Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: In The Spirit

It's WIPpet Wednesday again. :)

I've been staying at my mum's for the past week, looking after/being looked after by this fine chap. Now I'm home, and my dogs don't care one way or the other. The cat seems pleased I'm here, though.

I didn't get much writing done this week, more focused on audiobooks and getting everything in place for the release of Goth of Christmas Past next month. I've almost made a video trailer, and preordering is in progress. I also managed to add a little bit more to Alumni.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).

This follows from last week's snippet; Genie has called on Xander—a long-term friend who purportedly sees ghosts—to get to the bottom of strange goings-on in her home.

WIPpet maths for 19th September:
19x12=228 words.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
“Can I get you a drink, Xander?”

“Scotch, no ice.”

“Of course. Come through to the drawing room.” She moved off, glancing back to check he was following. “I haven’t seen you in years. It would be nice to catch up.”

“Nice,” Xander repeated. “Yes, it would be nice, but you asked me here to look into your…”

“Poltergeist?” Genie opened the drinks cabinet and eyed the line of bottles of Scotch. “Do you have a preferred brand?”

“Ardbeg. You won’t have any.”

“No, you’re quite right. I’m a wine drinker myself.”

“I drink wine.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve done so before. Many times.”

“But if you’d rather have whisky…”

“Choose me a drink and pour it. Please.”

“As you wish.” Genie picked up the bottle of red she’d opened at lunchtime and retrieved two clean glasses, watching Xander out of the corner of her eye. He was soundlessly clicking his fingers and circling, inspecting the room.

“When did you move into this house?” he asked.

“Thirteen years ago. It belonged to my grandmother. When she died, I bought it from my father.”

“You didn’t inherit it from your grandmother?”

“No, I—”

“Did she die here?”

“No. On the way to the hospital. Why? Do you think—”

“She’s not your…poltergeist. How old is your daughter? Seventeen?”

Genie had already answered the question, but confirmed it again.

* * * * *

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:

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Audiobooks coming soon: The Great Village Bun Fight; Of The Bauble

Today, I've been playing around with different video editing programmes, both on and offline, and in the process made a trailer for the audiobook of Of The Bauble even though we (the narrator and I) are still finalising the recordings.

So I won't be sharing that trailer just yet.


I figured it was time to announce the audiobooks. :)

The Great Village Bun Fight is somewhere between ACX's file storage system and the retailers, so it should appear on Audible, Amazon and iTunes with the next couple of weeks.

Of The Bauble (as mentioned) is undergoing a few final tweaks before we submit it to ACX for approval.

My narrator for both books is Jack Hardman, who describes his accent as "[not] so northern that it is difficult to understand, but is common enough sounding that it isn't alienating to people outside of the London area."

I'm inclined to agree, which is why he is the perfect narrator for both stories.

I'll post again when the audiobooks are available. In the meantime, you can get the ebook/paperback editions to both by clicking on the titles above.

Once these are out, I'll have three audiobooks available, the other one being When Skies Have Fallen, narrated by Tim Hilborne (again, perfect for the story).

Download/purchase links can be found on the Beaten Track Publishing listing for each title.

Thanks for reading (and listening),
Deb x

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: Discretion

Two WIPpet Wednesdays in a row, woohoo! I'm on a roll and snippeting from Alumni again.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).

This follows from last week's snippet; Genie has called on Xander—a long-term friend who purportedly sees ghosts—to get to the bottom of strange goings-on in her home.

WIPpet maths for 12th September:
12 paragraphs for the 12th.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
“You will keep it to yourself, won’t you?”

Xander marched across the room and stopped a few feet from her location. No eye contact. She remembered now. He’d been just the same when they were children.

“His Lordship doesn’t speak to anyone,” Jonathan assured her on Xander’s behalf.

“But you do,” she pointed out.

“I am contractually obliged to keep His Lordship’s confidence.”

“I won’t tell anyone about your…poltergeist.” Xander smiled grimly and took another step towards them. “Excuse me. Please.”

“Sorry.” Genie moved aside, and Xander marched past, out of the room and along the hallway to the top of the stairs. Jonathan raised his eyebrows at Genie and strode after Xander. Genie had to jog to catch them up. “Where are you going?”

“To fetch the equipment.”


“Meters, cameras…” Xander reached the front door and waited for someone to open it.

“Hang on!” Breathless from the chase, Genie slid past and stood between him and the door with her arms outstretched. Xander startled and took a step back. “Take the car around to the side of the house,” she instructed Jonathan.

He bowed his head. “As you wish, Your Ladyship.”

* * * * *

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:

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lie back and think of England: a quick, not dirty guide to British vs American English

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the differences between British and American English. Most of us know, for instance, that crisps are to Brits what potato chips are to Americans, and so on. We're also aware of the differences in spelling - colour vs color, realise vs realize etc. - although in UK English both -ise and -ize are acceptable, and there are exceptions in both forms of English.

If it's lists you're after, here's a Bored Panda list of common differences in vocabulary. See also this more extensive list on Owlcation. There's also Luke Mastin's very comprehensive list of US/UK/Canadian spellings.

I decided to put together this brief guide for the benefit of my fellow editors, proofreaders, authors and others who work with the written word on both sides of the Atlantic, as questions about what is 'correct' come my way quite often, and I like to think I know a fair bit about this stuff. OK, I do know a fair bit about this stuff.

For the past seven years, I've worked with authors from the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Jamaica and Australia, all of whom bring to the editing table their unique version of English influenced by nationality, regional dialect, upbringing and their linguistic abilities. Being as how I'm a bit of an English language geek, I love all those little foibles that manifest in each author's work, like birth marks on our stories that make them distinctly ours.

Here are a few of the differences that have been highlighted most often during those seven years. Feel free to add any others in the comments.

blond vs blonde (also brunet vs brunette)
In US English, the adjective form is 'blond': she had blond hair; he had blond hair.
In UK English the adjective form is 'blonde' in all cases.

The noun form in both US and UK English is gendered: she was a blonde, he was a blond. However, UK English does not rigidly apply the gender rule.

While the same rule theoretically applies to brunet/brunette, it is rare for UK English to use 'brunet' (I don't recall ever seeing it).

got vs gotten
In general, formal UK English does not use 'gotten'. There is some regional variation (many people in the south-east of England use it), but a safe general assumption is that 'gotten' is a valid past participle of the verb 'to get' in US English but not in UK English.

spit vs spat
In US English, the past participle of the verb 'to spit' is 'spit'.
e.g. I saw what he did. He spit on the floor.

In UK English, the past participle is 'spat'.
e.g. I saw what he did. He spat on the floor.

In both forms of English, a spat is also a minor fight.
e.g. They had a spat about which way was the correct way to hang the toilet roll (or toilet paper).
(Clearly with the end of the roll facing outwards.)

fit vs fitted
Again, this is a difference in past participle of the verb 'to fit'.
US English: It fit her like a glove.
UK English: It fitted her like a glove.

pry, pry and prise
In both forms of English, the verb 'to pry' means to stick one's nose into other people's business.

In US English, 'to pry' can also mean to pull apart.
In UK English, the equivalent is 'to prise'.

US English: They pried open the treasure chest.
UK English: They prised open the treasure chest.

couple vs couple of
I've asked quite a few US authors what the rule is for when 'of' is dropped after 'couple'. So far, no-one can tell me.

Whatever that rule is, it doesn't exist in UK English.

collective nouns such as staff, team, family and government
In UK English, collective nouns can be both singular and plural, generally pertaining to the context.
e.g. The government has responded to the threat (working as a single entity).
The staff are at loggerheads (working as multiple agents).

In US English, these nouns are always treated as a single entity.

There's really no hard and fast rule for this in UK English. Personally, I try to edit out any plural use of these nouns in my own writing as I have readers from the USA and UK, but a few instances might sneak through.

(the) hospital, (the) hospice
In UK English, 'the' is often dropped before 'hospital':

I took him to hospital.

but not before 'hospice':

She's staying in the hospice.

To my knowledge, the reverse is true in US English.

weights and measures
A few times over the years, American friends have converted distance to metric for my benefit, which...means I have to convert back to make any sense of it. How far is 50k in English? :p

In the UK, the metric system was imposed on us by the EU (but that's STILL not enough to warrant 'Brexit' my opinion). The outcome is a mixed system of metric and imperial weights and measures.

Pre-packaged food and drink (including alcoholic beverages) is labelled with metric weights/quantities. Other produce (deli counter, for instance) often comes with a conversion rate (e.g. £4 per 1lb/454g). Motor fuel is sold by the litre; road signs and GPS measure distance in miles; speed limits are in miles per hour. Body weight is in stones and pounds (1 stone = 14 pounds) but most people also have some idea of the meaning of kilograms. In pubs, beer is sold by the pint but wine and spirits (liquer) are sold by the centilitre. It's, surprisingly, not as confusing as it seems.

- - -

I'm going to leave it there for the time being and add to this list as and when. Feel free to add your examples in the comments and I'll incorporate them.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Saturday, September 08, 2018

My love-hate relationship with M/M Romance

This probably isn't going to be the kind of post you're expecting, and, in fact, it has relatively little to do with M/M Romance per se. Had I reached a particular point in my writing life ten years earlier, this blog post may well have been titled 'My love-hate relationship with YA Fantasy'.

I can write in both genres incidentally, although perhaps not as well as other authors. I am (or I was) most comfortable writing contemporary realist fiction, so even when I'm attempting to write within other genres, the outcome is somewhat of a crossover.

Contemporary fiction is broad and not that descriptive as genre titles go. Indeed, it is not really a genre at all—it doesn't even have an entry in Wikipedia! :o It is, in effect, a catchall for any fictional story set in our time and space, and which doesn't fit neatly in any other genre.

Anyway, that's what I write. Wrote? I don't know. I'm still hopeful for a present participle...that's what I'm writing. Alas, I'm not really writing anything, hence my literary existential crisis, and I doubt it's uniquely mine. It's not writer's block—I know I could dump words onto the page, as I've been doing for much of the past four years. Sticking plasters.

So what happened?

Back in 2013, I began preliminary research for my PhD (which I've since set aside). Beaten Track had been up and running for two years, with the goal to publish diverse fiction—LGBTQ+ fiction for the most part. I was working with a couple of authors of gay literary fiction, both of whom include sufficient romantic elements in their work for it to be picked up by romance readers, specifically, M/M romance readers.

At that point, I knew nothing about the sub-genre, but I was intrigued by how it attracted so many female readers. I joined the Goodreads M/M Romance group and posted in the forum to ask if any of those readers would be willing to talk to me—initially just to answer the question 'Why do you read M/M Romance?' from which I put together the very basic first draft of my PhD proposal.

In 2014, I was still a member of the M/M Romance Group (I still am now), and saw the posts go up regarding the Don't Read in the Closet (DRitC) event whereby readers post story prompts and writers claim those prompts, from which they create a story that is then given away for free. And I figured...I write LGBTQ+ characters; I write stories with romantic elements; I could write an M/M Romance.

So I did. Two of them, to be precise (for that event—it was only the beginning).

The first...well, it turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. It is far and away my most successful work (in terms of downloads/sales).

Lest I upset anyone who loves Checking Him Out...I love it too. I love the characters, and I love writing about their world. The story means so much more to me than its popularity (76,000 downloads/sales so far, not including those via the MM Romance Group website).

However, it is also THE story that changed the way I write, possibly forever.

Prior to Checking Him Out, I wrote quickly—most of my first drafts were completed for NaNoWriMo—but I spent a lot of time rewriting and editing, and only once had I published a book immediately after finishing it. I've since withdrawn it until such point as I can fix all the stuff that's wrong with it. :p

I also wrote Checking Him Out in first-person perspective, which I'd never done before.

My second DRitC 2014 story was Sugar and Sawdust, which I picked up towards the end of the event, so it's much shorter, far less serious, far less polished—intentionally fun/funny (I hope).

Sugar and Sawdust didn't go down especially well with the M/M Romance readers on Goodreads, but I was a 'novice' in M/M, so I made plenty of rookie mistakes—in both stories. Admittedly some of those were intentional, but that's by the by.

Long story short (LOL), I wrote Sugar and Sawdust in two days, and it went straight to the editor, from there to the proofreaders and quality assurance readers, and then it was out in the world. No time for tweaking or refining or reconsidering the wisdom of some scenes. There again, I'm not convinced I'd have changed anything if I'd had the luxury of time to do so.

Notwithstanding some reviews that I found incredibly painful (live and learn), I loved being part of the event, and I made some amazing friends—people I'm still friends with now, many of whom I still get to 'work' with (this publishing malarkey rarely feels like work).

For those reasons, in 2015, I did it all over again, this time picking up a prompt that led to what may well be the greatest achievement of my writing career: winning a Lambda Literary Award.

I've said it every time someone's asked me in an interview—When Skies Have Fallen is the hardest story I've written to date, mainly because I kept it as true to life as I could, and tracking the history was traumatic. Re-enacting that history with my hurt. I cried. Never mind giving readers a happy ending, I needed it myself.

I'm still wowed by my Lammy, and I'm still proud of the novel, but this was the point where my change in approach began to impact on my writing process. I could no longer 'just get the words down' and tweak them later. I had to edit as I went along, which was why it took me seven years to finish my first novel, and also why I had found NaNoWriMo so liberating.

Throughout 2015, I was also co-writing the Seeds of Tyrone series with Raine O'Tierney, and again, these were M/M Romance novels, written and published very quickly by my pre-2014-DRitC standards.

Truthfully, the only way I got the words down was through collaborating. Raine wrote one chapter, I wrote the next, and we were always encouraging each other, giving feedback... Without it, I'd have reached my current point of struggle much sooner.

To complete the list, here are the rest of my M/M Romance titles:

Three are part of the Checking Him Out series; two are part of the Hiding Behind The Couch series. All are either first- or third-person narrative.

And therein lies the other issue caused by my foray into M/M Romance. I used to write omniscient narration naturally. I didn't have to think about it, at all. Yet, as soon as I started writing in limited perspectives, my omniscient narration nosedived close to head-hopping, and even when it didn't, I was ultra-conscious of how readers would receive the story. Most modern fiction is first- or third-person and limited to the perspective of one or two characters. Most modern readers therefore find it a challenge to switch to omniscient or even multiple, clearly demarcated perspectives.

Ultimately, if I had never embarked on writing M/M Romance, I'd have missed out on having a long-term bestseller, which has led to me picking up readers for my other books too. And, of course, I'd never have won a Lammy or had the opportunity to write and work with some brilliant, talented authors.

If I could go back in time, I'm fairly confident I'd still write those stories (and maybe I'll write more in the future), but what I wouldn't do is succumb to the pressures of writing in a popular sub-genre—the urgency to get another book out there before readers forget who I am, and the need to create something that meets reader expectations yet is somehow, impossibly, unique.

Whether we write crime thrillers, romance, cosy mysteries, YA fantasy—whatever the genre—those traps are there, and while some authors make a lucrative living from churning out one novel after another in their chosen genre, this author is not a one-woman book factory. My singular goal right now is to get back to how I used to write—omniscient, fast process, slow publish—incorporating what I've learned from writing in a popular sub-genre.

But first, I need to re-establish contact with my oppo in the other dimension...

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: There's Something Here

It's Wednesday, and I haven't posted a WIPpet since April - if it sounds like some kind of --- Anonymous admission, well, it sort of is. I love my work, so that's what I do. Work. I think I even use it to procrastinate on writing, and I've been...too busy to write, never mind post to my blog.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).  I'm hoping posting will kickstart my brain into writing some more.

WIPpet maths for 5th September:
12 - 5 = 7 mentions of Xander by name (yeah, yeah).

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Standing dead centre of Genie’s daughter’s liquorice-all-sorts-inspired bedroom, Lord Xander Etherington-Bowes flapped his hand—palm up, palm down, palm up, palm down—and hummed a monotone melody.

“What’s he doing?” Genie whispered, watching from the doorway with Xander’s personal secretary, Jonathan, her entrance barred by his arm. It was entirely unnecessary; with all the strange goings-on, she had no intention of setting foot in that room.

“Checking for changes in temperature.” Jonathan gestured with his head, returning Genie’s attention to Xander, who had moved off, his steps spiralling out from his starting point, still humming and flip-flapping his hand.

“Does it work?”

“If there’s anything here,” Jonathan confirmed.

“There’s something here,” Xander said. He stopped both walking and flapping and stared at a point somewhere above the queen-size bed. “Where is she?”

“The poltergeist? That’s what you’re here—”

“No,” Xander cut her off.

Genie looked to Jonathan in query.

“Your daughter?”

“Oh, she’s at a friend’s. Why?”

“We will stay here tonight,” Xander stated.

“Yes, that’s…fine,” Genie agreed. The entire situation was utter insanity to begin with and certainly couldn’t be made any more so by having Xander Etherington-Bowes sleep over.

* * * * *

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:

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, July 30, 2018

New release - it's got bunting and everything!

It's been a really busy day. That's what I've been telling everyone, along with mumbled explanations about uploading books, putting together covers, writing reviews and blog posts and so on and so forth.

What I've really been doing - spent an inordinate amount of time doing, in fact, is...

Finding somewhere to hang my bunting.

I kid you not.

I probably don't strike you as a bunting kind of person, but this is no ordinary bunting. Oh no. This is homemade, meticulously stitched and ironed(!) bunting.

Don't believe me? Well, feast your eyes on these splendiferous triangular beasties!

Good, eh? :D

The bunting is a lovely release day gift from Dawn Sister - one of my fellow authors in Seasons of Love anthology, which is released 31st July (officially - it's already out).

Thank you, Dawn. I intend to keep it up for at least a month. Then I'll carefully fold it away into its bag and bring it out again same time next year, and the year after, and the year after...

Why the bunting? Well, here's the cover for my story...

...and the shortest blurb I've ever written:

I think it's probably self-explanatory, but in case it isn't...

British humour, bunting, a village baking contest, a rockin' reverend with great T-shirts, a feisty older businesswoman and a young hipster, rolling pins at dawn... or something like that.

The Great Village Bun Fight is a 22k novella, available as a stand-alone story (paperback and ebook) or as part of Seasons of Love anthology, which is hooge! 192k words - ten stories themed around the seasons and love. Most of the stories are suitable for young adults (three are expressly YA fiction; three have 'mature content' flags) - there's contemporary, literary, fantasy, comedy/humour, romance and L+G+B+T+Q representation.

About Seasons of Love:
Love follows no rules. Like sun in winter and rain in summer, love can blossom in the most unexpected places. This richly diverse collection of stories proves that love is as universal and as varied as the seasons.

Tourist Season - Deven Balsam
Machete Betty and the Office Sharks - Neptune Flowers
Once Around Seven - Ofelia GrΓ€nd
Winter Blossoms - Paul Iasevoli
Year of the Guilty Soul - A.M. Leibowitz
The Great Village Bun Fight - Debbie McGowan
A Springful of Winters - Dawn Sister
Out of Season - Bob Stone
Seashell Voices - Alexis Woods
Courting Light - A. Zukowski

Reviewer copies available - please contact me via BTP Contact Page.

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Adopt an Indie Author Today! #IndiePrideDay

I had a tough time at school - for lots of reasons, but the one that's relevant here is competitiveness, and not my own. By the time I figured out what the problem was, I was in my mid-twenties and studying for a degree.

For brevity: I was fairly clever but shy, not good at sports, lousy at socialising, average height, average looking, an average musician - in general a bit of a wall flower. With adolescence, I put on weight, and that was so not the attention I wanted to bring to myself. In fact, I didn't want attention at all. I just wanted to get on with being me, doing what I was good at, which is also what I enjoy:

  • People watching.
  • Writing.
  • Reading.
  • Listening to music.
  • Discovering new things I'm good at.
  • Thinking round corners.
  • Being the best I can be.

So, all those competitive team sports? Pure torture. Being ranked on exam results? Much the same. Eventually, I realised that my position relative to my peers was of no consequence. I knew if I'd done my best, and that was absolutely good enough. It's my motivation, it's how I measure my achievements (or my progress towards achieving).

What has all that got to do with Indie Pride Day?

Well, there are an awful lot of authors out there, and all of us share the same goal - not necessarily to write a bestseller or make a living from our books. Many of us write for ourselves, but we publish for other reasons. I publish because I want to challenge people to think about the complexities of day-to-day life and enjoy my stories. If they don't, that's OK. There are plenty of other stories out there.

Which is the point of all the above. Like my performance on an undergraduate essay was not affected by the performance of my peers, nor does the success of other authors have any bearing on my success. Except, maybe, if we're all happy and bigging each other up. That's surely got to be a positive thing.

There are plenty of readers, all with different tastes, all looking for different kinds of stories. It doesn't really matter that the market is saturated with books, other than it makes it really hard for us wee indies to get noticed.

Thus, here's a shout out to my indie author buddies. Go visit their websites, find their books, buy/download and read them. And if you like them, tell people about it. Share the love.

And, in return, we will love you forever. πŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ’—

Some Indie Loveliness For You!

On the NewsNibbles blog, you'll find a round-up of Sparkly Badgers' recommendations, with links to books and authors:

You can also find a whole bunch of indie authors on Beaten Track Publishing:

And also on Supposed Crimes:

Quite a few authors I know have books available at discounted prices this month:

A.M. Leibowitz
C H Clepitt
Claire Buss
L.N. Denison
Lyra Shanti
Joanne Van Leerdam
Jacqueline Church Simonds
Margaret Adams Holmes
Timothy Casey

I'm going to link to Goodreads profiles (in no particular order), as this is the easiest place to find comprehensive links to authors' work:

Jeanne G'Fellers
Carrie Pack
Kaje Harper
Edmond Manning
Russell Ricard
Amelia Faulkner
Martin Belk
Donna Jay
David E. Manuel
Jonathan Hill
Kath Middleton
Julie McLaren
Matthew Drzymala
David Wailing
Tim Arnot

As always, thanks a million for reading.
Deb x

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Release! Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2)

First up, sorry if you're feeling a bit like "Yeah, yeah, Deb, I know! You've got a book out today." With so many authors, so many books and the velocity of social networks, I have to send out the message on as many channels as possible. Hence, the overkill some of you might experience.

Conversely, you might be thinking "Oh, I'm glad I saw this blog post or I wouldn't have known you had a new book out." In which case, my work here is done. :)


Tabula Rasa is out today! (June 21st, 2018)

Tabula Rasa is book two of the Gray Fisher trilogy (you can get book one - The WAG and The Scoundrel - for 99c if you're quick - links on the Beaten Track page). This series is a spin-off from Hiding Behind The Couch - you don't need to have read any of the main series to make sense of the Gray Fisher books.

The stories feature Gray Fisher and Rob Simpson-Stone, who were in the police together. The series is contemporary fiction with elements of (white-collar) crime and (LGBTQ+) romance.

Tabula Rasa Blurb:
After years of working for the police - both as a beat bobby and undercover - Rob Simpson-Stone is moving on with no regrets. It may be too late to rescue his marriage, but his relationship with his seven-year-old son, Lucas, is back on track. Rob's grown-up nieces might be a taller order, but he's prepared to do whatever it takes to prove they no longer need to worry that one day he won't come home.

Fate, however, has different ideas.

When Rob fails to arrive at his leaving do, his former boss/new PI business partner Gray Fisher can't understand why nobody else is worried Rob is MIA, never mind that Gray is pointlessly missing out on a night in with Will.

As the reasons behind the night's events unfold, Gray's past recklessness threatens to catch up with him, putting those he holds close in danger and forcing both Rob and Gray to forge reluctant alliances.

Purchase links:
Beaten Track: ebook | paperback
Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Yesterday, I spent a 'short' time putting together a video trailer. OK, it took me bloody hours, and I tried to coerce Nige into helping me, all the while knowing I'd end up watching over his shoulder and telling him how to do something he's expertly qualified and experienced to do. In the end, he did help with advice and managed to not splain to me - he seemed very proud of himself for that. :D

Also, it's our wedding anniversary today. We'll celebrate by...doing the same as we do every Thursday.

Video trailer:

Excerpt (Rob):
Context: Rob and Naomi are having a pub lunch on the way back from a prison visit during which Rob sprang an unpleasant surprise on Naomi.
They sipped their drinks; their meals arrived. The silence continued, finally broken by Naomi’s request for ketchup and Rob’s unchecked reaction.

“What?” She was immediately defensive. “I like ketchup.”

“I didn’t say a word.”

“You didn’t need to. Your face said it for you.” She deposited a large dollop on the side of her plate, clicked the lid shut and set the bottle down. There was a smile lurking behind that moody scowl.

Shaking his head, Rob tucked into his gammon and chips. “You and Lu would get on like a house on fire.”

“How so?”

“United in your love of ketchup. The kid puts it on everything—chips…”

“What are chips without ketchup?”


“The perfect accompaniment.”

“Carbonara.” Rob nodded at Naomi’s plate. Almost to spite him, she swirled her pasta-loaded fork in the ketchup, covering it completely. Rob laughed, relieved the ice was starting to melt. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should’ve warned you.”

“Was it an option?”

“Yeah. I bottled out.”

“Were you worried I’d jeopardise your success in talking Freddie round?”

“No, nothing like that. I didn’t want to upset you. And for the record, it wasn’t my idea.”

“I’d gathered as much.” Naomi exchanged her fork for her glass. “It has Will Richards written all over it.”

“Does it?” Rob thought it had come from Gray—contrary to his claim it was Will’s scheme—because it was a DCI Fisher tactic too. Clearly, they were well suited.

“What’s it about, or can’t you tell me?”

“I can’t say much as it relates to an ongoing investigation.”

“The PI business?” Naomi guessed.


“Mmm.” She wanted to say more, and Rob wanted to tell her more. In spite of what he’d witnessed at the prison, he trusted her to keep it to herself, but it wasn’t solely his decision.

“You’ve got ketchup…” He subtly indicated her chin. She wiped with her napkin, but the ketchup stayed put. She tried again. Rob shook his head. She gave her chin one more broad wipe, to no avail. It was the tiniest spot and he’d only used it to redirect both of their attention, but this was possibly worse. “So what have you been up to?” he asked, attempting to move the conversation on again.

“Are you really going to let me go through the rest of lunch with ketchup on my chin?” She held out her napkin and leaned forward. “No spit,” she warned.

With a smile, Rob took the napkin and rubbed at the offending spot, but the ketchup was stubborn as anything.

“Everything all right with your meals?” A waiter stopped at their table.

Naomi quickly leaned her chin on her hand. “Yes, thanks.”

“Great, cheers,” Rob said. “Could I trouble you for a glass of water?”

“No trouble,” the waiter said and left, soon returning with the water. Rob offered thanks and waited for them to move on before he dipped a corner of the napkin into the glass and used it to successfully clean the ketchup away. The cool wetness amplified the heat radiating from Naomi’s skin, and Rob was once again fighting the urge to touch. Carefully withdrawing, he dropped the napkin onto the table and sat back in his chair, fingers locked and steepled above his plate.

Naomi frowned in concern. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Rob clasped his hands tighter together, not yet safe from temptation. “Can I be honest, Naomi?”

“Twice in one day?”

“Actually, it was the same point, but I got sidetracked.”

“Oh, now I’m intrigued.” That smile…if that didn’t mean what Rob thought it meant…

“All right. Cards on the table. I’m very attracted to you. I have been since I met you.”

“When you thought I was Aaron’s wife,” she said. Her smile faltered, and there was a hint of worry there, but it made her no less beautiful.

Thank you for reading!
Deb x

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Great Pretendo #flashfriday #sparklybadgers

He’s a fast-talking, dishevelled inventor trapped in a world he never made. She’s a transdimensional renegade magician’s assistant trying to make a difference in a man’s world. Together, they fight crime! (inspiration:

(Flash Fiction, written for the Sparkly Badgers.)


The audience oooh’d as Pretendo circled the wooden crate, his final sword raised. Bend, flick, recoil… The blade flashed under the spotlights and plunged, piercing the lid, dead centre. As one, the audience gasped and held their breath.

Beneath the crate’s false floor, Shula waited out the seconds, knowing she’d be stuck a good while yet. Pretendo loved to drag out the sword removal part of his act even though the audience was only interested in seeing his ‘assistant’ emerge unscathed.

He was a fake. All magicians were, but that was beside the point. Pretendo wasn’t actually a magician. He was a thief on the run, and he shouldn’t have made it this far. Shula had flagged his passport with the portal authorities, but some…idiot had let him through. So, Shula did the only thing she could: downed a couple of TT pills, sent a 10–43 to the division, and hopped on the bus with him.

Now, they were here: Earth 6424/12bf4a with its bizarre and frankly illogical gendered hierarchy, which she’d discovered firsthand within minutes of arriving and before she could secure a stable 4G–HTL connection that would have forewarned of her instant demotion to second-class citizen.

Pretendo had leapt clear of the bus before it stopped and darted into the closest building, tripping over a sandwich board in his haste. The sign was still wobbling as Shula raced past.

Wanted: Illusionist + Illusionist’s assistant. Auditions today.

There was little difference in the tech from one world to the next, but theirs was strange, new… Magic. Guaranteed to get them the gig.


Illusionist’s assistant.

Damned infuriating, not to mention degrading, cramped, boring…and itchy. Shiny, stretchy fabric that barely covered her mammary glands and genitalia—and the women here wore weapons on their feet. Still, with her holo-shield activated, it was good cover.

Whoosh. One sword down. Only seven more to go.

Thud, thud, thud…

“Hello?” Male voice, unknown.

Whoosh. Whoosh.

Thud, thud, thud.

“Where am I?”

Thud, thud, thud.


What the…

Shula gripped the handles and pulled, opening a six-inch gap. Shafts of light cut across the upper section of the crate. The whoosh of another sword’s removal was followed by a muted curse from the silhouette above.

“Stay down!” Shula hissed.

Whoosh, whoosh…

The silhouette jolted violently. “Wh-who said that?”

“How did you get in here?”

“I, erm…” Whoosh. “Ouch! What the hell is this?”

That was the final sword. “Hold tight, I’m coming up.”

With the man’s weight, it took a fair bit of effort, but the clanks and rattles of the padlocked chains had stopped, and the lid was rising.

“Quick!” A clammy hand grasped Shula’s and pulled as she pushed, hoisting her upwards as Pretendo threw the lid aside, and, like jacks in a box, she and her crate-crasher sprang to their feet.

“Thank you, thank you!” Pretendo gushed and bowed to his whooping audience, oblivious to the added extra in his act.

Shula held her grin and curtseyed, muttering to her unwitting sidekick, “There’s a bar across the street. Wait there. I’ll find you and explain. Go!”

With her help, he scrabbled free and stumbled away, just making it offstage as Pretendo turned around.

“For my next trick, I will take this beautiful lady—” he lifted Shula’s hand to his greasy face and squelched out a kiss “—and saw her in half!”


By the time Shula reached the bar, she’d figured it out. Aside from the man’s dishevelled, shell-shocked appearance, he was pale, shivering and sweaty. It could’ve been flu, she supposed—the virus thrived on Earth 6424/12bf4a—but she didn’t think so. He raised his head, offering a weak nod.

“Here. Take this,” she instructed and popped a TT pill from the packet onto his quivering palm.

“What is it?” he asked, but not before he’d swallowed it.

“For travel sickness.”

“I don’t get travel sickness.”

“This kind, you do. We all do. So, who are you?”

“Tim Cox. Professor of…erm, well…” He rubbed his scruffy head in fake bewilderment.

“Quantum physics?” Shula guessed. Tim’s jaw dropped. “How did you get here?”

“Are we in London?”

“We are,” Shula confirmed. “But not your London.”

He perked up. “No way! It worked?”

“How many moons are there?”

“Orbiting Earth? Two, obviously.” He laughed like it was a ridiculous question.

Shula got up and beckoned him to follow her outside, where she pointed up at the sky and its solitary moon. “I think it’s safe to say it—whatever ‘it’ is—worked.”

“I was right! Wormholes are stable—”

Some are,” Shula interjected. “However, yours is connected to a magician’s prop, which is not in the least stable, particularly given who the magician is.” She hooked Tim’s arm and marched him back across the street, but he broke free. “Professor, you must leave before it’s too—”

The theatre doors burst open. Pretendo emerged, puffing and panting, and hauled the crate into his stolen van. That was when he spotted Shula. He scrambled into the van and took off.

“Damn it! My shield’s failed.” She hailed a passing taxi and jumped in—as did Tim—and ordered the cabbie, “Follow that van!”

Well, this was a mess. Every twist, turn and bump, the crate rattled closer to the swinging, open back doors, and now she had not one, but two transdimensional trespassers. It was far from ideal. Although…

“Can you collapse your wormhole, Professor?”

“How will I get home?”

“Good point.” But she could figure that out later. “I’m with the Transdimensional Crime Division, and I need your help. So, the wormhole…?”

“Transdimensional—” Tim uttered, awestruck.

“Can you collapse it or not?” Shula snapped.

“Of course, but—”

“Do it.”


“Soon as you like.”

“If you’re sure…” Tim pulled a device from his pocket, poked the screen a few times and shut his eyes. “Here goes nothing.” He pressed the screen one last time.

Up ahead, the van briefly expanded, and then shrank to non-existence.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The WAG and The Scoundrel - 99c limited offer

To celebrate the release of Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2) on June 21st, The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1) ebook is available for 99c (or thereabouts. Amazon, you know... Usual price is $3.99).

Buy The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1):

Preorder Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2):

Friday, May 18, 2018

What A Scorcher! #flashfriday #sparklybadgers

A Hiding Behind The Couch flash fiction, written for the Sparkly Badgers. Theme: extreme weather (British style ;)).


A pink straw sunhat dropped onto the patio table.

Iris glanced up from her magazine as Pauline passed between her and the sun—not that it mattered when she was under an umbrella. Pauline gingerly lowered herself onto the other recliner and lifted the hat, revealing a bottle of sun lotion—no, make that oil. “Bloomin’ hot, in’t it?” she said. She flipped the lid and upended the bottle, generously greasing her left arm, then her right.

“Here we go. Back in 1976, we was frying eggs on’t car bonnets…

“Well, we was!”

“Aye. You told me last time we had a heat wave.” About ten years ago, if memory served.

Pauline squinted with one eye shut, checking her arms were well coated before she squeezed dollops onto both thighs. “Nowt wrong with making the most of it.”

“You could’ve just had a barbecue, love.”

“I don’t think they was invented then, but that weren’t the point. If you’d had cars round your way—”

“Eh, we did have cars, ta very much. We just weren’t as daft as you lot. Who in their right mind thinks ‘Bloody hell, it’s hot today. Think I’ll get the eggs out’?”

“Just a bit of fun.”

“You could’ve had one of them balls on a stick.”

“A what?”

Iris mimed throwing a ball sideways and batting it.

“Oh, you mean Swingball. Did you have one?”

“We did, love. Only the dog played with it, mind. Kept him occupied for hours, once he got hold of that ball.” Iris smiled to herself, remembering how she’d had to bribe him with cheese to let go or he’d just hang there all day. She missed Nero. He’d been a smashing dog, even if he was a vicious little sod.

“Do my back?” Pauline rolled onto her side. It would leave greasy fingerprints all over Iris’s magazine, but they were on their holidays, so she obliged, slapping the magazine down on the table as noisily as she could to let Pauline know she was doing it under duress. Not even a slight breeze ruffled the pages, which was a good thing, as it meant next door’s wind chimes were quiet too.

Iris eyed the white straplines over Pauline’s bright-pink shoulders and wrinkled her nose. “You realise you’re already burnt to buggery, don’t you?”

“Tanned, love.”

“Burnt. To buggery.”

“It’ll take more than a couple of days of our piss-weak sun to burn me. I’ve got that sort of skin, you know. What’s it called…olive?”

“Like Popeye’s girlfriend?”

Pauline chuckled and wriggled. “Get on with it, then.”

“All right, mardy.” Iris tipped some oil into her palm and spread it over Pauline’s back and shoulders. They were red-hot, but she was the same every summer. The sun only had to poke its head out from behind the clouds and she’d be stripping off as if her clothes were on fire. “You’re done.”

“Ta, love.” Pauline rolled onto her back and stretched for her hat but couldn’t quite reach. With a sigh, Iris passed it to her and exchanged the bottle of oil for her magazine. “We should go away somewhere proper,” Pauline said.

“Like where?”

“I dunno. Blackpool?”

“Christ, no.”

“Have you ever been?”

“I have, love. Four years on the trot with our Georgie and that fucker. He had the poor lad up and down the beach on them bloody donkeys like I don’t know what.”

“Are they still there, the donkeys?”

“No idea. It’s cruel, though, in’t it? Poor buggers, trudging through the sand all day in that heat.”

“Aye. Like that lickle donkey what took Mary to Bethlehem,” Pauline mused. Iris gave her an old-fashioned look. Pauline grinned back. “How about Conway?”

“Always rains in Wales.”


“Too bloody windy.”

“Margate, then.”

“It’s down south.”


“Have you got a passport?”

Pauline frowned. “Give over.”

“Watford Gap border control…”

“I’m not that daft.”

“Says she who’s covered herself in oil. Eh, mebbe we should fry you on a car bonnet. Mind, you’d slip off and bash your daft head on’t bumper.”

Pauline pulled her hat down over her face, ignoring Iris’s mockery, but it didn’t stay there for long. British summers were too short and unpredictable for Pauline to waste on sulking under her sunhat.

Iris lit a cig and sat back, appreciating the quiet while it lasted. No cars or lawnmowers, just the occasional coo of a wood pigeon in the trees at the bottom of the garden and the buzz and flutter of bees and butterflies passing through. Aside from the trail of a distant jumbo jet, the sky was an unbroken expanse of blue.

“We don’t need to trek all the way to the seaside for a proper holiday,” she said. “Besides, you know what’ll happen if we do. We’d spend God knows how long squashed up like sardines in a sweating-hot coach only to get there and have it bloody rain all week. No, love. I’m happy here. It’s me home from home.” Iris glanced over at Pauline and sighed. “Talking to meself, then. Right, I see.”

She got up to adjust the umbrella so it still covered her and then nearly jumped out of her skin when Pauline gave a loud snore. “Watch it or I’ll impale you on the bloody thing,” she muttered. Pauline didn’t even stir.

Iris returned to her chair and staring at the sky. She’d bob in and make a cuppa soon. She couldn’t be doing with the heat, and it was cooler in the house, which was where Blue and Monty were hiding. Not a mad dog or Englishman in sight, she started to doze herself.


Pauline snorted and sat up with a start. “Is that Mr. Whippy?”

“Trust you to hear that.” He had to be a mile away, but he was getting closer.

“I’m buying,” Pauline said, already on her feet. “Strawberry Mivvy?”

Iris smiled. “Aye, love. Why not? But don’t go chucking it on a car bonnet, eh?”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Upcoming Release: Curtain Call, by C H Clepitt

C H Clepitt has a knack for creating real, relatable characters, who face adversity with humour and humanity, and Curtain Call is no exception.

“Possibly the best thing I’ve read by C H Clepitt so far.” - Murray McLean

When an assistant to the director role turns into P.A. to her favourite film star, Jen can’t believe her luck. Eleanor Francis is charming, kind and funny, but she has a secret, and when tragedy strikes, things threaten to unravel at an uncontrollable pace. Despite being out of her depth Jen has to adapt to her new role quickly, to protect Eleanor, with whom she is rapidly falling in love.

This is a sweet, understated story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. If you’ve enjoyed C H Clepitt’s other books then this is not to be missed.

“The story is very well written and flows nicely... I would love to read more about the two main characters in future books.” - Simon Leonard - Black Books Blog

“Love blossoms in an unexpected place in this emotional short story. A change of direction for Clepitt but delicately written and heartfelt.” - Claire Buss - Author of  The Rose Thief  and other novels.

“The story's optimism that makes it such a joy to read and leaves one feeling there must be hope after all.” A.M. Leibowitz - Author of  Keeping the Faith  and other novels.

Preorder Link:
Get in touch via  to order paper
A Word from the Author:
This started as a short story, prompted by an anthology call by friend and colleague A.M. Leibowitz. I was at the maximum word limit, and felt the characters still had more to say, so, when it turned out my submission was 4 times longer than all of the other submissions, I withdrew it, expanded it and this novella was born. I am really proud of what I have achieved here, and think it might be some of my best writing to date. I really hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you would like to arrange an interview or spotlight, you can contact C H Clepitt via her website.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Newish Release: Hiding Behind The Couch Box Set Two

I haven't had time to blog properly on a Monday for a few weeks, so my apologies if you're a regular reader. I'm doing my best to get back in the swing of it.

This is just a quickie to announce the release of Box Set Two of Hiding Behind The Couch, which is available on Kindle only (and Kindle Unlimited).


  • Beginnings
  • Ruminations
  • Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One)
  • No Time Like The Present (Season Two)
  • The Harder They Fall (Season Three)
  • Crying in the Rain
  • First Christmas


  • In The Stars Part I (Season Four)
  • Breaking Waves
  • Chain of Secrets
  • In The Stars Part II (Season Five)
  • A Midnight Clear
  • Red Hot Christmas

BOX SET THREE (sometime in 2018/9)

  • Two by Two (Season Six)
  • Hiding Out
  • Class-A
  • Those Jeffries Boys
  • Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium
  • The WAG and The Scoundrel


  • Beginnings
  • Class-A
  • First Christmas
  • Breaking Waves
  • Chain of Secrets
  • A Midnight Clear
  • Red Hot Christmas
  • Hiding Out
  • Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium
  • To Be Sure
The novellas/short stories box set is also available as a paperback - readers asked for print editions of the novellas and short stories, so here they are. Note: these stories will all appear in the numbered box sets.

The novels are also available in paperback editions. :) Visit Beaten Track Publishing for all purchase/download links

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - No Filter: Very Odd - #lgbtqia

But I have news! I submitted a story for Upstaged—the upcoming anthology from Supposed Crimes—and it was accepted! Woohoo! :) It was nerve-racking, I won’t lie. It’s the first time I’ve submitted a story anywhere since my first novel. This writing malarkey never gets any easier. I’ll post more about the anthology nearer publication time.

Anyway, it’s WIPpet Wednesday. I’m allegedly writing No Filter for CampNaNoWriMo. I haven’t managed much writing, but it’s coming along slowly.

Brief story info:
No Filter is a crossover novella of the Hiding Behind The Couch and Checking Him Out series(es), featuring Libby (and others) from HBTC, and Matty (and others) from CHO.

This week’s snippet is from Libby’s point of view; it follows from last week’s snippet, where Libby was scheming. Note (and also a spoiler for anyone reading HBTC who hasn’t got as far as Season Six): Josh and George are Libby’s foster/adoptive parents. Highlight to read.

WIPpet maths for 11th April:
9 sentences, 2 paragraphs… 9+2=11.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Only Josh was home, so she wouldn’t get a definite yes or no until later, but she could still sound him out. She’d have preferred to talk to George first—it made sense to wait until he got in from work, but sense and patience were not playing on the same side this afternoon. Plus George would say ‘who?’ and then she’d have to tell the whole story to remind him, whereas Josh would remember exactly who she was talking about the second she mentioned the name. Possibly even before.

Pocketing her phone, Libby clicked the remote control to lower the stairs from her attic bedroom into Josh’s office, drawing breath as she descended, her speech at the ready, but she’d have been addressing an empty room. Very odd. She reached the bottom of the stairs and cocked her head, listening. He usually called up to say if he was going out, but she couldn’t hear much of anything, although…it sounded like the TV was on, which was even odder. She went to investigate.

* * * * *

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:

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - No Filter: No Patience - #lgbtqia

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks because of workload, which hasn’t lessened any, if I’m honest. Uni work, publishing…there are not enough hours in the day/days in the week!

Still, it’s WIPpet Wednesday. :)

Brief story info:
No Filter is a crossover novella of the Hiding Behind The Couch and Checking Him Out series(es), featuring Libby (and others) from HBTC, and Matty (and others) from CHO.

This week’s snippet is from Libby’s point of view; this is the start of chapter two (the previous snippets were from chapter one).

WIPpet maths for 4th April:
4x4=16 paragraphs.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Libby jiggled her leg impatiently to the FaceTime bleeps. It never took Poppy this long to pick up. In fact, Libby was quite sure if she added up all the seconds of waiting from all of their calls in the two years since they’d become friends, it wouldn’t come close to the hours she’d been waiting this time. She gave up.

And called again. On and on it rang. “Come on…come on…what is she do— At last!”

“What?” Poppy’s puzzled frown appeared onscreen at too-close range, like she was stuck inside the phone.

Libby backed off in mock-horror. “Nothing.” Objectively, it probably hadn’t taken Poppy any longer than normal to answer, but Libby was desperate to share.

Desperate, but not stupid.

She mouthed, “Is your mum there?” then, after Poppy’s nodded confirmation, said at a normal volume, “Did you ask your mum about coming over to do the project?”

Poppy’s eyebrows shot up into her hair. “Um…no…not…yet?” Her panic-stricken expression, along with excitement, almost set Libby off giggling. Poppy mouthed, “Project?”

“I dunno. Make something up!”

Poppy shrugged helplessly—“OK”—and tilted her head back to shout, “Mum, can I go to Libby’s to work on our project?”

“What project?”

“One for…sixth form.” Poppy shrugged again. She didn’t look optimistic.

“You don’t start sixth form for another month.” Her mum’s voice was closer now, and she appeared in the background, in rubber gloves, viciously attacking a baking tray with a scouring pad.

“We want to make a head start.”

A brief silence followed, in which Poppy was turned mostly the other way, but Libby saw her cheek lift a split second before her mum answered, “I suppose so. It’s only your summer holiday you’re wasting.”

“Thanks.” Poppy turned back to Libby with a grin and talked on the move. “The bus is due in two minutes and I need to get my trainers on.”

“OK. See you soon.” Libby ended the call. On to the next stage of her scheme.

* * * * *

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:

Thanks for reading
Deb x

Book Review: In The Present Tense by Carrie Pack

Title: In The Present Tense
Author: Carrie Pack
Publisher: Interlude Press
Published: 19th May, 2016
ISBN: 9781941530788

Miles Lawson goes to sleep dreaming of a future with his boyfriend Adam, but wakes to find he is married to Ana, an acquaintance from high school. When he learns he has been time traveling, Miles is consumed with finding a cure for his rare condition—and finding his first love.

Traveling more frequently, Miles assembles the puzzle pieces of his life and, in doing so, alienates his wife. As he loses control, Miles must realize that sometimes fixing your past mistakes means changing your future. But will he be able to convince Adam he is telling the truth before it’s too late?

In The Present Tense isn’t literary fiction. I appreciate this is a curious way to start a review – what the book is not – but most novels I’ve come across that take on topics of an intellectual/political nature in the way Carrie Pack does are, ultimately, vessels through which the author can show off their leet writing skills through a complex story arc, spectacular vocabulary and their ability to come up with the most convoluted sentences ever. It’s nice – if they’re aiming to appear on the A’ Level English Literature syllabus at some point in the future – but there’s too much clutter between execution of concept and the reader’s ability to just enjoy the story.

In short, Carrie Pack cuts the crap – which makes this book accessible to a wide range of readers – and gets straight down to the storytelling. And wow, what a story this is. It tackles issues around mental health and illness, and I’ve got to say, as someone who has worked/teaches in the fields of psychology/psychiatry, it is wonderful to read realistic depictions of mental ‘disorders’ such as dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia.

I also want to applaud the author for portraying the horror of enforced psychiatric incarceration. The way it’s done is not ‘thrilling’ in the typical thriller novel sense, but it is thrilling. My heart was hammering so fast at times, and I felt nauseous – the same reaction I get to real-world oppression. I’ll admit, my worldview incorporates an anti-psychiatry stance, and I sense the author’s sentiments are not incongruent. We might have left behind the vast asylums of the past, but a diagnosis of an acute mental disorder is, for some people, tantamount to throwing away the key. We need to see these people in our stories if for no other reason than they are invisible in the real world.

That’s only part of the story, albeit a very significant part. The time travel is done so well, but there’s little more I can say about it without either repeating the blurb or giving away key elements of the plot. I, like most readers, have a brain that skips past chapter headings and subheadings, so I generally had to hop back a few lines and read the author’s helpfully included dates. Truthfully, I was too desperate to keep reading the story, so mostly I gave these a cursory glance before once more submerging into Miles’s world.

While Miles is most certainly the main character, we do get a few different points of view, and again, these are all clearly marked by subheadings, but they’re also easy to identify if you do just keep reading, like I did, into the night. I forced myself to stop at 92% to squeeze an extra day out of this story. It’s so good.

Finally, the characters…well, this is where the author has really hit it out the park for me. LGBTQ+ main character, the politics of mental health, time travel and damn fine characterisation. There’s no sweetness and light in here; all of the characters have huge flaws, like real people. Some situations cast them in a poorer light than others, and the emotional impact on the reader is the same roller-coaster ride we get from our interactions with people we know. The only character I was 100% onside with was Miles, even though at times I wanted to give him a good talking-to or simply remove him from the situation. The traits/behaviours distinct to Miles at different points in time were also a nice touch.

I loved In The Present Tense from beginning to end, and the sequel is out this summer (2018)! I’ll be at the front of the queue.

Received through NetGalley.