York: Roman, Medieval, Viking. And geese.

I lived in York for three years during college. It’s a beautiful city, small and full of history. My degree was a joint effort in history and archaeology and it was a privilege to just be able to wander round and soak up all the different eras.

I kept a narrow focus on medieval Britain in my studies and retrospectively I wish I’d been more open to learning about other parts of the world. There seemed so much to learn about my own country though – and I wanted to know it all.

I have very little interest in Kings-and-Queen type history, or even political history. It’s the day to day minutiae that interests me. What did people eat for breakfast? How did they repair their shoes? How did you keep warm in winter? How long did it take to walk from one place to another? York is chock-full of museums, you can’t chuck a rock without hitting one. And they’re all fascinating. But the things that fascinate me most are the little things. The faces on the gargoyles and grotesques in the Minster – are they carved in anyone’s likeness? How long did each one take to make? Or taking a walk along the walls or down The Shambles and thinking about all the people over the last couple of thousand years who have done the same. What were they thinking? Where were they going?

Pondering these questions in part has led me to where I am writing today. I like writing about people, rather than situations. Yes, my stories have situations in them, because doh, that’s life. But it’s how my characters work things out, how they deal with the day to day minutiae of living that drives me forward.

Despite all its grandeur and all its opportunity for historical and archaeological research, my main memory of York is of the waterfowl on the university campus grounds.

That’s social history for you. Forget the cathedral. It’s too big to carry with me. Let me take away my pictures of the geese.

work in progress: The Flowers Of Time

Currently laboring under the title ‘The Flowers Of Time’, my work in progress is set the Himalayas in the 1780s and follows the adventures of Edith and Jones, respectively a lady botanical illustrator and a non-binary archaeologist, who take on more than they bargain for as they come up against The Border during their travels.

“Shall we go down?” Edie asked. It had been a two hour ride. She could do with a break before returning to camp. “Are we going to relocate the camp up here for a few days?”

“Perhaps. I want to see what he was exploring. In the notebook he writes about chambers in the hillside that he thought were used as dwellings. But after Mama… he didn’t write any more.”
Edie bit her lip. “Are there still bandits around here? Is it safe?”

Jones patted her hip. “I have my pistols, don’t worry. And Sonam reckoned that the new King in Leh is still vested in making the roads safer. It was getting better even before I left and when we were planning back in Srinagar, he said that trade is increasing along the Silk Route again because of the regular patrols. And we have Marcus.” She gestured at the dog.

Edie wished she had Jones’ easy confidence. She turned Donna’s head down the animal-track that Jones was following, watching Jones’ easy seat in the saddle, feet braced against the slope. Edie couldn’t quite bring herself to shed her skirts and ride astride. Jones didn’t even think of it. She sat straight in the saddle, loose and relaxed as her pony carefully picked his way down the faint track. Edie did her best to emulate her. It wasn’t that she was a bad rider, she just wasn’t as confident as she could be.

I’m roughly a third of the way through my estimated word-count at approximately twenty-two thousand words, so I’m getting there slowly!

 

research rabbit-holes

One of the things I find most difficult about writing in a period or place I don’t know all that well is research. Not because I find research hard… although it can be. My issue is that I find I get sucked down rabbit-holes and dead ends in to fascinating articles on subjects I have no need to know about in depth.

Image by ardilladecolores from Pixabay

Today for example… Himalayan mountain sheep, Argali, which led me in to an article about Himalayan grass populations. Then eighteenth century shoes, which morphed in to three articles on seventeenth century Civil War uniforms. And I am still digesting this fascinating article about the eighteenth century garden flower seed trade.

My work in progress is a whole new era and location for me – the Himalayas in the 1780s – and it’s taking me ages to get to grips with the setting of the story. I was going to spend April doing Camp Nano and get the first draft sorted by the end of the month. That is not happening – life, children, chickens, all that good stuff has pretty much overwhelmed me. But I’m plodding along now, back in my thousand-word-a-day groove, or close to it and it’s just a matter of time.

I’m also working on my serialized sequel to The Gate, the continuing adventures of Matty and Rob, that will be released to newsletter subscribers as I go. (Please do sign up if you’d like to be included in this!). This doesn’t require quite so much research because I am already comfortable writing in that era after two full-length books and the short story, so fingers crossed I can keep it going.

Shadows On The Border

Sequel to Lost In Time

Shadows On The Border, #2 in the Lost In Time Universe, is now available from  JMS Books and all major booksellers. You can find the right format for your eReader on the Queeromance Ink page, including Kindle, ePub, B&N and Google Play.

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, time traveler Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016, and Alec doesn’t know if he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of the Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities. As time goes on, Will grows keen to learn more about Fenn, as well.

Fenn has their own painful secret, and when they appear to have betrayed the team and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, the men need to work together to capture the Creature … and choose who – and what — is important enough to hold on to and what they may need to give up to make that happen.


Read an excerpt:

That cloud of gold around Fenn and Mira … that was what Lew experienced all the time? It was both marvelous and terrifying. He knew, intellectually, that the only reason Mira was alive after being savaged by the Creature when it escaped in the winter was because she had been able, in some way, to Pull magic from the Border to heal herself enough to survive. It was completely another thing to actually watch it happening.

Her skin had changed under his eyes from an unhealthy grayish tinge to the radiant brown of a healthy woman. That was the thing that had been the most amazing and terrifying to watch. He was sure that other things had happened as well — it was supposed to be a healing for her damaged voice, after all — but that was the visual marker he had taken away.

Alec was terrified.

If Fenn could do that, if Lew and Grant could do that, what else could they do? Over the last few months, Alec’s main fear had become losing Lew. But over the last week, he had also had moments of being scared of him as well as for him. His emotions were all mixed up and it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

It seemed to Alec as if all the Workers surrounding him were in the dark about the limits and boundaries of the magic they used so blithely. Alec felt like a man trapped in a darkened room with dangerous things moving around him that he was unable to see to protect himself from. And the people he cared about could see the danger. But they didn’t perceive it as the danger it was.

Alec couldn’t convince them there even was a danger. They saw it as a formula … so long as you didn’t Pull too much from The Border, you were safe. So long as you didn’t attract a Creature, you were safe. So long as you didn’t put a foot outside the complex and vague rules you had been taught by rote so long ago that you didn’t even remember what they were for, you were safe.

Alec was angry. He was angry with himself, for not being able to see what the others could see. Were their lives always lit up like the hospital room had been downstairs just now? Why wasn’t Alec’s world lit up like that all the time? How come none of them had told him how beautiful it could be? Why should Alec be missing out on that when the people he cared about could share it? Just with each other. Not with him.

And he was angry with Lew. Lew had all this power. All these abilities. Why should he want to stay with Alec? When he could use all that beautiful golden magic to travel back to his own time, to a place where he wouldn’t have to hide that he wanted to be with a man?

Alec was angry with Grant. Grant had been his friend since Alec had come home from France in ‘18. They’d had an immediate bond. But Grant had failed to tell him that this other, ephemeral world of magic existed. And now Grant seemed to be obsessed with Fenn … this fey, liminal creature who was able to act as a focus for all this power that flowed through the people Alec loved. And whose motives Alec didn’t understand and didn’t trust.

He allowed Max to steer him out of Miss Fonteyne’s room and to his office upstairs. It was a largish, comfortable room that doubled as a consulting room. Max guided him all the way with a hand in the small of his back, not allowing him to stop, opening the door with one hand whilst the other grasped Alec’s elbow and then steered him to one of the armchairs around a low table.

The room smelled of smoke — Max had a predilection for obnoxious cigars — and there was a brandy decanter and cut-crystal glasses on the table. As Alec sank in to the low chair, Max let go of him and reached for the brandy bottle. He didn’t bother to ask who wanted any, just filled five glasses with two fingers each and passed them out.

Alec watched as Fenn slumped into the armchair she had chosen. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes. Alec’s perception shifted. One minute there was the woman Alec usually saw Fenn as, sprawled in the chair, at rest. The next, a tall, elegant man with strong features and long lashes that fell against his cheek sat in the seat opposite. Alec blinked and the feminine Fenn he recognized was back again. He turned his gaze away and looked at Lew.

You can find the right format for your eReader on the Queeromance Ink page, including Kindle, ePub, B&N and Google Play.

For Lost In Time, #1 in the series, click here.


Shadows On The Border

Release Date: 9th March 2019.

This is the sequel to Lost In Time and the books make most sense when read in order.

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016 and Alec is trying to decide whether he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of The Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities and as time goes on also becomes keen to learn more about Fenn.

Fenn has their own painful secret and when they appear to have betrayed the team and and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, they need to work together to capture the Creature and choose who and what is important enough to hold on to with both hands and what they may need to give up to make that happen.

Image of blurb for Shadows On The Border