Monday, 1 September 2014

A Twist and Two Balls: a new book by Clare London

Clare London and I have started a new series together, With A Kick, based around an ice-cream shop. Clare kicked off the series with A Twist and Two Balls.

When Sue and I first chatted about the idea of setting up our virtual ice cream shop, and writing about the customers passing through, I was immediately struck not just by the thrill of creating boozy ice creams - which my whole family is fascinated by now LOL - but also by the wide range of characters living and working in central London, around that area of Soho. What a great place for us to help them find romance in our stories!

Eddy the not-so-successful actor was a character created from a lot of people I know in the business. It's tough enough to get a break, and unless you're the right type / age / size that fashion requires ... well, you've only got to live through the meeting Eddy has with his tell-it-how-it-is agent Andy to realise that things have to change! 

Lucky for him, Eddy meets Nuri the taxi driver, who helps him come to terms with all of it. Nuri seems to start off as a threat to Eddy, but ends up far from that. I've travelled London with a lot of taxi drivers in my time. They're the representatives of the streets, the amateur comedians, the voice of city politics - and perfect for asking the way if, like me, you have no sense of direction. And, like Nuri, many of them have other ambitions and achievements as well as their day job. What about Nuri's boisterous and heartwarming Turkish family? Well, they just followed in his wake - there was no keeping them in the background!

Then all I did was let Eddy and Nuri come together over a wickedly delicious ice cream or two - and watch the performance :).


Eduardo Mancini is going to be a star of the London stage and screen. Or that was the plan. His alter ego Eddy March hasn’t got further than the chorus and a bit part in a TV series. His parents aren’t supportive, his agent can’t place his particular skills, and he’s finding it hard to hang onto his young dreams. Things go from bad to worse when he’s late for an important audition, hasn’t got enough money to pay the taxi fare, and is chased across the streets of Soho by the irate driver.
Eddy reaches what he believes is sanctuary – With A Kick, a store where ice creams are blended with alcohol and imagination, and where his friends can help him. But Nuri the taxi driver is persistent in his steady pursuit, above and beyond the money he’s owed. Despite their very different characters and background, Eddy and Nuri’s relationship goes from a complete unknown to a wary balancing act. There are still mistakes to be made, and hurdles to clear. And both of them have to admit that their life so far hasn’t gone the way they planned.
But maybe being caught by Nuri was just what Eddy’s career needed – both for his job and his heart.
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© Clare London
He thrust his handful of money at the driver with all the confidence he could muster, and scrambled out of the cab. The uneven cobbles tripped him, and he bumped into a couple of tourists as he tried to right himself. Now he needed to scarper, and fast, before the cash was counted and the shortfall discovered. In his mind, he saw himself turn and run like the wind, like the Chariots of Fire opening sequence, though not in slow motion, of course, and without the benefit of proper sports clothing because he was in his audition gear, that is, trousers a little too tight since Christmas, and his favourite jacket that was always going to be too hot for this time of year—
A hand landed on his arm before he’d taken the first leap forward from the imaginary sound of the starting pistol.
“It’s not enough,” the cabbie said. He’d followed Eduardo out of the cab.
Eduardo looked into deep, dark brown eyes set under heavy brows. The man’s skin was dark, his jaw line and upper lip covered by similarly dark hair. Eduardo couldn’t get away from the dark theme, and he wasn’t thinking of his preferred type of boyfriend. The grip on his arm was tight and the cabbie obviously wasn’t letting him go.
“I’m late for an appointment,” Eduardo said. That wasn’t a tremble in his voice, was it? “You must let me go. At once.”
“No,” the cabbie said. His voice was strangely calm, but the deep tone made him sound so much more assertive than Eduardo. Eduardo felt a warm, roiling feeling in his gut. He was trapped! It was like one of the new breed of police thrillers, the hero chased to the end of a dank, pitch black alley, then turning to face his erstwhile attacker with nothing to defend himself except…
Eduardo tightened his grip on his messenger bag. As if that were going to protect him, as if his copy of The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit could be used as a club, as if a selection of emery boards or his smartphone stylus could possibly morph into his own personal lightsaber. No, he was trapped, alone, defenceless, and hidden in the depths of gangland—
Except, actually, he was pressed back against the side of a London black cab in broad daylight in one of the most populated tourist areas. Even so, the trappedfeeling persisted. The cabbie’s chest was broad and his biceps bulged out from under a tee shirt that had presumably shrunk in the wash. His throat was sinewy, and hair from his chest curled up and over his low neckline. With a further frisson of shock, Eduardo realised he was forced back against a flat surface by a positive bear of a man. Delicious. His libido was liable to wake up and lick its lips, although Eddy would have kicked himself at this inappropriate reaction if he thought his legs could work normally. Instead, his whole body was shaking and he felt more than a tad nauseous.
“Please,” he said. “I must go.” How long did he have until the audition closed its doors? Would they still see him if he were beaten and bruised, maybe even bleeding? He wasn’t sure that was acceptable for a revival of one of Noel Coward’s mannered social commentaries.
“What’s your name?” The cabbie’s voice was a soft growl in the back of his throat.
“Eduardo Mancini.”
“Excuse me?”
The cabbie frowned. “You’re Spanish?”
What? “No.”
“Yet you have a Spanish name.”
Eduardo tried bluster. “I hardly see why it’s any business of yours what my name is.”
“I will need it for the police,” the cabbie said, quite coolly.
Eduardo gaped. “You’re calling the police?”
“You owe me my fare. I cannot allow passengers to cheat me.”
“I’m not cheating you! I mean, I know I’m a little short of funds right at this exact moment, but I assure you I can find you fair recompense if you give me a little time.” Eduardo wondered why, when he needed to blush to order for a particular role, he always found it so bloody difficult. Right now, he felt as hot as if he’d stepped into the Sahara. Lawrence of Arabia, anyone? He must salt this ghastly experience away for future reference on the stage.
“Fair recompense?”
There was a strange rumble underlying the cabbie’s reply. Eduardo took a moment to recognise what the noise was, drowning out the ticking of the cab’s engine and a screech of chatter from a passing group of teenagers. He waslaughing. Laughing at Eduardo!
“You are an actor, yes?”
Eduardo blinked. “Yes. I mean, how—? But yes, I am.” For a brief, bemused moment, his courage returned. He wasn’t above using his public exposure for private gain, let alone defence. “Maybe you’ve seen me act? I was in the chorus ofBlood Brothers for a few weeks.” Until the proper cast member returned from his drying-out spell, that was. “What about TV? I was in an episode of Casualty last year.” He felt his head go up, instinctively showing his better profile. “And that advert for toothpaste? I’m the man who crunches the apple at the end.”
“I have not seen you on TV.” The cabbie leaned in harder, his arm across Eduardo’s chest, effectively cutting off his words. All Eduardo could do was take shallow gasps, breathing in the aroma of warm skin mixed with the hint of spicy flavoured breath. “I don’t watch TV. I work.”
Eduardo suspected that criticism was aimed at him, but was damned if he was in any position to complain. He huffed and pushed ineffectually at the strong arms, and rather surprisingly, the cabbie let him go and stepped back. But only one step.
“You hurt me,” Eduardo croaked. “That’s assault!”
The cabbie started to laugh again. The sound was loud and uninhibited, his chest shaking with it. “But yes, of course you’re an actor! You are so melodramatic.”
Well, duh. But Eduardo didn’t explain that came with the territory. He didn’t say anything, in fact, just started to back into the busy street behind him. He could cut across into Charing Cross Road and then sprint up to Shaftesbury Circus, and just maybe he’d be in time to catch the tail end of the audition and no one would know he’d only just arrived. He turned and started walking briskly away.
Two streets later, he was starting to wheeze with the effort of rushing but trying to look as if he wasn’t, when a warm, cumin-flavoured smell wafted across his senses again. He whirled around and found himself nose to nose with the cabbie. “What the hell? Why are you following me?”
The cabbie raised his eyebrows. “What do you expect me to do? Not only do you not pay the fare, but now you try to run away.”
“Of course I’m not trying to run away!” A young couple on the pavement glanced quickly over at the two men arguing, and a rickshaw cyclist wobbled on his seat as he passed. Eduardo knew his voice was too loud. He sounded borderline hysterical, too, as if he were in the last act of a Tennessee Williams play. Well, anyact, to be honest: he’d always played them at drama school rather close to the emotional edge.
He turned abruptly, deciding to cut through Chinatown, but the cabbie still followed. Eduardo imagined he could hear the steady footsteps on the pavement behind him, despite the babble of other street noises. He swerved around two more corners and suddenly lost his already precarious sense of direction. Bloody hell. He realised he was heading back towards the original place where he got out of the cab. Yes, there it was, parked neatly at the kerb, lights and engine off as if there’d never been any problem at all.
And his pursuer was still behind him.
My first book in the series, Hissed as a Newt, comes out on 29th September.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Artist: Nebojša Zdravković

This painting is from Serbian artist, Nebojša Zdravković. I found these paintings here. The plot bunnies are chewing furiously at this beautiful painting.

Morning Model
I found a little bit about him here.

Nebojša Zdravković is a creative artist of powerful temperament, noted for his precise drawing skills and dynamic and expressive colour range. Born in Belgrade in 1959, he trained in the best art schools and graduated with a Masters Degree. He is now a member of the Association of Serbian Fine Artists. He was granted a scholarship by the Spanish government for post-graduate studies in Madrid.
He has won many prizes for his work in his own country and abroad. His work has been exhibited in many group shows, and he has had several solo exhibitions in London, Paris, Belgrade, Athens and Cyprus, including at Adonis Art in 2002 and 2003.
His paintings are strikingly original. He paints mainly from life. He is captivated by the play of light on his subjects and their settings, and this is evidenced in the energetic colours he uses to create his effects. Overall, his paintings have a unique brilliance and atmosphere that make them highly distinctive.

Eight Sources of Light

Windy Day

Sunday Drabble

Plot bunnies are rolling around in my head, and rather than do something useful, I've written a drabble. So this might end up in a new story if the rest of the plot comes together. If....

Colin sat in the corner of the room, his head in Marie’s lap. They were both drunk and tired, and although the party was almost over, neither of them could be bothered to move.
Marie stroked the bangs off his face. “Where’s Brad? Did he come to the party?”
“We broke up last night.”
“You don’t sound all that bothered.”
“I’m not.”
“Is there someone else?”
“Kind of.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re deliberately holding back, aren’t you?”
Colin shrugged, not an easy thing to do lying on the floor. “Dan’s back home, and anyway, he’s never going to be mine.” 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

LGBT articles that caught my eye

Needs no explanation

"An Internet protocol address attached to the U.S. House of Representatives has been blocked from making anonymous edits at Wikipedia for 30 days for making a series of offensive edits to entries on transgender people and issues."

"After my speech at the Massachusetts Democratic Convention in June, my partner, Jacob, came onstage, and — just like every other candidate and their loved ones — we kissed.
What happened next was just a little extraordinary: nothing."

"That’s why I found myself in unfamiliar territory when I — the open guy, the “figured out” guy, the unquestionably straight guy — realized that I was in love with my best friend, a man. A man I had known for seven years. A man I had never before even thought of in a romantic way. But, there I was, in love."

‘Implemented correctly, the new crime would provide clarity – giving victims the confidence to seek support, ensuring perpetrators understand their behavior is criminal, and reduce ambiguity for police so they respond effectively,’ 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Gay For You

I'm an MM romance writer, and as such we have tropes in our genre that don't appear in mainstream romance, one of them being 'gay for you'.

I have seen many people declare gay for you is a total fantasy of straight women and could never happen. Read jessewave's post and the comments on the subject. I've kept quiet because it did happen to me, but I'm a woman and my sexuality is fluid, and men are wired differently yadda yadda.

Today I read "I'm an otherwise straight man (who fell in love with his best friend)". This is a tale of a straight man who... read the title! If I'd been in private I would have whooped with joy! Yes, finally, a man who gets it!

Look, I'm not saying GFY is common. What I am saying is that it does exist. It happened to me and it happened to Mike (the man in the article). People are not wired all the same. They don't necessarily stay attracted to the same people/gender their entire life.
 Only a person who has never questioned their erotic preconceptions could point at that situation and call it “Gay-For-You” because (again) to do so implies that sexuality is something you put on like a hat, and can take off just as easily. 

No! No! No! GFY does not mean people are 'choosing' to be gay.They are attracted to someone, in this case their own gender, after a lifetime being attracted to the opposite sex. They don't walk down the road and think "Oooh, I'll pick a guy/girl today". It's the person they are attracted to.

Believe me, it isn't easy to suddenly discover you're attracted to the same sex. I explored it in Nothing Ever Happens as the man struggles painfully with the attraction, and I explored it Hairy Harry's Car Seat as something much easier. You don't put it on like a hat but it does exist. It really does.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Falling for Ramos

Falling for Ramos has finally made it to the coming soon page on the Dreamspinner site. I'm thrilled to have this painting by the very talented Ian Brown (no relation) as my cover art.

Due out 15th September 2014

A glimpse of a group of businessmen in a newspaper tells Colin Hess his old love, Alejandro Ramos, is back in London a decade after they split up. 

They met by chance as students, when Colin was pushed into Ramos’s lap at a party. Despite the disapproval from Ramos’s parents, Colin and Ramos were inseparable from that moment and settled in their own place as soon as they finished university. 

But when Ramos’s father fell ill, Ramos was forced to return to the family vineyard, leaving Colin behind. When Colin joined him for a holiday, the plans Ramos’s parents had for their son became painfully clear—and those plans did not involve Colin. 

Colin knows it would be stupid to rekindle their old love after the devastating end to their relationship. Still, neither can deny that they still have feelings for each other from the minute they meet, and Colin learns the meeting might not be as random as it seemed.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The day I watched the sunrise over the Marchioness disaster

I'd like to talk about something that happened twenty-five years ago and most people outside the UK will probably never have heard about.

On August 20th 1989 fifty-one people died when the Marchioness pleasure boat sank in the Thames after it collided with the dredger, Bowbelle. The dead were young people, on the Marchioness for a party.

That day, I was staying at my dad's flat. I think it was the only time I stayed there and my ex-husband was expecting his best friend over. His BF and I did not see eye to eye. I took the opportunity to stay away and spend some time with my father and my step-mum.

My dad had a one-bedroom flat so I was sleeping on the sofa. Some time in the night I got woken by my father talking extremely loudly and very calmly. I couldn't really process what he was saying but I know he was telling someone to be sensible and to calm down. The next door neighbour was drunk out of his skull and had decided to throw his furniture through (not out - through) the window and was then threatening to throw himself after the furniture. He had family issues. They were six floors up. It would have been messy.

The rest of the night is a matter of snapshots in my brain. I made tea - lots and lots of tea. The police arrived in the lift. I swear I remember them wearing riot gear and getting stuck as they tried to get out of the lift with all their shields. Drunk guy's mum stood at the bottom of the building begging him not jump.

The mood of the police changed when the guy threw a large bladed knife through the letter box. They had little patience with him and it's only afterwards we found out why. At five in the morning we made them tea. These police officers had spent the night at the Marchioness disaster, dealing with the dead and injured. They were exhausted and numb.

They left, only to return half an hour later for the knife. After all the excitement I gave up trying to sleep and watched the sunrise over the Thames with yet more tea, watching the helicopters circle around the site of the disaster.

That date is etched in my memory and one of the times I was so proud of my father as he tried to stop a drunk guy from making a big mistake.