Category Archives: LGBTQ+ fiction

A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

Full of Mirth and Delight

Blurb: Dale is proud of how his acting career is progressing. Tonight, for instance, is the last night (at the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) of a well-received run of Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, in which he plays Rafe. But his colleague Topher, who plays Jasper, seems to think something is missing in Dale’s life. They’re not really friends, and Dale sees little point in reprising the one night on which they were not-really-friends with benefits.

However! Despite the distractions of performing this chaotic two-plays-within-a-play, Dale is plagued by the niggling doubts prompted by Topher. Dale might be better off paying attention, though – because maybe Francis Beaumont, writing over 400 years ago, already provided the answers to Dale’s dilemma.

Genre: gay fiction; lesbian fiction; contemporary; theatre; mash-up; novel

Click here for an excerpt of text.

Word count: 38,500

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excerpt: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

This is the opening scene of my novella, which takes place in the dressing room about thirty minutes before the play is due to begin.

“Did we ever work out what this play is about?” asked Topher.

“You’re asking me now?” Dale retorted with a mild sense of outrage that was mostly feigned. “It’s our last show!”

“Better late than never.”

“We’re going on in a minute.”

“In thirty minutes,” Topher quietly replied.

Seriously.

They were sitting in their corner of the men’s dressing room, each at his own table – at right angles and far too often at cross purposes. Dale leant in to shoot Topher a fiery look via the reflections in their mirrors. Not that Dale would let Topher rattle him, of course. The friendly repartee they shared was generally for real, and the less good-natured niggling was usually for display purposes only. Dale knew that Topher knew that for Dale the work came first, and if Topher went too far, Dale would simply shut him out.

Continue reading excerpt: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

theatre programme: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

The story of A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle takes place one evening – 21 December 2016, to be precise – during and around a performance of Francis Beaumont’s play The Knight of the Burning Pestle. The play itself has many layers, being actually two plays within a play. I took it all one step further by wrapping another story around the original, about a romance between two of the actors during this modern-day production, and following them backstage.

If that sounds confusing, it probably is! But the sheer sense of chaos, the exuberant feeling that anything might happen and probably will, is one of the joys of Beaumont’s play.

As a way of helping with the potential confusion, I’ve created a mock theatre programme for the production I’m writing about. It includes short articles on Beaumont and his play, along with information about the characters, and the structure and locations of the scenes. You might care to keep it nearby while reading, just in case (like any actor on any given night) you would like a little prompt now and then.

The programme is free to download, and I’ll have printed copies (also free!) with me if you come find me at various events.

Here is that link again, for the 8-page PDF mock theatre programme!

Image credits, with thanks:

I had fun with finding portraits to serve as the actors’ headshots – which, in real theatre programmes, often look little like the present-day actor let alone the character they’re playing. But please do feel free to imagine the characters’ appearance in any way you wish!

poetry: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

You will often find a Poet for Hire on the banks of the Thames near Shakespeare’s Globe. You provide a prompt, they type out a short impromptu poem, and you pay what you like for it. I love the whole idea, greatly admire their creative derring-do, and have indulged a couple of times.

This time, my prompt to poet Edmund Davie was “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” – and while he didn’t already know the play, he produced something that is so very perfect for Rafe.

sweet kitchen-maid, how can you
practice cookery with mortar only?
by my troth i’ll scour the kingdom
to find another for such a damsel
as are you, fair maiden.
chivalry demands it,
and i am the knight of this realm
sworn to courtly love and service.

Isn’t that awesome…?

A Certain Persuasion

Modern LGBTQ+ fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s novels

Blurb: Thirteen stories from eleven authors, exploring the world of Jane Austen and celebrating her influence on ours.

Being cousins-by-marriage doesn’t deter William Elliot from pursuing Richard Musgrove in Lyme; nor does it prevent Elinor Dashwood falling in love with Ada Ferrars. Surprises are in store for Emma Woodhouse while visiting Harriet Smith; for William Price mentoring a seaman on board the Thrush; and for Adam Otelian befriending his children’s governess, Miss Hay. Margaret Dashwood seeks an alternative to the happy marriages chosen by her sisters; and Susan Price ponders just such a possibility with Mrs Lynd. One Fitzwilliam Darcy is plagued by constant reports of convictions for ‘unnatural’ crimes; while another must work out how to secure the Pemberley inheritance for her family.

Meanwhile, a modern-day Darcy meets the enigmatic Lint on the edge of Pemberley Cliff; while another struggles to live up to wearing Colin Firth’s breeches on a celebrity dance show. Cooper is confronted by his lost love at a book club meeting in Melbourne while reading Persuasion; and Ashley finds more than he’d bargained for at the Jane Austen museum in Bath.

A Pemberley-sized anthology featuring authors: Julie Bozza; Andrea Demetrius; Sam Evans; Lou Faulkner; Adam Fitzroy; Narrelle M Harris; Sandra Lindsey; Fae Mcloughlin; Atlin Merrick; JL Merrow; Eleanor Musgrove

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; contemporary; Jane Austen; anthology

Click here for the blurbs, and here for the reviews.

Word count: 114,000

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reviews: A Certain Persuasion

The Good, the Bad and the Unread: Grade B (Good) from Stevie

Excerpt: Pretty much every letter of the QUILTBAG is represented here, along with retellings, prequels, sequels, and stories about readers of the various novels. There are even references to Colin Firth tucked away in there. Of course, such a mixed collection is going to have some stories that appeal more than others; however, in this case none of them disappointed me. … A highly enjoyable book whether read from cover to cover in a single sitting or dipped into at will over a prolonged period.

And if you wish to read more:

Universally Civil, an article by anthology editor and contributor Julie Bozza in the online magazine of The Jane Austen Centre in Bath – a particularly supportive and friendly bunch!

Why Queer Retellings of Classic Stories Are So Necessary, an article by Lindsay King-Miller on the Vice Magazine website, which mentions the anthology.

blurbs: A Certain Persuasion

THE STORIES

A Charming Marine Prospect
Lou Faulkner
Birds of a feather flock together, they say, and William Elliot and Richard Musgrove strike up an instant rapport when they meet in the vicinity of Lyme, a few years before the events of Persuasion. But is their relationship any more to be trusted than the unstable landscape of the nearby under-cliff which they explore together?

One Half of the World
Adam Fitzroy
How much more romantic must it be to be stolen away in the night by a lady dressed as a man, to be thrown across the saddle of her horse and to be galloped off with across the moors by moonlight?

Hide nor Hair
Atlin Merrick
Adam Ashford Otelian began to suspect something when he saw Miss Mary Hay’s beard. Though to be fair, Adam found Miss Hay’s beard only the second most intriguing thing about her.

Outside the Parlour
Andrea Demetrius
Darcy is a single man of eight-and-twenty and in possession of a good fortune. Talk of marriage and prospects crowd in on him – as do reports in the broadsheets of convictions for ‘unnatural’ crimes. He knows his fate. A decision must be made soon.

Margaret
Eleanor Musgrove
The elder Dashwood sisters have long been established in their new homes and families, but now it is Margaret’s turn to spread her wings, when Colonel Brandon asks for her help with a rather delicate matter.

The Wind over Pemberley
Fae Mcloughlin
Darcy’s life changes forever when he happens across enigmatic Lint on Pemberley Cliff.

Cross and Cast
Sam Evans
Jonathan Darcy, ex-soap-star bad boy and runner-up in the latest celebrity dance contest, has reluctantly signed on to take part in another dance show, Dance with Jane Austen. His agent is sure it will be the making of him – but the ridiculous dance they’ve been asked to learn is titled ‘Mr Beveridge’s Maggot’, the theatre they’re rehearsing in is too cold, and most worryingly the show will bring Darcy back in contact with the man who rejected him so harshly months earlier, dancer Elvin Benoît.

Jonathan convinces himself that all he needs do is get through the rehearsals in one piece, avoid Benoît, and not split the breeches he has been given to wear.

It was going to be easy, right?

Continue reading blurbs: A Certain Persuasion

stories: Elinor and Ada

I had three or four ideas about what to write for A Certain Persuasion. However, my contribution came from one of the notions I came up with initially as possible inspiration for other authors, that went into the Call for Submissions: “What if Elinor Dashwood was repressing her love not for Edward but for a woman?” It was an idea that stuck with me – and as I re-read Sense and Sensibility with my editor’s hat on, the decision was made as I realised how very much I love and identify with Elinor.

I like that she’s sensible and responsible, and takes things such as promises seriously. But I like that she also has a full emotional life going on in there, even if she chooses to keep it to herself most of the time. We see it, however, when she and Marianne finally have the whole horrible truth confirmed by Willoughby’s last letter to Marianne – Elinor promptly lies down on the bed beside Marianne and bursts into tears just as passionate as Marianne’s. We see it after her brother John Dashwood leaves Mrs Jennings’ house after talking to them about Edward’s engagement to Lucy – Mrs Jennings, Elinor and Marianne are horrified at how heartless the Ferrars family are being, and the three of them have a righteously satisfying vent about it. Elinor judges to a nicety when such things are appropriate and when they’re not.

Maybe I should say I ‘aspire to be’ Elinor rather than ‘identify with’, because heaven knows I get such things wrong at least half of the time!

Anyway! This became the story Elinor and Ada.

Of course Emma Thompson and Hattie Morahan each had an effect on my portrayal of Elinor, but my main source of inspiration was the following sketch of Anne Seymour Damer and Mary Berry.

Mrs Damer and Miss Berry by Cosway (c.1790s, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale)

The warm look of affection between them is exquisite! I wish I were an artist, to capture such a thing in a few pencil-strokes, as Richard Cosway has done here. (The image belongs to the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale. I found it via the book Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton.)

Other writers no doubt do the same: I like to have a visual that captures something of what I want to achieve in a story, and I display it on one screen while I write in the other. This sketch was certainly it for me!

A Pride of Poppies

WWI anthology cover FINAL 200pxModern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War

Blurb: Ten authors – in thirteen stories – explore the experiences of GLBTQI people during World War I. In what ways were their lives the same as or different from those of other people?

A London pub, an English village, a shell-hole on the Front, the outskirts of Thai Nguyen city, a ship in heavy weather off Zeebrugge, a civilian internment camp … Loves and griefs that must remain unspoken, unexpected freedoms, the tensions between individuality and duty, and every now and then the relief of recognition. You’ll find both heartaches and joys in this astonishing range of thought-provoking stories.

An anthology featuring authors: Julie Bozza; Barry Brennessel; Charlie Cochrane; Sam Evans; Lou Faulkner; Adam Fitzroy; Wendy C. Fries; Z. McAspurren; Eleanor Musgrove; Jay Lewis Taylor

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; wartime; anthology

Click here for the blurbs, and here for the reviews.

Word count: 65,000

Awards:

Available in ebook formats from:

Available in paperback format from:

All proceeds are donated to the Royal British Legion.

reviews: A Pride of Poppies

Rainbow Awards 2015: Honorable Mention

Judges’ comments: Consistently good short stories. … An excellent anthology of World War 1 stories all told with a remarkable eye for authenticity and a great deal of love and compassion. … Wonderful read!

The Book Breeze: review by Ace Katzenbooks

Conclusion: A good collection of stories, and an excellent reminder that even when things are tough, we can remember that for LGBT people a hundred years ago, they were much more dangerous.

Prism Book Alliance: 4 stars from Feliz

Conclusion: This anthology is, in my eyes, a must for readers interested in the WWI – era as well as for fans of the contributing authors. (who might even discover new favorites, like I did.) It’s high-quality writing throughout, not to be consumed as a whole, but best enjoyed one story at a time.

Historical Novel Society: review by Christoph Fischer

Conclusion: Entertaining, emotional and thought provoking this not only fills a gap in WWI literature, it is also a very moving and stimulating read with plenty of original ideas. 

Very highly recommended.

Editors’ Choice, and Shortlisted for the HNS Indie Award 2016

Long and Short Reviews: 4 stars from Astilbe

Excerpt and conclusion: They say that tough times bring out a person’s true colors. If this is true, I want to meet all of these characters. … a beautiful collection that I’d recommend to anyone who has even the slightest interest in World War I or GLBTQI fiction.

Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews: 4 stars from Sally and Mark

Comments about individual stories: A lovely but bittersweet story of wanting to be normal and fitting in. (No Man’s Land) … Oh this was beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!! (I Remember) … I particularly loved the gentle innocence of both young men and the very practical steps they took independently to try to find out what was what, and the misunderstandings that this engendered. (Inside) … For such a short story the author has packed in a lot of emotional wallop and a lot of sharply drawn secondary characters, including a number of period appropriate but benign women, unusual and refreshing for M/M. (A Rooted Sorrow) … This story blew me away. My historical knowledge is so rooted in European history that it’s always a joy to be shown another country and another way of life, in this case in Cambodia, then under French rule. (Anh Sang)

Adventurous Hearts: review by Narrelle M Harris

Excerpt: … a superb collection of stories that give voices to those who were silenced by the mainstream at the time. … a damned fine read which will break your heart, fill it with hope and remind you that love will find a way to grow, even under the harshest conditions.

Odds and Ends: review by Kizzia

Excerpt: …  I can, hand on heart, say that I didn’t find one story that didn’t move me or make me think about some aspect of living at a LGBTQIA person during the war that I hadn’t considered before. This is something that, given my deep and abiding interest in WWI, you should know is no idle praise …

Reviews by Amos Lassen: review by Amos

Conclusion: This is an anthology in which every story is an excellent read and a look at an age that none of us experienced personally.

On Top Down Under: 5 stars from Kazza K

Overview: A Pride of Poppies is a quality anthology. There isn’t one story I didn’t enjoy. The editing is superb and the writing exceedingly good to sublime. … I could not believe the depth and breadth of storytelling in each and every individual story.