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.


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.

The Actual Historic Wedding-Tea Party March 29th 2014

A slight side-step here. It is now legal for same-sex couples to get married… but no one I know got married today, because, like us, all our friends are in civil partnerships (or they are not planning to get hitched in any shape or form). So I was feeling a bit grumpy about the government’s administrative cock-up that means that those of us in Civil Partnerships STILL can’t get married yet – not that we plan anything more than dramatic the most basic bureaucratic upgrade, but it’s the principle of the thing – everyone saying

lookee, you’re all equal now,

and I’m saying

not. quite. yet.

So we decided that grump notwithstanding we should celebrate, so we went along to witness Sandi & Debbie Toksvig renew their vows (yes they weren’t getting married either, same issue) at London’s Living Room, RFH South Bank.

What a lovely event: loads of singing, laughter, tears – from everyone – champagne in the bar later.

Thanks for sharing your moment Sandi and Debbie, you cheered me up, and I’m feeling less like just doing something bureaucratic when it’s our turn. Singing friends, you are on notice…

I didn’t take any pictures (too far back, it was their event etc. etc.), apart from this one…

The Man Who Caught Sandi Toksvig's Bouquet

The Man Who Caught Sandi Toksvig’s Bouquet

The ACTUAL Birthday-Tea Party 14th February

Ok, a break from the history (nobody available anyway) and a big sloppy birthday kiss for my best girl for the last 30 plus years, Alix.

100-0031_IMGAlix is 72 today, and sharing her birthday with Mr Valentine makes going out for a meal unbelievably tedious, so that’s tomorrow. The Actual Tea Party is Sunday, the treat (visit to the opera – King Priam – brilliant) was yesterday.  So today is given over to telling the world how absolutely bloody marvellous she is, in case World has not been paying attention and hasn’t realised. Fortunately most people who meet her do realise what a gem she is, and I feel very lucky to share my life with her.

She is a tower of strength, a superb front woman when I’m feeling feeble, incredibly sensible, practical (with a small p – don’t ask her to wield a screwdriver!), energetic,  kind, loving, intelligent and generous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe is also the loudest, funniest person I’ve ever met.

Alix will always get an invitation to the party, but she doesn’t need one, she is a party all on her own.

The Woman Who Loved the Moon and other stories

wwlmFor LGBT History Month, here’s an edited version of the review I wrote for Short Review of the fantasy/ scifi/ horror collection from 1981 by Elizabeth A. Lynn

Lynn is one of the earliest fantasy writers to include same-sex relationships in her writing as a matter of course.

Author of A Different Light, The Dancers of Arun, The Northern Girl (a favourite book of mine) and Watchtower (which won a World Fantasy Award as did the title story of this collection.)

The collection hosts traditional fantasy and science fiction tales which are given a lift by strong writing, realistically strong female protagonists, and satisfyingly matter-of-fact lesbian characters.

“Explain need for Empire at this Time”

I first read this collection when it was originally published back in 1981, an important year for me, coming out and on the lookout for (to be honest, any) books that were positive about lesbians. As a convinced fantasy enthusiast I fell on the work of Elizabeth A Lynn with delight. Thirty plus years later, (long enough to have forgotten all but the general shape of the stories, with the exception of the title story which haunted me for years) these stories have worn well, although I can see their faults more. Lynn does herself no favours with her introductory paragraphs, which I quickly learnt to avoid reading, best to dive straight in to the fantasy than hear how come it took so long to find a publisher, or why she got saddled with a different title (although the variant titles thing is quite interesting!).

As with all collections there are strong, and less convincing stories, and it is when Lynn sticks to fantasy that she is at her best – it is as though an outlandish setting gives her permission to really explore psychological and emotional complexity. The horror stories (and some of the SF)  in this collection are thin to the point of transparency, and feel thrown together, whereas the fantasies engage and challenge – for this shortened version of the review I’m sticking to the positive – this IS one of the books I would save from a burning building, despite its faults.

The first story Wizard’s Domain, starts solidly with treachery and an inventive punishment followed by a forgiveness of the perceived crime, and the forgiveness of the punishment, which we are set up to not trust. Lynn puts her wizards through it: Magic is not easy, and she can be both lyrical and brutal.

The Gods of Reorth is one of those ‘the natives think were gods but we are from another planet’ stories that feel very 50’s in content, but Lynn throws an unconventional spanner into the story with her indignant goddess/alien, who doesn’t see why she should do what the leaders back at home want for this planet, but hesitates too long and has to stand by and let her lover be killed. She gets a subtle, clever revenge. One of the best stories in the book.

The Saints of Drimman takes an anthropologist exploring religious ecstasy one step too far, and I dream of a bird, I dream of a fish, is a moving bit of mother-love overcoming odds with casually plausible bio-science.

Things really pick up with The Dragon Who Lived in the Sea, which makes an unexpected tragedy from fearlessness taught to a child, a lovely thoughtful story, chock full of tension and disappointment.

Mindseye is another explorers-on-an-alien-world story, but it cleverly explores what we mean by human; and how open we can be to difference, or not.

In Don’t Look at Me, a daughter uses sleight of hand to almost gets away with murder, and you find yourself wishing she had.

Jubilee’s story (the original title Gimme Shelter was rejected by the publisher as obscure) throws in warring brothers, childbirth and abuse, and is one of those stories that you spend time thinking about what came before and what might come after.

The final and title story, The Woman Who Loved the Moon brings together lots of mythological tropes: three sisters, goddesses peeved at being compared unfavourably to mortals, kingdoms under the hill where time moves differently, and magical mirrors. Lynn draws you in with the rhythms of the language and even though you are silently protesting this isn’t going to end well, don’t do it, Kai, Lynn allows you to believe it might – just – maybe, be possible to love the moon, and astonishingly be loved back. It is one of the saddest stories I’ve read, and while it doesn’t move me the way it did thirty years ago it deserved the Word Fantasy Award it won.

Lewisham Library LGBT Lesbian takeover

We had a great night at Lewisham Library on Thursday. A substantial crowd, a relaxed atmosphere and some great writers. The first of  many events for LGBT History Month, it was a diverse and entertaining evening.

V.A Fearon read from her novel The Girl With the Treasure Chest, about gang negotiator Dani, and her first meeting with lover Marie;

Kate Foley read us some varied poems from several collections covering everything from bedroom tax to first smoochy dance at the Gateways*

Cherry Potts stuck up for Helen of Troy in her story Behind the Mask, from Mosaic of Air

and V.G. Lee‘s heroine struggled to be a proper card-carrying lesbian in the teeth of straight friend Deirdre’s best attempts to scupper her.

*Anyone under the age of thirty may be mystified by the Gateways. If you want to know more, come along to The Story Sessions on 19th February and listen to Clare Summerskill.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 7th January

No-one is owning up to being born on 7th January, so another ‘who knows?’ And because it’s wild weather I thought we’d go for a pirate.

Mary Read, PirateMary Read. Cross-dressing lover of Anne Bonny, and several men, a proper swashbuckler, served in the King’s army, ran a pub and later became a pirate, but no one really knows when she was born, around 1690 is a best guess. She died of a fever in prison in April 1721.

Most of what is written about her is hokum, although she is unquestionably a real person. Since there is so much hokum, you may as well have mine – this is how she appears in my Rotherhithe based short story ‘A Place of Departures’, in Stations – and it’s as true as the next version.

Mary Read dresses as a man, smokes and swears. She used to call herself by her dead brother’s name, used to fight for ‘Kinge and Countrie’ all round Europe.  But peace and boredom intervene, and at last the death of her man nags her into returning to sea.
The relief of britches and a salt wind, she confides to her shipmate, as they rest between battles, no longer on the side of the King.  And the shipmate plants a kiss on her lips, and pulls Mary’s hand within his jerkin to feel the soft curve of a womanly breast. Ann Bonney claims that she had no idea Mary was a woman the first time she kissed her.
My eye, Mary declares, lighting her long clay pipe.
But despite that kiss and fumble and perhaps more that neither will admit to, Mary escapes the hangman’s noose by dying of a child-bed fever before they have a chance to string her up.

So happy un-birthday, Mary, and I’ll raise a glass of rum, if that’s not too predictable.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party January 3rd

Today’s birthday girl is Henry Handel Richardson (don’t you love a male nom-de-plume?) known to her family as Ethel Robertson.

Born 3rd January 1870 HH wrote the lovely and semi-autobiographical coming of age novel The Getting of Wisdom about Laura, a young Australian girl sent away to school where she finds it hard to fit in until she develops a monumental and hopeless crush  for an older girl.

It is extremely funny but honest and kind about Laura’s naive and furious jealousies. So HH gets an invitation to the fantasy tea party, although as it’s a fantasy, it’s Laura I really want to turn up, perhaps with her beloved Evvy in tow.

Inspirations – claustrophobia in the closet

To celebrate HM the Queen’s royal assent on Gay Marriage, some thoughts about what it used to be like when I was first coming out in 1982… when I wrote

Trying to Tell You…

A story about coming out,  not to straight colleagues or family, but to the only Visible Lesbian ( this is my version of the only gay in the village and predated Little Britain by a decade or two). The story is based on my partner’s one time workplace, where she was the Visible Lesbian, meshed with my memories of school. A. and I have a running joke about people who ought to be Lesbians but haven’t worked it out yet. And this is about one of those women, at the moment the penny drops. Who is she going to tell? How? Because the Visible Lesbian is too busy fighting her own battles, and isn’t listening.

Anyway one of the pleasures of republishing Mosaic of Air(out at the end of September), which includes Trying to Tell You … is finding that what I have written is now a period piece.

© Cherry Potts 2013