Saturday, July 28, 2018

Follow up to previous blog - last years view on LGBTQIA

Huge coincidence, but this appeared in my Facebook memories today. You notice I say it should have been a blog post - so now it is. Much of it repeats what i said yesterday, but I found it really interesting that I said almost the same thing as I did yesterday!

This should have been, perhaps, a blog post, but no one reads my blog posts! So, here we go.
With all the media attention on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, I am moved to write my own post about the subject, or, as my parents would have said, put in my two-pennorth. And speaking of my parents, I was an only child. We lived in a large flat in London, in a divided Victorian house. On the ground floor beneath us was another single child family. Bernard was older than I was, but we got on probably better than a brother and sister would have done, even when he took me to the zoo and lost me. As we both grew up it became obvious that Bernard was gay, although I had no idea what that was at the time. However, I was very well aware of it by the time his current boyfriend, a Sicilian, told me. My parents must have been aware of it, too – we were like one big family – but there was never a hint of disapproval. In fact, there was an occasion when a neighbour who had been trying to persuade my father to join the Masons (and failing) came to him with the story that Bernard had been arrested for cottaging. He was full of moral outrage and certain my father would join in his condemnation and, incidentally, keep me out of harm’s way. My father gave him the telling off of his life and never spoke to him again. Believe it or not, this was AFTER the Act, but the arrests and entrapment were actually increasing. My dad must have been even more remarkable than I thought.
By the time I met my husband-to-be, the Act had been in force for quite a few years, but acceptance was a long way off. A friend who was first trombone in the orchestra at the Coliseum used to get me tickets and got me two for a new production of Verdi’s Masked Ball. He told us to meet him in the interval and he’d take us for a drink. Brian had never met him before, but happily followed him to a little door at the side of the theatre, and upstairs to a drinking club. Within seconds, he realised it was a GAY drinking club. I’ve never seen anyone so uncomfortable in my life, especially when someone tried to chat him up. You can imagine his reaction to Bernard. But over the next couple of years I “educated” him, and Bernard was one of the ushers at our wedding. He had always been part of my parents’ wide circle of friends, and was a born entertainer.
But one of the things I was stunned by was the fact that even into the seventies both drugs and electrical therapy were being employed to “cure” gay men. I knew it happened earlier, and even today in the States there are doctors who profess to be able to do it, but here in the seventies?
I was born to incredibly tolerant and open minded parents. My early jobs, model, air stewardess, nightclub DJ, brought me into contact with a wide variety of people, and being gay seemed normal to me and always has. But I still see intolerance and discomfort around the LGBT community and it appals me. It saddens me that we have to HAVE a separate community – why not just people? We’ve got a long way to go.
Below: two pictures of my terrific Dad.

Friday, July 27, 2018

LGBTQIA The Melting Pot

I belong to the professional organisation the Romantic Novelists' Association, which I joined over thirty years ago when I still thought I could write romance. Despite finding out that I couldn't, and it was much harder than I thought, I've stayed a member, mainly because I made so many friends in the beginning, and I've kept them. I received an awful lot of encouragement all that time ago, and although I didn't become a published novelist through their admirable New Writers Scheme, I support it and recommend it and the Association to all aspiring writers.

At their conference this year it was decided to form a separate LGBTQIA Chapter for those who either identify as LGBTQIA or write books about LGBTQIA characters. While I applaud the RNA for this initiative, I'm sad that we need it.  I've had two male gay main characters in my series from the start, and they even got married - well civilled - in 2006. A couple of years later I introduced two female gay characters, one of them a vicar, who also became regulars. The series is 19 books long, plus a novella, three shorts and two magazine shorts, and in all that time, I've only had one complaint - a handwritten letter from a lovely lady in a nursing home in Scotland, which I've kept.

This is faintly surprising, as I write what is called in America "cosy" crime, which, over there, certainly has a fairly conservative readership. I doubt very much if I have many readers in the so-called Bible-Belt.

This particular community (and I suggest, if you don't recognise the acronym, you look it up on Google, Ecosia or your other favourite search engine) is one I have been familiar with all my life. And yes, I do mean "ALL my life". I, of course, am incredibly old and incredibly straight, but I grew up with a gay honorary brother who was part of my life until we unnaccountably lost touch in the 1980s. He was an usher at my wedding, among the other five almost aggresively straight friends of the groom. I worked in an environment notable for its, shall we say, inclusivity. Several, actually. It has never, ever occurred to me to think of, or treat the community any differently from anyone else, in the same way that because I grew up in the south London community of black people they, to me were just people. My parents were obviously extremely forward thinking, because they kept all the bitterness, prejudice and hatred from my small ears, and loved my honorary brother as much as I did.

In fact, I'm slightly annoyed with myself that I felt it necessary to write this post. I don't want ANYONE singled out, female, male, LGBTQIA, black, white, sky-blue-pink - what's the difference for heaven's sake? Years ago, when she was a young teenager, my younger daughter suggested that a good theme tune for Children in Need on the BBC would be the Blue Mink song "A Great Big Melting Pot". I think it would be a great theme song for all of us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Launch parties and covers

Well, it's July and this is the first cool day we've had for some time, which inclines me slightly more to sit in and write a new post and - start the new book!

First of all, launch parties. Yes, two of them! One, with real prosecco and cakes, is at my local bookshop, Harbour Books on August 16th, publication day, at 7 pm. The second is a Facebook launch at 7 pm on August 17th. There will also be a blog tour, about which I haven't yet got the details, but which is organised by a professional who knows the appropriate blog hosts. Most of my blog tours in the past have concentrated on bloggers who concentrate on romantic/women's fiction, but Jill, who is also organising my launch party, is a whole different kettle of fish. The only thing I'm worried about is that I might not be gory/tense/thrilling enough for crime bloggers. In our Loonies Reader Group we've discussed this before; the tendency these days is for edge-of-your-seat thrilling reads - even previously gentler writers are throwing their detectives into the fray.

Now, a little point that was made by a friend over the weekend - Accurate Covers. It was made by a writer, and discussed by writers, so I thought I'd get a reader's view point. She was complaining about the tendency of cover artists to portray period heroines in quite the wrong way - the wrong dress, the wrong stance or attitude, the wrong background - you name it, it was wrong. It's something that's always worried me - particulary in Regency Romances, where you see voluptuous heroines in positively abandoned attitudes posed with bare chested men. The clothes are frequently wrong, too. I didn't mean to, but I realised I was looking out for this sort of thing yesterday on my trek around t'internet - and I found it!

This was a book set during and just after World War One - in England and the Western Front. About English people. The cover showed a beautiful twenty-first century woman staring at a very twenty-first century young man against a misty, vague background. The - oh, look! Another one! This was a book by an American (I have nothing against Americans - I have one almost in the family) about Boudicca. This woman is an academic and a writing tutor and wrote the biggest load of tosh about her book I've ever seen. This ruthless warrior woman was portrayed as a beautiful wronged heroine (well, she was, but not the way she was portrayed) who took people out to a beautiful landscape - depicted on the cover) wearing a beautiful Greek-style dress (also depicted on the cover) for a PICNIC! And describes the food. No, I can't bring myself to repeat it. As I said privately to the blog host, my historian and archeologist friends would have had kittens - and as for my uni tutors - well! As a former tutor myself, I was horrified. She made every mistake it was possible to make.

Anyway, back to the point. Covers. Both those I've described were misleading and inaccurate and annoyed me intensely. This is why I'm so pleased that Accent have always gone for the sort of covers they give me. The houses depicted might sometimes be wrong, but they're near enough to give the right idea. So what do you think? Do the Wrong Covers irritate you? I really want to know.

If you don't already belong to our Reader Group and you would like to, we are Lesley Cookman's Libby's Loonies on Facebook. And no, I didn't choose the name...