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Update #1 – Dominique Kyle

Throughout 2019 I intend to post updates on each of the authors I featured in my “A Date With . .. .” series in 2018. Dominique Kyle was my first date, back on January 11th last year. You can read the original interview here. She very kindly broke into a climbing holiday in Sicily to provide this update.

In the original interview, we talked about her series about a young woman stock car racer which had the protagonist, in the fifth book, investigating a paedophile gang in her Northern English home town. Dominique bemoaned the fact that, unlike her protagonist, no woman reached further than a semi-final of the World Championship since 1980. A good place, it seemed to me, to begin our recap by asking if that was still the case.

Courtney Finnikin – Image taken from her Twitter feed

Apparently it is, because: “Courtney Finnikin qualified this year for the 2018 F2 Stocks world championships semi-final but withdrew.”

The other subject that we discussed last year was what Dominique saw as the refusal to face up to and discuss the activities of grooming gangs. Throughout 2018 there were a number of successful prosecutions, government debates and reports, documentaries and drama documentaries. At the same time: “Sarah Champion (MP for Rotherham) has been working tirelessly for change on many issues to do with abuse, new identikit grooming gangs have come to light recently in other British towns, court cases continue, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has continued and they launched the ‘Truth Project’ last year for abuse victims to put their accounts on record*, the UK Parliament signified its determination to end the sexual exploitation of children around the world by ratifying the Lanzarote Convention, national days to raise awareness of grooming gangs have been organised by County Councils – the list is endless.

This is a double-edged sword for an author. Two years ago, my book was cutting-edge, taking on a subject that no one wanted to tackle (and which publishers were wary of touching due to the perceived inherent ‘racism’ of the subject), and now it may come across as a tawdry ‘jump on the bandwagon’, and the whole subject may soon become tired and passé. This was why I didn’t make it a one-subject book. By including the topic of organised abuse gangs in a series that is mostly about a girl trying to make it to the top in the Stock Car racing world means that it will always be part of a wider dialogue.”

Nevertheless, Dominique has not “noticed a sudden rise in interest in my book at times of national interest in the subject. I changed keywords and search terms for the book while the ‘Three Girls’ drama was being advertised and when Sammy Woodhouse brought out her book. I’ve done promotions at key times. I’ve tweeted out on the subject using the hashtag that the County Councils use on their national awareness days. But I don’t know if any of these have had any long-term effect on raising the profile of the novel.

I would like the book to reach either girls in danger of being groomed, or parents and carers who don’t know anything about the issue, to raise awareness. To this end, my most successful ploy has been to make it known that I always make the book free on the first of every month. I put this in my author profile on Amazon, and now, even though some months I don’t advertise or even tweet about it being free, I usually get around forty downloads of the book – so someone out there is finding it! It doesn’t appear to lead to sales of the rest of the series, and I don’t even know if the people downloading it are actually reading it, or even what demographic they are, as no reviews ever arrive on Amazon, but I am hoping that this means that the book is getting out to at least a few people who need to read it.”

Meanwhile Dominique “has been getting the six-book series through an editor. A year on and the editor has only managed to complete five of them, as she likes to leave a couple of months between each to make sure she has substantially forgotten details of the story-line so she can come to each book fresh… However, I had a real piece of luck getting this editor, so I genuinely value her input.

Another author who I met through Goodreads recommended her own editor who is a medieval expert. I was dubious. Why would a woman who knows everything there is to know about some very ancient history, want to edit a series about modern car racing? But I approached her anyway and she fell on my series with every appearance of joy saying that she’d spotted it out there in the ether and had been wanting to take a look at it! Apparently, she’s a secret petrol-head who for years was a marshal in the Formula Ford format (which used to feed into Grand Prix F1) and grew up driving cars around fields! And the author who recommended her to me had no idea about this… So, a marriage made in heaven, I’d say. She’s so picky that I get emails saying, ‘now that you’ve set the date of your first book at 2007 – you cannot use that model of VW as it did not get launched onto the market until Autumn 2009’. Doh! You get the picture…”

With no new writing having taken place “for nearly eighteen months”, she “tried to get going again. But I struggled to work out what to write. My ‘Not Quite Eden’ series is quite unusual, both in its subject matter and by having an awkward anti-heroine as its main protagonist, so I didn’t want to disappoint fans by my next book seeming too tame.”

She “started three, but one (despite the promising subject matter following a girl who joins the FEMEN protest movement) turned out surprisingly bland; one I couldn’t follow through on because it is about an anarchic young male wheelchair-user and I need my two wheelchair-using nephews co-operation on it and they’ve both been too busy; and third I originally wrote in the mid 1990’s and it now seemed too old-fashioned! So by the end of this year, I still hadn’t written anything that was close to being suitable to be released into the world.

Finally, I picked up my nineties ‘first’ novel and decided on a seriously radical re-write/edit, treating it as though I was adapting it for a TV serial and as though it wasn’t anything to do with me. And suddenly, I had a breakthrough and I was flying. No one can get a word out of me now. Work doesn’t get done. Friends don’t get emails. My husband mutters ‘tappity-tap’ as he passes me on my laptop.

I have no idea if fans of my current series will like it. They may hate it simply because it is so different, and they hoped for more of the same and I may get blasted by ‘disappointed’ reviews. But I don’t care.

One of the revelations I had when I picked up this old manuscript, was that over twenty years ago, when I was not much older than the featured protagonists, I was taking on the subject matter of domestic violence and ‘coercive control’ – a term that has only recently been coined and put into law. And I was amazed to find that the way I wrote about it then, when still in my early twenties, was as though the coercive control aspect in it was simply what was to be expected in male/female relationships. However, I am relieved to find that I had a campaign going on in the story line against the outright domestic violence side of it – which was still a substantially unrecognised/under-recorded phenomenon then. How times have changed! So I’ve left it set back in 1995, but I’m bringing out the message in a way that wouldn’t have been understood by readers twenty-four years ago. And at last I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole process of writing again.”

So it seems that Dominique is still as controversial as ever and determined to write about topical aspects of the relationships between men and women. I wish her every success.

Her Amazon book page is here

*There is another ‘Truth Project’, as I discovered when I googled the term. I have provided a link to the correct site. (FP)

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Saturday Sound Off – #METO and the difficulty of creating believable characters.

Several things recently got me thinking about the difficulty of creating solid, flesh and blood and sympathetic characters, even when those characters do things that you can never imagine yourself doing.

The first was an interview with John Boyne who has done it time and again in his novels. The next was starting to read Milkman, this year’s Man Booker prize winning book. I have so far only read the first 50 pages, but already it is teaching me things about our recent history and about the craft of writing from deep inside the head of a character. Set in Northern Ireland during the 1970s it appears to be an indictment of the stifling masculinity and the paranoia that drove the violence on both sides of the sectarian divide.

The second thing was this article by a woman film maker about the way men portray women and her admiration for two movies in which women have, in her opinion, successfully portrayed men.

When I think about my own writing I can’t escape the conclusion that too many of my characters are merely poor reflections of aspects of myself. But I also think that the problem of men portraying women, and vice-versa, is just one facet of a much more complex problem: can a heterosexual accurately portray a homosexual? A white middle class person a poor immigrant? Any of us any other person’s deep inner personality and thought processes?

It is important because the narrative arts – theatre, film and literature – are the windows through which the rest of us are enabled to experience the lives of others. If those lives are miss-represented then it creates the cultural attitudes that drive some men to behave inappropriately toward women or certain politicians to spread fear of migrants seeking a better life. And, conversely, it is the way that better life is portrayed in the media that attracts those migrants in the first place.

I’ll say  no more, but hand you over to Joey at:

https://honeythatsok.com/2018/11/08/masculinity-written-and-directed-by-women-the-rider-leave-no-trace/comment-page-1/#comment-7687

Monday Memories – September 1963

An occasional series in which I share some significant events from my past.

Younger people may be surprised to learn that as recently as the 1960s one did not become an adult under English law until one reached the age of 21. I passed that milestone in November 1962. It meant a second pay rise in 3 months. Prior to that my wage had increased each year on the anniversary of my starting my apprenticeship – 8th August. I treated myself to a block of driving lessons and took my test in January. The main advantage of having a car, and a license to drive it, was that my girl friend and I would no longer have to rely on public transport, our bikes, or lifts with friends, to get to town for work and entertainment or to the dances in village halls which we enjoyed.

The first 3 months of 1963 turned out to be one of the coldest for a very long time with snow that hung around until well into March. And local authorities did not salt the roads back then, either. They applied grit which was meant to provide a degree of adhesion on compacted snow. It’s not surprising that I failed a driving test in such conditions. I booked a second test for some time in March. Meanwhile I was looking for a car. For the equivalent of two weeks earnings I purchased a prewar Morris 8. I came to an arrangement with the farmer who owned a shed near our house and stored the car there. I took additional lessons with a friend in his van. Nevertheless, I failed again at my second attempt.

Whilst waiting for my third test, scheduled for early June, I took the engine apart and ‘decoked’ it. This involved removing the accumulation of carbon on the cylinders and cylinder head, cleaning and adjusting the spark plugs and the carburetor and then putting it all back together again. With my test passed we were able to take full advantage of our new mobility through the summer. Except that one part of the car I’d not expected to let me down, did.

The lever that operates the clutch when one depresses the clutch pedal on these old cars pushes the clutch disks apart via a carbon pad which, over time, wears out. If not attended to promptly the matching surface quickly becomes rough. This roughness then causes the new carbon pad to wear out very quickly. Without a clutch it’s not possible to change gear. As a result we had several embarrassing incidents wherein we had to push the car into the kerb in order to carry out running repairs.

By the last weekend in August the engine was starting to make worrying noises, over-heating, and generally becoming a cause for concern. I knew the agricultural engineer who maintained the tractors and other machinery at a big farm where I had often worked at weekends and during holidays from my main employment.

I asked his advice

“Your big-ends have gone,” was the verdict.

“Can it be repaired?”

“Needs to be stripped down, the cam shaft ground and new shell bearings fitted.”

“Can you do that – and how much will it cost?”

“I can, but a less costly alternative would be to purchase a re-conditioned engine. Cost you around forty quid.”

At double what I’d paid for the car that seemed to be beyond affordability. How were we supposed to save up to get married with expenses like that?

By then I’d had another raise in pay – a surprisingly big one. At the end of my apprenticeship my employer was not obliged to offer me a job, but he had, and on terms that exceeded the rate agreed between the Employers’ Federation and the Trade Unions. Even so, £40 was a big expense. I conceived a plan which I put to my girl friend later that Saturday.

But before I explain that I need to backtrack to 1962. I had ‘popped the question’ (“How do you fancy being Mrs Parker?”) around 1:30 on the morning of December 27th 1961, as I wished her goodnight outside her home after the boxing night dance. I’d explained that she should have an engagement ring for her 17th birthday present the following June and that for now it would be our secret. We would not be able to get married until a year or two after I’d finished my apprenticeship as it would take a while to save up enough money to set up home together.

Courting during that long cold spell at the beginning of 1963 was not something either of us wanted to repeat. Being alone together inside somewhere warm cost money. Outside, we froze. And negotiating the road between my home and hers on my bike on frozen snow was extremely hazardous. Now the failure of the car to offer a solution made it seem imperative that we tie the knot as soon as possible. We had agreed to each take one of our statutory weeks’ holiday in mid-September. The plan I put to my fiancee that Saturday at the end of August was that we get married the weekend before that ‘holiday’ (we were not planning to go away) and use the week as our honeymoon.

I’d looked at advertisements in the local paper for flats and apartments in town and it seemed that we should be able to get somewhere to live quite cheaply. The notion was financially viable when one took account of the cost of daily travel to work and the amounts we each contributed to our family budgets. And we would not need to spend money on ‘going out’ in order to spend time together.

She accepted the idea and we swung into action, making appointments to view various flats after work on Monday and to talk to the vicar about booking the church. That’s where we came up against the only snag – the banns (formal announcement of the marriage) had to be published on 3 consecutive Sundays. There were only two before the date (Saturday 14th) we had chosen. So we decided to hold the ceremony in the middle of our holiday week.

It was a frugal affair, arranged, as it was, in such a hurry. The young man who had allowed me to get driving practice in his van and who frequently accompanied us to dances agreed to be my ‘best man’. We each have two sisters who took on the roles of bride’s maid although there was neither time nor money to dress them in anything other than their usual ‘Sunday Best’. The bride wore a navy blue suit and a pill box hat. I wore the same suit I wore to dances. The reception was held in the bride’s home – booze in the garage, sandwiches in the kitchen.

20180819_164220

My painting of Turnastone church in Herefordshire where we were married on 18 Sept. 1963

Before that, of course, there was the ‘stag night’. Equally unusual, this requires me to backtrack briefly to the summer of 1958 and my attempts to re-integrate into the village community after 6 years at boarding school. Among other things, I joined the bell ringers at the village church. We practiced once a week and rang on Sundays for evensong which was held fortnightly at 6pm.

On weeks when evensong was not held there was matins, a 10 o’clock service for which it proved impossible to muster a team of ringers. Fortunately the tower was equipped with something called an Ellacombe apparatus. This enabled each bell to be rung from a single array of ropes by a single operator – usually me. It was possible to ring some hymn tunes on this apparatus and I did, as well as a few ‘changes’.

We would ring for any weddings that took place in our church, usually on a Saturday morning or afternoon. When it came to my wedding, however, that was held in a different church, the one in my fiancee’s parish which did not have a ring of bells. So it was agreed we would celebrate our wedding, and my leaving the team after 5 years service, by ringing a quarter peel. This was, of course, followed by an adjournment to the village pub for a small libation.

More than a few of our friends and relatives assumed a very different reason for our haste to get married – after all some of them had been forced into marriage in order to avoid giving birth outside of wedlock. How times have changed!

Footnote: the subject of ‘change ringing’ and the definition of a ‘quarter peel’ are dealt with here.

Monday Memories – The Summer of 1961

An occasional series in which I share some significant events from my past.

We tend to think of the 1960s as a time of almost revolutionary change. The decade did not start that way – not for me anyway. There may have been all manner of exciting developments in the arts in the great metropolises of the world; there may have been radical changes happening in technology with the development of jet powered passenger aircraft and men circling the planet above the atmosphere. But in the rural backwater where I lived it seemed as though little had changed since before the war that ended 16 years earlier.

Most of those who could afford to own a car owned one that was, if not actually constructed before the war, based on prewar technology; few of the advanced systems developed during the war had not yet had time to filter through to automobile design and construction.

Very few homes had a telephone or washing machine. Television was black and white and offered just two channels, both of which operated only from mid-afternoon until around 11 pm. Receivers were usually rented.

Despite all of this my generation believed we were living in modern times. We looked forward to the possibility of space travel, saw recently introduced innovative automobiles like the Mini as evidence that the ingenuity of scientists and engineers would make the world a much better place as we entered adulthood. Medical science, too, was making advances. Vaccination programmes had virtually eliminated polio, dyptheria, smallpox and tuberculosis.

The social revolution that the 1960s is often associated with, even blamed for, had yet to materialise.

There was, for me, another factor that limited my own social life. Apart, that is, from my shyness, my tendency to introversion. I did not attend secondary school with the other children of the district. Sent away to boarding school before my 11th birthday, I returned to live in the district six years later and had to get to know young people I’d not seen since. People who almost certainly viewed me as some kind of snob. Working as an apprentice 12 miles away, any friends I made were those I met at work or on the bus.

The standard working week for factory workers back then was 44 hours. Overtime, when available, was in addition. We did get a day off for college. That consisted of three three hour sessions with 90 minute breaks between. As the first did not commence until 9:30 we had to clock on at 8am as usual which made that a very long day. Add the time spent traveling, home study and helping my mother’s second husband with numerous home improvement projects and there was little time left for socialising.

At the beginning of 1961, shortly after my 19th birthday, I was assigned to the drawing office which meant a reduction to 39 hours and a later start time. That summer I started going to Saturday night dances in village halls within comparatively easy reach of my home. Such events had, by law, to end at midnight. They did not have a drinks licence. Pubs closed at 10:30. So we’d meet in the pub, then pile into somebody’s prewar car and ride out to wherever that week’s dance was happening. It was the best opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex.

On one such occasion, probably late in June, I found myself dancing with a tall dark haired girl who allowed me to walk her home. Actually not home, because she was spending the weekend with a friend who lived in the next village to me, which was where the dance was held. So I walked her to the end of the lane leading to her friend’s house. She kissed me. I floated home about a foot above the road surface. A five kilometer walk in moonlight. Not only had she kissed me, she accepted my invitation to meet up ‘in town’ the following Saturday afternoon.

This is where we come up against another fact inhibiting my social life – and that of most of my peers, of course. The town was, as I’ve indicated, 12 miles away. The last bus ran at 9:20pm. So even a trip to the cinema meant attending an afternoon showing. Or we could – and did – walk in the town’s park. Either way we had to part company at what would today be regarded as a ridiculously early hour. We spent, I think, three Saturday afternoons like that.

I can see how that, coupled with the shyness I’ve already mentioned, would have made me seem very boring.

Never mind, August bank holiday was looming (back then August bank holiday in the UK was, as it still is Ireland, the first Monday in the month). That meant the village ‘show and sports’ with a dance afterwards that, because the next day was not Sunday, would continue until 1am! And, yes! In answer to my query, this dark haired beauty said that she would be coming to stay with her friend for the long weekend and would attend the show and the dance.

In my recollection, our village show was not the kind of agricultural show that includes the display of animals. Rather it was various horse riding competitions that occupied the arena. There were races for children over various distances as well as things like sack race, three-legged race, egg and spoon. An important feature was a one mile race for all ages. There was clay pigeon shooting, bowling for a pig, coconut shies, target shooting, hoop-la, a beer tent and, in the big marquee, a produce show where local gardeners and cooks showed off their wares.

I met my dark haired beauty with her friend and another. A mousey blond who seemed to be as shy as me. I recall mixed feelings as we walked together around the field, making several circuits. I was accompanied by three young women. Surely an ego boost for any young lad! But I wanted to be with just one. Nothing I tried would encourage the black haired beauty to separate from the protection of the other two. I suppose these days my behaviour that afternoon would be seen as stalking!

Eventually we parted company, heading for our separate homes to change into appropriate wear for the dance which was scheduled to begin at 8pm. Nobody wanted to be there at the start so I think we probably agreed to meet at 9pm. I wanted to meet ‘my girl’ at the entrance and pay for her ticket. I arrived to find the mousey one also just arriving, on her bicycle. Had she seen ‘my girl’? She had – down by the church gate talking to a couple of boys.

I wandered in that direction but there was no chance for me to muscle in to the conversation. Back at the hall I danced with the mousey one. Eventually the tall girl appeared with one of the two she’d been talking with earlier. I persuaded her to have one dance with me but it was an embarrassing affair and it was not long before she left. According to her friend she was ‘unwell’. I continued dancing with the mousey one.

After the dance there was a thunder storm. I was soaked, despite running the half kilometer home. The mousey girl must have been soaked, too, cycling three miles to her home.

Tuesday lunch time I phoned the tall girl from a call box in the town centre. I wanted to be sure that what I suspected was true – our brief courtship was over.

A couple of weeks later I attended a Saturday night dance where the mousey girl was also present. We danced every dance. I said I might cycle in the general direction of her home on Sunday evening. She said she might go for a bike ride, too. Perhaps we’d bump into each other.

The world has seen dramatic changes since 1961, some for good, some not. The mousey girl and I have lived through all of them. We moved to the town in 1963. Of course we had to get married to do that, the idea of people living together before marriage was still anathema then. Later we moved further away from home. We even spent a year and a half in South Africa. Since 2006 we have been settled in rural Ireland. I suppose that shows that rural life is still very much to our liking, despite the disadvantages – which are, of course, nothing like they were back then.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

That’s what makes a great writer, according to Rebecca Bryn and she should know, being one of the greatest. Her work deserves much wider recognition. “For Their Country’s Good” would make a TV series to rival “Poldark” and “The Dandelion Clock”, which I had the privilege of reading pre-publication, has echoes of Michael Morpurgo’s “War Horse”.

Writing that comes from the heart, with deep emotional overtones and well developed characters, will always captivate me as a reader. Ms. Bryn does that brilliantly.

via It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

A Date With . . . Val Tobin

My latest ‘Date’ is with novelist and parapsychology graduate Val Tobin who hails from Ontario. As usual I began by asking her to tell me a little about her home state.

I’ve lived in Ontario all my life. What I love most about it is the beauty of the countryside and the tight-knit community we live in.

The downside is the bugs, particularly the mosquitoes in the summer. I’m not a big fan of winter either. I’ve learned to bundle up for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it. Some folks here participate in winter sports, but the closest I get to a winter sport is reading in front of a fireplace.

Val writes across several genres but has no strong preference for any, preferring to allow the story to dictate the genre:

For example, when the idea for The Experiencers, book one of the Valiant Chronicles series, came to me, the UFO conspiracy aspects and the death-ray technology dropped it into SF. The action and suspense make it a thriller as well, and there’s romance in it, because you can’t have people interacting in pressure-cooker situations without something developing between them. It also contains supernatural elements.

I’ve written more romantic suspense than any of the other genres, which might make you conclude it’s my preference. Perhaps that’s correct. I enjoy when characters find deep connections with one another.

24169671_10155427444817982_1744726250_o-300x200In the Valiant Chronicles, one of the secondary characters goes through hell before he matures enough to enter into a monogamous relationship. This character treated women so cavalierly in The Experiencers that one reader emailed me to insist the character die for his sins in the sequel, A Ring of Truth (this was when I was still working on book two of the series).

At first, I’d been headed in that direction. I’d considered redemption for this character through death by self-sacrifice. But that’s not what happened when I reached that point in the story. He meets a woman as lost and broken as he is, and together they find healing.

What I enjoy exploring the most is flawed characters who manage to heal and grow towards their potential.

Her latest release, which I have just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed, is set among the members of a writers’ group in which petty jealousies lead to murder. She tells me such rivalries do sometimes exist in real life groups, and goes on to comment about the latest scandal inflaming the world of publishing.

I’m a member of a number of writers’ groups. The majority, such as our Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), are on Facebook, which makes them virtual groups. The Writers’ Community of York Region (WCYR) provides the physical connection I need and resembles the group in the story more except for the petty jealousy part. My preferred groups don’t have that kind of nonsense, but yes, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head over the years.

Every once-in-a-while you read about authors behaving badly and that stems from insecurity, fragile egos, and fear. The murderer in my story embodied all that’s toxic in any competitive industry.

It can be particularly appalling when writers get nasty. Written assaults can do more long-term damage than physical assaults.

poison-pen-ebook-cover-30june2017In Poison Pen, the character chose the ultimate physical solution: murder. Naturally, eliminating a competitor doesn’t pave the way for success, and that’s what the killer in my story doesn’t see. He can’t understand why, even with the guy he holds responsible for his failure out of the way, he continues to struggle.

If there’s a theme in the story, it’s that acting out of jealousy and envy destroys the perpetrator from the inside out.

Jealousy and envy can result in horrible behaviour. The movie I Tonya recounts how skater Tonya Harding‘s career was destroyed when her husband hired a hitman to kneecap rival Nancy Kerrigan.

I recall a writer who was so angry with a teenage reviewer that he tracked her down and smashed her over the head with a wine bottle. Another author once wrote on her blog suggesting that J.K.Rowling stop writing books for adults. I’ve heard of authors receiving fake one star reviews the way my murder victim does in the story.

As I write this, #Cockygate rages on. For those who haven’t heard, an author has trademarked the name “Cocky” and has sent cease-and-desist letters to other romance authors who have the word in the titles of their books.

I find that with a number of the books I release, life reflects art. Releasing Poison Pen just as Cockygate broke was an interesting coincidence. Instead of wanting to own the whole cocky pie, the author should have considered doing a cocky anthology with other writers who use the word in their titles.51xtkof2hbl-_sy346_

In my opinion, cooperative competition is the way to go. Just because a reader falls in love with one author’s books doesn’t mean he or she won’t ever read books from another author. As a voracious reader myself, I consume works from a huge variety of authors and am always hunting for my next favourite author.

When I find that author, I make a point of following them. I’m never confused about whose book I’m picking up. Any author can use the words “in Death” in their title, but I’ll recognize Nora Roberts’s “in Death” books because they’ll say “by J. D. Robb.”

Indie author Eric Lahti doesn’t have to trademark the word “henchmen” for his readers to recognize that if they come across a book with henchman in the title and it’s by Joe Author that Eric’s not the author. Cockygate would be laughable if it wasn’t so devastating to those authors facing frivolous and expensive lawsuits over it.

I next asked her about that parapsychology degree and her interest in the paranormal, something she shares with a previous guest.

I’ve been attracted to the paranormal all my life, probably because my mother was interested in it. My father, who was a tool and die maker by trade and heavy into math and logic, read palms. I suppose it’s part of the search for meaning or the quest to learn what’s beyond the physical realm.

51yqcxlkull-_sy346_While working in the computer industry, I obtained the B.Sc. in Parapsychic Science and then I went for the master’s degree in parapsychology. I also became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher in 2005 and an Angel Therapy Practitioner© with Advanced Training certified by Doreen Virtue in Kona, Hawaii in March and October of 2008. I returned to Hawaii for mediumship and spiritual writing courses in 2010.

This provided me with hands-on training in addition to the theory I was getting from my other studies. If you’ve never tried to develop your psychic skills, you might be sceptical that it’s even possible, but I draw on these skills and experiences in my novels.

In the Valiant Chronicles and in Walk-In, I have characters with psychic abilities and much of what they do and how they do it reflects my training. When Carolyn glances down and to the right as she connects to a spirit, she’s doing it the way I do it. It’s not something I was taught to do — it’s something I do instinctively — but it works for me.

When I first started the quest to develop my psychic abilities, I was convinced they didn’t exist.

I had experienced enough by that point to be open minded about others having psychic ability, but I was positive I was, well, a Muggle.

The surprises came slowly, but they came. Developing psychic intuition when you’ve blocked yourself or when you’re sceptical is difficult and takes commitment and dedication. It’s time consuming and frustrating but well worth the effort.

Val is about to embark on her first attempt at a non-fiction work, based on her masters thesis. I wondered how much she enjoyed all the work that goes into such an enterprise.

I’ve always loved research. Most of the courses I’ve taken involved a lot of research and essay writing. In my software developer years, I wrote for on-line magazine Community MX about web development using Macromedia products. Somehow, I have this burning desire to be both creative and logical.

I wrote my thesis on the after-effects of near-death experience (NDE) and think it would make a fascinating book. Not only are the lives of those who’ve experienced an NDE changed, but those who hear their stories and interact with them are impacted as well. Research has shown that you don’t have to have an NDE to have your life changed by it. You can be affected by it vicariously. Many of the effects are beneficial, though not always. I’ll delve into all that in the book.

She doesn’t rule out the idea of traditional publishing but is happy with her present status as an independent author.

I have one little story in a traditionally published, non-fiction book (Doreen Virtue’s Angel Words published by Hay House), so you could say I’ve dipped my toe in traditional waters. However, when I wrote The Experiencers (my first novel) and consulted on the subject of trad versus indie publishing with a hybrid author who has been writing books since the 1970s, he made a good case for me to go indie.

518tswurnpl-_sy346_Of course, I don’t rule out traditional publishing, but at this time, I like the freedom and control I get form being an indie author. It certainly has its trials, and it’s expensive to pay for covers and editing myself, but if I have to do my own marketing anyway, I might as well stick with the indie way.

She works from a home office with no door where you can find her most days “from morning to dinner time.” I wanted to know if dinner was taken in the middle of the day or in the evening. She confirmed that it is the latter.

Asked to reveal something that might surprise her readers she certainly surprised me!

My readers might be surprised to learn that I’ve had a cameo in two indie lesbian films. One was Route of Acceptance and the other was I Met You First. Route of Acceptance is out and available for download and I Met You First is still in production.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog where you will find links to all her books.

MPs Abusing Clerks

2018-03-10 (1)Following recent revelations on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, here’s a prescient extract from my novel Transgression in which an MP is accused of inappropriate behaviour.

It’s 1987. In the run up to the general election in the UK that year a young woman approaches a journalist with a story about the local MP.

“You talk about the Topford countryside as though you’re familiar with it, yet your accent suggests you’re not from the area.”

“I moved here five years ago. A group of us took over a rundown farmhouse where we could practice self-sufficiency. I grew up in Diss.”

“You say there’s a group of you. How many?”

“It varies. There’s a core group of three, all former LSE students. But there are others who come and go. Some of us spend a lot of our time at Greenham.”

Roger had noted the CND badge. Mention of the women’s peace camp at Greenham confirmed his impression of a left-wing, feminist view of the world, with all its conspiracy theories and paranoia. In her mind, was Douglas part of one of those conspiracies? Time to get to the point of the meeting.

“How do you know Douglas Bowen?”

“I don’t know him personally. But I do know he’s not fit to be an MP.”

“I imagine you’d think that about any Tory candidate. Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything that will stop him being re-elected. He’s highly regarded as someone who looks after the constituency.”

“If the women voters knew what he’s really like they wouldn’t support him.”

“That’s a serious aspersion you’re casting. I hope you have something solid to back it up.” As he spoke Roger gestured towards the bench, inviting her to sit down. Then regretted doing so. Sitting side by side, both half turned to face each other, was uncomfortable.

“You probably think I’m a left-wing conspiracy theorist. That’s what men tend to think when they see women like me, committed to protecting the environment, ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, campaigning for peace.” She ignored Roger’s feeble attempt at protest and continued, “I’m all of those things. I hate what Margaret Thatcher is doing to this country, all the more because she’s a woman. But that’s not what this is about.”

She hesitated. Roger was startled by the intensity of the stare with which she engaged him. He sensed she was uncertain about the best way to phrase her next utterance.

“When I was a student, I worked for a while in the office of a Labour MP at the House of Commons. I got to know a number of young people doing similar work, researching background information to feed into parliamentary debates, that kind of thing. Not everyone I met there was of the same political persuasion, and I got to enjoy the experience of rubbing shoulders with politicians from right across the spectrum. I learned that they were all equally committed to their beliefs, even those with whom I profoundly disagreed.

“But I soon realised there were certain men who it was not safe for a woman to be around. Bowen was one of those. I was warned about him, not once, but several times, by different women who had experienced unpleasant encounters with him.”

Transgression is available for Kindle and all other e-readers as well as in print. Follow the links to read the opening chapter.