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I've just read my first Bulldog Drummond book - the first one Sapper wrote, to be precise. It wasn't too bad, as long as one accepts that it was a product of its time (nearly a hundred years ago).
What did I love best? The banter between the various ex-comrades. Several bits of it were exactly the sort of dialogue that would have got a modern reader saying, "Men didn't talk to each other like that in those days." Well, they did, obviously.
What surprised me? The repeated use of the expression "go gay", meaning doing something brave or taking decisive, uninhibited action.
Will I read another? I wouldn't rule it out, although I understand that this one was probably the best in the series so maybe not...
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Am delighted to take part in the annual blog hop to raise awareness of autism.

Today I'm sharing a true story about a boy called Toby (which is clearly not his real name). Toby is in his first year at school, and had a great time at Christmas playing one of the animals in the stable in the Nativity play. His parents had a good time, too, because when Toby was at pre-school he wasn’t allowed to take part in the Christmas production – in the pre-school’s eyes it would have been too much of a challenge. Toby has autism.

I can’t decide whether I’m sad or angry about the pre-school story. Of course, Toby needed help from an adult to be able to be part of the Nativity play in school, like he needs some extra help in class to be able to access all the curriculum, and that “all” must include things which aren’t English and Maths, or else where is the richness of his education or the education of children like him? Because Toby isn’t the only child I’ve heard about who’s been denied the chance to do something because he’s not quite like the other children.

Schools in England are supposed to have a Local Offer for children with Special Educational Needs (SEND) and a special needs policy. They will contain things like:

·         Children with SEND will have access to the appropriate resources needed to help them make progress.

·         The school curriculum is reviewed to ensure that it promotes the inclusion of all pupils. The school will seek advice about individual children, with external agencies when appropriate.

Trouble is that the policy doesn’t always match the practice, and the reality of school life isn’t as open and welcoming as it should be, nor are staff so willing to make the reasonable adjustments they should. Other parents can get tetchy that children with autism or other needs are receiving what they perceive as favourable treatment. Budgets are tight, so unless pupils have been given dedicated funding the extra support may drain other provision.

I may be being controversial, but I’d say that the impact of budgets isn’t as important as the impact of what lies between people’s ears. Many adjustments cost very little if anything at all – they’re about attitudes and whether your school staff have a “that child can’t do that” or a “how can we enable the child to do that” outlook.

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Yesterday was exciting enough (I confess I was literally jumping up and down and cheering when the English players in the Lions squad got named) but today we had the England squad to go to South America. So many young men who we've seen play for their clubs - or for the country at under 20s level. We predicted Iziekwe and Marchant would be in but not the Curry twins. Have identical twins ever turned out for the senior England team and will they ever do that?
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When that question came through from Goodreads I thought, "Nothing at all." And then I remembered my great great grandfather, who was born in 1848 (we go back a long way very quickly on the maternal line of my family.) Who his father was, we're not sure. It might have been the man his mother eventually married, who appeared to be a lodger in the house, but I have some wild theories - none of which I have any evidence for, naturally.

GGF's name was Robert Osmond (possibly Osment) Bowstead Gaff, which is an unusually elaborate name, and while Robert crops up all over the place on the family tree, the other two elements don't. I have a theory that Osmond Bowstead is the clue to my GGGF's identity. (I think Robert's mother may have been in service at some point. Did an indiscretion happen with one of the guests?)

Mystery indeed.
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As promised to Elin Gregory, scans of the recent Daily Telegraph article casting new light on everyone's favourite action man king. I can send people the originals if these aren't too legible.

TG scan 1 001

TG scan 2 001
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This must be spring as the blossom is out, as are the bluebells, but the weather has turned distinctly autumnal. Ah, what would be Brits have to talk about if it wasn’t for our four-seasons-in-one-day climate?


The were-sloths have landed for newsletter subscribers. I’ve updated the story slightly from its original incarnation; it made me realise nothing dates a story quite so much as contemporary references. And I've added a postscript about the boys. I'll put them on my website in a fortnight.

There’s a new review of Wild Bells over at Love Bytes. Always good when someone enjoys your writing.

The third Lindenshaw mystery (working title “Two Feet Under”) is “go”. Just waiting for the release date to be finalised and I’ll share that here. Here’s an unedited snippet:

Adam put his mug on the table. Might as well take advantage of the offer because who knew when they’d get the chance again? Murders meant long hours, late nights, and knackered policemen whose thoughts were too tired to get into their pants. He leaned in for a smacker of a kiss.

“That was good. For starters.” Robin’s lascivious grin could have turned the iciest libido to butter. “What about—”

Once more Robin’s phone interrupted them just as things were getting interesting.

“Sorry,” he said, picking the thing up off the table.

“I told you to stop saying that.” Adam forced a grin, knowing that a second call so hard on the heels of the first couldn’t be good news and surely meant a return to the station.

“Oh, hi.” Robin halted halfway to the door. “How’s life?” Not the station, by the sound of it. “Yes, if we can. Depends what it is.” Robin mouthed what looked like the name “Anderson”. Hopefully this was just a social call from his old sergeant that could soon be dealt with, letting them get back to the matter in hand.

“Bloody hell!” Robin sat down heavily in the armchair. “When? Why?”

Adam, infuriated at only hearing half the conversation, helped himself to a consolatory biscuit. The worried expression on Robin’s face, and the way he’d settled into his chair suggested he was in for the long haul. As it turned out, the call was surprisingly short, with Robin saying, “Okay, I think that’ll be alright, so long as it’s short term,” then making a helpless gesture at Adam.

“What the hell’s going on?” Adam mouthed, but his partner simply gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes. Things had to be bad.

“I guess you got that was Anderson,” Robin said as the call ended.

“Yeah. Sounded ominous, whatever it was.”

“It is. Helen’s chucked him out.”

And finally, a snap from Cochrane Towers to prove that it must really be spring!


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I'm a great fan of the series of books which started with "Where the Poppies Now Grow", so I was both delighted and moved to find this gem from the creators:

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Can't make it this year (shall be on Jersey) but if it's as good as last year's event, it'll be a corker.


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Normally I keep the two halves of my writing life - fanfic and profic - quite separate, but seeing as my home for fanfic (Live Journal) seems to be in terminal demise I'm flagging up here that I'm migrating all my work over to the Dreamwidth equivalent. There's also a Charlie DW journal.

I started writing by dabbling in fanfic, but rarely have time to play around in that sandpit these days, so it was a particular pleasure to produce this for a 'Shifting Sands' challenge. It's Hornblower, of course, whose characters I don't own. Alas.

“Do you know what Styles does, night of the full moon?”
“Knits socks for sailors? Writes sonnets?” Horatio gave Archie one of “those” looks. The one that meant “what the bleeding hell are you on about now?” “I suppose you’re about to enlighten me.”
“Not if you’re going to be so touchy.” Archie chuckled. “I shall leave you to wonder about it. My lips will be sealed.”
“That will be a first, then.” Horatio turned his attention back to his studies.
Archie watched, waited and consulted his timepiece by the dim light of the gunroom. Two minutes and forty seven seconds, at an estimate. In the event Horatio barely lasted over the minute and a half before saying, “What is it, then? I know you’re dying to tell me.”
“He comes over all hairy, for one thing.”
“He’s always hairy.”
“Hairier than normal, then. And his teeth change and grow.” Archie used his best “weird sister” voice.
“How do you know?” Horatio’s studies were left untouched for the moment; his interest had been piqued. “Have you seen him?”
“Yes and no. I saw him but didn’t realise it was Styles, not at first.” Archie lowered his voice, leaning closer to an intimate distance they only usually kept for nights ashore. “It was last time we were here in Portsmouth. I’d been running an errand, early one morning, do you remember?”
“How can I forget? A matter of national importance or so you said. You never stopped talking about it.” Horatio rolled his eyes, which was definitely the saucepan calling the kettle black. “Back to Styles.”
“I saw this strange creature, making his way to Spice Island. Hair springing from every part of him and a great slavering maw where his mouth should be. The only way I knew it was our shipmate was the clothes, and he was bulging out of them. He was heading for the butcher’s shop.” Archie leaned closer still. “I understand that these were-wolves like their manflesh, but in the absence of meat on the hoof—or the foot, I should say—they settle for a cut joint.”
Horatio, eyes wide, was clearly torn between belief and scepticism. “What happened?”
“I followed him, at a safe distance. He raided the place. Came out with a shoulder of mutton under one arm and half a pig under the other. And the butcher chasing him down the road, cleaver in hand!” Archie chortled. “Then the sun started to come up, and the most amazing thing happened. The hair just sort of dissolved and the ugly maw was replaced by Styles’s normal potato face. He just looked at the meat in his hands as though he’d never seen it before.”
Horatio, deeply drawn into the story, whispered, “What happened then?”
“A constable arrived, alerted by the noise. Poor old Styles was arrested and charged.”
“With being a werewolf?”
“No. With chop-lifting!” And, with a gleeful cry, Archie sprang out of punching distance and headed for the deck.
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Tickled pink to be guesting at Nic Starr's Friend Friday, talking about how music inspires my writing. You might be surprised at some of my musical choices...
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Am over at Joyfully Jay pontificating on the matter of opposites and whether we can make any sweeping statements about their attraction. Do drop in - I have prizes on offer (back list book and a copy of In The Spotlight).

opposites attract copy jpeg
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Am guesting at The Novel Approach where I'm chatting about some of the places which have inspired my writing. Do drop in and have a gander.

(And as I wrote the title to this post, I kept thinking of dear old Eric and Ernie - "All men are fools. And what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got!")
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How on earth did I not know about this splendid group - thank goodness the Royal Star and Garter Home magazine had a feature about them.

Shame they're not local to me - I really fancy some of the events listed here, especially Carols in the Trenches.
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I first met Anna at the Bold Strokes event in Nottingham last year - she was one of a number of charming people to grace that weekend. So glad she agreed to guest here at my blog to celebrate her debut release, Highland Fling. 

What inspired you to start writing?

Back in 2012, I stumbled upon a seminar held at De Montfort University, Leicester, run by Bold Stokes Books editor Victoria Villasenor. BSB authors were in attendance reading from their latest novels. It was a real lightbulb moment for me. I just thought I should be doing this!

Do you have another job, paid or otherwise, apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

My background is in Museum/Heritage work. Up until fairly recently, I was part of a fantastic project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund called Untold Stories. Untold Stories recorded over one hundred oral histories from LGBT people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. As part of this project I am really proud to have written and curated one of the few UK permanent LGBT exhibitions, now housed at Leicester’s LGBT Centre.

Right now, I am concentrating on writing my second novel, Love’s Portrait, due out next year, along with celebrating and promoting the release of my debut novel Highland Fling. So I have my hands full!

What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

It is a mixture of joy, pride and of course nervousness! Highland Fling is very special to me. I love the characters and adore the setting of the Scottish Highlands. There is something very honest and heartfelt about Highland Fling, the characters are not afraid to show their flaws and hang-ups. I love their awkwardness, their humour and above all their struggles. I really hope that readers enjoy it. 

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

I’m character driven. Highland Fling began by imagining a woman living and working in the Highlands, what her life was, who she loved. Then I gave her someone to love and together they built their story.

The process to writing Highland Fling was very free flowing. I had no overarching plan, or outline, the story developed as I wrote. I followed my characters allowing them to become themselves and to tell me their story. In other words I allowed, even at times encouraged them to go off tangent. That said, it wasn’t a particularly efficient way of working!

My second novel, Love’s Portrait, in contrast has a deadline and an agreed outline. There is very little wriggle room for my characters to go off tangent, so I’ll be gently keeping them in line. This is a new way of working for me. It will be interesting to see which method I end up preferring!

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

This is a really interesting question and it depends on the tight corner. I think Moira Burns, the outdoorsy capable Scot, who drives a Land Rover, chops down trees, and is kind of no-nonsense would be my first choice if the crisis required a practical hand. Although Eve’s best friend Roxanne Barns could always be relied on to rescue an awkward social moment with her humour and disarming candour.  And then if I needed simple words of wisdom to guide me through then I would turn to Eve Eddison every time.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

Honestly, the one I’m writing now – Love’s Portrait. It combines my love of museums, and LGBT history, with a modern day love story. The essence of the story is that a museum curator and museum benefactor fall in love as they discover a painting’s tragic past. It has the potential to be really beautiful.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?

Yes. The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall. It is the main protagonist Stephen’s use of the word Invert that upset me when I first attempted to read it. It seemed such a negative term suggestive of a disorder of which one should be ashamed. I can’t see myself returning to it now either. 

What’s your favourite lesbian book? And why?

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Annie is a young adult book written in 1982. It tells the story of two 17-year-old New York City girls, Annie and Liza who fall in love. It is my favourite book because it was the first lesbian romance I read. I was a teenager at the time and it meant the world to me. Its message to ‘let love win not ignorance’ is so consoling.

What’s your next project?

I have written a short story called Hooper Street which will be published by Bold Strokes Books in June 2017 in the anthology Girls Next Door. Currently I’m working on Love’s Portrait, a contemporary romance infused with a love story from the 1800’s. Love’s Portrait will immerse readers in an emotional journey, as the characters fight not only for love but also for our LGBT heritage. I hope it will be beautifully visual and sensual, as the past meets the present and emotions run high.

Highland Fling by Anna Larner

‘On vacation in the Scottish Highlands, Eve Eddison falls for the enigmatic forestry officer Moira Burns, despite Eve’s best friend’s campaign to convince her that Moira will break her heart.’ Published by Bold Strokes Books.

Highland Fling 300 DPI
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There's a boatload of great things to be won this week at Joyfully Jay . Leave a comment to enter the draw (not forgetting to include  your comment your top 7-12 prize choices, in order.)

There'll be lots of interesting posts and reviews, including one from me-e. See the full list here.

opposites attract copy jpeg
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I'm afraid I made a bit of a Horlicks in Friday's newsletter - the link for Dreams of Hero was broken. You can find the story here.
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It's always a pleasure when I get an e-mail from my pal RJ Scott asking if I want to take place in her annual blog hop to heighten autism awareness. Of course I blooming do, especially when so many of my pals are taking part, too! Master list for the month is here - and if it isn't enough to read some excellent posts, you can win some cool stuff, too.

There are some really good resources to help understand the condition that will be highlighted over the next few weeks - why not start with the National Autistic Society's checklist of facts and figures?

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Is it really a fortnight since I sent out the last of these? We’ve had my nephew’s wedding since then and just completed a university pick up run so tempus has been fugiting all round, as one might say. The clocks have gone forward so it’s gloriously light in the evenings and the birds are singing fit to burst!


In The Spotlight” is out now, with another rash of blog visits due this week. Last of the blog posts sent out so now I can start to get my mind round the next set of posts, those for the “Broke Deep”  blog tour. It’s all go, isn’t it? 

I often get asked what I’m working on at present, so:

  • Doing the second draft on a Cambridge Fellows short story which I’m doing to celebrate the projected relaunch of the first books in the series (more news when I’m allowed to talk about it!)

  • Writing a birthday story for a mate, one featuring a were-glyptodont. (Mad? Me? What makes you think so?)

  • Updating “Sollicito”, my weresloth story, to send out with the next newsletter, along with some more about those sloth shifter boys.  

Blast from the past! It’s been a while since I did one of these but I used to regularly feature an older story, so here’s a snippet of my first story with Carina, “Dreams of a Hero”.  

Excerpt (featuring the dream itself!)

The shield was tall and heavy, but the bearer was taller still. This gave little advantage when it meant he could get such a clear view of the advancing lines of troops. Miles adjusted his stance for comfort, staring oncoming death in the eye. “Which one is he?”
“The small one, that’s what they say.” Roger held the spear straight, never wavering even in the heat of impending battle. “Word is he’ll be leading the cavalry, away from where his father’s stationed.”
“Can’t have two firebrands together in case the whole world catches flame?”  Miles managed a rueful smile. “They say he’s handsome, the son.”
“And spoken for.” The smile was returned.
“I only said he was rumoured to be handsome, not that I wanted him to carry me off to his tent.” Miles adjusted his stance again, eliminating any chink in the shield wall.
“You might be grateful if that were your fate, come nightfall.” Roger shivered. “I  pray we’ll survive to joke about this. Now comes the deluge.”
“Deluge? Don’t you mean the conflagration, with the son of fire at its head? And with Hades’ gates wide open in his wake.”
The company turned slightly, as the horses came charging over the plain of Chaeronea.
Miles woke with a start.

And finally, some snaps from last weekend.


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My next newsletter giveaway will be in a couple of weeks - some nice weresloths just for mailing list subscribers. You can sign up at my website front page or directly here.

2017-03-24 12.34.42

There's a sloth there somewhere but not necessarily a were one!
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Drop in to Laurel Richards' Goodread page to find out what my inability to keep my mouth shut has led me into doing this time.

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