Monday, October 16, 2017

Character Spotlight: Dan Jeffries (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


This week, Dan’s up. The image above is my Daz 3D character representations—put together to help me visualise the characters waaay back when I didn’t know them so well. From left to right: Dan, Andy, Mike. Dan is the youngest of the three Jeffries brothers, a businessman and a bit straight-laced. It’s crazy to think when I first set fingers to keyboard to write Book One, my intention was for Josh and Dan to be the two main characters. Beyond that, I had no plan, but apparently, they did. They brought all of their mates along.

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Dan Jeffries
Name: Daniel (Dan) Jeffries
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown-black, wavy, short
Complexion: Olive
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: no idea
Build: athletic, toned
Tattoos/Piercings: None.
Education: BA Business and Management Studies, MBA
Accent: Northwest English.
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England
Siblings: Two brothers - Mike and Andy (both older)
Children: Shu (Shaunna) and Robbie
Places lived: Northwest England, London.
Jobs: Self-employed - coms and security; Jeffries and Associates bespoke logistics; Campion Trust trustee.
Interests: Working out, following the market, cars.
Pets: Koi carp.
Greatest Success: Jeffries and Associates.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Disown my brother.
Biggest Trauma: Getting stabbed.
Do you have a secret: Nah.
Favourite Book: I've read a few business books, wouldn't say any were favourites.
Favourite Food: Sunday roast.
Favourite Drink: Beer.
Strength: Determined.
Weakness: Temper.
Best way to spend a weekend: Kicking back with the family.
Closest Friends: Kris, Andy.
Love of your life: the kids and Adele.

And here are some excerpts featuring Dan. He’s in almost every novel and novella (with the exception of a couple of the character specials), but he’s a man of (generally) few words, so the excerpts are all fairly short.

Beginnings

(Setting: Andy and Dan’s Bedroom – aged 11 and 10 respectively.)

The conversation downstairs had come to an end some time ago, and there was no further sound. Dan swung his legs off the side of the top bunk.

“Can we swap back beds?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Andy agreed without argument.

“Cool.” Dan jumped down, and they quickly switched their duvets and all of the other junk they kept on the ends of their beds.

“Want to play Subbuteo?” Andy suggested.

“OK.”

Andy cleared a space on the floor to set out the pitch, and they positioned their players, each watching the other to try and get the advantage on the starting formation. They kicked off.

“What’s high school like?” Dan asked.

“All right, I s’pose.”

“It’ll be weird being the smallest again.”

“Yeah.”

“With the older boys picking on you and stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll just tell them to leave me alone.”

“Yeah?” Andy flicked his striker and scored. “Yeeeeesssss!” He waved his fists in the air.

“Offside,” Dan said, pointing at his defenders.

“You just moved him back!”

“Did not!” Dan protested, but conceded the goal was legal. “So, yeah. If those boys start on me I’ll just tell them. Leave me alone, or I’ll set my big brothers on you.”

Andy waited until the ball was back in play before he replied. “And I’ll be there, right behind you.”

“What, hiding, you mean?” Dan grinned at his brother.

Andy scowled and took a long shot, fouling one of Dan’s players in the process.

Dan scored from the penalty. “In the box. Thank you! Have it!”

“Crap,” Andy grumbled.

“Serves you right for playing dirty.”

Andy shrugged. “Sometimes you’ve got to.”

Downstairs, the living room door opened.

“Dan?” Their dad’s voice. “Can I have a word?”

Hesitantly, Dan got to his feet and walked across the room. At the door to their bedroom, he looked back at his brother, both trying to pretend they weren’t bothered. A second later, Andy followed.

“He didn’t want you,” Dan called up the stairs.

“I told you,” Andy said.

“Yeah, hiding, I remember.”

***

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: the car park of Campion Holdings PLC.)

For a moment, everyone assumed that the lightweight pieces falling on them were clumps of ash and smut being propelled outwards as the windows blew, but that was not the case. It had started to snow. It was bitterly cold, and the wind swirled the flakes in all directions, yet everyone stayed exactly where they were, watching the building burn more furiously with every passing second.

Two fire engines arrived and drew to a halt close to the reception area. The crews piled out of the open doors and unloaded the hoses. This was a big job.

A vicar suddenly appeared in the car park, fighting to open a bright-pink floral umbrella and searching the crowd for someone who looked like they were in a position of authority.

“Now there’s something you don’t see every day,” Andy remarked, as the reverend neared their location.

“Thank Christ,” Dan muttered under his breath. That was one step too far, because, it would seem they were the most official-looking evacuees, and now they had to try and be sensible, when the vision before them made it almost impossible.

“Gentlemen,” the vicar called and gave up on the umbrella. “Would you let your staff know that the church is open for you all to take refuge?”

“Thank you, Reverend. That’s very kind of you.”

“Oh, no trouble at all. Mr. Campion was always very generous. And the Mothers’ Union have just finished their meeting, so the urn is still full of hot water. I’ll ask Mrs. Stevens to make up another pot of tea.” He leaned forward and talked into Dan’s ear directly. “We may even have a few mince pies left over.”

Dan watched the vicar jog back across the road, the heavy flow of cars stopping to let him across. “Only a man of God could get the Christmas shopping traffic to part like that.”

***

The Harder They Fall

(Setting: in the car – Andy is driving; Shaunna is in the front passenger seat; Dan, Adele and their daughter are in the back seat.)

“Adele,” Dan said finally, turning in his seat as far as he could and shuffling over so he could reach across the sleeping toddler between them. Shaunna lifted herself in an attempt to see what Dan had in his hand.

“Where did that come from?” Adele asked.

“My pocket. Where d’you think?”

“And do you normally keep it in your pocket?”

“Always.”

“Oh.”

Ever the optimist, Andy thought. He briefly made eye contact with his brother in the mirror and gave him an encouraging wink.

A few seconds passed before Dan addressed Adele again. “I can’t very well ask you if you’ll marry me, when you just said you won’t, can I?”

“So be creative.”

“I’m trying!” he snapped in exasperation.

Shaunna’s neck was beginning to ache from holding it in such an unnatural position. It was futile, anyway, because she couldn’t see a thing, as they were now on a section of motorway with no lighting.

Andy pulled out and overtook the car in front. Come on, he urged silently. What’s he waiting for?

“Adele,” Dan began for what he hoped would be the very last time. “When we were in juniors, I asked you to come to my birthday party, and you said you didn’t want to be the only girl there. When we started high school, you refused to come and watch the football team, and gave me the same excuse. And again when I asked you to come visit me at uni.”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“The thing is, Adele, after thirty years I still ask the question, hoping that one day you’ll give me the answer I want to hear. You always were and will always be the only girl. So please, will you just say yes?”

The pause that followed wasn’t very long really; Andy knew, because he was counting down the signs to their turning, and even then, he almost missed it.

***

Red Hot Christmas

(Setting: Dan’s living room.)

CONTENT WARNING: Kris and Dan are discussing their childhood sexual abuse – there are no graphic details.

The colour drained from Dan’s face, but Kris had got this far. He had to do it now; no backing out.

Another swig of beer, another breath…

“Ever since he did what he did, I’ve wanted to tell you that I’m sorry, and I couldn’t find the right time, or if I did find the right time I couldn’t find the words, and then I’d put it off, or justify it in my mind that I had nothing to say sorry for, but I—”

“Whoa!” Dan lifted his hand, his beer sloshing dangerously with the motion. “You don’t have anything to say sorry for.”

“I do, Dan. Hear me out. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s my fault or anything like that, but he was my great uncle, and I should have told my parents.”

“And that would’ve achieved what, exactly?”

“They’d have dealt with it, stopped it from happening again after the first time. But I was a coward and chose to keep quiet.”

“Mate, listen to yourself,” Dan beseeched.

“You know I’m right.”

“Bollocks you are! Have you heard of grooming?”

“Of course I have, but that’s not what happened, is it?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I could’ve stood up to him, Dan. But I didn’t, and I’ve thought about it a lot since. It would’ve been far more damaging to you.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re straight.”

Dan got up and started pacing, bottle in one hand, the other rubbing his head until his hair was standing on end.

Kris wished he’d never opened his mouth. He wanted to make things right for Dan, not re-open his wounds.

“That’s all I wanted to say, anyway. That I’m sorry.”

“And so you should be,” Dan snarled, “for being a fucking idiot.”

***

Two By Two

(Setting: a pub.)

NOTE: spoiler ahead, which might not seem one out of context, but still.

“I’ve had a brilliant idea,” Aitch said. He and Dan were sitting in the pub, waiting for the rest of the team to arrive for football practice. Dan tried hard to fight the smirk. “What’s funny?” Aitch asked.

“I have a cunning plan,” Dan said dryly.

“Don’t take the piss.”

Back in school, Aitch was well renowned for his ‘cunning plans’, which was a turn of phrase he’d picked up from Baldrick in the Blackadder comedy series. Alas, Aitch’s ideas usually turned out about as well as Baldrick’s did. On the plus side, he’d learned not to use that phrase specifically to introduce them. Dan could see Aitch was desperate to share his latest stroke of genius.

“Go on then,” Dan permitted.

“I was thinking, if I pull Rachel in as a witness to the vandalism at the salon—”

“She’ll know what you’re up to.”

“She doesn’t know Mike spoke to me.”

“I mean she’ll know you think she did over the salon.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m banking on.”

Dan frowned, confused.

Aitch picked up his pint and downed half of it in one go, feeling very pleased with himself. “So,” he started again, “I’ll pull Rachel in as a witness, and while I’ve got her, I’ll get a DNA swab—‘to eliminate her from our inquiries’.”

A wide grin spread across Dan’s face. “Aitch, mate. I reckon that’s your most cunning plan yet.”

The rest of the team had just come in. Dan and Aitch got up.

“So as a reward, I could, err, maybe captain the team next season?” Aitch suggested.

“Not a hope in hell.”

“Half a season?”

“Nope.”

“One game.”

“There’s a decent view of the pitch from the bench, Aitch.”

“Ah well. It was worth a shot.”

Dan clapped his friend on the back and they went to join the rest of the lads.

***

Those Jeffries Boys

(Setting: outside Andy’s house.)

When they arrived at Andy and Shaunna’s place, Dan got out of the car with Shu and carried her to the house to expedite proceedings. Andy opened the door as Dan approached, took one look at his younger brother and said, “Cacking your pants, bro?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Dan admitted. “Got to keep a brave face, though, haven’t I?”

Andy took Shu from Dan and glanced past him, to Adele, who was watching them from the passenger seat of Dan’s convertible. She gave Andy a little wave. He waved back. “She looks like she’s doing all right.”

“Of course she is. She always does. Right, I’m off.” Dan started moving away. “I left a message on Mum’s phone. Dunno where she is, but she can’t have gone far.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not going anywhere, and Shu loves looking after the babies, don’t you?” Andy held up his hand for her to high-five.

Shu bashed his palm with hers and shouted, “Go Team Jiffies!”

“Team Jiffies!” Andy repeated with a grin.

Dan only half heard their fun interchange, still hung up on don’t worry. He was sick of hearing it, because it was easy for everyone else to say.

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Washing Her Hair) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 11th October, 2017:
11 paragraphs for the 11th :)

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 WIPpet snippet follows on from the previous snippet. Rob’s with his grown-up niece, Lois; they’re spending the afternoon together.

* * * * *
“I’m gonna take you out somewhere special while I’m here,” he said. “Belated birthday treat—”

“You don’t have to,” Lois interjected.

“I want to. Not tonight, though.”

“Why? What are you up to tonight?”

“Only the pub. You can tag along if you like.”

“On one of your lads’ nights out? Think I’ll give it a miss, thanks.”

“Your loss.”

“Dodgy lager and pool followed by an even dodgier kebab…”

“How can you possibly refuse?”

“Like this: no, thank you, Uncle Rob. I’m washing my hair. But you can have one for me.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Rob said sincerely. His relationship with Lois was back to how it used to be, and that was definitely worthy of celebration.
* * * * *
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, October 09, 2017

Character Spotlight: Jess Lambert (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


Today, it’s Jess Lambert’s turn. She seemed like a good choice to follow Sean (for reasons that become apparent in the stories—see teaser excerpt later in this post).

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Jess appears in both prequels and books 1–5. I shall say no more on’t.

Jess Lambert
Name: Jessica (Jess) Lambert
Eyes: Grey
Hair: Blonde, straight.
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5’ 9’
Weight: 10 stone
Build: average
Tattoos/Piercings: Both ears x 1
Education: LLB Law, PGDip (LPC)
Accent: Northwest English/RP.
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England
Siblings: One – Daisy, RIP.
Children: none.
Places lived: Northwest England.
Jobs: Solicitor - family law.
Interests: Shopping, fun evenings out.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: Starting my own business.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Deceive my friends.
Biggest Trauma: Losing Daisy.
Do you have a secret: Many.
Favourite Book: Catcher in the Rye.
Favourite Food: Pizza.
Favourite Drink: White wine.
Strength: Single-minded.
Weakness: Overly Ambitious.
Best way to spend a weekend: With friends.
Closest Friends: Josh.
Love of your life: my career.


And here are some excerpts featuring Jess (and her favourite men, mostly):


Ruminations

(Setting: A pub near the university—with Josh.)

“Are you all right?” Josh asked.

“Sorry? Oh, I was just thinking about Andy.”

“Wow, you really did move on quickly.”

“Ha ha. I wasn’t thinking quite that far ahead, although I might invite him over for a visit. He bought a car with his grant.”

“What’s he going to live on for the rest of the term?”

“His mum.”

“Hm. While the rest of us are struggling and striving for our independence.”

“Oh, yeah, struggling, Joshua,” Jess sniped in jest.

“Hey, just because I’m doing OK doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how hard it is for other students.”

“Me, you mean?”

“No, I meant Sean. His grant still hasn’t come through.”

“Blimey. So he’s got no money? I don’t mind lending him some for a couple of weeks if he needs it.”

“It’s OK. We’ve come to an arrangement already, but thank you.”

“I wasn’t offering you money,” Jess joked, nudging Josh with her elbow.

“I didn’t think you were,” Josh said, nudging her back.

“So you were thanking me on Sean’s behalf?”

“No. I was thanking you for proving that you’re still the same old Jess. Even if you did fall for a twerp.”

***

(Setting: Sean’s room in the halls of residence—with Sean.)

Sean couldn’t keep his eyes off her. She was his idea of the perfect girl―not too slim, wide hips, large breasts, her long, smooth hair cascading like water over her shoulders. She took his hand and steered him over to his bed. He resisted.

“I’m too bloody cold to stand around while you do battle with whatever it is that’s bothering you.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and she clambered in behind him, pulling the duvet tight around her and shivering for effect. She poked a foot out and ran her toes up Sean’s thigh. He turned so he could see her.

“The thing is, Jessie. We’re friends. And then there’s Josh. What if we break it?”

“We’re only having sex, Sean.”

“But is it ever only sex? Like your girl Imogen―is she not an exception to the rule?”

“Which rule?”

“I always thought women were after a relationship, and just put up with the sex.”

“We want the same as you do.”

“Oh.” Sean frowned and nodded. He was really too drunk and too aroused for a deep conversation like this, but it mattered enough to try and do the right thing, for Jess, for himself, and most importantly for Josh. Sean was pretty sure he and Jess would cope, come what may; Josh was newly stepping out in the world, childishly inexperienced in some respects, far beyond his years in others. But the one thing he had taught Sean was that sometimes straight-talking was the only way to say what needed to be said.

“All right, so what happens if we do this tonight and we can’t so much as look at each other tomorrow?”

“Then we’ll find a way to work around it, for Josh’s sake if nothing else.”

“Or if one of us changes our mind and decides we want more than sex.”

“Do you?”

“No, but―”

“Sean. Just get your clothes off and get in this bed, will you?”

***


The Harder They Fall

(Setting: Jess’s office—with Lois Simpson-Stone.)

“I’m gonna go out there and slash his damned tyres in a minute,” Jess said to no-one at all, because Lois couldn’t hear her and Eleanor had finished for the day.

Lois did, however, pick up on the fact that she had said something and paused the playback on the voice recording she was transcribing. “Is everything all right?” she asked in perfect RP.

“That alarm’s been going off since half past nine. It’s driving me nuts!”

Lois smiled. “On the plus side, the battery will be flat soon.”

“It won’t just be the battery that’s flat if I find out who owns the blasted thing,” Jess growled.

Lois giggled and stuffed the loose earphone back in her ear, the sun reflecting off the silver chain dangling from her earlobe. Jess moved closer to get a better look at the tiny, sparkly gemstones, suspended like droplets of rain from the end of the chain.

“Sorry. Was there something else?” Lois removed the earphone again.

“Lovely earrings.”

“Thanks. They were a twenty-first birthday present. Aquamarine is my birthstone—oh, that reminds me. I meant to give you this earlier.” She lifted a stack of files and retrieved a small, white envelope from underneath, handing it across. Jess read the names on the front and frowned.

“Andrew and Jessica Jeffries?”

“It’s from—”

“Your Uncle Rob. I know! It’s a very old and not funny joke. He’s getting married again, is he?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Oh.” Jess had been convinced it was a wedding invitation. “I guess I’d better open it and see what’s inside.”

***

(Setting: A restaurant—with Rob Simpson-Stone.)

Their table, against the back wall and secluded by a well-placed pillar, bore a candle, a single rose in a vase and two half-empty wine glasses. Jess had been telling Rob about a recent case, where the wife was having an affair and wanted out, but her husband refused to leave the jointly owned marital home. It was a dull and only vaguely pertinent story, but she was finding it difficult to converse tonight. In contrast, Rob was laid back yet receptive, listening attentively to all she said.

“I’m sorry. I’m so boring.” Jess laughed to hide her embarrassment.

“Not at all,” he assured her and took her hand. “I’ve always found you…fascinating.”

She blushed but brashly held his gaze. “In what way?”

“Only in a good way.”

“And yet you play so hard to get?” she remarked lightly in reference to their parting in the early hours of Sunday morning, when she had invited him to stay the night. His refusal was all the more frustrating when they had remained physically close throughout the party, and he was clearly aroused by her. She licked her lips—an unconscious gesture, which only registered a split second later—and quickly picked up her wine glass.

“There’s no rush, is there?” Rob didn’t want to put any pressure on her. She needed to be genuinely receptive to his advances.

“Well, you tell me. After all, you’re the one with the potentially fatal heart condition. Was that why you went home?”

“No.” He laughed. “Although I didn’t think of that. It’s not much of a turn-on, having a hulk of a man collapse on you mid-climax.”

“I’d be prepared to take that chance,” Jess responded.

“All in good time.” He lifted her hand and kissed it, his lips lingering against her skin and sending a thrill chasing around her entire body. “You need to decide what you want most.”

“I know what I want most.”

***


In The Stars Part I

(Setting: A coffee shop—with Josh.)

Josh picked up his cappuccino and scooped out some of the foam with his finger. “Here’s an idea,” he said. He put his finger in his mouth. Jess turned and placed a knee up on the sofa, creating a barrier between them. He glanced down and then looked her in the eye again. “I’m still going to suggest it.”

She shrugged. She wasn’t going to agree to anything until she knew what it was, but she kept the eye contact.

He went on, “I’ll answer your question, truthfully, and you pay me the same courtesy. How about that?”

Jess shrugged again, this time by way of consent.

“You want to know how long my depression lasted? Nearly two years.” It was kind of the truth. She hadn’t specified which depression. “And you were a massive help to me,” Josh continued, “not that I imagine I was particularly gracious about it at the time. Mental illness makes you terribly selfish.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.” Jess rolled her eyes. She was tormenting him, making light of how difficult it had been to support him at the same time as trying to complete her own studies.

“I hugely appreciate you being there for me,” he said.

She waved her hand dismissively. “I didn’t do that much. I mean, I was only across campus, so it really was no hardship.”

“Just accept my thanks, OK?”

She smiled. “OK. Accepted.”

“Of course, Sean’s appreciation was much, much huger than mine,” he added with a smirk.

“Ah, I wondered when we’d get around to that.” She giggled and blushed a little.

Given their gregarious nature, plus the amount of time she spent in his company when Josh was depressed, it wasn’t especially surprising that Jess and Sean had, on more than one occasion, ended up sleeping together. Neither of them had mentioned it since, and Josh had also kept it to himself, because it was just one of those things that happened at uni, or so he’d been led to believe, for it had never happened to him.

“How is Sean these days?” Jess asked.

“Same as ever. Full of his own self-importance and charming the pants off all the females on campus.”

“He never married?”

“He did. And divorced. Now he’s in a very strange long-term relationship with someone he doesn’t even seem to like that much.”

“Why?”

“I think he loves her.”

***

NOTE: at least one HUGE spoiler ahead for anyone who hasn’t read The Harder They Fall, In The Stars and thereafter.

(Setting: Jess’s house—with Shaunna.)

“Hiya,” Shaunna called, dropping her bag in the living room. Jess was standing in the kitchen, a teabag dangling from her fingers.

“Hi,” she called back. Today, she was dressed—in light, non-restrictive clothes, but they were at least clothes, not a nightshirt and socks.

“How’re you feeling? You look loads better.”

“Yeah, I am, thanks. Well…”

Shaunna smiled, understanding what had been left unsaid. “You’ll have to take whatever good days you get, if you’re planning on staying with us a while.” It sounded callous, but it wasn’t intended to be. She’d nursed her mother to the end, and it was a truth she’d realised during those final few months: that the truth itself could not be denied, because the end would come, regardless, and it made the little things so much more significant, the tiniest of joys more important than ever. Together, they had sat in the garden and watched bees and butterflies for hour upon hour upon hour, hardly daring to stir, for fear of disturbing their beautiful toils. They had listened to the birds in the early morning, and to their absence at midnight, talked of everything, and nothing at all. When the darkest days arrived, they were brighter for the time they had shared together while they still could.

Jess interrupted Shaunna’s reminiscence. “What was that pain management thingy you were talking about?”

“Acupressure.”

“Like acupuncture?”

“Basically, but without needles. Josh says it’s all in your head, but they use it at the hospice, and it works for a lot of people. I’ll bring my book with me next time. It’s got all the pressure points in it—we can figure it out between us.”

“Or we could walk to your house in a little while and get it?”

Shaunna visualised the route and marked off in her mind the places they could stop so Jess could rest. “OK,” she agreed. There was the sound of movement above them.

“Andy’s up,” Jess observed. He’d been having trouble sleeping for weeks. Now it seemed he couldn’t get enough. “I’ll go and get my shoes and tell him what we’re doing. In fact, he can have my cup of tea. Ooh, I’m quite excited to be going out!”

***

(Setting: Jess’s bedroom—with Josh.)

Jess brought up on-screen the shirts she’d been looking at and showed him. “I wanted to ask you what you think of these?”

“For Andy?”

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to get an answer out of him for weeks about what he wants for his birthday, but he’s ‘still thinking about it’, so I thought I’d just buy him some clothes. I know it’s a bit crap, but I’m kind of limited in my options.”

Josh looked over the shirts and frowned. “I’m not sure they’re Andy’s style, but I don’t really take much notice.”

“Would you wear them?”

“Maybe. If they had long sleeves.”

“Like this one?” Jess clicked on a link and showed him.

“That’s really nice. How much is that?” He squinted at the price. “Do people pay that much for shirts? It’s only a square of cheesecloth with a hole in the top!”

Jess laughed. “It’s a bit more intricate than that.” She loaded a different page. “Then there’s these linen trousers.” She passed him the laptop again.

“Hmm. Andy’s not really a trousers kind of guy. Jeans in winter. Shorts in summer.”

“I thought you didn’t take any notice.”

“I’d have to be blind not to notice those legs.”

Jess gave him a questioning look.

“Yes, all right. Andy’s got a fine pair of pins. Muscular, well honed, not too hairy.” Jess grinned at him, and he blushed. “I can look, can’t I?”

“You can. I’m just surprised to hear that you do.”

“They are nice trousers, regardless.” Josh passed her laptop back. “And how many hundreds of pounds were they?”

Jess tutted. “It’s fascinating, the different styles people adopt. Do you think it reflects their personality?”

“Up to a point, I suppose.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “Like Kris, for instance, with his flamboyant printed shirts, and Dan with his perpetual white shirt and black pants, always casual yet professional.”

“So, would you describe yourself as emotionally open and outgoing?”

“It’s not entirely inaccurate.”

“OK. And what do my clothes say about me, Doctor Lambert, pop psychologist extraordinaire?”

“That you’re very guarded, with a common-sense take on life.”

“D’you know, you might be on to something here,” Josh tormented.

She ignored him and continued. “Whereas George is down-to-earth and open in most respects.”

“Down-to-earth, yes.”

“I did say ‘in most respects’. You’d never catch a glimpse of him topless in public.”

“No. Although he does sometimes wander around the house topless.” Josh let out an unconscious, contented sigh.

“Nice view, is it?”

“Oh yes. He’s kind of—perfect.” He smiled and went a bit mushy.

Jess laughed and nudged him with her knee. “Shame he hides it in baggy t-shirts, hey?”

“It’s certainly a shame for everyone else.”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Missed You More) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 4th October, 2017:
Pfft. Clutching…
Four emdashes. :D

from Tabula Rasa


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

In my mission to procrastinate to the max this week, I designed the cover for the third book…even though I haven’t finished writing the second one and have loads of other stuff to do. It’s about as close to a holiday as I’m getting this year.

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).

I’m switching back to Rob this week. In this snippet, he’s meeting up with his niece, Lois, who is in her twenties and lives ‘up north’ (Rob lives in London).

* * * * *
“I’m not sure how I feel, coming second to my sister.” Lois gave Rob a tight hug and kissed his cheek. “Love the aftershave. What is it?”

“The stuff you bought me for Christmas.” Rob hadn’t paid any attention to the name.

“Oh, well, that explains it. I have excellent taste.”

Rob laughed at Lois’s boast, but he had to agree. She was dressed down for the weekend—long baggy sweatshirt, leggings and flat pumps—but Beyoncé had got nothing on her. Maybe he was a bit biased. “What d’you fancy doing?” he asked. “We could go to the park…”

“Feed the ducks and play on the swings?” Lois grinned as she looped her arm through his. “I don’t mind. It’s so nice to see you, Uncle Rob. I’ve missed you.”

He gently squeezed her arm against his side. “Missed you more.”

“Have not.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know everything.” Lois strutted, pointing her toes like a proper little madam—the way she used to when she was a five-year-old who really did think she knew everything and would throw the biggest wobbler if she was proved wrong, not that she often was. No tantrums today, though. Just a big beaming smile—Rob imagined he had one to match.
* * * * *
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, October 02, 2017

Character Spotlight: Sean Tierney (Hiding Behind The Couch)


A couple of weeks ago, I posted CVs / character profiles for Kris Johansson and Charlie Davenport from the Hiding Behind The Couch series, and people liked those / found them useful, so I’m going to post the profiles for the rest of ‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series) and ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right)—in no particular order.


Today, I present, for your delight and curiosity, Doctor Sean Tierney. It seemed an apt choice for this week, as in the HBTC universe, Sean’s birthday falls on October 5th. He’s 44 this time around (post Reunions – Season Seven).

Now, followers of the series will probably know that I don’t write the stories entirely in chronological order. The ‘seasons’ are written and published in chronological order, but when characters reveal information about their past, if there’s another story to tell, I’ll ‘go back’ and tell it. You can find both the writing and suggested reading order on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

There are also characters who I intend to feature in only one story, but they have other ideas—like Sean, who was supposed to be a foil for Josh when he first appeared in No Time Like The Present (Season Two) but wanted to stick around. By the time I’d finished writing The Harder They Fall (Season Three), Sean had given me his and Josh’s full back story. It goes without saying that Josh was not at all impressed.

Sean Tierney
Name: Sean Tierney
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Dark brown/black…and grey these days
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 14 stone
Build: a wee bit on the heavy side
Tattoos/Piercings: None
Education: BA Psychology, MSc Psychology; PhD
Accent: Northern Irish (Derry) with a hint of Northwest English
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Derry, the North of Ireland.
Siblings: Finn (older brother).
Children: Dylan
Places lived: Derry, NI; Northwest England.
Jobs: Timber yard assistant, clinical psychologist; bereavement counsellor; palliative care therapist.
Interests: TV, work, reading, not necessarily in that order.
Pets: Sphinx (Siamese/Persian cat)
Greatest Success: Leaving Derry.
Worst thing you’ve ever done to someone: Break contact with Josh.
Biggest Trauma: Finn’s accident.
Do you have a secret: Open book.
Favourite Book: Myself? Just kidding—I love every last one I read.
Favourite Food: My mum’s cooking.
Favourite Drink: Whiskey, but I settle for tea these days.
Strength: Compassion.
Weakness: Bone-idleness.
Best way to spend a weekend: On the couch watching telly.
Closest Friends: Josh, Shaunna.
Love of your life: My work.


And here are some excerpts featuring the charming rogue himself!

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: Sean’s house—although this, chronologically, is Sean’s second appearance in the series, this is the first time I ‘met’ him.)

Sean Tierney was one of those dark-haired Irishmen, blessed with cheeky good looks and a sharp sense of humour that appealed to virtually everyone. In spite of his sociable nature, he lived on his own, in a small terraced house on the outskirts of a village just beyond the boundaries of the main town. It was a close-knit community, and the villagers rarely accepted strangers into their fold, but with some carefully measured interaction and just a little Irish cunning, Sean had successfully endeared himself to them, in particular, the leader of the Parish Council—a woman in her early sixties who took a very dim view of everything. Or, it would seem, everything apart from Sean Tierney.

. . .

Sean poked around in the dark with his key, eventually felt it come to rest in the keyhole, and gave it a full turn clockwise. Sphinx, his very curious cat, was mewing loudly just the other side of the door, anxiously awaiting the return of his master, or servant, as was the reality of the cat-human relationship. The creature was a real oddment: mostly Siamese, with ears that bent over ever so slightly, and a vast bushy tail like a Persian, hence the name, because he looked like two cats merged into one.

“Hello, Sphinxy, how was your day?” Sean switched on the light in the narrow hallway and bent down to stroke the cat’s head, at which it slithered the whole length of its back against his palm.

“Mine was quite the usual sort of day,” Sean continued, in response to the cat’s greeting. “I had a meeting this morning with the community health team. It went quite well. They still won’t give me any more money, which is a shame. Then I went up to the university to try and catch up with Josh, but he wasn’t there. Again, it’s a pity; I haven’t seen him in ages, but I should’ve phoned him first, d’you think?” The cat continued to parade up and down, pausing occasionally, as if to listen intently.

“Ah, now. I bet you remember Josh. You were a tiny kitty when he came here. And he liked you, so he did. He picked you up and sat you on his knee there. I think you liked him too. OK, so, it’s dinner time, I suppose. What shall we have tonight?” Sean scooped up the cat with one hand and continued to stroke him with the other, walking through to the kitchen, turning on lights as he went.

***

Ruminations

(Setting: Sean has arrived at his English university halls of residence with next to no money.)

Whilst Sean stood in the doorway to his room, pondering over what he was to do about the lack of bedding (a lone, bare pillow was the sum total soft furnishings), a student emerged from the next room along, quietly closed his door, checked that it was locked, moved to walk away, went back and checked again, before heading in Sean’s direction. The other student―young-looking and pale with foppish blonde hair―gave Sean a very brief smile on his way past.

“Hello,” Sean said, continuing to watch him all along the corridor, until he reached the door to the stairs. At the last second Sean called, “Excuse me.”

The other student stopped and turned around.

“Sorry to bother you, but do you know if there’s a linen store where I can get some blankets?”

The other student frowned thoughtfully, making his way back. “You’re supposed to bring your own,” he said.

“Ah.” Sean put his rucksack down.

“You’re from Derry?”

“That’s right,” Sean said, suitably impressed. The other student was seemingly perplexed by this. “I wouldn’t have expected an Englishman to know the accent.”

The other student shrugged. “It’s on the news a lot at the moment, and it’s very distinct.”

“Ah, right. I’m Sean, by the way.” He held out his hand. “Sean Tierney.”

“Josh Sandison,” Josh responded, accepting the big rough hand of friendship extended to him. He glanced down, observing the calluses. Sean retracted his hand self-consciously.

“I’ve been working in a wood yard for the past three years,” he explained. “The place went out of business, so I’m here. With no blankets.” Sean eyed his bare room again and scratched his head. “I need to find a bank and a shop. Any ideas?”

Josh hadn’t explored the local area since he’d got drenched outside the phone box on his first night, but he did know where the shops and the bank were. “Yes. I’ll walk down with you.”

“Don’t worry. If you can just point me in the right direction―I’m sure you’ve better things to do.”

“Not really. Come on.”

Sean left his bag in his room, locked the door and the two of them headed off-campus together.

“What are you studying?” Sean asked.

“Psychology,” Josh responded.

“Great. Me too…”

***

In The Stars Part I

(Setting: Milky’s Milk Bar. Shaunna and Sean have met up for a milkshake and a chat—they’ve only recently become acquainted).

“So I watched a bit of that crime drama nonsense,” Sean said, blasé.

“OK?” Shaunna queried.

“Yes, I suppose it was. He’s not a bad little actor, that husband-ex-husband of yours.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Shaunna was distracted by the two young men sitting across from them, both sucking hard at their straws and experiencing the same lack of success she had encountered on her first visit. “Why?”

“Why what? Suffer the pain of the yoghurt not-smoothies?”

“No. Why give a compliment and make it sound so condescending?”

“Did I?” Sean pretended to be surprised. “It was unintentional.”

“Hmm. Says you.”

Their drinks arrived.

“They’re quite hot,” said the Milky’s maid. It was written on her apron: Amy, Milky’s Maid.

“OK. Thanks.” Shaunna carefully pulled the glass close to her and put her hands around it. Amy the Milky’s Maid wasn’t wrong. Shaunna moved her hands away. Amy placed the second glass down.

“Thanks.” Sean used the paper napkin to manoeuvre his glass along the table.

Their ‘maid’ nodded politely and returned to her position behind the counter.

“Yes, so was it well received?” Sean asked.

“What?”

“The TV show? Did the reviewers like it?”

“Yeah, I think so. We don’t talk about it.”

Sean gave her an enquiring look.

“It’s his job. If he worked in telesales, he wouldn’t come home and tell me all the ins and outs of it.”

“I take your point. But it’s not exactly your run-of-the-mill kind of occupation, is it?”

Shaunna shrugged. “He’s always been an actor. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill to us.”

Sean acquiesced. “And how are you doing?”

“Yeah. I’m doing OK. You?”

“Fine, fine. What’ve you been up to?”

“Not a lot. Working, mostly.”

“Me, too.” Sean tried his drink. Still too hot. “Shall we start again?”

Shaunna laughed dolefully. “Yeah.”

“And how are you doing?”

“Awful. You?”

“Feckin’ terrible. What’ve you been up to?”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Upended) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 27th September, 2017:

2017 / 9 - 27 = 197 (rounded to a whole number) 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).

The snippet is from Gray’s point of view: he’s on his way to Will’s house, via the woods, when he meets up with Will and his dogs. Kenny is a dog who uses wheels to get around.

(P.S. I’m really sorry I didn't get over to everyone’s blogs last Wednesday. The time got away from me. I’ll do better.)

* * * * *
Gray winced as Kenny hit a raised root and flipped upside down, wheels spinning in the air. Without a second thought, Gray dashed to his aid and got no thanks at all from the dog, who raced off as soon as he was upright. Gray supposed that was thanks enough.

“Remember when that used to freak you out?” Will murmured, his chin heavy on Gray’s shoulder.

He smiled at the reminder. At the start, everything Kenny did freaked Gray out—the shuffling around the house and thadumping down the stairs with his back legs dragging behind him, capsizing in the woods, falling into the canal—even his hydrotherapy sessions in a doggy lifejacket with a therapist standing next to him gave Gray palpitations. And while he was caught up in all that worry for nothing, that big old dog had thadumped his way right into Gray’s heart.

“We’ve made good progress, haven’t we?” he said.

“For a dog who doesn’t like people, and a people who doesn’t like dogs, I’d call it outstanding progress.”

“Outstanding…” Gray sidestepped, laughing when Will jolted forward at the sudden loss of chin rest. He caught Will’s hand and they moved on.
* * * * *
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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review: The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard

Title: The Truth About Goodbye
Author: Russell Ricard
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Published: 4th April, 2017
ISBN: 9781634897877
Link: http://www.russellricard.com

Blurb:
Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old Broadway chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date-items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.

Challenged by his best friend Chloe, a quirky ex-Rockettes dancer, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer, and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.

Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?

The Truth About Goodbye is a coming-of-middle age story about love, loss, self-acceptance, and renewal.

Review:
I'll be honest; I thought twice about reading this novel. Three times, in fact. I read the preview and discovered it was written in third-person present tense, which - due to the wonders of popular fiction - is a rare form these days, and it jarred. However, I knew once I started reading, I'd settle into it.

The other reason I dithered was the subject matter. The blurb makes it quite clear this is a story about grief, and I read for escapism. If, as is the case here, the plot is well executed and the characters are fully realised, I strongly connect with the events and the characters' living through them, which means I'm pretty much going to spend the duration swept up in the character's grief.

That's precisely what happened. It took me around three chapters to stop noticing the narrative, and then I was submerged into Sebastian's world. He calls himself a 'forty-year-old chorus boy', and that's a powerful insight into his self-critical perspective. He's never good enough, original enough, young enough, handsome enough - Sebastian started out in a dark place, and his husband's death only drove him deeper.

Which, in part, is the truth about what it will take for Sebastian to say goodbye. His existence is driven by questions for which he's afraid to seek the answers. He's in a fantasy land, where life is just a Broadway musical (think second act of Into The Woods...) and every pivotal moment in which one of those answers might lurk is lost to Sebastian's penchant for being reminded of such-and-such-a-number from such-and-such-a-show. It's annoying and exhausting - for Sebastian and the immersed reader. Because, ultimately, we both of us know he needs to get real, escape from the fantasies he's concocted around every loss he's endured, every chance he has to move forward. He needs to say goodbye. And stop over-feeding Arthur, maybe fix up the place a little...

The secondary characters are strong and well-written if not a little clichéd, although no less real for that. I know musical theatre people, and I can spot the Chloes, Gregs and Mrs. Woos among them. It doesn't make Chloe any less like someone I want to shake. No doubt, her heart is mostly in the right place, but at times, she's a lesson in how not to be a best friend. Sadly, I know too many people in real life like that to cast her off as a fictional stereotype, and in a way, I wish the author had made her 'less real', not least because it would have been an easier read if I'd been confident Sebastian was in good hands.

Grief is a messy, seemingly impenetrable fog that distorts reality, and only the grieving can break themselves free of it. The Truth About Goodbye is Sebastian's spiralling journey through that fog, and while it doesn't necessarily have a happy ending in the fairy-tale sense, it certainly has a hopeful one, with a side order of romantic potential. This is a very strong debut novel - I look forward to reading more from Russell Ricard.

Received through NetGalley.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Character Spotlight: Charlie Davenport (Hiding Behind The Couch) #biweek #bivisibility #lgbt


So…I had a different post planned for Bi Visibility Day, but you know what? There’s been a distinct shortage of bi women (or just ‘not men’, really) in most of the stuff I’ve seen, including my own posts—I’ll hold my hands up to that. Therefore, I’m rounding off the week with Charlie (aka Charlotte Davenport) from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

But first…A.M. Leibowitz (author/reviewer/blogger/BiCast presenter and more) has compiled an excellent (and ongoing) list of bi authors, bloggers, books and resources, which you can find here: amleibowitz.com/2017/09/22/the-big-bilist-awesome-bi-writers-books-and-resources/. They also wrote some awesome #BiWeek flash fiction (and it includes non-male characters, yay!). You can (and definitely should) read it on their blog (five stories in all), plus there's a giveaway.

And you can still buy my bi books at half-price/enter a giveaway here: beatentrackpublishing.com/bivisibility (last day today).

Link back to all of my #BiWeek 2017 posts.

Charlie Davenport

In yesterday’s post about Kris Johansson, I included Kris’s ‘CV’, and people liked it / found it useful, so I’ve put together similar CVs for the rest ‘The Circle’ (the main characters in HBTC) as well as the ‘extended circle’ (the circle on the right).


I’ll be posting those CVs over the coming weeks.

Here’s Charlie to…get the ball rolling. :D
Name: Charlotte (Charlie) Davenport
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown, straight
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5’ 5”
Weight: 10-11 stone
Build: athletic
Tattoos/Piercings: Both ears x 1
Education: University of Birmingham – BA (hons) Marketing and Journalism.
Accent: Northwest English.
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England
Siblings: Six – oldest to youngest: Ellie (Eleanor), Ben, (I go here), Luke, Tilly (Matilda), Teddy (Edward), Pete.
Children: None.
Places lived: Northwest England; Midlands, England; Brisbane, Australia.
Jobs: Semi-pro footballer, football coach, marketing/PR manager, business manager.
Interests: Surfing, footy, family.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: Getting on the England squad.
Worst thing you’ve ever done to someone: Slapped my mum.
Biggest Trauma: None.
Do you have a secret: Not anymore. ;)
Favourite Book: It’s one of my mum’s Catherine Cookson novels. I don’t talk about it.
Favourite Food: Anything spicy.
Favourite Drink: Water.
Strength: Competitive.
Weakness: Too laid back.
Best way to spend a weekend: Footy.
Closest Friends: My teammates.
Love of your life: Footy.

And some Charlie snippets!

In The Stars Part I: Capricorn–Gemini

(Setting: Eleanor’s house, with Josh, Andy and Dan)

“Ah, yes, that’s right. How was Brisbane?” Josh asked.

“Hot. Busy. Expensive. No jobs there, either, not that I went with the intention of looking.”

“You’d consider emigrating?”

“Possibly. To be honest, it’s not much different from any other big city.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Andy contended. “It’s very clean.”

“True. And the people are more polite than in most.”

Andy nodded in agreement. “I was in London a few months back.”

“Tell me about it!” Charlotte groaned. “How rude?”

“I hear ya.”

Josh and Dan looked at each other.

“So yeah,” Charlotte continued, “as cities go, Brisbane’s OK, but it’s the coast that keeps on luring me back. The surfing’s superb.”

“Oh, yeah,” Andy said dreamily. “Incredible beaches.”

“Yeah. Gotta be seen to be believed,” Charlotte agreed, a wistful look settling on her face.

“I’d love to go again,” Andy said.

“Did you get down to Snapper Rocks at all?” she asked.

“Did I ever! I like Duranbah way better. Not as many tourists.”

“True. Or autograph hunters. I loved Cudgen Reef, though I didn’t go out.”

“Oh, I’d forgotten about Cudgen Reef! I met this great guy there—”

Josh and Dan edged towards the door.

“—who was going right down the coast…”

They stepped outside and left the surfers to their paradise.

***

Those Jeffries Boys

(This is a bit of a spoiler, but not much.)

Slowly, keeping her proximity, Charlie turned around and looked up at him. “It’s mutual,” she said. “The attraction.”

“But…I thought you were seeing someone.”

“You mean Megan?”

Mike nodded, although she could have provided any name at all, it wouldn’t have mattered. His point was…well, his point was clearly way off base. “You’re not a lesbian?”

Charlie’s eyebrows rose and her eyes widened in annoyance. “No, I’m not,” she said coolly. “I’m bisexual. I thought Andy or someone might’ve told you.”

“Sorry. I didn’t know.” Her statement had thrown him a little because he’d figured part of the reason she didn’t scare him was that there was no possibility of them ever being more than friends. Now he was waiting for the panic to set in and kill his arousal, except it didn’t, and he wasn’t sure what else to say. I don’t want a relationship sounded like the brush-off, and right now, the very last thing he wanted to do was give her the brush-off.

“You need to make the first move, Mike.”

His racing pulse filled his ears, and his stomach churned. “I don’t know if I can.”

Charlie offered him a smile of reassurance. “That’s fine. We don’t need to do anything.”

“But I really want to.” He swallowed, trying to lubricate his mouth, dry from heavy breathing. “Would you be upset if I told you it’s only sex?”

Charlie laughed. “Whatever. We’re mates already, and we’re both single, so why not?”

***

Reunions

(Setting: Boxing Day—the family are gathered at Ben’s house. Ben, Teddy and Pete are Charlie’s brothers; Kohl is their nephew and one of the mentioned twins.)

Teddy grinned. “Mind if I join you? Ben and Jo have just got back and they’re talking about Monopoly.”

“Oh, God. Come on, quick, before they notice we’re not there.”

Teddy squished into the chair with Charlie.

A moment later, Pete came in and mouthed ‘I’ve got a date’ at Charlie. She gave him a thumbs up. Pete took up position next to Kohl.

Ben appeared in the doorway. “We’re playing Monopoly. Are you in?”

Charlie glanced over. “Nah, you carry on.”

Ben nodded and went back the way he’d come. “The kids are all watching a movie,” he explained loudly for the benefit of whoever was in the kitchen. Pete growled.

“One of these days…” Teddy threatened.

Charlie laughed and slung her arm around his shoulder. “You know what you’ve gotta do, don’t you?”

“What? Get married? No chance. I’m done with women.”

“Never say never, Ted.”

“Hm. What about you? Any romance on the horizon.”

“Nope. But Pete’s got a date.”

“No way! Have you?”

“Excuse me?” Pete objected from the sofa. “Why is that so hard to believe?”

“Well, you’re all…churchified.”

“And?”

“And… Oh, wait. Is it with Norman?”

Charlie burst into laughter.

“Shhhhh!” the twins hissed in unison.

“Sorry,” Charlie whispered. “That’s what I said.”

“What’s his name?” Teddy asked.

“Byron.”

“Don’t know him.”

“He’s new.”

Teddy nodded and watched the movie for a couple of minutes. “What’s he look like?” he asked Charlie.

“He’s all right.”

Across the room, Pete growled to let them know he could hear them.

“Has he got a sister?” Teddy whispered.

Pete got up. “I’m going to play Monopoly,” he said, pausing at the door to add, “with the grown-ups.”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Friday, September 22, 2017

Character Spotlight: Kris Johansson (Hiding Behind The Couch) #biweek #bivisibility #lgbt


When my dearest husband read the very first draft of Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One), he must’ve misread ‘Kris’ as ‘Kenny’, because in the ten years since—during which he’s read the first draft of every single story—he’s come up with at least a hundred ways to kill Kris.

My favourites include the morning Kris woke up and found all the bodies of his friends downstairs and realised he was completely and utterly alone (not sure how he died that time, to be honest, probably not murder), the multiple occasions he’s been run over by buses, and when he fell off a cliff for no reason whatsoever…there are times I wonder if I should just open a document and let Nige write the next instalment.

I permit this indulgence, of course. Nige is my alpha reader (sometimes he pushes it and asks, “Don’t you mean alpha male?” Ha.) He tells me he’s joking (about killing Kris, not the alpha male thing) and he’d have nothing left to do if I did follow through and send Kris off to Valhalla or wherever he’s destined to end up. It’s turned into a fun running joke, and I’m lucky to be married to someone who supports my writing and convincingly feigns takes an interest.

However, Nige is not the only one who is…ambivalent about my lovely Swedish out-and-proud bisexual.

In Kris’s defence…

Shaunna loves him.

I rest my case. :D

But seriously, come on, guys! He looks like Morten Harket, he’s an actor, his best mate is a beefcake, his first boyfriend was a high school football star, his current boyfriend manages a naked dance troupe, and his wife-ex-wife is a super-hot redhead. Even if he’s got zilch personality, isn’t he worth tolerating for his friends?

Whatever, I like him, and I’m the author, so ner.

Oh my god, she is so not going to kill Kris.

Instead, here are a few insights from Kris’s actor CV:
Name: Kristian Johansson
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Light Brown
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 11 stone
Build: Slim
Tattoos/Piercings: None
Training: Drama Centre London
Accents and Dialects: Most British (English, Welsh, Scottish) regional accents, RP
Languages: English, Swedish
Role-Playing Ages: 35–45

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Gothenburg, Sweden.
Siblings: Lars (older brother).
Places lived: Gothenburg, Northwest England, London.
Jobs: Radio actor, TV actor.
Interests: Reading, listening to music, visiting the theatre.
Pets: Casper (yellow Labrador).
Greatest Success: Buying a house for Shaunna, Krissi and me.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Cheating on Shaunna.
Biggest Trauma: Childhood abuse.
Do you have a secret: Not telling.
Favourite Book: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
Favourite Food: None. I’m severely allergic to shellfish (and cats—as pets, not food!). It makes eating a bit of a chore.
Favourite Drink: Tea.
Strength: Making sure everyone is happy.
Weakness: Making sure everyone is happy.
Best way to spend a weekend: Walking the dog with loved ones / friends.
Closest Friends: Shaunna, George, Dan.
Love of your life: Ade, Krissi (daughter), Shaunna.

And here is a selection of smoochy snippets. Note: these are moderately saucy.

With George

(from Chain of Secrets (Novella))

(Setting: a high school art lesson—aged 14–15)

Kris walked back to George’s desk and leaned over his shoulder. “Wow, that’s really good.”

“Thank you. How did yours turn out?”

“Well, I was very happy with it until I saw yours.” Kris laughed, and his breath moved George’s hair, making him shiver. Kris pulled out the chair next to George’s and sat down, his knee touching George’s outer thigh. There was no mistaking the contact as an accident.

“You know that I’m…” Kris paused, giving George room to respond. He nodded. “Are you?”

“Yeah.”

“I like you.”

“Same.”

Kris released a heavy, shaky sigh. “I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“Me neither.”

“So…do you, err…want to come to my house one day next week?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. Well, not exactly the same thing. My mum doesn’t like people being at ours.”

“I understand,” Kris said sympathetically. “My mum and dad are OK about me.”

“Oh, no, that’s not what I meant. My mum’s always known, and she doesn’t care as long as I’m happy. It’s just…she works long hours.” George didn’t have anything to add to that statement and wasn’t sure where to go next. Had he even accepted Kris’s invitation?

“What day?” Kris asked.

“Any except Halloween.”

“Monday? I live near St. Mark’s school. That’s where you went, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. How do you know?”

“Dan told me. That’s all he said, though. It’ll be easier to meet at the school so I can show you how to get to my house.”

“OK. Monday at St. Mark’s. What time?”

“About eleven? There’s only my brother at home during the day.”

“Eleven is good for me.”

“Great.” Kris got up from the chair, pushed it back under the table and then leaned close to George again, this time with his hand resting on George’s shoulder. “See you on Monday,” he whispered, and left.

***

(Setting: the treehouse)

The silence resumed, and they drank the rest of their juice. George could tell Kris felt as nervous as he did. He was clinging to his empty glass and drumming his fingers against the bottom of it in a steady pattern, like the fast drip-drip-drip of a tap not quite closed off. There was so much tension between them, and it was difficult to know what to do. They should probably talk more, get to know each other first, and then think about doing other stuff, but George’s gaze kept wandering back to Kris’s mouth. The urge built, became more intense, took him over…

“Did you want—” Kris’s words evaporated as George moved in and kissed him, once, with his lips tightly closed. Kris bounced forward slightly as George moved away, blinking in surprise, his eyes bright, large dark pupils taking over most of the pale blue. He put his glass to one side and climbed onto his knees. George mirrored him, and they kissed again, parting their lips this time.

“Are you sure no-one will come in?” George whispered.

“I can lock the hatch,” Kris suggested. George nodded and sat back on his feet while Kris secured the trapdoor. He crawled back to George, and they tumbled sideways onto the mattress.

For a long time, they kissed, explored with their hands, didn’t speak. It was fulfilling and frustrating all at once, and it was everything George had imagined it would be. Minus the arguments. Those probably came later.

***


With Shaunna

(from Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One))

(Setting: Kris and Shaunna’s house)


“Mmm. I love the way you cook bacon.” Shaunna prodded the crispy rasher with a fork. “You know just how to win me round.”

“Years of careful observation and well-executed plans, my sweet.” Kris grinned and tended to his own plate. “Now, I want you to forget about things for a little while, eat breakfast, drink tea and read the paper. Then, if you like, we can make love.”

“How about—” Shaunna pushed the tray aside “—we do that in reverse order. Sort of.” She clambered to her knees and leaned over, kissing him, as he reached up to remove the clip. Her hair tumbled onto her bare shoulders, where it bounced and came to rest on her partly covered breasts. She unfastened his shirt, his belt, and then his jeans. He pushed the straps of her nightdress off her shoulders so that it glided over her breasts and down to her waist. Lifting her arms out of it, she sat astride, kissing his lips, cheeks, neck, chest, writhing slowly. The jeans were scratching her bare legs, and after a short while she climbed off, removed them, along with his boxer shorts, stepped out of her nightdress and returned to her previous position. He allowed her to control the action, and slowly, they moved together in perfect tandem.

It didn’t take very long for them both to climax; the tea was still warm, although the breakfast was not.

***


As soon as they got home, Shaunna went to bed, leaving Kris to deal with Casper and lock up. He expected her to either be asleep or pretending to be when he followed her upstairs ten minutes later and was surprised to find her awake and waiting for him.

“What’s up?” He sat on the end of the bed and took off his shoes.

“Nothing,” she replied, climbing behind him and wrapping her arms around his neck. “Just wanted to tell you I love you. That’s all.”

Kris turned his face towards her and kissed her. “Let me get my clothes off, and I’ll be right with you.”

“Ha ha! I tell you I love you, and you think your luck’s in,” she joked, throwing a pillow at the back of his head. He picked it up and threw it back. Within seconds, it escalated into a full pillow fight.

“I’m gonna get you, Mrs. Johansson,” Kris said, crawling up the bed on his knees, dangling a pillow by its corner from each hand.

“Not if I get you first.” Shaunna laughed and leapt over him, grabbing his pillows on the way past.

“A-ha! The element of surprise!” He reached down to pick up a pillow that had fallen on the floor, but too late! Shaunna now had all of the pillows and was swinging one above her head, ready to launch. “Noooo!” he yelled, backing up against the headboard, where she bombarded him with all four of them, before climbing onto the bed and straddling his legs. He rubbed her thighs with the palms of his hands.

“OK. You win,” he submitted between the kisses.

“Of course! I always do.”

***


With Ade

(from Crying in the Rain Novel))

(Setting: Kris and Shaunna’s house)

Kris used his body to roll Ade onto his back and slid against him, gently rocking and pushing, taking it slowly to make the most of every second as their bodies gradually became one.

Ade moaned, taken over by the incredible sensations rising within. He covered his mouth with his hand and they both froze for a second, listening for an indication of where in the house Shaunna was, but then the intensity returned and they forgot all about her, their lips coming together as that irrepressible motion took over. Ade wanted to feel like this forever, yet as soon as that thought registered, it was whisked away by an urgency, a desperation. His body tingled from the pressure, the closeness, the heat of the friction and the desire, all of his nerve endings awakened at once to the glorious pain, the heavenly pleasure—Kris was worried about his short fuse?

This moment was perfect, this crescendo to climax that they were sharing, a voluntary connection of souls, hearts, bodies—Ade’s back arched, and he felt in every part of him the deep, intense thrusts, meeting them again and again, until his awareness was nothing outside of soaring, first one and then the other, as they succumbed to this gift of release, of trust; and themselves.

***


(from Reunions (Season Seven))

(Setting: Hayley's hair salon)

Kris took Ade’s hand and led him past Hayley and through the door to the stockroom.

“Ooh.” Ade looked around him in wonder. “This is where they were doing it.”

Kris tugged on Ade’s hand, spinning him in and trapping him against the wall. “Is that a challenge, Mr. Simmons?”

Ade grinned. “What was it he called me?”

“Who?”

“Andy.”

“Oh!” Kris could feel his face burning at the reminder of last Christmas’s less savoury events. He coughed self-consciously. “A screamer.”

“Hmm-hmm.” Ade ran his tongue over his teeth. Kris swallowed heavily. He was turned on enough to go along with it, but ‘screamer’ was a very accurate description, and there were three women on the other side of the door that he’d rather didn’t have to hear that. Instead, he offered Ade a kiss that he’d intended to be quick and chaste, but turned out to be nothing of the sort. Ade’s warm hands slid under Kris’s jacket and found their way inside his shirt, spanning his back and working downward, his fingers pushing past Kris’s waistband.

“There’s something about this room,” Ade murmured into Kris’s mouth.

“Mmm.” Kris wondered if it was the chemicals, because there was no way he’d normally consider this level of touching outside of their house.

“We’ve never done it up against a wall.”

“No.”

“Could be fun.”

“Yes.” One-word answers were difficult enough when Kris’s entire body was responding to Ade’s touch. The rocking pressure against his crotch was getting a little too much to bear, and had the door from the salon not opened, it may well have been too late.

“Did you find them OK, sweedie?” Hayley asked first, saw them second, grinned third. “Ah. I’ll leave you to it.” She reversed her steps. The door closed again.

“Not here,” Kris said, his face hot as fire, but he was laughing. It was fun. Maybe with a couple of shots of amaretto inside him… “Let’s get some mugs.”

“That’s what we came for, after all.” Ade gave Kris one last kiss—lingering, still with tongues—and moved to a safe distance. “OK, so where are these mugs?”

***


And For Fun:

(Red Hot Christmas (Novella))

(Setting: a pub, two days before Christmas)

“If you ever start talking to me again,” Kris said, “I want to ask you something.”

Ade sighed loudly for effect. “I’ll get over it. But you’d better have bought me something amazing for Christmas.”

Kris smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you,” he whispered. “I really, really do.” Ade tutted. “Lots and lots, like jelly tots.” Kris started kissing his cheek over and over again, interspersed with repeats of ‘I love you’.

Ade rolled his eyes and wiped his cheek dry. “OK! Stop. I forgive you.”

“For what?” Shaunna asked.

Kris cleared his throat. “I did something stupid.”

“Again?”

“Thanks!”

“You’re welcome.” Shaunna grinned. “So, what’s all this about going to Manchester for Christmas?”

“We’re going to Manchester for Christmas.”

“And leaving me with the dog.”

“Nope. Casper’s going to stay at a friend’s house.”

“Whose?”

“Blue’s.”

“Since when?”

“Since Josh said it was OK. We’ll have to check with George tomorrow, but I don’t—”

Shaunna put up her hand to stop him. “Why? I’ll still be at home.”

“No, you won’t.”

“What?”

“I said, ‘No, you won’t.’”

“Kristian Johansson. Come this way,” Shaunna got up and grabbed Kris by the scruff, leading him outside. It was pointless, because he wasn’t going to crack.

Ade waited until Shaunna and Kris were out of sight, then turned to Andy and grinned.

“I know where you’re going,” he sang.

“And I know what Kris has bought you for Christmas,” Andy retorted.

“We could trade?” Ade offered.

“Not a chance. They’ll string us up.”

“Yes, you’re probably right.”

“You’d better believe it.”

***


Thanks for reading!
Deb x