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 Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: what’s more important, the story or the way it’s told?

This is a terrific topic and one I’d have loved to get my teeth into as both a writer and a voracious reader.

Sadly this time round I just couldn’t find the time to settle down and write something, so I’ve had to wimp out. I’m hoping to do better next month.

In the meantime, why not check out these great posts on the subject from our other webring members? They’re well worth a look.

Ofelia Grand :: Amy Spector :: Ellie Thomas :: Addison Albright :: A L Lester :: K L Noone

Posted in Fun, Writing

A nice cup of tea…

Thanks so much to everyone who voted in my silly poll the other day. Looks like I’ll be celebrating finishing my latest book with a nice hot cup of tea – and I might even push the boat out and throw in a biscuit too!

And then settle down for the rewrites, of which I suspect there will be many…

Image nicked from

Posted in Fun, Writing


Yaay, I’ve just finished the first draft of my latest work-in-progress.

Feathered Friend is a romantic m/m retelling of an old northern European fairy tale which I first wrote many years ago. Recently I dusted it off and discovered it was mostly an interminable (and not very well written) sex scene with a beginning and end bolted on. I’ve tamed the sex and added a lot more actual, you know, story, and it’s already reading better as a result.

So, how do you think I should celebrate?

Posted in read around the rainbow, Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: Writing Blurbs

Ah, yes, the blurb. Those two or three paragraphs on the back cover of a book (or the virtual equivalent if it’s an e-book) that tell you who and what the story’s about. Nothing to them, really. I mean, you’ve already written an entire book. How hard can a few paragraphs be?

Well, that hard, actually. First of all you need to squash the entire contents of the book into a few hundred words. Next you need to make sure all the really important bits are covered. And finally, you need to make sure it sounds tempting enough that people will actually want to read the damn thing. (After all, there’s no point sweating blood over a novel only for the blurb to make it sound about as entertaining as Dostoevsky on a bad day.) And let me tell you, that can be hard work.

I normally wait until I’ve either finished a book, or am pretty close to finishing it, before I even attempt to write a blurb. I need to know how the thing ends, and what the main themes are, and how the main characters are affected. This is mostly because I’m a ‟pantser”, and write as the inspiration (and the characters) take me, so I don’t always know exactly what will happen, or how much things will change. So if I write the blurb too soon it’ll be wrong, and that would just be a waste of time.

Once I know how the book’s going to end, I sometimes find that breaking off and writing the blurb can give me the inspiration I need to actually finish the thing. That and a good idea of the cover art seem to give me clarity, and something to aim for, in the final few pages or chapters, which can otherwise be really hard to write. And if the book is really clear in my mind, I don’t have too much trouble coming up with at least the bare bones of a blurb, because by then I know who the main characters are, what they want, and what they do or don’t get. Conversely, if I’m struggling with the book, I’ll almost certainly struggle with the blurb – because how do you summarise something you don’t fully understand?

The blurb I found easiest of all my books to write, I think, was the one for Ghosts Galore, which is such a fun romp that it was almost a joy to summarise it. I wrote several versions, but the one I eventually settled on was this. Would it tempt you to read the book?** I certainly hope so!

Cash-strapped artist Adam Price is the owner of Greystones Hall, an ancient manor house he shares with a plethora of ghosts. He adores the place, but life is a constant battle to pay the bills and he’s lonely, too, following the death of his beloved grandfather two years earlier.

Lonely, that is, until the Ghosts Galore crew offer to film an episode at Greystones Hall. Adam’s a bit dubious about letting them loose in his home, but allows himself to be persuaded by the fee they’ll be paying him. Led by handsome producer Carl, dotty medium Stella and pleasant-but-nondescript historian Guy, they fill the house with wiring, cameras, lights and people. But when filming starts, things soon go wrong. The crew turn out to be using dodgy tricks. Carl refuses to believe in ghosts in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. And Stella stirs up a new and malevolent spirit, more dangerous than any that have been known at Greystones Hall before, who seems to have a violent dislike of Adam’s art.

As Carl and Stella disappear and the local vicar is powerless to help, Adam turns to Guy—who has a secret of his own—for help. Together they must solve a centuries-old mystery involving lost paintings, a priest hole, and a death that might have caused all the negative energy in the house. But that’s not all the pair discover, on a night of adventure that also brings unexpected romance…

Overall then, writing blurbs can be challenging. But they’re something I don’t mind too much, and can be useful in getting a book’s main points straight in my own mind. And compared to the complete and utter torture that is writing a synopsis, they’re a gentle stroll in the local park.

**If that blurb really did inspire you, you can find more about Ghosts Galore including a buy link at my website here.

And don’t forget to check out the other webring members’ blogs to find out how they do or don’t cope with blurbs!

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

Image credit: Steven R Southard

Posted in Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: How does your main character react to insults?

This sounds like fun! Maybe I could line all my main characters up in a room, say horrible things to them and see what happens? Oh, yeah, that’s right – they’re fictional. Shame. I was looking forward to that.

In the absence of such silliness I can only fall back on my own feelings about how various characters might react. In most cases I suspect it’s fairly similar, since most of my M.C.s are typical British men suffering from Great British Reserve, who tend to keep their emotions to themselves and pretend everything is okay even when it isn’t (although mercifully that is beginning to change, but that’s a whole other story). Faced with an insult I suspect most of them would simply swallow their annoyance and remain polite, if somewhat icy, towards the perpetrator. The British equivalent of a sarcastic ‟Have a nice day,” through clenched teeth, perhaps.

Take Nat in December Roses, for instance. He’s just as reserved, and quietly damaged, as all my characters. And he has an even more pressing reason for hiding his emotional responses because he’s a gay soldier in the British Army in the mid 1990s, at a time when it was still illegal for homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. So he’s well used to maintaining the old ‛stiff upper lip’ in all but the most extreme cases. Towards the end of the book, though, things are changing and he’s coming to terms with his own sexuality and the possibility that he might not have to hide it any more. That means he can be a bit less careful about the way he responds, as this snippet shows.

The doctor, a thin pallid chap with a lisp, wittered for a full fifteen minutes about all the jobs he wouldn’t be able to do with residual shell-shock and a dodgy leg. When he’d finally run out of steam the careers bloke gave him a patronising smile and said, ‛Don’t worry, Sergeant, there are still plenty of openings for a man like you. You’re still fit and healthy, even if you are a…’
‛Watch it,’ Nat growled. He didn’t often lose his temper but he’d been told when he did the results were spectacular. Sure enough, the man took a step back and ran one finger round a collar that was apparently restricting him. ‛Er, erm, recovering from your injuries. Yes. That’s what I was going to say.’
Nat didn’t believe him for a second. ‛And anyway, the name’s Mr Brook. I stopped being a sergeant yesterday when all the paperwork was signed.’
‛Er, yes, of course, Ser— that is, Mr Brook. Now, as I was about to say…’
But he couldn’t add much to what the doctor had already said. There was the usual guff about security work and managing a post office or a pub, but precious little else. The civil service would be barred to him, apparently, because the army weren’t prepared to give him a reference, and casual labour such as construction work was limited because of his leg. ‛So what can I do?’ he asked eventually, exasperated beyond endurance.
‛Er, well, there’s always a family business,’ said the careers man, wiping his hands on his trouser legs. ‛A lot of our fellows go into that when they leave…’
‛My dad’s retired,’ said Nat. ‛And guess what—he was a civil servant. And he’s not speaking to me because he doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. Not very encouraging, really, is it?’

This probably still sounds very reserved and non-threatening to most non-British people but to us it’s quite an outburst! And although Nat is very cross, he’s sufficiently well trained as a soldier not to need to resort to shouting or violence – he can get his point across with the tone of his voice and the unspoken threat of physical strength alone.

The exception is probably Ghosts Galore’s Adam, who is just as quiet, reserved and slightly hapless as my other characters, but possesses a rebellious streak of mischief that he isn’t above using to get his own back. So when the TV producer who’s come to his very haunted home, Greystones Hall, to film the ghosts tells him he doesn’t believe in the supernatural, Adam and his grandfather plan a trick…

‛It’ll only take a minute. Come and see. It’s really weird.’ He led the way back to the studio with Carl marching at his side and behind Carl a smaller figure with grey hair and the inevitable pipe. Gramps, as good as his word, had come along too.
‛I came to check if this was still secure,’ he explained, letting them in. ‛The key was where you’d left it, the door was locked and it didn’t look as though anyone else had been near the place. But when I stuck my head round the door, I found this.’ Stepping aside to give Carl an uninterrupted view, he pointed dramatically to his work bench at the far end of the room. Amongst the clutter of brushes and palettes and water jars and pots and tubes of paint, a small space had been cleared. Standing upright in the exact centre of the space was a small, thin hardback book. And balanced perfectly on top of that was a much heavier tome, lying on its side.
It had taken him several minutes to get the books to stand up like that and he was proud of the result. Carl, though, smiled in a superior way. ‛Oh, come on, you don’t expect me to fall for that old chestnut, do you? You’ve been in here and stacked them up yourself.’
‛I could have.’ Adam crossed his fingers behind his back. ‛But why would I need to? It sounds like you’ve got plenty going on without me having to do that.’ He paused as a particularly high-pitched shriek echoed through the house, perfectly timed to prove his point. ‛I just thought maybe… if the whole house is overrun, the ghosts might congregate in the only room that was quiet.’
Carl still wore an infuriatingly smug grin. ‛Nice try,’ he began, but was interrupted by a soft click, closely followed by a moan. ‛What the‒?’
‛Search me.’ Adam tried to look innocent, with limited success. The hi-fi’s loop function had kicked the first CD in at exactly the right time. The moan was followed by a chorus of muffled whispering voices, rising and falling in volume and tone. Here and there a word stood out with more clarity than the rest: bleeding, headless and revenge. He knew full well it was just a recording he and an ex-boyfriend had made one night whilst they were messing about, but the sound system was well-hidden and the room’s acoustics were tossing the voices about in unexpected ways. He glanced at Carl, wondering whether it would be enough to dent the producer’s unshakeable confidence.
The grin was still in place. ‛Oh, well done, you’ve wired the place for sound too. Not a bad effort—even I can’t see where you’ve hidden it.’
Torn between hope and disappointment, Adam fought his facial muscles again and won. He shrugged. ‛Suit yourself. You already told me you don’t believe in ghosts so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Never mind—I’ll let you get back to work.’
‛Cheers.’ Carl’s grin became less smug and more conspiratorial. ‛Things are a bit hectic at the moment. But if you want to get me on my own this badly, I’m sure we could find some nice dark corners to investigate together later on.’
Was Carl saying what he seemed to be? A quick glance said yes, he really was. Yet another blush raced up Adam’s cheeks and he cursed the family’s pallid colouring. ‛Oh God, no, I didn’t… that is, I mean, it would be good but that’s not…’
‛Whatever you say.’ Carl blew him a kiss and turned back towards the door—just as Gramps set off on his party trick with the bag of flour…

Chaos ensues, which is only partly because of Adam’s mischievousness, but if you want to see what happens I’m afraid you’ll have to buy the book! You can find it on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited here, and December Roses is also available on both Kindle and KU.

Who knows, one of these days I might write about a character who isn’t afraid to let his emotions show, or who is so damaged that he follows people up dark alleys and beats seven shades of something out of them at the least provocation. Until then, you’ll have to make do with lots of ‟Mr Quiet-and-Subtles”, and hopefully enjoy some of the wry humour behind my characters’ everyday reactions.

Don’t forget to check out the other webring members’ entertaining takes on a really fun topic, here:

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

Pic credit: Icons8 Team on

Posted in Fun, Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: Romancing the Romance Author

I was a bit dubious about this topic when it was first suggested, because in spite of the fact that I write romance, I’m not the most romantic of people myself. That might sound odd, but I guess writers don’t necessarily practice everything they describe in their books. If they did, there would be a lot more murders than there actually are, and as for aliens and vampires and elves… well, I shudder to think!

Anyway, getting back to the romance. I don’t really go in for champagne and chocolates* and trips to Paris. In fact, my only trip to Paris was as a schoolgirl aged fourteen, when I got vertigo on the stairs coming back down the Eiffel Tower and nearly passed out. Luckily, my other half is just as prosaic as I am. He’s only ever bought me flowers once, and within five minutes of me putting them in a vase, a load of small black beetles scuttled out of them and I spent the rest of the day chasing those (and possibly him) out of my flat.

All of which perhaps explains why my characters, even in the most romantic of my books, tend to be a more pragmatic, down to earth bunch. There isn’t a great deal of quoting poetry or weeping on each others’ manly chests, just the quiet, reserved, everyday way of getting on with life that’s second nature to most British people.

That’s not to say my characters can’t be romantic when they want to be. In Christmas Roses, my free short story that follows on from December Roses, Nat has chosen a sweet and fitting gift for his lover Richie and has to deal with the emotional consequences when it comes back to him in a way he didn’t expect. And in Trench Warfare, archaeologist Jon is learning the guitar just so he can play the Beethoven tune his boss Steve keeps whistling.

I guess in the end that’s more what my writing is about – the small, intimate gestures that make a real life relationship between two people so special. Anyone can hire a jet or book a Caribbean trip or shower someone with letters or red roses, but it doesn’t necessarily speak of the characters’ own personalities. It’s those little touches, and the love they show, that I really enjoy writing about. And I hope that shows in my books.

You can download Christmas Roses, completely free, from Prolific Works here. And you can find out more about Trench Warfare, my paranormal/archaeology/romance/romp, on my website here.

*Although (cough) if someone were to send me a surprise box of expensive chocolates, I wouldn’t say no…

Why not take a peek at what the other webring authors have written about this month’s topic? You might find out how to best romance them, too!

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

Pic credit: Thula Na on

Posted in Books, News, Writing

Good news for the new year!

I mentioned in my last blog post that I was hoping to submit my latest book to a publisher one of my friends had recommended. Well, please take a bow Ellie Thomas, because I duly sent the book off to JMS Books and to my surprise and great delight they snapped it up!

There were a few mutual misgivings over the original title, Raggle-Taggle Gypsy, so it will now be published under the brand new title Run Wild, Run Free, which suits both the story and the main character Joey to perfection.

I’m currently going through some of the admin, and awaiting edits with slight terror, but I’m told the book should be available as early as March this year. Obviously I’ll post nearer the time with some more details and a cover reveal, but in the meantime big thanks to both Ellie and JMS for making the start of the new year a whole lot better than the end of the old one…

The image above (by Alex G Sansom on doesn’t have anything to do with the book, really, although Joey’s love interest Billy might well have lived in something similar. And they’re pretty, too!

Posted in Writing

Read Around the Rainbow: Writing Plan 2023

First of all, happy new year! I hope it’s a good one (better one?) for all of you.

Secondly, apologies. This blog post was supposed to go live several days ago, to coincide with the rest of the RatR webring gang posting on the last Friday of the month. Sadly, a sudden family bereavement over Christmas meant we had to drop everything and drive to the opposite end of the country to help out, and work took a back seat for a few days. I really wanted to join in, though, so here I am, only *cough* three days late, with my own take on a writing plan for the coming year.

Of course, the title and that last sentence suggest that I actually have a writing plan. More coughing, because I’m rarely anything like that organised. I’m mostly driven by inspiration, and will work on whatever book or story is nagging me most. Plot or characters lodge themselves in my brain and the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, or the keyboard time, until I finish that and start something else. Mostly. Except when I hit a brick wall, or some other plot or set of characters start squawking at me, and I switch to work on a different project.

I’m better than I used to be, and try to finish a project if I’ve started it. And I do have a few goals for 2023 that I’m hoping to reach. First on the list is a new version of Raggle-Taggle Gypsy, a very old story featuring a neurodiverse young man and a gypsy, which I’ve finished editing and am hoping to submit to a publisher one of my friends recommended. If that goes well, I have two or three similar types of story to rewrite, including one set in wartime Liverpool featuring a wounded soldier and the young man he rescues from a beating, and another that takes place during the 1980s miners’ strike. I’d like to try to submit at least one of those during the year.

On top of that, I want to rewrite my old novel Gleams of a Remoter World, which started life as a bi-m/m romance but which would probably work better and appeal to more readers as a straightforward m/m romance. This isn’t quite as easy as just swapping a female character for a male one; there’ll be a lot of juggling, jiggling and rewriting of entire scenes. But I’ve always loved large chunks of that book and its Irish setting, and would love to get it cleaned up and re-published before the end of the year.

On top of that, there’s all the usual marketing, promotion, blog posts, publicity events, get-togethers and so on that every writer has to fit into their schedule. And lastly, I want to keep going with our new-for-last-year online m/m romance magazine RoM/Mantic Reads, which has been growing steadily in popularity and has already featured many gorgeous romantic stories and poems as well as a range of interesting or fun posts.

So, that’s the plan. But of course, knowing me I’ll do virtually none of that and write three more ghost stories instead! If you want to keep up with what I am actually working on, why not sign up to my free monthly newsletter where I always feature the latest news about all my current projects. You can find all the sign-up details here, and if you do subscribe, you’ll get a free story called Monster in the Maze which is a tongue in cheek m/m version of the minotaur legend!

And don’t forget to check out the posts by the other webring members on what books, stories and other surprises they’re planning for the year ahead.

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

(Pic credit: Alex G Sansom on

Posted in Interviews, Promotion, Writing

RoM/Mantic Reads: Meet the Contributors

Today, over at RoM/Mantic Reads magazine, I’ve turned the spotlight on myself and answered a string of questions about myself and my writing. These include how many books I’ve written, which one is/was my favourite, how many bookcases I have, and what my favourite dinosaur is (clue: it might have something to do with the picture above). There’s also a snippet from my most recent book, Ghosts Galore, and an explanation of its title.

For all that and more, head over to RoM/Mantic Reads and read the “interview”. I hope it’s entertaining and gives a bit of insight into my writing process. And Dippy says hello.