Thursday, September 29, 2016

#WIPpet Wednesday + Cover Reveal - Class-A #amwriting #lgbtq

(Second time of trying to post...)

OK, yes, it's Thursday, but it's still Wednesday somewhere in the world. BST? Dunno what you're talking about... ;)

I've not taken part in WIPpet Wednesday for a few weeks, nor any other snippet sharing, because I had a bit of an author epiphany, or meltdown. I'm undecided. The long and short of it is I realised I wasn't enjoying writing, and the reason is...deadlines! I can write to deadlines, no problem at all, but they're not always a good thing for creativity.

So, I'm not doing it anymore!
Unless I really, really have to.

What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404

It's 29th September, 2016, so I'm going with 29 sentences from page 9 of Class-A, which is both part of Take a Chance - a YA/NA LGBTQ (M/M) anthology (coming this side of Christmas - date to be confirmed) - and a very short interlude in my series, Hiding Behind The Couch. For followers of the series, Class-A happens during Ruminations (starting with the law halls of residence party).

I also get to reveal the cover for the first time! Note: this is the cover for the story, not the anthology. This cover is one of my own designs.

The cover for the anthology is currently being conjured by the magical Natasha Snow.

The characters in the excerpt below are Simon and Jess, law undergraduates. Simon is the main character in this story, which is told from his point of view.

Here's the WIPpet (and the cover!):
He nodded, feeling much the same, except his tiredness extended beyond the late night, beyond many late nights. Big thoughts for a weary soul on a Sunday morning. "Do you go to church, Jess?"

"Not since..." She checked her emotions, but not quickly enough. "No," she confirmed. He had no right to ask.

"Nor do I, although sometimes..." His pulse filled his ears, heralding the flashback. The night before, in her room, asking questions that had seemed urgent, pertinent. If only he'd waited, given her time to become attached, for him to become her habit, her addiction.

"Look, Simon, did you want to say something? Only I'm meeting a friend for breakfast, and I'm already late."

"No. Yes. I need to apologise for last night. And to thank you."

"For?"

He shrugged, his uncertainty amplified by her dismissal.

She sighed a breath that carried her reluctance to the ceiling, and she watched it go. "I'll keep it to myself," she said with oh, such weariness, "if that's what you're worried about."

"If you saw, everyone did."

"Everyone else was in the same state as you. There was a lot of debauchery in this building last night. Believe me, what you and Taz were up to was far from the worst of it."

"Taz." Simon let the name buzz in his ears and fizzle away, a fading zigzag path of a honeybee returning to the hive.

"Thanks for apologising," Jess said. She was already a blur, distant, disappearing. He had questions for which he needed no answers. Who's Taz? How do you know him? He neither wanted to know nor cared, in truth. He merely wished to sustain their conversation.

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Review: Holding by Graham Norton

Title: Holding
Author: Graham Norton
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Expected: 6th October, 2016
ISBN: 9781444791990
Link: https://www.hodder.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781444791990

Blurb:
Graham Norton's masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke - a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn - the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.


Review:
I'll be totally honest. I love Graham Norton on screen, and that was my main motivation for reading Holding. It turned out to be pretty much what I expected, or better than, in fact.

Once I was into the story, I couldn't put the book down, and I adored PJ. He's such a great character, and the best part of it is he's a big man who worries about his weight and struggles with his fitness but still eats far too much. He's a gentle, human hero.

I sympathised with Brid, who is the most beautiful character in the story (regardless of what her mother told her). She shows such strength. The author does an excellent job of portraying women with sensitivity to feminist issues.

There are some utterly stunning descriptions of the location, the characters, the events, and many beautiful literary gifts. My favourites:
"Some marriages combust, others die, and some just lie down like a wounded animal, defeated."

"He weaved through the excavations like a small dinghy in rough seas having trouble with its sails."

"She felt like she needed to anchor herself to something or she might fly around the room screaming out her pain like a hysterical balloon."

"Bobby wagged his thick tail furiously from side to side, as if he thought 'business' might be some sort of chicken drumstick."
The story does start quite slowly, and it felt like the introductions of the different characters went on a bit too long; I think it was somewhere around 30% in before the action really started. From that point on, the story rolls smoothly and at speed.

This is, in essence, a cosy mystery, with a lot of gentle Irish humour and many insights into the simple tragedies of life. The author has drawn believable characters - even the baddies tug at the old heart strings - and a rich and wonderful setting.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Irish stories, appreciates a cosy mystery, or likes the murder series on TV but wishes the lead police officer/detective was a little less suave/more believable.

A great book - received through NetGalley.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bisexual Characters in HBTC - #BiWeek #BiVisibilityDay

Today, I was accused of 'author preaching' about bisexuality in one of my books, and the best part of it was, on this occasion, I wasn't actually preaching! This, alas, is what comes from writing visible bisexual characters, and I'm going to keep doing it. Without apology.

That's not to say I don't get preachy from time to time. At the end of this post is an excerpt of full-on preachy-ness, all of it based on real reactions to bisexual people.

Readers of Hiding Behind The Couch will have met Kris Johansson. He's one of The Circle - the nine characters at the centre of the series - and he is the most visible bisexual character in my writing.

He's one of the two main characters in the stand-alone bi/gay romance, Crying in the Rain, which is FREE on All Romance eBooks until Sunday 25th September (to celebrate Bisexual Awareness Week). There are other bisexual characters in HBTC, but not in The Circle.

Here's a breakdown of the gender/sexuality of The Circle:

- 4 female
- 5 male

- 2 gay (1 asexual/homoromantic)
- 1 bisexual
- 6 heterosexual

Aside from The Circle, in the broader 'cast' of the series, which has around 200 characters (at a guess - I haven't counted), there are around a dozen other characters who are LGBTQ.

For those people in the real world who have, at one point or another, accused me of 'being obsessed' with gay [sic] characters, please note the ratio of LGBTQ:straight characters in HBTC is lower than the estimate given for the general population. I rest my case...on that score.

Of those approximately 15 LGBTQ characters, less than a third are non-binary (i.e. they are not either/or in relation to their gender - male/female - and/or sexuality - straight/gay). So far, only FOUR are bisexual and visible.

Four out of 200.
Obsessed?
Preachy?

I think not.

Kris Johansson, then. He's not the most popular character by a long shot, and I'm almost certain it's nothing to do with him being bisexual, although there are readers who've said to me 'he's gay, he just needs to make up his mind' and they judge him as fickle on this basis. He's not fickle, but he IS outspoken. He's an actor, an extrovert, a performer. It's fitting for a character like him to be outspoken.

He's not without weaknesses, though, and there are times when even my most loyal readers have fallen out with Kris. Indeed, it's a standing joke in this house, whereby Nige comes up with new ways for me to kill Kris with startling frequency. I don't plan on taking Nige up on any of those ideas, in spite of him having given me one of my favourite lines in the series:

(for context, Mrs. Davenport is a devout Roman Catholic)
Mrs. Davenport's fridge was, and had always been, an immaculate contraption...

~ From The Harder They Fall (HBTC 3)
It might also be helpful for me to point out that Mrs. Davenport is the mother of Ellie (one of The Circle), whose younger sister, Charlie, is bisexual and features in the excerpt below.

On that note, I'll get right to it. Author preaching? Maybe. It's authentic to the character. It's authentic, full stop, and, interestingly, nobody has yet taken me to task for preaching about animal rights, anti-psychiatry or overthrowing the ruling class. These are just a few of the many 'preachy' topics I address in my stories.

Excerpt from Two By Two (HBTC 6):
"Do your parents know?" Kris asked.

Charlie shook her head. "I don't make a secret of it, but people assume and unless they get shitty I leave them to it."

"Aren't you going to have to at least tell your mum and dad if you come on the schools tour?"

"I suppose. How old were you when you told your mum and dad?"

"About being bi, sixteen. They'd always known I wasn't straight, and I didn't have to come out to them. I just told my dad one day that I was falling for Shaunna and he didn't even question it."

"Why can't it always be that easy?"

"I got lucky."

"You're not kidding! I can't believe I'm thirty-five this year, I'm a coach on the national squad, pretty much running a multimillion-pound business, yet I'm still having to justify my relationship 'choices'. I'd only had boyfriends until the last year of uni, when I started seeing a girl. It wasn't serious, we both knew that, but she got it into her head that once I escaped my family, I'd settle down with a woman somewhere, realise I'd been a lesbian all along. And that really, really pissed me off.

"It didn't last that long between us and it ended amicably, but she'd make comments about it, kind of under her breath and in front of other people, because after her, I ended up with one of my male housemates, and it was all going fine, but then he started up with the whole, 'I don't mind if you want to bring a girl home' thing."

Charlie paused and took a large swig of her lager, trying to stay calm, as it still made her angry. "That was the first time a guy ever said that to me, and then on the other side of it, my ex is saying, 'Time to leave the past behind, Chaz.' And so he dumped me, or I dumped him, I don't really know. It finished, whatever, and he told everyone he was doing me a favour. I was just confused. Confused? Yeah, mate! If you say so!"

"Yep," Kris nodded knowingly. "Been there."

"Bloody maddening, isn't it?" Charlie said. "When I came home after I graduated, I decided that's it. I'm going to be out, just with my old school friends and teammates. We'd known each other for years and I thought they wouldn't care, because I was still me, and there I am again. The girls on the team who were gay, which was quite a few of them, were all, 'I knew you were a dyke all along,' and my mates who were lads jumped straight on the 'my girlfriend's girlfriend' fantasy wagon. Not just my friends either―my brothers' mates, too, and we'd all played footy together forever. The only exception was Ellie's friends―you lot."

***

Everything Charlie had spoken of Kris been through himself, albeit with a different set of stereotypes, but the issue was the same: people struggled to accept bisexuality, which was precisely why he'd endured almost a year playing DI Mark Lundberg - the bisexual lead in Shadows - and spoken out against bi-erasure in interviews, gone in with the Shadows writer on her new series, and was happy to visit secondary schools as part of an LGBT anti-bullying campaign.

For as much as places like the UK were slowly coming around to the idea that some people are gay, the public, gay and straight alike, struggled to comprehend anything that didn't fit into a nice neat one thing or the other. It needed to start with educating young people, empowering them to be themselves, and to let others be, free from judgement and fear. It was the only way to bring about change in the longer term.
Here endeth today's lesson. ;)

Thanks for reading.
Deb x

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bisexual Musicians - my top ten for #BisexualAwarenessWeek #BiWeek

A bisexual top ten. :)

I'm saving the best for the top spot, of course...


10. Vanessa Carlton
(as if I haven't heard this piano riff a thousand times...)




9. Fergie (Black-eyed Peas)




8. Amy Winehouse




7. Debbie Harry (Blondie)




6. David Bowie




5. Richard Fairbrass (Right Said Fred)




4. Lady Gaga




3. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)




2. Brian Molko (Placebo)




1. Freddie Mercury (Queen)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Warning: Spoilers and other dangers in The WAG and The Scoundrel #BiWeek #amwriting

This coming Thursday (22nd September, 2016) is release day for my novel, The WAG and The Scoundrel. It's a nerve-racking time. Will readers like it? Will they love it? Or will they hate it? Worse still, will they give it a big fat indifferent 'meh'?

I've been writing novels for nearly twenty years, and that old chestnut 'you can't please everyone' is one I (mostly) accept. My books aren't for everyone, but it doesn't make negative reviews sting any less.

But anyway, that's not what this post is about. Or it is, a little bit.

What I'm going to attempt to do here is provide content warnings (for potential triggers), spoiler warnings and a general note about inclusivity in LGBTQ fiction so that readers do not go into The WAG and The Scoundrel entirely unknowing of what lies ahead. However, this will be sketchy information at best, because if I spell it out, it'll spoil the story!

Content Warnings
These are some of the key themes that may cause trouble for some readers:
  • Bereavement - including death of a partner (prior to this story, so not on page), death of a parent (on page) and death of a pet (within the story but not on page).
  • Reference to what could be construed as cheating (prior to this story).
  • Reference to blood sports (fox hunting - not on page) and animal rights activism.
  • Reference to violence (none on page).
  • Reference to past drug use/addiction.
  • Some moderately explicit sexual intimacy between consenting male adults.
Spoiler Warnings
Now, even though this novel is the first in the Gray Fisher series, the series is a spin-off of Hiding Behind The Couch (HBTC), which, as of September 2016, consists of nine novels, seven novellas and a short story, with another short story and another novel in progress. What this means is...there is at least one HUGE MASSIVE ALMIGHTY spoiler of HBTC in The WAG and The Scoundrel.

I'm not telling you to put you off reading it, as I envisage quite a few readers will have already read some or all of HBTC. In fact, the reason I'm writing this warning is because one reader had read early HBTC books and got a bit of a shock at the news (I'm sorry again, if you're reading this).

Reading The WAG and The Scoundrel does not require any prior reading of HBTC, but if you are new to this fictional world and decide to read the rest of the books, there will be some stuff you already know is going to happen. It doesn't spoil everything, but it is quite significant, and at this point in the series, spoilers of earlier episodes are inevitable.

A Note About Inclusivity
Did you know it's Bisexual Visibility Week (19-26 September)?
If you didn't, that probably is enough to tell you why it's necessary.

I try my hardest to treat everyone with respect, and I believe in equality. This is reflected in my stories, which are character-driven realist fiction. My characters are diverse, and I dislike the pigeon-holing of writing within a genre. It restricts my creativity, and a good book is a good book, regardless of the specific make-up of the individuals and relationships within.

You'll see The WAG and The Scoundrel listed under 'Gay Romance' on retailers' sites, because it needs to be categorised somehow and most retailers provide only three options for romance: gay, lesbian, or just...romance, by which they mean heterosexual. No 'bisexual' or 'non-binary' or 'trans' or 'queer'. This is, I assume, because the book cataloguing systems don't have those categories, either, not even as 'of interest to...'. Readers get up in arms about being mis-sold a book when, in fact, it is because of the exclusion of non-binary identities and histories from book cataloguing systems. We authors of LGBTQ fiction are marginalised, rendered invisible, and then we're punished for it by readers (and sometimes by our so-called peers who can, at times, be just as close-minded).

I'll say this much: The WAG and The Scoundrel does include a same-sex relationship between two men as well as a cosy-ish mystery. It also includes different kinds of relationships between different kinds of people - parents and children, colleagues, friends, ex-spouses. People are people, love is love. It happens, that moment when two people click...it's a beautiful thing, whatever hue of the rainbow it falls under.

When I'm writing, if a relationship develops between two characters, I'm not going to steer the story in another direction to protect the sensibilities of the 'I only read...' readers. Thus, whilst The WAG and The Scoundrel is a 'gay romance', book two of the Gray Fisher series might not be.

This is true of all my stories, so if you're the sort of person who feels the need to ask 'does it have het [sic] sex in it?' and you would feel somehow cheated or sullied to find it did, then you're probably safer reading another author.

If this reads as me blotting my own copy book, then so be it.

And if I haven't put you off yet (can you tell I'm feeling feisty? ;) ), you can preorder The WAG and The Scoundrel from most outlets, but here's a set of links to make the whole process a little easier.

Preorder 'The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1)':
Thank you for reading. I really do appreciate it.
Deb x

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Corpspeak - how to be unintentionally hilarious

This morning, I got to add ANOTHER phrase to my most-hated corpspeak list, and I thought I'd celebrate by blogging about it!

I should also point out that I STILL hate the word 'blog', which is why my blog is titled de-blog (or deb log). Back when I created my blog, I was part of an IT steering group (steering group, ffs), where people 'in the know' talked about these 'innovative new technologies' such as blogging, content management systems, dynamic web content, and so on - what we now call Web 2.0 - a technology scarred by the favourite buzzwords of the time.
innovative
dynamic

we will add your distinctiveness to our own...
I knew technology. I'd been writing PHP for six years by that point. I'd been hacked and I knew how to hack. I knew as much as I needed to, all of it self-taught. Skip a couple of years...

The web moved on, as did I. Well, actually, I moved back to writing fiction and I'm almost proud to say that I haven't had time to learn HTML5. My point, however, is that in those meetings, in spite of my extensive and very useful working knowledge of interactive technology, management endeavoured to ignore me, talk over me and push me aside.

Nobody likes the lefty social scientist who can't hide her disdain for BS.

I didn't realise at the time that that was the reason. It took the wisdom of my wonderful OU mentor and colleague Doctor Jim Lane (no longer with us :( ) to explain why my voice was too small to be heard, no matter how loudly I shouted - or, at least part of the reason why. Management can see dissent from miles away, even if that dissent is not vocalised, even if the dissenter does a grand job of faking assimilation into the corporate machine. It's the lack of response, the too-slow blink, the slightly mis-timed smile...

And then there's sexism and sizism. If I were tall and slim, stereotypically attractive, power-dressed, fluttered those eyelashes just enough, wore make-up and heels...

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

So many ifs and butts-to-kiss. No thanks. I'm out and I'm glad, because I get to roll my eyes in private and chortle at the corporate lexicon that I don't have to listen to anymore!

But I do get to write about it. :D
"Yeah, well, no point to sitting on a honeypot." Not if you're gonna get stung. He wasn't sure if Andy had said it, or he'd imagined it, but either way, Dan heeded the warning.

"I've got your number," Scott said, already rising to his feet. "I'll leave you to enjoy your Sunday afternoon. Thanks for hearing me out."

"No problem. Thanks for the heads up."


(from Those Jeffries Boys)

Here are a few to delight and tickle:

I think we owe some respect to the originator of each of these. At some point, someone in a corporation somewhere used a lovely metaphor in a meeting, and the minions went forth and multiplied it into a cliché, like the good little corporate clones they are. Plagiarism: the highest form of flattery.
- a basket of indicators (thanks to John D. for this one - I have no idea what it means!)
- blue-sky thinking (and remember, folks, there is NO glass ceiling between you and it)
- joined-up thinking (or common sense)
- think outside of the box (but make sure you stay within the ring-fencing)
- give you a heads up (I know something you don't know)
- I hear you (your words went in one ear and out the other)
- run it up the flag pole and see who salutes (this one is so ludicrous I'm sure Nige made it up)
- robust measures/systems (when they have no physical form?)
- value-added/impactful (unlike the way we treat our employees)
- what's your take? (I've had my say, now I'm going to pretend I care what you think)
- going forward (CEO's got a brand new time machine, so we need to remind you all of the natural progression of linear time)
And here are some links to even more mockery of corporate life:

Larry Benjamin's short, free and brilliant parody - The Corporatorium
http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20Corporatorium

Corpspeak: infinite corporate bulls**t generator
http://lurkertech.com/corpspeak/ - has a Generate BS button - surprisingly accurate! :D

Wikipedia Buzzwords List
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_buzzwords

BBC - 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7457287.stm

Red Dwarf - The Meeting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WgUktfdDy4



N.B. I intentionally left The Office (UK) off this list. It's brilliant. Depressingly so.

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reunions - snippet 7 (Josh) #RainbowSnippets

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Here's another snippet from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch #7). This is part of a chapter I've been working on this weekend, in which Josh and Gabby (who attended university together) are reuniting after twenty years. Xander is Gabby's cousin; back in uni, Josh and Xander had...an unusual acquaintanceship.

Here's the snippet:
From Spinoza to toast... It was a distinction between himself and Xander he had clung to over the years. The comparisons - mostly his own, although he'd never forgotten Sean's quip about Josh's glasses making him look like Xander - had bothered him. He didn't want to be like Xander because he didn't like Xander. Not only was he a mirror for the aspects of himself Josh most despised, Xander also evoked a feeling it had taken him twenty years to pin down, specifically: intellectual attraction.

Which rather proved his point about the limitations of genius.
Reunions will be out around Christmastime...

You can read more about Josh, Gabby and Xander in Ruminations - a stand-alone novel about university life (with some ghosty stuff along the way).

Thanks for reading,
Deb x