Be My Valentine?

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Valentine's Bash Facebook event graphic. Go to Cafe Lima - Ana Newfolk's Hangout to join 30 authors sharing free flash fiction.

Hi, everyone!

I know – it’s all very sudden. But I’d love it if you’d join me for a bit of a Valentine’s get-together. 30 authors, including yours truly, are (virtually) meeting to share new free flash fiction with the world. There will also undoubtedly be giveaways, opportunities to ask any burning questions, and plenty of fun to go around!

I’ll be taking over the lovely Ana Newfolk’s Facebook group, Cafe Lima, for an hour on the 10th of February, starting at 20:00 GMT, which is 15:00 EST. You can check what time that is where you are by clicking here. See you then?

Valentine's Bash Facebook event graphic. My hour is 15:00 EST on the 10th of February.

Talk to you soon!

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Surprise! Preorders open now.

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Hi everyone,

Yes, I know, I vanished again. But I’m back, and I have exciting news! Well, I’m excited, anyway, and I hope you will be too.

Preorders are now open for my brand new eBook, The Highwayman (universal link). It’s a short story inspired by Alfred Noyes’ 1906 poem of the same name, a poem I’ve loved since I first heard it 17 years ago. Life is tough at the moment, for a lot of people, and I wanted to give the story a bit more of a hopeful slant – and, because I could, a bit of an LGBT+ angle.

Here’s the blurb – and the cover, based on a gorgeous image from Petrafler on Shutterstock.

Silhouette of a highwayman on blue background. Text reads: The Highwayman. Eleanor Musgrove, inspired by Alfred Noyes.

Bess lives a simple existence as the daughter of an innkeeper – or so it seems. But she and her forbidden lover, the notorious highwayman plaguing the area, have more secrets to keep than just their clandestine moonlit meetings. Even one overheard conversation could change both of their lives forever.

Inspired by Alfred Noyes’ tragic poem of the same name, this adaptation reimagines the story of the ill-fated lovers with an LGBT+ twist – and a touch of hope…

It’s available for $1.99 or about £1.52, and I hope you’ll enjoy it! Preorders are open now, and the book will be out on February 3rd.

I’ll be back next week with a bit more information about a couple of promotional activities, but if you’re interested in the story please do preorder it!

Talk to you soon!

Rainbow Advent Calendar: A New Tradition (SFW, FF, ~1600 words)

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It’s my turn to take over the Rainbow Advent Calendar and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Cool Yule, Wonderful Winter… whatever you’re celebrating, I hope you have a lovely time.

This year, I’m once again revisiting a couple of characters from my debut novel Submerge – there will be no spoilers, however, and it stands alone. For those of you who have read Submerge already, this takes place before the book starts. For those of you who haven’t: if you want to see more of these characters, you can find the book here.

Now, without further ado, I present…

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A New Tradition

Addie had never really cared about Christmas; her family were Muslim, so Jesus was just another prophet as far as she was concerned, and she’d never quite got on board with all the mixed symbolism that seemed to saturate the high street from October onwards. What did bringing trees inside have to do with a baby, and where did reindeer come into it? None of it really made sense, and her parents weren’t confident enough in their own understanding of the Western world’s traditions to explain it all to her when she was younger.

Gina changed everything, when they met at the club. Addie had fallen head over heels, and although she’d been afraid of coming on too strong, too fast, it hadn’t been a problem in the event. The first Christmas after they’d met, Miles had thrown a big Christmas party for everyone who worked at the club. Gina had been Addie’s plus-one, even though Miles had invited her anyway, and they’d had a wonderful night dancing and laughing together. They’d been together ever since, after a few weeks of hesitation as they each tried to work out if the other was on the same emotional page, and Addie had been delighted to find that her feelings were returned, even if Gina was a little shy about showing it.

A year later, they were set to go to Addie’s mum’s house. Addie always spent time over Christmas – when the café where she worked closed for nearly a fortnight – with her mother, and it had seemed natural to invite Gina to stay for a few days. There had been a slightly awkward moment when Addie’s mum, Esther, had absent-mindedly asked if Gina’s family would mind her not being at home for Christmas – given that Gina was estranged from her family, that was hardly an issue – but the strained conversation had passed quickly and she’d accepted the invitation to stay with Esther and her new partner, Steve. It would be their first Christmas all together, and it would probably be a quiet non-event, as Christmas so often was in the Crewe household. None of them had quite been prepared for the Steve Effect.

Steve, as it turned out, loved Christmas. The first Addie heard of it was in the second week of December, when she popped in to see her mum and found a large plastic tree in the living room.
“New interior decorator?”
“Steve.” Esther smiled fondly. “He did ask me first. Obviously, he knows my beliefs, and I know his, but he wanted to show me why he loves Christmas so much.”
“I thought he was an atheist,” Addie admitted.
“Agnostic – and a lapsed Methodist, apparently. But he’s not worried about the religious aspect-”
“I just like the festive tat,” came Steve’s voice from the hall, and Addie turned.
“Festive tat?”
“All the traditions – the tinsel, the turkey, the pretending it might snow. The decorations,” he added with a grin, giving the box he was holding a little shake. “Hello, Addie. You don’t mind all this, do you?”
“Why would I mind? It’s your house, and Mum’s.”
“Yes, but- well, I know you’re not Christian, and Ess tells me you don’t usually celebrate, so-”
“I’m not very Muslim, either. I mean, really, when was the last time I went to mosque? And even if I was, I don’t see why you shouldn’t put a big plastic tree in your living room if you want to.”
“Great. Want to help hang things off it?”

It had been an oddly warm sort of feeling, engaging in an unfamiliar tradition with the newest member of their little family. Addie had seen plenty of Christmas trees before, of course, but she’d never actually taken part in decorating one. As Steve showed her his very precise method for threading lights among the branches, she couldn’t help but think that Gina would love this sort of thing. She must have said it out loud, because Steve raised an eyebrow.
“Your Gina? Invite her, if you like. We can stop for a tea break until she arrives, can’t we, Ess?”
“Of course! And Gina is always welcome, even if she does always look like a frightened rabbit around me.”
“She has her reasons to be nervous around parents,” Addie reminded her, and went to call her girlfriend.

Gina must have run across town to get there as fast as she did, but she barely stopped to catch her breath before she began picking through the box of decorations Steve had produced.
“Where did all of these come from?” She was holding up a little gold bird, and Steve laughed.
“Oh, there are a few of those. They’re just things I’ve collected over the years – you know how easy it is to hoard Christmas decorations. If I’m not mistaken, that’s one of the turtle doves.”
“One of them?” Addie asked.
“There are two,” Steve and Gina answered in unison, and Esther raised an eyebrow. Gina blushed.
“Sorry, I just – I remember seeing the set a while back. The twelve days of Christmas, right?”
“Yeah – though I’ve lost the pear and most of the little people. I used to have my nieces and nephews look for them on the tree, to practice their counting when they were younger, and I think a couple of the lords and maids must have gone home with them by mistake. In fact, I know the partridge is on my Dad’s Christmas tree, though he denies all knowledge.”
“That’s nice, though. Your whole family sharing something special like that.” Gina looked wistful, and Addie made sure to touch her arm in reassurance as she leant round her to look into the box.
“What are these?” She held up a rather lumpy, misshapen clay snowman and several squashed pipe-cleaners that looked as if they might once have been twisted into the shapes of stars.
“Oh, er. I should probably chuck those out. I made the clay snowman in school, if you can believe it. Well, even if you can’t. I did. Made a snowflake as well, but that didn’t survive as well. The snowman’s too heavy to go on the tree, so I tend to just prop it up somewhere. And the pipe-cleaners are from my RAF days – we got bored on base one year, so we made some. One of the officers had done the same thing with his kids the year before, and he threw a few packs down in the mess hall to ‘keep the kids out of trouble’. Just as well, really, some of the other blokes were talking about going into town to get snow spray and decorating the fighter jets.”
“Surely they’d have got kicked out for that?” Esther was laughing as she said it, though.
“Definitely. So thank goodness for the pipe cleaners.”

Addie flattened out a star and went to hang it on the tree, but Steve stopped her.
“Hold on – tinsel first. It’s too much of a pain if you try to string it round afterwards.” They wrapped the tree in gold tinsel, and Addie couldn’t help but remember the silver tinsel that had adorned Miles’ usual bowler hat at the Christmas party the previous year. Gina glanced across at her with a small, secretive smile, and she knew that her girlfriend was thinking of the same night – the night they’d kissed under the mistletoe in front of everyone, a sign that Gina felt safe in acknowledging their fledgling relationship within the sanctuary of Submerge, even if she couldn’t quite bring herself to be entirely open about it outside those walls.

Addie was lost in her thoughts for a while, barely paying attention as Steve and Gina playfully argued their cases for different ornament placements. Gina seemed so happy and at home, even making occasional jokes with Esther – a woman she was unnecessarily, but understandably, terrified of because she was Addie’s mum – and Addie hoped she would get to see her enjoy more Christmases in the future. They hadn’t been going out for very long, but they’d been friends for a while now, and Addie knew enough of Gina’s quirks and faults to know that none of them were worth breaking up over.

She also knew enough about the things that brought Gina joy to be surprised when she didn’t immediately reach for the glittering star Steve had pulled out of the box, ready to top off the tree. Instead, she glanced between him and Addie, grinning excitedly. Steve was looking at her, too, she realised.
“What?”
“Er… well, in my family we always got one of the kids to put the star on top. I thought… you’re not a kid, obviously, but you’re Esther’s kid, so… would you like to do it? For our little family?”

That was how Addie found herself balancing precariously on a dining chair, Gina dutifully holding the chair steady with one hand and holding Addie steady with the other, lowering a shining golden star onto the top of the tree. It wasn’t her tradition, or her favourite holiday, and the family was still new, but it felt wonderful to come together for an activity so reminiscent of the adverts she’d grown up with all her life. It felt warm, and familiar, and Addie was happy.

She was even happier when Steve nudged her shoulder and showed her a secret, special ‘decoration’ settled on his palm. It sparkled in the light, the emerald reflecting a thousand fairy lights. A hanging loop, like that of a bauble, ran through the golden band of the ring, but its meaning was unmistakable all the same.
“What do you think? Should I hang this one up later?”
“I think Mum will love it,” Addie confirmed quietly, and hugged him. “And I know she hasn’t answered yet,” she whispered, “but welcome to the family.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Esther called from across the room, where Gina was helping to root out Addie’s favourite green-wrapped sweets from a large tin.
“Oh, nothing,” Addie told her with a grin, “just saying Merry Christmas.”

The End

If you enjoyed the story, please share it with your loved ones and don’t forget to join the Facebook group for updates on the Rainbow Advent Calendar. This year, we all get two treats a day! There’s also a masterpost here if you’d rather keep track that way.

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Addie and Gina’s story continues in Submerge. ‘A New Tradition’ is a free story, but if you feel moved to give money by way of appreciation, please direct it towards a charity of your choice – I recommend Marie Curie or Crisis. I know those folks would really appreciate it!

Merry Christmas, everyone, and I’ll talk to you soon!

It’s that time of year again…

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Hello, everyone!

The Rainbow Advent Calendar is back! I’m sorry this is late, but at least that means you can click the banner above (or here) and get the first week’s worth of stories right now – at two a day, that’s thirteen LGBT+ stories, completely free! More will be coming very soon, including – at some point – one by yours truly…

Join the Facebook group for updates, and why not check out last year’s stories for extra festivity?

NaNo went well – I did win in the end, though it was a close thing, and I ended up pouring those words into four different projects in order to pull it off. Now I’ve got to get to work on finishing those projects, tidying them up, and, er… getting on with my real life, somewhere in there, hopefully!

Talk to you soon!

No Holds Bard – a new Shakespeare anthology

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Hi, everyone!

I know, I know – it’s been all too quiet here lately. Unfortunately, my responsibilities at home have become much harder to juggle with everything else in my life – not that I was great at updating here to begin with – and I haven’t been able to keep up this blog and write. So I’ve been focusing on writing, largely a very long historical novel whose first draft I hope to get to the end of in the next month or so (next story already lined up for the period between edits).

However, this post is to let you know about THIS beauty, which I have a story in.

Cover image for No Holds Bard from Manifold Press

Ten authors, twelve extraordinary stories. From a novel solution to the Plantagenet succession crisis to revelations about the private lives of Prince Hal and – separately! – Brutus and Cassius, plus a surprise ending for Twelfth Night, no play is safe. We have marriage proposals and murder; subtle scheming villainy; a missing manuscript; a haunting… Whether set within the framework of a play, or spotlighting actors, characters, or the Bard himself, these stories will have you viewing Shakespeare in a whole new light. It’s definitely not the kind of thing they taught us in school…

Take a deep breath. Dive in. Prepare to be astonished!

My contribution to this anthology is short, but hopefully sweet, and is set in modern times – as you’ll see from the descriptions on the Manifold Press page here, that’s not true of all the stories therein. Stories take place everywhere from Shakespeare’s time to the present day, and not all entirely on our mortal plane. I also suspect there are some steamy shenanigans within, but as I haven’t yet read all the stories I’m unable to confirm that for certain!

You can pre-order the anthology now, ready for its release on the 1st of May – just click here and follow the relevant link for the format you prefer. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!

My Mistress’ Eyes
Eleanor Musgrove
In a tender domestic moment with her high-flying girlfriend, Lexi, Jasmine reflects on their relationship. A flattering request from a local festival leads her to take inspiration from the Bard himself as she searches for the right words to ask a very important question.

Something Beautiful (SFW)

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Rainbow Advent 12

Hi, everyone! For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome.

It’s my turn to get a little festive today as I add my story to the wonderful Rainbow Advent Calendar. Click the banner above (or here for our wonderful Facebook gròup) when you’ve finished reading, to find more free stories from a variety of excellent authors throughout Advent!

This story features two of the characters from my debut novel, Submerge, but it stands alone, it’s safe for work, and it’s (major) spoiler-free. I’ll add a buy link at the bottom if you want to know more about how the two of them met. Meanwhile, the story itself is free, but if you do like it and want to show your appreciation in any way, please consider making a small donation to the NSPCC today. It’s nothing to do with the story, but it’s a charity very close to my own heart and they do great work helping children who need protection, often from those who should be doing the protecting. If not, no pressure whatsoever – as I say, this is a very short, very free story!

So, without further ado…

Something Beautiful
By Eleanor Musgrove

Jamie came home from the office party to find that Christmas had exploded in Miles’ living room.

“What on Earth happened here?” A pile of decorations – paper chains, by the looks of it, though the tangled mess was hard to conclusively identify – moved in the corner and a familiar bowler hat popped out of the top, followed by Miles’ face and arms.

“You’re home! I, er-”

“Hold on. Let me try out my deductive powers. First of all, your job search went about as well as usual.”

“Correct. Still a surprising lack of opportunities for former managers of disgraced nightclubs. Shocking, I know.”

“Sorry. So… you got fed up and bored, and you knew I’d be home late today, so you decided to go for a walk into town.”

“Yeah…”

“And in town, you were entranced by the pretty lights and the glitter and the tinsel and now here we are.”

“Good try, but you missed a bit.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” Miles shrugged. “I had an accomplice.”

“Who would help you collect this much shiny- oh. Gina.”

“Yeah… in my defence, she bought even more than I did. Her flat is going to be insane.”

“And yet I expect she’s managed to get at least one decoration up.” Jamie couldn’t help but smile fondly at the general mess Miles had made. He got it; Miles struggled to concentrate when he was having a tough time with his depression, and even just unpacking all the assorted Christmas tat covering the floor must have been a mammoth undertaking.

“After I unpacked it all, I started making paper chains and… I suppose I fell asleep.” Miles was obviously embarrassed, but Jamie thought it was adorable. “I only woke up when you put your key in the door.”

“Come on, then. If you can get out of that pile without ripping them all, I’ll help you put all this up.”

 

It turned out that Miles had actually bought more fairy lights than they had power sockets to plug them into – and that wasn’t even counting the strings of cheap, battery-powered bulbs he’d picked up at the local pound shop. They’d have to get themselves a couple of safe extension cords the following day. For now, even without getting all the lights plugged in, there was plenty to get on with. Miles must have made ten metres of paper chains before he’d fallen asleep, and although his flat was comfortably spacious, it wasn’t big enough to fit ten metres of paper chains across the ceiling without looking ridiculous. They hung them anyway, giving the living room the impression of a jungle with hanging vines in festive colours.

“Right. Tinsel?”

Jamie wasn’t sure where they were going to put it, but he took one end of a strand from Miles all the same. Eventually, they draped it along the edges of surfaces, wrapped furniture legs and – of course – stuck it around the frame of the painting on the wall. Miles, Jamie noticed once they’d finished, was also wearing a short length as a fantastically sparkly tie.

“Suits you. What next?”

“I, er, got some more baubles and things, for the tree.”

 

Jamie had bought their tree, a couple of weeks ago, and decked its plastic branches with lights and the handful of baubles he’d taken a fancy to in the shops. Miles had added his own decorations, but there hadn’t been very many of them. Too many were overtly Christian in theme, and since neither of them saw Christmas as a religious experience – the holiday was based in the wrong religion for both of them – it hadn’t seemed appropriate to cover their tree in angels and tiny baby Jesus figures that played Christmas hymns when pressed.

“Those don’t exist,” Jamie had exclaimed, when Miles had told him as much. Miles had showed him the website. “Those shouldn’t exist,” he’d corrected lamely.

 

Now, however, Miles seemed to have come up trumps, with non-religious baubles covered in glitter in fantastic patterns and colours. He watched with interest as Miles blushed slightly before rummaging in a carrier bag, pulling out a long train of sparkly reindeer. They seemed to just keep coming, until finally the string ended with an equally glittery sleigh.

“It… er… it called to me.” Miles seemed utterly ashamed of the decision, but Jamie only cared for one detail.

“Show me that first reindeer.” Miles obliged, and Jamie peered carefully at its face. Then he looked at the second one in the string. “Yes. That’s good. They can go on the tree.”

“What were you-? Oh, it’s Rudolph! I didn’t even notice that. And the rest have black noses?”

“Of course. There can only be one Rudolph. Let’s see… if we start Rudolph just under the star on top, and then wrap the whole thing round…” They were lucky; when they reached the end of the string, the sleigh just rested neatly on one of the lowest branches.

“Perfect,” Miles told him happily, looking not only at the tree but at the festive chaos of the room around them. He was practically glowing, and it warmed Jamie’s heart to see it. Miles had told him once, during a particularly bad spell, that when he was struggling with the darkness in his mind it helped to see something beautiful. There was no denying that the flat had been transformed into something beautiful now. “Perfect,” Miles repeated, but Jamie shook his head.

“Not quite. Close your eyes.”

 

Miles narrowed his eyes before he closed them entirely, clearly a little suspicious. Still, he followed Jamie’s instruction and even tipped his hat forward a touch to ensure that he couldn’t be accused of peeking. Jamie made his way quietly over to his discarded jacket and reached into the inside pocket for the item he needed. He had to stand on tiptoes to tuck the sprig of mistletoe into a paper chain above Miles’ head, and it took a moment to get it in just the right position so that it didn’t fall out. Then he took Miles’ hat from him.

“Open your eyes, then.”

Miles’ eyes darted around the room, looking for any difference in his surroundings. It took a few moments for him to follow Jamie’s gaze upwards and spot the innocent-looking little plant hanging above his head.

“Oh. Yes, that really does make it-”

 

Jamie was impatient; he moved forward and pulled Miles into his arms, barely waiting for him to lean in before he claimed his lips for his own. By the time they broke apart, they were both a little breathless.

“…Perfect,” Miles mumbled, grinning like an idiot. Jamie was sure he was wearing a similarly dopey expression. “Where did that come from?”

“The mistletoe? I stole it from work. They really shouldn’t put it up at work parties, anyway, that’s just asking for someone to need a sexual harassment seminar in the New Year.”

“You stole it? From work? Remind me what your job is again, Jamie?”

“Oh, stop it, it’s hardly the crime of the century. Even we have to have fun sometimes. Do you like it?”

“It’s definitely staying here – and so are you.”

 

Miles wrapped his arms around him again, his embrace warm and comfortable amidst the riot of colour and light they had turned the flat into. Truly, Jamie thought to himself, this was something beautiful.

You can find out more about Jamie and Miles in Submerge, available here and here. If you’d like to make a donation to my chosen charity, you can do so online here. Thanks to Alex Jane for letting me join this wonderful project, and for organising the whole thing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Rainbow Advent Calendar

Rainbow Advent Calendar

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Hi, everyone!

Well, I survived NaNo with my fifth win – still plenty to do on the novel, of course, but I’ve made a good start. BUT that’s not what I want to tell you about today.

Today, I am excited about the…

Rainbow Advent Calendar

Yes! It’s Christmas soon (like it or not), and Alex Jane has done a fantastic job at making the run-up to the holidays a little more fun for fiction-lovers.

Every day from the 1st-24th December, a different author will be posting a short story, completely free, for you to enjoy. Some of the authors will be suggesting charities you might like to donate to but that is absolutely optional. The identities of those authors and the order in which they’ll be posting is a closely guarded secret – you don’t want to open the doors too early and spoil the surprise – but I can reveal that I am taking part at some point during the 24 days, and that so are some truly fantastic authors I know. Then, of course, there are many I don’t know at all, so it’s a great chance to expand all of our reading lists!

I should warn that this calendar opened up to the rainbow after some time being planned as an M/M (male/male) calendar, so it does skew towards M/M but there should be some variety in there somewhere! There will also be various ratings, kinks and heat levels, so please check the listings on the masterpost as they appear.

You can get to the masterpost by clicking on the banner above (or here) and there’s a closed Facebook group (applications are usually approved pretty fast unless you’re an obvious spambot) here so you can chat with authors and other readers and keep track of the calendar. Please do check it out if you’re interested, it’s such a lovely idea and I hope it’ll become an annual tradition.

Talk to you soon!