Thursday, June 25, 2015

Willem of the Tafel - Blog Tour - Review plus quick questions to the author

[I've never posted as part of a blog tour before, so I'm hoping this will in some way explain why my post is a day later than scheduled...]

The world we know is gone, destroyed by greed and ignorance. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, centuries into the future, few have survived the Great War. Some have taken refuge deep inside a mountain. One of them, Willem, is exiled to the surface...

Alone and struggling to survive, Willem embarks on an epic journey, making a discovery that could once again alter the future of humanity.

Willem of the Tafel is an epic tale of survival, second chances, hope and undying love.

 
* * * * *

Today on my blog I'm talking to Hans M Hirschi about his newest release, Willem of the Tafel. This is Hans' fifth novel, and if he hadn't thrown me a curve ball, I'd be telling you he writes contemporary gay fiction with strong romantic elements, along with frequent explorations of the meaning of family, and the effects of abuse and bereavement.

However, Willem of the Tafel is not contemporary; it's set in a post-apocalyptic future, although it does still have the romance, and it turns out I'm a sucker for romantic stories (who knew?).

Having dodged my initial question about who he would cast for the movie, I asked Hans a few questions about his characters.

Here's what he said:


Which of your characters would you like to spend a day with?

Naturally, I’d give an arm and a leg to meet both Hery and Willem, together or individually. To hear from Willem what it feels like to give up your personal life and happiness for the greater good of a society that had shunned him, to hear about his plans for Tafel and Cape Town, and get under his skin in terms of how he feels about the whole leadership thing. Can’t be easy… I don’t envy him.

From Hery I’d like to know what it’s like to tread in Adrianjaka’s footsteps, what growing up was like for him, given his hearing disability, and how he likes to roam the seven seas on board St├ęphane’s boat. If I met both I’d like to just kick back and watch them interact. To be the fly on that wall… WOW!


Where would you take them?

I’m not sure I’d take them anywhere. Instead I’d be on my hands and feet and beg them to show me their society. But if they felt they would gain insights for their leadership roles, why not show them their respective cities in the 21st century for a quick glimpse? But I’m not sure that would be such a great idea. They’d have to beg me...


What would you show them?

If they were able to convince me to really take them, I’d show them the racism and the poverty that ravages South Africa, to help Willem understand just why the Shadows in Tafel bear such resentment against ghosts, but I’d also show them some of the more hopeful signs of collaboration in Cape Town, like the organization PRAESA that recently won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. I’d probably also show them Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent much of his incarceration. I’d also like to take them to Madagascar and the capital of Antananarivo and the northern coastal town of Antsiranana, where Hery spent much of his youth. I’ve never been to the island myself, so it would be an interesting journey to make together...


Would you have any advice for them?

I don’t give advice unless specifically asked for, and from what I gather these two young men are doing just fine on their own and they have excellent advisors already. I don’t see what I could possibly add. Me on the other hand, I’d probably have lots to learn from them. Thing is, I’ve always looked up to all of my characters. They’re always “better” than their creator. So I am convinced that I’d be the one profiting from any encounter. :)

* * * * *

REVIEW:

When Hans told me he was writing a post-apocalyptic novel and mentioned the term ‘sci-fi’ I have to admit to inwardly groaning. There are so many post-apocalyptic sagas out there in both print and film form, and I dislike them immensely. I think on the whole it’s a sign of our times: for those of us in western, relatively wealthy societies, and with our propensity to focus only on what is in our own back yard, our existence seems safer and more stable than ever before.

The reality is very different. War, famine, global warming, pollution, disease, poverty, genocide…these are not things of the past, but I envisage there is a certain thrill many readers attain from reading of a world gone wrong – crumbling cities, the sky a-flame, Bruce Willis/Will Smith/Keanu Reeves romping the streets clad in sweaty vest/sexy vest/Raybans…snore.

Willem of the Tafel is nothing like any of those post-apocalyptic adventures, although Willem is still a hero, but of the only kind that could bring about resolution to global conflict. Thoughtful, discerning, intelligent, young, Willem possesses a wealth of knowledge yet no desire to utilise it to attain power or oppress. A reluctant leader is the very best kind.

I have to – reluctantly – agree that the novel is science fiction, in the sense that it tells of a future that is scientifically plausible. Frighteningly so. However, it’s not heavy on the sci-fi: the technology referred to in the story is already in existence, and it is an aside to what the story is really about: Willem’s journey from childhood to adulthood, from Tafel society out into the world, from solitary wanderer to…well, you’ll have to read it and see.



Willem of the Tafel is available in ebook and paperback formats from all online book retailers, but you can support the author and publisher best by purchasing directly from them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

When Skies Have Fallen - a novel by Debbie McGowan

For many in war-torn 1944, love blossoms in the dance hall, and airman Arty Clarke is no exception. He's a thinker and a dreamer; however, it's not the beautiful, talented dancer in his arms - his best friend Jean - who inspires his dreams. For when his gaze meets that of Technical Sergeant Jim Johnson, Arty dares to imagine a different dance.

Their love is forbidden, by both the armed forces and the law, but with Jean's cunning and support, Arty and Jim try to bridge the distance between them and find true love despite the danger and a life-threatening disaster that could destroy Arty's dreams for good.

Can the pair stand strong together, no matter how many skies have fallen?

* * * * *

When Skies Have Fallen is a novel, written as part of the Love is an Open Road Anthology (Don't Read in the Closet, 2015).

In This Blog Post:
  • About Love is an Open Road
  • Research and Video Clips
  • Excerpt from When Skies Have Fallen

* * * * *

About Love is an Open Road
This free event consists of around 200 authors writing stories based on the requests of around 200 readers. Everyone involved in the event gives their time and their talent FOR FREE.

HOW IT WORKS:
  • Readers each submit a prompt, consisting of a photo and a letter;
  • Authors claim the prompts, and in so doing agree to write a story based on the prompt stimulus;
  • Stories are edited, proofread, formatted, and checked for quality by the DRitC team (all volunteers and incredibly professional);
  • Stories are then published, for free, via Goodreads and MMRomanceGroup.com;
  • The anthology is later compiled into several volumes.

* * * * *

THE PROMPT THAT INSPIRED When Skies Have Fallen:
Dear Author,

Life isn’t a fairy tale. These two know that better than most. These men are survivors. Against all odds, they made it through hardships, separation, and war. They clung to hope where little existed and, as the skies fell around them and the world was torn apart, found strength in loving each other.

Suddenly, the war was over. Battlefields lay silent and troops prepared for the journey home. These two were more than ready. They had experienced enough loss, grief, and pain to last ten lifetimes. The country they left behind may not have been ready to accept them, but they were prepared to live no matter how many skies had fallen.

You can tell me the story of how these men met, but what I really want to know is what happened to these men after this photo was taken. Did their love endure the trials of a return to civilian life? Were they able to overcome the trauma of war and find peace together?

Sincerely, Tiffany

* * * * *

Research and Video Clips
Even with my social science background, and the fact that my academic specialism of gender and sexual politics gave me a good grounding in the social and political context of this story, a great deal more research was needed before I felt ready to write it.

The post-WWII period in Britain was a time of tremendous social upheaval: the introduction of the NHS, free education, national insurance, new houses and towns, welfare benefits, government pensions, legislation against sex discrimination and unequal pay, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and so on. I knew all of that, thanks to Tony Fagan, retired lecturer in social policy, and Paul Reynolds, senior lecturer in sociology.

However, knowing all of that wasn't enough.

In my head were the stories told by my grandparents, who were in the RAF and WAAF, and I also spent many years caring for older people, who shared their incredible stories of life during the war; what a privilege it is to have known these people.

I supplemented the anecdotal evidence by reading the BBC Archives of people's wartime experiences - British soldiers recounting what it was like when the 'Yanks' arrived, the boy who hid in his larder when a V-1 hit three miles away and didn't know if it had killed his dad, how hard it was to return to civilian life, how little financial support injured soldiers received - so many amazing tiny pieces of history, all offering a distant and safe insight into what it was like to live through the war.

And STILL it was not enough!

Because in all of that, there was still one story I wasn't hearing: the story of men who love men.

On May 8th, 2015 - the day after the General Election and the seventieth anniversary of Victory over Europe Day, I was hit by a devastating realisation - for a pacifist socialist like me. Six years of fighting, millions of lives lost, the promise that there would be bread for everyone, and here we are, in this time of austerity, where the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, right-wing politicians are once again having their day...we have learned so much and yet we know nothing at all.

But anyway, I'm getting off my soap box for the time being, or, in fact, swapping it for another one.

In the video playlist below, there are 5 segments of a documentary titled "A Very British Sex Scandal". It is about the prosecution of journalist Peter Wildeblood, who spent 18 months in prison for his love of another man. Wildeblood went on to give evidence to the Wolfenden Committee, who put together the 1957 report which eventually (ten years later) resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexuality (between over 21s, in private).

I don't do crying, but I sobbed watching this documentary. A week has passed and I still hurt.

I'd already made the decision to make this story a historical document, based on factual information. The characters are fictional; the RAF bases are not real. But everything else is based on historical evidence and mirrors real-world events. I owe it to the people who fought for us, in wartime and in what most will consider peacetime. For there is an invisible war still going on. We have taken great strides forward, but the war is not yet won. Equality, absolutely.


* * * * *

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


—‘Ode of Remembrance’, Lawrence Binyon

* * * * *

Excerpt from When Skies Have Fallen
Copyright Debbie McGowan, 2015

Chapter One: January, 1944

Although the winter had been milder than usual, for a couple of weeks now the temperature had rarely exceeded ten degrees, and several inches of compact snow made for treacherous excursions. Yet the good people of Buckinghamshire refused to be beaten by the cold spell, and the Palais Dance Hall was as crowded as ever, with not one man in civvies. Many of the women were also in uniform, creating the illusion of a dull sea of blue, green and tan upon which floated the vibrant lemon, rose and turquoise hues of the few girls old enough to go dancing, yet too young for service.

From the standing area at one end of the hall, Corporal Robert Thomas Clarke - Arty to those who knew him - and his fellow RAF servicemen watched the swirling couples ebb and flow in their gentle waltz to the air of the three-piece band on-stage. A brazen young woman in flimsy crimson, lips painted to match, spun close, granting the men a flash of stocking-top; some whistled their appreciation, but Arty's attention was elsewhere.

"The WO looks like he's got sticks up his trouser legs," Leading Aircraftman Charlie Tomkins remarked to the group at large and they all laughed in agreement. Arty shook himself out of his daze and turned to see their warrant officer and his dance partner pass by, both of them so stiff it was a wonder they were able to move at all. Most of the couples danced without sophistication, although perhaps with a greater sense of rhythm and more freedom to their movement.

The WO and his girl waltzed out of sight and the men returned to their conversations - except Arty, who scanned the dance floor, looking for the American airman he had been watching for most of the evening. The American was broad-shouldered and handsome, with his well-fitting brown serge tunic and thick blonde hair, his angular features softened by the relaxed, crooked smile he had offered to the young woman he'd been leading in the waltz. He had moved with such elegance that Arty could have watched him dance forever. Alas now he was nowhere in sight, so Arty settled for watching everyone else. He found it a truly moving experience, almost as wonderful as when he was dancing himself.

"Are you getting out there this evening, Art?" Charlie asked.

"Maybe." Arty kept his focus on the dancers. "If I had someone to dance with."

Charlie acknowledged Arty's words with a nod. He scanned the settees, where those women who were not dancing were seated with their friends, waiting for someone to make the offer. Some didn't bother to wait and instead danced with each other, taking turns to lead, but how it usually worked was the man would politely approach the woman - may I have this dance? —and with outstretched arm she would politely accept and allow him to lead her in the next dance.

"Shan't be long," Charlie said. Before Arty had a chance to respond, Charlie was edging his way around the dance floor towards a slender woman in WAAF uniform: a sergeant. Arty watched the two interact, with Charlie wearing his winning smile, which rarely failed to woo the women he dazzled with it. He pointed Arty's way; the WAAF sergeant glanced over and Arty's cheeks warmed. He loved dancing, and he was very accomplished, but when it came to asking he was terribly shy. His friends - Charlie in particular - always insisted on finding a graceful young woman to be the Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire. Once he was on the dance floor he'd forget about all those eyes on him, and that they were at war, and how unmoved he was by the closeness of the woman in his arms.

After a couple of minutes spent chatting with the WAAF sergeant, Charlie beckoned for Arty to go over; he quickly smoothed his uniform and set off, attempting a confident stride.

"This is Sergeant Jean McDowell," Charlie introduced. Arty offered her a smile and she blinked up at him with big brown eyes, her tiny pink mouth forming a tiny smile. Charlie raised his hands in a flourish to signal that he was handing over, and departed, leaving the two of them to become acquainted.

"I'm Arty. Would you care for this dance?"

Jean nodded swiftly and with a confidence matching the three stripes on her arm, but at odds with her seemingly meek demeanour, she took Arty's hand and led him onto the dance floor. They found a space in the middle of the room and the music did the rest. In an instant all of Arty's fears diminished, his right arm confidently found Jean's waist and, with her right hand in his left, they stepped off together, joining the throng in their swaying, flowing waltz.

At first, they took small, tentative steps, waiting for openings so they could move around, but then other people started to pay attention and moved out of their way. Arty became bolder and spun Jean, whose skirt should have restricted such graceful kicks yet did not. They danced as if they had been dancing together for many years, matching each other's stride, anticipating next steps and never losing time. By then, the floor had cleared, leaving Arty and Jean to do just as they pleased. They pivoted and spun, hesitated and reversed - they had extraordinary grace. Jean was as natural as Arty, her feminine curves complementing his strong, lithe physique.

The waltz came to an end and many of those around them applauded. Arty grinned, glancing down at Jean to find that she was grinning too. After a count of four a quickstep began, and Arty saw, over Jean's shoulder, the American airman, standing with two others, his head cocked to one side to better hear his associate. Arty and Jean danced on, with others now joining them. On each spin where Arty found he was facing that direction, he'd glimpse the American, uncertain if he was imagining the fleeting seconds when their eyes met before other dancers blocked his view.

Following the quickstep, the band leader gave an even quicker count of four, and the three Americans were immediately surrounded by girls, clamouring to be their partners for the jitterbug. Arty and Jean stayed where they were, soon picking up their pace. Arty swung around and pushed Jean away from him, keeping a tight grip on her hand as she spun and sprung back. They slipped and they slid into chassis and spins, for the most part unaware of the rest of the dancers. Aside from a certain American airman, no one else stood a chance of keeping up with them, although by the end of their jive they, like most, were in need of a breather. The music stopped and Jean looked up to Arty, her lips spread in a wide smile, her breaths puffing against his chin and neck.

"I need fresh air," she told him. He tilted his head towards the balcony and Jean nodded in agreement. Some of the other dancers voiced disappointment at their departing stars, who paused to bashfully bow and curtsey before dashing hand-in-hand, up the stairs, along the balcony and out onto the dark terrace, to the far end where there were fewer people. They stopped and leaned on the iron railing, exhilarated and breathless, and for the moment appreciating the cold air on their clammy skin.

"You're quite a dancer," Arty complimented Jean sincerely.

"Thank you for saying so. As are you." It was the first time Arty had properly heard Jean talk and she was very well-spoken, almost aristocratic. "Who taught you, Arty?" she asked.

"To dance? My aunt - my mother's sister, that is."

"You attended a dance school, surely?"

"No. Did you?"

"Yes." Jean traced her fingers along the railing. "Dancing, deportment and elocution. I hated it when I was a gal, though I'm glad now. When the war is over, I'm going to open a dance school. I'm on the lookout for a dance partner so I can enter competitions and make a name for myself." She laughed as she pondered a thought before adding, "I don't think that's quite what my mother has in mind. She wants her only daughter to marry into high society, but I have no interest in finding a husband." She turned to face Arty, although it was too dark for each to make out the other's features. "Have you ever considered dancing in competitions?"

It would have been far less of a surprise had she asked Arty if he were hoping to find a wife, because it seemed a more pertinent consideration. How could one afford the frivolity of dance in wartime?

"I've never given it any thought," he answered, and it was the truth, though he'd considered the other at length, and realised with some misgivings that he too would be expected to marry at some point in time.

"Would you consider it?" Jean asked. "Dancing with me, I mean?"

Arty scratched his ear, delaying his response. "After the war?"

"No. I've just transferred from Gaskell to Minton. I'm taking over the wages office for both bases."

Jean paused meaningfully, but Arty wasn't sure why. He could see her in profile now, against the clear night sky, her breath creating a transient cloud. She shivered, and in his mind he formed the suggestion that they return inside, but that was not what left his mouth. "If you were to find a husband, I imagine he would not take too kindly to you dancing with another man."

"You're right, of course," Jean agreed, "and if you're trying to let me down gently…"

"Well, you are very beautiful, Jean. I just don't think war is a good reason for rushing into marriage, that's all."

Jean laughed, but not to mock. "Arty, this is not a flirtation. You are absolutely right. One should wait for the right person, and if that person never appears, then what of it? I am content the way I am. I'm not looking for a husband, just a man who can dance. So what do you say?"

Arty delayed a few seconds longer and then nodded. "Yes. I would very much like that."


Coming Summer/Autumn, 2015...

* * * * *

Love is an Open Road
 
An extension of the Don’t Read in the Closet event from the M/M Romance Group at Goodreads.com – a collection of free M/M short stories, novellas and novels.These stories were written by authors/members of the GoodReads M/M Romance group, for the 2015 Love is an Open Road event. They are based on photographs and prompts provided by members of the same group.

MMRomanceGroup.com

* * * * *


Monday, April 13, 2015

Crying in the Rain is a finalist in Bisexual Book Awards


I am UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED that my novel, Crying in the Rain, is a finalist in the 2015 Bisexual Book Awards. So excited, in fact, that as I type I have a TENS machine on my lower back and I'm daring to hope for the impossible instant miracle cure to my eighteen-month muscle spasm so I can go to NYC for the ceremony. Am I wondering if I could win this? I suppose I am, but even getting this far...wow!

* * *
For many years, Ade Simmons has been an outsider, trapped in an abusive relationship, seeking sanctuary in his job as a radio producer, and in the checklists he makes in an attempt to regain control of his sorry excuse of a life.

Actor Kris Johansson is patient, gentle and passionate - everything that Ade's ex-boyfriend is not. When Kris takes a role in one of Ade's plays, the attraction is mutual and instant. It is the turning point for Ade. He can either stay on the same path, with Fergus - the bully who has repressed, used and isolated him from his friends and family - or he can look in the other direction, towards Kris - the handsome actor with family and friends who readily accept him.

But Fergus will not give up his punchbag so easily - can Ade finally find the strength to fight back?


Ebook / Paperback available from:
Beaten Track
Smashwords
All Romance eBooks
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
And other major online outlets... 


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Leaving Flowers by Debbie McGowan and Raine O'Tierney #MM Romance

ANNOUNCEMENT AND COVER REVEAL:
Leaving Flowers by Debbie McGowan and Raine O'Tierney


Creative synergy, bursting with colour.

That's how it's been since January, when Raine O'Tierney and I started collaborating - a bit like the lilies currently blooming in glorious shades of magenta and peach across my kitchen table, and if you've ever watched lilies bloom you'll know what I mean.

We sowed the creative seed and took turns to tend to our tiny sapling, watching in awe as it grew faster than we'd imagined, becoming more and more beautiful. With every day that passed, the colours shone with greater vibrance, the stems entwined more intricately, and suddenly the story blossomed right before our eyes.

Soon, good people! Soon we will introduce you to the two fine young men whose fate lay in our hands. We hope you'll love them as much as we do.


Shy and awkward since childhood, Aidan Degas is now a man lost. His twin - Aidan's other half, Nadia - died tragically young, leaving him with nothing to get him through his days but his job at the prestigious Grand Heights Luxury Apartments and the flowers he lays upon her grave. When Aidan is assaulted on the job by a tenant, it's the graveyard he turns to for strength and solace.

Patrick loves being assistant groundskeeper at the sprawling cemetery where he tends graves and offers a bit of comfort to mourners. When he sees a sad young man lingering over an old grave, his curiosity is strangely piqued for reasons he doesn't understand. He's never done this - struck up a friendship with a mourner. But soon that friendship blossoms into a romance.

It's not going to be easy for the pair. Aidan is so damaged, like petals crushed in an angry fist, and even with Patrick's warm heart and Irish charm, it might not be enough to bring him back from the edge.


You can read Raine's Cover Reveal post here:
raineotierney.blogspot.com


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Ruminations - coming February 14th 2015



Seventeen-year-old Josh Sandison has been waiting his whole life to go to university. Gifted - and bullied for being different - he hopes moving away to study will mean a change for the better. Instead he encounters the unexpected, when strange things start happening in his room - the blinds falling down by themselves and notes from an illiterate prankster.

Add to this the myth of the haunted third floor, and cynical Josh has had just about enough, when Sean Tierney arrives at university, three days late and with not a penny to his name. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, bonded by their passion for learning and compassion for others.

But will their intellectual prowess be enough to solve once and for all the mystery of the third floor?

A stand-alone novel from the world of Hiding Behind The Couch
Click here for purchase links: beatentrackpublishing.com/ruminations


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Checking Him Out...For the Holidays! Festive fun with Sol and Adam

It's the holiday season!

Fun first...



 And a thought...

I'm not going to get ranty, but however you celebrate, if you are one of the fortunate, take that little spark of festive magic and do something wonderful with it. It could be life-changing for someone else, and it will make you feel nice.


Now the hard sell! :)

Me? Hard sell? As if! I had a job doing door-to-door canvassing for a kitchen company once. I lasted a day.

But! I am selling something, so here goes...

I wanted to officially launch Checking Him Out For the Holidays, which is available to buy for around $2 / £1.25 via Beaten Track, Amazon (Kindle), Smashwords, All Romance eBooks, and a few other places by now, I would imagine. If you went torrent hunting you might even find it there, but I'd rather you bought it.

I took it as a sign that I was finally getting somewhere when my recent novel, Crying in the Rain, made it to the file-sharing sites within three days of release. There's nothing I can do about it, but each of those downloads means a little less income for me, and this is my job. Needless to say, I'm hacked off, but hey! People wanted my work enough to steal it. Like diamonds. ;)

What perhaps stings more is that I give away a lot of my writing as it is. Aside from always having one or two books available for free on my website, Checking Him Out (whence came Checking Him Out For the Holidays) is a free, full-length novel. I wrote it earlier in 2014, as part of the Love's Landscapes anthology, and in November decided to upload it to Amazon, ARe and Smashwords. It's been downloaded almost 30,000 times in five weeks.

That's a lot of free, I'm sure you'll agree!

And that's great. I'm so happy that people are reading AND enjoying my stories.

Which leads me rather marvellously into explaining how this little festive tale came about.

I love my characters, I do. Eventually. For those of you who have read Checking Him Out
you'll know that Sol Brooks - the main character - isn't an easy man to get to know. And that's how it was for me when I began writing. I think it was somewhere around Chapter Eight before Sol finally started 'speaking to me'. Until that point, I was a little puzzled by his behaviour and his thought processes, but then he revealed his secrets to me, and it all started to make sense.

Sounds mad, I know, but the characters become very real to writers in the process of telling their story. We miss them when it's over. So if a few readers suggest that they'd like to read more, and there's more story to tell, we'll often happily oblige.

Hence, a holiday story was born.

Didn't I make that sound easy?

It wasn't - this isn't me complaining. I love writing, but to put in context my frustration at the illegal downloads mentioned earlier, we're talking 150+ hours of work to create a 24,000 word holiday story.

Just thought I'd say.

So anyway, here it is: a story filled with gifts for my readers, to say thank you very, very much.

Special thanks to Alexis Woods, K.C. Faelan, Nige the Pige, and Andrea Harding. You are wonderful.

Happy Holidays!





Checking Him Out For the Holidays


Freelance engineer Sol Brooks doesn't do the festive season. He thinks it's boring and overly sentimental. With the rest of the household laid up with 'the flu', Sol's planned on using the time to crack on with some work.

His mother, however, has other ideas.

And so does Sol's husband, Adam.

A stand-alone holiday special featuring Sol and Adam from Checking Him Out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Red Hot Christmas - Launch! December 15th PLUS Meet Shaunna Hennessy - star of the story PLUS First Christmas Giveaway!!!

Next Monday (December 15th) marks the release of my second Christmas story of the year, Red Hot Christmas, so we'll start as we mean to go on, by officially revealing the FABULOUS cover, created by Natasha Snow.


Natasha's a brilliant cover artist / designer, and such a great person to work with. For both Red Hot Christmas and Crying in the Rain, I gave her a brief outline of the story and her first ideas were what we eventually went with, even though I fuss and fret and go all around the world before I reach the conclusion that she had it right all along.

I think it's what comes of writing a series, whereby Crying in the Rain and Red Hot Christmas are chronologically #5 and #11 (full list at end of post), although I wrote Red Hot Christmas last Christmas, and wrote Crying in the Rain during the summer. By this point, the characters are so familiar to me that I have a clear picture in my head of what they are like - it's more of a psychological profile than a physical presence (which is also how I see people in 'our realm'). It makes me a bit too picky when it comes to having any likeness of the character on the cover, which is why in the past I steered clear with all my dull, dull covers. They're soon going to be replaced with all-new wonderfully appealing covers, which is very exciting!

The cover model for Red Hot Christmas is very much how Shaunna is to me. She's passionate, strong, sexy, independent, and she's a redhead. So once again, thank you, Natasha. You're a star. :)

But anyway, you're probably wondering what this story is about, especially if you've arrived here having read any of the gay (male) romances I've written recently. I'm not an author of gay romance per se, or indeed of any kind of romance. I write diverse, realist, contemporary fiction, which means there's romance in there as part of that general tapestry of modern life. There's also birth, death, marriage, illness, education, friendship, family...

I also try to make my books as universally accessible as I can, which means that (with two exceptions) I don't explicitly describe scenes involving sex, violence or abuse, which doesn't mean that my stories are devoid of the emotional stuff. In fact, I've been led to believe they are quite an emotional read. Then there was the sexy chapter in In The Stars Part II that my dear husband said he needed to re-read, just to make sure there were no errors, or something like that... ;)

Red Hot Christmas is really Shaunna's story, and if you are reading the whole series in order, then I should warn you that there are significant spoilers in this instalment.


Just one more thing, Mam...

Whilst Red Hot Christmas is 'stand-alone', it is connected to the other two stories I've put out recently.

Crying in the Rain - the story of Ade and Kris - happens a year before Red Hot Christmas (and if you're reading the series, there are two books and two novellas in between).

A Midnight Clear happens at exactly the same time as Red Hot Christmas, but should be read first, as there are events mentioned in Red Hot Christmas that would ruin surprises in A Midnight Clear. There are a couple of occasions where the narrative of the two stories crosses over, but they are very different stories relating to different characters who just happen to be part of the same group of friends - The Circle.

 You don't have to read all three, but if you are going to, then the order to read them would be Crying in the Rain, A Midnight Clear, Red Hot Christmas.

A Midnight Clear is included in the Boughs of Evergreen Holiday Anthology and the proceeds go to The Trevor Project. And it's cheap! 99 cents! It's only $9.99 for the full anthology (23 stories) - that's awesome, you've got to admit! Plus it's had some great reviews, so you should read it. :)


OK, maybe two more things...

If you like Christmas stories, then you might enjoy First Christmas, which is also part of the series and was released last year, but now has a shiny new cover! To celebrate its shiny newness, there's a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post - 3 copies available (but it's only $1.99 if you wanted to go and snag yourself a copy).

Remember the way you used to feel when you were little? So eager for Santa's visit, sleeplessly counting the minutes till morning, trembling with excitement and anticipation... Will I get what I wished for? Have I been good enough?

Josh and George spent half a lifetime apart, so it matters not that they're all grown up now. For this is their first Christmas together, in their new home. They finally have all that they wished for...

...But perhaps Santa still has a few surprises in store.

This Christmas, join Josh and George for a Christmas story full of festive magic and romance.

Best read in December, in front of a roaring log fire, by the twinkling light of a Christmas tree.

That's quite enough preamble. As mentioned earlier (up there ^ somewhere), Red Hot Christmas homes in on one character (and her significant others). That character is Shaunna Hennessy.

Who is Shaunna?

Let's ask her and see!

DM: Hi Shaunna. Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions.
SH: You're welcome.

DM: First off, that question you're not supposed to ask a woman, but...?
SH: I don't mind you asking at all. I'm 39 and looking forward to turning 40. I'm kind of doing the whole living it up thing in reverse! I've got a brilliant job that I love, great friends and an amazing daughter...

DM: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
SH: Nope. Just me, but I do have quite a few cousins in Ireland.

DM: How about your parents? Are they still alive? Are they married? Are they divorced?
SH: My dad is still alive. My mum died of breast cancer eleven years ago. Dad's doing OK, but he's very forgetful and needs quite a lot of support these days.

DM: If you were sent to a deserted island what three things would you take?
SH: Mobile phone? Oh, wait. That probably wouldn't work. I'd definitely take tea bags, and...a distress flare. Ha-ha!

DM: Do you have a hidden talent?
SH: Not totally hidden, as my mates know, but I'm not bad on the footy pitch. These days there's less stigma about girls playing the game, and women's football is becoming really popular, but it wasn't like that back when I was at school.

DM: Do you have a habit you wish you could break?
SH: Not that I can think of. I don't bite my nails, or anything like that. I could maybe drink less tea?

DM: What features do you like the most about yourself?
SH: My hair. I'm a ginger. Well, it's more the colour of barley sugar, and dries into major curls. It's quite long too - when it's straightened out it's past my waist, and none of the redheads in my family have gone grey, so I'm optimistic it's going to keep me looking young forever!

DM: What feature do you dislike the most about yourself?
SH: Freckles. I'm covered in them and I'm fair-skinned, so no lush tan for me. I'm totally jealous of people who can get a good tan.

DM: Do you have a hobby?
SH: At the moment it's doing a short psychology course - part time from home. A couple of my friends are psychologists - they were chatting about it - showing off, really. Anyway, it snagged my interest, but I don't want to make a career out of it. I might study something else next. Pottery? Conversational Spanish? Car mechanics? Yeah, maybe not the last one.

DM: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
SH: Ha! Lots of them. I'm told that I'm the star of a book of some sort?
DM: That's right. It's called Red Hot Christmas.
SH: Red Hot? How about that! Well, you can no doubt find out more about my most guilty pleasure in there...hopefully heavy on the pleasure, easy on the guilt.

DM: What kind of music do you like?
SH: Pop, rock, anything really. My favourite of all time is A-Ha, fronted by the dreamy Nordic sex god, Morten Harket.

DM: What is your biggest pet peeve?
SH: Smelly dog. I know they can't help it, and I love the dog, but he really does stink at times, and then the house does too.

DM: What is your favourite food?
SH: I'm more of a favourite drink kind of girl - tea, strawberry milkshake, blueberry yoghurt crush, or yoghurt-not-smoothie as my dear friend Sean likes to call it. Food-wise, pasta is always good. And I love chocolate fudge cake. Yes, actually. It's chocolate fudge cake.

DM: Do you have a passion and if so what?
SH: Krissi - my daughter. I had her when I was fifteen, so she's been my life. Now she's all grown up maybe I'll find something else to get passionate about?

DM: Do you consider yourself and introvert or extrovert?
SH: Definitely extrovert! On my psychology course we all met up for a 'day school' and they gave us a fun introvert-extrovert test. I came out second highest out of all of us!

DM: What is your idea of a perfect day?
SH: Lie in, cup of tea, maybe even breakfast in bed, followed by doing something fun, preferably with someone fun.

DM: Who is your favorite author?
SH: Err...I don't actually read. Honestly, I've never read an entire book. I love films, and film adaptations of books. That would probably make my favourite Bridget Jones's Diary.

DM: What would the first thing be on your bucket list?
SH: Ooh, that's a tricky one. There is quite a big thing currently at the top of the list. Maybe I'll stick it on my Christmas list too, and see if Santa thinks I've been nice enough to get it. ;)

DM: If I asked you to write an entry in your journal what would it be about?
SH: Depends if you wanted to read it afterwards...just kidding. Right now it would probably be about getting organised for Christmas. My aunty is having my dad stay with her, which is really kind of her, as we've had a hell of a year and I'm looking forward to the break, but I'm not done Christmas shopping yet!

DM: Tell me something no one else knows about you?
SH: That book I mentioned? I have a feeling you'll get to know a couple of biggies in there. Who knows, it might even get a little steamy...with any luck!



 a novella of 33,000 words
December 15th, 2014




Hiding Behind The Couch Series 
in full and in chronological order:

Beginnings (novella)
Crying in the Rain (short novel)
First Christmas (novella)
Breaking Waves (novella)
A Midnight Clear (novella)
Two By Two (season 6 - 2015)

Thank you for reading - have a great Christmas!