Untitled Short Oddity

After a discussion about gendered terms such as actor/actress, a friend on Facebook challenged me to write a piece where the gender of the main character was ambiguous.  This is what I came up with.

Let me know if/when you guessed where it was going.

 

The phone on the desk rings. Jamie swears and pauses, foundation stick in one hand, magnifying mirror in the other, and glances at the screen.

The photo shows a badly lit pic of a handsome, smiling woman holding a Chihuahua to the screen to take a double selfie.

Mum.

Wonderful! Anyone else would hear the voicemail message once and either leave a message or ring back later. Not mum. She’ll ring and ring, ring and ring. Jamie sighs and puts the panstick down. Jabs at the screen.

“Hello love!” comes the sing song voice. “How was the opening night?”

Jamie’ teeth set on edge. “Hi Mum. Opening night was two weeks ago and I told you then. What do you want?”

“Oh, sweetie!” The eye roll and pout are almost audible. “Can’t a mother even call her…”

“I’m at work, Mum,” Jamie, cuts in, knowing that from weary experience these calls can go on for maybe twenty minutes with no clear purpose. “I’ve got maybe ten minutes before I need to be on stage for vocal warm up and this new foundation is a really bad blend. I can’t talk for long.”

“Ahhh! You always did like borrowing my make up when you were little. Now your father said I shouldn’t let you use it but I could always see how much you loved playing when you came into my dressing room. And now you’re on the stage too so I was right after all to let you. It’s in the blood, you know.”

Jamie can’t help smiling even though the story is years old. Jedda Matthew, Hull’s foremost (and probably only) female female impersonator who only gave up the stage when the early death of her husband left her as a single mother.

“Mum! Please!” Jamie’ voice sounds sharp and feels tight. It’s a bit of a worry as the last number of the first act is really tricky, at least two notes too high for comfort. That’ll need some working on this evening.

“I’m sorry, dear. Now, I was calling with some news. I hope you’re sitting down. Your sister is expecting a baby.”

The warning should have come earlier. Jamie sinks to the stool on legs that have turned to iced water. Stares into the brightly lit mirror and sees a face peering back that is cloud white even underneath the heavy stage makeup, with a mouth that is a scarlet streak of a smile. False eyelashes frame eyes that are suddenly filmy with tears.

“Lee’s pregnant?”

Jamie looks from the mirror to the photo board that has a special place in the dressing room and finds the photo of two children holding green balloons with the number eight on them. Jamie and Lee. Twins named by a mother who loved horror movies. Jamie and Lee consider themselves lucky that they weren’t named Carrie and Freddy.   They’re enough of a pair of clichés as it is, being such opposites.   Tomboyish Lee scowling into the camera who later took a Masters in Forensics and Jamie with a sequinned scarf and a beauty queen smile plastered on wide even back then.

Streamers swirl in Jamie’s belly in a pit that is huge and wide and gaping. A Mardi Gras of emotion too big to be contained.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! And what I want to know is, have you been feeling anything?”

“Feel what?” Jamie asks. The only feeling is a slight resentment that Lee called their mother first, but it is buried almost immediately beneath an avalanche of the urge to scream and dance round the room.

“Did you feel that your twin sister is going to make me a grandmother,” Mum continues in an exasperated manner, oblivious to the bombshell she’s dropped. “Because Mrs Noah who lives next door to Annie Blake’s bungalow says that when one twin gets pregnant, sometimes the other knows even before the expectant mummy. So have you felt sick at all? No strange cravings for pickles. Have you been wanting to eat meat?”

Jamie sniggers but manages to rein it in. Too rude for mum, though she probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.

“I’m vegetarian, remember,” Jamie says. “If I start craving steak I’d probably puke.”

“I know you are. And I did hear you snort, and I do know why, you know. I was on the stage for twenty years.”

She pauses to let it sink in, reminding Jamie that she has a broader mind than her children remember at times.

“Ah well. Perhaps it only works for identical twins.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Jamie agrees, glancing quickly at the clock. “Mum, I have to go. I’m needed for warm up. These numbers won’t sing themselves.”

“Aren’t you happy for your sister? I’m sorry, it must be a shock. I know you and Chris have talked about starting your own family. I’m open minded as you know and I know a lot of couples make it work one way or another, but but really, with your line of work being so uncertain…”

Mum’s voice is consoling now and Jamie can hardly bear it.

“No. Yes. No, I’m happy for Lee. Really happy. I’ll call her as soon as I finish tonight. Love you. Gotta go.”

Jamie hangs up while mum is still saying effusive goodbyes and is halfway to finding Lee’s number when the two minute call comes over the tannoy. The call will have to wait.

By the time the performance is finished and Jamie is back in the dressing room there are five missed calls, all from Lee.  Jamie finds a seat upstairs on the Night Bus before punching the speed dial with trembling fingers.

Lee starts apologising before Jamie can even get a word in.

“Jay! She told you! I’m so sorry you had to find out like that. I didn’t want to say anything to anyone until I was sure but Mum dropped round this afternoon and found me chucking up into the kitchen sink. She wouldn’t stop badgering me until I did a test. You know what she’s like. ”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does. You and Chris should have known before anyone else. What did Mum say?”

Jamie grins. “Oh, she was full of some weird stuff about whether I ‘felt your sickness’ or ‘sensed your womb’. She asked if I’ve been wanting to eat meat.”

Lee explodes into snorts. “No! I bet you almost pissed yourself laughing.”

“A little bit. She also told mentioned how pleased she is that you’re going to make her a grandmother. So, you didn’t tell her everything?”

“I thought I’d leave that. Why don’t you and Chris come up next Sunday. I’ll do a roast and we can tell her over the chicken.”

Jamie laughs and grins, knowing from Lee’s tone of voice that her expression will be almost identical as they discuss the secret they’ve shared for seventeen agonising, heartbreaking months of planning and failure and more planning. Because Mum might have heard about Lee’s pregnancy first, but she got one thing wrong. Lee isn’t making her a grandmother, Jamie is. With Chris’ sperm and Lee’s gladly donated eggs and womb.

“Sounds great. We can tell her everything. Chris can take a photo of her face and we’ll put it on a babygrow.”

Jamie grows serious for a moment. The enormity of impending parenthood suddenly becoming real and a mild punch to the guts that Lee will get to experience something Jamie never can.

“Lee, I don’t know what to say. I don’t have the words to thank you enough. You know what this means for me and Chris.”

“Don’t got getting soppy on me!” Lee warns. “I know you’d do the same for me if you could. Just don’t expect me to change nappies or tap me for babysitting too often,” Lee laughs.

They kiss into the phone and Jamie hangs up, counting the minutes till the bus pulls in at the stop round the corner from the flat.

Chris is lying on the sofa, long, lean legs buried underneath the cats. He’s working his way through a box set of Frasier. Beside him is a pile of exercise books and an empty wine glass. Chris decided a couple of years ago that he’d had enough of soul-destroying auditions and walk-on parts in local theatre, and that teaching nine year olds was his calling. He doesn’t miss the stage and they’ve already agreed that when the baby arrives Chris will be the stay at home dad and Jamie will continue to work.

Jamie bends over, covers Chris’ eyes from behind and kisses the top of his head.

“Hi Honey, I’m home!”

Chris leans round smiles the smile that made Jamie’s toes curl with instant desire from the very first moment they met.

“Good night? You’re later than I expected. Want some wine?”

“Mmm-hmm. I caught the bus rather than the Underground.” Jamie flumps onto the sofa, legs across Chris’ lap. “I called Lee. She had some news.”

“News? And?”

Jamie looks into Chris’ eyes, which are full of anticipation. Fear. Hope. They’re chocolaty brown and flecked with a touch of green with thick lashes. Jamie knew instantly that Chris was The One when he winked across the room at an open audition for Hello Dolly in Slough.

“Lee’s pregnant.” Jamie reaches out a hand, strokes Chris’ face and smiles, feeling tears starting to prickle behind his eyes.

“We’re going to be dads.”

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Medieval Monday with Laurel O’Donnell

Welcome back.  Today I’m delighted to welcome Laurel O’Donnell to the blog.  Her excerpt is from A Knight with Grace.

O'Donnell, Laurel- A Knight with Grace (final) 800 px @ 72 dpi low res

She shook her head.

 He held her face in his hands, his thumbs sweeping over her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Grace,” he whispered over and over. If he had hurt her, even by accident… His gaze swept her face, touching every inch of her soft skin, every curve. Lord, he had not meant to raise his weapon to her, to touch her warm skin with the cold blade.

Please join Laurel for her continuing excerpt next week at Ashley York’s blog – https://www.ashleyyorkauthor.com/blog

You can find the next instalment of Redeeming the Rogue Knight on Laurel’s blog today www.laurel-odonnell.com

Laurel’s book is available here
Amazon – A Knight with Grace

Blurb

Lady Grace Willoughby defies her father’s orders to marry Sir William de Tracy and escapes with a friend. She has no intention of wedding a cursed man, a man ostracized from the church, a man who would only doom any future children they might have to the fires of Hell. She prays for a knight to rescue her.

Excommunicated and outcast for a horrible crime in his past, Sir William de Tracy searches for forgiveness. Marriage has never crossed his mind until Lord Willoughby commissions him to retrieve his fleeing daughter and honor the dying wish of his father by marrying Grace.

But things are not as they seem. And when an assassin tries to kill Grace, William must choose between his soul and the woman he has come to love. Can William and Grace overcome their past and find the redemption and love both are so desperately seeking?

 

Medieval Monday with Jenna Jaxon

Welcome to the first Medieval Monday of 2018 (#Medmon18 on Twitter if you want to find the other excerpts).

My first guest is Jenna Jaxon with an excerpt from Betrayal.  Jenna is hosting my first excerpt on her blog so after you’ve read this please head over to read that. www.jennajaxon.wordpress.com

betrayal_logo

“We certainly see you stand ready for this joust, Lord Braeton.” Sir Robert Spencer laughed and nudged Patrick Sullivan.

“Wield your weapon well, Thomas!” Roger Delaney shouted from the corner, where he had withdrawn with Lady Catherine.

Thomas broadened his grin to a leer.

Give them a show so they will believe what they will not see.

“Doubt it not, gentles. My bride will feel its sting ere long. I know this business well, as many have reason to know.”

A small gasp, and from the corner of his eye he saw Lady Carlyle step back and turn away.

 

The worst betrayals come from within.

After a night of passion with her betrothed, Sir Geoffrey Longford, Lady Alyse de Courcy is eagerly looking forward to her wedding. But when Geoffrey is forced to marry another, a heartbroken and possibly pregnant Alyse finds herself in her own private hell. She must either gamble with her reputation or marry someone she does not love.

A reputed connoisseur of women, Thomas, Lord Braeton, has dallied with many ladies of King Edward’s court, although he has favored none. However, as Geoffrey’s best friend, Thomas has sworn to serve and protect Alyse, an oath now sorely tested when he agrees to marry her—in name only—to guard her reputation. Yet, as they grow closer, and Thomas discovers Alyse’s sweet but spirited nature, he comes to desire a marriage in truth.

Can he overcome her memory of Geoffrey, or is Thomas doomed to burn with passion for a woman he can never possess?

You can get hold of a copy via these links

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I4IKQ8G

B & N:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/betrayal-jenna-jaxon/1118591851?ean=2940045674331&st=PLA&sid=NOK_DRS_NOOK+EBooks_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP75008&gclid=Cj0KCQiAkZHTBRCBARIsAMbXLhFw1jq_admU84sYoj0wegxOscJenia0p61hEc12mqj-BvpmsIWF9hcaAqwfEALw_wcB

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/403200

Medieval Monday – new theme

A new Medieval Monday theme is starting next week.  To explain this to my new followers *waves hi* how it works, each week I’ll be featuring a short snippet from a different medieval author and they will be featuring my snippet on their website.

This time round we’re not sharing the same theme but each author has chosen her own.

My excerpt is from my most recent book, Redeeming the Rogue Knight . The theme I’ve chosen is ‘Home Truths’ (and there are plenty that Lucy has to deliver to Roger).

Below you can see where Roger will be paying a visit each week and who I will be hosting here.

medieval monday places

Cover reveal – Beguiled by the Forbidden Knight

My next book, Beguiled by the Forbidden Knight is out in June (though subscribers to Harlequin or Mills & Boon’s reader subscription service will get it in May).

I can’t overstate how much I love this cover.  Everything about it is perfect, from the misty, gothic atmosphere to the characters – including one very important thing about one of them that I’m not going to share at this point.

BBFK
Here are Gui and Aelfhild. Or are they?

What do you think?  I’ve had couples, heroes and heroines and I think this might be my favourite cover so far.

So far I only have the Harlequin cover and I’m waiting eagerly to see the Mills and Boon version as they’ve had a huge revamp and the new look covers are fantastic.

BFK blurb.

 

If the cover and blurb have caught your interest, Beguiled by the Forbidden Knight is available to preorder now getBook.at/ForbiddenKnight

 

New Year, new plans

Happy New Year! There must be a limit on when you can keep saying that.

I’m starting the new year with a resolution to use this blog more than I have been, but what sort of things would you like to see here?

I’ll be continuing Medieval Monday and a new theme will be starting at the end of January so look out for that.

I’ll also be sharing news about my books, covers, excerpts and inspirations.

If you like to be a little more interactive, please join me in The Unlaced Book Club and The Hussies Historical Hideaway over on Facebook for chats with Mills and Boon/Harlequin Historical authors, giveaways, gossip and fun (but no span and adverts).  We’re a friendly bunch and love to meet new readers.

Medieval Weights and Measures

A very useful resource and interesting to see the measurements we no longer use.

A Writer's Perspective

market

I’m sorry, but there is really no way to make this interesting.  In my novels the characters talk about how far they’ve travelled, how much things weigh and how much ale is left in a barrel. In order to do this convincingly, they can’t talk about kilometres, kilogrammes and litres. It turns out that they can talk about feet, yards and miles, though, which is a relief.

Measurements were starting to become standardised in the fourteenth century. Weights were supposed to be standardised to what was used in Winchester, but many towns retained their local weights and measures. I can see that there might have been some very great misunderstandings when people from different parts of the country had dealings with one another.

These are the most common medieval weights and measures:

Distance

Furlong – the length of a furrow of a field ploughed by a team of eight oxen…

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Introducing The Unlaced Ladies.

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

Just over a year ago nine incredible Historical Romance author’s banded together to create the hugely popular Facebook based; Unlaced Book Club, a very special place where authors, readers and like-minded individuals all get together to discuss Romance, History and have a lot of cheeky fun in between.

Now a year on and with enough books to fill a library and with over two hundred members this club is going from strength to strength and I feel very privileged to be a part of it and be able to experience the fun and good-natured banter that makes this Book Club so special.

So, who are these nine women who brought all this fun and hilarity to the world?

Each one of them are extraordinary writers with the best Romance brain’s in the business, between the nine of them they have brought to the world Rugged Medieval Knight’s, Sinfully Handsome Rakes…

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Medieval Monday First Encounter

We’re finished with this round of Medieval Monday. A new theme will be along in the new year. I didn’t want to leave you with nothing to read though so I thought I’d share the first encounter between Eleanor and Will from my Midwinter book, A Wager for the Widow

A Wager for the Widow

The ferryman braced his back and rammed his pole into the riverbank. The craft creaked alarmingly as it started to move away from the shore, the great chain that spanned the river pulling taut.

The shrill blast of a hunting horn sounded, ripping apart the peace. A commanding voice shouted, ‘Ferryman, stop!’

Eleanor peered back at the riverbank. A rider on an imposing chestnut-coloured horse was galloping along the road at the edge of the water. He pulled the horse up short.

‘You’re too late, my friend, the current has us now,’ the ferryman called back.

‘Wait, I tell you. I must cross today. I have business to attend to.’ The rider’s voice was deep and urgent, his face hidden beneath the hood of a voluminous burgundy cloak. The ferryman shrugged his shoulders and dug his pole into the river, pushing further away. Keeping one eye on the drama playing out, Eleanor walked carefully around behind the carriage and made her way to the other side of the deck to get a better view.

What happened next had the texture of a dream. The horseman cursed and wheeled his mount around. He galloped away from the water’s edge, then turned back. With a sudden bellow he cracked the reins sharply and sped back towards the river. As the horse reached the edge, the rider spurred it forward. The horse leapt through the air with ease to land on the deck alongside Eleanor. The ferry bucked, the far end almost rising from the water. Hooves clattered on the slippery wood and the animal gave a high-pitched whinny of alarm.

It was not going to stop!

As a cumbersome-looking saddlebag swung towards her Eleanor threw herself out of its way. The railing caught her behind the knees and she stumbled backwards, her ankle turning beneath her with a sickening crunch. Crying out, she flailed her arms helplessly, unable to regain her balance as the river came up to meet her.

She saw the horseman lunge towards her, felt his fingers close about her wrist. She gave a sharp cry as her shoulder jolted painfully and her feet slid on the deck. Cold spray splashed over her face as her head fell back, her free fingers brushing the surface of the water.

‘Take hold of me quickly. I can’t stay like this for ever,’ the rider ordered, tightening his grip on her wrist.

Eleanor raised her head to find herself staring up into a pair of blue eyes half-hidden in the depths of the voluminous hood. The rider was leaning along the length of his horse’s neck, body twisted towards Eleanor at what seemed an impossible angle. She fumbled her free hand to clutch on to his arm and he hauled her back to her feet. As she stood upright a spear of pain shot through Eleanor’s ankle. She gave an involuntary gasp and her knees buckled.

With the same speed as his initial rescue, the rider threw his leg across the saddle and dismounted with a thud. His arms found their way round Eleanor’s waist, catching her tight and clasping her to him before she slipped to the ground.

‘I’ve got you. Don’t wriggle!’

The man’s hood fell back and Eleanor saw him clearly for the first time. He was younger than his voice had suggested. A long scar ran from the outside corner of his eye and across his cheek, disappearing beneath a shaggy growth of beard at his jaw. A second ran parallel from below his eye to his top lip. His corn-coloured hair fell in loose tangles to his shoulder. Close up his eyes were startlingly blue.

Footsteps thundered on the deck as Eleanor’s coachman appeared. It struck Eleanor suddenly that the man was still holding her close, much closer than was necessary, in fact. She became conscious of the rise and fall of his chest, moving rhythmically against her own. Her heart was thumping so heavily she was sure he would be able to feel it through her clothing. As to why it was beating so rapidly she refused to think about.

‘You can let go of me now,’ she muttered.

The horseman’s eyes crinkled. ‘I could,’ he said, ‘though I just saved your life. There must be some benefits to rescuing a beautiful maiden in distress and holding her until she stops shaking is one of them. I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?’

‘You didn’t save my life. I can swim,’ Eleanor cried indignantly. It was true she was trembling, but now it was from anger. ‘I am most certainly not kissing you!’

The man’s forehead crinkled in disbelief. ‘Even though I saved you from a cold bath?’

Eleanor’s cheeks flamed. ‘It was your fault in the first instance, you reckless fool. You could have capsized us all. Your horse might have missed completely.’

The horseman laughed. ‘Nonsense, it was perfectly safe. Tobias could have cleared twice that distance. If you had stood still none of this would have happened. You panicked.’

With an irritated snort Eleanor pushed herself from the man’s grip, contriving to elbow him sharply in the stomach as she did so. She heard a satisfying grunt as she turned her back. She headed to the carriage, but her ankle gave a sharp stab of pain. She stopped, balling her fists in irritation. The horseman leaned round beside her. ‘Allow me,’ he said and before Eleanor could object he had lifted her into his arms and strode the three paces to the carriage. With one hand on the door handle he cocked his head. ‘Still no kiss? Ah, well, it’s a cruel day!’

‘There are no circumstances under which I would kiss you!’ Eleanor said haughtily, sweeping her gaze up and down him.

His face darkened and Eleanor took the opportunity to wriggle from his arms. Biting her lip to distract herself from the throbbing in her ankle, she swung the door open herself and climbed inside, slamming it loudly behind her.

 

Blurb: ‘I SUPPOSE A KISS OF GRATITUDE IS OUT OF THE QUESTION?’

Widowed Lady Eleanor Peyton has chosen a life of independence. Living alone on her rocky coastal outcrop, she’s cut herself off from the world of men – until William Rudhale saves her life and demands a kiss!

As steward to Lady Eleanor’s father, Will knows the desire he burns with is futile – but he’ll still wager he can claim Eleanor’s kiss by midwinter! Yet when the tide turns Will realises vulnerable Eleanor is far too precious to gamble with. Can he win his lady before it’s too late?

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The book came out in July 2015 so you’re unlikely to get a print copy but the ebook is available here:

Amazon: viewBook.at/WagerforWidow

Harper Collins: https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9781474006071/a-wager-for-the-widow

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-wager-for-the-widow-elisabeth-hobbes/1121093242

Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781460384640_a-wager-for-the-widow.html

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