In Balance With This Life Release and Giveaway

This is my fifth novel for Dreamspinner, but I’ve had a couple of years off from writing lengthier things — I had a PhD to finish, which ate up way too much of my time! In some ways this, more than any of my previous novels, is the story I’ve always wanted to write. Its setting, an RAF squadron at the time of the Battle of Britain, has preoccupied me since I was about eight years old. I was always fascinated by the sheer diversity of characters, from hundreds of nations, who came together for that fight: Brits and Irishmen, Poles by the thousand, Indians, Africans, Americans; middle-aged married men from posh families; working-class kids just out of school, and, yes, gay men. Appropriately, this story is an ensemble piece, where most of my previous stories concentrated very much on the main figures in the romance. There are several romances at work in this story, and the outer frame is really the love that develops between all the men in Jeff Riley’s squadron. The premise is that Jeff’s old commanding officer has put him in charge of a bit of a misfit gang of ace fliers who don’t take well to discipline, and Jeff’s worried about what he’ll have to work with, but by the time they’ve flown together for a few intense months, they’ve banded together in more ways than one. I became very attached to the characters in this novel, and in time I’d like to revisit them.

About the novel:

InBalanceWithThisLifeLG

Irishman Jeff Riley left the Royal Flying Corps in 1918, hardened by war. He survived those harsh years with the help of his quick-witted English friend, Sean McClean, although Jeff would never want to admit it. When the Battle of Britain erupts in 1939, he’s once again drafted and forced to leave his flourishing commercial pilot career and join a new squadron. Although another war disrupts his life, he’s not disappointed to find himself reunited with Sean.

Jeff is attracted to many of the men in his new squadron of misfits. Never before has he seen such a diverse group assembled for a single cause, including Jimmy Dupont, a handsome, strong Texan who joined the Royal Air Force to help the war effort, and his constant companion Filip, a young and talented Polish airman. It’s evident from the beginning that there’s something special about the connection between Filip and Jimmy, but as time goes on, Jeff feels himself not alienated by it but drawn into it.Jeff tries to focus on staying alive, but he’s only human, and there’s more to life than survival. There’s also loving, and Jeff can’t get by without it, especially when any day could be his last.

Excerpt:

The main landing strip ran alongside the row of hangars, beyond which an incongruously rustic bench still sat, shoved up against the outside of the cottage that was now Jeff’s headquarters. The earth beneath the bench was soft, overripe with summer rain, but the way it squelched under the soles of Jeff’s boots was oddly appealing, a guilty pleasure entirely
inappropriate to his station. Jeff rocked his feet against the mud and watched the Hurricanes draw in.It was almost seven. The face of Jeff’s standard-issue watch glowed palely iridescent in the dawn light. It felt later, but that was a feeling Jeff had been used to since the old days of being rolled out of bed at five by a batman—no longer provided—such that seven o’clock was comfortably time for elevenses. Now there was nobody to wake him but his own alarm clock, but Bernet had tapped on his door at six to say a troop transport had arrived with a number of officers in it, and after that he’d felt indolent in his pajamas.

McClean was leading the Hurricanes. Jeff knew as much without asking, recognizing his handling of the machine as easily as he might have recognized his loping stride or the way he had of holding cigarettes awkwardly between thumb and two fingers, like a six-year-old child clutching a first pen. McClean was not supposed to be leading the Hurricanes because he was a squadron leader now, and the current word from HQ was that squadron leaders were supposed to stay on the ground, but Jeff was frankly unsurprised. If a squadron like Jeff’s had existed twenty years ago, McClean—tall, handsome McClean with his dazzling smile—would have been the cocky, stubborn feather in its cap.

The wheels of the leading plane kissed the ground lightly, neatly, with the efficiency of long practice, and the machine had barely come to a halt before the top was thrown back and McClean popped out of it like a grinning jack-in-the-box. “Riley!” he yelled, brash over the roar of the engines, and Jeff laughed. The earth squished messily under his heels.

“Shouldn’t you be flying a desk somewhere?” Jeff demanded as McClean came toward him over the turf at a rolling jog.

“Shouldn’t you be briefing some lunatics somewhere?” McClean shot back, pulling off his gauntlets and tucking them into the pocket of his bomber jacket. “The rest of your cartload of bad apples arrived while you were still in your pit, lazybones.”

Jeff snorted. “Thanks. No, I know. Bernet is arranging it now. I’m briefing them all at nine.” He sighed heavily. “Not that I have the foggiest clue what to say. I mean, are they meant to know why they’re here, or what?”

“I have a sneaking suspicion”—McClean helped himself to the crumpled cigarette packet in the pocket of Jeff’s tunic—“that blokes like this’ll know exactly why they’re here, whether they’re meant to or not.” He shrugged. “So you might as well come clean, for my money. They’ll have more respect for you if they know you know what they’re capable of.”

“Deception and espionage, you mean?” But McClean was right, naturally. Jeff snatched the fag packet back and shook out a cigarette of his own. “Larcenist.”

McClean laughed. “Hey, I’ve run out!”

“There’s a village five miles that way. Get some more,” Jeff suggested. “God knows I’m going to need a smoke after I’ve dealt with this lot, blast ’em.”

“Substance dependency,” McClean said solemnly, “is how we win our wars, old mate. Best get a big box, hand ’em round. Works on dogs.”

Jeff blinked. “Passing round cigarettes works on dogs?”

McClean rolled his eyes and slung his scarf over his shoulder. There was a flurry of movement behind him, a cluster of damp and rather frazzled-looking young officers moving in a herd toward the Hurricanes’ mess building, and McClean took a step toward the melee himself, shaking his head. “You know what I mean. Give me a ring when you’ve briefed them, will you? I want to know how bad it is.”

He had the audacity to wink before he turned to catch up with the rest of his flight, the sadistic bastard. Jeff sighed and pushed his toes back down into the mud, taking a final moment to luxuriate in the simple pleasure of it yielding to his boots, easy. Uncomplicated.

“God,” he muttered, huffing out smoke through his teeth, “I’m going to kill that bastard Raymond. If this lot don’t see me off first.”

Links

You can buy In Balance With This Life at Dreamspinner, here, or on Amazon, here!

I’m giving away 2 copies of In Balance With This Life. You can enter the giveaway here:

In Balance With This Life e-Book Giveaway

Advertisements

BLE 2016 – Ascension – Book Giveaway

As I’ve mentioned before, I was lucky enough to have one of my short stories, Ascension, selected by Sacchi Green for inclusion in Cleis Press’s BLE 2016 anthology, which is now available for pre-order and purchase. This post is my stop on the blog tour for this release.  Check out Sacchi’s introduction post for links to the other stops.

BLE blog tour Feb 10 - 27

BOOK GIVEAWAY

Comment on any of these posts for a chance to win a free copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition. The drawing will be held by February 28th and the winner announced by March 5th.

*

My writing tends to reflect whatever I’m interested in at the time, and that’s definitely true of this one. Ascension is set in Liverpool in the early 1960s, when the Mersey Beat scene was just taking off. That was the scene that produced The Beatles, but this story was the result of my contemplating a different question: what might have happened if The Beatles hadn’t existed — or rather, if they hadn’t been four lads from Liverpool? How would things have been different if the big emerging talent in Liverpool had been girls instead?

I really enjoyed playing with the vivid, gritty setting of the north of England in the early 60s. Anyone familiar with the Beatles mythology will know that they were once what were called “Teddy Boys” — sort of a British answer to the American greaser movement. What sparked this story in the first place was something I read about how Teddy Boys were matched by gangs of Teddy Girls, an amazing subculture that’s been unfairly forgotten when it’s so damn interesting. Cat, in my story, is a hardcore Teddy Girl. Annie is quite her opposite, a hardworking schoolgirl who mostly does what she’s told, but there’s a core of steel in her that calls to Cat. There’s definitely a bit of a Lennon-McCartney tribute in them. Here’s an excerpt.

**

It wasn’t safe around those parts for a girl on her own, Cat said. Annie, trotting to keep pace in her buckled school shoes and pleated skirt, refrained from pointing out the obvious. It was quite clear what Cat meant.

She said her name was Catherine, but she said it with a sneer that made the word stupid, ill-fitting to this slim-hipped creature with her fine long nose and russet-coloured hair, her man’s shirt and imposing boots. Her long eyes were an exact match to her hair, and carefully lined. Annie’s fingers ached to draw her.

“What were you doing there?” Annie asked, feeling daring.

Cat laughed and said, “Waiting for my band.”

“Your band?” Despite herself, Annie slowed, watching Cat carefully.

Cat shrugged, a loose jerk of her shoulder. “Aye, but they never showed, did they?” She snorted. “Crap, really, the lot of ’em. I’ve got half a mind to ditch them for someone who can actually bleedin’ play a guitar.”

The words made their way out of Annie’s mouth unbidden, on the back of a strange clenching in her chest, an unfamiliar rush of eagerness. “I can play a guitar,” she said. “I’m good,” she added. Her mother had always warned against false modesty.

Cat snorted, not even a pause for thought. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”

Annie frowned. “Why?” A moment ago, she had been wondering what had possessed her, but Cat’s immediate dismissal stirred a defensive contrariness in her.

“Well,” Cat said, and stopped walking, one corner of her mouth quirking up in a smile. Her hands were in her pockets, where her jeans were stretched so tight over her hips that the lines of her individual fingers showed through the fabric.

“You’re like a bleedin’ choirgirl, love. What’s your name?”

Annie frowned. “Anne-Marie. But just Annie, really.”

“Well, ‘just Annie, really’,” said Cat, in an infuriatingly reasonable tone, “You’re hardly the sort, are you? Even if you can play the guitar, what’ll the lads make of this? You’ll be crying over your poor virgin honor, darling.” Cat reached out, caught at the hem of Annie’s skirt with finger and thumb. Annie jerked, and Cat grinned as if validated, taking her hand back. Her fingers brushed the soft skin on the inside of Annie’s knee as she withdrew, and a shiver skittered strangely across the base of Annie’s back.

“I know girls like you,” Cat said. “Bet you do everything mummy says, don’t you?”

“Me mum’s dead,” Annie shot back, snapping, and it was worth it for the look on Cat’s face, the sudden shocked slackness. “And I can play the — the f-fucking guitar, better than you, I bet.”

She turned, primed to leave this strange rude person where she’d found her, but Cat’s arm shot out, hand closing around Annie’s shoulder.

“Show me,” Cat said, soft now.

For some reason it seemed that refusing was not an option.

***

You can buy Best Lesbian Erotica now from Amazon and other places. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour posts; there are some fantastic stories in this collection. And have a look around my blog, too, if you’re interested! My novella, In Balance With This Life, is released on February 17th.

In Balance With This Life e-Book Giveaway
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

My recent novel Moonshine is also now available in ebook format.

moonshine

 

Forthcoming Novella: In Balance With This Life

I’ve just received the publication date — February 17th — for my forthcoming novella, In Balance With This Life, so it must be time to talk about it here. I’m very proud of this one. It’s not the usual format — it’s not a romance as such: there isn’t any straightforward love story, and it isn’t a complete story, either — I loved these guys and this format so much that I definitely left room for a sequel, if this goes down well.

I’ve been very interested in the RAF for almost as long as I can remember, so it really took very little new research to come out with a novella that casts a light on the Battle of Britain. There are four main characters in this one, really; two older guys (Jeff and Sean) who fought in the First World War, and two younger ones, Jimmy and Filip, who represent the international nature of the band who formed the Battle of Britain’s WW2 crew. I absolutely loved writing this novella. I hope people will enjoy reading it just as much.

New Adventures in Writing

Welp. It’s been a while since I updated this site. In the time since my last blog post, I’ve finished my doctorate, started a new career, moved house, and published a number of short stories in various anthologies, which I’ll collect here eventually. One of the more exciting things I’ve been told this week is that my short story, Ascension, is going to feature in Best Lesbian Erotica 2016, from Cleis Press, which is being edited by the amazing Sacchi Green. So I’m pretty excited about that.

Another thing I’m excited about is Moonshine. 

I’m going to be straight with you: Moonshine is a bit of an experiment. It’s a novel, but stylistically it’s a bit of a diversion from what I usually stick to. I do love my historicals, but this one…has a lot of characters in it. Two pairings, I guess.

Moonshine is set in Prohibition-era New York, among the rumrunners and the other outlaws. I got a bit obsessed with this time and place in history, read a lot about it, and this book was the result.

Here’s the blurb:

James O’Hare is a lone wolf. Ten years out of Texas, he’s made a name for himself – in certain circles – rum-running in Prohibition-era New York, leaving the city for long stretches when his boss requires it. On the wrong side of the law in one way, it was easy enough to fall in with everybody else who’s avoiding the police for their own reasons; the outlaws and queers of NYC tend to frequent the same places. James doesn’t see the appeal in serious relationships, not even now that Steve’s broken off their no-strings affair to play house with Matt, his handsome new club pianist. James is pretty sure he doesn’t need anybody — at least until the moment he comes back after a long trip to find a new face in Steve’s bar, some stray newsboy Steve took in off the streets. James has no intention of letting this Kit boy change him — but he’s unprepared for finding in Kit a person who makes him want to change himself.

You can buy Moonshine on Amazon, here.

The Kaiser Account is out!

Ooh! I was a little off about the date for this one, apparently — The Kaiser Account is now out and available for purchase!

It’s 1965. Evan Jones is an account manager for a major advertising company in New York City, engaged to the boss’s daughter in a half-hearted sort of way and gradually making his way up into the highest ranks of the company, and into the boss’s favor. The Kaiser Motors account is one they’ve been angling at for years, and Evan has absolutely no intention of letting it slip through his fingers.

But the man from Kaiser, Mark O’Brien, is not what Evan is used to dealing with, and, moreover, is someone who hits him right where it hurts: in the long repressed part of him that prefers men and is ashamed to admit it. When it comes to O’Brien, ‘going to any length’ has a whole new meaning, because O’Brien wants Evan – and worse still, Evan wants him back. O’Brien, in the space of a night, shows him something more than the staid life is possible. Can Evan take the risk and close the deal?

How’d you like the new site?

My first f/f story was recently published in Girl Fever: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex For Lesbians, from Cleis Press. In the first place, I’m honoured to have earned a place in a Cleis Press anthology, and in the second, this means I’ve now published smut of f/f, m/m, and het persuasions, which makes me happy. I like to think it earns me super smut credentials or something. At any rate, it seemed a milestone that deserved to be marked with a new site. Googlesites are great, but they can be a little isolationist. WordPress is where it’s at. My thanks go to my friend Stella Harris for setting it up for me — check her out over at stellaharris.net!

In other exciting news, I’ve just returned edits for my m/m/m novella, Triage, coming soon from Dreamspinner. So look out for that in the near future — but not before my short novella — or long-short, as I like to call them — comes out over at Torquere Press. The Kaiser Account is due for publication on June 20. I also heard back on Monday that my short story, Interlude For The Troops, will be in the Cleis Press anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2013 when it comes out in December. It’s all go here! 

As for what’s next…well. I have some ideas. 😉