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When I released A Crofter’s Tale several things happened that have never happened before and that frankly I don’t understand.

The first disappointment was that its release coincided with a new policy of not promoting LGBT books and I don’t think this story was promoted as a new release. In the past, any new titles received a first flurry of sales and borrows but that simply did not happen. Why should these books not be promoted widely on Amazon? I think this is because a lot of Gay and Lesbian titles fall into the erotica category. This novella does not. It has some sensual content but is a historical romance with a focus on the history and a love story between two friends that takes the full length of the novel to unfold.

To say I was disappointed at the lack of interest is an understatement. I then attempted to promote the book on a lesfic group, but my post was summarily removed. As the book contains nothing that could be considered offensive or obnoxious to lesfic fans this was a slap in the face to me personally. As a result, it has never picked up any sort of following, which is sad.

If you are interested in Jacobite history, the rebellion of 1745 and how it affected ordinary young men and women or you would enjoy a simple, largely innocent and sensual romance between two highland lasses caught up in events that spiral beyond their control you might enjoy A Crofter’s Tale.

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Poetry was my first love. For me it is a minimalist art. My aim is to say something beautiful or important is as few words as possible. I scrawl ideas down, cross them out, rewrite until all available space on the paper has been filled with ideas and corrections; you would see lines between lines, margins filled, phrases squeezed in vertically, words struck through and rewritten over and over. Then I write it out fresh, read aloud, cross out what sounds superfluous and finally type up with two fingers on my computer. My originals are hidden away all over the house as they are terrible to behold. Sometimes I write on envelopes, paper bags or restaurant napkins – you don’t always have a notebook to hand. I would hone them down further on the computer and then share. Friends told me I should publish, not an easy task in the UK unless you are very well-connected or have an Oxbridge First and so I learned to self-publish. I made the mistake of not holding back the poems that were more personal than public and was rewarded with a one-star rating and a scathing review that ran into the thousands of words. You learn to deal with it. To annoy someone so intensely is an accomplishment in itself.

My first novel, The Cougar was a different animal altogether. To a minimalist poet the sheer word count of a novel was daunting enough. My main character came to me in a dream one night and literally said “Tell my story.” Berenice was a phantom, a denizen of the temperate rainforest of British Columbia, and it was a labour of love. I wanted the reader to experience the beauty of the forest and Lake Alouette as Berenice does – and as I do also. I am in love and in awe of this great wilderness. Each time I see it is as powerful as the first, existing in a perpetual state of flux, its colours changing from second to second. The forest visibly seems to breathe and is the perfect setting for a shapeshifter. I wanted to make that wilderness real and immediate and for some I did – for others not so much.

My biggest problem was expectation of genre. This is an odd beast for someone of my vintage weaned on literature that has a wider embrace of the possible than the modern “niche” approach. For me, as a poet, writing is about expression and the music behind the words as much as feelings and actions. It was never about marketing. This imperfection was what I brought to Berenice’s story along with a total understanding of what it feels like to be a misfit and never quite belong anywhere.

The Cougar has been called an erotic romance by some, but it is not erotica. It is explicit but romantic. At the heart lie two parallel love stories in different timelines. Berenice is in both and is a loyal and highly principled bisexual woman. That caused me problems with some fantasy readers and Christians who couldn’t cope with LGBT love and ironically it also caused problems with some lesbian readers who couldn’t cope with straight love scenes. Oh boy! Yet again a wicked bisexual predator is at large! There are some other odd love angles in the story because life is strange in my experience and love just is what it is. Perhaps my life as a writer would have been easier if Berenice was straight? She certainly would have done better to be a lesbian from the beginning if that was the target audience. Perhaps she would have done better to choose a more manipulative writer?

In any case, like Berenice, I am a ship at sea in a terrible storm with no apparent safe mooring other than love itself. If she chose me it was for a reason that I will probably never be sure of. Perhaps it is because I too know what it is not to be “amatonormative” (thank you Gabriel Constans for that lovely word). I leave you with the thought that to write an “amatonormative” book requires the author to be in no doubt whatsoever about their own gender identity or sexuality. Where would that leave the Berenices of this world? To force her to be something other than she is would surely be unacceptable in this day and age? Perhaps that is why she chose me after all…

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Ok, I admit it. This title is a little tongue in cheek. I was thinking more of the drawbacks of multi-genre authorship but I wanted you to read beyond the title. Come to think of it, that is always a good idea. Any author who has ever done a giveaway or a free book promotion will understand why we want you to do just that. I have talked previously about my “tribe” on Twitter. These are nice people, writers, musicians and artists who share work with their followers. We don’t all write, paint or play in one style. If we did, the world would be a poorer place. Whatever the genre, I share because I appreciate the writer. Sometimes I will have read and loved a story or its style. At other times, I may not have read the story but I know the person behind it. I might be sharing an erotic story, a space opera or a book about finding God and when I share that story I know people will follow me because I shared it. I don’t always know the motives but I trust that they will not be unkind.

The same goes for books as for people. Please don’t believe that because you enjoyed some erotic content in one book that my others will necessarily contain something similar. Whether I am writing poetry or fiction my deeper concerns might be love, but that is not necessarily erotic. If you buy Pussy’s Little Problem it is NOT porn, it is a manual on toilet training cats with a problem. On Wenlock Edge 100 Years On is not a period drama, it is a study of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams with musical examples. A sweet romance like Coming Home For Christmas will NOT include sex scenes; it is a clean read. That is what sweet romance means. The Cougar contains several explicit love scenes but although it has an F/F relationship at its heart it also contains other relationships and you will need to be accepting and broadminded to appreciate it.

I don’t want to upset anyone. Honestly! I would only ask that before you read the word “FREE” and get all excited, you actually read the description. I really don’t want to raise your expectations and a “sweet lesbian romance” is not going to provide one-handed reading for a single bloke who enjoys explicitly sexual lesfic and goes on to award me a 1* rating, nor are my books either man-free or LGBT-free. I certainly won’t countenance bi-erasure. I haven’t felt the need to turn my hand to Christfic yet but I don’t rule out any inspiration, whatever the source. Life just is, in all its variation and splendour, man is as God made him but just a little bit worse, that goes for women too. I know.

Love just is…

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Kirstie is just so annoying at times, isn’t she? How can she not know her best friend Jeannie loves her to pieces? She hangs on her every word and doesn’t dare to criticise her even when she makes a fool of herself by marrying way beneath her station. Mind you, Kirstie is not the only annoying woman round here. I can be pretty annoying myself, especially when I persist in making life complicated for my poor long-suffering characters. I can’t help it though – it goes with the territory. Well? Life is complicated. It was for me anyway…

A highland wedding is an unusual start for a lesfic novel, I grant you, but all is never as it first seems, I promise. Kirstie proves an easy target for a silver-tongued and handsome young Highlander despite the obvious class difference between them and the hard life that lies ahead for her as a crofter’s wife. It was all an innocent and romantic dream for the lass. But marrying a Jacobite? What on earth possessed her to do that? Was she rebelling against her strict Protestant father? Did she already suspect that her wicked Uncle Malcolm might have secret plans for her at that point? Who knows?

Our pretty highland lassie certainly doesn’t have a clue and yet Jeannie stands by the girl she loves through thick and thin, tolerating verbal abuse and emotional ignorance and constantly hiding her feelings. Jeannie isn’t destroyed by her unrequited love though and she is nobody’s fool either. Kirstie on the other hand seems totally unaware of the havoc she is causing in Jeannie’s life. What an unholy mess! Here we have Robbie destroyed by Angus’s insane jealousy; Kirstie destroyed by Robbie’s foolhardiness; Jeannie wounded by Kirstie’s lack of understanding and Angus devastated by Jeannie’s rejection. All this is set against a historically accurate background of politics and intrigue, war and genocide. How will it all end? You will have to read A Crofter’s Tale to find out. Please do – it’s free with Kindle Unlimited.

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A writer is a dreamer who needs space to dream and sometimes the reality of modern day publishing gets in the way. This is true whether one is self-published or published by one of the very many small presses that specialise in particular genres. These days an author constantly needs to push their own agenda, recommend their own books and those of their associates, attend conferences and conventions and be an expert social mover and shaker. Every day I see examples of excellent but introverted writers struggling constantly while the more pushy ones squeeze them out. Whether it is done consciously or unconsciously I honestly do not know but writers do tend to run in packs. My Twitter pack is a multi-genre pack full of generous and sensitive individuals who are non-judgemental, not genre or publisher biased, and share each other’s posts. I am so glad of it. Without my pack on Twitter I could so easily drown. As it is I can barely keep my head out of the water.

Now in some respects I am a little bit of a rarity amongst writers. Not because I am some sort of special snowflake (I know my limitations and they are Legion), or because I am a multi-genre and cross-genre perpetrator (lots of writers are), and not even because I am also a musician (although it is hard to serve two Muses) but because I put my own name on everything I do. Yes, that’s right. My name. I don’t hide my gender behind vague initials or change my name from book to book in case somebody who enjoys one title hates another and feels betrayed. I am not ashamed to be a poet, to write scifi, horror and romance, to include sweet romance and honest steamy sex scenes, I have a mix of LGBT and straight. I am not ashamed of my music either. It is a part of my soul. I write because I feel driven to and I compose for the very same reason.

Despite all that, I am still an introvert and a neurodiverse one at that, being mildly autistic. I hate social occasions. I can only cope in small gatherings unless I am deliberately putting on a show. Then character takes over. It just doesn’t feel comfortable to move around a room pressing hands and making small talk. My best friends and the people I talk to most are my cats. My wildest parties are held on Twitter; openly, in the morning with the news or Victoria Live on the TV or in the evening with Star Trek reruns, my favourite one-starred disaster movies, Casualty or Holby City. I confess I am a bit of a geek. I enjoy science – one of my short stories actually opens with a description of an atomic explosion – and I love doing the research for my stories. It doesn’t all go in of course but I probably err on the side of too much at times.

I don’t really know why I am writing this post except that I do wish self-promotion wasn’t such a “thing” in this world we live in – especially in the arts – schmoozing should not be the artist’s most important weapon but I know I am fighting a lost cause. I do wish readers were the ones to propose books for awards, not authors, and that readers would vote for them, not authors but again, why should they? It is not the norm. It probably never was. OK, I will go back to my lair and hide away for a bit longer; then there’s a grain-free cake to bake, cats to feed and a happy life to live. Have a beautiful day.

This is a post that has been decades in the making. In my lifetime equality issues have made huge strides to the extent that gay and lesbian friends are very much out and part of everyday life. I am less sure about how those friends who are transsexual feel and to be honest the extent of biphobia and bi-erasure from those who should know better never ceases to amaze me. I decided quite early in my writing career to follow the principle that “love just is” and I have never excluded relationships that I felt were germane to the characters in a story. For this reason, I believe I am struggling to find any sort of audience. There are those who would say to me something along these lines:

1. “I can’t buy / read / share your WW2 novel because it has women like that in it.”

2. “Why does everything have to contain lesbians or gays these days?”

3. “There never used to be so many of them. The world is becoming so wicked.”

On the other hand, I also get:

1. “Why did Midge have to marry a man before she discovered herself?”

2. “I wish there were no straight sex scenes in your novel, you know. Without those is would be really good.”

3. “Why did your story have so many men in it? Was that really necessary?”

To me, neither of these attitudes addresses the real problem of bi-erasure, straight-erasure or the LGBT-erasure we (wrongly) assume is over and done with. People who buy books want to look through rose tinted spectacles at a world where any of the following apply:

1. LGBTQIA people do not exist; or only exist on the periphery as sad or comic characters.

2. Men in lesfic – or women in M/M romance – do not play any role in the story, other than a minor part if absolutely necessary.

3. Characters are exclusively gay, lesbian or straight, nobody is ever confused and bisexuality is a wicked perversion that endangers everyone who is actually honest with themselves.

Sadly, my books do not conform to these straitjacketing norms and for that reason I now know that they will probably not be enjoyed by many readers, LGBTQIA or straight, within my lifetime. I have worked so hard over the last five years or so and yet I am still very much on the fringe and at this point in time I am seriously thinking of giving up creative writing altogether and going back to the less frustrating business of composing music.

You know, in my stories, I try my best to make the love scenes open, honest and tasteful; please note I said love. I am not in the business of writing erotica; too many people already do it far better than I ever could. I would just like to find a few more tolerant and open-minded readers who don’t fall into either of the above two categories though. I would like to find some readers who can accept that LGBT characters existed and had (albeit closeted) normal lives before 1970 and others who can accept that their own liberation includes recognising that we are not stereotypes. Real people are not all the same – black or white, hetero-exclusive or homo-exclusive, recognisable genre tropes in day to day existence – nor should we be. My relationships are not second class relationships, either in real life or between the pages of my novels.

Rant over.

Love just is.

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In 1978 my father decided on a family move to the Scottish highlands. My sister and I were at University by then and so the disruption was to be fairly minimal. I lost touch with a few school friends but that was because I failed to keep in touch. I did not enjoy writing letters and was a little phone-phobic so I lived in the present, as I always had done in the past as an RAF brat, and just made new friends. It did mean that vacations involved a long train journey home of course but Scotland proved a wonderful place. I took long walks in the forest, swam in the Spey and worked part-time in a local hotel and in my father’s shop. We were regulars on the Whisky Trail and after so many talks on how whisky is made I feel I could nearly build my own distillery. The prize for listening was always a wee dram at the end and I grew fond of malt whisky, particularly the Spey malts which are mild, warm and fruity rather than sweet, smoky and peaty like the Islay malts my late father loved.

Anyway, I digress (because I like whisky so much). From being a little put out at the move, I became very fond of our new home and I can smell the clean air to this day in my memory. If you have never been to the Scottish highlands and you prefer wide open spaces to clubbing and city excitement, do go there please. You will love it. It must have made quite an impression on me as I found myself returning there again and again in my mind’s eye as I wrote A Crofter’s Tale. This started as a short story, written following a request from Jewels some twelve years ago. Looking back on it, it was a sweet little story but I lacked the confidence to make much more of it at the time.

Now, having published one not particularly great novel (that seems to be either loved or detested) and another more middle of the road novel that I am actually quite proud of, it seemed it was time to take the original story to its conclusion and I worked very hard on it. I researched the Jacobite Memoirs to learn about the rebellion from first source and I read a biography of the Duke of Cumberland for balance. I steeped myself in the Victorian genre too because I wanted an antiquated eighteenth century feel to the language.

Meanwhile the original story line expanded to include a truly black-hearted villain and also the political intrigues that led to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s downfall and the dreadful aftermath of Culloden. (Drummossie Moor is one of those places you won’t forget easily, by the way. It is so empty and bleak even now. I stood there and felt I could almost hear the screams of the massacred men. I wouldn’t want to spend a night alone there and remembered my father saying how Belsen had encroached on him in a similar way in the 1950s – a bleak place, where even the birds refused to sing). So, I approached the historical scenes with an eye to accuracy, using descriptions of the times wherever I could, particularly with Lord George Murray. For some, that might be dry but I found it necessary to understand the times and the events better.

There is nothing new in any of that of course but one thing struck me in my reading that I felt I needed to address. That is the issue of stereotypes. My story is different because it has a lesbian romance at its heart but that is not the only difference. I wanted to build on characters and on a way of life now lost to us. I wanted to have earthy, ordinary characters. The original Jacobite novels and the modern highlander take-offs I have read usually have big similarities – they focus on the rich, noble and powerful players in life and ordinary people, if they do appear at all, tend to be rogues or beggars who speak in unintelligible dialect. You won’t find much of that in A Crofter’s Tale. They speak more eloquently than we do because the 18th century was a time when most people did speak well. There is a tiny bit of Gaelic and a few expressions common in Scots English but apart from the Burns poem I quote at the beginning there is no heavy dialect.

Anyway, A Crofter’s Tale is out there in the wild, yours for the taking so to speak. You can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited, it’s on Kindle and published also in a clear print paperback edition. I hope you do give it a chance and I hope you will enjoy it.