Posted in Events

It’s crime, Jim, but not as you know it…

Question: What do you get if you cross LGBTQ+ and crime?

Answer: the CWA National Crime Reading Month “Bring Crime Out of the Closet” blogathon!

Joking aside, the NCRM is taking place throughout June and to help celebrate, Charlie Cochrane, Clare London and I have organised a blogathon for the entire month (and possibly beyond).

There’ll be lots of authors, plus readers and other affiliated creatives (including the three of us), all blogging on a range of topics including whether they were aware of gay characters in the old crime classics; the first crime book they read featuring a gay main character; or why they put LGBTQ+ main characters into their own books.

With a brand new post every day throughout June it promises to be both fascinating and entertaining. So if you want a bit of intrigue with your morning cornflakes, why not bookmark/follow the blog so you don’t miss any of the posts? Things kick off with a shotgun bang tomorrow (Thursday) and my own post (on Louise Welsh’s The Cutting Room) is scheduled for June 12th. You can find it all here.

Posted in Books, excerpts

Rainbow Snippets: a painted wagon

As I mentioned earlier today, my sweet 1950s set m/m romance Run Wild, Run Free is on special offer from JMS Books all this weekend. So for my #RainbowSnippets offering this week, here’s a teaser from soon after Joey has met his new traveller friend. Of course, things don’t quite go to plan after this, but you’ll have to grab a copy of the book to find out why!

He knew the man was teasing him but he didn’t mind, not like he’d minded the taunts from the kids at school. The stranger’s smile was kind, and those wonderful eyes twinkled mischief at him, and he found his tongue at last. “Have you got a painted wagon? With steps that let down at the front?”

It had seemed like the most important question to him, but the gypsy stared at him for a second. Then he grinned. “Yeah. Want to come and see it sometime?”

“Oh, yes please.” He’d heard the tales, and seen the wagons in the distance in previous years, and couldn’t imagine anything more romantic. The thought of living in something as impermanent as that, of being free to go wherever you chose, whenever you chose, sounded like heaven compared to the family’s squashed little house. “That would be amazing.”

The gypsy’s grin faded, although his eyes still twinkled. He leant forwards and brushed one finger down Joe’s cheek. The tip was work-roughened and caught against his new beard-growth, sending a wild thrill through his nerves that he didn’t yet understand. “We could go now if you like.”

If you like that, pop along to JMS Books to get the book for only $1.64 (until Monday). And don’t forget to check the Rainbow Snippets group on Facebook for more lovely rainbow-y excerpts!

Posted in Books, Offers

Book sale alert!

Busy day today but there’s just time to dash in to let everyone know that my publisher JMS Books are holding a special Memorial Day sale all this weekend, with all their books on special offer.

My m/m 1950s romance Run Wild, Run Free is reduced to just $1.64 until tomorrow (Sunday) and there are loads of other books by loads of other authors to choose from, so why not head over to the JMS Books site and grab yourself a bargain?

Posted in LGBT, Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: Can AI write an LGBT romance story?

The challenge we all set ourselves this month was to write (or re-use) a 300-ish-word short m/m romance story and use it as a prompt on an AI site to see what it could come up with. There’s been so much hype about AI lately; if you believe half the stuff you read then it’s well on the way to replacing all of humanity. But does that include LGBT romance writers?

I chose an old story, Concrete Jungle (inspired by the surrealist gardens at Las Posas in Mexico, pictured above courtesy of the Guardian), because it was the right length, and because it’s in a strange, prose-poem style which I guessed AI would have problems replicating. I’m not naming the AI site I used because I don’t want to give advertising space to something I don’t agree with, but it was freely available on Google and I didn’t need to sign up to use it. I fed the summary from Concrete Jungle – two men skinny dipping in a garden pool surrounded by lush plants and butterflies – into the dialogue box and hit ‟write”.

And I was surprised by what it came up with. Most of the other webring members said their results were rubbish, with a depressing mix of poor prose and deeply divisive attitudes. Some AI sites even refused to write ‟gay romance” at all on the grounds that it was ‟offensive”. Go figure. But my result is depressing for a different reason, because it’s actually rather good. The prose flows nicely, the story makes sense, it’s about the right length (although I hadn’t specified word count) and there’s even a romantic element. The only thing lacking is what I’d call the ‟feelz” – the show-not-tell, the emotion, the subtle nuances of a relationship. But if AI keeps on learning at its current rate, it may only be a matter of time before it can do that, too. At which point we writers really will be f*cked.

Below are the two different versions of Concrete Jungle so you can see for yourselves. The first is my prose poem, the second is AI. The styles are obviously very different, but would you have known which was which if I hadn’t told you?

Clutch and thrust of the concrete jungle reminds me of you. Roots clutch at the soil, fingers of men buried alive, gasping their last into the thick brown earth. Stems thrust lightwards like cocks of men at play, criss-crossing, bobbing, stretching towards their life. Leaves clutch the sky, stitched to the heavens, your fingers in my hair.

Your body a brown arrow as you dive, diamond drops capturing the light and holding it to ransom on your skin. You laugh, the sound echoing down the waterfall, smashed on the rocks below. It could so easily be you; I peer uneasily. You eel past my legs underwater, skin brushing skin, and you laugh again. Your voice as tantalising as your touch, promising more. Your teeth startling piano keys against your black moustache, but the piano does not make such sweet music as your voice.

You emerge, a salmon leaping for the land, scattering the diamonds which wither, releasing their pent-up sun back to the sun. The sun warms your brown naked body as you lie, head pillowed on my chest, my heart speaking to your ear.

Sudden flash of blue amongst the twisted shadows of fig trees: a jay scolds from a twig. Like sun on moving water they come out of the forest: a cerulean pillar of butterflies. Five, six, a dozen, their wings reflecting the reflection of the sky. They settle on your torso, painting it with light: cornflowers in coffee, blue eyes in a brown face.

You raise your hand to brush them away. I catch it, bring it to my head. Your fingers take root in my hair. We are complete.


The sun was setting over the horizon, painting the sky in a vibrant orange hue. The air was warm, the temperature just right to take a dip in the nearby pool. Two men, both handsome in their own ways, stripped out of their clothes and jumped into the pool. The water was cool against their skin, and the lush plants surrounding them added to the romantic atmosphere.

The moonlight glowed down on them as they swam, their arms brushing against each other. They were lost in the moment, the only sound being the occasional splash of the water and the chirping of the crickets. As they reached the opposite end of the pool, they stopped and just looked at each other.

The butterflies in their stomachs were going wild, and they both knew what was coming next. They embraced, their lips meeting in perfect harmony. They kissed for what felt like an eternity, and in that moment, all of their worries and fears melted away.

After some time, they separated, both still feeling the same electric buzz that had been present from the start. As they got out of the pool, they realized that this moment was something that they would never forget. They knew that this was the start of something special, something that would last forever.

As I mentioned, the other webring members had very different experiences. Why not pop along and see what AI did with their stories? I suspect some of it will be hilarious!

A L Lester :: Holly Day :: Amy Spector :: Ofelia Grand :: Ellie Thomas :: Addison Albright :: Nell Iris :: K L Noone :: Lillian Francis

Posted in reviews, TV

Fascinating forensics

Did anyone else catch Forensics: The Real CSI (pic, above, credited on BBC2 last night about the ram raid on a jewellery store? I watched it because Birmingham *grins* but it was absolutely fascinating how the police pieced it all together – and how the criminals clearly thought they’d been clever enough to get away with it, and weren’t.

It showed how long-winded forensic examination, and police-work in general, can be – too often we only see the shortened version on films and TV shows, where fingerprint analysis appears in seconds and DNA results aren’t far behind.

And the criminals this particular episode featured reminded me of some of the characters in my own Birmingham-set noir books – street-savvy yet arrogant, and ultimately unsuccessful!

You can find all three of these books at my other website. I don’t include much about forensics because they’re written from the point of view of the criminals, but you can certainly see how the characters inevitably fall from grace.

Posted in Gardening, History

Two (well, five) go to Erddig

Busy week last week including a friend’s funeral, and a big family day out in North Wales. Hence not much time to post on here!

The day out was lovely. We caught up with my mother in law and her two sisters, and all five of us went to Erddig, a big stately home near Wrexham that’s now owned by the National Trust. I last went with my parents soon after the NT opened it to the public, but I didn’t remember much.

It turned out to be fascinating. It’s one of these “time capsule” properties where everything has been left just as though the original family had popped out to the shops. And as they were mad collectors, the house is jammed full of “stuff” that’s either beautiful or weird, or sometimes both. There’s also more emphasis on the servants’ lives and quarters than in many properties, with the kitchen, dairy, scullery, washroom, bake-house, tack-room, carriage house, stables, house-keeper’s room, butler’s pantry and maids’ bedrooms on display, and I think I enjoyed those the most.

The gardens are gorgeous and we strolled around the avenues of pleached limes, a rose garden with lots of flowers already out, and various ponds and lakes. And there were goslings (see above)!

The whole place is too big to see in one visit so we’ll definitely be heading back for another look soon.

Posted in History, Museums & galleries

Two see a seaplane…

Windermere Jetty museum held a science festival over the weekend. Possibly as part of it, or possibly as a bonus, they were also hosting a display by the replica seaplane Waterbird, so on Saturday morning we strolled down for a look.

Waterbird is, I believe, the very first seaplane to have taken off from water in the UK. Its first flight was from Windermere in 1911. Recently a team of engineers and enthusiasts have rebuilt her from scratch and have been holding a series of flight trials over the lake to try to recreate that first flight.

It hasn’t been easy as there were few blueprints for the design, but the end result featured in an episode of Warplane Workshop on Channel 4. We watched that last year and were fascinated, and seeing it in real life was every bit as good.

Sadly, we couldn’t see it in flight as the engine had blown a fuse (or more accurately, a piston) the previous day. But it was moored at the end of one of the museum’s many jetties and we got a good look at it. It looks so frail and unwieldy that it’s hard to believe it would ever fly, but the pilot has got it into the air above Windermere several times. We also had a chat with a couple of the team who were a mine of information and anecdotes.

With the added bonus of coffee with a stunning view of the lake, a quick dart round the rest of the museum, and some ducklings, it made a lovely morning out.

Posted in Books, News

Mothers’ Day sale

Dashing in to say that JMS Books are having a (US) Mothers’ Day sale all this weekend with a massive 45% off their books!

This includes my own m/m romance Run Wild, Run Free so if you’ve been wondering whether to try it, now’s your chance. Head to the JMS Books website where you can pick up a copy for only $1.64, for this weekend only.

There are also loads of other great books by a wide range of authors so while you’re there you might want to poke around – you’re sure to find something you like.

Posted in excerpts, LGBT, romance

Rainbow Snippets: a discarded broom…

This week’s offering for the #RainbowSnippets Facebook group is from my dystopian time travel m/m romance Just Visiting, which I’m also featuring on today’s #silver #agegap feature on the Small But Mighty FB group. The excerpt is from where Madoc first meets time traveller Josh, as Josh trips over his discarded broom!

Here’s a reminder of what’s going on: “Down-trodden dock worker Madoc expects trouble when a traveller from the future trips over his discarded broom. What he doesn’t expect is to fall head over heels in love with a man who insists he’s only visiting. But Josh’s arrival is the spark Madoc needs to fight the terrible discrimination in his world. When he finally catches up with his own future, will Josh be waiting there for him?”

And if you fancy trying the book, it’s available on Kindle for only $1.20 or 99p, or free on Kindle Unlimited.

Madoc didn’t even stop to think. That was a caste member floundering around down there. A caste member who’d tripped over his discarded tools. If anything bad happened, guess who would get the blame? And the penalty for causing the death of a caste member? He couldn’t remember offhand, but it wouldn’t be good. He kicked off his boots, laid his glasses on top of them and leapt straight in. The water was freezing. The cold cut through his clothes so fast he could feel the shock setting in. He couldn’t succumb to it, though. He was used to these conditions. The stranger might not be so hardened to the elements. He took a deep breath, thrashed his way to the man, then supported his head while he paddled both of them awkwardly back to the dock.

By the time he got there the overseer had hurried over to help. Between him and Madoc they hauled the stranger out onto the dock, where he stood dripping and shivering so hard Madoc could hear his teeth knocking together. The overseer took one look at him and ran, mumbling something about alerting the proper authorities. Knowing the way things worked, Madoc thought it was more likely he was putting as much space between himself and potential trouble as possible. Something he himself would quite like to do. It was tempting to simply grab the broom and hide out in one of the store-rooms until someone else took control or the stranger took care of himself.

Posted in Books, News

New book alert

Great news – the book I’ve just finished writing has been accepted by JMS Books for publication later this year.

‘Feathered Friend’ is a tongue-in-cheek contemporary m/m retelling of the old swan maiden fairy tale and features (wait for it…) a shapeshifting pigeon! It sounds bonkers and in some ways it is, but it’s also sweet, angsty and romantic so I hope my m/m romance readers will love it.

I’ll post more news on a potential release date as soon as I have it, together with blurb and cover art. Until then, watch this space and don’t trip over the feathers…