you could finish it in two or three days. You know that a completed book is within your grasp, and that it’s not even going to be a bad one. But the will to write is just not there.

My theory is that your subconscious does not want to let go of this world in which you have spent so much time and energy. At a deep and inaccessible level, some part of you wants to keep these people you’ve come to love – and this expression of your own character – private, safe, all to yourself, and it knows that getting to the end is like the guillotine coming down. You will have to say goodbye, and you don’t want to.

What to do at this stage? It helps if you’ve established a regular writing routine. If you have a time of day where you always write, the habit can drive you into sitting down and writing anyway. I find that at this stage I’m often late to turn up. I’ll say ‘oh, I just don’t want to do it today,’ and then an hour into my writing time I’ll think, ‘I’ve only got an hour left! I should go and do something at least.”

It also helps – if you’re really struggling – to reduce your daily word count. ‘Oh, I’ll just go and do a thousand words,’ or ‘I’ll feel less crap about myself if I manage five hundred words, so let’s do that.’ As long as you don’t reduce your daily word count to zero, you’ll get there in the end.

If you absolutely cannot write, then you can take a day off. But make sure it’s only one! After your one day off, go into the next one determined that you’re refreshed and ready to do this, and write.

Writing is work. Sometimes it’s hard work. But we all suffer through parts of our work that we don’t like. We put our heads down, shoulder through and get there, weary but accomplished. At least we’re not out in the rain as we would be if we were building a road instead of a book. Soldier on through the rough parts until you get there, which you inevitably will. Because the real secret to finishing a book is genuinely as simple as this: If you don’t stop until you’ve finished it, you will finish it.

 

My problem with being agender

On Thursday, we had a meeting of one of my morris dancing sides to discuss a fraught question. This particular side is an all male side (with a bunch of musicians who they insist on calling “our terrific lady musicians.” ) The question on the table was:  should we allow female dancers into the side?

I don’t mind the fact that it’s an all male side. That’s not really my issue. As long as there are morris sides that women can join–mixed sides, or all female sides or whatever–I think it’s all fine and dandy that some sides choose to be all male.

During the discussion it became totally clear that if they chose to let women in, it would be on the understanding that women don’t and can’t – by virtue of biologydance the same way men can, and therefore the side’s entire culture and reputation as hard men of the dance circuit would be on the line. That’s just plain sexism and biological determinism, old as the dinosaurs, but still kicking in terms of offensiveness. I may not like to be classified as a woman, but sexism still makes me flip my lid.

My specifically non-gender-binary problem came up when they decided that perhaps it would be better to have all these hypothetical female recruits form an all female branch of the side, so that all male dancing could continue unmixed.

The only morris side that would take me when we moved into the area was an all female side, and I feel – on and off – profoundly uncomfortable there, even though I have adapted the kit so that I’m now wearing a man’s kilt rather than the uniform skirt. (Don’t say anything. I think I’ve got away with it, if only because no one has noticed.)

I am now a member of a mixed side, which is a profound relief, because in a mixed side it doesn’t matter that you’re neither a man nor a woman, because the variety of human that you are shouldn’t need to come up.

Yet even in the mixed side there are continual calls for the re-establishment of the binary. “Let’s do this dance with all the women on one side and all the men on the other!” “Why don’t we do this one with all the women in one set and all the men in another, then it could be a fun competition!” “Maybe we could adjust the kit so the the women could all wear matching skirts,” etc. These calls are not just coming from the men; they’re coming from the women too.  Many of the women have made attempts to make their kit more feminine, adding appropriate jewellery and leggings rather than trousers, some with skirts on top.

I recognize the impulse. It’s like the kilt thing in reverse. People need to have a way to express their gender or lack thereof. But the trouble for me is that cis people’s continuing desire to separate themselves into two genders leaves me standing in the middle on my own.

I generally go to the side that I pass for, but being forced to make that choice is deeply uncomfortable, and it’s a choice that is forced on me over and over again by well meaning cis people who are trying to make me feel that my (non-existant) womanhood is being respected. I don’t have one, thanks. Leave me out of this.

This rant was prompted by getting an email from QueerTheology.com about “Simple Steps to Love Trans People (or Your Trans Self)” And all of them are about accepting yourself–learning to love and value yourself and how to silence the inner voices that tell you you’re wrong for being who you are.

But I don’t have that inner voice. I may have spent my whole life going “what the hell am I?” until I finally decided to give up on figuring out gender altogether and settled on non-binary about five years ago. But I never felt my gender identity was wrong. I felt the rest of the world was wrong.

I think I was in my late teens when I decided “I was made like this to be a bridge between men and women, to help them understand each other.” And when I found out about the concept of two spirit people and how they were considered to be holy, I thought “that sounds about right.”

So self-acceptance has never been my problem. My problem has always been the rest of the world.

What I can do about that, I’m not sure. I dread the idea of trying to explain any of this to the kind of people who still think that women are biologically predetermined to dance daintily and without aggression. There were gentlemen in that discussion who deserve the following image.

But I suppose that making posts like this where anyone can see them can be considered a first step.

500 word reaction – Thor: Ragnarok

Just got home from seeing Thor: Ragnarok and processing my reaction by writing it down in a sort of stream of consciousness. Mostly I find that I am a little disappointed. Or perhaps that’s stating it too strongly. I was ever so slightly bored.

I kept waiting for the story to kick in. By which I mean, I was waiting for them to get off the planet of junk and back to something more interesting. And it kept not happening, and then it was over. However, it’s very like the Thor comics in the sense that I always used to skim the stories in those, waiting for the bits with Loki in them. Bits with Loki in tended to have talking and subtle manipulation and cleverness, and that I think is what was missing here.

It was a very macho “the ability to Hulk smash things is the only source of true power” kind of film, and I got bored with the smashing really before the titles rolled.

On the other hand, I loved Valkyrie, and I loved the little earnest family moments between Thor, Odin and Loki – it’s nice that everyone is now accepting Loki for what he is. The continued outrage at him for being something other than what he was wasn’t productive for anyone. Hiddles still does a very good job with him, and perhaps it’s part of the character’s charm that he’s never allowed to move center stage. I don’t like heroes, after all, so he’s better off from my pov as a side character.

I loved Hela, and naturally I want her to return. Give her her realm back, you cowards! Why, why would anyone choose to bring Skurge out of the comics and not Amora the Enchantress? Amora would have added a nice touch of not-solving-all-your-problems-by-hitting-things, and Skurge is her executioner, not Hela’s. (Hela doesn’t need one.)

I loved whatshisname, Jeff Goldblum’s character, and most of all I loved his un-named sidekick, the woman with the melty stick. If I was to cosplay a character suitable for my build and age, I think it would be her.

The movie was very pretty–lots of colours and action. Heimdall fans will be very happy as he got a strong subplot as Asgardian Robin Hood. I very much enjoyed the rock guy, who undoubtedly had a name, but I’m not good at remembering names.  He was a comedy character, but also surprisingly relatable for a rock monster.

Would I recommend it? I would say that it was worth going to see once. You would probably get the occasional giggle, and there are some nice action sequences, but if you couldn’t get to see it, you would not be missing anything of deep emotional weight. Which is an ambivalent reaction, I think, to a movie in which Asgard is destroyed and its population send out as refugees into the universe. I think I would have preferred it to deal with that subject with a little more seriousness.

Heart of Cygnus Five is out today

After finishing many other projects first, finally the sequel to Lioness of Cygnus Five is out! I had so much fun with this series, fleshing out the alien civilisation and exploring lots of characters who were barely more than names in book one.

Now Felix Mboge and Nori Nakano find a lot more than they bargained for when they travel to a pirate world to try to buy food. Morwen Crouch and Lali Citlali run into some serious trouble when they try to kidnap Aurora’s baby from its father on her command. And Aurora and Bryant are kept busy at home, thwarting an invasion by awakening forces on the planet that perhaps should have been left to sleep.

You can get all formats of this here

Print is not yet available because I’m still waiting to recieve a proof to make sure it’s okay. I’ll let you know the URL for that when it is.

In this sequel to Lioness of Cygnus Five the survival of the colony teeters on the edge. The alien city in which they have taken refuge turns out to be not so abandoned as they’d thought, and Bryant finds himself torn between his love for Aurora and his driving need to restore some of the ancient defences before the Kingdom attacks.Starvation is beginning to bite as the Kingdom forces tighten their stranglehold around the colonists, forcing them to turn to treasure-hunters and pirates for aid. Needed on site to spearhead the military resistance to Kingdom invasion, Aurora must send her most trusted people into the heart of enemy territory to beg for supplies and to rescue her baby, with no guarantee that when they return there will be anyone left alive to come home to.

Yet survival may come at too great a cost if Bryant cannot control the secret he is awakening at the heart of Cygnus Five.

 

Foxglove Copse is out today!

After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.

Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.

Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.

http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/foxglove-copse

(The link is to the Riptide store because it’s a dollar cheaper there than it is on Amazon)

This is my first book in the shared-world series of books set in the (fictional) town of Porthkennack in Cornwall. Although it’s the fifth book in the series, it’s a standalone – you don’t have to have read them to be able to follow and enjoy this. A lightly Gothic tale of curses and Christmas cheer, it’s a contemporary m/m romance, with a side order of (sheep) murder mystery. I personally think of it as optimistic with a side order of fluffy, but reviewers seem to be finding the sheep mutilation a bit dark for them.

 

First Review for Foxglove Copse from Publisher’s Weekly

And it’s a nice one 🙂

Beecroft (Angels of Istanbul) expertly characterizes Sam’s panic, Ruan’s calming presence, human evil, and sustaining love. This is an appealing, heartfelt tale. (Sept.)

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-62649-547-0

Not long to go until this one is out – beginning of September, I think.

New Release – Waters of the Deep

Like busses, no matter how much I try to schedule releases so they’re regular, it always ends up with a long time of nothing and then a glut, so coming soon we have: Foxglove Copse and Heart of Cygnus Five, followed at a distance by Pride of Cygnus Five and Contraband Hearts.

However, today is the release day for Waters of the Deep

 
Charles and Jasper are brought in to investigate a fatal stabbing in (the cotton-mill town of) Paradise. But this time the only troublesome ghost in the case is their own adopted child Lily. So what’s leaving the glistening trail in the woods? Why did the vicar’s daughter suddenly kill herself? And what is happening to the extra cow?

This is the second novella length story in my Unquiet Spirits series:

  • Buried With Him – short story,
  • The Wages of Sin – novella
  • Communion – short story
  • Waters of the Deep – novella

Charles and Jasper have been living together for a while, having moved in to Jasper’s house and adopted the ghost girl, Lily. They’ve made a name for themselves as the people you call in to investigate when disasters happen that seem to have supernatural elements. But domesticity has been wearing on Charles, especially when he is ridiculed in the public papers for it, and it may take a murder or two to save their relationship.

~

If you haven’t read the previous stories in the series and you would like to get them for free, sign up for my newsletter

You’ll receive links for Buried With Him, The Wages of Sin (including Communion) and two other novels for free:

 

My Newsletter

5 Reasons to love the 18th Century

My new novella, ‘Waters of the Deep‘ is coming out tomorrow.

It’s a gay historical supernatural murder mystery set in the 18th Century, and I’ve noticed that when I say this to people they generally reply “oh, right; the Regency period.”

While I would certainly like to read Pride and Prejudice, the GBLT version – where Darcy and Bingley end up together – the Regency is very different in terms of dress and social mores from the 18th Century proper.  The French revolution 1789-1799 may have lasted only 10 years, but it made a huge impact on the culture of the time.  In Britain, at least, society became much more anxious, much more inclined to self-discipline and morality, self restraint and prudishness – as if by being conventionally virtuous they could stop the same thing from happening there.

Before the French Revolution, British society had been noisy, bumptious, rude and confident.  You see a glimpse of it in Jane Austen with all those crass, vulgar, big-hearted old people who embarrass their more refined children and grandchildren.  In Patrick O’Brien’s series of sea-faring novels set in the Napoleonic era, Jack Aubrey’s father, who damages Jack’s prospects of promotion by being loud and annoying in parliament, and damages Jack’s prospects of inheritance by marrying his chambermaid, is also a nod to the livelier, cruder days of the 18th Century proper.

Five reasons to Love the 18th Century.

 

  1. Start shallow and work up 😉 The clothes! This was probably the last period in history when men were allowed to be as gorgeous as women.

http://www.antoinettescloset.com/realmenscloths.htm

This is the era of the poet-shirt with the big baggy sleeves and the neckline down to the navel, with or without ruffles or lace, as you prefer.  Rich men wore multi-coloured silk outfits with wonderful embroidery, contrasting waistcoats and knee breeches with fine silk stockings underneath.  Poor men wore the classic highwayman/pirate outfits complete with tricornered hats.  Did you know that a good calf on a man’s leg was considered such a desirable form of beauty that some men stuffed calf-enhancers made of cork down there?

  1. Pretty deadly gentlemen. The nice thing about all this male peacock display is that it could not be taken for a sign of weakness. All these gorgeously plumed lads had been training to fence and fight and ride and shoot since they were old enough to stand up.  Ever seen ‘Rob Roy’ where Archie Cunningham slices and dices Liam Neeson as Rob Roy, while wearing an immaculate ice-blue waistcoat and extravagant Belgian lace?

There’s something very attractive about a class of men with Archie Cunningham’s ruthless intelligence, masterly swordfighting skills and love of expensive tailoring, but with the ‘evil bastard’ gene turned down a little.  One of my heroes in the Unquiet Spirits series – Charles Latham – teeters on the edge of that refined man of honour/dangerous sociopath divide.  He is less murderous than simply spoiled, privileged and entitled, but at times it’s a struggle not to want to box his ears. Bless him.

  1. Science!

For the first time in history ships and the provisioning of ships had advanced to the point where navigation was relatively reliable.  Enough food and water could be stored aboard so that voyages could continue for months or even years at a time.  From the perspective of the West, this was an age of exploration and discovery, when the old superstitions of the past were for the first time being investigated to see how much was true about them. In Jasper and Charles’s world they are rather more true than in our own.

  1. Filth, pamphlets and pornography.

Unlike Jane Austen’s time, when a well brought up young woman could be horrified by the idea of acting in a play, or writing to a young man who was not her fiancé, the 18th Century was much more… robust.  Filthy, in fact.  Literally filthy – streets full of horse manure and dead dogs, through which live cattle were lead to slaughter at the markets every morning (sometimes escaping to break into banks and terrorise the bankers).  But also redolent with filthy language; swearing, f’ing and blinding, referring to a spade as a spade, and various bodily functions by their Anglo-Saxon names.  The 18th Century style of vocabulary in a gentleman’s coffee house would be too crude for me to subject refined persons of the 21st Century to.  But because of this overabundance of filth you do also get a great sense of vitality and humour, of people who are unashamed and determined to squeeze the last particle of enjoyment out of the world.  People who cannot be cowed.  Their pornography reflects this; bumptious but strangely innocent (or perhaps just plain strange.)  Very much not safe for work link: http://joyful-molly.livejournal.com/57556.html#cutid1

5. The Gay Subculture.

By the early 18th Century urbanization had reached a point in London that there were enough gay people in one place to begin to recognise each other and form a subculture of their own.  There were well known cruising spots such as the Inns of Court, Sodomite’s Walk in Moorfields or Birdcage Walk in St. James’ Park.  The technical term for homosexual people at the time was ‘sodomites’ but they called themselves ‘mollies’, and there were molly houses where they could go to meet up and ‘marry’.  Famous mollies like ‘Princess Seraphina’ – a London butcher – spent a great deal of time in drag.  He seems to have been accepted into his community without a lot of fuss, as there are records of him dropping round to his female neighbours’ houses to have a cup of tea and borrow their clothes.

I really recommend Rictor Norton’s ‘Mother Clap’s Molly House’ http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/ as a great guide to that culture; scholarly but easy to read, generous and fascinating.  So fascinating I had to set at least one of my stories around a fictional molly house in Bermuda.  That’s Desire and Disguise, in the ‘I Do’ anthology, in which an unwary straight guy stumbles into the house by accident and gets a little more than he bargained for.  You might also be interested in this ‘choose your own adventure’ site:

http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/forbidden/index.html

Mother Clap’s molly house, you’ll be relieved to know, was so called because it was run by a gay friendly lady called Margaret Clap, not because that was something you were likely to get there!

In short, the 18th Century in which the Unquiet Spirits series was set could not be more different than the prim and refined era of the Regency novel.  I can’t offer a comedy of manners, only a fair degree of lust and violence, badly behaved ghosts, bad language, and dangerous men in gorgeous clothes. But if you enjoyed The Wages of Sin, this is both more of the same and something a little bit different. I hope you enjoy it!

 

How to Write Robots, from Experience

So, you know I had a major operation in February? I was told that one of the things I would not be able to do for three months was to vacuum the house; that would be way too hard on my healing abdominal muscles and might lead to hernia or trauma or massive bleeding or accidental loss of entrails. (They might not have said that last bit, exactly, but I can extrapolate a disaster just as well as any other anxious person.)

I could, of course, have asked my husband to hoover, but he was already waiting on me hand and foot, and I felt too guilty to insist on clean floors on top of that. I could have employed a cleaning person – but I find it hard to allow even friends in my house. I can’t imagine how much I would have been stressing about being judged if someone I didn’t know was discovering the lint balls behind the bookcases.

So I went a little mad, and I bought myself a robot vacuum cleaner.

One of these, in fact – a Neato Botvac D80. He immediately got a gender and a name – I called him Vlad the Vacuum (because he sucks). I programmed him to start hoovering at 9.30 am every week day. In deference to the day when robots are protesting for their own rights, I decided that he would also have the weekend off. He may be a vacuum cleaner, but if I can help it none of my appliances will have due cause to think they’ve been treated unfairly.

I put his base in the hall, which is the only room where the free wall space isn’t taken up by bookshelves, and then I started him up and followed him around the house watching what he did.

What he’s meant to do, I think, is to map out the walls first and then go back and forth across the room like a lawnmower laying down grass stripes. But that discounts things like the sofa, rugs, table-legs, chair-legs, and in our house swords propped against the wall, harps, wood turning implements, bits of computers awaiting repair, and wires. So many wires. That’s a confusing environment for a machine that can get itself lost under a settee.

I somehow expected him to always start off the same way, to always take the same route around the walls, to slowly refine his map of the house until he was efficiently zipping around in no time. I expected him to behave predictably and logically. I mean that’s what you would expect of a robot, right? It would behave like a machine because it was a machine.

That’s not what happened.

Sometimes he will neatly map out the walls, trundle across the floor with an air of purpose and certainty and get back to his charging station by himself within 50 minutes, dock himself with no trouble and sit there looking smug while I clean his filter.

Sometimes he’ll get stuck. Sometimes he’ll get stuck on something he robotfully took in his stride every day for a month previously. When this happens, sometimes he’ll drain his battery trying to get unstuck. Sometimes he’ll bleep for me and I will unstick him. (It quickly became apparent that he needed me there to rescue him because even if he sailed through the cleaning for weeks while I watched, he would inevitably get stuck if I went out and left him to it.)

Most of the time he will find his charging station when he’s done, but sometimes he’ll roll into the hall looking for it and go straight past it into the toilet, where he will mournfully do the 360 degrees pirouette of confusion and promptly roll into a wall. Sometimes he’ll stop just in front of it while I stand behind him waving my hands and hissing “look! Look! It’s right there!” And then I have to pick him up and carry him to it.

Yesterday he was SO confused, going into rooms and coming straight out again, rolling in circles, rolling into walls etc, it was painful to watch. I found myself groaning in sympathy “Oh, son, go back to bed!” But today he was fine again, as though metaphorical butter wouldn’t melt in his metaphorical mouth.

This experience only confirms in me the suspicion that everything in the universe has personality. I expected my robot to be unchanging, undeviating, a thing that did its task the same way every time and nothing more. But in fact he has good days and bad days and I interact with him the same way I would interact with a puppy or a small child.

I suspect that not only is he more full of personality than I expected, but also that humans are primed to interact with anything that appears to have a mind of its own as though it was an animal, a child or another human. Even robots, as it turns out, are individuals and will need our help as much as we need theirs. I find it a reassuring thought as I continue to cry “oh son! Oh sweetheart!” when my bot gets himself in trouble, and “the flatboy done good” with a fist pump when he has a really good day.

How exciting is this – The Porthkennack series has arrived!

Introducing Porthkennack, A New Shared World Series!
Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.
This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.
Each novel in this series is just $4.99 in ebook!
The First Two Porthkennack Books are out April 17!

South London mechanic Devan Thompson has gone to Porthkennack to track down someone he’s been waiting all his life to know. But Dev’s distracted from his quest by Kyle, a broodingly handsome local of only a few months, who’s already got a reputation as an alcoholic because of his strange behaviour—including a habit of collapsing in the street.

Kyle Anthony fled to Porthkennack to escape from the ruins of his life. Still raging against his diagnosis of narcolepsy—a condition that’s cost him his job as a barrister, his lover, and all chance of normality—the last thing he wants is another relationship that’s doomed to fail. But Dev’s easy-going acceptance and adaptability, not to mention his good looks, have Kyle breaking all his self-imposed rules.

When disaster strikes Dev’s adored little sister, Kyle steps up to the plate, and Dev sees a side of his lover he wasn’t prepared for: competent, professional—and way out of Dev’s league. With one man determined that they don’t have a future, and the other fearing it, life after Porthkennack is starting to look bleak for both of them.

When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother.

In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick—who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men—is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.

Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.

A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.

Upcoming Porthkennack Books

Morgan Capell’s life is falling apart by small degrees—his father’s dead, his boyfriend dumped him, and his mother’s in the grip of dementia. His state of mind isn’t helped by his all-too-real recurring nightmare of the wreck of the Troilus, a two-hundred-year-old ship he’s been dreaming about since his teenage years.

The story of the Troilus is interwoven with the Capell family history. When amateur historian Dominic Watson inveigles himself into seeing the ship’s timbers which make up part of Morgan’s home, they form a tentative but prickly friendship that keeps threatening to spark into something more romantic.

Unexpectedly, Dominic discovers that one of the Troilus’s midshipman was rescued but subsequently might have been murdered, and persuades Morgan to help him establish the truth. But the more they dig, the more vivid Morgan’s nightmares become, until he’s convinced he’s showing the first signs of dementia. It takes as much patience as Dominic possesses—and a fortuitous discovery in a loft—to bring light out of the darkness.

June 5
Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.
Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.
Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.
July 17

After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.

Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.

Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.

September 4

 

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