Archive | August, 2013

Fantasy holiday Q&A

30 Aug

It’s nearly the end of summer, but there’s still time for one last holiday. We asked several authors what would be a particularly special one for them (not limited to reality) and which fictional character they’d take along as a chum. Here are their answers:


El Capitan by Mike Murphy (Wikipedia Commons)

Manda Scott

My perfect holiday would be a climbing trip. If we’re going fictional, then I would imagine that I could climb El Cap at Yosemite and I’d be there in September, in the glorious fall colours and weather that is warm, but not hot, dry, but not filled with biting insects. I’d have with me all my various climbing partners through the years and – still in the realms of pure fantasy – we’d do the Nose route in 4-5 days with hanging belays on the way up. I can only begin to imagine the sensation of topping out over the final edge on a climb like that…it would be utterly unmatched and unmatchable…

I’d take along Laure Berthaud, the fictional police chief in the fantastic French police series, Engranage (Spiral in English) except in my fantasy, of course, she wouldn’t be quite so rigidly heterosexual.


Fantasy holiday companion … interesting.

Kiki Archer

My idea of the perfect holiday would be a week skiing in the French Alps. I do love relaxing summer breaks abroad with the sun on my back and a good book in my hand, BUT, nothing beats the thrill of skiing, with routes planned out the night before, hip flasks topped up with Cherry Brandy and a sense of adventure from all in the group. Obviously you have the whole apres ski that needs embracing, starting with a swim and a sauna after a hard day on the slopes and quickly followed by good food and drink in the evening with friends.

I would love to take Alex Vause from the amazing Orange Is The New Black series. She is 5ft10, gorgeous and even though she’s a jailbird I could show her that you can cross borders and pass through customs without hauling ten ton of coke with you and the only powder we’d need for a good time would be that on the slopes.


Zakynthos by Alexignatiou (Wikipedia Commons)

VG Lee

I have already been on my perfect holiday this summer. It is on the Greek island of Zakynthos in a tiny village called Old Alikanas. Denis, the proprietor of the general store, has added a library of everyone’s discarded holiday books so I don’t need to carry books in my luggage. (I am not as yet a Kindle woman!) I stay at the Photographer’s Apartment which overlooks the sea, fifty yards away. I could live my life in that apartment. It is just one large room with everything I would ever need to live a simple yet happy life. Add to that a balcony, a sandy beach and a restaurant on the cliff top, for me, it is perfection. I love it there.

I’d take Antoinette Conway: the ‘mad’ wife of Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre, and doomed heroine in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea with me. I feel that the heat, sea and calm of the island would have a beneficial effect on her troubled mind. She could sit on the balcony and think through her life or think of nothing at all – walk bare footed, with her hair flying and nobody would imagine her mad. Days would pass meeting only friendliness, sand to sink her toes in, water to soothe her, good food, a comfortable bed – she might even come close to a state of happiness.

Andrea Bramhall


Truuk Lagoon by Aquaimages (Wikipedia Commons)

My dream holiday is going to a place called Truk Lagoon. During the Second World War this was a Japanese stronghold and a huge port for the Japanese fleet. Because of this the US forces knew they had to capture Truk if they were going to defeat the Japanese. There are around 60 wrecks in the lagoon now. Planes, battle cruisers, submarines, barges, people carriers, and civilian ships that were caught in the crossfire. It is the ultimate wreck diving site for someone like me. This would be my dream holiday. Diving and photographing these amazing wrecks.

Of my fictional characters I would love to go on this kind of holiday with Oz, from Ladyfish. As a dive instructor and an ex navy diver, this holiday would be pretty special for her too, and to go to a place like this with someone else who appreciates it and understands the feeling you get from seeing this kind of thing…well, it all just adds to the experience. And Oz in a bikini is a whole other experience too…*drooling*.

Jade Winters

northernlightsWhat’s my idea of the perfect holiday? A winter holiday in Norway. In a large log cabin, complete with a roaring fire and clear view of the northern lights – surrounded by four feet of pristine snow to chill bottles of champagne. There would have to be a five star catering service to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner (with snacks in between). The days would be spent cross country skiing and snowmobiling. The nights – drinking champagne and reading a good book in front of the fire.

Which fictional character would I take with me? Sherlock Holmes – as I think he is a fascinating and complex character. I’m not too sure he’d be that keen on the snowmobiling though.

everestCari Hunter

I’m not really one for sitting on a beach with my feet up, and I’m a complete armchair mountaineer, so I would love to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas. I don’t need to climb the damn mountain; just laying eyes on it and seeing the surrounding peaks would be enough. But although I can cope with the thought of altitude sickneslena-headeys and knackering hikes, the prospect of a puddle-jumping flight into the area terrifies the socks off me. If someone could invent a teleportation device before my hips and knees give out on me, that would be very much appreciated.

For such a tough holiday I’d need a hard-as-nails travelling companion, so I’d take the Terminator’s Sarah Connor (the Lena Headey version, thank you very much) along for the trip. I’m sure she wouldn’t whinge about the exertion, she looks fabulous in a tank top, and she’d knock the hell out of any Hooray Henrys who might be lingering around Base Camp. I also reckon she’d have some fabulous campfire tales and would make a decent s’more, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a holiday.

nemo-doryRJ Samuel

My perfect holiday, as I always imagined it from rain-soaked Ireland, would have been lying in a hammock on an island with white sand that was being lapped gently by a turquoise ocean, palm trees swaying in the breeze, a Pina Colada in hand, a beautiful partner snuggled up beside me, and Clio beside us. However, I was in Mykonos many years ago and hated it despite the stunning setting. Therefore, now I’m going to plump for anywhere as long as it has sunshine, beauty, and quiet. And what would make it perfect would be the beautiful partner and Clio.

My favourite fictional character is Dory from Finding Nemo. This presents a bit of a dilemma as to how she’d get along on my perfect holiday as she’d need to be in water all the time. Another little hiccup would be her 3-second memory span and considering I’m losing my memory, and I’ve just spent time with my dad who is losing his memory too, I’m just not sure I could take a lot more of scenarios like “Yup, that’s the same shot of Prince George of Cambridge being carried out of the hospital…”, “No, seriously, they’re just playing it in a loop, he wasn’t carried out that many times…”. So, I’m going to cheat and say I’d take along any of the protagonists in my novels as, let’s face it, we authors are just a little bit in love with our characters.

udolphoRebecca Buck

A journey through the Alps, preferably using as many modes of transport as possible: steam trains and boats across those pefect blue alpine lakes, river ferries and cable cars… lots of hiking too. I adore mountains and the Alps are a wonderful combination of the beauty of nature at its most sublime and humanity’s capacity to be at home anywhere, even on a mountain ledge.

I grew up reading Heidi and the Chalet School series (by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer), watching The Sound of Music, and I’ve always been captivated by Alpine culture and scenery. I love the solid yet quaint chalets, the barren and wild peaks, the idyllic wild flower meadows, turquoise burbling streams and cosy inns. The fairytale castles of Bavaria would be a highlight for me, but there’s so much more… France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia. So much culture and history, so much variety, and yet something in common too: the effect of the mountains on every part of life. I feel at home there and I would love to spend a long time exploring those parts of the world.

The fictional character I’d take with me: Ooh, a hard question! There are so many characters I’d like to spend time with. I think perhaps Emily St Aubert from Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. It’s a classic Gothic novel (published in 1794) and, though she’s a little silly, Emily really sees the sublime in everything. Although it’s over the top (and parodied as such by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey) I’d like to spend time with someone for whom natural beauty makes their spirit soar and feeds their imagination so completely. Either that or Joey Bettany, hero of the Chalet School books, so I could hike through the Alps with one of my childhood role models and enjoy Kaffee and Kuchen with her in a quaint cafe in a mountain town, as I used to dream of so regularly!

The RoachesLT Smith

My idea of a perfect holiday is not as clear cut as you may think. You may believe that being a writer I would go into all the details of a magical and unbelievable realm and conjure images that leave the brain scrambling for some sense of reality. Alas. I’m a simple girl with simple pleasures, and none of them include a Mars moon or the mythical mystery of Atlantis.

Setting the scene. My scene. The perfect scene where I could be now has never been simpler. The Roaches. Not ‘cock’ roaches, although I should imagine there are a myriad of bugs flitting about in the long grass, but The Roaches, Derbyshire.

Imagine the feel of the soft summer breeze hitting your skin. Luxuriate in the sound of silence as it reverberates inside and allows you to actually sit and think instead of rushing off to do and see whatever the fad of the time may be. No Facebook. No Twitter (although birds may tweet on occasion). The only ‘signal’ you can get is a wave from another person passing – and they’re few and far between. Sitting near the peak in the grass and heather, two Borders sprawled next to me and panting their thanks to the Gods. What could be more beautiful? Actually. I’ll scrap the beginning. It is magical after all.

Which fictional character would I take with me? Wow. I can take someone? Anyone? Even some of the low down dirty rats I have read about? Maybe not them, then, and definitely not Christian Grey. No offence, but I would be too worried about him whipping out a ‘not ever to be mentioned by a lesbian’ body part and offering to douse me in champagne whilst I stared at it.

I’ll start again.

Would I plump for a Shakespearean sprite prancing next to me like Puck or Ariel? Or would I take a mean and moody Hamlet and hope he doesn’t bolt for the edge and plummet to his death? Would I trust Macbeth? Not a chance, especially if Mrs MaccyB was with him whispering in his ear. Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Catherine Earnshaw – all interesting characters, but would they bore me to death with all their angst and whinnying on about men?

Thinking cap back on.

Bridget Jones? She would be a fun one to take, but I can’t imagine her traipsing all the way to the top of Hen Cloud without her counting calories and smoking too many fags so she could barely breathe.

Got it. Wonder Woman. I mean, just think about it. Super powers, gorgeous, help me to get to the top and back again, gorgeous – again – and also can turn her hand to anything, even being gorgeous with those glasses on. And (very important part here) if I was a good girl, maybe she would let me try on her crown when no one was watching.

Result. Wonder Woman it is. Has anyone got her number?

wonder womanAnd with that we wish you and your fantastic companions bon voyage.

News Roundup: Summer reads, Autumn Reads, 2014 Reads, and Battles!

28 Aug

With summer drawing to a close (not today, mind, I’m sitting here in my shorts!) and longer nights just around the corner, it seems timely that this news post is crammed with recommendations of current releases, and information about upcoming releases that might just be enough to see you through a chilly winter. So, without further ado, we’ll start off by sticking with summer…

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emma-donoghue-illo_2373764bFor those of you who might still have a sunny holiday pending, Emma Donoghue recently offered up her five favourite beach reads on the Chatelaine blog site. Personally I’m more of a Karin Slaughter girl, but it’s always interesting to know what folks are packing on their Kindles these days.

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Meanwhile, over at girl-on-girl blog autostraddle they’ve signalled the end of summer by publishing their Autumn 2013 Queer Books Preview (okay, so they called it “Fall”, but that’s just splitting hairs). Included on the list is Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate – which has actually been available over here for months – and Nicola Griffith’s Hild:

Hild is not just one of the best historical novels I have ever read — I think it’s one of the best novels, period,” says Dorothy Allison, author of Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. Hild is set in seventh-century Britain and focuses on the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby, who establishes herself as the seer to a ruthless king who finds her indispensable — until he doesn’t.

As I was tooting over at the site, I also came across a video discussion of Sarah WatersTipping The Velvet at the Vaginal Fantasy book club. The club picks a new book to chat about each month and records a discussion hang-out that can be viewed online. Just scroll down to the second item on the linked page to view the chat which is hosted by actress Felicia Day.

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one foot onto the iceUpcoming releases now, and Kiki Archer has been teasing readers with a glimpse of the cover for her new novel, One Foot Onto The Ice. Kiki is keeping any other details firmly under her hat but we can tell you that the book has an October 2013 release date.

Speaking of Ms Archer, you can also find a review of Binding Devotion over here at She Magazine.

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Bold Strokes Books have been busy finalising their spring schedule, with a bit of a surprise for me and release dates for Ke Payne and Andrea Bramhall’s new novels.

Ke’s fifth novel, Because of Her, will be published in March, 2014. She doesn’t yet have a cover to show off but the blurb reads like this:

For seventeen year old Tabitha “Tabby” Morton, life sucks. Big time. Forced to move to London, thanks to her father’s new job, she has to leave her friends, school and, most importantly, her girlfriend Amy, far behind. To make matters worse, Tabby’s parents enrol her in the exclusive Queen Victoria Independent School for Girls, hoping that it will finally make a lady of her. But Tabby has other ideas. Loathing her new school, Tabby fights against everything and everyone, causing relations with her parents to hit rock bottom. But when the mysterious and beautiful Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, Tabby begins to wonder if life there might not be so bad after all. After Amy drops a bombshell about their relationship after a disastrous visit, Tabby starts to see the need for new direction in her life. Fighting her own personal battles, Eden brings the possibility of change for them both. Gradually Tabby starts to turn her life around, and it’s all because of her.

We shared the blurb for Andrea Bramhall’s third novel Nightingale back in June, and she recently announced that the book has been given a May 2014 release date.

tumbledownforblogI had been hoping that Tumbledown, my follow-up to Desolation Point, would also find its way onto the spring schedule but was very pleasantly surprised to be told that the book had instead sneaked into the February 2014 releases. Sheri, the BSB cover artist, has designed a beautiful, enigmatic cover for it, and here we go with the synopsis:

How far would you go to protect the one you love?

Two years after surviving their ordeal at the hands of white supremacists, Alex Pascal and Sarah Kent have new identities, new careers, and a new home together. The FBI warned them to keep their heads down, and a small town in Maine seems like the perfect place to do this, until a chance occurrence sets in motion a chain of events that no one could have predicted. With enemies closing in and friends turning their backs, Alex and Sarah find themselves fighting not only for their freedom, but for their lives.

If you hear any squeaks of stress coming from the Manchester direction in the next couple of months, that would be me trying to work crazy shifts, keep this site updated, and hit a fast-approaching editing deadline.

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One of our favourite (and busiest!) authors VG Lee will be a guest of the riart Grrrls as part of their female author series, down in St Leonards on Sea (east Sussex) on Thursday 5th September at 7.30 pm. Entrance is £3, all are welcome and you can find details of the event over here on a special Facebook page.

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manda-scottLastly in this round up, Manda Scott has been talking about Writing Battles over at The History Girls blog, where she has some sage advice for those of us who are fond of beating up our lead characters:

Be aware that we are indoctrinated by television and the movies and real life isn’t like that: not only do most people not decapitate their opponents in a single move, they often don’t slice off limbs, bite off fingers, or kill a hundred people without receiving any wounds (Terminator, anyone?). They also – and this is more important – can’t fight for long if they’re leaking blood from a dozen major incisions and have at least two structural skeletal fractures.

I did see a woman once stand at the roadside for over thirty minutes without realising she’d fractured her pelvis in a road traffic collision, but that’s another story for another day…

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Anyone currently counting down the hours till the kids go back to school – hang in there, not long now. For those with holiday ongoing or still pending – enjoy!

News roundup: a busy week in UK LesFic

19 Aug

Well, a week’s a long time in UK lesbian fiction. So here we go…

Sep issue image #1We’ve been kept pretty busy here at UKLesFic since we started this blog. UK lesbian fiction, beyond the names that have crossed over into mainstream fiction, gets very little coverage in the media but despite this we’re still pleasantly surprised at the number of new names we’re adding to the authors list.

detectiveTo try to redress the balance, I’ve written an article for this month’s Diva. It, in part, answers the question posed by The Guardian last year asking where all the new UK lesbian writers are. My answer “Busy writing”!

Also in the September issue is a review of Crin Claxton‘s new book the Supernatural Detective. Diva describes the novel as “a sexy supernatural thriller” and “A perfect read for the beach”.

91CYqVEe28L._SL1500_On the review front Nicola Griffith‘s Hild has been reviewed by Kirkus: “A book that deserves a place alongside T.H. White, to say nothing of Ellis Peters. Elegantly written–and with room for a sequel.”

Nicola wryly notes on her blog that even before it’s release in November it’s been compared to six authors (Hilary Mantel, Sigrid Undset, T.H. White, George R.R. Martin, Ellis Peters, and Rosemary Sutcliff) and wonders where it’ll end and what the gender division will be when it gets there.

Author Suzanne Egerton has written in to pass on details about the Glasgow Lambda Library. This is a new group that is raising funds for a queer and LGBT library for the Glasgow area. They hope to create a space for a collection of literature and to host book groups, writing workshops, film screenings and literary events. As well as looking for monetary donations, they are collecting books for the library. Any tomes taking up too much room would be gratefully received.

Niamh Murphy has been busy on the blog front. In Filling Blanks of Fantasy she writes about how she goes about writing and filling in her fairy tale stories from her original outline. She also writes about finding time to write and knowing when to stop and recharge

RJ Samuel has also written a very honest post asking whether a writer should write during dark moments, when all they can create are more moments of darkness. Should a writer wait until they can offer a reader something more or do readers like to be drawn into that intense world. The piece has had some nice responses. Here’s the post.

Meanwhile, fans of Devon Marshall will be pleased to hear that she’s come back from the trauma that is a computer eating your manuscript and has finished Book 2 in the Vampires of Hollywood series. Read about how she feels about it all in this post where she charateristically doesn’t mince her words.

allforloveDalia Craig dropped in for the Liz McMullen Show this week. Here’s a snippet from Liz’s description of the show:

“Dalia Craig’s erotica explores D/s power play and often mistaken first impressions. What makes her writing so unique, is the way she incorporates high wire suspense in her short stories. It goes beyond sexual anticipation to the heady heart racing moments you would expect from a thriller… We discuss the craft of writing good erotica, from the perspective of an editor and publisher.”

You can find the epiode here.

cover3Finally, if you have half an hour to put up your feet and have a bit of a giggle, there’s my short story The Dildo in the Kitchen Drawer. Here’s the blurb:

What has Beth’s girlfriend ordered in the plainest, squarest, most non-descript parcel? It certainly isn’t books. No-one shuffles that frantically to hide books when you come in unexpectedly. And what would any right-minded person do when they opened the kitchen drawer to check what had been hidden? But right-minded isn’t a term that’s often applied to Beth.

The Dildo in the Kitchen Drawer is a short story of paranoia, slippery fingers and recalcitrant dogs.

The Polari Longlist – Everything you need to know (and more!)

14 Aug

Okay, so that header might be a bit of a fib. A couple of weeks back when I came to look at the lesbian-themed novels featured on the Polari longlist, I realised there were too many to really cover in a single news post, so I planned to do a separate post just like this to give people an idea what the books were about and who they were by.

The Polari First Book Prize is awarded to a début novel “which explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in the UK in English within the twelve months of the deadline for submissions (this year Feb 1, 2013). Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible for submission.” I think the key thing to note there is “explores the LGBT experience;” the novels I’ve picked out to feature here are not necessarily LesFic and some of the blokes on the list might well have written lesbian-themed novels, but time is short and I like an easy life – hence the copy and paste nature of this post! So, in no particular order…

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the january flowerThe January Flower by Orla Broderick (Council House Publishing)

Our narrator Mary has been cast as a Universal Mother with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is any mother struggling with domesticity, the current economic climate and self-worth. She seeks love unaware that love is already a constant force in her life. Through the beauty of her island home she learns to grow in Nature. She learns that no matter what we endure love will always remain. No matter how hard our winters may seem, the humble flower, the snowdrop will bloom in January. Love is always inside us. We just have to find it.

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Orla Broderick lives on the beautiful Isle of Skye, Scotland. She has been funded, supported and encouraged by HI-Arts. She was mentored by Roger Hutchinson (Calum’s Road, The Silent Weaver). She attended the HI-Arts writers masterclass with tutors Angus Dunn, Kevin MacNeil and Andrew Greig and an Arvon work-in-progress workshop with tutors Jane Rogers and Lesly Glaister. The January Flower was edited by Peter Urpeth (Far Inland). She is Irish, originally from Co. Donegal but was raised in Co. Wicklow. She went to an all girls Irish Catholic Boarding school, but was always in trouble with the nuns, so she learned to write as one way to escape. Orla has participated in and devised creative writing workshops. Her writing is poetic prose and is compared with the writings of Dylan Thomas. Mostly, she likes to walk by the river and dream.

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the governessThe Governess by Rachael Eyre (Self-published e-book)

An erotic thriller set in Victorian England. Miss Benson, a governess, is sent to teach Amy how to be a lady. Amy is discovering the joys of sex and suitors. Miss Benson’s unconventional methods lead to scandal, heartbreak and murder as she becomes obsessed with her young charge.

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Rachael Eyre has been mad keen on writing and fictional worlds since the age of seven- she hasn’t changed much in twenty years. Noticing there was a real gap in the market for gay and lesbian themed fantasy/sci fi/adventure fiction, she decided to fill it. She would never write something she wouldn’t want to read herself.

The Governess is her first completed novel. Her second, The Revenge of Rose Grubb, will join it on Kindle shortly. A revenge saga spanning thirty years, it takes in school bullying, faked deaths and our culture’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity. Our heroine won’t stop till she’s collected her enemy’s scalp. Rachael is currently writing her third novel, Love and Robotics. It’s her first attempt at writing a proper love story, even though the lovers are a (male) robot and an equally male raddled old explorer.

She lives in Lancaster, UK with her long suffering partner Ruth. She loves dragons but doesn’t like ferrets. At all.

Rachael doesn’t seem to have her own blog but there are a few posts over on her Goodreads author page.

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the murder wallThe Murder Wall by Mari Hannah (Pan Macmillan)

Eleven months after discovering a brutal double murder in a sleepy Northumbrian town, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels is still haunted by her failure to solve the case. Then the brutal killing of a man on Newcastle’s Quayside gives Daniels another chance to get it right, and her first case as Senior Investigating Officer. When Daniels recognises the corpse, but fails to disclose the fact, her personal life swerves dangerously into her professional life. But much worse, she is now being watched. As Daniels steps closer to finding a killer, a killer is only a breath away from claiming his next victim…

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Mari Hannah was born in London and moved north as a child. Sponsored by the Home Office, she graduated from Teesside University before becoming a Probation Officer, a career cut short when she was injured while on duty. Thereafter, she spent several years working as a film/television scriptwriter. During that time she created and developed a number of projects, most notably a feature length film and the pilot episode of a crime series for television based on the characters in her book, the latter as part of a BBC drama development scheme. She lives in Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. In 2010, she won the Northern Writers’ Award.

Mari is the author of the Kate Daniels crime series: The Murder Wall (which the Guardian newspaper called “a satisfyingly meaty read”) Settled Blood, and Deadly Deceit. Her website with loads more information about the author and her books can be found here.

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tony hoganTony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)

When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.

Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of filthy council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can’t help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original — and cry-out-loud funny — voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life’s great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.

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Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel.

Her first novel, TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA was published in July 2012 and has been shortlisted for the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award, Guardian First Book Award, Green Carnation Prize, Author’s Club First Novel Prize and Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year. Kerry’s second novel, THIRST, was developed with support from the National Lottery through an Arts Council England grant and will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2014. She currently lives and writes in Hackney. Her blog can be found here. A recent review in the Observer newspaper had this to say:

It would be easy for Hudson to slip into the well-worn groove of the misery memoir made good, and there are points at which Tony Hogan threatens to lapse into cliche. However, Janie’s irrepressible, childish glee and the sly humour into which it evolves give the novel a wry self-awareness that is both refreshing and endearing.

One senses a broader purpose at work, too: the Ryan women are nothing if not fighters, and the “Ryan Temper” speaks of their frustration at the hand that life has dealt them. In this sense, Hudson’s debut, as undespairing as it is unflinching, manages to be both a personal statement of intent and also a painfully funny, humane commentary on a welfare system that blunts the blade of grinding poverty but fails to address the numbing poverty of aspiration which overwhelms so many of Janie’s contemporaries.

A further review from The Guardian can be found here.

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the sitarThe Sitar by Rebecca Idris (self-published ebook)

From the bowels of middle-class England, bona fide Brit Muslim lesbian Jaya Chakarbatti belies her mild-mannerisms and leads her group of Lassi Lesbians from their urban Midland terraced houses, to the smelly back alleys of London’s gay Soho, to seek out other Gaysians. Through the jungle of Bollywood drag queens, unrequited clumsy love, and stark choices between the Quran or The Pink Paper, the group of girls take a snap shot of modern, urban Britain amidst riots, religious tensions, and social discontent, before ending up somehow in the heat of sweaty, uncomfortably straight but shamelessly camp Bangladesh.

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Rebecca Idris is a British author living in London. She writes contemporary stories set in urban, modern England, exploring themes of postcolonial politics, emerging immigrant identities, and gay and lesbian humour. The best I can find for Rebecca in terms of a blog is her twitter feed and an interview with the Gaysian blog (the link on that page to her website is defunct.)

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If last year is anything to go by, the shortlist for the prize will be announced in September and the winner chosen in November. Which will give you all plenty of time to get reading!

Guest Blog – Rain McAlistair

9 Aug

Leaving Front CoverToday’s guest blog comes from Rain McAlistair who’s just published her latest novella Leaving. Here she tells us a little about her approach to designing her distinctive book covers.

Never judge a book by its cover, warns the old saying. But we all do, don’t we? Whether we are in a bookshop, faced with hundreds of brightly coloured real-life covers, or whether we are scrolling through internet pages of thumbnails, we all assume that a good cover means a good story.

There are just so many books to choose from. I believe we look for the cover that seems to speak to us as individuals. I definitely select books for deeper investigation which have covers that appeal to me most strikingly.

If you went into a bookshop and saw a book with a perfectly plain brown cover, decorated with only a title, would you buy it? I suspect not, because the cover is an important aesthetic part of what makes up the art form we call ‘a book.’

Way back in time, people put a lot of care and attention into the binding of books. Gold, silver and jewels were used to adorn ancient covers. Later, they were bound in leather or cloth.

Book covers have come a long way since my parents’ generation. My dad used to call them ‘dust jackets’. Their original purpose was to protect the book from scuffs and dirt, leaving the plain cover in pristine condition. All that changed with the arrival of the paperback onto the market. Now the purpose of a cover is to give us an exciting glimpse of the story inside.

I remember as a child going to a tiny library and sifting through the different cover designs, each speaking of tantalising delights within. There is a particular joy in holding a book in your hand. The cover invites you and gives you permission to look inside. It’s an appetiser for the banquet to come.

In the lesbian fiction section, there is a whole range of different cover types to choose from. So how do we, as authors, make that all-important choice?

I like to have my cover completed well before I finish each book. I print it out and prop it up on my desk, and it inspires me as I write. The cover is an integral part of the book. I am aware that when someone reads one of my books they are looking at the cover all the time.

There are a lot of options at hand before I start to design the cover. Do I use a photograph or a drawing? Or maybe just lettering on an abstract background. What is my colour scheme going to be this time? What font shall I use for my title?

When I wrote my first book, Dove, I wanted to symbolise the isolation my two main characters felt from the rest of the world during the story and also wanted to show how their lives were inextricably interlinked. I chose a picture by one of my favourite photographers which shows two trees, standing apart from anything else with their branches intertwined.

In my second book, Bridge, the bridge is central to the story and also very symbolic. I had a mental picture of the bridge in the story and searched long and hard to find a photograph which matched the vision in my mind.

For Moonchaser, I broke the pattern and went with a colour picture. It just seemed right for that particular book

Rain McAlistairMy latest novel is called Leaving. I wanted to show that a gateway can be both a barrier and the means of finding freedom. Which of these it turns out to be is entirely up to the person standing at the gates. The gateway is the pivotal point when one’s life can change so I wanted to focus very much on that moment of decision. I commissioned a photographer I had used before and explained what I was trying to convey. He understood and produced exactly the image I had in mind.

I also want my covers to be instantly recognisable as Rain McAlistair books so I have tried to keep a theme going in the design I use. Just for fun I have sometimes mocked up versions of my books with the same titles but different covers and it completely changes the whole feel of the book. Ultimately it all comes down to creating an atmosphere. The cover is the theme music to the opening of the book. I hope my music is harmonious and evocative and rings in the air long after the book is closed.

You can find out more about Rain and her books on her website.

News Roundup: Polari Longlist announced, New Reading from Hild, and a Whole Lot of Blogging Going on…

5 Aug

Morning, morning. I’m sitting here eating a teacake for my breakfast and washing it down with a lovely cup of tea. I suspect the only way I could make that more English is by playing Land of Hope and bloody Glory in the background. Due to also being extremely organised, I’m starting this news roundup during a day off and will likely be finishing it in the middle of a set of night shifts. Feel free to try to spot which bits I wrote with a regular brain and which bits were added during the nights…

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91CYqVEe28L._SL1500_First up, exciting news for those who like to listen to a nice bedtime story; Nicola Griffith has posted an audio file of her reading from the first chapter of Hild. The file is about 8 minutes long, full of lush language and imagery, and Nicola’s accent is simply lovely. Let’s hope she has the time to record the audio book, I mean Hild‘s what, 560 pages or so? She’d get through that in no time!

If you prefer to read not listen, there’s an exclusive preview of the first chapter here .

Sticking with Hild for the moment, US (sorry UK folks) readers of this blog can get a leg up on the November release date by entering the Good Reads giveaway Nicola has just opened. There are five copies available and, as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Closing date is August 31st.

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HanselGretalVoracious consumer of all things LesFic, Terry Baker has been casting her critical eye over one of our regularly featured authors Niamh Murphy. In a recent review, Terry had this to say about Niamh’s novella Gretel A Fairytale Retold:

This is a well written page turner with twists and turns along the way from an up and coming UK lesbian fiction author. It’s a beautiful lesfic variation on the timeless fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, that has held the attention of millions of children and adults over the years.

All three characters are well formed and easy to get to know. Although this is a novella, Niamh Murphy has packed a lot into it, including the age old subject, homophobia and the outcome of that hatred. At the heart of this story though, is a beautiful and tender sweet romance.

The full text of the review is available here, and the novella can be purchased at for an absolute steal at just £1.

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AMHLast roundup, I gave a pre-emptive heads up about Clare Ashton‘s guest appearance at Kim Taylor Blakemore’s Out of the Shadows of History blog. The piece entitled Something a Little Bit Different has since been posted and a fascinating read it is too:

Publishers like genre. They know how to sell and market a lesbian romance or mystery. But what if you don’t want to write to a formula? What if you love writing that something only you could have written, and it’s not quite like anything else…

Feel free to join the genre v non-genre LesFic debate over on the site; I think it’s a conversation worth having.

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Andrea Bramhall has a lot on her plate at the moment: the imminent release of her second novel Clean Slate, gearing up to start telling people about novel number three, Nightingale, and a trip across the pond to Provincetown, New England in October for Women’s Week. This week however, she found the time to share her inspiration behind Clean Slate and explain exactly why she will be donating half of the royalties she receives for the novel to charity. Go here to read the piece.

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OutLateWithFriendsSuzanne Egerton has been chatting about Out Late With Friends and Regrets over at the ever-popular Women & Words blog. In a candid piece posted on Friday, Suzanne reveals her motivations behind her writing, how her own experiences shaped her début novel, and how the book has fared so far.

When I started to look into the subject of women who find out quite late on that they’re gay (I couldn’t be the only one, surely?) I was astonished to find out just how common a situation it is. Research differs, with some opinions offering a “fluid sexuality” theory, whilst others cite conditioning. I’ve given Fin the latter status, and a Roman Catholic background to reinforce her dilemmas with dollops of guilt. Awfully mean, I know, but we authors can be cruel to those we love!

For the full text of the blog, hop over here.

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VG Lee announcing Polari Prize long list (image Jon Dolores)

On July 30th , The Polari Prize long list was announced by VG Lee, and there is a host of female authors featured amongst the hopefuls.

The Polari Prize is awarded for a first book which explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in the UK in English within the twelve months of the deadline for submissions. Self-published works are eligible and two such novels have made it onto this year’s longlist.

When my brain kicks back into gear, I hope to pull together a piece on the five female authors featured on the longlist. In the meantime, get busy with the clicking!

The January Flower by Orla Broderick (Council House Publishing)
The Governess by Rachael Eyre (self-published ebook)
The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah (Pan Macmillan)
Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)
The Sitar by Rebecca Idris (self-published ebook)

And if you’d like a taster of what a Polari night can be like, Jon Dolores’ blog is a good place to start.

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awalkintodarknessSneaking in at the last gasp is an early heads up about a Virtual Living Room Book Flash with Jade Winters. Taking part next Saturday (August 10th) at 3pm (EST) – which I think translates to 8pm here – Jade will be answering questions about her new release A Walk Into Darkness. To participate in the event, sign up to the VLR and pull up a chair next Saturday.

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Right, as it’s now Sunday night and things are getting a little fuzzy around the edges I suspect it may be time for me to pull on my jammies and get a little shut-eye. Sweet dreams!

Guest Blog – Kate Snowdon

2 Aug

YouCantRunfromLoveS250New author Kate Snowdon tells us about her very different experience of starting writing and how she’s now bitten by the writing bug.

When I was asked to write something for this blog regarding my experience of writing my debut novel, You Can’t Run From Love, I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach it. The one thing I can say with certainty is that I enjoyed every minute of the experience, and I would never have predicted that.

I was probably like many new authors, not believing I’d actually had a book published until I held it in my hands. Where I might possibly differ is that I’d never had a burning desire or inner longing to write and had not even considered it. So, why did I write a novel? Good question. It’s one of two that frequently pop up, the other being, how long did it take to write? It was the disbelieving looks to the first answer and not recalling the second that prompted me to give it some thought.

It all started when my partner and I moved into a late 19th century house which was in need of renovation. Not long before this endeavour, she had been seriously ill and subsequently recovered well. Sadly, though, she experienced further setbacks in her health, and understandably the disruption of the work became too much and eventually had to stop. It was during this period I started to read the books my partner had been reading for years: lesbian romance. It wasn’t that I thought I could write one, but more that it would be fun to try! The added attraction was that it would keep me occupied and stop my partner feeling guilty at not having the energy to do the things we’d always done in the past. I am not always the most relaxing person to have around and the writing gave us the opportunity to do something we could share again. We discussed and researched the general format the book should take, and I set off on my story.

The finished product, a year later, didn’t read like any of the books we’d read and was far too long! I didn’t have any idea what I could do to improve it, yet my partner thought it was worth pursuing. That’s when we looked more closely at a publisher. At the time, Bella Books only wanted the first two chapters plus the final one. I hoped I’d receive feedback on how I could improve what I’d written. It didn’t quite work out like that. They asked to review the full manuscript. Again, I hoped for some advice, but no, they wanted to publish, and I can say in all honesty I wasn’t expecting that. It definitely needed improvement, and when I received the editor’s comments my surprise turned out to be justifiable: they were pretty damning. But I’d received the feedback I’d wished for! As I squirmed my way through them and my cut manuscript, I couldn’t disagree with anything. Well, maybe one small thing, but it seemed trivial given the circumstances. I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. It was also rather unfortunate that, due to the time lapse—seventeen months since I’d finished writing—I’d already written my second book with all the same mistakes.

It took three months to complete the changes to You Can’t Run From Love. It’s an easy, fun read for those who like contemporary romance and are not looking for anything too serious. There are a few serious undertones, though, if you wish to look. My second novel, Love’s Battle, I was able to amend before it went to an editor, and I very much hope I’ve learned a great deal from working on my first, but we’ll see. It’s still with them. I think it’s better, but it is slightly different and might be difficult to compare. In theory, my third book should be better still!

I’ve been incredibly fortunate on this writing journey, the whole experience has been a joy and I’m hooked. It’s been incredibly liberating too. I had only been out to family and obviously, lesbian friends, but since starting to write I’ve emerged from my closet. Not all by my own doing, but that’s another story.

You can find more out about Kate on her shiny new blog: