Garrick Jones: Wheelchair

Today I have an insightful piece from Garrick Jones about the research behind his book Wheelchair. I need to give you content warnings for mentions of sexual violence, PTSD and kink.

Garrick is an Australian author who’s books about gay men are all story driven; spies, detectives, murders and epic dramas. Read more about him at his website! Over to you, Garrick!

Wheelchair was an unusual story for me to write on two counts. The first is that it’s my first contemporary novel, and secondly there’s a lot of undisguised personal history woven into the characters.

While the second thing isn’t that unusual, as most writers project parts of themselves into their books, some of the events of Simon’s, Obadiah’s and Marvin’s lives are indeed actual experiences of my own. I live with OCD and PTSD as a result of childhood abuse. It’s formed the man I am, and I’ve faced obstacles in everything I do and have done over the course of my life while trying to cope with the small frightened child that still jumps up in the back of my mind, just when I’m feeling good about myself, and scares the pants off me. However, I’m proud of who I’ve become and always think I’m one of the lucky ones to have been able to face my demons and even stare one or two of them down.

Writing parts of this story took a great deal of research before I even started. I interviewed 27 men, both virtually (the brave ones by voice chat or video chat), by email and even old-fashioned snail mail. I created a new email address specifically for the research and deactivated it once I had my responses, which have also been deleted. No names were ever given or asked for, although they knew mine, obviously.

I joined a chat group of gay boxers, another of gay wrestlers into humiliation play, and yet another formed of ex State policemen, Federal policemen, first responders and counsellors who were all either bisexual or gay.

Much of what I learned was too cathartic to use in the book, but I did discover quite a few common denominators, which I used to formulate my characters and their stories. The one thing in common was that men’s sexuality is fluid at the best, rarely defined into strict behaviours, but dependent on situation and levels of need, or sexual arousal. Some of the men who were into the most extreme forms of sex play also shared moments of tenderness and intimacy, what the general population might define as “vanilla”, romantic sexual activity.

I decided not to research heterosexual men with the same sexual psychopathologies, because I didn’t intend this book to be an explanation or to be a gay apologist narrative. The combination of same-sex attraction and arousal through sports, such as boxing and wrestling, is not as rare as might be believed. How it manifests itself in sexual roles is not always clear. Many times, interviewees have reported the need to be dominated sexually after winning the match or having subjugated their opponent. Power-bottoming seems also to be a theme, aggressive sexual behaviour and even self-harm while being penetrated is also quite frequent. One could make value judgments about the need to reinforce masculinity by hyped up testosterone acting out, but as I’m not a psychologist, it’s not my place to come to any conclusions.

However, I did try to weave some of those stories into the book. By far, the most difficult character arc was that of Obadiah, who was based on a number of men who reported having sex with other men when either being semi-inebriated to facilitate their activities, or adhering to strict rules about what they did. The new “no-homo” tag is alive and kicking in suburbia. I was astonished at the number of men, especially in the police force/first responder group, who informed me that before officially deciding on their sexuality, they’d engage in fairly no-holds barred sexual activity with either mates, or in pick up places, as long as there was no kissing—something most of them defined as crossing the line. Two senior policemen in particular were very fond of taking on all comers with their faces covered in parks at night-time. I found the risky behaviour almost unbelievable and may have dismissed the first interviewee’s report as fanciful, had it not been a recurring theme from others.

Among the boxing/wrestling crowd there was another common theme: voyeurism and exhibitionism. Rarely were the boxing matches or wrestling engagements in private between two people. There was often public sexual behaviour for onlookers who were quite frequently encouraged to either participate or form groups of their own after the matches. A large proportion of those who boxed or wrestled were also into wearing Lycra underneath their business suits or work clothes and collected used jock straps, wrestling singlets and boxing shorts, which are sold for large amounts in private chat rooms.

The universal theme among all those I interviewed was the need for intimacy. Many of the men either had regular partners—who oddly enough did not share the same fetishes—or they wished for an emotional relationship. I was quite often moved to read about or hear about the moments of connection once the fighting and the fucking was over. Frequently there were descriptions of intimate physical touching, stroking, kissing and even what we might label as “love talk”, even between relative strangers.

I tried not to reach any conclusions while writing this story. My main aim was to depict the struggles of the daily life of someone like Simon, who suffers from OCD driven anxiety. He’s not an extreme example, but fairly typical of many people who try to manage their life, day by day, minute by minute, negotiating compulsive behaviours, yet continuing to hold full time jobs and lead fulfilling lives. There are others of course who are imprisoned within their compulsions.

Every single man with a fetish had something we might describe as a need to “scratch the itch”. In every case, the men mentioned they couldn’t function easily without assuaging the “need” when it came upon them. Since the internet, clubs and meetings have been easier to arrange. However, some of the older men told amusing stories of networking through gyms, fitness clubs, body-building societies and other places ex-servicemen and former policemen met. It’s also to those place that the “civilian” members of society gravitated to meet others of the same ilk and hopefully find an outlet for their needs.

Not one man I corresponded with, or spoke to, thought their activities were at all strange or unusual, no matter far along the spectrum of humiliation play, or beating, or fighting, or other rough and tumbles. About half the contingent did not identify as being members of the gay community; they simply saw themselves as “blokes” (mostly the word they used) who simply liked to get down and dirty with other “blokes”.

Only two respondents revealed there’d been some childhood incident(s) which had triggered the need for humiliation, but neither had been prepared to discuss what those events were, neither did I press the issue. Most of the rest of them, who were prepared to answer the question either gave a “I dunno” or prevaricated with their answer.

I do hope you enjoy the underlying story of Simon, both from the chapters written in first person point of view as the narrative of how he feels and goes about his life, and also from those close to him, in alternate chapters, written from their perspective to illustrate how they see him and his behaviours.

We who suffer from OCD and PTSD often feel our actions and motivations are misunderstood. Perhaps this story is a novel in which I’ve been able to show both sides of the story. As Simon says, talking about his take on intimate relationships, right at the end of the book:

No doubt it wasn’t everyone’s idea of what a relationship should be. But I wasn’t everybody, neither was Obadiah or Dixie nor was anyone else—if I’d learned one thing, that was it.

Love, whatever that was, came in many shapes, forms, and colours.

Wheelchair

You can never judge an academic book by its cover. Simon Dyson, a quiet assistant professor, is a man of hidden depths. To the world he presents as a harmless, innocuous, shy and retiring intellectual. However, the man who lurks behind that public persona is far more interesting … and dangerous … and driven.

‘Wheelchair’ is a slow-burn contemporary psychological crime thriller about a man who suffers from both OCD and PTSD, a man who is unwittingly caught up in a cross-border war between rival crime gangs—a conflict that almost leads to his death, and more than once.

It’s a study of compulsion and of disability, and of the many faces of emotional dependence and sexual compulsion. It’s about how some men cannot just love or make love because their hearts or their bodies lead them to it, but who can only connect emotionally and physically through self-imposed rituals which involve struggle or self-abasement.

:: Buy Wheelchair : Garrick’s Website ::

Anne Barwell: Family & Reflection

Today I’d like to showcase Anne Barwell’s re-release, Family and Reflection! It’s a 76k word story, part of The Sleepless City, a shared world with Elizabeth Noble.

When a rebel werewolf and a vampire thief fall in love, only one thing is certain—trouble.

For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Boggslake—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Boggslake for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.

Authors Note: This story was originally released in 2015 by another publisher. This edition has been re-edited.


Excerpt:

“If someone had told me twenty years ago I’d be having a conversation about something like this with a vampire, I’d have told them they were crazy.”

“You’re having this conversation with a friend,” Declan corrected him. “It doesn’t matter what we are, but who we are.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I want to.” Declan thought for a moment, wanting the right words. Why was this so difficult? He’d given advice to Jonas and Simon many times without any trouble.

“We’re both as bad as each other, yeah?” Lucas seemed sad.

“Why do you say that, and about what?” Declan let go of Lucas.

“I’m a werewolf, and you’re a vampire—”

“You’ve only noticed that now?” Declan interrupted dryly. He walked back to his chair, adjusting it so he was opposite Lucas and could see his face.

Lucas laughed, but this time it sounded natural, not forced. “I’ve gotten used to living at the castle. I love it here, and the guys are my friends. Most of the time I forget we’re different. They’re family. I don’t care what they are. It’s like you said. The important thing is who they are.” He sobered. “Then crap like this goes down… Why do I suddenly feel as though I’m a part of the pack again and need to follow their stupid rules?”

“You’re a part of whatever family you want to be, Lucas.” Declan knew what he wanted—needed—to say now. “One thing I’ve learned with having a long life is that family is who you choose. I didn’t get on with mine that well. I had a father who had expectations too.” He pulled himself up sharply before he went anywhere near those memories. Very little of what he’d done had pleased his father. “We might be different, you and I, mon ami, but in many ways we’re the same.”

“I kind of get the expectation thing with you guys.” Lucas paused and looked apologetic before continuing. “Simon’s not said much about his past, but I get the impression his father expected him to do stuff he didn’t want to do as well.” He scowled. “Be a good son and carry on the family name and traditions. I’m guessing Forge went through the same thing, but he’s never said anything about it. At least not to me.”

“Why do you get it with us?” Declan figured he already knew the answer but wanted to be certain he and Lucas were talking about the same thing.

“You’re a lot older than I am. I can understand this stuff going on a hundred, or even two—”

“Closer to three hundred,” Declan said.

“Yeah, that. You’re old. No offense.” Lucas waved one hand.

“None taken.” Declan couldn’t help but smile. “I know I’m old. But you know what they say about fine wine?”

“Yeah, and, hey, I’m not complaining.” Lucas took a long drink of coffee. “You interrupted my flow. I was making a point here.”

“Sorry.”

“So you’re old, so I expect that kind of stuff from you guys. It was a long time ago.” Lucas growled low in his throat. “But us… the pack… we… they’re carrying on like we’re still living in that society. I’ve told my father that he needs to move with the times or the pack will be left behind. Sure, they use technology, but for the rest of it, you’d think we’d only just gotten off the Mayflower or something.”

“It takes a long time for some people to accept change.” Declan leaned over and brushed a lock of hair back from Lucas’s forehead. “Some never do.” He’d seen vampires who couldn’t move past what their lives had been like as humans. Most of them hadn’t survived.

“Yeah.” Lucas swallowed. He shook his head when Declan started to move his chair farther back and away from temptation. “I don’t mind you touching me like that,” he said softly.

“I should…” Declan hadn’t thought, just reacted. He’d meant what he’d said about flirting and had no intention of leading Lucas on. “We’re friends,” he said finally.

“I wouldn’t be talking to you about this stuff if we weren’t.” Lucas looked like he was about to say something but cleared his throat instead. “I know you’re kind of touchy-feely and all that. So am I. So—”

A loud knock sounded at the front door.

“Now what?” Lucas muttered.

Boggs materialized in front of them. He looked annoyed. “There are two gentlemen at the door,” he said. “I don’t know who exactly they are, but I heard them talking before they knocked. They’re from the council.”

“I already apologized about that weird stuff in the garbage,” Lucas said.

“Not that council.” Boggs rolled his eyes. “The other one.”

About the Author:

:: Website & Blog—Drops of Ink : Facebook : Facebook Page : Facebook group : Bookbub : Joint Facebook group : Instagram : Twitter : Goodreads : Queeromance Ink Author Page : Sign up for my newsletter ::

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Ofelia Grand: Quinny, Focus!

Let’s welcome Ofelia Grand today, to talk about her new release, Quinny, Focus! about love in the time of social distancing!

Thank you for having me here today. I thought I’d swing by and talk a little about my newest release, Quinny, Focus!

2020 Happened and the World Changed

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get political. We all know what state the world is in, we’re all suffering in one way or another, and we’re all trying to cope with the situation at hand. For me personally, the pandemic has meant a lot more time to write than normal since I only work a handful of hours a week at my day job—if that. It is what it is, and I’m blessed. I’m a writer which means, for a few hours every day, I escape reality and live in whatever world I’m creating. Normal years, I write a lot of paranormal stories, and I’ve written some this year too, but I’ve mostly written contemporary—contemporary like it was in 2019. I’ve comforted myself by dropping my characters into a world that’s familiar to me.

With Quinny, Focus! that’s changed. JMS-Books came out with an in-house call, requesting short stories that tackle the challenge of finding love when you have to stay six feet apart.

How do you date while staying six feet apart?

I thought it would be fun to explore, so I came up with Quincy Dean, a twenty-sixyear-old man who’s lusting for his neighbour. Now, there is one thing you need to know about Quincy—he’s not the most observant person in the world. He should know better, but don’t judge him too harshly.

Excerpt:

For a second, Quincy was at a loss for words. “You want a relationship?”
“Of course not! Have you seen the offerings out there?”
“You hang around the wrong places.”
“I haven’t left my apartment in months.”
Quincy bit his lip. “True, but when all this is over. Do me a favor and don’t go to The Blue Horse to hook up.”
The Blue Horse was a small pub with rainbow wallpaper and sculptures of two huge, blue horses by the entrance and a few blue horses, though smaller, inside. Subtle it was not, and the clientele matched the decor.
“Why? If I want to score, I know I will if I go there.”
“Yes, but it’s a risk going there without wearing bio-hazard clothing.” Quincy shot to his feet as there was movement in the window across the yard.
“Sweetheart, right now you need bio-hazard clothing wherever you go. Do you have a face mask matching your outfit?”
Quincy squinted, the sun was reflecting on the glass, but was there someone else in Will’s apartment?
“Quinny?”
Quincy raised a hand to shield the sun, but it didn’t help the reflection.
“Quincy!”
He jumped. “Yes, sorry, I’m here.”
“Are you?”
“Ty, I need to go. I think there’s someone in Will’s apartment.” He was about to disconnect when Ty shouted at him.
He held the phone away while trying to see what Will was up to. When Ty had quieted, he brought it back to his ear. “What?”
“Don’t do anything stupid! I swear to God, you have the brain capacity of a fouryear-old.”
“I do not.” Though he pouted like one. “And what if I do? I like my men a little older than me.”
Ty snorted. “Older? Will is twenty-nine.”
“Thirty-one.”
The sigh traveling the line made Quincy frown.
“If you Google his address, it lists his birth date. He’s twenty-nine. You’re twenty-six, love.”
“Yes, but I look twenty-two.”
A breath-long silence followed, then Ty spoke again. “I give up.”
“What, no, you can’t give up on me.”
Ty chuckled. “Don’t do anything stupid, Quinny.”
“Stop calling me that.”
Ty made a noise, could be affirmative, but Quincy didn’t dare hope. “Does he know you live across from him?”
“I assume…” Did he, though?
“You haven’t told him?” Ty’s voice grew in volume.
“Well, I assumed… I know who he is, he must know who I am. There aren’t many people named Quincy Dean in the world, he has to know it’s me.” He frowned for a second then shook his head. Of course, Will knew it was him he was talking to. “Who flirts with strangers online?”
Ty laughed. It started like a surprised chuckle, but it grew and grew until Quincy wanted to tell him to shut up.
“What?”
“Oh, dear. You are priceless.”
Quincy snorted.
“Okay.” Ty blew out a breath. “Do me a favor and don’t do anything that will give him cause to call the police about a stalker in the neighboring house, okay?”
“I’m not stalking him. I just want to know if he has company over there. Why would he allow anyone inside his apartment?” He pressed his nose against the window glass and squinted at the light. “I think it’s a woman. Sure looks like long hair.”
“Quinny! Stop it.”
“But it’s soon time for our three o’clock coffee.” Was Will having coffee with someone else today? He hadn’t mentioned it when they’ve talked over breakfast.
“Sweetie, maybe it’s his sister, maybe something happened, maybe it was a surprise visit and—”
“They’re not six feet apart! He’s giving her a hug.”
Ty sighed. “As I said, maybe something happened. Maybe, there was an accident, someone in the family might have gotten…sick.”
Quincy swallowed. Shit. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“I know, I am.”
Maybe something had happened, and Will was comforting his sister. Quincy would have to be there for him now.

Quinny, Focus!

Quincy Dean is one lucky guy. After months of virtual flirting, he’s convinced the man of his dreams is living next door. True, they’ve never spoken face-to-face, and William Johnson has never posted a picture of himself, but how many William Johnson’s could there be? Quincy is positive the two of them would be great together. But if he’s ever going to get the chance to convince Will of that fact, he’s going to need to do it before his perfect man figures out he’s too good for Quincy’s little corner of Whiteport and disappears from his real life forever.


But how do you woo someone when you have to stay six feet apart? Direct messages are great, but they aren’t very romantic. And when Quincy begins to notice that Will’s messages don’t always match up with what he’s seeing through his blinds, he worries that even online he and his dream guy are drifting apart. Six feet or not, it might be time to ask Will out on a date.

About Ofelia Gränd

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy. Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.
When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.

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interview: Charlie Cochrane

Today the lovely Charlie Cochrane is here to talk about her Cambridge Fellows, Jony and Orlando, her Lindenshaw mysteries and all sorts of other things, too!

So, Charlie, why are you ACTUALLY doing this interview? Apart from satisfying my nosiness!

Just for fun, of course, and because you’re someone I enjoy chatting to. Endearingly dotty, just like I am.

Having said that, I’m presently working on the next Cambridge Fellows mystery, so I thought it might be nice to give my sets of sleuths a bit of a mention. There’s Jonty and Orlando (the aforementioned Cambridge Fellows) whose romantic mystery adventures take place in the early 20th century. Despite the fact their first adventure came out in 2008, they always have new readers discovering them. If one of them drops me a message about that, it always makes my day!

Then I have the Lindenshaw series, which is contemporary and a sort of Midsomer Murders/gay romance crossover. Last, but not least, there’s my 1950s actor laddies who play Holmes and Watson both onscreen and off.

What started you writing?

I’ve always made up stories, either to amuse myself or my daughters. It seemed natural, once I had a bit of time to write, to start cutting my teeth on a wider audience. (Lordy, you sound like a vampire, Charlie.) Like many authors I know, I started by dabbling in fanfiction, which was a safe place in which to learn and hone the craft of writing.

I was specifically inspired to write the Cambridge Fellows stories by my love of Golden Age mysteries and the fact that there really needed to be some of them with gay characters. I couldn’t find any—well, no overt ones—so I had to create my own.

Where do you write?

Primarily in our study. While I can scribble things in a notepad almost anywhere, if it’s ‘proper’ drafting or editing, then I have to be either at the desk on the PC or working on my laptop in the dining room. When we were in lockdown I had to sometimes make do with my third option, which is at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, although that usually means covering over whatever jigsaw we have going! (Mad, crazy rock and roll life of the author…)

What do you like to read?

Loads of stuff. From WE Johns’ Biggles books, to non-fiction about the soldiers of World War One, through Golden Age mysteries, a smidge of gay historical romances and – when I can get hold of them – old ‘Victor Book for Boys’ annuals. I have binge read phases, where I work through everything I can get my hands on from a particular author. Patrick O’Brian and Jerome K Jerome are two examples of authors with whom I’ve gone on a reading bender.

I actually began reading before I started school by borrowing my big brother’s comics – The Victor, The Hornet, Superman and Batman DC comics. They were so full of action, with strongly drawn characters and plot lines. So much better than girls’ comics of the time. It’s no wonder I find it natural to write about men…

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

Mary Renault The Charioteer (original version). I reread this book every year and try to imagine what happened next to the three main characters, ending up with many variations on happy and not so happy endings. It’s a little gem of a story: Renault can say more in one word than many authors can in a page.

Michael Innes Death at the President’s Lodging. Again, a book I reread every year, it being a beautifully constructed mystery with several incredibly slashy scenes. There’s also something rather spooky about the book. It was written in the 1930’s, set in a fictional Oxbridge university, geographically half-way between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s location? Bletchley. Which is weird, given what would be happening there a handful of years later.

A book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Plenty of food for slashy thought there and I guess I’d have plenty of time to study them on that island.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Yes I do and how does that work for me? It seems to involve a lot of raising of my volunteering arm! I’m a member of:

Romantic Novelists Association: which is mainly online at present but in normal times involves yer actual meetings. I’m the local chapter rep and have also been helping to assess pitches for their new online learning sessions.

Mystery People: this organisation was crucial in my involvement with The Deadly Dames and getting us started with the various gigs we’ve done at libraries, literary festivals and conferences. As you say, writing is a solo job and these days is mainly online, so getting out and doing these events, meeting other authors and readers, is a lifeline to normality.

International Thriller Writers: like the other groups, that’s involved a mixture of meetups and online activities. I regularly conduct interviews for their Magazine The Big Thrill with authors who have upcoming releases—through that I was introduced to the amazing Vaseem Khan Baby Ganesha books.

Oh, and I’m also on the organising committee for UK Meet…

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like watching sport (on telly or, in normal times, live). I especially enjoy rugby but cricket and golf are pretty cool, too. I like the theatre, concerts, walking and playing indoor bowls—and if there’s a bingo night at hubby’s golf club, I’m in like Flynn. I’m also an active member of my local church. (Like I said, wild lifestyle.)

In terms of new things, during lockdown I’ve learned a lot about applying for grants, for example from the National Lottery, although that’s with my charity board hat on. I appear to have lots of hats…

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

My most recent release was the fifth Lindenshaw Mystery, A Carriage of Misjustice. The first book in the series began life as a script idea for Midsomer Murders and—long story short—metamorphosed into a cosy English mystery with a gay couple (cop and teacher) at its heart.

In a similar way, elements from A Carriage of Misjustice started off as an abortive romance story, based around a player suffering a life-changing injury at a rugby training session. It didn’t work, so I cannibalised the setting, with a murder happening on the same evening the injury occurred. While the romance was a non-starter, the murder plot flew along. It also involved me doing the best ever bit of research, contacting a company to find out what the item they manufactured was made of and whether you could kill someone with it.

A Carriage of Misjustice

Murder doesn’t care if you’re a newlywed.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and Deputy Headteacher Adam Matthews have just tied the knot, and all they want to do is sink into blissful domesticity. Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that when a chilling murder at a rugby ground takes Robin miles away to help his old boss solve it.

The mystery seems impossible to crack. Everyone with a motive has an alibi, and those without alibis don’t have a motive. Robin’s determined that this won’t be the case he’s unable to unravel. Not when he’s got his old boss to impress and a new team to lick into shape.

Back at home, Adam joins a fundraising choir to keep himself occupied. Surely a case that’s so far away won’t draw him in this time? Fate has other ideas, though, and danger turns up—quite literally—on his doorstep. He’ll need Campbell the Newfoundland for both company and protection this time around. 

Find Charlie!

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C H Cleppit : Magic Mirror Collection

I’m really chuffed to welcome C H Cleppit to the blog today, to answer my nosy questions and talk about her new release, Eye of the Beholder!

Take it away, Claire!

1. First, tell us why you are doing this interview?

I like to get about a bit. Also, I’ve recently started a new series of queer fairy tale retellings which I’m calling my “Magic Mirror Collection” and I’d also like to shamelessly plug the first one of those. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I have set it in 1930s France and fixed all the problematic bits. If you like slow burn lesbians (not actual fire, slow burn is what they call it if they don’t jump each other right off the bat, apparently) with magic and acceptance, give it a go and see what you think.

2. What started you writing?

I’ve always written. Even when I was tiny I used to record stories on cassette tapes! I don’t know what happened to those, which is probably for the best.

3. Where do you write?

For drafting I write wherever is comfortable. I have an app on my phone that allows me to write on the move, too, so wherever inspiration hits, I can get it down. Once I’m editing/formatting I have a grown up desk.

4. What do you like to read? 

I like to read anything where the characters are well developed enough to be plausible and the pace is decent. If you describe a woman by how she feels about her own breasts, or spend three pages on what a wall looks like, you’ve lost me as a reader.

5. What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

Hmm. Good question. I do comfort reread things sometimes, so if we’re talking about that, maybe His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and the complete Sherlock Holmes. I like them because they are totally immersive, and you can really see the worlds within them. But I think if I was going to be on a desert island I’d like to take something I haven’t read yet so I’d have something to look forward to. 

6. Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Nah. I’m not a huge fan of humans! That’s not true, I am in a couple of online groups that discuss writing and marketing, but they aren’t hugely active. If anyone has any recommendations for groups they enjoy that aren’t all spammy or dead on the inside then give me a shout. Bonus points if they focus on Lesfic.

7. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Quarantine has pretty much limited me to binge watching, sketching and LOTS of home decorating. I have basically turned my kitchen into a comic book… But before that when I was passing for human I would love going to the gym, meeting friends for food and cinema and playing netball.

8.  Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

Eye of the Beholder is a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast (with lesbians). It took me much longer to write than it should have done because lockdown threw my brain into a terrible unproductive spiral of not focusing on anything but Twitter, which was super healthy… I am proud I managed to finish and launch it in spite of myself, though. I enjoyed being able to turn a fairy tale around and remove problematic elements and make a story of mutual respect, love and support and I’m glad it’s been so well received. The only thing I hated was how hard I found it to focus and get it done.

Eye of the Beholder

When pressure from his materialistic children turns Claude into a thief, it is down to his youngest daughter to set things right. Angelique agrees to take her father’s place as prisoner to what she is told is a hideous beast.

Angelique soon discovers that the so called beast is nothing more than Rosalie, a princess cursed to remain trapped in a castle, unless the curse can be broken, something she assures her is impossible.

Angelique does not believe in the impossible, and sets about trying to find a way to save her new friend, who she is rapidly growing to love.

Eye of the Beholder is the first in a series of queer fairy tale retellings in C H Clepitt’s Magic Mirror Collection.

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