Lovely review of the Trowchester Series

Thanks to Jay Mountney for this Review of the Trowchester Series

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I just finished the third book in Alex Beecroft’s Trowchester trilogy so thought I’d review them all at once. The books are modern m/m romance and are linked by the location, the fictional town of Trowchester which becomes very real to the reader over the course of the stories. The main characters of one book reappear as minor players in the others which is satisfying because we get to know that lives continue after each volume ends. Alex creates very three dimensional characters, with real lives, real problems and real adventures. I found myself caring very much what happened to them all.

It’s lovely to see a review that considers each book individually but also considers the series as a whole. I’m so glad she thinks that the books work well together :)

I keep wondering if I should write some more in this series. What do people think? Is there anything you would like to know more about in Trowchester and its environs?


A truly terrible birthday

What happened on the 23rd of June? Oh yeah, it was my birthday. It was also the EU referendum. I was ill with a nasty cold and headache that made me dizzy when I stood upright, and so was my husband and son, so our household were all miserable and grouchy. Also it was raining stair-rods and it continued to rain like the emptying of God’s bathtub all day long, while the light struggled to grow brighter than funeral-appropriate charcoal.

In this festive weather DH and I, and son, went out to vote to remain in the EU. There’s a long subplot to this story that involves taking son to the doctors’ for his injection only to find it had been stored wrong and he’d have to come back tomorrow when they’d got some new stuff in, and then the car breaking down in the rain on the way back, but I’m not going into that.

What I am saying is that I went to bed confident that everyone in their right minds had turned out to vote Remain, and that life would carry on without much upheaval in the morning.

First thing I heard this morning was DH going “Bugger. They’ve voted to leave.”

So, now it looks like we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, shut ourselves in with far right Conservatives and UKIP nutters actually having a chance to turn back the clock to Dickensian times, potentially lost Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of the Union and are looking at becoming more alone than we’ve been for three hundred years.

Time to take the ‘Great’ off Britain, I think. In fact, will we even need the term ‘Britain’ any more?

I’ve spent the day trying not to panic. It’s certainly a boot up the backside to my complaisant belief that nobody could really take UKIP seriously – that nothing could really go world-changingly wrong. I take some comfort from the stats that say the overwhelming bulk of the people who voted to leave are old – older even than me. As we die off, things should get better. (A cheery thought.)

And in the mean time it’s time for those of us who thought it was certain that sanity and compassion would win the day to realize that it’s not certain unless we fight for it. I’ve always voted and I will continue to vote, but clearly more is needed. I don’t know what exactly I can do, but I can at least make sure I’m speaking up against xenophobia and far right fascism before it spreads any further. My age demographic is the most evenly balanced on issues of social justice, so perhaps just talking to them about politics will help.

Remaining silent certainly won’t. God save us!


Blue Steel Chain a bestseller

Ooh, this is a first :) How nice to have a message saying that Blue Steel Chain is an All Romance Ebook bestseller and to be given an icon to prove it.

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Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues Series) by Alex Beecroft

At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Summers is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

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I did not expect that from a book with an asexual main character! Thank you to everyone who’s buying it :)

For the sake of the children

When the news of the Pulse shooting struck, my instinctive reaction was to shut up, withdraw, and stop wanting to exist in this world. That’s the unhealthy coping mechanism I’ve had towards violence since I was a child and it’s always kept me safe. It’s always kept me safely contained and safely silenced too.

But this is not the world I grew up in, when I was young and frightened. In that world it would have been unthinkable to have Pride processions in which the police were there to defend you. The President wouldn’t have gone on the air to express sympathy for the victims – he would have been the one who ordered the night club to be raided in the first place.

It seems impossible to think it, in the light of the shooting, but the world has become a better place for queer people in the last twenty years. And maybe that’s why the shooter decided it was time to put people back where they belonged, to make them afraid so they would shut up.

I wasn’t even sure if I deserved to talk about this. After all, I’m not American, I’m not gay and I’m not Latin@. It’s not for me to talk over the voices of anyone that is. But this morning I was talking with JL Merrow about growing up genderqueer/agender and thinking “thank God we don’t live in the ’70s any more.” Then I read this article from The Washington Post and it reminded me that the reason we don’t live in the ’70s any more – the reason things are better now – is that people have been speaking out, coming out, campaigning, being seen and refusing to shut up and hide all that time.

I like the note of hope the Washington Post manages to raise there. I like this post too. I like the way it says

“So if recent events, whether a tragedy today, or bigotry tomorrow threatened to steal that spark of pride from you, continue creating an accepting world.”

I can’t speak with any authority, except for the authority that says to the bigots out there Murdering people is wrong. Fucking stop it! Hurting people is wrong, regardless of their orientation or sexual behaviour or race or gender or genitals or religion, or whatever. You think your God – a good God, a merciful God – would have wanted this? There are not words to say how fucking wrong you are.

But this is me speaking anyway, because my instinctive reaction is to be silenced, and I’m not having that any more.

 


Apparently it’s the summer

Yesterday my new morris side, Sutton Masque – a mixed Border Morris side – welcomed in the official start of summer on the 1st of June by dancing outside a couple of pubs in Ely. It was freezing, rainy and grey. A hardy Greek family sat outside The Cutter, under the porch heaters and watched us dance by the river. I hope we were a properly bizarre glimpse into the literal local colour for their holiday. We certainly appreciated having them as an audience because none of the natives had dared venture out.

Later we went down to The Fountain and danced there for another hour, still in the drizzle, with the light failing around us. Here our only audience was an Australian couple in fantastic Aran beanies (I covet a beanie like theirs.) They took our picture and told me they liked my face. I take that to mean that they liked my face paint. This made me very glad, because my attempt to look like a Wood Wose takes me a good half hour of preparation before I even make it out of the door. The dark green of the background colour doesn’t half stain your flannels when you wash it off!

This is my face:

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taken after we’d given up on dancing and gone inside to play music and eat birthday cake. (Happy birthday Neil!)

I’m very proud of our new kit, which is dark green and gold, with a wild-man-of-the-woods, Jack-in-the-Green feel to it, and I am even beginning to get used to dancing in a top hat. You can see the full outfit here if you like, because the above is the indoors look without the tattered jacket.

In more relevant writing news, I’ve been spending my time finishing the first Porthkennack book for Riptide Press. Currently called Foxglove Copse, this is a contemporary m/m romance set in a fictional Cornish town with a slightly gothic twist. I’ve also done the first content edit pass for my huge long queer historical fantasy The Glass Floor, which should be coming out next year, and found a new home for Labyrinth, which had been contracted to Samhain Publishing but for which I got my rights back recently.

Right now, I’m working on the third book in my queer space opera trilogy Lioness of Cygnus 5. Have I told you about this? I don’t think I’ve told you about this. But it probably justifies its own post, so I’ll do that next time.


Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality

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Research into the history of asexuality is only just beginning to gain any traction. Which is fitting, because it’s only in the last decade, really, that there has been an awareness that asexuality exists at all – and that awareness is very far from being widespread outside the LGBTQ part of the internet. We are still very much an invisible orientation, and as such not much is known about our history.

Having said that, we do know that the Kinsey Reports – the hugely influential studies of human sexuality published in 1948 has a sliding scale of 0-6 to measure how heterosexual or homosexual someone was, and a seperate category X for those who are not attracted to anyone. That’s us. So clearly we’ve been around since the first serious investigation was going on.

In fact, according to this discussion in AVEN’s forums as early as 1896, budding sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, in his book Sappho und Sokrates says There are individuals who are without any sexual desire (“Anästhesia sexualis”)

He also says It is also not possible to artificially evoke the kind of drive, that is not existent or almost not noticeable.

And that’s what I would like to talk about today. One of the places where we are almost certain to find reflections of ourselves is in medicine, as a problem to be cured. Acing History has a good summary of the pathologisation of asexuality under the terms of ‘frigidity’, ‘sexual anaesthesia’, and more recently ‘Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder’ (HSDD). This gives us a great place to start when it comes to trying to uncover our history, but it also segues into something of direct relevance today.

This year’s theme for the IDAHOT organisation is Mental Health and Well-Being. Normally I would talk in more vague terms about all of us under the (Queer, MOGAI, LGBTQI+) umbrella. All of us, after all, suffer ill effects to our mental and physical well being by being members of a minority in general, and particularly by being members of a minority that is opressed.

However, today I sat down to write my post immediately after having signed this petition:

Tell the FDA: Disinterest in Sex Shouldn’t Be Treated With A Pill

and I thought ‘well this is spot on theme for a blog hop concerned with the mental health and physical wellbeing of queer people, and it has the advantage of being something I can talk about from experience.’

I really encourage you to go to the petition and at least read the article that accompanies it. The long and the short of it is that – clearly not having the wisdom of Magnus Hirschfeld – they’re bringing in a pill that they claim can do something for disinterest in sex in women. So that they can claim that it’s not going to be used to try to ‘cure’ asexuals of their orientation, the FDA have specifically said that the pill should not be prescribed to people who are not distressed about their disinterest because they identify as asexual.

This is nice, of course. But let’s ask ourselves, how many of those women who are distressed at their lack of interest in sex are distressed because they’ve never heard of asexuality? How many of them even know that asexuality is an option?

While we continue to be an invisible orientation, it’s completely disingenuous to say ‘of course we won’t press this on the asexuals.’ Seriously. Ten years ago I’d have taken it myself because I didn’t know what I was. I didn’t know there was absolutely nothing wrong with being disinterested in sex.

I am livid to think that in my desperation to be ‘normal’ I might have grasped at the chance to take a drug that I had to take every day for the rest of my life, a drug with significant side effects and little apparent effectiveness. And I might have done that, not knowing there was nothing wrong with me at all except that I wasn’t straight.

I am livid to think that while there are people out there who don’t know asexuality exists, of course they’re going to be distressed about themselves. Of course they’re not going to protest that there’s something wrong about them being forced to have sex they don’t want, because people somehow think it’s a disease not to want it. And it won’t ‘cure’ them, because they don’t need to be cured, but it will be a direct threat to their physical and mental well being.

So please, sign the petition. This is a chance to make history instead of simply observing it. Please also let people know that asexuality is a real thing that has been around as long as research on sexuality has existed, and if you don’t want sex it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.

 

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In honour of the hop, I will be donating to Gendered Intelligence, a great charity for young trans people in the UK. And I will be giving away a book of their choice from my back-catalogue to one commenter chosen at random. Thanks for reading!

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Click here to be taken to the list of participants in the blog hop or use the links below.

Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality.

1. B. A. Brock (BI TR GAY LES) 23. Amelia Bishop (MULTI) 45. Remmy Duchene (MM)
2. Jamie Fessenden 24. Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon (MM, REV, MULTI) 46. Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia M/M
3. Rory Ni Coileain 25. Helena Stone (M/M ) 47. Barbara Winkes (LES)
4. Erica Pike (M/M) 26. AM Leibowitz (M/M, F/F, BI, TR, NB, REV) 48. Bronwyn Heeley (m/m)
5. Andrew Jericho (GAY) 27. L.D. Blakeley (M/M, BI) 49. L. J. LaBarthe
6. Tempeste O\’Riley (M/M (Bi) (NB) 28. Lila Leigh Hunter [M/M, BI] 50. VJ Summers (m/m, m/m/f)
7. The Macaronis [various] 29. Sharon Bidwell 51. Nikka Michaels (M/M)
8. Elin Gregory [mm] 30. Nicole Dennis (M/M, ACE, M/M/F) 52. Caraway Carter (LGBT)
9. Alexa MIlne 31. Lexi Ander 53. L M Somerton (M/M)
10. Nic Starr (M/M) 32. Barbara G.Tarn (M/M, ACE) 54. Taylor Law (GAY)
11. Evelise Archer (MM) 33. Kaje Harper M/M, TR, BI 55. Anastasia Vitsky (F/F, TR, BI)
12. Sue Brown 34. JMS Books LLC 56. Draven St. James (M/M)
13. Elizabeth Varlet (M/M, BI, NB) 35. JM Snyder 57. A.V. Sanders (GAY, ACE, NB)
14. Raven J. Spencer 36. Dean Pace-Frech 58. Lynley Wayne
15. Sharing Links and Wisdom (REV) 37. Kimber Vale 59. DP Denman (GAY)
16. Lisa Horan (REV/Multi) 38. Jacintha Topaz (BI, F/F, M/M, TR) 60. M.A. Church M/M
17. Archer Kay Leah (M/M, F/F, TR, NB, BI, ACE) 39. Prism Book Alliance® (MULTI) 61. Andrew J. Peters GAY
18. Alexis Duran (M/M) 40. Eva Lefoy (M/M, F/F, F/M/F, BI, MULTI) 62. Dianne Hartsock MM
19. Jules Dixon 41. Lou Sylvre (M/M) 63. M. LeAnne Phoenix M/M F/F
20. R.M. Olivia 42. Anne Barwell 64. Cherie Noel (M/M)
21. Heloise West (M/M) 43. Viki Lyn (M/M) 65. Chris McHart (M/M, Trans*)
22. Angel Martinez (M/M GAY BI TR) 44. Sean Michael

 


What is up with TV at the moment?

I don’t actually watch The 100 or Sleepy Hollow. I had been hearing all about the Clarke and Lexa romance on Tumblr and thinking ‘maybe I should give this a chance, even though I don’t like post-apocalyptic or gritty.’ But then the next thing I heard was that they’d made the f/f romance canon and killed off one of the participants in the same episode, despite telling the fanbase that was not going to happen.

So now I have no reason to even start watching.

I hadn’t been watching Sleepy Hollow either, because I’m a wimp when it comes to supernatural things. (I can’t watch Supernatural for the same reason.) I enjoyed the first three episodes and then I realized that it was making me unable to go to sleep, and plagued with the fear that – even in the day time – if I heard a noise in the house it would be some kind of ghastly terror that would blast my eyes to look upon.

But that didn’t mean I wasn’t hearing the fanbase’s delight in having a strong, fully rounded black female hero as the protagonist of the show. I’m well aware of how often the hero is a white guy, who is the Chosen One, chosen apparently despite his mediocrity and ordinaryness. It was immediately apparent how great it would be to see someone like yourself as the one Chosen instead.

And then they killed Abbie off too. I thought she was the protagonist! But as it turns out, the writers thought she was just a guide for the real protagonist, the real Chosen One – who was as always, the white guy.

According to this article, there have been ten deaths of lesbian characters on TV so far this year, and that’s in a media climate where you hardly ever see a lesbian character at all. I don’t know if the show runners don’t realize that taking away food from people who are starving is bad or if they’re actually doing it deliberately.

I’m honestly bemused. I mean, statistics seem to prove that shows with more diversity gain more audience. That makes sense – everyone wants a hero they can identify with. So why would writers deliberately take those characters away? Do they want people to stop watching?

I don’t know. At any rate, on the principle of ‘if you want to see it, write it yourself’ I am plugging away at my writing while attempting to improve my diversity. I seem to be moving steadily in a direction of adventure stories with queer characters who also find love, rather than romance stories per se, if that distinction makes any sense. But Labyrinth at least features a bisexual man, a genderqueer youth, an asexual woman and a heterosexual aromantic woman. All of which is a challenge to get across in the setting of Bronze Age Crete where they didn’t conceptualize things in that way at all and certainly didn’t have the same words for it.

What’s my conclusion to this? I don’t know. I’m angry at a world that still doesn’t seem to understand the harm it’s doing. I want to do my best to improve my own stories so that they don’t accidentally do the same thing. But that doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I wish I had been watching those shows so I could stop now and boycott them, but I wasn’t. At least there is a fundraiser to raise money for LGBTQ kids who’ve been watching this and feeling like there is no future for them.

You can find it here.


Blue Steel Chain needs your vote

NGL, I kind of hate doing this. It feels bad to ask anyone who liked Blue Steel Chain to go and nominate it for the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards – Summer 2016. However, it obviously got into the pre-open nomination round by itself (because I didn’t know anything about this) and I have to admit that seeing it poised there to potentially be able to take part in this competition does give me a whole lot of glee and satisfaction.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who’s always asking for nominations. But on the other hand I don’t want to be the kind of author who never does anything to promote their books. So I’m putting this out there, and it’s entirely up to you, the reader, what you choose to do about it. I would love the nomination, but if you see something there you love better, you should definitely go for that instead.

Here is the email I got, so you can see what I’m talking about:

We are pleased to inform you that Blue Steel Chain has fulfilled the minimum requirements and is moved to the next round — the Nomination Round.

In the Nomination Round, Blue Steel Chain has to garner at least 50 nominations within the time period in order to qualify for the next and final round. The nomination will start on March 14 and end on March 31. Invite your fans and reader community to nominate the book here: http://glbt.theromancereviews.com/viewbooks.php?bookid=21233

You may also direct them to the general page to nominate other books: http://glbt.theromancereviews.com/bookvote.php

Any help would be very welcome :) Thank you!


Intuitive Eating

A Post Not About Writing At All

I had a lot of success with the Slimming World fat-free diet, which I stayed on for at least four years, losing three stone and keeping that weight off for two years afterwards. But when things got emotionally overwhelming in the later part of 2015 and not even therapy and meditation could completely keep me on an even keel, I began bingeing again to cope.

I rapidly put back on about a stone and a half. Initially, I thought “never mind. I’ll just go back on the diet and take it off again,” but when I tried, I discovered – like a friend I had met at the Slimming World meetings – that it was a hell of a lot more difficult to make the diet work and to stick to it the second time.

Cue despair, because if you can put on a stone and a half over Christmas and the first two months of the year, where does it stop? I’ve feared all my life that if I ate ‘normally’ – if I ate what I wanted to, when I wanted to, I would just keep piling the weight on and on and on until I couldn’t walk for it.

But Slimming World had been my last hope as far as diets went. I’d tried counting calories, and that worked until I couldn’t bear it any longer and gave up, telling myself that if there was any way I could economically afford it I would never be that hungry again. Slimming World was good because it didn’t require you to be hungry, but God, the food got boring after four years. I’d tried low carb/Atkins but that’s no way for a vegetarian to live – our sources of protein are too limited, and meat is horrible.

So the only option seemed to be to learn to love being fat. I signed up for some fat positive blogs, read a lot of articles about how dieting didn’t work and replaced my size 12 wardrobe with enough size 16 things to be going on with until I inevitably progressed to 18 and then 20 and then upwards.

However, one of the ‘diets don’t work’ articles I read suggested Intuitive Eating as an alternative. Eat whatever you wanted and find a set point of weight around which you would naturally come to settle and normalize.

That sounded like the epitome of “That sounds fake, but…” Except for the fact that I am married to someone who’s never dieted in his life, never done more exercise than a bit of morris dancing twice a week (same as me), and yet whose weight never really fluctuated at all. He certainly wasn’t clinging onto it in desperation for fear that he’d end up physically incapacitated, the way I was. So clearly there is such a thing as an intuitive eater. It works for some people. I decided I would give it a go and see if it would work for me. There was, after all, nowhere else left to turn.

I bought the book and started trying to follow it some time around the beginning of February. I thought there would be rules, but basically the rule is “Eat when you’re hungry. Eat as much as it takes to make you full. Then stop.” You can eat whatever you want, just pay attention to what it is that you actually want, because it might be different from what you assume.

I feel that the meditation I had been on since October last year definitely helped in this, because I was used to concentrating on different parts of my body, paying attention to what was actually going on, and not just living on autopilot. So once I started paying attention to my food in a mindful sort of way several dramatic things happened very early on into my practice.

  1. I realized I didn’t actually want chocolate as much as I thought I did. Most of the time what I really craved was bread. I’ve been eating a lot of toast and butter – that being one of the things I absolutely could not have on the SW diet.
  2. In the past month I’ve had three occasions where I would probably have binged if I wasn’t paying attention. I started, and then I caught myself and asked ‘do I really want these biscuits?’ And the answer on two occasions was ‘no, really what I want is rest. I’m knackered.’ On the third occasion it was ‘no. I’m just upset and don’t want to think about it.’ So I rested/meditated instead.
  3. I’ve tasted and enjoyed my food more than at any other time in my life. It’s hard to pay attention – I generally eat and read, and I’ve had to give that up so I can actually experience what’s going on in my mouth and stomach – but it’s really been worth it. I’d no idea that food was this good.
  4. I am loving the fact that I can go out and eat anything without wondering how much fat or how many grams of carbs or how many calories are in it. I tried pho. It was fab!

By the end of this first month, although I haven’t weighed myself, my clothes are no tighter than they were. So I’m cautiously optimistic about this. I’m going to reserve final judgement until the end of the year, but yes. Thumbs up for month one!


Closure of Samhain Publishing

I’m not sure what to say about this. In something of a bombshell, Samhain Publishing announced yesterday that they were in the process of winding down in order to eventually go out of business.

This came as a surprise to me, as I was half way through my first pass of edits on Labyrinth, the Minoan novella I wrote for a historical anthology featuring stories by RJ Scott, Alexis Hall and me.

Rights on books which they’ve already published are not immediately being reverted to authors. I won’t be getting the rights back for Captain’s Surrender, Shining in the Sun, the two Under the Hill books, Too Many Fairy Princes or The Reluctant Berserker for an unspecified amount of time. During that time, I believe the books will still be on sale and I will continue to get royalties for them. Samhain is using this grace period to make sure that all its debts are paid, so that it can go gracefully out of business without leaving creditors unpaid or a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. I salute them for that – they’ve always been a classy act and a good publisher.

So from a reader’s pov, everything goes on as normal until such time as Samhain actually close down. This is just an early warning.

The rights for Labyrinth should come back to me sooner, because that anthology will no longer be coming out from Samhain. I’m already thinking about what to do with that one, so watch this space.

I’m sorry to have no firmer news. But on the positive side I did get a very nice review for Blue Steel Chain from Rainbow Book Reviews recently, and my personal life situation has now returned to relative peace. I should be able to start putting more energy into my writing life from now on (I sincerely hope.) I am at least half way through the first of the Porthkennack books (Did I even tell you about the Porthkennack books? I really must!) and forging steadily onwards.

I’m sad to see Samhain go. They were my main publisher for a long time and I owe them a great deal, but that’s publishing, sadly, and in the mean time I continue to write.


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