Raincheck for Roses

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have spotted that April has come and gone with no sign of ‘Roses in December’ being republished.  Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten – it’s just that when I came to look at the manuscript I found it needed a lot more work than I’d realised to bring it up to my current standard of writing (whatever that might be…!)  Little things like matching quote marks, bigger things like removing the endless dialogue tags, even bigger things like making sure it all makes sense.

It’s going to take longer than I bargained for, and will have to be fitted in alongside other writing projects and General Life TM, but I’m still hoping to get something viable at some point during the year.  It may just be a case of ‘Roses in December’ after all!

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Wray Castle

wray_2After trying and failing to get in on Easter Saturday, yesterday we had another go, and this time got parked nice and early and were scratching at the main castle door just as it opened.

The morning was damp and drizzly so it was the ideal place to stomp round and explore – and there seems to be more to explore every time we go.  The National Trust are restoring/renovating slowly but surely; this time they’d painted the library, re-hung the vast hanging lantern over the hall, and opened up a whole new section on an upper floor.  This required a good head for heights since the staircase up to it was quite precipitous, but there were some nice views out of the windows and a sudden glimpse of a stained glass roof-light that would be completely hidden from anywhere else.

The castle is full of nooks, crannies and quirks like that and is thoroughly fascinating to go round.  We love the story that James Dawson, the Liverpool surgeon who built it, couldn’t actually live in it full-time until after his wife died because she disliked the place so much!  I have to admit that as a cosy, practical home it would probably be terrible – it’s so big it must be almost impossible to heat, and the flat ‘castle-y’ roofs let in the rain.  But as a stately pile it takes some beating.

By late morning the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to break through the cloud, so we had a brief walk down the edge of the lake, to a new jetty they’ve just built to allow the lake cruisers to moor up.  It’s a good idea, because it means foot passengers can access the castle direct from Ambleside, without having to navigate the narrow, twisty and busy network of lanes – or that too-small car park.  Next time we might very well do the same.

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It’s amazing sometimes just what you can discover in a house you think you know well.  We’ve been here now for well over five years yet we’re still finding new things.  Last year it was a bricked up cupboard under the stairs; this year it’s a floor.

We didn’t mean to start an excavation.  All we were doing was taking up some rather grotty carpet in the dining room.  We knew there was something underneath, which possibly involved tiles, because we’d seen a corner, briefly, before.  But nothing could prepare us for the wonderful whole – an intact Victorian tiled floor, in a geometric pattern of red, black and white, completely covering the floor.

In places it’s a little battered, but then wouldn’t you be if you dated back to the 1880s?  We’re hoping it will be possible to restore it, remove some rather nasty red paint from the outer foot or so, and bring it back to full, gleaming, polished life.  It’s quite a feature, very unexpected, and has left us wondering what other secrets are still waiting to be found.

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Castle full today…

Just what do you do on a pouring wet Easter Saturday in the Lake District?  We thought we’d be clever and arranged to meet some friends at Wray Castle, a National Trust property on the less-frequented western shore of Windermere.  It’s indoors, it has a café, shop and plenty of rooms, both stately and otherwise, to explore; and it’s hidden away down a maze of country lanes somewhere between Hawkshead and Ambleside.

That was the plan.  Trouble was, half the rest of Cumbria seemed to have had the same idea, and the NT themselves hadn’t helped (us, at any rate) by putting out nice bright yellow signs on all the approach roads pointing the way to the castle.  The result was total chaos, with a queue to get in, marshals desperately trying to direct traffic round the one-way system, and no spaces in the car park.

Given the choice between waiting, waiting and waiting some more in the vain hope that someone would want to leave, or turning round and heading somewhere else, we chose to turn round.  A quick text to our friends and we re-convened a few miles down the road in Hawkshead, where there were still a surprising number of spaces in the vast car park.  We mooched round the village under brollies, had a super lunch in the café at Poppi Red, and bought a few goodies in the Hawkshead Relish shop, always a favourite.  We then discovered a brand new shop (apparently less than two weeks old) selling hand-blown glassware by James Stewardson, which was absolutely stunning.  We treated ourselves to a small glittery sphere/marble, made of dichroic glass and really pretty, especially in bright light, and may well be back to have another look.

We finished off with a touristy trip round the Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside, where we got the last two spaces in the car park and joined the hordes pulling faces at the fish.

It ended up as a great day out and we really enjoyed it – but we’re making a mental note not to go to Wray Castle on bank holidays!

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Roses in… April?

Those of you who’ve known me for ages might remember my first novel, Roses in December, a gay paranormal romance set in a beautiful English garden.

Well, the good news is that I’m seriously considering republishing the book.  I now have a working cover, and once I’ve got to grips with all the conversion software, uploading to Amazon etc etc that’s involved, I’m hoping it’ll be available soon after Easter.

Do make a note in your diaries, and keep watching here for further updates on when/whether the book is coming – or whether I’ve torn all my hair out and hidden under the sofa for the foreseeable future!

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End of an era

100radgepacket2I’ve just heard the sad news that after eight great years publishing Radgepackets and various other dark, gritty  novels about the underbelly of life here in Britain, Byker Books are ceasing trading.  Pretty much immediately.

This is a huge shame.  Some of my own first forays into the printed word, certainly in the realm of dark, gallows-humour short stories, were published in the Radgepacket series and I’ll be forever grateful – not just for the publishing credits themselves but also for the many other great authors Byker brought me into contact with.

The CEO, Andy Rivers, blames the rise of cheap self-published e-books for the demise and he has a point.  So many authors are now stampeding down the self-publishing route that it’s depriving publishing companies of material.  And even the relatively low costs of running a small-scale business have to be offset against prices, which presumably means it’s hard to compete when every Tom, Dick and Josephine are virtually giving their work away.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, but I hope somebody finds it before too many more great, quirky, independent publishers go under.

And in the meantime, if you want the chance to grab any of the Radgepacket volumes before they disappear forever (and treat yourself to some fantastic, sharp little stories into the bargain), then head over to my website for more information on where to buy ’em.

RIP Byker.  You’ll be missed.

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It could never happen…

Could it?  After all, police officers are there to uphold the law, not bend it to their own devices or desires.  However, the more often I read about cases like this, where an undercover officer had a relationship with a woman, whilst operating undercover using an assumed identity, the more I realise that that ain’t necessarily so.

100NecessitysDoorAnd this is exactly the sort of background I was thinking of when I wrote Necessity’s Door, just over three years ago now.  Back then, details about cases like this were only just beginning to creep out of the woodwork, but they were there if you knew where to look.  I didn’t reproduce them exactly (my hero is gay, where this case involves a heterosexual relationship) but they provided suitable inspiration for all sorts of ‘what if’ scenarios involving undercover police and just how far they would/should go to maintain their cover.

Including, it seems, lying to the people they were sleeping with about the fact that they were police.

It all goes to show that however outlandish a writer’s plots, real life almost always manages to be another shade darker, and to surprise us in all sorts of ways.

If you’d like to read Necessity’s Door for yourselves and see where I took the inspiration and ran off with it to, then it’s still available as an e-book on Amazon US or UK.  Happy reading, and don’t forget – however unlikely it sounds, the book is based on fact!

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