Excerpt from my latest, and some news

Strikes me that I should give a bit of an update on my own doings, as well as those of my characters! Yes, most authors do this at the beginning of the year, but where’s the originality in that? 😀

I won’t kid you – the loss of Samhain Publishing was a huge blow. All things considered, my Samhain backlist – five books now; Driftwood, The Salisbury Key, Scrap Metal, Brothers of the Wild North Sea and Cold Fusion – provides about a third of our monthly income. Samhain is handling the wind-down with professionalism and grace, and all those books will continue to be available and marketed for the next few months at least. But after that, I’ll have quite a gap to fill, and my first emergency measure is the rather hair-raising decision to write two books at the same time. Not quite doubling my daily word count, but certainly adding 500-750 per day to my usual 1K. Doesn’t sound like much if you say it fast, but so far the 1K has been my ceiling, and the new regime is a challenge to say the least.

It helps that my two works-in-progress are wildly divergent, so I get a break in terms of tone, pace and setting at least. The first lacks a title, so for now we’ll call it Nameless Beast, and is set post-World War 2. Rufus Denby, a doctor of archaeology who went to war for reasons of conscience, has returned shell-shocked and amnesiac. Fate (and a flea-bitten mongrel dog he’s rescued from a bombsite) leads him down to the village of Droyton Parva in rural Sussex, where he meets the Reverend Archibald Thorne, a most unconventional vicar, who tends to the needs of his parish from the back of a Norton motorcycle. Sounds interesting? I hope so – there’s an excerpt at the end of this post if you’d like a taste of Rufus and Archie’s adventures.

Now, with a full-length novel like this one, normally I’d take it to a publishing house and try to sell it on proposal, ie three-chapter partial and synopsis. My problem – and it’s not normally a problem I’d permit myself to have – is the damn synopsis. If you’re going to sell on proposal, you absolutely have to have one, and in the past I’ve found it beneficial, agony though the wretched things are to write. You’ve got your scaffold for the book, your publisher knows what they’re buying, and there is no finer motivation for keeping to schedule than a legally binding deadline. I have never before found myself unable to do it.

And yet.

I don’t know what’s going on with Nameless Beast. That is, I do – I have an overarching plot, and the dynamics and character development/interaction make good sense to me. For some reason, despite multiple attempts, I cannot hammer down my ideas into the cut-and-dried (yet hopefully elegant) format of a synopsis. I’ve stopped and tried again at the end of every chapter, and failed, and we’re now past Chapter Ten, and I’ve surrendered. For the first time ever, I’m finding that all the really crucial developments – the stuff that belongs in the synopsis – aren’t growing until I’ve given them the soil of a preceding chapter in which to gestate. For the first time I’m faced with the choice between writing the synopsis and actually writing the damn book – for once, I can’t do both.

So, as a choice, it’s a no-brainer. But I have to say it’s bad timing. Publishers have long lead times these days, and it’s good to know that you’ve “booked your place”, as it were, in their schedule. To be able to plan, career-wise and financially, that far. This time it really looks as though I’ll have to wait until I have a completed book before I can take it to market. It’s a pain. Still, the up-side is that I’m loving the process of writing Nameless Beast. For the first time in many years, I’m organic, not conforming to pre-laid plot, letting the sinewy ivy shoots grab for the light and clamber away.

I have to be careful, though. The time I’d hoped to buy myself with Cold Fusion is now dramatically reduced. (In the past, it’s been my happy experience that my Samhain books do well for me for years, and whilst I’m not sitting on the chaise-longue eating bonbons here, the bills have been getting paid.) I don’t know if/when I’ll be able to sell Nameless Beast, although I aim to be done with the writing by June at the latest, and if I can’t find the right publisher to take it, I’ll put it out through FoxTales (which will at least be quick).

Hence Plan B, the Secondary Project, the backup book! Nameless Beast has much humour, but in essence it’s pretty serious, the struggle of two decent men to assimilate the horrors of a global conflict. So I thought that I’d go lighter and shorter for Plan B, and indulge not only my endless love of the Cornish coast but my fascination with the mermaid legends that haunt them. Only, you know, this is M/M Me, so the maids are naturally men. Well, one of ’em is, and don’t expect too wild or romantic a merman in my sea-dwelling protag – I’m not sure I’ve ever written a more earthy character. I’m enjoying him very much, and his new land-bound best friend, Priddy. This book does have a title – Priddy’s Tale – and every time I write it, I have to check I haven’t spelled it Priddy’s Tail instead. I’ll be blogging with an excerpt from this one soon.

I’m finding the hybrid-trad author model is working well for me. If I can sell a book to a publisher, not only does that publisher have a far wider market reach than anything FoxTales can hope to attain, but I build up the audience for my next self-pubbed project. (As a side benefit, I make myself a little more bomb-proof, too, and – although it’s not something I want to make a habit of – the loss of a publishing house isn’t as devastating as it would be otherwise.) So Priddy’s Tale will coming to you via FoxTales, and sooner rather than later – I hope I’m not being too optimistic if I casually mention May. (*panics and climbs tree to join cat, swaying in the wind and eating all my finger and toenails in stress*…)

It’ll ALL be fine. 😀

Now, allow me to introduce you to Rufus Denby and the (sometimes not very) Reverend Archibald Thorne! Archie has been struggling to look after an eccentric parishioner, who has taken to dashing about the countryside naked on full-moon nights…

Excerpt

Rufus pushed the sash up as soundlessly as he could. Archie froze. “Rufus!” he whispered hoarsely. “You’re awake.”

“Can I help you, Reverend?”

“Please. There’s nobody else I can trust.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“It’s a little hard to explain from here.”

Rufus drew the window back down. He pushed his feet into his boots and laced them tight, not wanting to take the time but aware of how badly falling down Mrs Trigg’s stairs would complicate matters just now. He let himself out into the corridor. Every floorboard and stair tried to creak as he made his way to the front door. His landlady wasn’t one to encourage nocturnal adventures: it was barricaded on the inside with a mortice lock, two bolts and a chain. Remembering dank air blowing through the house from the scullery where he’d been sent to feed his dog, he padded through the shadows and into the kitchen. Yes, there was a back door, less ferociously guarded. Heavier than he’d expected, too – as soon as he’d pulled back the Yale and stepped outside, it swung closed as if glad to be rid of him, clicking smugly shut.

There went his chances of a discreet return. It didn’t matter. Nothing did, by comparison with Archie’s summons. There’s nobody else I can trust… He set off down the lane at the side of the inn, and almost ran into Archie, emerging from the yard. “Here I am.”

Archie steadied him. “That was fast!”

“I was already dressed.”

“That’s more than can be said for poor Drusilla Hazelgrove. She’s on the run again. If I tell Winborn, he really will have her hauled off to the funny farm this time.”

“Where is she now?”

“On the crags on the far side of the river. I tried to catch up with her on the bike, but she went tearing off through the fields. She got across the river at the ford, and I could just see her in the distance, starting to climb.”

“Come on, then. Did I hear your bike a few minutes ago?”

“Yes. I left it at the top of the lane so as not to wake up the whole village. This way.”

He set off at a run. Rufus darted after him, across the moonlit main street with its darkened shop windows and tightly curtained house-fronts, round the corner and into the leafy hush of Pilgrim Lane. By the time they reached the Norton, propped on its kickstand under an oak, Archie was winded, breath rasping and catching in his lungs. He seemed too lean and fit a man to get breathless after such a short run. Rufus didn’t get another moment to worry about it. Archie grabbed the bike, jumped astride and brought her roaring into the middle of the lane. He patted the pillion seat behind him. “Come on!”

This time Rufus didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms round him and hang on. The acceleration would have knocked him straight off the back otherwise. Thorne was a fearless and skilful rider when he had a mission to fulfil. The blacksmith’s house whipped by, then the orchard and the rectory gardens. Rufus dipped his head, allowed himself to rest his brow on one satin-clad shoulder. Archie must have thrown on his shirt and waistcoat from the evening before. Beneath it he was bony and warm, his shoulder blade like the root of a wing against Rufus’s cheek. He half-expected the Norton to take flight as Archie gunned her down the lane. In moonlit flashes, he saw the dried mud of the track narrow down between green verges, the stripe of turf in the centre spreading out to meet them. They passed the turn-off for the church. Trees sprang up around them as the lane began to peter out. Archie revved the bike as hard as he could over a thickening tangle of undergrowth and rocks, then jerked her to a stop before her front wheel could sink into mud. “This is as far as I can get her. We’ll have to go on by foot.”

“All right. Where’s the ford?”

“Half a mile through the woods here. Then we’ll have to double back along the far bank, and… Oh, no.”

His gaze had fixed on a distant point through the trees. Reluctantly letting go of him, Rufus dismounted. He shielded his eyes against the disorienting ripple of moonlight through the oak leaves overhead and focussed on the cliffs that rose beyond the river, where a female figure had just broached the skyline. All he could make out was pale skin and a cloud of dark hair. “Is that her?”

“God, I hope so. I can’t cope with more than one.”

“Are those rocks safe? They look hollowed out underneath, where the river’s eroding them.”

“They are. We don’t have time to go round by the ford.”

Rufus put out a hand and helped him scramble off the bike. “What are we waiting for, then?”

They set off full pelt through the trees. Archie’s long stride bore him ahead of Rufus for the first minute or so, but then his breathing began to hitch and catch again and they drew level. Even so, he was a formidable runner, unhesitatingly choosing the best gap between rocks and through brambles, leaping exposed roots with a steeplechaser’s grace. Rufus had to give it his all to keep up with him. Where had a vicar learned such good cross-country skills? Together they broke through the willows that lined the riverbank and emerged onto the shore, water-tumbled rocks sliding out from under their feet. “Drusilla,” Archie called to the woman poised on the cliffs above them. “It’s just me – Reverend Thorne. You know I’m not going to hurt you.”

She didn’t seem concerned. She was planted solidly, feet hip-width apart, arms raised above her head in two passionate arcs. By an odd trick of perspective, from where Rufus stood she’d caught the moon in her embrace. Her head was tipped back. Over the wash of the river a low rich chanting reached him. He heard something about the beauty of the green earth, the stars, the mystery of the waters, and then the breeze bore her voice away. “What is she doing?”

“I don’t know, but it’s something to do with the full moon. She’s like this for three nights, and then she’s practically catatonic again.” Archie bent over, propped his hands on his knees and coughed painfully. “We’ve got to get her down from there. Drusilla? Step back, for God’s sake, just a little. You’re standing on a hollow ledge.”

“Will I scare her if I swim over?”

“I doubt she’ll notice. You can’t, though – not on your own. The current’s too strong.”

Yes. Rufus could see it, just as he’d learned to read other hazards in the landscape. Memories flashed up at him of the woods outside Fort Vaux, of trying to assess the terrain in front of him for the safety of the men under his command. But he hadn’t made it to the woods, had he? As he’d told the brigadier back in London, a stray chunk of shrapnel had taken him out of action before the real battle had begun. He couldn’t trust any vision that arose from that amnesiac swamp. The river was important, nothing else: the water with its current like an eel or a concealed muscle, curving around beneath the cliffs, slowing to an eddy between an outcrop of rocks. He bent down and tugged his bootlaces undone, stepping out of Archie’s restraining reach. “I have to try.”

“Then I’m trying with you.”

“No. You told me yourself your lungs are bad. Stay here and – ”

“Priest!”

The woman’s voice sliced through their tussle. Both looked up. “Priest,” she called again, plaintively this time. Her arms fell to her sides. “Why can’t I draw her down on me? Have you forbidden it?”

“Drusilla – I’ve told you before, I’m just a vicar. And I don’t forbid anything except standing about on crumbling bloody rocks. Please come down.”

For a moment, Rufus thought Archie had persuaded her. The tensions dissolved from her body, leaving it middle-aged, ordinary. Then an attitude of crushing despair overcame her. She closed her eyes, took two blind steps forward and dropped.

She hit the water like a stone and immediately vanished. Archie cried out in shock. He darted to the river’s edge and, before Rufus could draw a breath to stop him, leapt in.

Rufus crushed his instinct to follow. That would just put three people at the mercy of the eel-muscle current. He kicked off his boots and ran downstream, stumbling on the rounded stones. The outcrop was further away than he’d thought. By the time he reached the point on the bank where the waters slowed, he was gasping, the soles of his feet bruised and raw. The surface heaved and fragmented and Archie was there, Drusilla clutched in one arm, swimming valiantly with the other. Rufus had perhaps ten seconds to put himself in their way. The riverbank rose up here into a little mud cliff. That would do. He grabbed a breath, charged up the bank as hard as he could to gain momentum, raised his arms and dived.

The water consumed him in one cold bite. Even on this May night, it shocked the air from his lungs, turned his guts and marrow into copper fire. His first few swimming strokes were convulsive, barely voluntary. Silvery reeds and bubbles swept across his field of vision. He found a rhythm – strong thrust of shoulders and arms, legs propelling him on. He met the current with all his strength: used it, once he was out in midstream, to swing round towards the outcrop. He scrabbled for purchase, found a grip on one jagged crest and hung on. “Archie! Over here!”

The river delivered both of them to him, so hard that he almost lost them a heartbeat later. Archie sailed first into his outstretched arm. He shouted in fear and relief and clutched him tight, denying the water its prize. Not this man, no, not this living miracle of flesh and bone. Archie broke into half-drowned laughter and hung on. “Can you… Can you grab Drusilla for a second?”

Rufus got an arm around her waist. She was clay-cold, her face an unconscious blank behind streaming hair. He swung round so that his back was to the rock, the current pinning him into place. That way he didn’t have to relinquish his hold on Archie’s shirt. “What are you doing?”

“Taking my belt off. Hang on a minute, then I’ll want yours too.” He pulled the glimmering strip of leather out of the water. “Let me get this round her wrist. Right, I’ve got her. Can you give me yours?”

The idea was a good one. Rufus saw it, and quickly slipped his belt free of its loops. “Here,” he said, thrusting the buckle end at Archie. “Hang on to that, and pay her out as far as you can on yours. I’ll let you go as far as I can too, and the current ought to carry you both…”

“Yes, over there into the shallows. But I’ll stay here and be the anchor, not you.”

“No. Why?”

“The truth is, I’m a little done in, old fellow. She’ll need help out of the water.”

“So will you.”

“I know. But you’ll think of something.” Before Rufus could protest again, Archie had fought his way upstream. The force of the river pressed them briefly together against the rock, sending a hot shudder through Rufus in spite of his fear. He tried to keep his grip on the outcrop, but Archie dislodged him, half-lifting him out into the stream. “I’ve got you,” he gasped. “Swim for shore with her, Rufus. Please!”

The current pulled Drusilla under. Rufus dived to save her: hauled her back by the belt wrapped round her wrist, got her into a tow-hold and rolled onto his back, keeping her face clear of the water. His die was cast now. Silently damning the vicar and his heroics, he clung to the anchoring line till he felt the river’s grip slacken around him, then let go the belt and sculled strongly for the bank with his free arm. The stony bed surged up to meet his efforts, painfully nudging his spine. He flipped over, got a precarious foothold and hoisted the woman by her armpits, relieved when she began to fight. “That’s it. Get your feet under you. Just a few steps more.”

He deposited her on the bank. She was shivering violently, and he stripped out of his shirt and wrapped it round her, not sure why he was making the gesture but anxious to shelter her in any way he could. Then he whipped round and scanned the roiling surface for Archie.

The outcrop was empty. Sick fear tightened Rufus’s throat. He ran back to the water’s edge, ploughed in thigh-deep and looked around again. This time he caught a darkness more vivid and solid than the moonless troughs between waves: Archie, surfacing briefly, hair gleaming like an otter’s pelt. He’d almost made it to the place where the current eased but was plainly exhausted, losing his fight.

 

Gideon to Julie!

Back at the Merry Morgawr this afternoon for Julie’s meeting with Gideon, from the Tyack & Frayne series. Here’s what Julie said in answer to my competition question…

I would definitely want to meet Gideon. He is one of my favorites of all time, but I have no idea what I would ask him. I would probably just want to stand him a pint and chat! Though I would probably get tongue tied, freak out and ask him the time and run off.

Straight over to Gideon, then!

Hello, Julie, and welcome to the Merry Morgawr. I’m pleased we bumped into one another here. Please don’t run off! I am a very unreconstructed male and would prefer to stand you the pint, but other than that I am not at all scary. Except to villains, lairy Tory bankers and, occasionally, members of the Prowse family, although Darren seems to need the imprint of my boot on his backside far less often these days. He got that apprenticeship, will you believe. Doing well, and so far hasn’t nicked anything bigger than paperclips.

As far as the time’s concerned, you can always ask me that. I am a policeman, after all. I’m also good at giving directions, chasing burglars (with a bit more circumspection than in my hot-headed sergeant’s days in Bodmin), and pretending to take little kids seriously when they ask me the time for a dare, like they don’t already know it from their iPods, iPads, Androids and satellite-uplinked wristwatches.

You don’t need worry about getting tongue-tied, either. I know it’s not always easy to talk to strangers (and, as a copper, I have to advise against it), but I get lots of practice in making conversation with suspects. It helps keep them calm after I’ve arrested them, but hopefully we won’t have to go that far.

Lee is fine, thank you. He’s embracing the work-from-home-Dad lifestyle, which makes it much easier for both of us to balance finances with spending as much time with Tamsyn as we can. She’ll be in nursery in a couple of years’ time, and it all goes so quickly after that, you know? He’s really mastering the art of using a laptop keyboard whilst jouncing a wiggly infant to sleep, and at weekends and on my off-shifts I take over, or we pack baby, dog and picnic into the car and head off into the wilds of the moor, or all the way out west to Drift to see Jago. My ma’s had a new lease of life after her fall last December when she gave us such a scare, and she usually comes with us on the Drift days, with Zeke and Elowen too more often than not, so poor Jago probably feels like he’s snowed under with Frayne in-laws, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

So Tamsyn has no shortage of fans and baby-sitters, and soon – well, we do have one piece of family news we haven’t shared yet – she’ll have a new brother or sister. Elowen’s pregnant again, and now she’s past her first trimester, she says it’s okay to tell people. She and Michel are solid and happy together, and this time it’s the right time, so we’re pleased for her. And a tiny bit relieved, I admit. All that mess over Tamsie’s adoption tore everyone to bits, and I sometimes let myself forget that in some ways, it was hardest of all on Elowen. Lee and I hope that having another kid now will mean she can look back on her decision more peacefully, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say we hope it means she never thinks of Tamsyn as “hers” again. We need to get over that, and one day we will, but for now we’re a right pair of scalded cats.

We’re not sure how Tamsyn’s relationship to the new arrival will turn out. At the moment, all we can think to do is treat the baby as a cousin, like Zeke and Eleanor’s kid will be. We’re not about to hide anything from Tamsie, though – I have a feeling it’s going to be very difficult to do that – so we’ll have to let time and circumstances take their course. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

For now we’re just grateful that our girl’s surrounded by devoted family. Zeke’s become her staunchest defender, as I should’ve known he would: if the kid forgets herself and starts to levitate things in Tesco’s, you wouldn’t believe the look he can turn on anyone caught staring. Like – “Is it my niece’s problem that you’re having hallucinations?” And, you know, all the backup means that, from time to time, I can grab my gorgeous husband by the hand and wander off with him along the sunny clifftops.

Which still attracts some odd looks, too. Cornwall isn’t paradise, although it’s damn close, and there’s a lot of people here who mix up ideas of national identity and pride with UKIP rhetoric and fear of anything they perceive as different. In part, that’s what happens when you exploit a beautiful land for its tourist potential, create a huge poverty gap and forget the people who live here all year round, not just for a few pretty surfing weeks in summer… but it still stinks, and Lee and I try to fix a little bit of it every day – the resultant crime, the misconceptions about anyone who falls outside the gender/orientation binaries. As far as our hand-in-hand walks are concerned, I can do as good a “what are you looking at?” glare as my brother can, and we seldom have any real trouble.

It’s not easy. But, as I said before, nothing worthwhile really is…

 
Harper here, creeping in to tap Gid on the shoulder and remind him that Julie probably needs not to sit in the pub and listen to him all day… He says he’s sorry that the conversation got so deep so fast, but we both hope you enjoyed his answer to the questions you didn’t ask! 😀

Next week we’ll be moving away from Tyack & Frayne and over to Laurie from the Midwinter Prince books, to answer this question from Jan…

I’d like to ask Laurie if he could ever be persuaded back to Hollywood? Maybe now he’s older and more aware of how bad it can be he could be better prepared?

That’s an interesting one! Laurie will be here next Sunday to answer.

Belle to Simon!

It looks as though we’ve got just about enough electricity left in our household batteries for me to make my regular Sunday post! This week it’s Simon’s turn, and he has this question for Belle, Tom’s wolfhound from Driftwood:-

Where do you prefer to be exercised? As a Cornish Wolfhound I’m wondering if you’ve tried Daymer Bay?

(Over to you, Belle!)

It’s Equinox, that one magical day in spring when all Cornish dogs are granted the gift of language, and I, Queen Belle of Porth Bay, am taking the opportunity to answer Simon’s most intelligent and discerning question about my preference when it comes to walks.

I’m sure he will understand that, being the devoted companion and guardian to my beloved humans, Tom and Flynn, I now have many tracks about the countryside which I consider to be sacred to Wolfhounds and Love. My first, of course, is Porth Bay itself, where the Penwith Poseidon (a deity known unto very discerning dogs only) was kind enough to deliver Flynn from the depths of the ocean into my master’s arms! (Neither would have lived to tell the tale had I not leapt in to rescue them, although Tom maintains to this day that I bit him in the process – an appalling slander. I barely broke the skin.)

Next would have to be the clifftops near Morvah, where we sometimes go to contemplate broken sea-glass and mended hearts. I must say, if only the tower had chosen to fall on the day of the Equinox, how much easier my task would have been! Instead of rushing up and down the stairs, whining, and making several more approaches to actual bad behaviour – something I never indulge – I could simply have said, “Excuse me, gentlemen. Our home is about to tumble off the cliff-top and into the ocean. You may find it wise to evacuate the premises now.” So much more dignified, for everyone concerned.

In third place I have to list our now-infamous walk on the moors by Lanyon Quoit. I am a Dog of the World, and little shocks me, but, having drawn my two handsome masters together by power of my magical weaving, I little anticipated the effects! Great Sirius! I had to pretend to go and chase a rabbit!

As for Daymer Bay – ah, yes, a beautiful place. Every May when we make our family pilgrimage to Padstow to see ’Obby ’Oss (a very ancient Wolfhound in disguise, I believe, although I don’t trouble the humans with my insights on this matter), Tom and Flynn make it up to me for the crowds and the noise with a dash along Trebetherick sands afterwards. A majestic place, although – I hope Simon will forgive me for pointing this out – it is just a little too close to England for comfort. Yes, I am a Wild Southwest Wolfhound, a true Penwith Princess!

 
Harper here! (Move over, Belle!) Simon, we hope that answered your excellent question. Next week, if I’m allowed to take back my blog again… Oh, no, it looks as though I’m not, because Julie wants to speak to Gideon, and she says:-

I would definitely want to meet Gideon. He is one of my favorites of all time, but I have no idea what I would ask him. I would probably just want to stand him a pint and chat! Though I would probably get tongue tied, freak out and ask him the time and run off.

Well, that would be a shame, because I’m sure Gid has plenty to say. Maybe he can persuade her to stick around! 😀

Competition Answers # 2: Flynn to Hollis…

It’s Flynn Summers from Driftwood at the Merry Morgawr tonight. Flynn and Tom’s local watering-hole is the North Inn, Pendeen, but Flynn’s work sometimes brings him into contact with Sergeant Frayne from over Bodmin way, and it’s a good place for them to meet up, especially since Frayne’s other half, Lee Tyack, used to work behind the bar, and his friends make sure Flynn and Frayne don’t get interrupted. Tyack sometimes joins the conversations, too. He has a reputation as a talented clairvoyant, and Flynn – superstitious lad sometimes, like a lot of the folk who ply their trade by sea and air around Cornwall’s dangerous coasts – has cause to thank him for helping clear up a missing-persons case or two, when boats have vanished from local waters. Tom’s a lot more sceptical, but he always comes over to Falmouth with Flynn when he gets the chance. He’s just down the road right now, booking a table at the samphire restaurant for later, and Flynn is taking a moment with Hollis, who’s said…

I’d want to ask Flynn from Driftwood how he’s doing. I’d be especially interested in him staying safe and valuing his life so he can enjoy a long and happy one (hopefully) with his partner Tom.

Flynn: I’m glad we’ve got a minute to ourselves so I can tell you honestly. He’s changed so much, but he still can’t hear anyone singing his praises without dying of embarrassment. And I’ve got to tell you – you’ve probably worked it out for yourself – that I wouldn’t be around at all if not for him. By the time I met him, I was in so many bits that I could barely get from day to day. I mean, the good, safe, happy parts of my life were the times when I was hanging off a rope in the middle of an Atlantic storm.

I don’t know how he put me back together. If you asked him, he’d say that’s what I did for him. He had the more obvious problems – PTSD, a struggle with alcohol. Most of those shadows are behind him now, though we keep a dry house, and if we come out to the pub it’s a pint apiece and then onto the orange juice. He knows it’s best – safest – never to think an addiction’s been cured. And I keep that in mind too, because in a way I was hooked too, on years of guilt and the punishments I thought I deserved. In a way I was addicted to Rob Tremaine.

One night early on in our relationship – after the tower had fallen down, and we’d just moved into our house in Porth Bay – Tom said something to me that changed the way I looked at everything, and took so many thorns out of my memories. He’d been trying to help a woman in Sennen village wean off some kind of prescription drug she’d been buying online, and he’d been getting nowhere with her. The case had really worried him, but that day she’d come into the surgery, wildly excited because she’d just found out her sister was pregnant. Now, this lady’s sister was proper anti-drug, like a lot of kids who’ve grown up in substance-using households, and there was just no way she was gonna let Auntie anywhere near the kid unless she was stone-cold sober. And the one thing the lady wanted to do more than anything else was hold and look after her baby niece.

And that did it for her. She never touched a pill from that day to this. Tom said to me it was because she’d found out the one thing that was worse than having to stop the drug. He said that was just about the only way any kind of addict was gonna stop – when the consequences of going on were worse than the consequences of quitting. And I’m not very quick on the uptake sometimes, and I slowly realised he was talking about himself as well as this poor lady in Sennen. I had to ask him what had made him stop, what he’d been more scared of losing than alcohol, and he said, “You.”

So that was the end of that conversation, because you can’t hear something like that from someone as gorgeous as Tom Penrose without dragging him off to bed. It made me think, though, and I realised that, for me, he was my “worst thing”, too – that the thought of losing him was way worse than facing up to the reasons why I’d been clinging to Rob and letting that evil sod manipulate me and pull my strings.

So you can see how, between us, Tom and I managed to make each other value our lives. That’s a forever deal, too – as long as we both shall live. As for safety… that’s a slightly different matter. I can choose to be safe about some things, like not heading off on a suicide mission because of bad stuff that happened in the past, and he can choose not to turn his orange juice into a screwdriver. (Not for breakfast, anyway.) But he’s a doctor, and now he’s putting in so many shifts in the emergency room at Penzance, he faces every doctor’s daily risk of being stabbed, punched, bitten, or just so freaked out by the things he’s seen that he can’t even speak for the first couple of hours when he comes home. (And those are the hardest times. To choose me over the booze, I mean. But he does, every time. He starts to talk eventually, holds on to me so hard that he leaves bruises, and then freaks out over those and can’t stop apologising, and I know we’re through the worst of it for another night.)

And I’m in my own dangerous trade. I’m a commander now, so I mostly end up piloting the choppers or heading up our callouts from the ground. I don’t dangle off my rope over the stormy Atlantic quite so often these days. It’s still a high-risk lifestyle, though, and every day I have to make decisions to delegate that risk, to send other men and women out into the storm. Before I met Tom, I couldn’t have done it. I’d never have believed I had the right to endanger anyone but myself. And it is still tough, but with his help I’ve come to understand that I can strategise and take charge in such a way that my teams stay as safe as possible and the people I’m sending them out to rescue will stand the best chance. A calculated, loving risk…

I’d better shut up now. Here he comes. Talk about gorgeous… He must have left work in a hurry, though – he’s still got a smear of blood on his face. Either that, or the queue for Samphire Sam’s was really fierce tonight. It’s been great to see you, Hollis, and answering that question made me think about how things have changed for me, and appreciate them all the more!
This time next week – Simon has a question for Belle, Tom’s wolfhound! I’ll look forward to hearing her answer. 😀

Gid and Lee to Butterflyblue!

Some of you may just be old enough to remember that, long, long ago, I ran a competition to win signed copies of the Cold Fusion paperback, and to make it more fun, I asked people which of my characters they’d most like to meet, and what they’d ask them if they could. I liked the questions so much that I decided I’d invite the guys from my books along to answer in person. Then all kinds of real-life malarkey ploughed in, and it’s only now that I’ve got around to scheduling the first of the meetings. We all apologise for the delay! We’re starting off this weekly feature with the winners of my Cold Fusion comp, and this Sunday it’s the turn of Butterflyblue2you. After that I’ll be answering in order of questions asked, so watch this space. If you’re one of my Facebook friends, I’ll give you the heads-up there. Hope you all enjoy these intimate little side-lights into the lives of my protags…

Welcome to the Merry Morgawr, the harbourside pub in Falmouth where Lee used to put in shifts as a bartender before his clairvoyant career took off. It’s still a favourite haunt for him and for Gideon, and they’re happy to meet their readers in there and answer questions about the Tyack & Frayne series.

Butterflyblue2you said…

I would love to meet Lee and Gideon. Just because I simply love them individually but they’re one of my all time favorite couples. And I would ask each of the gentlemen, as Tamsyn grows up, which of the Dads would be the tougher parent and would it be due to her extraordinary abilities and or just because she’s their daughter and do they want any more kidlins?

Lee: Pleasure to meet you, Butterflyblue. Hope you like the Morgawr. It’s a bit of an old dive but you can get a decent pint of local brew, and the spider-webs scare the all but the bravest tourists away. Gid will be here in a second – he’s just had to stop off to make sure Sarah Kemp can babysit Tamsie and the dog. So I’m going to cheat and answer my part of your first question before he gets here, because I’m sure he’d just argue if he heard.

You know how in most relationships, there’s a “silly one” and a “policeman”? Well, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea – one who always wants to spend money and one who watches the budget, or one who still loves kids’ TV while the other one watches Panorama, that kind of thing. I don’t think I’m exactly the silly one, but Gideon is… well, he’s definitely the policeman. And, so far, when it comes to parenting Tamsyn, he’s had to be the tough guy.

I tried to explain it to him that day when poor Zeke came to visit and the kid went full-Poltergeist on him. At the moment, while she’s still little, she’s not differentiating between herself and me, so how is she supposed to take me seriously? I’m just another toddler in the park as far as she’s concerned. Gideon, now… Oh, wait. Here he comes – he can tell you himself…

Hang on. Is he bringing my child and the dog into a pub?

Gid: Well, Sarah was out. Did you expect me to leave them in the street? Ted behind the bar won’t mind – he owes me more than a favour or two. I bet Butterfly here won’t mind either. Hoi, Isolde, don’t sit on her feet. Was Lee spinning you some yarn about how he plans to evade his parental responsibilities for the next dozen years or so?

Lee: That’s no yarn, handsome.

Gid: Oh, great. I tell you what, it was hard for me to take a high hand with her. It always was, always will be. But I’ll do it when I have to, and my other half there can kid you all he wants – he’s the world’s best backstop. I don’t think this poor kid’s ever gonna get to do the divide-and-conquer thing. Even if she was planning it, Cornwall’s finest psychic would see it coming a mile off.

Joking aside, we’ll have to pull together, exactly because of who she is – her abilities, I mean. We’d both realised by early this year that we couldn’t get the genie back in the bottle. Since then she’s been testing herself – and us – at every turn, and all we can do is help channel her, make sure she doesn’t scare the wrong people or break anything irreplaceable. She’s bright. We’ll get there.

Lee: She’s already worked out that levitating stuff in the privacy of her own home is okay. Zeke’s still a bit weirded out by it all, but he knows not to throw his weight around anymore.

Gid: Not unless he wants it thrown back at him.

Lee: And Ma Frayne just thinks it’s cool. Last time we left those two alone together, she had the kid handing her her knitting wool from the far side of the room. Don’t get us wrong – we are pretty scared about what the future might hold. But what parent isn’t? As for having more of ’em… You have got to be kidding.

Gid: He always says that when it’s his turn to do the nappy change. But I remember he once told me he wanted about a dozen of them, and a dog and a goldfish. So never say never, and you might recall we’ve had some news recently which might mean we end up with a bigger house. But that’s a whole different story, and we both hope Harper might get around to telling it next year…

Coming next…

Be sure to drop into the Morgawr next Sunday! It’s Tom and Flynn’s favourite local, too, and they’ll be chatting to Hollis, who said… I’d want to ask Flynn from Driftwood how he’s doing. I’d be especially interested in him staying safe and valuing his life so he can enjoy a long and happy one (hopefully) with his partner Tom.