Air: Sylphs, Spirits and Swan Maidens


My latest publication! buy it here:

I couldn’t make the launch, which although on line was at 2am in the morning, so I recroded a reading of the first page or so. Here it is.

my creature of the air, is nothing like the cover image. I had something more like this in mind, but with wilder hair and feathers on her face.

Remembering Lilian Mohin


I’ve just read in yesterday’s Guardian Other Lives, that Lilian Mohin has died, age 81, although the online version is dated March, so lockdown and Covid-enlarged deathrate must have pushed her off the paper version initially. I don’t think she’d be pleased.

We argued, the first time Lilian and I met, and for a while I avoided her as best I could. A couple of years later that first story was published. I’d been having a really bad time at work and I remember tossing the acceptance letter in the air with delight. All grumbles were forgotten.

After a second anthology acceptance of two stories, Lilian confided that she got sent some very bad stories, and wished she got work like mine more often.

I took her at her word. Every couple of weeks or so, I sent her a story, in the post. (The internet was in its infancy. I remember her saying how she was staying in touch with friends in the US via ’email’ and being bemused, it sounded very like witchcraft.) Each envelope was marked ‘Amusing Ms Mohin.’ We both enjoyed it and she would phone to discuss the latest. (Not your best, dearrr-heart, Needs some work, Pumpkin, This is goood.)

Eventually Ms Mohin was amused enough to publish my first collection. (I was thrilled, I got to choose the cover, I got to choose the font – Garamond, still my favourite I got to veto, if not choose the paper!) I now realise how unusual this was, but I was interested in every aspect, so she talked to me about every aspect, except – crucially – one.

I annoyed the hell out of Lilian by refusing to do any publicity beyond a launch at my local bookshop, and a couple of readings elsewhere. I didn’t understand how important it was, I was borderline agoraphobic (more than borderline, if I’m honest), the idea of radio interviews horrified me, and she hadn’t the patience to explain. Despite that, the book sold reasonably well, owing to the phenomenal Onlywomen mailing list – and people bought books then, almost automatically. I own a copy of virtually everything Onlywomen published.

For a while I spent a lot of time in Lilian’s company, both socially and in a business context. I was briefly on the advisory board, (where I met some fantastic women) and I helped with rebranding for the 21st anniversary (there were a lot of laughs to be had from that).

When I first started pulling away from working at things that were nothing to do with writing I helped out in the office, then in the basement of a town house opposite the British Library, one afternoon a week. I read and commented on manuscripts, sent rejection letters, went to the post office with mail orders…  on one occasion bringing brackets, screws and a screwdriver to fix her collapsing desk – it had been like that for weeks, I didn’t dare lean on it. Lilian hardly ate, and I took to bringing lunch with me and making her share it. I had to be imaginative, she didn’t eat dairy, or citrus and – was it tomatoes? I can’t remember, but we had fun with my concoctions.

It is frequently her voice I hear when I am editing my own work – soft, drawling, but what she had to say, to the point. Sometimes she spoke so softly I couldn’t hear her, but I never said so – I would say I don’t know over and over until she spoke up. That probably annoyed her too.

When not editing, she was the mistress of the digression, and I found her very difficult to follow at full volume, never mind her habitual die-away tone. Initially I put in mental parentheses to try to keep track, then, taking a leaf from my partner’s book, would say, put a pin in that, stick to the point. She liked that, and would sometimes voluntarily put a pin in, and come back to the deviation when the import of the conversation was dealt with.

I spent some time office-hunting with her when the lease (or was it the funding?) ran out on the basement, and eventually she gave up and worked from home. Cue more lunches, and meetings dominated by the antics of cat Simpkin (a delightful animal), and I got told some life history – named for the woman who took her pregnant mother in when she arrived in Kent escaping Nazi Germany, her wondrously tall children (Lilian was positively birdlike herself), her MS, her love life.

Eventually came the rejection, in quick succession, of the second collection, and of the novel that she asked me to write. I took my manuscripts away, wounded, and we (wisely) didn’t speak for a bit. Then she phoned me up and said, that collection… It was months later. I quoted back the mean-spirited spidery-pencilled scrawls on the manuscript. She squirmed. I invited her to a birthday party, warning her that there would be men there (we had both been separatists, I had since discovered one or two men I quite liked. It felt like a test – if she came, we were back on, if she didn’t…) She said she wouldn’t come. She said she would come, necessitating changes to the food. She arrived, and sat in the kitchen sulking, where she gradually unthawed until she was holding court in there, with the cats, and mostly, ironically, to the men. They set up a mutual admiration society while the party went on around them. We made up, we published.

I worked harder at promoting that one, I understood, now. When Onlywomen hit its 35th anniversary (coinciding with Lilian’s 70th year – I went to her birthday party) I organised a reading at my local library with other writers published by Onlywomen, and it hit me, as I was doing the introductions, that Lilian had devoted half her life to Onlywomen.

Eventually we fell out again. It was inevitable really, with Lilian, either you were in, or you weren’t. We didn’t drift apart, we didn’t lose touch. It was always all or nothing with Lilian, she didn’t do half measures, and I think that had rubbed off on me, it was entirely intentional on my part.

She was still having an impact on my life though, as, in reaction, I set up Arachne Press. And then found out how little I really knew, despite all those conversations in the basement opposite the British Museum.

out and about with Carmen


I’ve not been on here much recently, there’s been too much happening.

The opera – of course the opera! Each year I’ve done more and written about it less. Barely managing a faint tweet now and then this year. Carmen, under the direction of Chris Rolls had us on stage almost all the time  even when not singing – so no time for gathering thoughts to get on the blog. IMG_4585I’m in the background here somewhere (photo © Lena Kern) foreground Don Jose, Adrian Dwyer and our amazing Carmen Hannah Pedley – so good we tended to get caught up and forget we should sing too. This run sold out weeks ahead of the performance so I know a lot of people were disappointed. You can read a (5 star) review here, and you can catch us singing the choruses between 3 and 5pm TOMORROW (Saturday 23rd July) at Greenwich Park bandstand, and stop to chat while we picnic between sets. (I may not actually be singing myself, as the company throat infection caught up with me as soon as we stopped performing.)

Between performances I hurtled up to Derby to be on a panel (Is high fantasy getting more literary?) and run a workshop (Writing with Your Ears) at EdgeLit5. I’m doing more of that at NineWorlds at the Hammersmith Novotel 12-14th August, with creative writing panels: The Feminine Voice and Writing Female Characters in 21st Century Fantasy Fiction and Writing Queer Characters. I’m not sure of the timings yet, but there’s loads on, workshops, panels, book launches and so on and the finalised timetable will be up soon.

So: writing! Sci Fi Novella turned down by Tor, flash fiction published on line by Spelk, if you like your literature short you might enjoy a free haiku walk (should that be a Haik?) round Horniman Gardens with friends The Museum of Walking on Thurs 4th Aug.

And finally, I got my first ever bit of fan mail – as in hand-written, from someone I don’t know, who loved The Dowry Blade! I think it’s such a fat book that it’s taking people time to read it, but there is now a very nice review on Goodreads too.

I think that’s me caught up for now.

Launching the Dowry Blade – pictures


Launching The Dowry Blade at Lewisham Library last week.

you next opportunity to catch up with me reading from the epic fantasy TONIGHT,  7pm Beckenham Bookshop, high street Beckenham, Kent opposite the church. Get your skates on!

Launch events for The Dowry Blade


The Dowry Blade bookmark cropPublication day for The Dowry Blade approaches, and pre-publication copies are already available from Arachne Press’ web shop, where there is also a special offer of £25 (free postage in the UK) for combining TDB with Mosaic of Air (normal combined price £27.98) for the first 20 people to get there.

I have 4 launch events lined up (it is a BIG book, it needs several events).

If anyone has further suggestions or indeed offers as to other places to read, get in touch. Will consider anywhere within easy reach of London, plus near Sheffield, Bath, Durham and Newark where friends and family might be prevailed upon for a bed for the night.

Follow the links for full details, and I hope to see you for at least one!

The Dowry Blade Launch, Lewisham Library Wednesday 24th February 6.30-8pm.

The Dowry Blade Launch, Clapham Books Thursday 25th February 7.30-9pm.

The Dowry Blade Launch, The Beckenham Bookshop Thursday 3rd March 7-8.30

Readings from The Dowry Blade, Cherry Potts and The Don’t Touch Garden, Kate Foley; Gay’s the Word Thursday 24th March 7-8.30

The Dowry Blade, live and in the flesh


Dowry blade arrives

There is nothing to beat a pile of new books, except a pile of new books that you wrote yourself. And this is a big pile, of big books! The Dowry Blade is big! It weighs 620 grams. I hadn’t really thought through the amount of space a 400 page book printed in Royal format takes in bulk. This is just the 100 copies to supply events in places that aren’t bookshops, copies for reviewers and the copyright libraries. Buy one before I have to build an extension!

Julian is delighted at the number of new boxes to play in, and also thinks you should buy a copy so that they empty quickly.

IMG_0375

Support Julian’s plans for a small city of boxes to disport himself within by buying a copy direct from Arachne Press, or at one of the launch events (that’s the ‘live and in the flesh’ thing) – Lewisham Library on 24th February at 6:30, or Clapham Books on 25th February at 7.30.

More events to follow in March, in discussions with three more venues.

Callout for pre publication reviewers


So, experimenting with new stuff, my forthcoming book, The Dowry Blade (February 2016) is on NetGalley, a review site for librarians, bookshop owners, book bloggers and professional reviewers. If that is YOU, you can download a review PDF here. It is UNPROOFED, ok, so no comments about typos!

9781909208209

LGBT History Month reading at Richmond Library


It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, as there’s been other things on my mind.

Here I am reading at Richmond Library in February, complete with interventions from planes on flight path to Heathrow!:

mosaic glyphArachne’s Daughters (with Alix Adams) from Mosaic of Air

 

 

 

9781909208018A Place of Departures from Stations

 

 

 

cover _for_52 lovesNeutral Ground from 52 :Loves

Cutting a Long Story – update


Some of the stories that were originally published in Tales Told Before Cockcrow are up on Cut a Long Story. Pleasingly quick. Buy them now!! (thank you).

all hallows imageAll Hallows: Keith’s obsessions get him into trouble
red dress imageThe Red Dress: A daughter’s loyalty is put to the test.
Dragon2Tales Told Before Cockcrow: Sybil tries to get Amelia to sleep – a very long sleep.
tales cover combinedThe She-Lord and her Tailor: A Tailor meets a very large cat and tries to sell her clothes. That was always going to end well…

and (not in Tales…) We Apologise for the Delay (complete with spelling mistake in the title – my fault – dizzy fingers.) Ade discovers a nest of strange creatures whilst cleaning an underground station

More to follow.

Reach them through my page on the Cut a Long Story site.

Hear me read from one of these,  and several others 7pm tomorrow, Thursday 26th February, at Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, TW9 1QL £2 which includes refreshments (booking in advance not essential but POSSIBLE here)

I still need a good image for several stories… offers of assistance anyone?

Cover image for Tales Told Before Cockcrow

Cover image for Tales Told Before Cockcrow

A busy February: LGBT History Month and a whole lot of Love


February is a busy month for me, readings, publications, A’s birthday…

Just published

my story Neutral Ground is just published in 52 :Loves – a story for every week of the year, all about Love, but not necessarily how you’d think. Kindle only at the moment but you never know.

cover _for_52 loves

On Thursday 5th at 7:45 in my capacity as publisher, I’m ‘compering’ a reading of Devilskein & Dearlove by Alex Smith at Lewisham Library 199 Lewisham High Street SE13 6LG more details over on the Arachne Press Website.

On February 23rd, my story The Wetland Way will be read at Liars’ League Hong Kong (without me, it’s too far to go!)

LGBT History Month

Thursday 12th I’m at North Kensington Library, 108 Ladbroke Grove, W11 1PZ

6-7:30 pm

with VA Fearon where we will each be reading from our books, and interviewing each other about coming out as writers…

Shouting about Lesbian Literature – coming out as a lesbian writer.

Cherry Potts first collection of lesbian short stories, Mosaic of Air was published over 20 years ago, and she now owns her own independent publishing house, Arachne Press.

V. A.  Fearon’s first self-published crime thriller, The Girl with the Treasure Chest came out last year.

What has changed for the Lesbian author in the interim? What has the recent surge of self and indie publishing done for lesbian literature (and what is it anyway)?

Two personal approaches, with readings.

Thursday  26th I’m at Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, Richmond, TW9 1QL at 7pm doing readings and talking about writing and publishing.

Join writer and publisher Cherry Potts for an evening of readings and informal discussion of Lesbian & Gay writing with a whirl through anything from myth, to science fiction. Cherry will read from her own work and others published by her award-winning publishing house, Arachne Press.