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!

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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!

On Motivation

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Hi, everyone!

Yes, yes, late again. I’m not shifting the schedule to a day later (at least, not yet) but here I am running a day – no, two days, now – behind my plan. Of course, none of you know when my planned updates are (weekly, starting on the 15th of September, for the record) but I know, and it bothers me. So, apologies for the lateness none of you were previously aware of.

I picked those dates at random, but I feel like I want to stick to them, and here I am. I don’t have any particular reason for doing so – having missed the first update, surely it would be easier to shift the whole thing accordingly – but I will. Well, I’ll try. Often, when it comes to writing characters, we find ourselves looking for strong motivations to do something, but sometimes – especially with little things – I think it should be acceptable to just let characters do things.

Take, for example, a romantic meet-cute that happens in a shop. Does your character need a deep motivation for going into the shop in the first place? They can have one, certainly. Perhaps they want to get a birthday card for an older relative they’re very close to, one with whom they share hundreds of memories including a joke about, for example, a squash. They are therefore looking for a birthday card featuring a squash, and have tried every other shop in town. In desperation to find the perfect card for this older relative, they end up in exactly the same shop as their future love interest.

The love interest is there because something sparkly caught their eye as they walked past the window.

Both of these are equally likely reasons to enter a shop in real life – the latter perhaps more so – but they’re not equally common in fiction. Authors – myself included – often feel they have to justify every action, to make motivations strong and compelling. But there are often times in life when we act impulsively, without really knowing why, or when even if we sat down later and analysed every aspect of a choice, we can’t quite work out why we made a certain decision. You might take the slightly longer route to work one day, or flop down in the sun at the park, or name your hamster Wilhelmina, and there’s no particular reason for any of it. However minutely, your life is changed by a completely random decision.

Obviously, some decisions and actions need a stronger motivation. Moving to the other side of the world might start as a whim, but you’re probably going to need some strong arguments to actually go through with it. Becoming an airline pilot will probably need a decent motive, because it’s a long and intensive process, but even then the reason might boil down to a love of that feeling you get as the plane leaves the ground, or as you dip beneath the clouds on your descent and see whole countries spread out beneath you like a patchwork of fields and city blocks.

Some advice for writers tends to err on the side of complex motives, but they don’t need to be complicated. There doesn’t have to be a tragic backstory, a family connection, or a careful list of pros and cons. The reason just needs to be enough to compel a character to do something – it’s raining, so she stops for a coffee; he’s rich and bored, so he travels the world; they’re broke, so they share a flat.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Hopefully, I’ll have an update for you on Saturday. Then again, who knows? I may have a good reason not to.

Talk to you soon!

Major Secondaries

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Hi, everyone!

I’ve said this before, and no doubt I’ll say it again, but I’m determined to get back into a more regular posting habit. I’ve written myself a note and stuck it up above my new desk, so hopefully I’ll remember to keep to it. Of course, the note says I should have started yesterday, so we’re off to a great start already. However, it was my mum’s birthday party yesterday so I was a little busy. I’ll do better!

Anyway, today I wanted to talk a little bit about secondary characters and how, in life and in writing, they can develop much more importance than you might expect. I’ve often complained about ‘minor’ characters taking over my books – the very first time I won NaNoWriMo, I added a young family to my main character’s apartment building on about day 2, just to give it a bit of an authentic bustle. By day 5, the whole lot of them were main characters, and they really became my favourite part of the story. I was rereading the beginning of the story last night and I think I’ll be revisiting it – you can bet I’ll be working with that family at the centre, this time!

Mum’s birthday party yesterday actually served to underline the same point. If somebody was trying to summarise the story of my life, one of our guests last night would definitely be classified as a secondary character; she was one of Nan’s carers and popped in a couple of times a day to make her comfortable and have a little chat before continuing her rounds. Now she occasionally visits us, when she gets the chance, because we all miss Nan and we all miss each other.

For the most part, the people who looked after Nan’s more basic needs were minor characters in the story of our looking after her. For about 22 and a half of the 24 hours in any given day, they weren’t there. But for Nan and, to a certain extent, for my sister and me as her primary carers, they were the bulk of our social interactions. Without them, I honestly think we’d have gone mad. And some of them – the good ones – made sure that they didn’t just roll Nan over to relieve the pressure on her joints, wash her and plump her pillows up; they chatted and helped her get her hair the way she liked it, and they asked us if we were coping alright and let us vent. The carer who came yesterday for cake and a chat is family, to us.

So, tying it all back to writing – some people, and some characters, look on paper as if they should be almost insignificant to the plot of the book. They might seem as though they could be cut out entirely without making the slightest difference to your main character’s life. But if they become a bigger part, if they start ‘taking over your novel’, or if they just refuse to be quietly deleted, perhaps it’s best not to fight it after all. There will always be people who pass through our lives briefly and make more of an impact than we – or they – could imagine. It only makes sense that some characters are the same.

What do you think?

Talk to you soon (no, really, I mean it this time)!

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

Patreon launch!

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Hi everyone,

It’s my birthday, which means it’s also launch day for my brand new Patreon page! Patreon is a platform that allows you to support creators in doing what they do best, by effectively giving them $1 (or more if you like!) now and then.

My Patreon currently works on a per-creation basis. I’ll be adding new free content at least once a month, at least for a while, and I hope to add about two pieces of paid content a month (until I can increase it to three; beyond that I’ll be switching to a pledge-per-month system so it doesn’t get silly for anyone). Everyone can see my free posts, but paid posts will be Patron exclusive.

Please go and check out the page – the free story is at least some indication of what you can expect from my writing – and tell your friends! I hope you’ll enjoy the content over there and, hopefully, renewed activity on this blog.

Thanks, and talk to you soon!

Apologies

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Hi everyone,

Sorry for the radio silence – and I’m also sorry that I can’t promise it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, my life is going through a very hectic period, so I’ve barely had chance to write recently (though I did write 7000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo in April) and I have had no idea what to blog about.

Currently I’m working on short story submissions for Manifold Press’ two upcoming anthologies – No Holds Bard and Call to Arms – and continuing with A King’s Ransom. The latter is running long, the former is running short, and the one in the middle just really needs beta reading. Hopefully I’ll have some updates for you relatively soon, but I can make no promises!

Thanks for bearing with me, and hopefully I’ll talk to you soon!