Five things I did on Spindrift’s release day :)

So, today my second full length ghost story, Spindrift, was released. I’ve been bust touring around chatting about the book, so I won’t say more here. I try to minimise my internet time on release days, because otherwise I spend a lot of time refreshing all my social media feeds in the hope that someone liked it, which is silly for anyone, but especially so when you live in a different timezone from many readers.

On workdays, avoiding the internet is easy. Otherwise, I get sneaky. Sometimes I go walking. Sometimes, like today, I have a writing free day at home: no words, minimal social media, no planning or admin or redrafting. So, here’s what I did today…

1. Tried to put a dent in my to-read pile

IMG_8666

I didn’t get very far with that plan, mostly because of items 3 and 4…

2. Drank a lot of tea

IMG_8664

Whilst reading, naturally 😉

3. Wandered down the garden to see if the blackberries were ripe

IMG_8663

They were, so I returned with a large bowl. I’ve barely made a dent in the crop (my garden is a bramble-ridden disaster, which pays off once a year)

4. Did actual baking 

IMG_8667

Slightly singed banana and blueberry bread pudding. I only bake once or twice a year, so I was quite pleased with this. My flat smelt lovely this evening.

5. Did something writing related. That is, I signed a contract for Recovery, the third in my dragon series.

IMG_8665

Coming in April/May 2017 from DSP Publications 🙂 An irritatingly humorous dragon, a champion in search of a cause, selkies, nixies, canals, politics, pirates, and a soul-eating hydra. 

Posted in announcements, photos, writing | 4 Comments

Rainbow Snippets has bad dreams…

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, have the opening six sentences of Spindrift, which comes out on Friday.

Siôn dreamed he went back to the bridge again, stepping out along the pedestrian walkway with his camera banging against his chest where it hung uselessly. The fog was just as deep as it had been on that day in March, wrapping around him like a bag around his head. It muffled his steps and made even the occasional rumble of passing cars sound far, far away. The fog closed behind him, hiding the north bank and the river below. As he walked he became convinced that he would never reach the far end, that he would walk forever through this damp gray shadow of a world.

Gradually, just like the first time, his steps slowed until he simply stood where he was.

Rainbow Snippets is a wonderful little Facebook group in which writers gather every weekend to post a six-sentence peek at one of their works. All genres are included but the snippets must be from books with a LGBTQIA+ protagonist.

SpindriftFS

When lonely artist Siôn Ruston retreats to the seaside village of Rosewick Bay, Yorkshire, to recover from a suicide attempt, he doesn’t expect to encounter any ghosts, let alone the one who appears in his bedroom every morning at dawn. He also doesn’t expect to meet his ghost’s gorgeous, flirty great-grandson working at the local museum… and the village pub, and as a lifeboat volunteer. But Mattie’s great-great-grandfather isn’t the only specter in Rosewick Bay, and as Siôn and Mattie investigate an ill-fated love affair from a bygone era, they begin a romance of their own, one that will hopefully escape the tragedy Mattie’s ancestor suffered.

But the ghosts aren’t the only ones with secrets, and the things Siôn and Mattie are keeping from each other threaten to tear them apart. And all the while, the dead are biding their time, because the curse of Rosewick Bay has never been broken. If the ghosts are seen on the streets, local tradition foretells a man will drown before the summer’s end.

Coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Posted in writing | 10 Comments

Two (challenging) walks in Essex

I last wrote about our long walk along the British coast in February, when I wrote about a very urban walk along the south bank of the tidal Thames. Now the longer days have returned, we’ve resumed the summer section of the walk. We ended last summer at the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry, the first link between Kent and Essex over the mouth of the Thames. Our winter walks for the next few years will continue through Kent, following the river to the heart of London, simply because long walks across the Essex marshes in winter are potentially tricky.

Tricky in winter, did I say? Well…

We tackled our first section of the Essex coast on a grey day in April. We started from Gravesend, crossing the river to restart the walk from the ferry landing at Tilbury on the north bank, and were heading for the village of Mucking.

IMG_8235

The ferry at Gravesend, looking towards Tilbury power station, which we would have to pass later in the walk.

IMG_8240

When we reached Tilbury, this vast cruise ship was in dock. She was gone by the time we returned to Gravesend that evening, though we missed the exact moment she passed us. Tilbury is still a major deep water port, and has been since Roman times. It has also long been an unhealthy place, with the marshy, mosquito-ridden surroundings giving rise to all manner of illnesses. These days, malaria is no longer a risk, but it’s one of those places with a long, not always happy, history.

IMG_8245

A few minutes later, we passed the World’s End pub, tucked into the shadow of the sea wall. The building was previously the ferry house and is supposedly haunted. 

IMG_8250

Near the pub is the huge complex of Tilbury Fort. This was one of the most significant forts defending London in the Napoleonic Wars. The fort is now owned by English Heritage. It was closed on the day we were there, but this is the main gate. The stone memorial in the foreground is to over 200 Scottish survivors of the Battle of Culloden, who were transported here in 1746. Many died here, horribly far from home.

IMG_8254

Tilbury’s history goes back much further. As we picked our way along the stinking path between the power station and the river, I spotted these familiar words under the graffiti. This is the most famous part of the speech Queen Elizabeth I gave to the soldiers gathered at Tilbury in readiness for the arrival of the Spanish Armada: 

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.

IMG_8266

A few miles further on, we found a remnant of a more recent war. This radar station dates from 1941, when it overlooked a field of mines laid across the river.

IMG_8275

This is Coalhouse Fort, the last fort built along the Thames. It dates from the 1860s, and within a few years of its completion, its array of mounted guns were obsolete. It is now managed by a group of volunteer groups, who run regular open days. When we got there, all that was open was the cafe, but we had a much-needed cup of tea, and were impressed by the block of clean, modern unisex loos (it’s not hard to get right, people).

IMG_8277

This bit of graffiti on another corner of the fort was somewhat more creepy.

IMG_8281

Continuing along the sea wall, we discovered a succession of duck ramps allowing access to the marshes beyond 😀

IMG_8288

And this is where it all went wrong. This innocuous looking track was actually deep, slimy mud, deep enough to sink into to our knees. It took a while to wade and slither our way through it and out the other side.

IMG_8293

We eventually made it out to the nature reserve on Mucking Marsh, where this little visitor’s centre was full of people who were considerably less mud-streaked than we were. We had a cup of tea, scrubbed off some mud, and took the slanting walkway up to enjoy the view from the roof. The rest of the walk took us back inland to seek out the nearest station.

IMG_8306

We made it back to the ferry just as the light began to fade over the river.

We returned to Essex on a very warm day in mid-July. The forecast was for an overcast day, and we were hoping to get a good few miles in.

IMG_8515

The walk started pleasantly enough, with this path through the fields. It was stickily warm, and I was glad to have brought my walking pole, as I’d pulled a muscle a few weeks earlier and my knee was still complaining a little. We lost our path and were helped out by a couple of local walkers. This became the pattern for the day–everyone we met helped us in some way. They led us through an almost hidden trail to the edge of a playing field.

IMG_8522

A kids’ football tournament was going on, and since we were already starting to feel the sun and neither of us had packed suncream, we asked one of the spectators if there was anywhere in the village where we could buy some. She not only gave us directions but handed over her own bottle of suncream and insisted we use some. We thanked her and followed her directions into the centre of the village of Corringham. 

IMG_8523

Back on our path, we found the lovely old church of St Mary’s, where a couple of volunteers working in the churchyard wandered over to chat to us about the history of the village. 

IMG_8524

From the church, we followed a path along the edge of the houses towards the village of Fobbing, where the churchtower sits on the hilltop and is a landmark from all directions. It was still warm and horribly muggy, but we were making good progress.

IMG_8527

At the top of the hill, we found a patch of shade in the local recreational ground and had a look at the map for the next part of the walk. We also found this memorial to the village’s involvement in the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. Fobbing and Corringham were two of the villages that refused to pay the high taxes that were being levied to pay for the Hundred Years’ War. The resulting crackdown sparked a violent revolution which embroiled the counties of Kent and Essex and led to an armed mob marching on London, demanding reduced taxation, an end to forced serfdom, and the removal of corrupt officials. The motto on the memorial reads ‘The strong shall help the weak.’

IMG_8531

Then things started to go wrong. Our map showed a choice of paths across Fobbing marsh. We decided to take the shortest one, partly because of the oppressive weather and partly because we’d read accounts of people getting horribly lost on this marsk (should have paid attention). When we reached the marsh, the direct path didn’t exist. We started following the longer one, as it was the only option. It was quite overgrown, with no shade, and we slogged along, looking out across the marsh. We knew that white building on the horizon was part of the Wat Tyler Country Park, on the other side of the creek which marked the far edge of the marsh, but the only other landmark was the tower of Fobbing church behind us. Shade was also somewhat lacking.

IMG_8537

Eventually, we came to the horrible realisation that the paths had all been rerouted since the map was published. The direct paths had been closed, and replaced with a new long-distance footpath which went all the way around the edge of the marsh. It added an extra five miles to the walk, with no shade, and was so new that nobody had cleared a path through the tangled knee-high clover. We fought our way through it for hours, and my strained knee soon became legs that locked up every hundred steps. So we walked it a hundred steps at a time, chewed on by insects and carefully rationing our water. It might look pretty, but it was the worst coastal walk we’ve ever done.

IMG_8539

This is the view from the first piece of shade we found, still half a mile from where the direct path should have come out. We spent a good half an hour sitting under that tree before we heaved into motion again. Once we did finally come out on the road at Pitsea, we staggered into the nearest supermarket in search of water. We must have looked as bad as we felt, because they let us off the 5p charge for a carrier bag.

We’ll be heading back to do the next stretch of the walk on Saturday. Hopefully it will break the trend and be a good one (it has a castle, so I’m hopeful).

Posted in writing | 2 Comments

Rainbow Snippets feels reflective

For this week, six more sentences from Spindrift. Here Siôn reflects on happiness and its dangers.

It was strange, he thought as he walked down between the houses, breathing in the glistening quiet of the morning after the storm. He had been unhappy for so long, gray and empty and lonely. Those feelings had reached breaking point on the bridge and then faded once he was safe, first muffled by drugs and finally cleaned out of his spirit like pus from a well-treated wound. He hadn’t realized that there was still something missing, that comfort, self-knowledge, and calm were merely the middle ground. Now, to his bewilderment, all these positive, sharp-edged feelings were growing in him—joy, tenderness, delight.

And fear, of course, not just of ghosts, but of the damage even happiness could do if he wasn’t strong enough to carry it without the patched cloth of his spirit tearing under its weight.

Rainbow Snippets is a wonderful little Facebook group in which writers gather every weekend to post a six-sentence peek at one of their works. All genres are included but the snippets must be from books with a LGBTQIA+ protagonist.

SpindriftFS

When lonely artist Siôn Ruston retreats to the seaside village of Rosewick Bay, Yorkshire, to recover from a suicide attempt, he doesn’t expect to encounter any ghosts, let alone the one who appears in his bedroom every morning at dawn. He also doesn’t expect to meet his ghost’s gorgeous, flirty great-grandson working at the local museum… and the village pub, and as a lifeboat volunteer. But Mattie’s great-great-grandfather isn’t the only specter in Rosewick Bay, and as Siôn and Mattie investigate an ill-fated love affair from a bygone era, they begin a romance of their own, one that will hopefully escape the tragedy Mattie’s ancestor suffered.

But the ghosts aren’t the only ones with secrets, and the things Siôn and Mattie are keeping from each other threaten to tear them apart. And all the while, the dead are biding their time, because the curse of Rosewick Bay has never been broken. If the ghosts are seen on the streets, local tradition foretells a man will drown before the summer’s end.

Coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Posted in writing | 12 Comments

Rainbow Snippets duck the question

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, a little more Spindrift. Here Mattie is wondering why two ghosts have attached themselves to Siôn. Eight sentences, I’m afraid, because it didn’t make sense without the lead in *hangs head in shame*

TW: passing mention of suicide attempt

“Have you any idea why they’re so attracted to you?” He licked toast crumbs off his fingers with a smirk. “Beyond the obvious, that is.”

“I—” Siôn bit back the words. He thought it might have something to do with how close he’d come to dying, to drowning, a few months ago. Explaining that would mean telling Mattie about the bridge and jumping, admitting to that mistake. Siôn was enjoying the way Mattie looked at him as if he were wonderful and, though he knew it couldn’t last, he didn’t want to ruin it this soon.

Mattie was staring at him, so Siôn said, “Ah, yes, I’ve always found the restless dead find my knack for advanced mathematics just irresistible.”

Rainbow Snippets is a wonderful little Facebook group in which writers gather every weekend to post a six-sentence peek at one of their works. All genres are included but the snippets must be from books with a LGBTQIA+ protagonist.

SpindriftFS

When lonely artist Siôn Ruston retreats to the seaside village of Rosewick Bay, Yorkshire, to recover from a suicide attempt, he doesn’t expect to encounter any ghosts, let alone the one who appears in his bedroom every morning at dawn. He also doesn’t expect to meet his ghost’s gorgeous, flirty great-grandson working at the local museum… and the village pub, and as a lifeboat volunteer. But Mattie’s great-great-grandfather isn’t the only specter in Rosewick Bay, and as Siôn and Mattie investigate an ill-fated love affair from a bygone era, they begin a romance of their own, one that will hopefully escape the tragedy Mattie’s ancestor suffered.

But the ghosts aren’t the only ones with secrets, and the things Siôn and Mattie are keeping from each other threaten to tear them apart. And all the while, the dead are biding their time, because the curse of Rosewick Bay has never been broken. If the ghosts are seen on the streets, local tradition foretells a man will drown before the summer’s end.

Coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Posted in writing | Tagged | 20 Comments

Rainbow Snippets gets haunted

Posting very late this week (sorry), but here are six more sentences from Spindrift, which is out on August 12th. Matthew Jopling is one of the ghosts haunting the village.

Matthew Jopling was staring at him from the shadows, his expression grim and his eyes hard. Except he wasn’t quite looking at Siôn. He was looking past him.

Behind Siôn, low down where the quay’s edge dropped toward the harbor, someone sighed, a slow exhalation.

Siôn spun round, looking down.

There was no one there—nothing but the water washing quietly against the harbor wall. And when Siôn turned again, Matthew Jopling was gone too, and he was alone.

Rainbow Snippets is a wonderful little Facebook group in which writers gather every weekend to post a six-sentence peek at one of their works. All genres are included but the snippets must be from books with a LGBTQIA+ protagonist.

SpindriftFS

When lonely artist Siôn Ruston retreats to the seaside village of Rosewick Bay, Yorkshire, to recover from a suicide attempt, he doesn’t expect to encounter any ghosts, let alone the one who appears in his bedroom every morning at dawn. He also doesn’t expect to meet his ghost’s gorgeous, flirty great-grandson working at the local museum… and the village pub, and as a lifeboat volunteer. But Mattie’s great-great-grandfather isn’t the only specter in Rosewick Bay, and as Siôn and Mattie investigate an ill-fated love affair from a bygone era, they begin a romance of their own, one that will hopefully escape the tragedy Mattie’s ancestor suffered.

But the ghosts aren’t the only ones with secrets, and the things Siôn and Mattie are keeping from each other threaten to tear them apart. And all the while, the dead are biding their time, because the curse of Rosewick Bay has never been broken. If the ghosts are seen on the streets, local tradition foretells a man will drown before the summer’s end.

Coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Posted in writing | Tagged | 10 Comments

Rainbow Snippets navigates an age gap

Getting back into the swing of things now the summer holidays have started, here’s a snippet from my upcoming ghost story, Spindrift, which is coming out on August 12th (that snuck up fast!). Here Siôn and Mattie talk romantic history (Mattie is twenty one and a flirt).

Siôn said, pushing his mouth into the shape of a smile. “I’m a sad old man, Mattie.”

Mattie rolled his eyes. “You’re not old.”

“I’m thirty, and I haven’t been in a relationship since I was twenty-two.”

“Well,” Mattie said, with a faint note of irritation, “firstly, you’re still a good ten years younger than the oldest guy I’ve ever slept with, and secondly, and more importantly, that’s bloody tragic, Siôn. What’s wrong with all the men in London?”

Rainbow Snippets is a wonderful little Facebook group in which writers gather every weekend to post a six-sentence peek at one of their works. All genres are included but the snippets must be from books with a LGBTQIA+ protagonist.

SpindriftFS

When lonely artist Siôn Ruston retreats to the seaside village of Rosewick Bay, Yorkshire, to recover from a suicide attempt, he doesn’t expect to encounter any ghosts, let alone the one who appears in his bedroom every morning at dawn. He also doesn’t expect to meet his ghost’s gorgeous, flirty great-grandson working at the local museum… and the village pub, and as a lifeboat volunteer. But Mattie’s great-great-grandfather isn’t the only specter in Rosewick Bay, and as Siôn and Mattie investigate an ill-fated love affair from a bygone era, they begin a romance of their own, one that will hopefully escape the tragedy Mattie’s ancestor suffered.

But the ghosts aren’t the only ones with secrets, and the things Siôn and Mattie are keeping from each other threaten to tear them apart. And all the while, the dead are biding their time, because the curse of Rosewick Bay has never been broken. If the ghosts are seen on the streets, local tradition foretells a man will drown before the summer’s end.

Coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Posted in writing | Tagged | 14 Comments