How I made do and mended

An author guest blog by Adam Fitzroy

The book that eventually became MAKE DO AND MEND started out very differently. It was originally going to be about four brothers, living on a not-entirely-successful family farm in Wales, fighting off a land-grab from a consortium that wanted to build a golf-course – and it was emphatically going to be taking place in the ‘present day’. However some elements of the story were in place even then; there would be conflict between the two elder brothers because Two was a nasty resentful piece of work and would undermine everything One was attempting to do, but Three and Four would turn out to be – perhaps to their own astonishment – good and sensible men who could be relied on in a crisis. There would also be a mysterious stranger to the village, a quiet, dignified older man, who would draw the attention of the hitherto flighty One and with whom he would eventually form a romantic relationship. Two and Three would be firmly heterosexual; Four’s preferences were still unknown.

I hadn’t written any of this before the plan changed dramatically. I’d been thinking about it and discussing it with friends for some considerable time, but there was something about it that just wasn’t gelling in my head. I don’t know, now, precisely what it was that prompted the change of direction, but one day it suddenly occurred to me that setting it during the Second World War would make it a more interesting project and radically change the dynamics of the situation. For one thing, there was huge pressure to produce food and other necessities for the war effort (flax, wood, etc.) so that even a farm that was struggling beforehand would enjoy a period of relative prosperity. For another, it would enable One to have a perspective on life and love that didn’t just revolve around the narrow confines of his familiar Welsh valley.

The valley itself was one of the constants. Being a regular traveller on trains between Newport and Chester, I’d always been intrigued by a village north of Abergavenny. There ought to be a station there, I thought, so that I could get out and explore – but there wasn’t. So I did my initial exploring online and on the OS map, and eventually managed to tour the area by car as well. I found the perfect site for the house, which ended up being called Hendra, but what was there was less prepossessing than I had in mind. Therefore, in a move I’m sure English Heritage would deplore, I picked up Stokesay Castle, made some alterations to its layout, and transported it a little matter of fifty miles down the road. I tacked on a somewhat rickety Home Farm a short distance away, and a couple of quarrymen’s cottages higher up the hill, and that was that – I had my location!

The joy of writing something like this is the research. Wanting a box-bed for Jim’s cottage I found just the thing online, which turned out to be in a rural museum on Orkney. Years later I got to meet it in person … and that was the trip which ended up inspiring IN DEEP. I also managed to fit in a visit to Western Approaches Command and chose one of its mysterious closed doors to be Harry’s decoding office. (I have no idea what was really behind it; it could have been a store-room or a doorway into Hades for all I know!) When I decided to make Jim a conscientious objector – because I’ve never forgotten the Dad’s Army episode in which Godfrey is revealed to be a conscientious objector – I researched the Peace Pledge Union, their white poppies, and the advocacy work they did. I hope that if I was ever in the position of being ordered to fight (unlikely now, given my age!) I would have the courage not simply to do as I was told but to say that I thought it was wrong and find another way of serving instead.

I could go on. The hotel in Liverpool exists, and has been the scene of numerous fannish conventions. The pub where Harry lodges sort-of exists; there is a pub there, but I transported a building in from another location because I liked it better. The road over Sermon Pass is a real road now, but at the time the book is set it was little more than a track. And as for Birkenhead Park … it’s a jewel, and was reputedly the model for Central Park in New York.

There are, of course, loose ends in MAKE DO AND MEND. Jack (Three) will stay at Hendra, married to Kitty, and their children will farm there in their turn. Thomas (Two) is likely to move away after the War, to some place where his predictable lack of success will be less visible to his family and he can be the person of importance he so clearly thinks he is. Harry (One) will emigrate, Jim at his side, to a country where nobody will care who they were before – possibly Canada. Jim will write books and teach; Harry will no doubt go into broadcasting in some capacity. They won’t be rich, but they’ll be happy. As for Freddie (Four), his future is more opaque; there is, somewhere in the back of my mind, a whole new set of adventures for him – one of which I’m hoping will coalesce into a short story for Manifold Press’s World War Two anthology CALL TO ARMS. In fact it would be fair to say that I have no idea, at the moment, precisely what happens to Freddie, but I’m very much looking forward to finding out!

[Oh, and the land-grabby golf-course-builders may well make an appearance at some point, too… ]

Dorian Dawes and the Foreboding Universe of Harbinger Island

There’s a stunning in-depth interview between Dorian Dawes and reporter Josh Valley over at Fourculture; if there’s anything you’d like to know about the inspirations for the characters in HARBINGER ISLAND or about Dorian’s future plans, you should head on over there as quickly as possible – highly recommended!

New reviews of UNDER LEADEN SKIES, ELEVENTH HOUR

Two recent reviews by Stevie over at The Good, The Bad and the Unread have just reached us, and they’re both wonderful – as, indeed, are the books!

Of Sandra Lindsey’s UNDER LEADEN SKIES, the reviewer has this to say:

“I loved this book, both for the story told within it and for the style in which it is told – addressing the reader throughout, as Teddy passes his story on to an individual whose identity only becomes clear at the very end. There’s a lot of scope for sequels – and possibly a prequel about Teddy’s grandfather here – so I hope this isn’t the only visit we pay to the characters and their world.”

And Stevie’s response to Elin Gregory’s ELEVENTH HOUR was equally enthusiastic:

“I loved this book. All the characters felt very real, even those who make only brief appearances, and there are plenty of back stories connecting various of them to each other that I would love to read more about. Miles’ butler and his theatrical friend deserve their own book too. Highly recommended.”

I think we can safely call that a vote in favour of two sequels and/or spinoff titles, then!  Thank you for your comments, Stevie – and we totally agree with you; we would love to see more of the adventures of these characters, too!

 

New review of ARDENT

It’s always a joy to encounter book blogs and reviewers who haven’t crossed our path before – we’ll never get over how many lovely people there are out in cyberspace sharing book recommendations with others.  This time we’re delighted to have been reviewed by Mari at Bayou Book Junkie, who has been reading Heloise West’s new release ARDENT.

I love historical romance books, it’s one of my favorite genres and this one was really good! Heloise West obviously did a lot of research and it showed in the story. Her writing transported me to Italy during the Renaissance period and it had a good balance between the mystery/intrigue portion and the romance. Very recommendable!

Thank you, Mari, we’re very glad you enjoyed the book – and we have to admit we couldn’t agree with you more!

New review of ELEVENTH HOUR

To nobody’s great astonishment, Elin Gregory’s wonderful ELEVENTH HOUR is still making new friends out in the review community.

Reviewer Sarina, writing for Love Bytes Same Sex Book Reviews, has this to say:

If you enjoy historical novels but would like something a little less Victorian and a little more modern, you really need to check this one out!  This was  a great book to introduce me to this author but it certainly won’t be the last I read.

Which is brilliant news all round, as we’re sure you will agree – and thank you, Sarina, we’re very glad that you enjoyed the book!

New review of UNDER LEADEN SKIES

Rather belatedly, we have just learned about a review of Sandra Lindsey’s UNDER LEADEN SKIES which appeared in September.

Over on Love Bytes, reviewer Dan seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the book:

The tale of these men and their friends, families and crew mates reads as a true historical story, probably because it could easily be true. Told in First Person from Max’s POV, it read in some parts like a personal memoir, and I really liked it because of it.

We couldn’t agree more – it was that immediacy which attracted us to the book in the first place!

Thank you, Dan, we really appreciate your comments!

New review of ACROSS YOUR DREAMS

ACROSS YOUR DREAMS paperbackVeterans’ Day/Remembrance Day offers the ideal opportunity for book bloggers to round up reviews of appropriate titles, and this was what happened recently over on the review blog Padme’s Library.  The reviewer, Heather, gave Jay Lewis Taylor’s ACROSS YOUR DREAMS a rating of five out of five and added the following comments:

“I truly loved the detail to the time frame as well as how the characters continued to develop throughout the entire book, that doesn’t always happen but as the war progresses and the Armistice is signed, we see them continue on to face life after war.  A true blend of war, love, drama showing that sometimes no amount of planning can replace just living. A really great addition to my historical shelf.”

(Scroll down to read.)

Thank you, Heather – we couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

Queer Company 2: the round-up

Queer Company iconIt’s taken a couple of days to pull the accounts together (and to shake off the Post-Con Crud), but we’re now in a position to reveal that we made a minuscule operating surplus on the event last weekend. (Less than £20, in fact.) Adding that to a couple of ad hoc donations and the £125 raised by the raffle means that we are in a position to donate a total of £250 to our chosen charities. We will therefore be sending £125 each to:

GALOP (http://www.galop.org.uk/), the LGBT+ charity for those who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse, and which also supports lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system, and

Opening Doors London (http://openingdoorslondon.org.uk/), which is the biggest charity providing information and support services with and for older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* people in the UK.

Once again, we’d like to thank everyone who contributed by making donations and buying raffle tickets; as the saying goes, ‘every little helps’.

Finally, and because it got lost in the shuffle at the end of a very full day on Saturday – for which we can only apologise – we would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the sponsors who so kindly supported the event: Sue Brown/UK Gay Romance, Chris Ethan, our friends at Two Marshmallows (who helped to pay for the booklet printing) and of course the awesome Clever Baggers who donated those spectacular purple giveaway totes. This literally wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions all of you made, and we want you to know how very much we – and our chosen causes – appreciate your generosity.

And now, we’re all going to lie down in a darkened room until it’s time to start hunting for a venue for Queer Company 3 …