Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Dear Mona Lisa by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Title: Dear Mona Lisa
Author: Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Published: 12th August, 2017
Categories: Literary fiction, LGBT+, romantic and family themes
Purchase Links: Amazon UKAmazon.com

Blurb:
Tom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin. In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up. But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?
Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life. Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love. A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

Review:
Reading Dear Mona Lisa was a bittersweet privilege for me, bitter only because I had to wait to read this one like everyone else! For the curious, the story began from a Beaten Track call for submissions for a collection of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters, but you know how it is (or maybe you don't...). Stories take on a life of their own, and forcing Tom and Loz to fit the submission criteria would have been an unmitigated act of butchery.

I have no words to describe Dear Mona Lisa, or none that are good enough. It's not a romance as such, but there are strong romantic elements. Those familiar with Claire Davis and Al Stewart's work will find the usual mix of down-to-earth Britishness - the dry humour, the wonderfully colourful supporting characters, and a deeply emotional exploration of the fight some of us have to maintain the stiff upper lip our culture is famed for. Oh, and foxes. And colour - it's absolutely bursting with colour.

Dear Mona Lisa is a work of art. It's a painting in words, and like you probably wouldn't pick out a specific detail of a portrait ('ooh, look at her left nostril, all dark and...mysterious!'), it wouldn't be especially helpful to pick out the detail here to illustrate what a masterpiece this is. That said, there is one line that knocked me sideways, possibly a spoiler, so I'm saying nowt.

Read it. You won't be disappointed.



Wednesday, August 09, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Slow Ride) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 9th August, 2017:

9 sentences
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2).

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—Rob has left the police and is on his way to his leaving do. The ‘them’ in the first line is Rob and Jock (see previous snippets).

* * * * *
Given the way things were between them, there had to be an ulterior motive for the call—or else someone else would’ve made it—and Rob’s curiosity was threatening to get the better of him. For the time being, he put it out of mind and focused on his riding.

Even though it was well past rush hour, the roads were chaos, and he was beginning to regret not getting the train, but the bike would stop people buying him drinks all night. He needed a clear head; he was off up north first thing. He hadn’t been home since Christmas, and in the three months that had elapsed, he’d become both an uncle again and a great uncle—never mind that he’d had no idea his brother was seeing someone, nor that his youngest niece was pregnant.

Traffic was backed up from the junction, and Rob probably could’ve got past it, but instead, he settled behind a bus and let his mind drift again. With the prospect of a couple of weeks of proper holiday, he was well up for some quality family time and bit of R and R before he set the wheels in motion for his new venture. Of course, there was no guarantee it would take off, or, if it did, how long it would take to get fully established, and he was prepared for the possibility of failure. So long as it was moving in the right direction, he’d stick with it, but he had a back-up plan: as soon as he got back from his mum’s, he was going to sign on with an agency as a security officer.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Pastor's Last Drop - Links to Video Clips and Images

Read on WattPad:
https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/115931648-the-pastors-last-drop

I will update this post as I add more chapters to the story.
(images are all in the public domain, used under Creative Commons Licence)


Cover
(Derived from 'Liverpool from Wapping', John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875)



Chapter One

Jacques Brel - La Chanson de Jackie



John Atkinson Grimshaw painting
(snipped and edited from 'Glasgow Docks', 1881)



Cobblestones
(snipped from 'Last Call')



Chapter Two

Becker - Piketipeli
(snipped and edited from 'Piketipeli')

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Achieved) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 2nd August, 2017:

2 x 8 x 17 = 272 words
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2).

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—the first line is Jock’s, who’s called Rob as he’s about to head out for the evening.

* * * * *
“Bollocks. My timing’s good as ever, eh?”

“Why? What’s up?”

“There’s a few of us getting together this evening for a pint and catch-up.”

“Crap. If there was a way I could get out of it…” There wasn’t, or Rob would’ve been there like a shot. He hadn’t wanted a leaving do to start with, but would anyone listen? “How long are you gonna be out, d’you reckon?”

“Not sure. Depends on who’s got wives and kiddies to get home to.”

“Right.” Presumably, Jock had left his down in Brighton for the weekend.

“We’re meeting at Euston. Are you anywhere nearby?”

“Yeah, at the Quarterhouse. Five minutes away.”

“How about this, then? I’ll text—let you know where we end up. If you make it, all well and good. If not, I’ll call back tomorrow and we can sort something else.”

“Perfect,” Rob said. “Have a good one.”

“You, too, mate. Bye.” Jock ended the call.

Rob saved the number and put his phone back in his pocket, this time making it out of the door and onto his bike, but his thoughts were still on the conversation as he rode into the city. He hadn’t heard from any of his old army mates in over three years, because he’d been off the grid, and even before that, when they did meet up, it was with some reluctance that they invited Jock. He was one sadistic bastard and a racist to boot, but they’d had to work together, so they’d got on with it, although Jock’s attitude was one of the reasons Rob had come out of the army when he did.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Intercepted part two) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 26th July, 2017:

20+17 – 26 = 11 paragraphs
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2)—I’ve still got little idea of where the story is going.

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (however, not between Gray—who is gay, and Rob—who is straight).

This snippet follows on from directly the previous snippets—the first line is Rob’s, and he’s taking a phone call from ‘Jock’. Just in case: bought a gaff = bought a house; still got flat feet? = are you still a police officer?

* * * * *
“How’re you doing, man?”

Rob caught the microsecond pause before Jock—aka Corporal Harry ‘Jocky’ Wilson—answered, “Yeah, I’m doing all right. You?”

“I’m doing great. I thought you were still OS.”

Jock barked out a laugh. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been back five years. Forty-five and retired. Not bad, eh? Bought a gaff down Brighton way. The kids hate it, of course.”

“Still just the two?” Rob remembered Jock’s second kid only because he was born the day after Lucas—eight years ago.

“Yeah. You had any more?”

“No, unfortunately. Zoë and I got a divorce.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Cheers.” Rob braced for the question of what had happened—it was the first thing most people asked when he told them.

“So…still got flat feet?”

Rob chuckled, relieved to be let off the hook so easily. “Ask me again in five hours. I’m just heading out for my leaving do.”
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, July 24, 2017

The 13th Doctor - does gender matter?

When the 13th Doctor was announced, I didn't think anything of it - beyond 'hurrah, Capaldi's going!' I have no reason to dislike him. I'm sure he's an excellent actor, but sometimes there's just...something you can't put your finger on, and so, as I did when Peter Davidson took on the role, I stopped watching Doctor Who.

If it's not clear already:

a) I'm a moderately avid fan of Doctor Who (yes, I know it's an oxymoron - see above);

b) I don't think there's anything wrong with the 13th Doctor being played by a woman.

There's no canonical reason why the Doctor should always be of one specific gender, and it's a positive move in a series that began in the early 1960s - a time when all TV/movie heroes were male.

However...

I have a problem with why, because it smells a bit dodgy, like the 1980s 'multiculturalism' in the UK that caused a great deal of social disharmony (more a social meltdown) in some areas of the country, which was - I'm pretty sure - the intention of those who imposed it - a case of "Here, we've given you equality, now stop whining," closely followed by "See? We told you it wouldn't work."

So that's my first question about the decision. Is this a case of men (the producers and BBC TV execs) giving women a gift and expecting eternal gratitude? As Hans Hirschi says in his blog post about the 13th Doctor (which I was going to reply to and leave it at that, but I had far more to say) - what we need to do now is keep the pressure on the BBC to ensure that this is more than just giving women a turn before reverting to how it was before.

My second question is more complex to define, and an article published in The Herald touches on it. The characterisation of Doctor Who has always been 'quirky' - an atypical hero - and whilst the fact that Doctors 1-12 were all played by male actors IS significant and reflects broader gender inequality, the character has become even less stereotypically masculine with subsequent regenerations, so it's of no real consequence - in terms of presenting positive role models for children, regardless of their gender - that the 13th regeneration has taken a human female form.

And yet, the BBC saw fit to include in their report on the announcement: "the first woman to get the role" - an announcement made, with hilarious, couldn't-make-this-up irony, following the Wimbledon men's final.

I've watched Doctor Who - and Star Trek - for all of my living memory (with a few gaps, admittedly - in both memory and viewing), thus I started watching those programmes before I had a concept of gender or ethnicity. It didn't occur to me that Uhura's position on the bridge of the Enterprise was groundbreaking, nor that Doctor Who kept coming back as a man.

Perhaps that's my naivety, and the fact that I'm so accustomed to a white male model of normality that I'm blind to his omnipresence.

Whatever, should we return to casting only quirky male actors as the Doctor?

I'd say not. We need more diverse role models of all genders across all types of programming. We also need to listen to what young people have to say about their role models, not the opinion of some old fuddy-duddy journalist (or, indeed, blogger).

One final observation: the Doctor has consistently shown a (romantic) attraction to / connection with human women. It's not always explicitly represented onscreen, but in some cases (the Doctor and Rose, for instance) it has been a significant multi-episode (or even multi-season) story arc. No doubt, some would argue that, as the Doctor takes on some characteristics specific to each regeneration, the 13th Doctor does not necessarily have to be attracted to human women, but that attraction has endured for eleven(?) regenerations. To change it would completely undo any good that comes from casting a woman in the role - a simultaneous step forward and step back.

Doctor Who was my role model, my hero, and it had nothing to do with gender. It was about how the Doctor negotiated the burden of responsibility as the last Time Lord [sic], the depth of characterisation, the moral debates, the (generally) excellent writing - the series has been a formative influence on my own creative and political endeavours...after all, that's where the name 'Hiding Behind The Couch' came from - where you'd find us when the Daleks or Cybermen invaded - in the days when we had yet to know of the Weeping Angels! :o

Most importantly of all, the Doctor has the best jelly babies - I know, because I've tried them.

Oh, and jelly babies don't have a gender either.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Thursday, July 20, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Exit Intercepted) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 19th July, 2017:

19 - 7  = 12 short paragraphs
from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
A first snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2), which so far consists of around three chapters. I started with the cover, and I have very little idea of where the story is going at this stage.

This novel follows on from The WAG and The Scoundrel, featuring two former undercover police officers, Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone. Their investigations relate to white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, etc.), and there are also romantic relationship story arcs (not between Gray and Rob).

This snippet is the start of what is currently chapter one, but that may change.

* * * * *
Leathers over slacks and shirt, helmet in hand, Rob was at the door and ready to leave when his phone buzzed against his chest.

Leave it, answer it, leave it… If it was important, whoever it was would call back.

It stopped. Rob turned the catch and opened the front door a couple of inches at most before it started up again. With a grunt, he pushed the door shut and partially unzipped his jacket. There was a time when he could’ve ignored a ringing phone—the number onscreen was unfamiliar to both him and his address book, cold caller, more than likely—but he wasn’t prepared to take the chance.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Shaz?”

“Sorry, mate, you’ve got the wrong number.”

“Nah. I don’t think so.”

“There’s no-one here by… Ah, hold up. Jock?”

“Yeah. Alright?”

“Bloody hell. It’s been a while. How did you get this number?”

“Rang your landline. Your missus gave me your mobile.”

“Fair enough.” It wasn’t like Zoë to give out his number without checking with him first, but he’d worry about that later.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - 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


Thanks for reading
Deb x