Free Giveaway

To celebrate a combined Easter and my relaunch of my Riptide books, I thought I would run a giveaway. If you fancy getting Trowchester Blues for free, it is now available for a bargain price of absolutely zero on Amazon, and will be available for nothing until April the 4th.

GET IT HERE

Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.

Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.

Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.

~

“Finn’s belief that “if the heart is going to err… It’s surely always best to err on the side of love” underlies an entertaining,emotionally satisfying mix of intrigue, mourning, adventure, comedy, and romance.”Publishers Weekly review of Trowchester Blues

Cover Art update

I’ve spent the last week making new covers for most of my Riptide books, and now I want to show them off 🙂

The Trowchester Series now looks like this:

Blessed Isle now looks like this:

Which I’m particularly excited about because Garnet regards the whole story as a message in a bottle cast out onto the seas of time. So, yay for symbolism 😉

Sons of Devils and Angels of Istanbul now look like this

Which I feel makes it clearer that they are primarily historical Fantasy rather than romance. I was sad to part with my illustrated covers for these, but I thought they looked a little Young Adult, and might have been a bit confusing.

However, I have paid for my illustrated covers of Crimson Outlaw and Labyrinth because (a) I love them, and (b) there’s no way that I would find better depictions of 18th Century Romania or Minoan Crete in the desert of modernity that is stock photo sites.

So Crimson Outlaw and Labyrinth still look like this

The Riptide Situation

Uh… I thought I posted this on Monday, and now I find it in my drafts. Well, better late than never:

~

So, you’ve probably all heard about this already, because I waited for a week while I got my thoughts in order and had my rights returned to say anything publically about what’s been going on recently at Riptide.

To make a long story short, one of Riptide’s authors came forward to accuse them of racism and sexual harassment. Here’s the Guardian’s take on it:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/19/romance-so-white-publishers-grapple-with-race-issues

Following that author’s post, lots of other authors came forward to add their own complaints of having been treated badly because they were people of colour.

Riptide immediately made a public apology and a promise to restructure themselves in order to do better in future. As part of that effort, they offered to release rights to authors who wanted to withdraw their novels from the publishing house.

I accepted that offer, and I asked to have all my rights returned to me. The next day I received my rights back for Trowchester Blues, Blue Eyed Stranger, Blue Steel Chain, Blessed Isle, The Crimson Outlaw, Labyrinth, Sons of Devils and Angels of Istanbul.

I have already started the process of reformatting these for self publishing, and they should start being available again within the next couple of weeks.

However the Porthkennack universe is contractually the property of Riptide, and they did not offer me my rights back on the Porthkennack books, Foxglove Copse and Contraband Hearts. These will therefore remain available (or in the case of Contraband Hearts, will be published at the expected time and then remain available) at Riptide.

I am particularly embarrassed by Contraband Hearts. When I was writing it, before all of this came to light, I decided that–in support of diversity–one of my heroes would be a Black British man. I’m not embarrassed about that. I believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to do the best they can to produce diverse stories. But I do feel very guilty about the fact that while actual people of colour were being treated badly by my publisher, I–a white person–am profiting by releasing a book about a black hero.

Since I could not regain my rights to this book, I’ve decided that the only way I can avoid profiting from it would be to donate my royalties from both Foxglove Copse and Contraband Hearts to charity. So I will be passing on any earnings I get from these two books to charity in future.

Because transgender rights are particularly close to my heart, and because there has been a spate of anti-trans newspaper articles recently, I’ve decided to donate my future Riptide royalties to http://uktrans.info/

If you know of anything suggesting that I shouldn’t choose them, let me know! Galup, Mermaids and GenderedIntelligence are also on my list and I could change to one of them if required 🙂

Pride of Cygnus Five is out today!

This is a big and slightly complicated announcement, which I’ll break down into parts 😉

Firstly, as the title says, Pride of Cygnus Five is out today.

Once a penal colony of the Galaxy’s most hardened criminals, Cygnus 5 is now home to the hopeful, the lost, the rejects and the rebels of a system that have left them to die. In a battle for the colony’s survival, Aurora Campos—its defacto queen—awoke a doomsday machine left behind by the aliens who inhabited the world before her. Now the whole galaxy is at risk.

Aurora and her band of misfits must prevent the entire human race from being turned into dust. She must save her people from starvation, reunite with her kidnapped daughter and argue a planet into submission. The way her life has been going recently, it’s starting to look like a typical Monday.

If you’ve been following the series and you already have Lioness of Cygnus Five and Heart of Cygnus Five, in which our heroes got into this pickle, you can buy the concluding volume of the trilogy for $3.99

Pride of Cygnus Five for $3.99

 

ON THE OTHER HAND

I’ve also made a box set of the three volumes. (No box is actually involved, unfortunately.)

You can buy the box set for $5.99, so if you only have Lioness, or you don’t even have Lioness, but you know you like my writing and you’re willing to take a chance on a rare space opera featuring bisexual, lesbian and homoromantic asexual heroes, you can get all three at a bargain price under their own cover:

All three books for $5.99

 

Contraband Hearts cover art

I’m really happy to show this one off. I feel that I have reached peak Romance with this cover!

This is the cover of Contraband Hearts, my second book set in the shared world of the small town of Porthkennack in Cornwall. (Pronounced ‘porth-ken-nack’, in case you were wondering.)

It’s also a return to the Age of Sail for me. Cover art wise, I’ve got quite used to the difficulty there is with finding pictures of good looking young men in 18th Century costume–especially young black men–and my expectations were not high, but that just meant that I was to be comprehensively proved wrong.

Because I know the difficulty of finding period-appropriate photos, I would have been happy with anything. I would have been delighted with a guy wearing one of those poet-shirts which do for anything from steampunk to vampire to historical. But in fact what I got was Perry in an outfit I had actually described in the book, crimson suit, ruined-wig-replaced-with-a-neckerchief and all.

I should let it speak for itself, shouldn’t I? Here it is:

It’s just perfect 🙂 Doesn’t that say Poldark crossed with Treasure Island to you? (Not that I’ve ever watched Poldark, mind, but it’s what comes to my mind when I think of Cornish romance.)

The Banyan has Landed

In the final exciting installment of the saga, I have finished the banyan, except for the small detail of adding fasteners.

I ended yesterday with the inside assembled and the outside assembled too, but both pieces still separate. So today I laid them front side to front side and sewed them together along the inner edge and around the shoulders and neck.

Then, as threatened, I put it on, and enlisted DH to figure out exactly how much needed to be taken off the bottom before I could hem it. I wanted it long enough to keep my legs warm, but short enough not to get in the way when I walked. So I was going to be happy with anywhere between mid calf and upper ankle length.

If you fancy making one yourself, I am 5’5″. I don’t know what that is in meters, but out of three meters of fabric bought, I only ended up cutting off about three inches.

I then sewed the bottom together, leaving about a meter gap in the middle, which I then reached into and pulled the whole garment through so that it was now right-side out. Then I hand-sewed the gap together.

Now only the sleeves were unfinished. If you remember, I had cut them all the way to the selvage on both lots of material, which meant that the fur sleeves were much longer than the silk. So I turned them back on themselves and made them into fur cuffs.

The pattern suggested adding additional length for the sleeves, but I liked the fact that they ended at my elbow. That’s going to make typing in them a lot easier, not to mention doing the washing up. So I have left them elbow length.

Having tried it on, I don’t think I need to do anything to the collar. I can overlap it and if I buy some frog fasteners, I can fasten it like this.

And in the mean time the louchely draped open look is very authentic. Apologies for my face and slippers:

I ended up not doing the pleat at the back because I like that I can get a big jumper under it and still double it over in the front. If I end up losing a couple of stone on the diet I am currently on, I’ll reconsider the back pleat then, but that will be next year at the earliest.

Now, I have three inches of both kinds of fabric left. This probably means it needs a matching hat.

Day two of the banyan

Not much progress was made yesterday, as both my children were visiting. So no post yesterday. I still managed to sew the silk outer layer together, though. I’d never sewn silk before and wasn’t prepared for it to be so inclined to fray. My goodness! I double sewed it, but I think I’m going to go around it with some fray-stopper liquid too before I assemble the whole thing.

Here is the silk layer sewn flat.

Then I carefully concertina’ed the square bits of the hips to give a whole bunch of folds at the hips:

Which you can’t honestly see very well. That gave me at least 8 layers of fabric bunched up in one place, which was fine for the silk – I could sew through that – but I could not imagine it going well when I tried to do the same thing with the fur fabric. I decided I would just cut the fur fabric off in a taper from the point of the hip to the full width, and not bother with the pleats. The fur’s going on the inside anyway, so you’re not going to be seeing it when worn.

Then I stitched up the fur. Again, I’ve never sewn fur fabric before. I was surprised that it was much easier than I’d been expecting. I only have an old Singer sewing machine – one of the first electric models with the cast iron body and gold decals. You know the ones. It’s ancient but it handled the fur fabric without difficulty.

So this is where I am now; I’m at the point where my impatience is telling me to bung one inside the other and start stitching them together. I still haven’t worked out what I’m going to do with the collar, but I can do that as the last step. It’s also still too long, but it will be better to cut the bottom hem when it’s assembled so that I can get a long suffering family member to pin it up while I’m wearing it.

As I say, I really want to sew it together now, but I think I ought to hold my horses long enough to put fray stopper around the silk and double sew the fur. The last thing I want is to assemble it only to have the seams fall apart.

So that’s it for today. I hear that there’s going to be arctic weather next week, so my aim is to finish it over the weekend. Wish me luck!

Also, I promised

Here is my shed, to which I flee with my laptop to write my books,

and for which I really ought to buy either more insulation or a better heater.

Gratuitous moment of advertising for my pride and joy. See my hummingbird blanket? That was a Christmas present all the way from the USA. A beautiful thing!

Banyan

I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to make myself a banyan (18th Century gentleman’s house coat) to wear in the writing shed and around the house when the heating is not on and the depths of winter are very deep indeed.

I found this pattern online http://thebuzzatthehive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-english-bedgown.html and decided it looked easy enough to attempt by eye.

First step, I bought 2 meters of very cheap muslin to make a pattern. Two meters was not long enough, but I figured that as long as I knew where the right angle where it expands at the hip was, I could just cut longer from there. My first attempt at cutting made the waist too long and the dart was practically by my knee, so I marked that on the muslin in preparation for actually cutting the fabric.

I found the fabric on ebay; there was a lovely teal silk, and a fur fabric for the lining.

First I cut out the silk using the muslin as a pattern.

There are four layers of material folded up there. I’ve cut the front in two halves, but the back is in one single piece, as per the pattern. Whether I seam it to give a flare in the skirts at the back or not remains to be seen.

Here’s the fur turned back so you can see what it looks like on the outer side.

Then once I’d cut out the silk I used that as a pattern to cut out the fur

And I cut the arms all the way to the selvage, thinking that I could turn the fur back and give them fur cuffs that way. Again, I’m working on instinct here. I think it’ll work but I’ll only be sure once I come to try it 🙂

I’ve lost the light now and also it’s late and I’m tired, so that will do for today. I’ll start sewing it together tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Contraband Heart available for pre-order

After an extraordinarily long time, there is finally another Age of Sail novel from me! The trouble was that after writing a naval voyage to the Arctic (in False Colors,) and another to Australia (in Blessed Isle,) I’d got to the point where I felt there was nothing fresh left to do. I was wrong about that, obviously, since there were plenty of places around the world I hadn’t written naval adventures in. Still, something had to change in order for me to feel interested again.

What changed was that I was asked to write another Porthkennack book, and that meant the story had to centre around our shared-world Cornish town. I couldn’t go galavanting across the world this time. The sea was still there, though, and still vitally important to the Cornish setting.

You know what else was important to the Cornish economy in the 18th Century? Smuggling.

I was initially reluctant to write a novel about the cat and mouse romance of a smuggler and an Excise Man, because I thought “the Cornish smuggling novel has already been done. I don’t want to compete with Daphne du Maurier!” But then I re-read Jamaica Inn and was surprised by how sinister her smugglers were, when my research showed that the Cornish people tended to regard successful smugglers as Robin Hood types, who robbed from a rich and uncaring government to give to the poor and starving locals.

Add some Methodists and some miners, and the French Revolution giving an uncanny mirror to current politics, and I was happy that I could come up with something very different, but hopefully equally entertaining. I hope it’s worth the wait 🙂

I can’t show you the cover art yet, but I can assure you that it’s the most romantic cover I’ve ever seen. More on that later!

Contraband Heart is available for pre-order here

500 Word Reaction – to Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Oh yes. This was a much better film than The Force Awakens. It managed to retain themes from the OT while never quite going in a way you expected. I’m not going to give any spoilers (except maybe in a very vague way) but this was a much more satisfying film altogether. Although I enjoyed TFA, I felt that it was very much a re-tred of things that had already been done before. I also felt that it was so painfully black and white that I couldn’t really believe in any of the characters.

Finn and Rey, in particular, seemed too undamaged by the places in which they had grown up. It was hard for me to believe that a girl who grew up all but feral and a boy who grew up as a child soldier would turn out to be the impeccable moral paragons they seemed to be in that film.

TLJ corrected that, and we got to see some of the doubt and darkness in Rey, which made her good heart just stand out all the more. And Finn’s journey from ‘fugitive from the First Order’ to ‘actual Resistance hero’ was given space in this film to unfold a bit more naturally as he gets to see more of life outside the stormtrooper barracks.

I might be alone in this, but I loved what they did with Luke, allowing him to have humanity and doubts, and to have grown old and regretful. Why not? He might be a legend but he’s also a person. And then that ending, with its combination of badassery and peace? I think Obi-Wan would have been proud.

I loved Rose! I hope she gets to be a major player in the next movie too.

I thought the interaction between Kylo and Rey was very interesting, and there was even a point where I was willing to like Kylo more, about half way through. But it went away again later. I still hope they won’t go down the direction of having Kylo and Rey balance the light and dark sides of the force by ending up in some kind of literal marriage. That would be hokey. But I was glad to see less evidence of that in this film than I feared.

I had the impression from all the background material that we were going to see more of Phasma. She still hasn’t been given the airtime that she deserves. But it was nice to see more of Hux. That poor man! He is having a very bad day.

There is a scene with Leia that will haunt me for some time. If this is her last movie, I think it’s a great scene to go out on; powerful, beautiful and awe inspiring.

I think I only have one real complaint. That is that it’s disappointing that the movie canon’s first on screen LGBT character sacrifices herself to save them all. How many times have I seen that gambit used before? Too many.