Monday 8 April 2019

Austism Awareness Blog Hop 2019

Once again, I’m happy to be involved in R.J. Scott’s autism awareness blog hop. This year’s topic is childhood toys. Here’s a fact about autism.

Everyone is a bit autistic = myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person 'a bit autistic'.

Childhood Toys

I grew up in the late 1960s through the 1970s in a time before computers existed. We didn’t play with anything that made a noise except the odd beep. I loved board games like Scrabble, Cluedo, Monopoly and Mousetrap. I still own examples of all of these except Mousetrap. Probably my favourite toy was Spirograph where you used shapes and coloured pens to make pretty patterns. I was never one for dolls, but I loved my teddies. One toy my brother and I didn’t get was Lego, but when I was older and went babysitting, it was a joy to play with the blocks the children had. I think I loved making things more than they did. I look at what can be built with Lego today with some envy. I’d have loved Star Wars models made of blocks.

When given the topic of toys to write about, I did some research. Children with autism find dealing with sensory overload problematic, be it sound or vision. Modern day games can be overwhelming with the noise and flashing images. The National Autistic Society describes the issue.

Sometimes an autistic person may behave in a way that you wouldn't immediately link to sensory sensitivities. A person who struggles to deal with everyday sensory information can experience sensory overload, or information overload. Too much information can cause stress, anxiety, and possibly physical pain. This can result in withdrawal, challenging behaviour or meltdown.

The NAS also suggests a list of toys, games and books parents with children on the autistic spectrum have found popular with younger children. You can find this list here

Examples include bubble machines, colouring, jigsaws, Lego, train sets, board books and games that can be played with others like Connect Four, Snap and Chess. As a child these were all things I did and loved, and the list may help you think of what to buy.

The Autism blog master post can be found here

Two for the Road

My latest book is an age gap mm romance set in Lancashire. Here’s the blurb.

Sometimes you need to listen to your heart, not your head.

As a teenager, Dylan Hargreaves fell in lust with a man who had been his father’s childhood friend. On his return from university, Dylan is surprised to discover Riley Ormerod is now back living in their small Lancashire village. All Dylan needs to do now is find a way to bring himself and Riley together.

Giving a lift to Dylan Hargreaves is the price Riley is willing to pay to recover his friendship with Dylan’s father. After living in London for twenty years, Riley came home a year ago to escape heartbreak and take care of his dying father. Here, no one knows his secrets.

With Dylan determined to discover more about Riley, and Riley finding himself drawn to this intriguing young man, can they find what they need in each other? And if they do, will they be able to overcome Riley’s doubts and the attempts of others to tear them apart?

GIVEAWAY – I’ll gift an e-copy of Two for the Road to someone chosen who comments on their favourite childhood toy below.
There are so many very worthwhile charities in desperate need of money it is almost impossible to pick one over the other, so, I decided to highlight RJ’s chosen charity, Lindengate. This is a mental health charity that works with autistic children and can be found here:

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Call of Home series Box Set

Now available for the first time in one book, the Call of Home series is three books with gay MCs. There are MCs with age gaps and some with disabilities. Many are trying to escape their pasts but find they cannot escape themselves. The stories are all set on the North East coast of Scotland and have a host of secondary characters from interfering family and friends to a cat eager to be adopted. At this bargain price, why not give them a try and meet Zac and Seth, Brice and Darach and Sam and Tosh? 
Choosing Home
You can never escape from yourself.
Zac McKenzie is an ex-professional footballer with a secret he gave up his career to protect. Several years ago, he fled to his home in the North East of Scotland to avoid being outed as gay. Now, he owns a successful hotel and restaurant, but is it time to finally come out into the open?
Seth Pritchard feels he’s damaged goods. He comes to Scotland to escape memories of the accident that left him injured, his bullying stepbrothers and a life of lies.
For their whole lives, Zac and Seth have denied who they truly are to themselves as well as others. When they meet, each man is forced to confront his fears and tear them down one by one.

Goodreads Review

Healing, accepting, loving.
What a perfect tale. Seth is such a broken man. From a young age, his step family has beat him down emotionally and physically. To the point he can’t and won’t do or look at certain things. He just can’t. Then the horrific accident happens and now it’s time to heal.
Zac, an ex-footie, is also a broken man, hiding who he really is from most everyone in his life. Both have ran away to Scotland, one for months of healing and one started a fresh life.
Together and with outside help maybe they can heal each other.
I love these two, and that cat.
Zac is so patient, Seth, so broken, but it’s not a sad cry ever page book, it’s all about healing, finding joy, love, laughter. Everyone, has such a perfect role to play, the brother, the best-friend, the cook, even the ex-BF.
The ending was more beautiful and when the step family got the ‘just deserts’ at the end!
And we got our HEA, swoon!
Returning Home
You can never escape from yourself.
When Darach McNaughton returns to his home town, the one thing he isn’t looking for is love. But when he meets the mysterious Brice Drummond, his investigative instinct isn’t the only thing aroused.
After a gang beats Brice Drummond, leaves him for dead, and needing to use a wheelchair, he ends up in a witness protection program. His only company is a beautiful cat aptly named Princess. He creates beautiful pieces of art, but allows no one into his life—until a handsome policeman appears out of nowhere.
On a snowy night, Darach McNaughton returns a crying cat to its owner and is immediately curious about the beautiful man with the tattoos. Bit by bit, Darach uncovers the shocking truth about Brice’s history. Can he get past what he discovers? Can Brice let someone into his life? Or will the past catch up with them both and tear their fledgling love apart?

Amazon Review

Emotional and sexy!
Brice gets brutally beaten and left for dead one night, which leaves him wheelchair bound and then shuffled off to the witness protection program. Not wanting anyone in his life, he becomes close to his cat named Princess. One night Princess gets out and is returned by handsome police officer Darach. Brice lets him into his home and slowly into his heart. As these two forge on in their relationship Brice starts to fill Darach in on his past, but is Brice willing to let someone in his life? Can he trust again?
Emotional roller coaster!!! That’s all I can say, I was bawling while reading Brice’s trauma and the way Darach tries to mend this broken man back together!! Their relationship is genuine and pure and you can’t help but fall for these two and their journey together!! Great story!!

Staying Home
You can never escape yourself.
It has been a year since the death of Brodie ‘Tosh’ Mackintosh’s husband, Harry. Unable to face all the memories of their life together, he moves into the house of his best friend, Darach McNaughton, and is comforted by the local Church of Scotland minister, Sam Carmichael, the middle of the five Carmichael brothers.
Sam Carmichael has always been a bit different from his siblings. He’s the only blond in a family of redheads, and the only one with religious beliefs. He also has more than one secret.
Can these two men overcome the events of their pasts and find truth and comfort with each other? And, when all their secrets are revealed, will they be forced apart or be able to plan on staying home together?

Goodreads Review

Of the three, perhaps my favourite - we have had a build up of stories and characters to get to this point through the previous books. Also, the issues were real - acceptance in the church, dealing with the shock revelation, dealing with grief
Tosh and Sam have had a support relationship since the tragic death of Tosh’s husband. Sam has been a counsel for Tosh more than a man of the cloth.
So their relationship moved from support to more quite quickly being as how Sam was firmly in the closet - and for many more reasons than his being a member of the clergy.
It isn’t easy for him to admit to others all his secrets but gradually they come out.
Lots more stories also - Mal, Cameron, Hamish all left us with intriguing hooks.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

It's Goodbye to 2018 and Hello to 2019

I haven’t written may updates this year, so I thought I’d try to get something written for the year. 2018 has had a few highs but more lows. The truth is that it has been a difficult year.
Let’s get the bad stuff over with first. Brexit – I voted remain and it has caused me nothing but despair to see Brexit play out the way it has this year. This, combined with the rise of the right in other parts of the world, has depressed the hell out of me. Somehow, I expect this situation to get worse unless someone has the guts to hold another vote and people come to their senses.

This year has also been hard after my brother’s death late in 2017. Losing my only sibling, the person who shared my history with me, has been harder than I’d ever have expected. As I’ve said before, it’s not what I planned. I left home to go to university knowing he would never leave our home town. He’d be there for my mum and now he isn’t, and my health means I’m not either. I am so grateful to my sister in law who has been brilliant with mum. And on the positive side, his children have shown remarkable resilience and strength. The two little ones continue to do well in school. My brother would be so proud of them.

My health has been mixed. The arthritis has good and bad times. I’m still feeling the effects of tearing my thigh muscle a couple of years ago and panic at any twinge just in case it happens again. I haven’t been able to drive so am stuck in, but at least, having moved to a new house, I now have a garden with trees and plants and a different view.

Moving to the new house is this year’s big news. We found a dormer bungalow in February, had the offer accepted and moved in June so we’ve been here six months. The move itself was stressful, despite getting the moving company to pack. The day after every room was full of boxes but we’ve worked through them. Only a few remain now. The new house has a downstairs bedroom and bathroom which makes life easier for me. 
We’ve had some work done, mainly turning the bathroom into a wetroom, replacing all the spot lights in the ceilings and minor repairs to the roof and drainage. We’ve built more bookshelves and storage but need to get fitted shelves built above my desk in the dining room. It’s a work in progress, but we’ve made some and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up in the garden this year.

Writing has been slow. My heart and mind simply haven’t been in it most of the time. I did edit and so complete two books. Two for the Road is a gay age gap romance set in Lancashire. 
It was accepted for publication and is out on general release 22nd January. Also out on 8th January is the box set of the Call of Home series at a bargain price. 

The other book completed is half of a pair, but I haven’t completed the second one – yet – and I want to have both ready to submit. It has reached 30K and I hope to get it done some time as I like the MCs. Otherwise, I’ve written around 20K of a follow up to My Highland Cowboy but stalled, and I’m over 50K into a standalone story with no title. I’m writing a non-binary MC which frankly terrifies me. Ash didn’t start this way but forced me to rewrite. I’m hoping to get it finished in 2019 but I know it’s going to need more eyes on it than mine and a lot of editing. I also hope to get a Christmas story written based on an idea provided by our bathroom fitter’s assistant. The idea comes from one of those jobs you never thought of existing. I just need to get in the right mindset. There is also another idea at the back of my mind with a footballer MC. You never know. I’m hoping Two for the Road might help inspire me if people like it.

On to other things – reading and watching. I haven’t quite reached reading 100 books this year, but I’m not far short. Favourite reads include, in no particular order,
The Law of Miracles by K C Wells
Playing in the Dark by Avery Cockburn
Band Sinister by K J Charles
Married Ones by Matthew J Metzger
Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Balefire by Jordan L Hawk
Living on Air by Susan Mac Nicol
Thief of Hearts by Ruby Moone
I’ve also read and enjoyed the Lavender Shores series by Rosalind Abel and The District Line series by C F White.

We have continued with box sets. This year we have watched seasons 2-7 of Buffy, all seasons of Angel, all episodes of BBC’s Miss Marple, all 10 seasons of Friends, 5 series of Person of Interest and we’ve nearly finished seasons 1-4 of How to Get Away with Murder. We’ve continued with Dirk Gently, now sadly cancelled, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Supernatural, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Doctor Who, as well as starting Star Trek Discovery. Sitting on the shelves, waiting to be opened in 2019, are the boxsets of The X-Files and ER (all 17 series of it)
That’s about it for now. I want to hope 2019 is better. When I write that date, I’m amazed. I have such clear memories of walking home from school in my teenage years speculating about what life would be like in the year 2000 and now we’re getting to nearly twenty years beyond that date. I’m not sure I thought I’d be retired from teaching, living in a bungalow in a Lancashire town, and attempting to write gay romance!

I wish you all a wonderful new year with lots of writing.