Monday, October 30, 2017

Character Spotlight: Krissi Johansson (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’s featured character is Krissi, who isn’t one of The Circle, or even the extended circle, but she’s been around as long as they’ve been ‘a thing’. Krissi is Shaunna’s daughter and Kris’s stepdaughter (Circle: The Next Generation?). She turns twenty-one during Season One (Hiding Behind The Couch).

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

Krissi Johansson
Name: Krissi Johansson
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown-black, stupid frizzy, mind of its own
Complexion: Dark
Height: 5' 7"
Weight: average
Build: average
Tattoos/Piercings: ears and nose pierced; Chemical X tattoo on my ankle
Education: HND Business Management
Accent: Northwest English
Languages: English and about seven words of Swedish

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England.
Siblings: twin baby sisters (Rosie and Sorsha).
Children: No thanks.
Places lived: Northwest England.
Jobs: Sales assistant in local convenience store, assistant manager/manager of pizza restaurant.
Interests: Theme parks, music, friends, whatever.
Pets: Casper (though technically not, now I've left home).
Greatest Success: Ask me in a few years. ;)
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Lots of selfish things I wish I hadn't.
Biggest Trauma: None. I'm blessed, really.
Do you have a secret: No.
Favourite Book: His Dark Materials.
Favourite Food: Anything that isn't pizza? LOL. My dad's carbonara.
Favourite Drink: Iced latte.
Strength: Embracing change.
Weakness: Chasing my dreams to the nth degree.
Best way to spend a weekend: Ha. I work weekends. If I didn't, I'd probably visit theme parks, scare attractions and stuff more often. I'm saving up all the weekends to have a blowout.
Closest Friends: Jay.
Love of your life: Wotto.

And here are some excerpts featuring Krissi.

Hiding Behind The Couch

(Setting: Shaunna and Kris’s back garden; Krissi is ten years old. She’s made cow-shaped cookies as a leaving present for George.)

“Have a cow,” George sniffed and offered up his tray of biscuits to Eleanor.

“Oh, bless you, poor love,” she comforted, rubbing his back. A moment later, Krissi followed with a small box containing more cookies.

“Uncle George, stop crying, right now! You’ll make my little cows all soggy! Here’s some to take with you. Kris said the sniffer dogs would find them and gobble them all up, so I put Sellotape all around the lid, look.” This only made it worse. George laughed, but the tears kept rolling.

“Thank you very much. They are lovely and I will make sure those greedy dogs don’t get anywhere near them!”

“Can you let me have a chat with Uncle George please, sweetie?” Eleanor asked tactfully.

Krissi complied immediately and trotted off in the direction of the house. “And Mum said can you bring the box back next time you come?” she called cheerfully as she disappeared through the patio doors.

“Man, that child is something else.” George sighed, wiping his eyes on his sleeve.

***

(Setting: Shaunna and Kris’s kitchen on the morning of Krissi’s twenty-first birthday. Her parents have invited her then-current boyfriend, Matt, to join them for the day.)

“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here,” Krissi said. Everyone stared at her, grinning inanely. “What’s he doing here?” She directed the question at Kris—the easiest one to break—but it was her mother who replied.

“We’re going out for the day, as a family. And we thought it would be fun if we invited Matt.”

“Nice to be asked what I think,” Krissi grumped.

“At least he gets to see your true colours,” her mum remarked, quickly turning away to rinse the cups she had only just washed. Krissi wasn’t the friendliest person in the mornings.

“So where are we going, or have I got to go blindfolded?”

“No, not at all,” Kris said, smoothing his stepdaughter’s hair. “We’re going to a theme park.”

For a moment it looked as if she wouldn’t give him the response he’d anticipated, but then a huge smile broke across her face. “Excellent. I love theme parks.”

“We know!” Kris and Shaunna exclaimed in unison and with just the slightest tinge of relief.

***

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: the local park/children’s playground.)

“This is super-miserable, even for you.” Krissi reached up through the van window and took the two ice cream cones. She handed one to Jason.

“What d’you mean, ‘even for me’?” he grumbled, but he knew exactly what she meant. They walked back to the swings, took their usual positions—arms hooked around the chains, feet just touching the floor—and swayed gently back and forth. If there had been any children around, they’d have relinquished their seats—reluctantly—but it was late afternoon and cold, dark and wet, so other than the occasional dog walker, they were alone. Jason stared absently into a remote copse of bony trees and poked the chocolate flake down inside the cone with his tongue.

“It’s not so much that I hate the job,” he began, as if there were more to follow.

Krissi waited. “But?” she prompted.

“But…agh.” He swivelled in his seat and looked at her. “I really, really hate it. You know how much I used to love My Chemical Romance? If you take that number, reverse the scale and multiply it to the power of infinity then add another twenty zeroes or so, that’s how much I hate it.”

Krissi turned her attention to the distant trees. “That’s quite a lot,” she said, trying not to smile.

“Oh, it’s all right for you,” Jason snapped. Again, it was done in jest. “With your little pizza shop and knowing the managing director’s girlfriend.”

“Hey, that’s not fair!” Krissi protested, and she wasn’t playing around. […]

“I’m sorry. I was only joking, but it was out of order. I’m a bit jealous, to be honest.”

“Jealous? Of my job? Now you really must be joking!”

“Not of your job, but the fact that you got it on your own merits. Even if I liked mine, which I don’t—”

“Really? I’d never have guessed.”

He ignored her. “Even if I did like my job, we both know I don’t deserve it.”

She wanted to tell him he was wrong, that it didn’t matter his dad was a director. She didn’t say it, though, because it would have been a lie.

“I’m wearing dead man’s shoes,” Jason complained. He’d reached his previously buried flake and was nibbling away at the surrounding cone.

“I thought that’d be right up your street.” She was trying to lighten the mood. He gave her a sideways glance. “Gothboy,” she said, pushing him away.

He lifted his feet and swung back at her. “Scene kid.” He pushed her in retaliation, and she laughed.

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: The Pizza Place kitchen with Wotto—the chef—and Kris; they’re awaiting potentially bad news.)

“She’ll be OK, you watch.” Wotto thumbed at Krissi as she emerged again, clipboard still in hand. “She always is.”

“Yeah, she’s tough,” Kris agreed.

“You’re not joking!” Wotto laughed and turned back to his preparations. The restaurant was due to open in twenty minutes and they were nowhere near ready.

Krissi looked from Kris to Wotto, trying to ascertain what had passed between them. Kris gave her a wink, and she came to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “I love you.”

“And I you,” he said, returning the kiss on her forehead. “I’ve got a bit more information. It’s not good news, I’m afraid.”

Krissi stepped away and waited while he searched for the words to tell her what he had discovered, each one piercing right into her like a poisoned dart. Almost two years had passed since her selfishness had pushed a wedge between them, and still she didn’t regret what she had done. How could she now, when they were waiting, powerless and ignorant?

Kris watched her carefully, taking in her reaction, for the first time truly understanding why she had needed to know the identity of her real father, and also finally realising that none of it mattered. She was his daughter: as good as blood, this love that filled his heart and kept it beating. However bad it was when they found out for sure, he knew that they would get through this together, the way they always had, and he would at last be ready to tell her the truth.

***

In The Stars Part I

(Setting: Krissi and Jay’s flat. Note: Jay has epilepsy.)

“What do you want to eat?” Krissi shouted from the kitchen.

Jason was lying on the sofa, reading a music magazine. “Dunno. Are you cooking?”

Krissi came through and shoved his legs aside so she could sit. He put them over her lap, big heavy boots and all. She pushed them off, and they fell to the floor with a thud.

“Ouch!” Jason sat up and rubbed his lower back.

“Do you want me to cook?” Krissi asked.

“Isn’t it your turn?”

“Yeah, but…” She stopped, uncertain how best to go on. He put down the magazine and scrutinised her face. She smiled, but it didn’t disguise her anxiety. “It’s just that…well, you’ve not eaten properly for weeks, Jay.”

“I am eating properly!”

“You’re losing weight again.”

“No I’m not,” he protested. He stood up and lifted his baggy t-shirt, showing off his tiny waist, his ribs visible through his pale skin.

Krissi poked his hollow belly. “Yes, you are.”

He sat down again and sighed.

“D’you want to talk about it?” she asked.

“No.”

“OK. But will you try and eat with me tonight? You don’t have to eat very much. Just enough to make sure your tablets work.”

He inhaled, getting ready to protest, but noticed the continued concern in her eyes. She was a good friend, and she didn’t nag, much.

“All right,” he said. “After all, I don’t really want to start having fits again, do I?” He swung his legs back over her lap.

“Thanks!” she said, shoving them off again.

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: the communal garden behind Krissi and Jay’s flat. Jay may be attempting a little matchmaking…)

“Ah, the scent of summer.” […] Krissi conducted a panoramic scan of the expanse of slightly too long—where it wasn’t bald—lawn, pausing to watch the couple from the flat downstairs attempt to establish whether their sausages were ‘cooked enough’, their children batting a sponge ball with plastic racquets across the midsection, finally settling her gaze on her friend. “How come you’re sitting out here?”

“Wimbledon.”

“There’s more than one TV channel, you know.”

“And they’re all either showing tennis, or going on about it at every given opportunity.”

“Even Kerrang?”

“Especially Kerrang.”

“Dear me. Well, I’m going for a shower. The air conditioning packed up this afternoon, and it was mad busy for some reason. You’d think parents would want to take their kids somewhere out in the open, not spend the day sitting in a boiling hot pizza restaurant, complaining about melting ice cream.”

“You coming back out?”

“I can do. Why?”

“Could do with your thoughts on my shortlisting.”

“OK. Won’t be long.” Krissi left.

Jason reopened the online chat window, read the message and typed ‘So you still didn’t ask her.’

The response came back, ‘Nope. Didn’t get a chance. Mental all day.’

Jason shook his head. Excuses, excuses. He picked up the papers and thumbed through them, pausing every so often to type into a text document on-screen. He switched back to the chat window and typed one-handed, ‘Swap shifts with Lyn so you’re off on the same day.’

‘Nah man.’

He put the papers down again and quickly repositioned the half brick before they blew away. ‘Why not?’

‘She can’t handle it. Not on a Sunday.’

‘It’s dead!’

‘Not always it ain’t.’

Krissi poked her head out of the window. “You need another drink?”

“Please,” Jason said. She nodded in confirmation and disappeared from view. ‘Got to go,’ he typed. ‘We’ll talk more.’

‘Ha yeah. Alright mate. See ya.’

***

Two By Two

(Setting: the kitchen table. This is from Shaunna’s point of view; she’s reminiscing.)

Krissi’s first serious boyfriend.

Tall, skinny, so fair-skinned he was almost transparent, with piercing blue eyes, such a serious and intense boy. What was his name? Calvin, or Kelvin―it may even have been Kris―after all, they say girls choose men just like their fathers, and Kelvin, or whatever his name, was so like Kris had been at that age it was spooky. He was arty and sensitive, and a bit confused about who he was meant to be, as he explained at length, sat just across the table, on that chair, the day after Krissi dumped him. Shaunna had listened, nodding and smiling sympathetically, and she did feel sorry for him, but he and Krissi were only fifteen. In the end she told him, “Just be yourself,” and he’d frowned, perplexed by the impossibility of the problem. Shaunna never saw him again, and Jason soon took his place in that chair, though not as a boyfriend.

“God, Mum! Are you mental?” was Krissi’s only comment on that notion, before she went on to exchange her vibrant and pretty little girl clothes for big black boots, belt-infested black jeans and tatty black t-shirts. She’d reverted to girly again since those early days, when Gothboy haunted their kitchen, all sullen, moody and mumbled yeah-whatevers. And Shaunna had persevered, because she liked Jason. When the clouds lifted, he’d smile and that smile would light not only his face, but his whole being, as if he were being lifted by a bunch of helium balloons, up, up and away. It was Shaunna’s secret, because, “Jay thinks his face’ll crack if he smiles, Mum.”

“Yeah, but you can just slap on some Germolene and I’ll be sorted, Mrs. Johansson,” he’d say with a twitch of the eye that was almost a wink.

***

If you’ve made it this far…here’s the very first posted excerpt from Season Eight (work in progress)! Minor spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t read Reunions (Season Seven).

Alumni

(Setting: a pub, at lunchtime—think ‘ladies what lunch’. :)

A quick reminder of who’s who:

Barbara is Mike, Dan and Andy Jeffries’ mum;
Adele and Dan are together;
Shaunna and Andy are together;
Charlie works for Barbara’s husband and is friends/teammates with Mike, Dan and Andy;
Karen is Krissi’s former assistant manager;
Alice introduces herself. ;))

The waitress was lingering nearby, so Adele attempted to speed up the proceedings. “Karen Deakin and Krissi Johansson at the end of the table both were managers for The Pizza Place. What are you up to now, girls?”

“I’m on maternity leave,” Karen said, leaning back to show her enormous bump. “Four weeks to go.”

The women around the table made noises that were a mix of sympathy and congratulations.

“I’m unemployed,” Krissi said.

“Between jobs,” Adele suggested.

“Nope. Dole bludger all the way.” Krissi grinned. “I’m actually helping out at Campion Trust until I find a job I like. No offence, Alice.”

“None taken, dear.” Alice smiled warmly. She was next, so she added, “I’m Alice Friar, administrator and trustee for Campion Trust, and I also undertake administrative work for Jeffries and Associates.”

“Saint Alice, we call her,” Adele said.

Barbara, Shaunna and Charlie all nodded in agreement.

“Oh, they’re not bad boys,” Alice defended.

Barbara’s disbelieving snort sent the rest of the women into reels of laughter.

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Review: The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

Title: The Descent of Man
Author: Grayson Perry
Publisher: Allen Lane
Published: 20th October, 2016
ISBN: 9780241236277

Blurb:
Grayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity - what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails - since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?

What would happen if we rethought the old, macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different idea of what makes a man? Apart from giving up the coronary-inducing stress of always being 'right' and the vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships - and that's happiness, right?

Grayson Perry admits he's not immune from the stereotypes himself - as the psychoanalysts say, 'if you spot it, you've got it' - and his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups.

Review:
The Descent of Man says absolutely nothing new. The illustrations are great, the style is accessible, and I broadly agree with what the author has to say, but the whole thing feels an awful lot like 'mansplaining' to me. Perhaps I'm not the intended audience.

Grayson Perry - a cross-dressing, white, middle-class heterosexual man (by his own frequent in-text admission) - essentially rehashes feminist arguments from the past half a century, making 'bold' statements that invariably begin with a cautionary and unnecessary 'I think'. He doesn't need to think; feminists have been saying this stuff for decades.

But isn't that the age-old problem of patriarchy? Women can scream until they're blue in the face and nobody hears them. Enter a cross-dressing, white, middle-class heterosexual man and suddenly other men stand up and take notice.

For that reason, I'm glad Grayson Perry wrote this book, even if he has 'borrowed' feminist analysis and presented it as his own. Perhaps a man or two might read and take note.

Received through NetGalley.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

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



WIPpet numbers for 25th October, 2017:
25 sentences from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2). I'm into the final quarter of the novel, and I’m still not entirely convinced I’ve nailed the ‘crime’ element. Hey-ho.

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 previous snippets. Rob is with his grown-up niece, Lois; they’re spending the afternoon together, at the park. Amber is Lois’s younger sister.

* * * * *
“D’you remember the last time we did this?” Lois asked.

Rob nodded. He remembered it vividly, but he stayed quiet, hoping she’d tell the tale.

“You were home on leave… I used to loved that—sitting on the windowsill and watching for your bike. We could hear it from miles away.” She smiled up at him. “And then you’d bring us here and let us play for ages, but we always knew—once we’d fed the ducks, it was time to go home.” She threw some grubs to the three young ducks paddling patiently, awaiting their reward. “Amber always sobbed her heart out when you went back.”

“Did she?” Rob hadn’t known that.

“Yeah. Mum had to turn the news off if there was anything about soldiers dying, because Amber would freak. It was weird. She was so little, she shouldn’t have understood stuff about war and fighting, but she did, and she was scared you’d be killed.”

“Your mum never told me.”

“No. She swore me to secrecy, said it would upset you if you knew. But now you’re out of the army and the police, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.” Lois turned to face him and held his gaze. She wasn’t breaking the secret; she was sharing it so he could see Amber’s perspective.

“Thank you,” he said, but the words only half sounded. It felt like there was hot food stuck in his gullet—his guilt for Amber’s suffering—and he was pissed off Tanya had kept it from him, but what good would it have done to tell him? Short of entirely changing his career path, he couldn’t have made it any easier for Amber. Still, he was hopeful he could fix things with her now he knew where she was coming from.
* * * * *
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, October 24, 2017

Cat's Pyjamas - A.M. Leibowitz #qsf #lgbtqia #literary

Pyjamas. Pajamas.

Does Cat even wear pyjamas? More likely a silk chemise. Hmm...

OK, so here's the thing. Or half the thing, because I don't want to go off on a Josh tangent (but figured I'd get away with mentioning him). I write a series, and I've been writing it for a long time. In fact, next week marks the ten-year anniversary of when I began writing the first novel, and that date coincides (almost - one day difference) with the release of what is nominally the last story in A.M. Leibowitz's 'Faithfully Yours' series.

Which is a pretty cool coincidence. Except for the 'nominally the last story' part. *sniffle*

There's a lot more to that coincidence - how I got lucky enough to read A.M. Leibowitz's books...before release mwahahaha, and the parallels between Josh and Cat, who are not at all similar in personality, beliefs etc. but what each means to his author...and so on.

I should probably mention for anyone who doesn't know, Cat is the central character of Faithfully Yours. Or perhaps one of two central characters, the other being Micah.

Apart from that, all you need to know is Cat is awesome. Cat's pajamas awesome. You should begin reading this series immediately.

What you get:
  • Love - a beautiful, honest love story (more than one, actually).
  • Loss - but with a positive (triumphant) finale.
  • Christianity - a balanced critique of the best and worst elements.
  • Health and Illness - a realistic, well-researched exploration (mental and physical).
  • Humour - Cat has a great sense of humour. Micah doesn't. ;)
  • LGBTQIA representation beyond the G and L (though they're in there too).
  • Excellent storytelling throughout.

Where to Buy:
From Supposed Crimes:

From Amazon:




Monday, October 23, 2017

The MC did what? Emily Alter - Who Loves You #qsf #lgbt #mmromance

Well, author Emily Alter wins the prize for the fastest time of getting me from 'the MC seems like a nice guy' to 'what the hell is he doing?!' :D

Emily's a new-to-me author of LGBT+ fiction and fellow psychologist, and we met via the QSF group on Facebook. I'm currently reading Emily's recent release, Who Loves You; I'm a couple of chapters in and enjoying it very much so far. Kudos to the author for delving straight into mental health - realistically and, I think, respectfully. I've had a few encounters similar to Ben's. Very well captured.

Also, Julian sounds like an awesome dude - cheese, mushrooms and anchovies in sandwiches. I think Julian and I could make beautiful suppers together.

OK, back to it. I'm about to meet Claude! I think they're non-binary. (Yay!) Guess I'll find out soon enough.

I'll do the full review once I've finished it, although I'm a slow reader with a lot of books on the go, so it might take me a wee while. :)

Blurb:
For as long as Ben has been a YouTuber, and no matter how successful, he’s never been able to reveal the truth about his past, which seems to keep haunting him every time he tries to move on. His breakup with fellow YouTuber Owen Danniel, and the drama it ensues, don’t help make it better. 

It's because of an appointment with his primary doctor, and an unfortunate encounter, that his luck may start to change. His name is Julian Yates, he loves cheese, mushrooms, and puts anchovies in his sandwiches for reasons Ben can't begin to fathom. 

However, Julian has a history too, and things he wished stayed buried and didn't crawl back to haunt him. Revenge porn, and his rather unfortunate response to the huge stir it brought about, don't just go away. It doesn't matter that he's already moved to the other side of the country with his sister, or that his job as a hiking guide gave him the perfect excuse to go unnoticed. 

When Julian fails to remember what can happen if he’s on camera for one of Ben’s vlogs, they’ll both have to face their biggest, sometimes most irrational fears. Will Ben be true to his word as a hopeless romantic and put Julian's well-being above that of his channel, or will he give up on a relationship that’s barely started? What about Julian? Will he work on the unresolved issues that make him believe he's only good for one thing, or will he clam up at the first sign of rejection? 

Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B075B6QR9K
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36168914-who-loves-you

Character Spotlight: Eleanor Brown (was Davenport) (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, it’s Eleanor’s turn. To shorthand the preamble, here’s Josh’s description of Eleanor: ‘She’s a complete and utter control freak, unbelievably bossy, constantly in need of attention, demanding…my best friend, whom I love dearly.’ I will also add to this that Eleanor was diagnosed with bulimia in her teens; however, this is only abstractly touched on in the excerpts below.

Eleanor features in Beginnings and Seasons One–Seven, with some brief appearances in some of the character/festive special novellas.

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

Eleanor Brown (was Davenport)
Name: Eleanor (Ellie) Brown (was Davenport)
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown, straight, shoulder length
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5' 4"
Weight: 10 stone 7
Build: average
Tattoos/Piercings: Both ears x 1
Education: MB BS, MRCGP
Accent: Northwest English/RP
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England
Siblings: Six – oldest to youngest: [Eleanor], Ben, Charlotte, Luke, Tilly (Matilda), Teddy (Edward), Pete.
Children: Toby (son), Oliver (stepson).
Places lived: Northeast England, Northwest England.
Jobs: Restaurant Manager, GP, housewife.
Interests: Charity work, my son.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: ‘Beating’ bulimia.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Pushed Ben off a seesaw.
Biggest Trauma: Getting locked in a car with my ex-husband.
Do you have a secret: No.
Favourite Book: Catcher in the Rye.
Favourite Food: None.
Favourite Drink: Tea.
Strength: Organised.
Weakness: Obsessive.
Best way to spend a weekend: With family and friends.
Closest Friends: Josh, my mum.
Love of your life: Josh.

And here are some excerpts featuring Eleanor. Note: contains swear words and contentious opinions. Eleanor is often outspoken (particularly with Josh). There are also some series spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read as far as In The Stars (Seasons Four and Five).

Beginnings

(Setting: Eleanor’s younger brother’s first day of school. Eleanor is six years old.)

“Ellie! Hurry up!”

“I can’t find my skipping rope.”

“Well, you’ll have to manage without it. We’re going to be late.”

Frantically, Eleanor pulled out one drawer after another, rifling through the top layer, feeling underneath, but it was nowhere to be found.

“Eleanor Davenport!”

She took one last look around her room and ran downstairs. Her mum already had the front door open and was halfway out with the pushchair. Eleanor squeezed past and lifted the front wheels clear of the step.

“Nmm!” Charlotte said, reaching up a butter-slicked hand to offer her big sister a very soggy corner of toast.

“Nmm,” Eleanor repeated with a grimace. Charlotte giggled.

“Now then,” their mother began, as they set off along the road, “have you got your pencil cases?”

“Yes.”

“Yep.”

“And plimsolls?”

“Yes.”

“What’s plimsolls?” Ben asked.

“Pumps,” Eleanor said.

“Oh. Got them.”

“And your snack money?”

“Yes.”

Ben patted his pockets and stopped, aghast. His mother continued to waddle up the street.

“Phew!” he said, pulling the coins free of his coat pocket. He caught up again. Meanwhile, Eleanor had skipped ahead and momentarily disappeared around the corner. Ben ran after her, and she slowed down so they could continue together.

***

Chain of Secrets


(Setting: Josh and George in their high school dinner hall. Age 12.)

They sat together to eat lunch, at the empty end of a table full of fifth years.

“I talked to someone in my class today,” Josh said.

“Did you?”

“Yes. A girl called Ellie. She’s nice.”

“Ellie who?”

“Davenport. Do you know her?”

George thought for a moment. “No, but I think her little brother plays football.”

“What’s his name? I’ll ask her.”

“Ben. He’s two years below us—at Parkside.”

“That’s where Ellie went. She wants to be a doctor.”

“Oh, right.” George tried to think of something else to say, but he felt weird. He was pleased Josh had talked to someone at last, or he thought he was pleased.

***

(Setting: Josh’s house in the summer holidays. Age 14.)

Josh grabbed George by the arm and pulled him into the house. “Won’t be a second,” he said to Ellie and Jess, shutting the door on them.

“Joshua, what are you doing?”

“Have you really got to go?”

“I don’t have enough money for milkshakes and shopping.”

“I’ll buy the milkshakes.”

“You can’t keep doing that.”

“Please?”

George scratched his head. He looked worried.

“I’ll tell them we can’t go,” Josh suggested, reaching for the door latch.

“No. Don’t do that. They’re your friends.”

“So? They turned up out of the blue. They can’t expect me to drop everything, just like that.” Josh opened the door and smiled at Ellie. “Thanks for the invitation, but we’re not coming. George and I have other things we prefer to do on a Saturday.”

Ellie looked at Jess, and they both burst out laughing.

“What’s funny?” Josh asked.

“I told you,” Ellie said to Jess.

“Yeah.” She grinned at Josh.

“What did she tell you?” he demanded.

“That you’re very abrupt.”

“Am I?” Behind him, Josh could see George nodding his head and turned to face him. “Am I?”

“Yep. Kind of rude, too.”

“I am not. I’m…I…I know my own mind, that’s all.” Josh folded his arms, which made the other three laugh even harder. Josh glared at George.

“Sorry,” he spluttered.

“I can’t believe you’re laughing at me, George. I thought you were my best friend.”

“I am!”

“Oh!” Jess said. The laughter stopped. “We thought you were…” She wagged her finger between Josh and George. “You know?”

“No?” Josh said, watching George to see if he knew what Jess was talking about. George was blushing vivid crimson. Josh shrugged in query.

“They thought we were together.”

“Together? Like…oh!” Josh nearly choked on his breath and started coughing. “No…we’re…just…friends.”

“OK.” Jess smiled. “We don’t care, by the way.”

“So, you coming into town, or not?” Ellie asked.

“Yes,” George answered on both their behalves. “Go and get your jacket, Joshua.”

***

Hiding Behind The Couch

(Setting: Eleanor and Andy at The Pizza Place – the restaurant Eleanor manages. Age 36.)

“Jess wants to set up on her own. An all-female [law] practice,” Andy explained.

“Yeah, she mentioned that.”

“Except she needs to re-mortgage to do it and can’t afford to. So, I was thinking, if I get a regular job then maybe I could buy half of the house from her.”

“Or…” Eleanor paused, unsure how he was going to take what she was about to say.

“Or what?”

“You could get a job you really want and stop trying to be something you’re not.”

He didn’t respond, instead maintaining eye contact, pushing her to explain.

“You couldn’t do a nine-to-five job, not for Jess or anyone else. It’s just not you. I know you have to break away from Dan at some point, and maybe from the rest of us, too, but not like that. It’s admirable you want to help, but Jess doesn’t need you to do this for her, and I’m not sure it will do her any favours in the long run.

“You’re obviously up for making some big changes in your life. Now’s the time to do it. You and Jess need each other’s friendship and support. You can give her that without sacrificing everything you are.”

“I let her down, Ellie.”

“Yes, you did.”

“What if I get it wrong again?”

“So you get it wrong again. Start over. You always get back on your snowboard. Why should this be any different?” Eleanor drained her cup. “More coffee?”

“I think I might need it!”

***

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: Josh’s surgery, with Josh and George. Age 37.)

Both men stopped dead and held their breath, waiting like hunted-down teenagers in a horror movie, knowing all the while that the rustling of bags, the low-volume grunting, signified one thing: Eleanor was coming, and she was in a very bad mood.

“Festive spirit, my arse,” she said, emerging from the staircase, her arms weighed down by plastic carrier bags, spilling their cargo of shiny beads, tinsel and multicoloured, glittery baubles onto the floor. “Don’t you say anything,” she shouted at George before he even opened his mouth. Instead, he went to the kitchen and filled the kettle. He knew better than to test his fledgling skills on this patient, but he listened in to hear what the latest excursion into life with a live-in partner had done to her.

“Working late again,” she stated loudly to no-one in particular. It was an exclamation of her annoyance that, having spent two hours putting the decorations on the tree, she’d had to take them all off again—a further two hours—she was convinced that the scratches on her arms—“Look at the state of them, please!”—would go septic and now it had cost her a small fortune—“Forty-seven pounds eighty? For a box of glass balls and two strings of beads? Are you having a laugh?”—to replace all the stuff that she and the tree had wrecked between them. That tree: her unwitting accomplice and new nemesis.

Josh chuckled and picked twigs and needles out of her hair as she ranted away, pausing only to take in breath. And, Eleanor continued, there was something very wrong with chopping down trees for the sake of Christmas, which, when all was said and done, was about new life and the Saviour of the whole world, which she was pretty sure extended to trees, although the ‘living trees’, as they liked to call them, cost twice as much again as the half-dead thing now taking up most of her living room, and probably wouldn’t look any the better for their roots being intact, come December the twenty-fifth.

Yes, he said he was sorry, but the American MD’s plane had been delayed in Ohio, and his meeting had to be postponed. No point, after all, having a video conference with a blank wall, but he’d drive up just as soon as they were done. It would be well after midnight, and he promised not to wake her, would warm his hands before he snuggled up behind her and even go and make the cocoa, should he inadvertently disturb her.

“Doesn’t James know you’re disturbed enough already?” Josh chanced.

“That’s not funny,” she snapped, but with a little less venom than her previous onslaught. “I thought I’d do something nice for him for a change, and look where it’s got me. I’m wearing more flora than a church done up for a wedding, I’m bleeding, and my carpet is utterly destroyed.”

“They’re only pine needles, Ellie. They do vacuum up.”

“Eventually. By Easter, perhaps, if I’m lucky.”

“You know what your problem is?”

“No, what’s my problem, Joshua?” She glowered at him.

“George will tell you.”

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: with Josh at the first sixth-form reunion ball. This is Eleanor’s first night out after the birth of her son. Age 38.)

“I’m just going to the loo,” she explained edgily.

“OK,” he replied. This wasn’t the same as the previous visits, he could feel it, and as he watched her meander barefooted through the crowd and off down the hallway outside the ballroom, he cursed himself for not paying attention to her mood. He’d let the moment take over, and in the time that had lapsed, something had happened. He started to worry, that worry rising to panic when he felt his phone vibrate and saw she had sent him a text message, which read:

~ Please can you come to the ladies ASAP? x

He downed the rest of his now-warm lager in one go, went straight to the Ladies’ toilets, which were directly opposite the Gents’, and waited outside the door. Women smiled quizzically or sympathetically at him as they emerged, having already passed him once on the way in. Another text:

~ I’m in the second cubicle from the door. x

Well, isn’t that just great? All those women wandering in and out and she wanted him to go in there? He took a deep breath and pushed against the door.

“This is the Gents’, mate,” a surly voice called from behind. He glanced back and identified the owner—one of Dan’s friends who was there at the time of ‘the unfortunate incident in the showers’. Terrific.

“Erm, yes, I know. Thanks anyway,” he said, blushing. There was nothing for it but to put his head down and push on through. “Sorry, ladies,” he announced as he speed-walked past the women lined up in front of the mirrors, all engaged in make-up re-application and a snide conversation about some poor soul who had been foolish enough to wear red shoes with a black dress. Cherise Williams et al again; and there he was thinking it couldn’t get any worse. He tuned out and lightly tapped on the second door along.

“Ellie. It’s me!”

The bolt clicked, and the door opened a couple of inches.

“I’m so sorry, Josh. I’ve got a bit of a problem,” she said, ushering him inside and locking the door again. He heard the conversation on the other side switch to hissed whispers.

“Right?” he asked hesitantly. At least she hadn’t been vomiting, which was a good sign.

“I knew I should’ve expressed before I came out, but I didn’t have time. It was stupid of me, and now I—”

“I’m sorry, Ellie, but I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about.”

“Right. See, there’s this thing called a let-down, which is basically triggered when a feed is overdue, or you think about the baby, or something.”

“OK. Still not following.”

“I’m leaking milk, Joshua! And if it goes through to my dress it’s going to leave two big fat round nasty stains on my boobs!”

“Ah,” he said. “Now I understand. So what am I supposed to do about it, exactly?”

***

In The Stars Part I

(Setting: Josh’s grandma’s house. This follows a few days after Eleanor has told George she isn’t happy he and Josh are getting married. Age 38.)

“George told me what you said,” Josh mumbled quietly, believing that in so doing he could deliver his point without it escalating further. He felt the squeeze of the blood pressure cuff on his arm and ignored it.

“It’s just how I feel,” Eleanor said in a slightly louder voice, but still little more than a muttering really.

“Is it? Or is it what the Church tells you to feel?”

“It’s what I believe.”

“For what reason?”

“Marriage is about family.”

“Where in the bible—”

“I’m not doing this, Joshua. Marriage is a sacred institution. The union of one man and one woman, for procreation. There is nothing wrong with gay relationships—”

“And yet that is the aspect of homosexuality that is clearly condemned by the bible.”

“The act itself is the sin, but the Church is against unjust discrimination in all its forms.”

“So your discrimination is just?”

“Marriage is one man and one woman. What you will have is not a marriage.”

“Why? What makes it any less of a marriage than what you have?”

“We have Toby.”

“And Shaunna and Kris? Was their marriage less of a marriage because Krissi was not the result of their union?”

“Of course not.”

“And the straight couples who choose not to have children, or can’t have children. What about them, Ellie? Their marriages are presumably worthless, too?”

“They could still naturally reproduce, because they are male and female. You and George…” She stopped short of saying it: that it was an unnatural union.

“Marriage is about love and commitment. We’ve waited long enough to make that commitment, and you have been there all the way. Now you’re telling me you think it’s wrong? I never had you down for a narrow-minded, unthinking fool, Ellie. You’re so clever. How can you be so utterly bloody stupid about this?”

“That’s what you think, is it? My beliefs are stupid?”

“No. I think you’re stupid for not questioning the bullshit you’ve been fed all your life.”

“Oh, so it’s my parents as well?”

“Don’t you dare! This is, once again, about your beliefs. Not your parents’ and not the Church’s, either. It’s your interpretation, because, let’s be honest, if we go down the route of ‘the bible says this’ or ‘the bible says that’, then the bible says that raping a woman is preferable to homosexuality. Is that what you think, too?”

“I can’t win, can I? If I say it’s my beliefs, then you’ll belittle them for being mine and mine alone. If I say they’re based on the bible, then you’ll claim I’m condoning rape!”

“Or you can stop being such a dogmatic bitch and think for yourself for once.”

“You know what, Josh? You’re right. If you’re saying it’s wrong to speak up for marriage, to stop it from being morally degraded by some nonsense plea for equality, when gay marriage is not and cannot ever be equal to real marriage in God’s eyes, then you’re right. I’m an unthinking, dogma-driven automaton.” She moved away towards the door.

“And you would leave it like this?” Josh shouted after her.

“Oh, go to hell.”

“When I do, you’ll be right there beside me.”

She slammed the front door.

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: Dan’s mum’s house, where Andy, Dan, Charlie and Eleanor have been drinking for the better part of the evening. Age 39.)

 “I’m going home,” Eleanor slurred at Dan as they met at the door.

“Why?”

“Cos I live there. And I’m drunk.”

“So?” Dan tried to shove her through the doorway, and she shoved him back, which normally wouldn’t have shifted him so much as an inch, but he was too drunk to keep his balance and fell backwards.

“Charlie?” Eleanor shouted.

“Coming,” she said. She wasn’t, though. She was sitting on the sofa, where she’d been conversing with Andy, but at some point had switched to talking to the fish in the tank.

“You’re very pretty, with your big yellow tail. And you’ve got a cute black nose like a panda, and you…ugh, you ugly, liddle fishy.” She tapped on the side of the tank, and the catfish darted away.

“Charlotte Davenport! Get your pissed-up arse over here!”

“Yes, boss!” Charlotte dragged herself up off the sofa. “Have you rung a taxi?”

“No. I thought you had.”

Andy pushed Charlotte back down again. She huffed and took out her phone, squinting at the screen, unable to focus. She held it up to Andy. “Can’t do it.”

He took the phone from her and somehow managed to make the call. “Thirty minutes,” he said.

“Oh, goody. Time for another lager.” This time, she got up just fine and went to the fridge, collecting a beer for herself and filling an empty glass with wine. She handed it to Eleanor on the way back.

“What you giving me more for?” Eleanor asked.

“Taxi’s not for half an hour. Drink up, sis.” She wandered past and returned to the sofa and her conversation with Andy, though neither of them could remember what it was about.

“She’s a good little sister,” Eleanor said to Dan.

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“Are you a good little brother?”

“Dunno. I reckon so.”

“And so modest, too.” She poked him in the chest with each word. “Gosh, that’s very firm.” She did it again. He grabbed her hand.

“I work out a lot,” he told her, as if she wouldn’t know.

“Do you?” she responded, as if she didn’t know.

“Yep. Come see the gym.” He led her, by the hand, up the corridor and to the room past the conservatory.

“It’s very dark,” she said.

“It’s got lights. Hang on.” Dan staggered around, feeling along the wall for the switches. He found them. “There. See? Lights.”

“Oh. Yes. Lights. Bikes. And stuff.” She nodded and stumbled forwards. Dan caught her. She held onto him with her free hand. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

It would be inaccurate to say that they gazed into each other’s eyes, because both were too drunk to fix their gaze on anything, but they were looking into each other’s eyes, and then they were moving closer together, and then they were kissing, and neither could quite comprehend why they were doing it, but they kept doing it, because it felt good. There was no sudden pulling away from each other as they realised; they just continued until they were both sure they’d had enough of the kiss and slowly moved their lips apart.

“Mmm,” Eleanor said. “That was nice.”

“Yeah,” Dan agreed. “What the fuck, though?”

Eleanor shrugged. “Dunno, Dan, mate. Tomorrow, we’ll probably be beating ourselves up about it, but today? Oh, hang on, it is tomorrow, except it’s today, but—oh, you know what I mean. It’s been a horrible day, and we deserve a little treat.”

“A little treat?”

“Now, now, Daniel.” Eleanor giggled. “Let’s go back to the others. My taxi’ll be here soon…”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Tabula Rasa (Grubs in His) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 18th October, 2017:
(18x10)/17=11(rounded to a whole number) paragraphs

from Tabula Rasa


WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2). I'm into the final quarter of the novel, and I’m still not entirely convinced I’ve nailed the ‘crime’ element. Hey-ho.

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 previous snippets. Rob’s with his grown-up niece, Lois; they’re spending the afternoon together. Lu (Lucas) is Rob’s son; Amber is Lois’s younger sister.

* * * * *
While they hadn’t consciously made the decision to go to the park, they ended up there anyway, bypassing the playground, which was teeming with kids. Another bunch were playing football—Rob and Lois stopped abruptly when the ball flew past their faces. A boy of around seven or eight sprinted after it, puffing and panting, and then back again with the ball tucked under his arm.

“He reminds me of Lu,” Lois mused. “How’s he doing with his footy?”

“Not bad. His coordination’s still all over the place, but he’s getting there.”

Lois unlinked arms to buy ‘duck food’ from the vending machine. “I’m surprised you didn’t bring him with you.”

“He’s in school.”

She tutted. “Of course. I keep forgetting how old he is. I think he’ll always be four in my head.”

“I used to do that with you and Amber. I still tell people you’re twenty-one.”

“You won’t hear me complaining.”

“When you’re nearly thirty…” Rob teased.

“Hey! I’ve got another three years yet!” Lois went to bop him on the head with the bag of grubs, but he successfully dodged out of the way—the first time. The second, she hit the target. The bag popped. “Oops!” Giggling, she stretched on tiptoes. “One there,” she said and rubbed his head vigorously with her knuckles.

“Watch it, you,” Rob warned—not seriously. He was having too much fun to worry whether a few dried grubs had landed in his hair. To be on the safe side, he confiscated the bag and only gave it back when they reached the pond. “Incredible,” he said. He’d been coming to this park for thirty-five years, and the pond had always been exactly the same: murky green with a few flowerless waterlily plants, a fair bit of rubbish and way too many ducks.
* * * * *
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 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