Wednesday, 27 January 2016
As it's quite a short review we'll resist the temptation to quote too much of it, but we were particularly glad to see the following comments:
"This is a well written, sweet story that readily defines the attitudes, dangers, and scheming required to successfully navigate life as a gay man in the 1960s. ... [O]nce it gets going, it is a lovely book with engaging characters that I am thankful to have been able to read."
That's exactly the sort of feedback every author dreams of, so thank you Cat Clontz - and congratulations R.A.!
Sunday, 17 January 2016
Delegates can currently secure their place for the fee of £40. This will go up to £50 from 1 February.
The event is strictly limited in terms of size. We are planning for a happy yet relaxed sense of being among a small group of friends. We have chosen the venue accordingly - and even though we are booking out the entire place this time, our numbers are still limited to 50.
If you'd like to discover which other cool people are already registered, check out the WHO'S COMING? page on the event website!
Please do come and join us. We'll have a ball!
Friday, 15 January 2016
When I was young I never harboured any desire at all to act - although I actually did so a few times at school - and nor was I exposed to very much in the way of theatre. About twenty years ago, however, I was bitten rather savagely by the live drama bug, and for a while after that I hung around Stratford and the Barbican soaking up virtually everything the Royal Shakespeare Company had to offer. I delved enthusiastically into Shakespeare then, and also started expanding my horizons with the work of other playwrights of virtually every type and from every possible period of dramatic history. I've seen some wonderful productions, and some absolute turkeys; I've seen great actors and bad ones who should never have been allowed on a professional stage; I've seen triumphs and disasters, popular stuff and plays I didn't always understand, and I've sat in auditoria ranging from the Maddermarket in Norwich to the Sydney Opera House. Each of those experiences has taught me something new and interesting about the theatre, and I've absorbed and processed every single one.
I love everything about the theatre. I love being front of house with the velvet curtains, the plush carpets, the excited chatter and the fanning of programmes, but I also love the mechanical stuff - the way the scenery works, the lighting, the sound cues. I love the costumes, the performances, the production design, the props (even when they can't be seen, like the giant invisible phallus toted around the stage by Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in one production of 'Twelfth Night'), the bits of comedy business, the lot. I've grabbed every opportunity I was offered to take backstage tours of theatres and to examine the way things worked. I've always enjoyed going behind the scenes in places anyway - exploring out-of-the-way corners and forgotten cupboards - and backstage tours are a particular delight; props and weapons politely labelled with the name of the actor using them ("Mr Allam"), black-curtained quick-change booths set up in odd corners where a dresser waits with costume, wig, boots all set out on a chair … and if you accidentally find yourself in certain seats at certain theatres it's also possible, sometimes, to see actors making their quick changes in the wings and to marvel at the composed and methodical way they go about it.
Most of all, I think, I love the way actors can be anything at all the script or the director requires them to be - a clown one week, a villain the next - and the people surrounding them have to behave accordingly. When you're solemnly addressing someone as a mighty monarch, for example, it's no use remembering that he cuts his toenails in the sink or never washes his coffee cup; there is a distinct mental discipline required, and the inside of an actor's mind, with its watertight compartments, must be a fascinating place.
Multiply this by the number of actors in a given company, plus understudies and backstage personnel, and you already have an almost endless variety of permutations. Add in the actors who gain and lose weight for roles, grow beards or moustaches, shave their eyebrows or their body hair; multiply by their personal lives and interrelationships, who they love and who they fear, how well or how badly they behave to one another, and you begin to see a complex and intriguing picture without any clearly-defined borders. And then there are actors who are household-name famous, who would be recognised in the checkout queue at Tesco's or if they happened to pop into the public library; there must be times when they just like to be ordinary, to stay below the radar, to have a quiet meal out or an evening with friends and remind themselves who they are when they're not being Captain This, Inspector That, or the Duke of Whatever. All this adds up to explaining why the theatre rapidly became a world which - as an author - I just couldn't wait to jump into and explore.
But you have to have a place to start. You need a picture in your mind of your main protagonist; who is he (or indeed she), who are his friends, and if he's an actor what parts does he play? How well known is he? How successful? That's where the little white lie comes in - if that's what it is - because as far as I'm concerned every character ever written is at the very least 'inspired by' someone and probably shares a few of the more publicly-recognisable traits of their personality, and in my case this is particularly so with STAGE WHISPERS. Every copy has a disclaimer at the beginning: 'Characters and situations in this book are fictional and not intended to portray real persons or situations whatsoever; any resemblances to living individuals are entirely coincidental.' That's both true - because once we get the characters into our hot little hands whatever happens to them has very little bearing on the real world - and untrue, because characters are often inspired by something or somebody who already exists.
I'm not suggesting STAGE WHISPERS is packed with thinly-concealed portraits of real-life actors, but in my mind's eye I know who they all are and I can also hear their voices - which is true of many other authors I've talked to as well. It's not unprecedented, obviously; Jane Austen and the Brontës based characters in their books on people they knew, and no doubt so has every other author since the dawn of time - simply because it's easier to remember than to invent from scratch, and this is anyway a rare case in which mis-remembering something can be positively constructive!
So although it may amuse people to try to identify originals for some of my characters, I'm probably not going to confirm or deny anything. One friend of mine, having read STAGE WHISPERS at an early stage, confidently said that Actor X definitely wasn't in it - whereas he definitely is, large as life and every bit as unlikeable. If you had a list of every film, play and TV show I've seen since the 1990s you might be in with a chance of identifying people, but that really isn't the point. The point is that - no matter where characters have their origins - once they find their way onto the page they are altered so irrevocably that they are no longer the people they were. Bolted together Frankenstein-like, from bits and pieces of other people, they assume a life of their own; they go off and wreak havoc in their world, and there is little or nothing an author can do to control them.
Fiction writing is a form of role-playing, a chance to be somebody one isn't in the real world. I don't suppose I would ever have made a professional actor - or even a decent amateur - but in writing about the theatre I had a wonderful chance to immerse myself in it completely and live in that world for the best part of a year; that's all the role-playing I need. Writing is hard work, and it's absolutely vital to be able to write about a subject one enjoys exploring; that was very much the case for me with STAGE WHISPERS, and I can only hope it shows in the end result!
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Wednesday, 13 January 2016
One of the best historical novels I've read in a while. The author captured late Elizabethan London perfectly. I could almost smell the ambience. Research has been flawless as far as I could tell. The tale was little rambling and diverting from its main storyline, but it was forgiveable to explore the reality of the MC's 16th-century England. Interesting plot line.
We couldn't possible disagree with that, and indeed we certainly wouldn't want to!
We'd like to apologise to Jay for the oversight, which just goes to prove - as Holly says in Red Dwarf - that nobody's infullible.
Friday, 1 January 2016
It has just been announced that our charity anthology, A PRIDE OF POPPIES, Modern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War, has been short-listed for the Historical Novel Society (HNS) Indie Award 2016!
To progress so far in these awards is a terrific achievement for an anthology focusing on characters who have been seen historically as belonging on the fringes of society. It is beyond heartening to know that our stories are welcome to stand on their own merits in the 'mainstream' fold.
Congratulations to all the Poppies authors and editors! You've done us all proud.
ALOES by Chris Quinton - now $4.95!
A fluke accident puts Perry in a coma. When he awakes, his scrambled synapses have given him a talent; he can tell truth from lies simply by their flavour. This, plus the new client who is far too attractive for Perry’s peace of mind, the client’s contentious family and the dilapidated old mansion Perry has to restore for him – not to mention anonymous threats which escalate to attempted murder – all ensure that Perry’s life will never be the same again!
ALWAYS WITH US by Morgan Cheshire - now $5.95!
Liverpool, 1896: Wealthy Harrison Calderwood has never given much thought to the poor of the bustling city until he accidentally runs into firebrand Daniel Harper. Through Daniel’s eyes he begins to see how much more could be done to improve the lot of the working people, and at the same time he begins to feel a very strong attraction towards Daniel himself. However this is the Victorian era, Daniel is believed to be a troublemaker, and Harrison has a position to maintain and a family who are expecting him to marry a well-to-do young woman and settle down to a conventional life …
HOMOSAPIEN by Julie Bozza - now $4.95
Patrick and David are friends who run a gay bookstore, and life seems simple and safe enough until the day when unexpectedly he walks in – six feet tall, gorgeous and built like a dream. But Homosapien isn’t welcome in their world; he’s a professional wrestler, and everything he does is fake. So he can’t really be gay, can he, or interested in either one of them? Can they even trust a single word he says … ?
SEA CHANGE by Chris Quinton - now $6.95!
Injured on duty and no longer fit for active service, soon-to-be-ex-Coast Guard Bran Kaulana is drifting, filling his days helping out at the Wai Ola Rescue Center, one of Honolulu’s wildlife charities. He’s working with the new veterinary, Steve, a man drawn to O’ahu by his fascination with dolphins. As their friendship slowly deepens into love, the two men are caught up in the mystery of injured seals and dolphins, a ruthless gang of smugglers and a not-so-dormant undersea lava vent.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH by Julie Bozza - now $4.95!
Joshua Delaney and Carmine Angelo Trezini, cop and mobster, should have absolutely nothing in common; yet, accidentally brought together, they rapidly became both lovers and allies against important crime figure Matthew Picano. Of course, taking down a man like that was never going to be easy – but Josh has no idea of the scale of the sacrifice he will eventually be called upon to make.
If you missed any of these diverse and fascinating titles earlier in their illustrious careers, this would be a wonderful opportunity of making their acquaintance!
Once again, we’re delighted to be entering a New Year by giving you news of two titles which are due to be published on 1 February:
A new Julie Bozza book is always an event, and this time she brings us the story of Jules who – as a devoted fan of celebrity author Ewan Byge – splashes out on buying a souvenir of his idol which brings him closer to the man himself than he could ever have imagined in THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION.
Alongside that, we’re very pleased to have a revised reprint of Chris Quinton’s book CARLYLE’S CROSSING, which was previously available elsewhere. Jubal is reluctantly drawn into a mystery from his family’s past, which takes him and staunch buddy Sal the whole width of the USA and plunges them both into some very murky waters indeed.
Along the way, in each of the books, there are some unexpected twists which we’re sure will keep you glued to the page – or should that be the screen? – until the very last word, and we’re very glad to have this opportunity of offering them to you.
Look out, too, for permanent discounts on some beloved old favourites, which we'll be announcing very soon - and if all of that doesn't take you into 2016 in an optimistic frame of mind, with our Jane Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION and our second Queer Company event in Oxford also to look forward to, then we don't know what will!
Thank you for your company in 2015, and we look forward to having many more adventures together with you in the New Year!