Exposed – the book that very nearly wasn’t.

Exposed took a long time to write for several reasons. I started it way back in October 2019, but I had a deadline for a Christmas book so I had to stop. Then I’d agreed to write a vampire short story for an anthology. Then I had the EagerBoyz book 2 on pre-order which ended up a lot longer than it was supposed to be (story of my life) and then it was a Valentine freebie short story that I needed to write. Anyway, you get the picture. So between October and February I only managed to write about 20 000 words of it. None of these are the reasons it nearly didn’t exist though.

March came, and yay, I could actually get on with writing it and I wrote another 25k. And then disaster struck, my laptop died and I couldn’t even get it to switch on, never mind access the files. I hadn’t backed up my recent work on this book and I was faced with those words being gone forever. For those people that have read Exposed, it was basically the whole section between arriving at Jim’s bunker and jumping off the train. I realised something in that twenty-four hours: that I didn’t think I could rewrite those words. I’m a perfectionist and I would have been too intent on trying to get the words the same, too hung up on them not being as good that I just don’t think I could have attempted it. So there you go if I hadn’t (eventually) been able to get back into that laptop after trying a hundred different things, I don’t think this book would ever have been finished. And then of course there was the fact it ended up really really long – the length of 2 books. So yeah, I definitely think I should celebrate this book existing.

I’m terrible at knowing where book ideas came from. But for this one, I actually do know. It was basically influenced by three films. The first one was Terminator which is why it was referenced in the book and it was influenced by the bit just prior to the love scene between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese where he’s all business and survival and she’s trying to make jokes about what a fun upbringing they had when they’re trying to put some explosives together. Minority report influenced the DTP, except they didn’t have rocket packs, thank God, and there was no precognitive abilities. And the third was an obscure gay film called Boy Culture where I always liked that the character was called X – although he was a gay hustler who refused to have sex that wasn’t for money, not a knife-wielding assassin.

Will I revisit this world? Possibly. I’d quite like to know Bartholomew’s story. I’d quite like to find out what Psyche gets up to when he’s not running around for good old Granny Talon (God knows where that name came from) and I imagine there might be a couple of star-crossed lovers in the heart of the DTP who maybe don’t want to be there. I guess time will tell whether it happens.

Rainbow Advent Calendar 2019

Hello all, I’m really happy to be taking part in the Rainbow Advent Calendar for the second year in a row.

If you didn’t read the story that I wrote last year, you can find it here on Prolific Works.

If you’re not already a member of the Rainbow Advent Calendar FB group, you can find it here.

The master post featuring the links to all the lovely free stories every day can be found here.

So here’s my story.

All I Want

Jesse

I blew on my hands to try and force some warmth into them as I paced up and down in front of the pub where we’d agreed to meet, the December cold kicking my ass. Lincoln was late, but then he’d never been on time for anything as far as I could recall ever since the day we’d first met as eight-year-olds, eleven years ago. I smiled at the vivid memory. I’d started a new school and despite my parents telling me over and over again that I’d quickly make new friends to replace the ones left behind in Nottingham, I hadn’t.

It was the third day that I’d spent break time alone in the playground, trying to look as if I didn’t care, when the curly-haired boy had run up and stared at me with wide brown eyes. Whatever I’d expected, it wasn’t for the boy to hold out an upturned palm with a red sweet that looked like it had been kicked around the playground by every pair of feet in it, and solemnly ask if I wanted to be his friend. I’d taken the sweet—because manners—and I’d gladly accepted the invitation to be his friend. And just like that a friendship had been born and we’d been inseparable ever since.

I liked to think it was because we balanced each other out. Where I was prone to being a little too serious, Lincoln was the joker. Where I frequently overanalyzed everything, Lincoln had a tendency to rush in without thinking of the consequences. Yet, we’d always been there for each other. Albeit, fifteen minutes late in Lincoln’s case, but you couldn’t have everything. No doubt he’d stopped to help an old lady cross the road, or found a lost dog wandering around and was trying to locate its owner. Because that was the kind of guy Lincoln was and you just had to accept it. And I had, a long time ago. It didn’t mean I wasn’t his priority; it just meant there were other people he’d deemed as needing him more in that particular moment.

It was one of the things I loved about him. And not loved in a brotherly way or a best friend way either, but in a love way. It had just taken me a long time to realize it. Somewhere in amongst all our teenage escapades, between discussing our first kisses—both with boys—my feelings had grown to the point where the only person I wanted to kiss was Lincoln. From that point on, it had become like a burning obsession where I wasn’t interested in anyone else apart from my best friend. I’d suffered through Lincoln having a boyfriend, hiding my own hurt by immersing myself into a fledgling relationship which had never really stood a chance. I’d somehow hidden my glee when Lincoln’s relationship had ground to a halt, short of the two of them sleeping together. I knew that because, oblivious as Lincoln was to my feelings, he still told me everything. 

A week ago, I’d reached a decision. I couldn’t go on like this; I needed to tell Lincoln how I felt about him. Because maybe, just maybe, he felt the same. And if he didn’t, well then, I supposed we’d cross that bridge when we came to it. But at least I’d know, one way or the other and I could stop tormenting myself with how good we could be together—how much stronger a relationship might be if it was already built on an eleven-year friendship. Even the thought had my heart racing, and if my hands hadn’t been so cold my palms would probably have been sweaty too. Only, it was one thing to reach a decision. It was apparently another thing entirely to actually do it. I’d spent the last week trying to work out a way to raise the subject and chickened out every single time.

So tonight was the night.

I was going to tell him before the evening was out even if it killed me, even if I made myself look like the biggest idiot in the world and Lincoln laughed at me. Because at least I’d know.

My restless pacing sent me careering straight into the solid chest of a man on his way into the pub. I stumbled backward, almost falling over. “Sorry.” Jeez! The man was built like a brick shithouse, all muscles and bulk. Not my type at all. But then a guy would have to have brown eyes, dark curly hair and go by the name of Lincoln to register on my radar. I had it bad. Really bad. The man nodded, accepting my apology before politely stepping away, Christmas music spilling from the interior of the pub as he entered.

“Wow! I leave you alone for two minutes and you start throwing yourself at random men.”

I spun around, finding myself looking into the laughing face of my friend, the beautiful brown eyes twinkling with amusement. “I wasn’t… I didn’t… I just wasn’t looking where I was going.”

Lincoln’s forehead creased, the laugh segueing into an expression of concern. “It was just a joke. Are you alright?”

No, I wasn’t alright. I was an absolute bundle of nerves, Lincoln’s mere presence having the same effect on me as it always did. I wanted to lean in and cover Lincoln’s lips with my own and find out what he tasted like. I wanted to slide my cold hands inside his jacket and press our bodies together. I wanted it all and every time I saw him, the temptation just got harder and harder to resist. It was like an ache that never went away. If he rejected me, I was probably going to wither away before Christmas even got here. “I’m fine. Just… you know… cold, waiting for you to get here.”

Lincoln stepped forward, seizing hold of both of my hands. He wasn’t wearing gloves either but somehow his hands had managed to stay warm. Or at least much warmer than my own were. My breath caught in my throat, Lincoln’s gaze meeting mine as he rubbed my frozen fingers between the palms of his hands. It really didn’t help when he did stuff like that. “You should have waited inside.”

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Lincoln’s face, couldn’t force any sort of response past my lips. There was only the feel of Lincoln’s body warmth leaching into mine from the contact of our hands and the slight curve of his lips as Lincoln aimed his familiar smile in my direction. God, I loved that smile; it always made me feel so special. At this rate I wouldn’t need to tell him how I felt, Lincoln was going to be able to read it from the expression on my face. Maybe that was easier? Just let all the longing I’d felt for the last year since I’d admitted to myself how I felt show on my face?

Before I could come to a decision, Lincoln was stepping away and pulling the door of the pub open. “Come on, let’s get some beer inside you before you turn into a snowman.” He continued to chat as we made our way over to the bar to get drinks. “Sorry, I was late. I was on time but there was a woman around the corner who’d locked herself out of her house. I offered to climb through the window for her. I had a bit of a tussle with a Christmas tree, which was a bit of a close-run thing, but I won in the end.”

I smiled at the knowledge I’d been right; Lincoln had been playing the hero again. It was uncanny how he always managed to walk straight into rescue scenarios. Someone needed to get him a white horse and a suit of armor so he could play the knight role properly when he swooped in to save the day.

The pub hadn’t filled up yet so it was easy to find an empty table. A couple of hours later and we wouldn’t have had the same luxury. Lincoln winked as we sat down, gesturing over to the table opposite. “There’s your friend… the one you threw yourself at. He’s kinda hot if you don’t mind them a bit older.” I followed his gaze, finding the man I’d bumped into sat minding his own business nursing a pint of beer. Lincoln’s comment could be the opening I’d been searching for. I took a deep breath. “I don’t like them older. I like them the same age. In fact, I like—”

“I love this song.”

“What?” I blinked. I hadn’t even registered there was music playing, never mind what it was. It was only when he said it that I recognized the familiar strains of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas.’ “Yeah, it’s a good song.”

Lincoln nodded. “It’s part of the soundtrack to that new film. The one starring thingamyjig from Game of Thrones. We should go and see it because you like romantic films. No Kit Harrington, though, unfortunately.”

“Shhhh.” I quickly checked left and right to make sure no one had heard the comment about me liking romantic films. It was true, but that didn’t mean Lincoln had to tell everyone. He knew things about me that no one else knew. The same way I knew things about him—like his fear of crabs. Not the sexually transmitted kind, although I’m sure he wasn’t too keen on them either, the type you found a beach. He’d had a run-in with one as a toddler where one had attached itself to his big toe and refused to let go. Luckily, there weren’t too many crabs around in London. But he even averted his eyes if we passed a fishmonger’s window. I’d often joked that he was even scared of crabs coming back to life and chasing him down the street.

I needed to tell him how I felt. It was better to get it out there. The longer I left it, the harder it would get. The last week had proven that. “Linc, I—”

He’s our age.”

“What?”

This time Lincoln was staring at a young, dark-haired man. He looked irritated, his foot tapping impatiently as he stared into space. He sighed, before pulling a phone out of his pocket and shaking his head as he checked the screen. Seeming to come to some sort of decision, he put his phone back in his pocket and shrugged his shoulders into his jacket.

Lincoln cleared his throat. “Your type?”

“No.” You are. Just you. No one else. I closed my mouth to stop any of the words escaping, except I was meant to be telling him, right? Not like that, though. I wanted it to be a little smoother. I wanted to sound self-assured and maybe even a little blasé, like it wasn’t a big deal, even though it really was. “Actually, there’s someone that I’m more than a little interested in.” That was a good start. A huge understatement but at least it should get him asking questions.

“Oh, hello.”

Great! He sounded interested. Except his attention wasn’t on me. It was still fastened on the dark-haired guy. A bolt of pure jealousy shot through me. Was that why he’d been trying to find out if the stranger was my type? Just a way of ensuring that I wasn’t going to be competition? If so, we were so far off the same page, we might as well have been in different libraries.

The dark-haired guy was oblivious to our scrutiny, his eyes meeting and holding the gaze of the man I’d bumped into earlier. On his way to the exit, there was a moment where he wavered before changing course and strolling over to the older man’s table. He leaned forward until his lips hovered by his ear, saying something too quietly for me to be able to make out what it was. It didn’t take a genius to work out though, that it was something sexual, the older man’s face lighting up like a Christmas tree as the younger dark-haired man held his hand out to him.

Lincoln leaned over the table without taking his eyes off them. “What do you think he asked him?”

I shrugged. “No idea and its none of our business, really.” Yet, I still didn’t look away, strangely fascinated by what might happen next.

A battle of wills raged across the older man’s face before he took the hand that had been offered and they both disappeared through the restroom door out of sight.

Lincoln grinned. “I bet they’re not going in there for a nice chat.”

“I guess not.” Why couldn’t I be that direct? But then there was a huge difference between offering sexual favors to a stranger and telling your best friend of eleven years that you’d fallen in love with him. If the stranger said no, there was nothing more serious than a slightly bruised ego to deal with. If Lincoln said no, then I was facing the possibility of losing his friendship. He would say that it was okay, but what if he didn’t really mean it? What if he started creating space between the two of us and things got weird? I wouldn’t be able to bear it. Not when I couldn’t even remember the last day we’d gone without speaking.

I sat back in my chair, no longer sure I was doing the right thing, my gaze straying to the large Christmas tree in the corner and examining every bauble carefully to avoid looking at Lincoln.

“What’s wrong?”

I tore my eyes away from the tree and forced myself to meet his gaze. “Nothing’s wrong.”

Lincoln leaned forward again. “Okay, let’s cut the bullshit. You’ve been weird for a while now. Weeks. Maybe even longer. Weird with me. Have I done something?”

“No!” Fuck! There I was thinking I’d done so well to hide my feelings and he’d sensed something was wrong all along. Why hadn’t he said anything before?

“Is it something to do with this guy you said you liked?”

So he had been listening. Shame really. Given that I’d changed my mind about admitting my feelings, I could have done without him hearing that. What was I supposed to say now? In lieu of any idea, I simply shrugged.

Lincoln sighed. “Who is it? Don’t tell me he’s not interested in you. He’d have to be an idiot.”

The words caused a flutter in my chest. “Would he?”

He smiled. “Course he would. You’re gorgeous. You’re caring. You’re sweet. You’re the best listener and you always know how to make someone feel better when they’re feeling down. Anyone would be lucky to have you as a boyfriend.”

The flutter turned into a fully-grown raven fighting to clamber out of my chest. I hovered on the precipice of what to say next. My brain said I should just laugh the words off, but my heart, well, my heart wasn’t feeling quite so amenable. I took a big gulp of beer and forced myself to meet his gaze, my heart beating so rapidly I felt dizzy. “So why haven’t we ever…?”

I didn’t need to finish the sentence. I could see from the expression on his face and the way he rocked back in his seat that he understood exactly what I was asking. What I couldn’t tell was what he was thinking apart from that. Whether he was just surprised by the question or horrified. Or something else. Please be something else.

“Because…” He dragged the word out as if every letter had to crawl out of his esophagus separately. “…I didn’t think you looked at me that way.”

“Didn’t you?” My response was barely a whisper. I was so close to putting everything on the line. Not in the way I’d intended, but I guessed how you got there wasn’t as important as reaching the destination.

Lincoln frowned. “Remember when we were thirteen and I told you I was gay?”

I did remember. I’d been so relieved to not only be able to tell someone I was too, but to share the experience with someone who understood. As a confused thirteen-year-old still coming to terms with the fact that girls held no interest for me, it had been everything. I nodded, wondering where Lincoln was going with this.

“Remember when I suggested we should practice on each other?” Lincoln’s lips curled into a devilish grin. “You turned me down flat.”

I struggled to think back, trying to remember all the reasons adolescent me had thought it would be a terrible idea to practice kissing with your best friend. But I couldn’t recall. It had just seemed ridiculous at the time. Maybe I’d developed slower than Lincoln had and I just hadn’t been ready? Or perhaps I’d been too scared of getting caught? I didn’t know. It was like trying to remember a completely different person.

Had he been holding onto that for years? Taking teenage rejection as evidence that… but then that would mean he felt the same. My gaze shot to his, my tongue darting out to moisten suddenly dry lips. He shrugged beneath my scrutiny, looking more uncertain than I’d ever seen him look before. Our eyes were locked together, neither of us speaking. One of us needed to break the impasse. My fingers inched across the table, stopping just short of his. “I’d practice with you now. Thirteen-year-old me was clearly missing brain cells.”

Lincoln went still. “Would you?” His fingers moved forward until the tips were touching mine. “Since when?”

I curled my fingers around his. “A long time. Too long. I just didn’t know how to say it. I thought you’d laugh.”

He shook his head, the curls I loved so much bouncing with the movement. I longed to bury my fingers in them. Lincoln smiled but it still held that edge of caution. “I would never have laughed. Not at you. Not about this.”

Time seemed frozen for a moment. I peeked under my eyelashes at him, feeling strangely shy. Lincoln was the person I knew better than anyone in the world, but not like this, not with our emotions scattered across the table between us. This was brand new territory for both of us and it was scary as hell. I just needed to take that last leap of faith and believe that Lincoln would be there to catch me. I threaded my fingers with his. “I’m kind of… in love with you. I have been for a while.”

A slow smile spread across his face. “Kind of?”

I laughed. That was the Lincoln I knew, always ready to pick me up on being vague. “Okay. More than kind of. I’ve been trying to—”

“Me too.”

“What?” He couldn’t mean what I thought he meant. There was no way the stars could align that perfectly and I could be that lucky.

His fingers tightened around mine. “The love thing. Me too.”

The world was suddenly a bright technicolor when before it had been muted. Colors were brighter, smells more pronounced, sounds were clearer. And apparently Lincoln, my childhood friend, the boy who’d grown into a man by my side felt the same as I did. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a choir of angels had suddenly appeared right next to us. As it was, there was no angels. There was just Lincoln and he was more than enough.

Lincoln’s fingers separated from mine and he bounded away from the table, leaving me confused. He stopped in the middle of the floor, turning to grin at me. “Come here.”

Despite my befuddlement, I left the table. Because whatever Lincoln asked, I would do it, even if it meant crossing a shark-infested sea. As there were no sharks, I crossed the floor to stand in front of him. “Why are we…?”

He tilted his head, his gaze moving slowly upward with mine automatically following until I saw the mistletoe nestled in among the hanging Christmas decorations. “Oh!”

Lincoln moved closer. “I thought…”

“Yeah.”

We both seemed incapable of stringing more than a couple of words together. If we couldn’t talk then we were probably better off doing something else. Like kissing. I stepped forward, giving in to temptation and sinking my fingers into Lincoln’s curls. They felt just as good as I’d always known they would. His arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me in and I savored the moment.

Our first kiss. Hopefully the first of many.

And then I stopped thinking and concentrated on feeling, our lips meeting in a kiss which started off chaste but then quickly deepened, our mouths moving so easily together that it might as well have been choreographed. Our words might be awkward but luckily our bodies were much better at communicating.

When we finally broke apart, we were both grinning like idiots. Lincoln cupped a hand to his ear and pointed to the speaker just as Mariah Carey sang, “All I want for Christmas is you.”

I nodded and we both started laughing.

The feeling was mutual. This was going to be one hell of a Christmas.

The End

Want to know what was going on with the other pair in the pub and what they got up to in the restroom?

Find out in my recent Christmas release, Christmas Riches.

Buy or read on KU here.

Opposites might attract. But does that include age?

Christmas comes early for Aiden Malone in the form of a seductive, blue-eyed stranger down on his knees. But a shocking revelation about his new “friend” has him running for the hills and cursing his stupidity before the night is out.

Tom’s not prepared to give up that easily. He may be rich where Aiden’s poor. Innocent in a way that Aiden isn’t. And on the wrong side of twenty. But he’s old enough to know what he wants. And that’s Aiden. He just needs to persuade the older man to look past his hang-ups about age and wealth.

Lust and prejudice pull Aiden in opposite directions, severely testing his willpower. As Tom’s layers begin to peel away, Aiden discovers the younger man’s life of privilege may not be all it seems. If Aiden gives in, they could have the sweetest Christmas that either of them has ever tasted.

But Tom’s about to shatter their joy with a surprise announcement. Decisions need to be made on both sides. It’s down to Aiden, though, to stay strong and decide whose happiness is more important. His? Or Tom’s? Because they can’t have it both ways.

It’s possible their relationship won’t even last as long as it takes for the snow to melt.

The state of my brain at the moment.

There was a point earlier in this year, just after I finished writing A Step too Far where there was absolutely nothing that I wanted to write. It was the first time since I started writing that this has happened. I didn’t mention it to anyone. I didn’t admit to it. I just thought, okay, nine books, maybe that’s it. There was a little part of me that also thought it could be good if I’m being honest. I could go back to teaching full-time and actually make a proper income again. So because there was nothing appealing to write I figured I may as well knuckle down and write books that ‘should’ be written, rather than books I particularly wanted to so I started on Temporary Insanity and Rebellion. Rebellion got kind of pushed to the side as I made a decision to concentrate on Temporary Insanity.

Why am I writing this? Am I writing it to say that you can still write if you force yourself to do it. Nope. I’m writing this to say that I really miss that silence because the plot bunnies are all over the damn place at the moment.

This is my brain at the moment and I’m not going to edit this.

You have that 10k story to finish that’s now 27k. Finish that. But you need to get your Christmas story written over September. That’s the priority. When are you going to finish Rebellion? You really should finish that. Why are you spending so much time thinking about the characters in the urban apocalyptic story you want to write – you know the one with the blurb but no words. I know you want to write it but you can’t yet in case you get carried away and the Christmas story doesn’t happen. You’ve booked editing for the Christmas story. What about that dark fantasy story you started? When are you going to write that? What about Russell’s story?You came up with an idea for his love interest yesterday when you went for a walk. Paul and Indy should have a Christmas story, you know. Not this year. It’s too late for this year. But maybe next year. You’re already got an idea where they were and it’ll explain where they were during Dom and Tristan’s story. You know you’re going to write it. That’s why you called it book 1. Write that and Russell’s story and you can write the wedding. Oh, that’s how the Edge of Living sequel might work for having a similar-ish tone to the first one. Good idea. You should write that one day. That 27k story would be really easy to do spin-offs from. How about you write some more novellas linked to it. What about that story about the gymnast you were going to write? That would be good before the Olympics. What are you going to write for the 10k story now. You came up with two ideas. Which one?

Yeah, I kind of miss the silence.

The plot bunnies seem to have bred out of control.

When you’re way too hard on yourself!

I had a bit of a wake-up call recently. I know I’m a perfectionist and hard on myself. But I didn’t realise quite how much I look at the things I need to work on and don’t take any time to celebrate the successes I have until recently.

What gave me the wake-up call? A friend of mine once bought me a small bottle of expensive champagne for giving up my time and helping her with something. I say a friend. It was that long ago (probably about ten years) that she stopped talking to me about five years ago over a misunderstanding over a text message. I know. But that’s another story. Anyway, another friend said to me a while ago. “I can’t believe you haven’t drunk that champagne yet.” My answer. “I haven’t had any champagne moments.”

I thought about my answer later and had a bit of an epiphany over what I’d said and thought about all the events and milestones I’d had that would and probably should have been classed as champagne moments. I’m going to list them below in roughly chronological order. I’m sure there’s probably more that I don’t even remember but these are the most obvious.

  • Got a promotion to a management role in my teaching job.
  • Left that job. Got the first job I went for, even though it was in a Secondary school.
  • Got my first book accepted by a publisher.
  • 1st book was published in December 2015.
  • 2nd book was accepted by a publisher.
  • 2nd book was published.
  • 2nd book stayed in US top 100 for gay romance for months.
  • Learned to self-publish and self-published 3rd book when the publisher shut down.
  • Wrote and released 6 more books.
  • Had a medical diagnosis which was a hell of a lot better than what had been running through my head for months.
  • Had an audiobook company contact me, asking for the rights of a series. Signed Contract.
  • Had an Italian translator contact me, asking for the rights of the same series. Signed contract.

So yeah, no champagne moments.

Why am I writing this? On August 29th I’m releasing my 10th book. And do you know what. I’m going to drink that damn champagne- lol.

A Step too Far.

So, the sequel to A Dance too Far, A Step too Far is finished and ready for release on June 3rd. A couple of amazing things about this book. One that I actually wrote it straight after the first one without getting distracted. Two, that neither of these books were meant to be on the list of books to write in 2019. I never thought I’d get to June (well, nearly-only two days away.) not having even started what I was supposed to be writing this year.

Really, both books tell one story, only with a focus on different characters in the second. That damn stock photo that ended up being the cover for the first book has a lot to answer for, for taking me down a rabbit-hole which took 167 000 words to resolve.

There is a character in the second book who may make me write a spin-off one day, but that would be a long way down the line and is not a definite. I guess I’ll wait and see what people have to say about the second book first.

I’m in negotiation with Tantor about turning both of these books into audiobooks so watch this space.

Childhood Toys

A fact about autism: As many as one-third of people with autism have epilepsy (seizure disorder)

I guess as a teacher, I’ve had more experience of autism than most. I’ve taught numerous children over the years who are on the autistic spectrum. All of them very different. From the incredibly challenging year three boy, who pushed me and threatened to stab me in the eye with pencils, but still turned up in the staff room eight years later to visit and tell me all about how he hadn’t come last in a race, to the incredibly sweet year eight boy who I taught maths intervention to, where my biggest success wasn’t anything to do with numbers, but the fact that after three months he could look me in the eye and say hello when he came to lessons. One thing I can say for sure is that they were all incredibly memorable in their own way and I can’t say that for every child I’ve taught over the years.

Please consider supporting a worthwhile charity such as Lindengate https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/lindengate which is a mental health charity which works with autistic children.

Link to the Masterpost: http://rjscott.co.uk/autism19

Hmm… I thought when I found out about writing this blog post. What’s this got to do with writing MM romance? How can I possibly find a link? Then I had a strange memory come back to me. As a child I had an inseparable best friend whose house I virtually lived at because her parents were much less strict than mine. I used to take my toys around to her house where we created some very strange games. Don’t let the balloon touch the floor, throw as many cuddly toys at each other as you can until you collapse from exhaustion, and silent pass messages to each other under the door immediately come to mind (we actually used to do that for hours.) I guess I was a weird child, and she was too – lol. I used to take my Sindy dolls around to her house. She had Barbie. I’d also inherited an action man from my older sister who’d somehow gotten it from a male friend of hers. My friend had also gotten an action man from somewhere. One with blue painted on underpants and eyes that moved with a little switch at the back of his head.

Blue pants Action Man.

Mine wasn’t quite so exotic. Anyway, we did what most kids do, we created a little fantasy world with lots of scenarios and played them out. What was the memory I recalled? The fact that for all the scenarios where Sindy (or Barbie) was dating Action man, we had an equal number of scenarios where Action man and Action man got a bit of man on man action. Funny, that I’d never remembered that before. So, I guess even then, my path was set to one day writing mm romance.

As part of this blog post, I decided to recall what my most memorable childhood toys were. So here goes. In no particular order.

1. Treehouse

God, I loved this toy. It had everything: characters, furniture, a dog, a lift that you could turn the handle to transport a character up and down the tree, a car, and it even pressed down and had a handle so you could store it away and nothing could fall out. The dog even had its own little detachable dog tree kennel. I also had the slightly less memorable park to go with it. Although the park did come with a bear, which I seem to remember liking a bit more than the dog.

2. My little ponies

I started with the blue one (Bluebell). Is it sad that I can remember his name? And from there I ended up with about eight of them. Six adults and two babies. Yes, there were baby my little ponies. The rainbow one was my favourite, although I do think it was usurped briefly by the one that came with freaking fairy wings, which I unfortunately couldn’t find a picture of. And were there scented ones? Or is that some sort of cheese dream I had?

Look! Pretty rainbow unicorn.

3. The 48k Spectrum

Minus all the obligatory wires and the huge eighties tape recorder it needed.

Every Sunday, my mum used to visit her friend for a couple of hours. My sister and I couldn’t wait because that’s when we were allowed to go through the painstakingly long process of setting up the Spectrum and actually trying to get a game to load from the tape recorder that you had to plug in just to play a very simplified (although it didn’t feel like that at the time) game. Most of the games were so difficult that you spent all your time just playing the same level over and over again in the vague hope that you might be able to advance. Although kudos to my sister, she achieved the unachievable in getting through every level of Manic Miner. And if the games weren’t enough, the manual used to come with pages and pages of coding that you could spend hours typing in, just to make the screen flash different colours. Except of course that most of the time you would have made some sort of mistake and it wouldn’t actually work. I actually found a Spectrum emulator on the internet a while back and played some of the games that I used to play. I can report that I still couldn’t get anywhere in The Hobbit. Only four things happen in that game.

1) You can’t go that way (then why give me the bloody option.)
2) You find yourself back in… (basically the place that you left a few minutes ago and will probably see about another twelve times.)
3) I do not understand that command.
4) You are attacked and eaten by trolls. Do you want to start again? Yes. Yes, I do because apparently it’s fun just going round and round without getting anywhere.

Oh, get stuffed! I just went to look for a picture of the game and instead I found this.

7 minutes! 7 bloody minutes. Some people are such show-offs.

There are lots of other childhood toys I loved but I can’t mention them all. Special mention though to Pound puppies and Pound Purries, and my track-suited Cabbage Patch doll.

My angsty book Edge of Living is currently on sale at the moment for .99

 mybook.to/EdgeofLiving

I actually gave one of my characters in this book a little slice of my own childhood memories with their fond remembrance of the pop-up book Haunted house. We used to get shown this book at the library by the librarian but we weren’t allowed to touch it. It became like the holy grail. So much so, that I ended up buying a copy as an adult just so I was allowed to touch it.

Here is the blurb for the book in case you want to check it out. Please be aware that it does have trigger warnings.

Sometimes, death can feel like the only escape.

It’s been a year since Alex stopped living. He exists. He breathes. He pretends to be like everyone else. But, he doesn’t live. Burdened by memories, he dreams of the day when he can finally be free. Until that time comes, he keeps everybody at bay. It’s been easy so far. But he never factored in, meeting a man like Austin.

Hard-working mechanic Austin has always gone for men as muscular as himself. So, it’s a mystery why he’s so bewitched by the slim, quiet man with the soulful brown eyes who works in the library. The magnetic attraction is one thing, but the protective instincts are harder to fathom. Austin’s sure though, that if he can only earn Alex’s trust then the two of them could be perfect together.

A tentative relationship begins. But Alex’s secrets run deep. Far deeper than Austin could ever envisage. Time is ticking. Events are coming to a head, and love is never a magic cure. Oblivious to the extent of Alex’s pain, can Austin discover the truth? Or is he destined to be left alone, only able to piece together the fragments of his boyfriend’s history, once its already too late? 

Trigger warning: Please be aware that this story deals with suicidal ideation and other dark themes. If this is a subject you find uncomfortable, then this book is not recommended.
Despite this, there is a guaranteed HEA.

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GIVEAWAY I would love to give away an ebook copy of the book of your choice from my backlist. To enter, simply write a comment on this post. You could tell me about some of your own fond memories of childhood toys or comment on one I’ve mentioned. Please also include your e-mail address so that I know how to contact you if you are the winner. E-mail addresses will not be used for anything else apart from contacting the winner.

A Dance too Far: my writing process

I finally released A Dance too Far. I say finally, I only started writing it at the beginning of November so actually from start to finish, it was the quickest book I’ve ever written but sometimes, particularly in the editing process, it doesn’t feel like that. I also experimented with writing this book in a slightly different way. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m a slow writer.

What did I change? I tried the sprint method that I’d heard so many people talk about where you literally just make yourself write for short periods of 25-30 mins with a short break. The idea is that you don’t edit, you don’t think I’ll just check FB to see what’s going on, you don’t even pause to research or check what a character’s surname. To my surprise, I found I could do it. Were there more mistakes? Definitely. I had two side characters that had the same name which I didn’t pick up until just before I was about to send it to beta readers. I had irritating bits typed when I came to self edit like, find out the Russian for this, find surname, but it did make me write faster.

The other much more controversial thing I did for this book was to not plot. Not a single word. Most of my previous books I’ve either started off not plotting, and then plotted the second half, or briefly plotted most of the book before I started. The least plotted book before this one was A Temporary Situation, but even then, I remember jotting something down for the last couple of chapters.

Did it work? For this book. For me. Yes. Why? I discovered something about myself. If I plot, it’s down on paper and I don’t have to think about it, so if I don’t write the next day, it’s not a big deal. I also feel like it’s done. It’s plotted. I don’t have to think about it. It makes me lazy. With no plotting, I constantly had to think about different possibilities, and when I did have an idea, I was forced to get it down on paper before I forgot it. I keep saying paper when I mean laptop, but you know what I mean. This also kept me enthusiastic about writing. Am I saying I’m the world’s best plotter. God, no. I always see myself as a character-based writer where everything comes from the characters. I’ve already had reviews say the plot is quite basic or straightforward. Would it have been better if I’d sat down and plotted it all out? I can’t honestly say it would have been. We all have our different strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and I’m honest enough to hold my hands up and say that intricate plots is definitely not one of my strengths.

I actually read a blog post yesterday where the plotting vs no plotting argument was brought up, which is probably why this is in my head. Some of the posts were quite vitriolic on the idea of not plotting, but I guess it all comes down to what works for that writer, for that book. I have a Christmas story that I was planning to finish and release for Christmas 2018, that my plans changed on. Did I plot it? Yes. Am I really glad now that I did? Also, yes. Because it means that when I pick that story up again with a view to releasing it in Christmas 2019, I won’t have forgotten what’s meant to happen.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough for one day. I’ll write another post, more about the characters in A Dance too Far, rather than the writing process another day.

Reflecting on 2018 part 2

Where was I? Ah, that’s right, I’d talked about the two books I’d released in the first half of the year, and then realized how long the post had already become, so I’ll talk about the other three in this part.

July 9th – I released Taking Love’s Lead. This was my first purely humorous book since A Temporary Situation. In contrast to Kept in the Dark, I promo-ed this one to death and ran my first AMS ad for it, but something about it just wasn’t that popular. Maybe it was the cover? Maybe it was the blurb? Maybe it was a little too British? A little too zany? Not enough angst? I don’t know. But this was the first book that I released that I was disappointed with. It got good reviews so it wasn’t that, it just didn’t seem to make people want to pick it up and read it. Even when I release a new book and get renewed interest in my back list, it doesn’t get a lot of attention. On the positive side, I’m going to use this book as a bit of an experiment in 2019. I’m going to change the cover and possibly the blurb and see if it makes a difference. It will be a good learning curve.

October 28th I released Edge of Living. I still find it a bit strange that I felt compelled to write a book dealing with the subject matter it did. I mean…it was probably really bad marketing, given that it really doesn’t fit with the rest of my books (although neither did Refuge). I apparently suck at the forward planning and sticking to the same audience – my brain doesn’t work like that. But… this one did well, which was a huge relief after Taking Love’s lead as you start thinking that perhaps the success of other books was the fluke. Will I ever write a book this dark again? Or will it be a one-off? I’ve no idea, because you know that would take the forward planning that I’m not very good at.

November 20th – I released A Christmas Situation. While I was still struggling to write the end of Edge of Living, I realised that the Christmas story that I’d been planning to finish and release wasn’t a very happy story. I really didn’t want to release two not very happy stories in quick succession. So then I had a stupid idea. Why not revisit two characters that I hadn’t written for almost two years with only a month to write it to be sure of getting it edited in time. I wasn’t even sure I could write those characters again and have them be consistent. I should have read back through A Temporary Situation, but then I only had the month and I’m a slow writer, so confession time, I winged it. I was so relieved when I got good feedback from betas that had read the original story. So A Temporary Situation ended up with a story continuation that I’d never planned. (Damn it! The planning thing again) with another promised story to round it off. When? Shrugs. Your guess is as good as mine.

What’s coming up in 2019?

Quite possibly less books than this year because I’m going to have to teach more to pay the bills. But, I am working on trying to write faster, so you never know. Time will tell.

Here’s what I know so far. There will be a 70k (estimate) standalone story out soon-ish. Possibly early to mid February.

Rebellion will definitely get finished even if it kills me.

I have a novella series that wants to get written as a chance to use up all the ideas that I’ve had over the last couple of years but dismissed as not being long enough for a complete novel. I’m even toying with the idea of re-writing my very first unfinished and unpublished novel as one of these stories.

I’d like to think I’ll write Paul’s story, but who knows, I’ve been saying that since I released A Temporary Situation. Although, I can’t finish Tristan and Dom’s story until I have so that might just give me the kick up the bum I need.

And this is all assuming that some new idea won’t suddenly float into my head. I guess we’ll see. Maybe I’ll re-read this post before I write the end of 2019 one and probably laugh.

Reflecting on 2018 pt 1

Hold on to your hats, this is going to be a long one.

Where to start…

I’m actually going to be a rebel and start in December 2017 because it was the beginning of that month that my publisher Loose id announced they were closing down, less than a week after I’d signed a contract with them for my 3rd book. It left me spending a whole weekend researching everything self-publishing because I literally didn’t have a clue-about anything, so if nothing else can be said for 2018, I learnt a hell of a lot: editors, proofreaders, formatting, how to use Photoshop, AMS ads, ARCs, starting a newsletter, using beta readers, and I’m sure there’s probably more things that I’ve forgotten. Am I an expert? Not even close. There’s probably a whole stack of things that I don’t even know I don’t know yet, and ones I do but just haven’t gotten around to like audio books and translations.

2018 (and the end part of 2017) was the first year where I actually gave priority to my writing, over teaching, which accounts for the fact that I published 5 books this year (4 full-length, one novella.) Not bad for someone who managed one book in 2015 and then didn’t manage another one until 2017. I’m terrible though, for looking at some authors output, and feeling  I don’t measure up, but everyone’s writing speed is different, everyone’s targets and the amount of time they spend on writing is different. Should I stop doing it? Yes. Will I? Probably not.

February 12th – I released my first self-published book Kept in the Dark. I always call this book my side project, the book that kept me sane while I was writing Refuge, but that’s probably a little unfair on it. I always laugh when reviewers call it predictable because that’s exactly what it was meant to be. The inspiration came when I was reading Megan Derr’s Tournament of Losers. For anyone that has read that book, you’ll know that there’s a major detail that everyone knows apart from one of the main characters, yet I really enjoyed that book because you’re waiting for the moment when that character finally gets with the programme and knows what everyone else knows. So poor Dean became the character in the dark, not knowing what just about everyone else knew. Why was he called Dean? Dean from Supernatural due to my love of the character and Jensen Ackles. I was surprised by how well this book actually did for my first indie book.

Why did it do well?

Rent boy trope? Naked torso on the cover? Follow up readers from A Temporary Situation?

No idea.

That’s the question that every author would love to be able to answer for every single book that either does or doesn’t do well. But I had no ads (because I was still clueless about them), did no promo, didn’t send it to any blogs for reviews. I look back now and think how much better it could have done if I’d had a remote clue what I was doing.

April 10th – I released Refuge, the first book which wasn’t contemporary. I still can’t recall what my inspiration for this book was. According to a reviewer (Grrr) I ripped off something called The Fifth Wave. Well, all I can say is I probably should get around to watching this at some point as I’m guessing had I ever seen it, I would have enjoyed it. Maybe someone that has, can tell me how similar it is. I mean it was also mentioned by another reviewer (in a less vicious way) so I’m guessing there must be something similar besides it being an alien invasion as that story has and will continue to be done in a hundred different ways. I was warned by more than one person before releasing this book that sci-fi books don’t sell as well, and they were right, they don’t so it was a little disappointing after how well, Kept in the Dark (the supposed side project) had done. Is this one of the reasons I haven’t written the sequel yet? Probably, yes. It’s difficult to spend time on writing a book that will make less money and therefore sacrifice time which could be spent on a contemporary that has a larger readership. Will I finish the trilogy? Definitely. Ironically, it’s my highest rated book on GR, and the one that tends to get more recommendations. It was also the only one nominated in the GR awards. It’s sequel, Rebellion currently stands at 11 000 words and has a cover all ready to go. I’d initially wanted to try and get it out for April so that there would only be a year between the two books, but that’s now not going to happen. Blame the half Russian ballet dancer who’s in my next book for taking over my brain.

I still hadn’t learnt ads at this point so I’ve never run an ad for Refuge, and I probably won’t until the sequel is ready to go.

Any other facts about Refuge that I didn’t share. Hmmmm…well, Zed’s physical description probably owes more than a nod to Keanu Reeves.

I know I said this post was going to be long, but it’s even longer than I’d envisaged so I’m going to split it into 2 parts and talk about Taking Love’s Lead, Edge of Living and A Christmas Situation tomorrow.