Update on my latest

 

My post this Sunday is about my current work-in-progress, Seven Summer Nights. Forgive another “industry” post: next week I’ll be doing a character interview/coda.

I’ve decided to self-publish SSN. This was not an easy decision to reach. I would really have loved to work with a publishing house again, but even if I managed to place the book right away, I’d probably be looking at a wait of up to a year before release. Financially, that’s not a viable option for me. My own fault – ideally, before submitting a long book to a publisher, I’d have a shortie in an advanced state of preparation to self-pub while I was waiting. (SSN became a much more intense and complex novel than I’d intended, and took over my brain and my schedule to an overwhelming extent.) As I think I’ve said before, the hybrid model is working very well for me as an author. I love the freedom of FoxTales, but I also love the opportunity to refine my craft, and a good publisher’s editing team will do that. Not to mention the marketing reach and the chance to build rep.

The bright side is that SSN will be with you sooner rather than later! The main plot arc is consummated and I’m looking to land the plane. The runway is in sight, my landing gear is deployed, and as I’m sure my fellow authors know, at this point all my concentration will be required not to hit an air pocket or slew this baby into the ATC. Um, the novel isn’t about planes at all, so I’m not sure why this metaphor has run away with me.

Another advantage is that I won’t have to dial back on the scope, reach and general glorious weirdness of my story. This one’s set in the 1940s, and will bring to you Dr Rufus Denby, an amnesiac archaeologist struggling with post-war flashbacks. Sacked from his prestigious job at the British Museum, he’s sent to work on restorations at a church in a sleepy village on the Sussex Downs. There he meets Archie Thorne, a vicar with a war record of his own. Rufus’s investigations of the church soon unfold into a numinous ancient mystery that will sweep the whole village into the labyrinthine depths of the past. Meanwhile, Rufus and his vicar are both finding out for the first time in their lives what it means to fall in love.

I like this book. I might have had to streamline/shorten it considerably for a publisher. But this time I want it long. I want it to develop at its own slow, sexy, potent pace, and I want my support cast to have time and space to do their thing. So self-pub has many pleasures, not least of which is that this time around I can afford to hire a great cover artist and realise my vision for the book. You get a little bit of input into cover art when you trad-publish, but usually not a huge amount.

I’d like to share an excerpt with you. I know a lot of you don’t like excerpts, so this is your alert to stop reading now! I hope to release the book within the next couple of months, so watch this space for a firm date. Also, there is mild naughtiness in this excerpt – just a gentle heads-up to the lovely real-life friends who’ve been kind enough to befriend me on Facebook for reasons other than my writing. ;-D

 

From Seven Summer Nights

Rufus lay down flat and read as he’d used to do in childhood, the book poised just off the tip of his nose, his toes clenched on the footboard as if he would otherwise float off into deep space. The Reverend Thorne’s house held him like a hammock, like a chrysalis, like a deep embrace from strong male arms. Night came down, and at some point of shimmering non-darkness from the summer skies, a careful hand lifted the open book off his face.

***

He woke in the trenches, his enemy near him. This time the hallucination didn’t eat him whole: the awareness was left to him, dim and distant, that his body remained in a beautiful place, guarded and cared for and safe. Utter misery seized him. No matter where he went, he would end up here. No matter who he reached for in friendship and love, the shadow would fall. A bull in a labyrinth, a faceless Minotaur, groaning and snorting in the dark, a demon with the power to take a firelit room and fill it with mud, blood and horror.

Rufus tore the bedclothes back and lurched onto his knees. He would kill the bastard this time, that was all. He flattened his hands to the mattress and let loose a long, raw howl of desolation. It was too bloody grim that every beauty he found, every safety and sweetness, could be ruined and torn down to shit. He burst into racking sobs.

The bedroom door flew open. Rufus seized his chance. He couldn’t see, but that didn’t matter – who else would dare find him here in the firelit trench but his enemy? “Charles,” he roared, scrambling off the end of the bed and into the bullet-pocked hell of the earthworks behind Fort Vaux. “Stop, damn you! I won’t let you do it this time!”

He collided with flesh and bone. The devil of it was that he recognised Archie straight off, by scent and warmth and the well-restrained power that cushioned and held him even as it fended him off. “Rufus,” Archie gasped in his ear, but it was no use. The logic of flashback ate both of them whole.

They crashed together onto the bedroom floor. Rufus made a grab for the gun at Charles’s belt, but the coward had hidden it somewhere, ready for the atrocious scene that always followed on from this fight. “Give it to me,” he grunted, rolling Charles over, and cried out as a huge strength lifted and rolled him in his turn, dumping him hard against the base of the wardrobe, whose scrolled and clawed feet Rufus couldn’t account for here, unless the Minotaur had learned how to dance.

He lashed out wildly. The blow connected, sending a pang of exhilaration through him. He could taste his enemy’s blood. Connections formed hotly in his mind: Charles was the enemy, the monster he’d been seeking through the mud-lined tunnels of his dreams since his return from the Front. Charles, his commanding officer. His brother-in-law, the sweet-natured boy he and Rosie had run with through childhood’s meadows… “Charles, stop,” he begged, aiming another knockout blow at the once-beloved face. “Stop. Please.”

“I will if you will.”

He couldn’t. Wherever he travelled, no matter how far he ran, this dream would compel him to hunt down the nearest likeness of the beast, the greatest threat. He twisted out from under the beast’s weight – so warm, this beast, smelling of love, not death – and struggled onto his feet. The beast stood too. “Rufus, stop,” it commanded, and this time it stopped his fist in mid-air. “You’re looking for the strongest man? You’ve found him. You’ve found him.”

Rufus woke up. The mud and blood dried to thin, brittle shells on his skin and fell away. The trench burst wide open to dawn light. Archie was holding him, not Charles – Archie in rumpled dressing gown and brightly patterned pyjamas, staring down at him, such a blaze of passion and pity that Rufus would have fallen in love with him right then, if he hadn’t already dropped and dived and lost that battle somewhere among the Droyton lanes. “Archie,” he whispered, lifting a shaking hand to caress the face he’d bruised. “Archie!”

“Yes. You have to stop this now.”

Rufus couldn’t. He slipped a hand around his nape, pulled him down and kissed him – brief, hard, full on the mouth. Let him go immediately and stumbled back, almost thrusting him away. Easier to do that than be pushed, than to see shock gathering, rejection, distaste… But Archie only frowned. He touched his lip wonderingly, as if remembering. Then he shot out a hand and seized Rufus by the front of his nightshirt. “Come here.”

“Archie…”

“Come here, man. For God’s sake.”

Rufus stumbled back to him. Archie didn’t relinquish his grip: used it to haul him up and in, at the last instant catching him tenderly with his free hand, cupping his jaw. He dipped his head. A faint sound escaped him, a muffled sob of yearning. He closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to Rufus’s in return.

Clumsy, awkward. He must have got at least one punch in – pain popped like a flashbulb on Rufus’s lip, delicious and wild. He kissed like a man who’d been tied hand and foot while other people fucked and danced and loved all around him, inches away, untouchable. Christ, Rufus knew how that felt. He threw his arms around him, left off trying to keep his rising erection a secret. Archie groaned and pushed back at him, knocking him off-balance. They crashed against the wardrobe. “Dear Archie. At least let me take you to bed.”

“I can’t. I… Oh, yes.”

“Make sure the door’s shut.”

“It is.”

“You’d better close the window. Pull the curtains too.” Rufus clutched his shoulders, hardly able to bear the answering stiffness behind the absurd pyjama trousers. Elspeth would have bought those, he was willing to bet, a pocket-money present for her borrowed father, and Archie would faithfully wear them to show her he valued her gift. “Do the windows have shutters?”

“Er… yes, but – ”

“Better close them.”

“Rufus, this is my house. We’re up on the attic floor. I won’t shut us away in the dark.”

“You have to. You don’t understand. You could be jailed and disgraced for what you just did to me, let alone…” Rufus caught his breath. “Let alone what I’m about to do to you.”

“Only the birds will see us. The moths and the bats flying home.”

 

 

I don’t often talk about money, but…

Redeswood1The cheque for my eleven-book deal with Audible arrived this week. I can’t actually explain how much this payout means to me as a working author. Once more, I have to thank my agent, Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency: there is no way I could’ve swung this one on my own. I’m not even going to say how much the cheque was for, although if any of my hard-grafting colleagues out there are wondering what agent-sold audio rights are fetching these days, feel free to email or PM me. For the purposes of today’s blog, the amount isn’t relevant. What’s relevant is the effect upon my daily life, and I do want to take up a few moments of your time to talk about that. The daily life of an author, because I know the market is tough at the moment, and I’ve seen a lot of discouraged people, and I’ve had more than a few queries lately about what it takes to make it as a writer. And I still think it’s possible, so I’ve tried to answer.

That’s a tricky task, although in each case I’ve tried my best. I can only tell you what it takes me. Am I making it? Well, just about, according to my own unsteady lights. First off, as my dear friend Josh Lanyon has said recently, you really have to decide what you mean by making it. Do you want to be JK Rowling? Do you want to get one book – yes, dear Goddess, please just one teeny tiny little book and I won’t ask for anything again ever – published, to obtain that one moment of orgasmically sweet validation and triumph? Do you want, like me, to enjoy the dubious, dangerous benefits of living off your wits, free from employers, in the middle of the wilderness, no savings, no pension, no sick pay, making just enough to cover the bills? There’s all kinds of making it.

Second, what are your circumstances? You need to balance out what you need to do against what you can do. I’m all in favour of pushing boundaries, but unattainable goals will wear you out and make you miserable. For me, in order to progress my career, stop living hand-to-mouth, get some money in the bank and make some provision for my frail (and rapidly advancing) old age, I’d need to produce about 5,000 words a day.

I can’t. I max out on 1,000, or 1,500 when I have no other commitments. Do you have kids? I spent five minutes with a kid the other day, and I was depleted and drained beyond imagination. I salute authors who have kids. How the bloody hell you do it, I have no idea. Do you want to have some kind of life outside your authorial vacuum flask? I didn’t think I needed one, but as I moved from part-time to full-time writer, and ploughed head-first into the menopause at the same time, I realised how badly I did. Depression and borderline agoraphobia presented themselves and asked to be considered for the role of Wolves at my Door. I had to chase them off while I was still capable of leaving the house in order to do so. Changes in my metabolism meant I could no longer get away with the utterly sedentary lifestyle I’d rejoiced in so far. We came back to my native northeast, where my family embraced me, undeserving as I was. I discovered Sacred Circle Dance; a wonderful group of fellow Pagans. I felt better. (Note: my problems were causative, circumstantial, temporary. Companionship and activity may help with cases of clinical, chronic depression, but far more likely will only act, if at all, as adjuncts to therapy, meds, and the sheer, gritted-teeth, back-to-the-wall courage of the sufferer. There’s a very big difference.)

So – 1.5K per day, zero future security, but a hell of a good time in the present moment. There is no prospect of retirement for me. That’s okay. I wouldn’t want to stop anyway. But that 1.5K per day has to happen. It has to, if that’s the figure you’ve come up with to allow you your work/life balance and to get you to the point of making it. Whatever figure’s come out of that complicated sum, it has to happen. Sometimes people ask me how I do it, and I don’t really understand the question. I mean, some of the people asking me this have proper jobs! And they’re asking me how on earth I manage. I want to say to them, “How do you do it? How do you get up at six, face a brutal commute, deal with your boss and whatever mountain of stress you have to scramble up and over every single working day in life?” I think they’d just say, “Well, I have to.”

And that’s it, precisely. As an author, you have to. Can you bring that combination of guts, persistence and sheer necessity to a computer screen, typewriter, notepad, whatever, every single day, and dig out of yourself your sacred and carefully calculated Daily Word Count? If you’ve ever had a job you hated and you stuck with it and did it anyway, you’ve got the character skillset for this game. You’ll stick with it and do it anyway, through illness, adversity, family upheaval, loss, just as you had to do with your day job. You’ll do it in sensible places and strange ones: at your desk, on riverbanks, on the back of bus tickets. And hopefully, one day – it took me about five years, transitioning slowly – you’ll be doing it in order to serve the needs of a job you love. At the very least, at the end of X amount of time doing X amount of words per day, you will have written a book! And even if you don’t think it’s a good one, it’s there. You can’t edit, polish and rework something that doesn’t exist. You can’t even chuck it in the f*ck-it bucket in favour of the next project, at least not with a satisfactory clang.

It’s still a tough ride. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the impact of that Audible payout, and that’s all I meant to talk about. The trouble with establishing yourself as an author, letting go of the Day Job jungle vine and swinging wildly on your new one, is that you have to keep swinging. My self-pubbed books do pretty well, but still drop off a three-month sales cliff at Amazon. And you know what that means, don’cha?😀 My trad-published novels have a longer run, but it’s getting increasingly tricky to place one’s word-children with good and reliable adoptive parents. Essentially it’s a case of run, run and then run some more. So a sudden big cheque – wow, I can’t even begin to tell you. Missus and I will be down to B&Q on Monday morning faster than a pair of rats leaving a house with a leaky roof! I feel like all the boys in those eleven books went out, got second jobs and sent their wages home to Mama. More than anything else, I can breathe.

But you know what? I probably won’t. I could let myself off the word-count treadmill, for a month or even more. When I think about that, I get a rush of elation, and then a backwash of panic. I have a horribly addictive nature, and my primary addiction – thank God; it could have been so much worse – is writing.

It’s just nice for me to know that I could, and I’m so grateful. Grateful to my agent, to Missus for keeping the world around me sane and safe while I ride this bizarre roller coaster to wherever the hell it goes, to my family for their endless love and support, to my circle dancers for enfolding my abstracted, isolated brain into the warm realities of the group. As ever, to Josh, because all these eleven titles are self-pubbed, and it was Josh who set my FoxTales boat afloat. And just as much to every single person who’s ever bought and read – or, indeed, listened to! – one of my books. Thank you for the ride so far, and for the breathing space, which I’m now fairly certain I won’t – can’t – use. I’m not much good at saving, but I’ll try and save a bit of this one for a rainy day, and when I do, I’ll be thinking of all of you.

Aaron to CT Green!

LifeAfterJoeWelcome to the Sunday blog! Unbelievably, we have finally come to the end of the questions I asked people to send me during my Christmas competition. I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped this blog become a much more active and fun place to be this year, and I’ll try to keep it going. We’re not quite finished with the “meet the characters” series, though – I’m happy to say I have had a couple of email queries for future editions, so watch this space.

Now I’ll hand you over to Aaron from Life After Joe, and CT Green, who said she’d like to meet him, because…

…he was such a calm, but incredibly charismatic character – the line about it not making the pain go away…oh, that just gets me every time! Plus this was the first of your books I read, so it’s a sentimental favourite. <3

 

Aaron: Strange place to bring you for a chat, but I often come out here at lunchtime for a break and to get some perspective. This is the Grey Croft stone circle, and if you look that way – over the earth bank they built a while back to shield the old stones, or maybe to shield the monsters of the modern world from their mystical influence – you’ll see Sellafield nuclear power station. It’s not easy to visit this place nowadays. The land is private, and power-plant security increasingly touchy: some poor guy was trying to fly a drone across the circle to get some aerial shots, and they had him in the holding cells at Carlisle police station before he could prove he was an archaeologist looking for crop marks. I got involved in that ruckus, actually – the guy and his partner had stopped to talk to me before they started work, and I phoned a mate of mine who’d used to do security on the oil rigs and is now a sergeant on the Cumbria force. Told him I was pretty sure the guys they’d hauled off were legit, and I didn’t want anyone accidentally getting shipped off to G-Bay, or whatever they do with suspected terrorists these days. My friend told me I could relax: the archaeologist turned out to be some high-level prof at Salisbury University, and had clearly been arrested by far bigger things than the Sellafield squad. As for his friend, he was going head-to-head with the military police like a true pro, so I probably needn’t have worried.

My Matthew loved that story. I don’t get to bring many exciting tales home from work. “Hey, Matt, today we managed to synthesise a five-stage polymer link!” Doesn’t really compete with the stories of life and death he could tell. But the thing is that he doesn’t, not as a rule. He’ll come in like the east wind blew him, throw his coat onto a chair, grab me for a rib-creaking hug, then pour us both a drink and sit down at our kitchen table, genuinely enthralled to hear the latest from the front-line of radioactive-material containment research. I work at Seascale Reprocessing now, battling it out to beat the deadlines on the old underground tanks, which will decay to the point of leakage approximately twelve thousand years before their clicking-hot contents cool off. It sounds exciting – or terrifying, depending on your outlook – but the details of it, the chemistry and molecule-by-molecule advances, ought to be boring as hell to an outsider. But Matt rests his chin on his hand and listens as if his own life depended on it, not the lives of future generations.

Sometimes, if we’ve gone out for a walk in the fields after dinner, he’ll tell me a story in return. It might be something very good, a cancer remission, a kid waking up from a coma after a car crash. Far less often, something terrible. Between one drystone wall and the next, across a stretch of beautiful northlands moors, he’ll tell me, usually with his coat collar turned up, his hands pushed into his pockets, fixing his attention on the turf.

I’m always so bloody grateful when he does talk. About the bad stuff, I mean. Would he have been different if Joe had never left him, if he’d never had his fight with drugs and booze? Stupid question – of course he would. All our experiences change and affect us. But with my poor Matt, the transformation was radical, deadly, marrow deep. I was at his side for the long process of his rebuild. I don’t say recovery because he never does; he never makes that fundamental error. He can never drown his bad days in alcohol again. The man who rebuilt himself out of his own wreckage knows that, and instead – eventually – shyly, as if we hadn’t been lovers for years – he drowns himself in me.

I took a big chance, telling him what I did from the high moral ground of my bar stool in the Powerhouse on that first night. He might have walked away from me forever. I thought he had, when he stumbled off straight into the arms of his spiky-haired nemesis from Scotswood and gave us all that memorable floor-show. I suppose, technically speaking, he kept walking after that – across the city, into the underpass, and I’m not sure what would’ve happened if the Parfitt lads hadn’t interrupted his progress home. If – thugs as they were – they hadn’t given me the priceless opportunity to catch him up. The beauty about Matt, though, is that even when he’s on the run, he keeps thinking. No wonder he makes such a good doctor, rushing between other people’s crises, always alert! Wasted as he was that Powerhouse night, he’d turned over my one line of unsolicited advice – this won’t take the pain away – and instead of running on, or maybe punching me in the mouth for being a self-righteous prick, he let me walk him home.

Well, it’s the end of my lunch hour, and my polymers await. It’s been a pleasure meeting you here up among the old stones, CT. Thank you for coming and listening to me.

 

Harper: Thanks for that great conversation springboard, CT!

Scrap Metal – Nichol to Chad

Scrap Metal cover art final 72LGAfter a pretty chunky sabbatical, the Sunday blog is back! Today Nichol is talking to Chad, who said…

I’d love to meet Nichol and ask him how the farm was going; to find out how he was doing without his Granda and whether he and Archie were still friends; whether his Cameron was still sculpting, and whether they ever got to meet the Basque gardner ;-) I’m really looking forward to hearing from Nichol about his progress on his PhD – I don’t envy him having to do it by distance.

 

You know, I did have a week or so when I almost thought of giving it all up, grabbing Cameron and running away? It was January, and cold enough to freeze the bollocks off our best Leodhas ram. I’d had another dose of flu and got behind on my dissertation, so Cam had had to go off on his own to the mainland to sort out a new winter-feed supplier. As soon as he’d left, half the farmhands had gone down with a worse flu than mine, so instead of shedding brilliant new light on Brythonic-language syntax, I was running ragged round the fields with Gyp, Floss and Vixen (who at least now consented to work with me, though I’d never perfected Harry’s semi-mystical system of whistle-commands), preventing our herd of pregnant ewes from slithering into snowdrifts and off the clifftops. And, despite our best DIY efforts with the old house the year before, we hadn’t got around to loft insulation, and just before midnight on one grim and sleet-lashed night, the pipe above the kitchen burst, spraying freezing water through a crack in the ceiling, shorting out the internet, my laptop, and the few pathetic paragraphs I’d managed to squeeze out of my aching head. So when Cam arrived home, he found me up a stepladder, soaked, sneezing, swearing the game wasn’t worth the candle and I’d damn well sell up, sacred Seacliff traditions and all, because why in God’s name would any sane man ever live such a way in the 21st century?

But the fact was that Cam had taken the last ferry home through heaving seas, and tackled drifts and black ice all the way from Brodick to get back a day early. He walked in like a miracle, hoisted me down off my ladder, and I held out for about thirty seconds, assuring him I was okay and had everything in hand, before dropping like a snotty avalanche into his arms. Once he’d duct-taped the pipe, checked on the ewes in the barns and set the laptop and modem to dry out gently on a rack over the Aga, he sat down with me, and asked me – because he always listens, even when I’m just blowing off steam and frustration – if I’d been serious. If I wanted to keep our life here for its own sake and for ours, or if Harry was throwing a longer shadow over me in death than he had in life.

Because I wasn’t doing quite all right without the old man, and Cam knew. Neither of us was, though we’d done all the things we should – made our donations to the British Heart Foundation, cleared out Harry’s wardrobe for charity, even drained that damn lochan and sown wildflowers there, my mum’s ghost flickering around the edges of perception, helping the seeds to thrive. We both knew there was a danger that we’d end up running the Harry Seacliff Memorial Farmstead for sheer baffled love of him, even if that was no longer in our own best interests. And unlike me, Cameron has the emotional balls to come out and say all these things, and at that moment I was able to admit, fully and maybe for the first time, how big a hole the old man’s death had punched in me. Cam got into the fireside armchair with me, tipped the rest of the hot whisky toddy he’d made for me right down my throat, took me into his arms and let me cry like a toddler banshee over it all.

We were better after that – both of us, though all poor Cam had got out of the deal was seasickness and a damp sweater. Archie and Shona were banging on the front door at first light, shovels in hand, stand-in farm lads waiting in the Land Rover. Their romance was well established by that point, although Shona mostly showed it by vigorous denial. As for me and Archie – not many friendships could have come out of our debacle intact, and ours wasn’t, but in its own banged-up way, it was pretty indestructible. And yes, my Cam is still sculpting. Once we’d fought through that day and a couple more tough ones, once the pipes were fixed, the winter feed delivered and the whole Memorial Farmstead dragged back onto even keel, I followed the clatter of a sledgehammer on steel to find my brave, lovely lad in floods of tears himself, having finally brought out the bits of the tractor we’d found down in that drained lochan and begun his next and most extraordinary piece of work.

What was it? I’ll leave that for another tale, but suffice to say, between the plantation money he’d found for us and his gallery sales (our scary lady from Birmingham really came through), we were afloat. And January loosed its bitter grip, and soon after that we were celebrating an anniversary – the date of his arrival, when he’d come to me out of the storm, with the wind and the hail and first of the springtime lambs. We’d made all kinds of plans, but ended up in the room where he’d once imprisoned us both, the door only locked against wandering sheepdogs and farmhands this time. By nightfall, we’d decided that nothing would part us from Seacliff. That life on the island was a beautiful struggle, and in each other’s arms, that fight became a dance, and a dance neither of us ever wanted to end.

Having said that, I should also get the hell away from it for the residential Easter and summer weeks now available for PhD students in Edinburgh, because Chad is right – taking those courses by distance is gruelling, and sometimes you just need to sit and chat about lexical-functional grammar face-to-face. We’d arrange with Shona and Archie to cover the farm, as we did theirs when Archie could lure her away for dissipations in Glasgow, and Cam could come and meet me for a long, wild weekend of luxury hotels and gay nightclub bump-and-grind, like normal human beings.

Which brings me (kind of) to the holiday we had in the Pyrenees, and that Basque gardener…

But that, too, is a story for another time.

 

Those were some great questions, Chad. Thank you very much. Next Sunday we’re off to Newcastle for CT Green, who said she’d like to meet…

Aaron from Life After Joe – he was such a calm, but incredibly charismatic character – the line about it not making the pain go away…oh, that just gets me every time! Plus this was the first of your books I read, so it’s a sentimental favourite. <3

Thank you, CT! Aaron will look forward to talking to you.

Audio extravaganza!

I hope you will forgive another interruption to the regular Sunday blog. We’re just back from holiday, and the Lammas season has started, so I’m a very busy Pagan. And, in case you hadn’t realised, I am very, very excited about the wonderful deal my agent has just completed on my behalf with Audible, so I thought I’d use the blog today to bring you some details of that.

While we were in Cornwall, the Knight Agency contacted me to say that Deidre Knight had succeeded in placing no fewer than eleven of my FoxTales titles with Audible for production as audiobooks. I was absolutely blown away. I know that many, many of my readers love audiobooks, and just at present there’s no way I could have afforded to get the titles produced at my own expense. So this is a huge leap for me, and I’m very grateful indeed to Deidre.

Now, I don’t know when the new audiobooks will be released, but I will keep you posted with dates as soon as I have them. Next, I must tell you that although I will have some input into the choice of narrator, that input will be limited, and the books will be audio-produced in the US. So, for instance, I won’t be able to specify that I want a handsome merman with just a touch of a far-west Cornish accent (which might give you a clue to one of the titles Audible has bought :-D). If I am lucky, as with the Scrap Metal audiobook, I might get an American narrator who has a genuine talent for whatever British accent is appropriate to the story. I hope you’ll understand that the chances of finding a homegrown narrator with the right regional accent are minimal! Please be assured that I will guard these babies of mine as closely as is practicable, and let’s keep our fingers crossed that we end up with finished audio products which will go down well on both sides of the Atlantic.

So… drum roll… let me announce my upcoming audio titles! (I think some of you will be very pleased to see the books on this list.)

A Midwinter Prince and The Lost Prince

Last Line books 1 and 2

All Roads Lead To You

Half Moon Chambers

In Search Of Saints

Kestrel’s Chance

Marty And The Pilot

Priddy’s Tale

Wolf Hall

Wow. I still can’t quite believe it! No Tyack & Frayne just yet, but Gideon and Lee will definitely find their way into audio at some point in the future. So watch this space for news, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

 

Nichol and Cam to Patrice

Scrap Metal cover art final 72LG

Hello and welcome to the Sunday blog! I’ll be taking a break for the next couple of weeks, recharging my batteries in Cornwall, but meanwhile I hope you enjoy a visit to Arran and Scrap Metal, where Nichol and Cameron are answering a question for Patrice Vizzone. Patrice said…

I would like to meet and be neighbors with Nichol and Cam and eavesdrop on them as they read poetry from Harry’s books to each other. The question….how could they love each other more?

 

Cameron: Is dubhar thu ri teas.

Nichol: Good. Doo-ver, though, very soft, as if you were trying to chat up the vacuum cleaner. Is dubhar, like that. All right?

Cam: No domestic appliance could resist you. Can I try again?

Nichol: Yes. Take the whole verse this time… What are you laughing at?

Cam: You. Vairse. You sound more Scottish than David Tennant, you know.

Nichol: You’re no’ exactly the voice of the BBC yourself. How are you picking up a slight Lewis accent, by the way? Do I have to have words with the postman?

Cam: Poor Bill McCready? Hardly. Our Shona’s new farmhand’s been doing a lot of runs back and forth with the latest Leodhas lambs, mind you… Don’t you throw that at me, Nichol Seacliffe. They don’t sell those on eBay.

Nichol: No, indeed they do not. It’s a first edition Carmina Gadelica, signed by Carmichael himself. Heaven knows where Harry got it from, but I’m sure he’d break our agreement on the non-haunting rules if I broke the spine of it, even on your bonny face. Try the whole vairse, then, gugairneach comhachag.

Cam: Barn-owl chick. Harry used to call me that.

Nichol: He did. And he’d call you something worse if he thought you were going to sit here on his anniversary night and cry over him.

Cam: I won’t if you won’t. Um, Nichol?

Nichol: Yes?

Cam: Anni-vairse-ary…

Nichol: I swear to God, if this wasn’t a formal and solemn occasion… Read it, and mind you don’t sound like Shona’s new farmhand this time, dishy though he is.

Cam: Wait till I light the candles. It’s just starting to get dusk, and they look bloody lovely now we’ve started to get a bit of a polish on this grand old boat of a kitchen table.

Nichol: Aye, they do. Just the two of them, one at each end, and that and the firelight and the sunset…

Cam: With the windows open, and that sweet breeze off the sea coming through. Ah, he’d have loved it, wouldn’t he? A night like this.

Nichol: With all his stony old heart. Everyone will love it.

Cam: Who’s coming, then? To this formal and solemn occasion?

Nichol: Shona and Archie, of course, if poor Shona can walk beneath the weight of her expected ginger twins. All the farmhands, including the new one, to show you how much I care for his rippling muscles and his fancy sheep-shearing technique.

Cam: Harry’s cronies from the pub, it goes without saying.

Nichol: It does, though I wish they could come without going through all our single malt. They’re welcome to it, but they’ll all get wasted, and Harry’s dogs will spend the night out on the clifftops trying to round them up.

Cam: They’ll all have a grand time. Oh, I invited our neighbour, as well.

Nichol: We have a neighbour?

Cam: That we do. Shona has her first guest in the shoreside croft up towards Whiting Bay – an American lady, very nice indeed. I met her in the lanes coming home. She knew Harry’s story, so I asked her back for a cuppa and to join with us later. I think she’s outside at the moment, sitting on your mum’s bench.

Nichol: Well, that’s a good place to sit, especially at this time of year, with the dog-roses and honeysuckle around it.

Cam: Earra-dhris and uilleann.

Nichol: That’s right. Perfect. So, am I going to get to hear the rest of my carmen?

Cam: Your what?

Nichol: Latin – one carmen, two carmina. Carmina Gadelica, Songs of the Gaels. Like Òran an t-Samhraidh – the Song of Summer.

Cam: You know, between the Latin and the Gaelic, and the French and German and Italian I hear when you’re Skyping with your linguistics buddies overseas, I think I’ll have our wee island declared a new EU.

Nichol: Ah, like brave Alba will ever give up on the old one! Give me your hand, bonny owl-chick. Sing me your song. Is dubhar thu ri teas…

Cam: Is dubhar thu ri teas, is seasgar thu ri fuachd… Is eilean thu air muir, is cuisil thu air tir. Is fuaran thu am fasach…

Nichol: That was beautiful. Perfect.

Cam: Um… Nichol? I can smell pipe tobacco. Black Ox.

Nichol: The dogs are barking, too. Well, I can’t blame him for wanting to hear you, love. And it is his night.

Cam: You’d better translate it, then. For both of us.

Nichol: I will. But this was the first one of the Carmina I learned again by heart once you were here. That first summer. The meaning of it’s all for you. Is dubhar thu ri teas… A shade art thou in the heat, a shelter art though in the cold… An island art thou at sea, a fortress art thou on land. A well thou art in the desert… Och, leanabh! Here’s a handkerchief.

Cam: Sometimes, when I’m out feeding the sheep or struggling away with a new bit of scrap metal – when I’m alone, and I’ve only got my thoughts and memories of you to prove to myself you exist – I ask myself if there’s any way I could love you more than I already do.

Nichol: That’s weird. So do I.

Cam: Any answers?

Nichol: No. Only that I want all of both our lives to try.

 

Gideon and Lee to Toni!

covermaybe final

Good evening, and welcome to the Sunday blog. Many apologies again for my absence last week, but it’s now my pleasure to post in relation to Toni’s question. Toni said:-

I would love to talk with Lee and Gideon. I don’t think I could pick one or the other, since I love them both and I love them together. Not sure what I would ask them. Maybe just how they are, how they’re doing with all the changes in their lives, how Tamsyn is, what’s next for them.

 

Gideon: Hard to believe it’s been just over two years since we came down to Kelyndar. This time we decided – for some reason or other – can’t think why – to avoid the Golowan celebrations.

Lee: Maybe because we saw what Tamsie could do with torches in Penzance, and we didn’t want to let her loose with flaming barrels of tar.

Gideon: Oh, yeah. That might have been one of the reasons. Also, our Holly King and Oak King days are done. We’re sober, responsible citizens now. Family men, and all that.

Lee: Ah, that’ll be why I caught you up an apple tree when we went to visit the Lowen house on Morgan Hill the other day. Because you’re such a sober, responsible citizen.

Gideon, with dignity: No. Because they’ve always grown the best apples in the world up at Lowen, and it’s a Frayne family tradition to scrump ’em. Your face, though! You couldn’t look the estate agent in the eye after that.

Lee: Are you surprised? She’s apoplectic already because Dev Bowen’s executors are holding the price down. She said she should’ve been able to sell the place a dozen times over. But somehow all the offers she’s had so far have fallen through. I wonder why that is?

Gideon: You tell me, Mystic Meg! Dev Bowe said he wanted us to have it. We’d have to sell Tamsyn and a few organs to get it, though, even at knock-down price. And then it wants gutting and renovating… No, better stick to our flat, even if it is a bit cramped. The insurance rebuild is a very nice job. And besides, we live half our lives at the Drift farmhouse anyway.

Lee: You’re right. Things couldn’t be much better for us at the moment, Toni – thank you for asking. I’m hip-deep in a new series of Spirits of Cornwall, which I’m scripting in intervals of chasing Tamsyn and Isolde round the living room to retrieve whatever they just stole from my desk. Tamsie got the idea about not pulling the poor beast’s tail, but Isolde was only too happy to be used as a walking frame, and now they’re a dangerous tag-team. To be honest, Gid, I’m glad all the Southwest police restructuring’s kept you from starting your CID work. God help us when I can’t threaten her with wait till your dad gets home anymore.

Gideon: Well, she’ll probably be in university by the time they get themselves sorted out, so I wouldn’t worry. We brought her down to Kelyndar to visit Cosmic Ray and Kitto, Toni, and to sit out here on the veranda and look at the carved dragons on the pillars. Kitto’s a lot better now. He’s talking again, and he’s thinking about taking up one of his old summer jobs as a surf instructor. And… it sounds mean, but bringing Tamsyn into Ray’s shop was a bit of a test.

Lee: Yeah. It’s a treasure cave. Even I want to grab everything. So we reckoned, if she could stop herself from levitating the crystals and pulling all the mirrors and sparkly curtains off the walls, we’d be making progress. And Ray was kind enough to say he didn’t mind if she trashed the place.

Gideon: But she didn’t. She did really, really well. Tell you what – Ray’s a good guy. I’m not sure I know anybody else who’d be laid-back enough to let a toddler with psychokinetic powers into his shop.

Cosmic Ray, emerging from the shop and leaning on the balcony rail: Thanks, dude, but I can’t help but notice there’s a little dog floating through the air just by the creek there.

Gideon: Shit.

Lee: Swear box!

Gideon: I’ll owe it. How much now?

Lee: Fifty-seven quid, by my count. Tamsyn Elizabeth Tyack-Frayne, put that down now. No, not in the water – on the ground, and gently.

Gideon: To be fair to her, she’s always gentle. Oh dear – that feels like a bit of a setback, though.

Ray: Well, she’s on unfamiliar turf. Like, maybe she knows she can’t make little dogs float in Dark, but she doesn’t know the same applies in Kelyndar.

Lee: That actually makes some kind of sense. Ray, the one thing that doesn’t seem to strike you as odd is the fact that she can make little dogs float at all.

Ray: Oh, man. By comparison with some of the things I’ve seen, that’s nothing.

Gideon, getting up and lifting Tamsyn off Lee’s lap: What would you do if you weren’t living in the wild, weird Southwest, you unearthly monster child? What do we do when we see something we want, and it’s not within arm’s reach? What do we do if we want the little dog?

Tamsyn: WALK!

Lee: That’s right. Speaking of which, we’d better. Toni, Ray – it’s been lovely to see you. Give our best to Kitto and your kids. Gid, you’ll have to be village bobby for a while longer – someone will be grieving for their little floating dog…

 

We all hope you enjoyed that, Toni! Next week’s blog will be an interesting one. We’re off to beautiful Arran to meet Nichol and Cam, because Patrice Vizzone’s turn. Patrice said:-

I would like to meet and be neighbors with Nichol and Cam and eavesdrop on them as they read poetry from Harry’s books to each other. The question….how could they love each other more?