2017 – What a year!!!

My debut year has been a blast, here are some of the highlights…

AfterEllen recommended Highland Fling on their Official Summer 2017 Reading List.

DIVA Magazine reviewed Highland Fling in their June Pride Issue.

 

“Take a day off, curl up and lose yourself in this lovely lesbian romance.” – Sita Balani

 


Bold Strokes Books authors rocking it at Gay’s The Word – what a magical evening that was. Thanks Uli and Robin for being such great hosts.


Author panel at Lfest 2017 – what a magical weekend. Thanks Cindy and the LFest Crew for putting on such a fantastic festival of arts, music and entertainment.

Click here to read my interview with Velvet Lounger from the Lesbian Reading Room.


Radio DIVA interview – Thanks Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace for being such great hosts.

Listen here to me chatting about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins).

Radio DIVA Interview


Look out for my new lesbian romance Love’s Portrait to be released in 2019. In the meantime why not check out my short story Hooper Street which is available now on amazon.


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

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DIVA Literary Festival

DIVA Literary FestivalI’m thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural DIVA Literary Festival and Awards which are taking place at the Hilton Metropole, NEC Birmingham on 3rd/4th/5th November 2017.

The weekend will begin on the Friday evening with the DIVA Literary Awards and continue with two days full of book readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, poetry readings and much more.

Come and perhaps discover your new favourite writers!

Radio DIVA Interview

To tempt your appetite for the weekend listen here to me chatting with Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace on Radio DIVA.

I chat about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins)

I look forward to seeing you there …

 

Saturday Nov 4th 10:30 – 11:15 
LEADING LADIES
Iconic literary characters live on in readers’ memories for all time. Bold Strokes Books authors explore the challenges involved in creating memorable characters and discuss strategies for making characters unique, non-traditional, and unforgettable.

Sunday Nov 5th 12:45 – 13:30
GENRE BENDING
From Fantasy to Adventure to Romance, Bold Strokes Books authors discuss what drew them to write in their particular genre(s). What are the similarities between genres? Where is there overlap? Do genre conventions matter?

 

Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival June 2017

Talk To Me - Writing Good Dialogue
Writing Good Dialogue Panel

 

“Writing good dialogue”

Here are some of the ways I think good dialogue contributes to a story:-

 

 

  • It can entertain – enlivening the prose and engaging the reader.
  • It can move an aspect of the plot or narrative forward in a way which, because it is absorbed within the ‘chat’, feels light and digestible – meeting the wise adage of show not tell.
  • It can impart information about a character, allowing the reader to: ‘hear’ the character’s unique voice; ‘see’ their mannerisms; and ‘understand’ their emotions/reactions.
  • It can reveal how a character can change depending on who they’re talking to, illuminating the distinct relationship between characters. For example, a character chatting with their best mate might have ‘banter’, but the same character with their lover may have much more intense dialogue.
  • It can heighten the potency and the impact of a character’s internal thoughts, at times playing with the unspoken monologues. For example, when a character thinks one thing but says the opposite.
  • Particularly if the piece is written in third person, where you have a silent narrator if you like, it can cleverly allow the writer to say things the narrator can’t. Dialogue lends a character a dangerous independence.

So here’s a checklist of some of the things I think about when I’m writing dialogue:-

  1. Does the style of the dialogue I’m writing match the personality of my character? Is the ‘voice’ authentic to them?
  2. Does the tone and content of the dialogue fit the moment in the narrative? Are the characters saying the right thing, in the right manner, at the right time?
  3. Is the content of the dialogue engaging and informative, and will it help my reader better understand either the character and/or the plot?
  4. Is the dialogue easy to read – does it flow?
  5. Will the reader know at all times who is speaking and what is going on?
  6. Have I been careful not to overuse dialogue tags – those speech tags attributing dialogue, actions, and emotions to a particular character?
  7. Have I remembered that the pauses or pregnant silences can be as important as what is actually being said – the natural rhythm of speech if you like.

Top tip:-

Try sitting in public spaces and listen to people chatting. Hear how they interrupt each other, how they might begin on one subject and end on another, how passionate or flat their tone is.

Can you (without looking of course) imagine what they look like, what their life might be like?  What is distinctive about them – is it their accent, the pace of their speech, is their language – informal or formal?

And finally – listen to your characters chatting in your head (and they do!), let your writing be their voice.

 


 

“Thoughts about ‘Conflict’ in fiction writing”

 

Moderating the Conflict Panel
Danger, Conflict, Uh-Oh Panel

In works of narrative, ‘Conflict’ is the opposition main characters must face to achieve their goals.1

A writer might employ two forms of conflict to create the tension which drives the narrative. Conflict may be ‘internal’ or ‘external’ – it may occur within a character’s mind, most commonly revealed in their internal debates or monologues or between a character and exterior forces, for example in conflict with another person or the world around them.

Writers will often employ both forms at once, as a combined tool, for the development of plot and character.

To avoid the conflict feeling forced or unbelievable a writer will embed the conflict at the heart of the novel, so that it is an integral element and arises organically and effortlessly.

Conflict creates drama and interest in a novel by setting seeds of doubt, it keeps the reader guessing, it invests the reader in the outcome, and keeps them turning the pages again and again…

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_(narrative)

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Writing the narrative of our lives

At this time of such political uncertainty I am so thankful for those organisations who tirelessly work to protect our LGBT lives. Last week we celebrated IDAHOBIT day (17th May, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, & Transphobia). IDAHOBIT day was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally.1 Here in the UK, ahead of the election, Stonewall2 has been working to challenge parliamentary candidates to commit to protecting LGBT rights in the UK and abroad.

I think of this vital work, however, as the visible tip of the iceberg. Because, as with many things in life, the force behind change can often be found in the relatively small things we do on a regular basis.

For example, when as writers and readers we gather together each year at the Bold Strokes Books Festival to celebrate LGBT fiction, whilst our purpose may not be to debate politics or mastermind campaigns, it nonetheless cannot be underestimated what we are achieving.

We are creating for ourselves a precious, safe space where we can openly and joyfully connect with each other as we share in our love of LGBT literature. As we passionately talk about why these stories mean so much to us, and what we want our stories of the future to look like, we are actively writing the narrative of our lives. We are claiming our voice and asserting our individual identities.

I am so grateful to be participating in the 8th Annual Bold Stokes Books Festival, and empowered by the fact that in a small but significant way, as writers and readers, we are contributing to the wider work to challenge ignorance, discrimination, and injustice.

  1. http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/
  2. http://www.stonewall.org.uk/

Literary Crush – Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

rita-mae-brown
1.  Rita Mae Brown

“The most revolutionary thing you can do is to be yourself.”2

These are the words of Rita Mae Brown, the 2015 Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award, and winner of the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award, and author of the seminal novel Rubyfruit Jungle.

Written in 1971, and published in 1973, Rubyfruit Jungle tells the story of the feisty, resolute and unapologetic heroine Molly Bolt. It was an immediate hit, outselling the capacity of its small press Daughters Inc. 3

Told in the first person through the voice of Molly, the reader intimately follows her development from childhood to her early twenties. Molly is determined not to be told who she is, or who she should be or what she can’t do or think. Her unapologetic attitude to sex in particular is liberating to read. She is her own person and that is her strength and allure. Her confidence glows out to the reader.

“I don’t care whether they [people] like me or not. Everybody’s stupid that’s what I think. I care if I like me that’s what I truly care about.”4

The story of Rubyfruit Jungle is one of a battle, bravely fought, against the casual horrors of Molly’s life. She fights hard to not be limited or defined by her illegitimacy, poverty, homelessness, sexuality, class, societal expectations, racism or by sexism.

However, as with true heroism, she does not escape scar free. When she is expelled from college for causing a scandal by sleeping with her female college roommate, it shapes Molly for good.

“I closed the door forever on idealism and the essential goodness of human nature.”5

And yet she is not a cynical character. She swallows her bitterness and refuses to give in on her ambition to be a film maker, despite the evidence to suggest her dreams are futile. This is inspiring.

Molly becomes a symbolic figure of defiance, a character of contrast to those around her who aren’t as smart or as bravely determined not to be limited by circumstance. Molly’s childhood friends and lovers succumb to their seemingly inevitable fates of marriage and jobs which fit society rather than them. The individual is seen to be lost if it is not claimed, created and fought for, particularly if your start in life presumes against this.

And that for me is the essence of the book – fight to find and be yourself.

Observers are often dismayed when Rita Mae Brown distances herself from seeing Rubyfruit Jungle as a lesbian novel.6 But if you step back from reading Molly purely as a lesbian role model to see Molly also as a campaigner for individual freedom, then you hit upon why Rubyfruit Jungle is so meaningful to so many.

Ultimately Rubyfruit Jungle is about the championing of free will, without which we have nothing other than that imposed on us by others.

“If Rubyfruit Jungle helped to push you on your path to freedom, I’ve done something right.”7   Rita Mae Brown.

  1. The Lavender Menace was an informal group of lesbian radical feminists formed to protest the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the feminist movement at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City on May 1, 1970. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Menace
  2. https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/extracts/2016/jun/rita-mae-brown-introduces-a-new-edition-of-rubyfruit-jungle/
  3. https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/rita-mae-brown-rubyfruit-jungle-interview
  4. p. 36, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Penguin Books, 1994.
  5. p. 131, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Penguin Books, 1994.
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/rita-mae-brown-awarded-as-pioneer-of-lesbian-literature-scoffs-at-the-term/2015/05/30/60169a62-00a5-11e5-833c-a2de05b6b2a4_story.html
  7. https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/extracts/2016/jun/rita-mae-brown-introduces-a-new-edition-of-rubyfruit-jungle/

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Literary Crush – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf 1 June 1939

Discovering the writing in the shadows of the writer.

I can’t remember when I first heard the name Virginia Woolf; I seem somehow to have always known of her. A tall slim-framed woman, with a long face and a slightly severe expression – set off by sad eyes, heavy lidded with the weight of her convictions.

As a member of the Bloomsbury Set2 of thinkers and artists Woolf was determined to challenge conventional thinking and intelligent enough to find the language to validate her life lived on its own terms.

And it was that life lived on its own terms that I first engaged with. I remember being enthralled by the scandal of her affairs with women, most notably Vita Sackville-West3, who inspired her famous gender-bending novel Orlando.

But here is the problem for me – I was so taken with her that I found I couldn’t see past the woman to find the writing. It was like her work was overshadowed by her infamy. I knew I needed a way into her writing but I just didn’t expect it to come in the form of an essay.

The essay On Being Ill4 was written by Woolf in January 1926 for The New Criterion5 and I was immediately intrigued by this quieter, less celebrated work.

Woolf, like so many creative individuals, infamously struggled to maintain her mental health. She endured terrible bouts of depression which ultimately led to her suicide in 1941, at the age of 59. My sense is that the price of seeking freedom from convention is not measured in sterling or dollars but in the degrees to which the human spirit can be tested and broken. There is nothing ‘free’ about free-thinking.

I wondered whether a hint of regret might emerge of the toll taken upon her by having lived a pioneering life. No, instead Woolf defiantly sets the ‘recumbent’ bed-ridden individual up against the ‘upright’ healthy as she explains that it is the ‘recumbent’, on their back ‘with their face to the sky’ who can see the world with a fresh perspective.

It is a perspective which scrutinises those ‘genial pretences’, such as sympathy:-

“We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds’ feet is unknown.”6

And there it was – shining, her writing, her beautiful prose, her imagination on the page.

Woolf goes on to explain that her imaginative powers became enhanced with illness.

“In health meaning has encroached upon sound. Our intelligence domineers over our senses. But in illness, with the police off duty, we creep beneath some obscure poem by Mallarme or Donne, some phrase in Latin or Greek, and the words give out their scent and distil their flavour, and then, if at last we grasp the meaning, it is all the richer for having come to us sensually first, by way of the palate and the nostrils, like some queer odour.”7

With every page I turned, Woolf the celebrity gave way to Woolf the writer. Not only in her lyricism, but as she explored the notion that ill health had given her a unique perspective on life, her way into new levels of creative experience. No famous novel could tell the reader this – no journey To The Lighthouse, no party with Mrs Dalloway, could afford such insight.

And as my snowfield glistens, Virginia Woolf is no longer in the way of Virginia Woolf.

 

Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)

  1. Photo: Gisèle Freund/IMEC/Fonds MCC, printed in the Telegraph 9 July 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/10914210/The-last-photograph-of-Virginia-Woolf.html
  2. The Bloomsbury Set. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/bloomsbury-group/introduction/profiles
  3. Vita Sackville-West. http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/03/09/a-thing-that-wants-virginia/
  4. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection
  5. The New Criterion https://thenewcriterion1926.wordpress.com/
  6. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection
  7. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

The Objects We Treasure – Diva Magazine

We all have certain objects that we treasure – that evoke cherished memories of moments, people, and places.

Some Of My Diva Magazine Collection – circa 1994 onwards.Diva1994

The recent news that Jane Hill, a respected journalist and newsreader at the BBC, will be writing a column for Diva Magazine is both exciting and important. Whenever a high profile figure endorses LGBT lives it gives the bully “homophobia” a bloody nose.

I remember buying my first Diva in 1994, the year Diva was first published. It was incredible that a tiny newsagent in a small town in mid-wales, where I was studying, stocked it and I remember thinking a whole magazine for lesbians, WOW. It was also around that time that kd lang was making me feel all unnecessary by ruffling her hair in her video for Constant Craving…anyway I digress.

These early issues included interviews with Sandra Bernhard, the newly-out Sandi Toksvig, and the wonderful late Claire Rayner. Agony Aunt Claire spoke with forthright compassion about ‘the injustice of it all’ in relation to the unequal age of consent. High profile figures endorsing LGBT lives…wait, hold on, that was what twenty odd years ago?

Anyone else have a sinking feeling that nothing has really changed – role models as important now as then –  the need to challenge homophobia and to assert our rights still as relevant now as in 1994…if not more so?

In her recent email Chief Executive Officer of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, challenges LGBT people today to ask themselves “Are we really free to be ourselves wherever we are?”

So a heartfelt thank you Diva, for surviving in the fickle climate of publishing and for working so faithfully to ensure that the lives of lesbian and bisexual women can be visible, celebrated and endorsed.

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.