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QRFFC Group Hop

Dates for Group Hop

These are the individual competitions that are now closed but don't forget to grab the *letter* from each post for the big Kindle Paper White competition!

 December 4 - Rj Scott posting in N.r. Walker group. 
December 5 - NR Walker posting in Posy Roberts group
 December 6 - Posy Roberts posting in Davina Jamison group
 December 7 - Davina Jamison posting in Keira Andrews group.
 December 8 - Keira Andrews posting in Jay Northcote group

Live individual competitions ...

December 11 - Jay Northcote posting in Leta Blake group.

 A $5 Amazon giftcard at Amazon.com,
 An audio code for one of my books (valid at Audible.com)
 Your choice of an ebook from my backlist.


Still to come...

December 12 - Leta Blake posting in Garrett Leigh group.

December 13 - Garrett Leigh poting in Annabelle Jacobs group.

December 14 - Annabelle Jacobs posting in A.m. Arthur group.

December 15 - A.M Arthur posting in Annabeth Albert group.

December 18 - Annabeth Albert posting in Amber Kell group.

December 19 - Amber Kell posting in Sloan Johnson group.

December 20 - Sloan Johnson posting in Eli Easton group.

December 21 - Eli Easton posting in RJ Scott group.

Join all the groups here to participate:

N.r. Walker - https://www.facebook.com/groups/524674590970385/

Posy Roberts - https://www.facebook.com/groups/PosysLabyrinth/

DJ Jamison - https://www.facebook.com/groups/DJandCompany/

Keira Andrews - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1584923925093809/

Jay Northcote - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1444191399172292/

Leta Blake - https://www.facebook.com/groups/576447302455141/

Garrett Leigh - https://www.facebook.com/groups/garrettsden/

Annabelle Jacobs - https://www.facebook.com/groups/798663446914946/

A.m. Arthur - https://www.facebook.com/groups/300209733646247/

Annabeth Albert - https://www.facebook.com/groups/annabethsangels/

Amber Kell - https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmbersAwesomeFans/

Sloan Johnson - https://www.facebook.com/groups/sloansrangers/

Eli Easton -https://www.facebook.com/groups/164054884188096/

RJ Scott - https://www.facebook.com/groups/Rjscott/

It's All About The "Christmas" Audio - The Christmas Throwaway

Rachel here, I've taken over It's All About The Audio this week as I'm listening to The Christmas Throwaway on audio for the first time (shock horror, I know, first time!) 

I'd been saving TCT for this week when I knew I'd be feeling suitably festive, I've read this book tons of times, it's one of my favourite Christmas re-reads and listening to it takes it to a completely different level. As always with Sean Crisden the narration is spot on :)

Because I'm feeling in the gift giving mood, I'm offering a chance to win the audio of The Christmas Throwaway, all you need to do is answer this question..What's your favourite festive audiobook?

Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn?

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go. Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?

Buy Links - Audio Book

And here's a short birthday memory from Zach that RJ wrote for one of Amber Kell's Birthday events. Zach's Best Birthday Memory.

Weekly Roundup - December 10

It's been another busy weekend at RJ central, Christmas preparations are well underway and today, we had snow! Here's what else has been going on this week...

The French translation of of Texas Winter, Un Hiver au Texas, was released on Monday. That's the 11th book I've had translated into French, you can find the list here. 

I talked a little about The Christmas Throwaway and The Heart Of Texas and how they were complete game changers for me on Tuesday, see what I had to say here.

It was the official release of Love Happens Anyway on Wednesday, a book that started off as a short story and ended up being my Christmas book this year.

George Loveland also popped in on Wednesday and took his turn in the Hump Day Hot Seat and talked about his new release, On The Third Kiss.

The Queer Romance Freebie & Fan Club Group Hop started Monday, if you've missed the first few posts not to worry, you can go grab the letters posted so far and still be in for a chance  to win the grand prize of a Kindle Paperwhite.

Another fabulous event this year is the Rainbow Advent Calendar, new stories every day in December from some great authors.

The Feature Friday guest was the wonderful Elin Gregory who talked about the pitfalls of writing historicals.

Ángel en una librería, the Spanish translation of Angel In a Bookshop was released on Friday, you can find the information on it here along with my other Spanish translation.

Changing Lines (Harrisburg Railers #1) is still only 99 pennies for one more day celebrating the release of Deep Edge (Harrisburg Railers #3).

And finally, the #RainbowSnippets yesterday was from Texas Christmas (Texas #5) which came out in Audio recently. 

Hope you've all had a wonderful week *hugs* RJ

My Christmas & Wintery Stories

❅Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, let's all curl up with a Christmas book!❅

The Christmas Throwaway

The Christmas Throwaway, was my first Christmas themed book. Written as a short story for someone who was poorly in J2 fan fiction, I extended it from two thousand short words to over forty and so Ben and Zach were created.

The book, a story of a young man thrown out of his house at Christmas for being gay, did really surprisingly well. It was All Romance's best selling book of 2010 and also spent a lot of time in the top 300 of all romance novels on Amazon. It's now available in Audio and has been translated into Spanish, Italian, French and now German. I love this little book that could so much.

New York Christmas

Awwww, my boys in New York. I loved writing this book.

It started life as a J2 fanfiction twelve days of Christmas type short story.

When I rewrote it I wanted to keep that idea of the days before Christmas, although of course the book starts just before Thanksgiving and ends in the New Year.

There is also a free short story following on, available at Amber Kell's blog here

Angel In A Bookshop

The story of an angel and a man set in a book shop. I mean, how could I not enjoy writing this, it had a bookshop, a man with wings, and an angsty sad hero. Win/Win.

It was based loosely on a short I wrote for Dreamspinner way back in 2010 (a bit, not much really, it was supposed to but it kind of grew like topsy and became something else).

The short story I had written was my first ever accepted work for publishing and it HAD to be extended and become something else.

Texas Winter (Texas #2)

The book that was never supposed to be written...  Did you know The Heart Of Texas was supposed to be a stand alone? ROFL... I couldn't leave it though and so Texas winter was born.

Snow doesn't fall a lot in Texas but this story centers around a freak one-day snowfall. Add in a daughter Riley didn't know he had and the Campbell-Hayes have their first real Christmas.

Christmas In The Sun

The Sapphire Cay series came to an end with book 6.

I loved writing this series with my very close friend Meredith Russell and we had to give the boys a Christmas book in 2013.

We bought back a wedding planner with OCD decorating tendencies and his sexy Marine, Lucas and Dylan and a stray dog, and gave all of our boys a Christmas Day they wouldn't forget.

Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident

A free short story Christmas gift

This was part of a huge Christmas Anthology that I pulled together in 2013 featuring some 25 new authors. It is the sequel to Deefur The Dog, featuring a Manny, a widower, a sweet child, and of course a Great Dane called Deefur.

Jesse's Christmas

This was my second Christmas themed book and spent some time with an old publisher before I was lucky enough to get it back. As soon as I got it back I doubled it in size!

The story of someone who doesn't really like Christmas landing in a town that won an award for best Christmas Town made me smile the entire time I was writing it.

I couldn't fail to love Gabriel who showed Jesse what Christmas could be about and how it is possible to love again.

The Journal of Sanctuary One

(Sanctuary book 6)

Jake and Sean, with their love/hate relationship stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for Christmas. Of course the Bullen storyline features but mostly this is me ticking ALL of my Christmas boxes.

Two men, a cabin, stranded, anger, hate, love, sex and gratuitous use of a running machine. Sighs. I loved writing this book.

The Road To Frosty Hollow

I love the concept of a road trip, particularly when you fall in love on that journey. Add in two men who have known each other a very long time and this is a story written with Meredith Russell that ticks all the boxes for a Christmas Romance.

Snow & Secrets (Stanford Creek #3)

One of my favourite storylines in a romance book at Christmas is the idea of a snowy cabin, enforced isolation, and two men falling in love.

Snow, secrets, some danger, one hot tub, Christmas decorations, and family.

Texas Christmas (Texas #5)

Writing the Texas series was a labour of love, and I had to put in a Christmas story for Jack, Riley, and their extended family.

There is of course drama with the Campbell-Hayes, including a terrifying car trip home with the Christmas Tree. Add in the boy's new family and this ends up being a very interesting Christmas for them all.

The Case of the Sinful Santa

End Street Detective Agency Book 4, written with Amber Kell

How could we not explore the idea of a Klaus family in this series of books featuring vampires, demons, angels, dragons and one kind of human, along with a cast of many other paranormals?

In this book we explored what it must be like born into the Klaus family but not wanting to be a Santa... And and of course, we introduced our very own Angel just to shake things up.

Snow In Montana (Montana #4)

The fourth story in the Montana series is a look at Justin and Adam, alongside a whole new romance between a B list actor and a Sheriff.

I love Christmas movies, and this novel is set against the March backdrop for filming *Snow In Montana* starring The King Of Christmas (TM) Jordan Darby. Meeting Ryan Carter, the local sheriff, is way too tempting for Jordan. How long can he stay in the closet?

Love Happens Anyway 

This is what happens when...

a) Alex Jane asks authors to write a short story for an Advent Calendar and i have this idea about.... things...

b) Becky Condit on a discussion about what is awesome about MM, says she loves the phrase *Love Happens Anyway*

Well, you see, what happens is that A CHRISTMAS BOOK is born (because you know how much I like Christmas!

Rainbow Snippets - December 9

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (snippets are 6 sentences long–one for each colour in the Pride flag). You can find all the snippets by clicking here.

My snippet this week is from Texas Christmas (Texas #5), with more trials and tribulations on the Double D Ranch, where family is more than who's blood you carry...


Liam Frazier listened from a short distance and wished the ground would swallow him up so that he wouldn’t be found out.

He sat with his knees drawn up to his chest not more than ten feet from Jack Campbell-Hayes. With only a stall wall between them, Liam was close enough to hear every word his boss said. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop—everyone should have been in bed by now and Liam thought he’d have the horse barn to himself.


He was going to be discovered and told to leave the D.

Now Available In Audio

Six men with lives linked to the Double D... Danger comes to the Double D from Liam's past and threatens everything Jack and Riley hold dear.

Centering on Jack and Riley, parents, lovers and friends. Jack makes a decision that will affect the ranch, and Riley realises peace comes at a price.

Eli and Robbie have their home on Double D land. Their love is rooted in the Texas soil and they weather as many storms as can be thrown at them.

And Liam, a young man with a head full of dreams and sleep full of nightmares, finds that all things are possible when Marcus decides to interrupt his solitary existence.

Buy Links

Texas Series

Feature Friday - Elin Gregory - Writing Historicals

My guest for Feature Friday this week is the wonderful Elin Gregory, here to talk about the pitfalls of writing historicals, welcome Elin...

One of the great joys, and great hazards, of writing historical fiction is the amount of research that needs to be done. There are very few people who are so steeped in the culture, primary sources and archaeological records of their chosen period that they don't need to fact check. Mary Beard is probably a safe bet for Roman stuff but I bet even she has to refresh her memory from time to time. And I'm just a museum worker with about enough knowledge of the 3000 years or so of the history our collection comprises to give out handy little soundbites, entertaining but not too heavy. When I embark on a new project it means some serious reading and note taking.

I do know writers who use their overall impression of the period to write their first draft and then check the fine detail to flesh out the second draft but you can get badly caught out by that. Part of the plot of Eleventh Hour, set in London in 1928, rests upon a chance encounter on a trolley bus. I adored them when I was a child – the ting of the bell, the showers of sparks as the boom that carried the electrical current bounced across from wire to wire – and my mother, born in 1925 was certain that they predated her.

Photo from Manchester Daily Express 1962
I checked, of course, even found an image of trolley bus designs dated 1928 – I thought. But once the book had been released into the wild, so to speak, I was looking up something else and discovered that the '1928' referred to the model number and the **&^% things hadn't gone actually gone into service till 1929 – about 3 months too late! If only I'd used the word "tram", dammit! Internet searches and asking ones mum are all fine and dandy but sometimes you need books – expensive glossy specialist books.

There's nothing quite as satisfying as going book shopping with the knowledge that, if necessary [and assuming you get any royalties] you can write the shopping spree off against tax. Books tend to go into subjects in more depth and also are peer reviewed, which can get absolutely vicious. They may vary in interpretation of the facts but the facts and supporting material are usually kosher. But even so there are times when you come across things for which there's really no excuse.

Some years ago I decided to take another swipe at a long project based on Y Gododdin, a 9th century Welsh poem describing a series of battles in Dark Ages Northumberland and Yorkshire. Amongst the Dark Ages history titles I picked up was The Holy Kingdom by Adrian Gilbert. This was published by Bantam books – a subsidiary of Transworld publishers so not a hole in the corner outfit. I was leafing through the photos in the middle and well…

You know that feeling you get when someone tries to tell you you’re looking at a unicorn but somehow you can't quite believe it?

Well it’s worse when you’re looking at a painting you know very well, by an artist you admire and the painting is completely uncredited! This is art piracy and a Really Bad Thing!

This is the picture, though in the book it is cropped to the left and has no attribution.

It was painted by Ron Embleton – beloved to people of my generation for his illustrations in Look and Learn, the end titles for the Captain Scarlet cartoon series, and his raunchy cartoon strip Wicked Wanda – but he was also very well known as a historical illustrator. The painting was commissioned by the National Museum of Wales and shows an upper Paleolithic interment on the Gower coastline, wrongly described as the Red Lady of Paviland [it’s a bloke]. At approximately 33,000 years old it is the oldest ritual burial to be found in Western Europe. The body was covered with a thick coating of red ochre, possibly as a deterrent to scavengers. In the Holy Kingdom the image is described as being a depiction of the burial of King Arthur and there's so much wrong with that I just don't know where to start!

Art piracy is as egregious as book piracy. Five minutes with Google reverse image search can usually give you an attribution that, even if it's not 100% correct at least makes it look like you've TRIED! But far worse than that, Holy Kingdom was advertised as a work of reference and now there is a whole bunch of would be Arthurian scholars who probably think that Arthur fought the Saxons dressed in a parka and mukluks.

So books – yeah, but they have to be the RIGHT books.

All of which is trying to say – I suppose – that authors of historical works do their best to get things right with the resources at their disposal but sometimes we just get it wrong. If I do another edition of Eleventh Hour, it'll say 'tram' dammit!

Logo by Catherine Dair
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and has been making stuff up since she learned to talk. Writing has always had to take second place to work and family but, slowly, she is finishing the many novels on her hard drive and actually trying to do something useful with them.

Historical subjects predominate. She has written about ancient Greek sculptors, 18th century seafarers but also about modern men who change shape at will and how echoes of the past can be heard in the present. Heroes tend to be hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow.

There are always new works on the go and she is currently writing more 1930s spies, adding to a series of contemporary romances and doing background reading for stories set in Roman Britain and in WW2.

Website: www.elingregory.com Blog: http://elingregory.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elin.gregory

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.

Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, Water Board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.

Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?

The clock is ticking. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Malcolm Bright, brand new museum curator in a small Welsh Border town, is a little lonely until – acting as emergency archaeological consultant on a new housing development – he crosses the path of Rob Escley, aka Dirty Rob, who makes Mal’s earth move in more ways than one.

Then Rob discovers something wonderful, and together they must combat greedy developers and a treasure hunter determined to get his hands on the find. Are desperate measures justified to save the bones of our fathers? Will Dirty Rob live up to his reputation? Do museum curators really do it meticulously?

Answers must be found for the sake of Mal’s future, his happiness and his heart.

Poke Check (Harrisburg Railers #4)

Out February 14 2018

Cover By Meredith Russell

One scorching summer in each other's arms could never be enough.

Stanislav “Stan” Lyamin is happy playing for the Railers. The towering goalie is well-loved, respected, and making a home for himself even though that home only contains him, his cat, and his growing Pokemon trading card collection. Stan prefers it that way. He’d given his heart to a man in a secret affair, and that man walked away, leaving Stan shattered. Now Erik is back in his life, and he has the same tumultuous effect he had on Stan’s heart as before. This time it’s not just a kissable mouth and sweet blond curls that Erik has brought to Harrisburg, there’s a soon-to-be ex-wife and a precious baby. Despite the vow Stan made to hate Erik forever, he’s now finding it harder and harder to turn away.

Erik Gunnarsson’s dream had always been to play in the NHL, he just never imagined he’d land a contract with the Railers. Who would have thought that fate would put him on the same team as Stanislav Lyamin; the man whose heart he’d callously broken?

Secrets and lies had defined their summer relationship, and the choice that Erik made to end it all haunts him still. In the middle of a messy divorce and with a baby in tow, Erik finds himself back in Stan’s life. Now all he has to do is be the best dad he can be, prove to the team that he deserves the chance to stay on the roster and try his hardest to get Stan to forgive him. Is it possible to persuade a man who hates you to give love a second chance?

Pre-Order Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | KOBO | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Harrisburg Railers Series

Changing Lines (Book #1)
First Season (Book #2)
Deep Edge (Book #3)
Poke Check (Book #4) WIP

Hump Day Interview - George Loveland

Today's guest in the Hump Day Hot Seat is the lovely George Loveland, welcome George...

What is your favorite childhood book?

There are too many to choose from! I remember The Twits by Roald Dahl as one of my favourites because I could imagine them clearly and would it would be like to eat worm/spaghetti. Also in my favourites were The Chronicle of Narnia and The Phantom Tollbooth.

What book/s are you reading at present?

I think I have three on the go ... I flip between books depending on my mood. The Zodiac Series by Vicki Pettersson (I'm on book 5) for urban fantasy, David Dawson's The Delingpole Mysteries, and then I am dipping into various other Christmas stories, because you know, it's the season :)

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My latest story took me close to four months! I think the writing the bones down doesn't take me long at all, but I procrastinate with the editing and polishing it up to make it something people can read without spelling mistakes and obvious errors.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

At the last count ... five! The next story will be for Max in my Up in the Air series. He's upset that I focused on Sebastian and Javier for Christmas.

Do you have a character in your head that you have yet to write a story for?

Yes - Miss Belle End aka Dave. She appears as a supporting character in this book, and another one that's waiting to be edited. However, she is too big for me to write, I have her voice, I know who she is, but she won't let me put her on paper as anything but supporting the other stories. One day I will, but it's a while off yet.

For your chance to win an ebook of Up In The Air, Johannesburg answer this question...What would be your Drag Queen name? (The name of your first pet and the name of the road you lived in). George's is Shelley Gardens.

On The Third Kiss - OUT NOW!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Sebastian Bennett is really looking forward to his Christmas holiday with boyfriend Elliot Bolton in the Gran Canarian sun. The only thing left is for him to sing one last song at the pub as his Drag Queen alter-ego, Donna Tracey. After the wig, make-up and dress come off, he rushes home to pack, only to find he and his chihuahua, Buster, have been deserted by Elliot, who’s taken someone else to Gran Canaria. Devastated, Sebastian turns to his friend and the pub’s manager, Javier Reyes-Martinez, who helps him pick up the pieces.

Javier seems determined to bring fun and laughter back into Sebastian’s life during this holiday season, and Sebastian is both grateful and enchanted. After a family Christmas and a word of advice from his great-uncle, Sebastian starts to look at Javier in a different light. Is Javier as fond of Sebastian as he appears, or is Sebastian being misled by his own need? If he’s reading the signs right—and if he’s ready to move on from his previous heartbreak—could he and Javier be much more than friends?

About George

George was about eighteen when he told his friend that he was going to be a writer. It took him another eighteen years before he finally did anything about it and wrote his first short story. A typical Englishman, he drinks buckets of tea with milk—but no sugar, because he is sweet enough. His Nan told him so.

George lives just outside of London, but close enough to enjoy Soho and the West End, where you will find him in a bar with a pint, in a club dancing into the early hours of the morning, or enjoying a musical in the theater; but more than likely he will be in a coffee shop reading a book or writing a new story. Currently single, but taking applications for future husband position, George enjoys crafting romantic stories in which he hopes that one day, life will imitate art.


Ángel en una librería

¿Qué sucede cuando un hombre roto tiene que confiar en lo imposible?

‘Capítulo Uno’ es una librería de antigüedades y es la última cosa tangible que Joshua Blakeman y su madre tienen de su padre. Ubicada en una tranquila plaza a pocos pasos de la Catedral de St. Paul de Londres, tiene las ventanas blanqueadas y tapiadas, y sin stock nuevo. El lugar es un triste recordatorio de la pérdida y tiene que desaparecer, pero destruir un negocio que ha estado en su familia durante generaciones no es un papel que Josh esté deseando.

Michael es el dueño de Deseos Artísticos, la tienda de al lado. Con sus tazas con arcoíris del orgullo y su perspectiva alegre, él es todo lo contrario de lo que Josh cree que necesita en su vida.

Pero, cuando Josh y Michael se hacen amigos, Josh descubre que encontrar el verdadero amor comienza por tomar grandes decisiones, y que a veces, todos merecen su propio milagro navideño.

Traducción Valentina Stoica

Comprar enlace

Amazon (ES) | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Smashwords | KOBO | Barnes & Noble | iTunes


Capitulo 1

Michael: No recuerdo a menudo en detalle cada vez que soy parte de una familia. Recuerdo los grandes eventos: las guerras, los nacimientos, las bodas y las muertes. Por eso estoy aquí, después de todo, y escribo todo lo más fielmente que puedo. Aún así, el tiempo avanza muy rápido y estoy feliz de dejarlo pasar. Hasta que encuentre al hombre que me hará decidir que el tiempo debe pasar más lento, para poder quedarme.

Un día conoceré a la persona que me hará sentir. Él será fuerte, seguro y perfecto para mí, y querré ascender para ser humano solo para estar con él.

Y, sí, sé que es un él. Siempre lo he sabido 

* * * * * 

Durante mucho tiempo, Joshua Blakeman permaneció inmóvil en la calle fuera de la tienda. La gente caminaba a su alrededor, algunos chasqueaban sus lenguas, otros pasaban rozándole como si pudiera ser empujado y quitado de en medio. Nadie se detuvo y le preguntó si estaba bien. Él nunca esperó que lo hicieran. Era un hombre extraño envuelto en un abrigo de invierno con un gorro que le cubría la cabeza y una bufanda que le ocultaba la boca, y estaba bloqueando su camino al trabajo.

Detrás de él, el autobús número quince se detuvo con dificultad, y algunas de las personas que lo habían empujado ahora luchaban por conseguir un sitio en él. Josh no escuchó ninguna maldición o discusión; todos encontraron un lugar en silencio. Él sabía cómo era eso. Durante los últimos siete años, había usado su bolsa de mensajero e inflado su metro setenta y ocho para intimidar y conseguir a su manera un espacio de pie en los trenes del metro. Se había vuelto tan bueno en eso que con el uso juicioso de su voluminosa bolsa, podía ir de Baker Street a St. Paul en menos de quince minutos.

Pero eso fue ayer. Eso fue un montón de ayeres antes. Mucho antes de su crisis. Mucho antes de que todo se fuera a la mierda y terminara aquí de pie y mirando.

Esta era su vida ahora, esta pequeña rata que corre entre el metro y el autobús en St. Paul. Nadie sabía que estaba allí, o al menos nadie se detuvo. No había Starbucks, ni Costa, ni vendedores de periódicos, ni historia de ningún famoso que viviera en la plaza. No había absolutamente ninguna razón para que un viajero se tomara un momento para ver qué había en los jardines de Horus. Los turistas a veces vagabundeaban por este lugar, esta pequeña plaza silenciosa, y a veces, muy raramente, se quedaban. Había césped en alguna zona para sentarse en paz antes de la siguiente etapa del día. Podrían ir al Palacio de Buckingham o a la Torre de Londres, podrían tener entradas para el London Eye o un crucero por el Támesis. Todos tenían un propósito, y todo lo que dejaban aquí en la plaza era basura.

—Joder, —alguien maldijo en la cara de Josh mientras se lanzaba sobre él. No agregó nada, simplemente se alejó, dejando a Josh con el aroma del ajo de la noche anterior y el desodorante y la loción para después del afeitado de esta mañana.

Josh se preguntó lo cerca que esa persona estaría de una crisis nerviosa. ¿Estaba a semanas de distancia, o solo había vendido su alma al comercio y todavía estaba fresco como un recién nacido?

—Lo siento, —dijo, a pesar de que la persona se había ido hace mucho tiempo.

Pero no se movió. Se limitó a mirar fijamente el letrero que tenía delante, las grandes letras CERRADO pintadas en escarlata sobre un tablero que cubría la puerta, y los remolinos blancos que empañaban las ventanas.

Allí estaba todo lo que Josh no quería, y todo lo que necesitaba.

—Jesucristo, —espetó una mujer mientras se desviaba para evitarle—. Malditos inmigrantes. —Dejó el aroma de Chanel y el insulto era nuevo. Se echó una ojeada a si mismo. Vestía un abrigo de Marks and Spencer, vaqueros Levis y botas de cuero, y el pañuelo envuelto alrededor de su cabeza era de cachemir, el mejor diseño de John Lewis. Aún así, él estaba parado aquí como un idiota, y eso significaba que era etiquetado instantáneamente como cualquier tipo de molestia que la gente pudiera imaginar.

—Lo siento, —dijo otro hombre mientras atrapaba la rodilla de Josh con su maletín. El hombre claramente no estaba arrepentido. Josh conocía bien ese tono de voz desdeñoso e irritable. Él mismo lo había usado lo suficiente.

Finalmente se acercó, solo un pequeño movimiento, las llaves un gran peso en su bolsillo. Luego otro paso. Por algún milagro, nadie más chocó con él, hasta que finalmente llegó a la entrada de Capítulo Uno y la puerta empotrada. Al menos en este área protegida, el hielo no se colaba a través de la lana de su abrigo. Aquí había silencio y no estaba en medio del camino de todos.

Sacó las llaves de su bolsillo y las barajó para encontrar la que estaba marcada con FRONTAL. Los pulcros capiteles en la letra de su padre le causaron un escalofrío en el corazón que no fue del todo debido a los vientos de finales de octubre. Torpe al principio le dio vueltas y consiguió meter la llave en la cerradura y abrir la puerta. El tintineo de una campana de plata anunció su llegada, y tuvo que empujar con fuerza para mover una acumulación de correo basura y cartas a un lado. Algunas de ellas parecían oficiales, pero ya había ordenado las facturas online y por teléfono. Todos los que trataban con la librería tenían una dirección de contacto de la casa de Josh y su madre. Él podría preocuparse por el correo más tarde.

La oleada de olores lo golpeó, la ranciedad de un interior que no había visto la luz del día en casi un año y el olor de los libros que se encontraban justo como en el día que su padre los había dejado. El gran espacio estaba lleno de estanterías, pero carecía de lo que le había dado propósito y vida: su padre, Andrew Blakeman. El dolor apuñaló a Josh con fuerza, y se quedó quieto cuando el peso lo empujó hacia abajo. Al menos esta vez no era un obstáculo en el camino mientras se quedó absolutamente inmóvil.

La última vez que había estado allí, su padre estaba detrás del mostrador con sus gafas de montura oscura y sus guantes blancos, trabajando en una nueva adquisición, reparando una encuadernación para que el libro pudiera ser vendido. Los dedos de Josh se crisparon ante la idea. Había sido aprendiz de su padre durante algunos años, hasta que el atractivo de los ordenadores lo arrastró lejos. Conocía el cuero, los paneles y las planchas, y podía moverse con sutileza a través de una discusión sobre recubrimientos en oro si no lo presionaban demasiado con preguntas.

Había una caja frente al mostrador, con lo que parecían libros de segunda mano, una copia de Marley & Yo asomando por la parte superior. Su padre siempre tenía personas que le dejaban cajas de libros, y Josh nunca había entendido por qué su padre no les había dicho que llevaran las cajas a una tienda de caridad.

Porque cualquier libro es precioso y nunca sabes qué gema o herencia familiar puedes encontrar con los Grishams y los Kings.

Diez meses desde que su padre había muerto y aún las palabras estaban grabadas en su memoria como si fuera ayer.

Su teléfono sonó en su bolsillo, y se quitó los guantes y lo sacó. Se había prometido a sí mismo que no seguiría revisando ese maldito teléfono, pero incluso después de este período de tiempo, aún no había perdido el condicionamiento de responder. La sola palabra, Mamá, en la pantalla, le tenía casi guardando el maldito teléfono de nuevo, pero no podía hacer eso. Ella querría saber.

—Hola mamá.

—Joshua, cariño, ¿has llegado ahí bien?

A Josh no le gustaba recordarle a su madre que había logrado llegar a la ciudad de forma segura durante siete agotadores años y que ella no se había preocupado entonces. Eso le habría valido uno de esos suspiros patentados de paciencia de mamá y un comentario sobre cómo las cosas habían cambiado ahora. Esa era una lata de gusanos que no quería volver a destapar hoy.

—Acabo de entrar.

—¿Cómo se ve todo? ¿Está bien?

Josh se miró a sí mismo. Nada se había movido desde el día en que su padre murió. Solo él y su madre tenían llaves, y nadie más había estado dentro. Incluso los cuadernos estaban abiertos en el escritorio para los pedidos, y una pequeña pila de periódicos locales hablaba sobre el diciembre más lluvioso desde que comenzaron los registros. Diez meses, casi once, y el lugar seguía siendo el mismo.

—Está bien, —resumió—. Polvoriento.

—Gracias por hacer esto, —dijo mamá—. Sé que he estado allí para ocuparme de la calefacción, pero no podía tocar los libros, sus libros, simplemente... todavía no.

—Está bien, mamá. Revisaré las tuberías, ordenaré la publicación y me abriré paso por la lista.

—Y Josh, no olvides que Phil pidió una segunda llave. Si se vende Capítulo Uno, tendrá que dejar entrar a los agentes y posibles compradores.

Josh se tragó su respuesta instintiva. De ninguna manera en el infierno iba a hablar con Phil o darle la llave de este lugar. El tío Phil, el hermano de su padre, había mostrado un interés desmedido en esta pequeña propiedad recientemente, bajo el pretexto de apoyar a su cuñada. Dijo que solo quería ayudar, pero Josh tuvo un mal presentimiento cuando Phil estuvo rondando. El padre de Josh había dejado este lugar a su esposa, y Josh sería el que vendiera la librería y el inventario, haciendo una nueva vida para su madre. No el tío Avaricioso Phil. Pero en el momento en que su madre dijo que quería vender, Phil le había exigido que recibiera la ayuda adecuada.

Josh hará esto por mí. Será bueno para todos nosotros.

Ahora no era el momento de discutir con su madre. —Está bien, —dijo en cambio.

—Espero que esto no sea demasiado para ti, —dijo. Las palabras fueron suaves, y Josh se preguntó si ella incluso había tenido la intención de decirlas en voz alta.

—Mamá, estoy bien. Te llamaré, ¿de acuerdo? —Terminó la llamada rápidamente y colocó su teléfono sobre el mostrador. La tienda estaba oscura debido a la madera clavada en los marcos de las ventanas, y mantener la puerta abierta para tener luz no iba a funcionar con este frío. Pulsó un interruptor y las luces del techo se encendieron. Las facturas aún se pagaban con la electricidad mínima, las tarifas comerciales y el agua. La lista era interminable, especialmente para un negocio que estaba inactivo y no tenía un ingreso equilibrado.

El frío del exterior se precipitó sobre él en una ráfaga de viento de octubre y cerró la puerta. Finalmente, cuando hubo encendido la calefacción, pudo quitarse el abrigo y el sombrero, y luego ir en busca de una tetera. La calefacción se había mantenido baja durante todo el año, con su madre apareciendo de vez en cuando para comprobar que todo estaba bien. Incluso ahora se preguntaba por qué ella no estaba allí organizando el inventario. Pero ella parecía pensar que debería ser él, dijo que podía usar el tiempo para considerar lo que haría a continuación.

¿Y qué diablos iba a ser lo siguiente que iba a hacer de todos modos? Nunca más volvería a trabajar para una institución financiera, y la idea de ser uno de esos tipos de IT[1] por cuenta propia le llenó de pavor.


No tenía leche, pero el café negro era una posibilidad si había algo aquí. Su padre había mantenido una pequeña cocina y había ofrecido a los buscadores en la librería una selección de café, aunque fuese instantáneo, o té. La pequeña nevera estaba vacía, afortunadamente. Josh tenía pesadillas al pensar en lo que en todo este tiempo le habría pasado a cualquier comida o bebida que quedara allí.

Había bolsitas de café, y permitió que el viejo grifo vertiera agua en el fregadero hasta que la corriente se asentó antes de llenar la tetera. Con un café negro que lo calentaba desde adentro, fue más capaz de catalogar coherentemente su entorno.

El lugar no estaba húmedo, lo cual era bueno. Había existencias allí que podrían ser rescatadas y vendidas. No obtendrían mucho por eso, y muchos de los libros irían a obras de caridad, pero tal vez podrían recuperar lo suficiente como para cubrir la calefacción que se necesitaría para ver este lugar durante otro invierno.

El letrero de fuera de la librería de segunda mano yacía en el suelo, apoyado entre las pequeñas muestras de publicaciones periódicas de su padre y narrativa romántica, y Josh se agachó para inspeccionarlo. 'Capítulo Uno' se leía en escritura cursiva antigua. Era un nombre genial para una librería, incluso Josh tuvo que admitirlo. El letrero estaba oxidado y era más que probable que solo fuera apto para la basura. Él rastreó la metálica C y movió el cartel un poco para que no presionara demasiado en ningún inventario que pudiera salvarse.

Tal vez podrían obtener algo por el letrero. ¿Un lugar de reciclaje o algo así? Había visto cosas extrañas en el televisor. Alguien podría quererlo para su granero convertido o alguna otra mierda de arte que él no conocía. El cartel era tan viejo como el negocio, y eso era más de cien años de antigüedad.

Los suelos de madera estaban sin brillo, pero puliéndolos con un tinte o algo así se verían bien de nuevo. Josh agregó eso a la lista de cosas que hacer cuando se quitaran todas las estanterías. Hablando de eso... Examinó la base del sistema de estanterías más cercano, preguntándose si el suelo había sido colocado antes o después de que se construyeran los estantes. Todo llegaba casi al techo, pero parecía estar encima del suelo de madera, gracias a Dios. De hecho, había un pequeño espacio debajo de cada estante de libros y un fuerte recuerdo le golpeó.

De él como un niño pequeño y un juego de coches de Top Trumps[2] y la pérdida de una de las cartas de Fiat en una de las estanterías gigantes. Y de la voz reconfortante de su padre diciéndole que había muchas más cartas de juego y que Josh debería coger cincuenta peniques e ir a comprar otro juego mas en los quioscos de al lado. Esa singular pena le golpeó de nuevo. Su padre había sido tan joven para morir. Solo sesenta y cuatro, y con tanto por vivir.

Todo estará bien…

Josh levantó la vista del suelo, sorprendido por las palabras, y luego negó con la cabeza. No había nadie allí, y una vez más su cabeza estaba jodiéndole. Voces. Ahora estaba escuchando voces. Algo se movió en la esquina de su visión, y se levantó rápidamente, agarrándose a las estanterías para estabilizarse. La oscuridad le cubrió, y cerró los ojos para no tener otro dolor de cabeza. Estaba acostumbrado a ellos ahora, y esperó el dolor, pero no había ninguno, solo calor que hizo que sus mejillas se ruborizaran y sus manos temblaran donde se agarraban al estante para sostenerse.

Esto es nuevo.

Esperó hasta estar seguro de que podía estar de pie sin apoyo, luego continuó su investigación sobre la estructura del lugar. Durante un buen rato, se apoyó en la gran puerta de roble que conducía a la tienda siguiente. Cuando era pequeño, probablemente más o menos al mismo tiempo que el incidente de Top Trumps, solía imaginar que la puerta conducía a Narnia, o a cualquier otro lugar con aventuras emocionantes. Como adulto, sabía que estaba permanentemente cerrada, pero que conducía a la tienda del otro lado. Quienquiera que fuera el dueño de la casa de al lado probablemente ya lo había bloqueado todo, y Josh no estaba seguro de por qué su padre y su abuelo habían dejado la puerta de este lado en su lugar. Él rastreó algunos surcos en la madera. Viejas, desgastadas y lisas, formaban iniciales y patrones que podían tener cuatrocientos años de antigüedad, que databan de cuando esta hilera de casas y tiendas se construyó en las calles descuidadas de un Londres antiguo.

Tanta historia en esas marcas

Josh se dirigió hacia la caja y el asiento detrás de ella. Siempre es mejor encontrar un lugar donde sentarse para no quedar boca arriba mirando las luces giratorias, que era básicamente cómo había organizado su dramática salida del Swanage Brothers Investment Bank en el verano. Después otra vez en el metro. Y de nuevo en el supermercado. Hasta que finalmente le metieron en una sala con cables y monitores y le trataron con muchos dedos moviéndose sobre su cerebro y trabajaron, con varios añadidos de ¿quiere morir como su padre?

Sentado allí estaba cara a cara con el último día de su padre. El cuaderno era más un diario, y uno con el que Josh estaba familiarizado. Había una pequeña lista, pedidos para despachar, un número de teléfono y las palabras "Jane Austen" junto a ellos. Capítulo Uno no solo vendía libros que se publicaban ahora, también tenía una abundante lista de libros raros que a su padre le encantaba encontrar y buscarles nuevos dueños. Una de las últimas conversaciones que Josh había tenido con su padre era sobre un conjunto casi perfecto de libros de Jane Austen que había encontrado.

Josh hizo una nota mental para comprobar eso. Tal vez Capítulo Uno le debía dinero o libros a alguien. El cuaderno era un buen lugar para comenzar. Tomando el bolígrafo de al lado del cuaderno, pasó la página y escribió un POR HACER grande en la parte superior.

[1] N. T. IT acrónimo en inglés de Tecnología de la Información

[2] N. T. Top Trumps es un juego de cartas publicado en 1968. [1] Cada carta contiene una lista de datos numéricos, y el objetivo del juego es comparar estos valores para intentar triunfar y ganar la carta de un oponente. Se ha publicado una gran variedad de diferentes paquetes de Top Trumps .

Game Changers

Rachel found an old post I made about the books that impacted my career right back at the start and I thought I would redo it and add to it. As I get to the end of the year it's always in me to look back and assess how the year has gone, and looking at the game changers in my career is a good place to start.

Way back in 2010 I wrote The Christmas Throwaway

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Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn? 

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go. Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?

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Love it or hate it for it’s Christmas theme, for it’s happy ever after, or for the angst, The Christmas Throwaway is one of my bestselling books.

It certainly engenders some passion and I think a lot of that is the innocence in the story that contrasts so much against the darkness of a kid being thrown out of his house at Christmas.

It started as a short story for a friend who was ill, and it was called The Christmas Miracle which ended just after Zach is taken in to Ben’s family. Turned out that my short story was the perfect first chapter for me to continue from and the rest flowed easy. If I recall right, Chris Quinton helped me with the strapline. The book became the first time readers saw RJ Scott and so I can safely say writing it changed my life in a big way.

It was the first big game changer for me.

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Then there was the other book, another of my biggest selling books, The Heart Of Texas. This is a soap opera of a novel with blackmail-into-marriage, family, hate to love… and so many twists and turns it certainly kept me on my toes.

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Riley Hayes, the playboy of the Hayes family, is a young man who seems to have it all: money, a career he loves, and his pick of beautiful women. His father, CEO of HayesOil, passes control of the corporation to his two sons; but a stipulation is attached to Riley's portion. Concerned about Riley's lack of maturity, his father requires that Riley 'marry and stay married for one year to someone he loves'.

Angered by the requirement, Riley seeks a means of fulfilling his father's stipulation. Blackmailing Jack Campbell into marrying him "for love" suits Riley's purpose. There is no mention in his father's documents that the marriage had to be with a woman and Jack Campbell is the son of Riley Senior's arch rival. Win win.

Riley marries Jack and abruptly his entire world is turned inside out. Riley hadn't counted on the fact that Jack Campbell, quiet and unassuming rancher, is a force of nature in his own right.

This is a story of murder, deceit, the struggle for power, lust and love, the sprawling life of a rancher and the whirlwind existence of a playboy. But under and through it all, as Riley learns over the months, this is a tale about family and everything that that word means.

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It actually really polarises opinions in people who read it, I don’t think another one of my books has as many bad reviews as good. In fact HOT was the book where I responded to a one star review and learned my lesson… Texas has spawned 7 sequels.

The latest one of course should never have happened. Texas Gift was something that just *happened*. I can't explain why, but I had people ask me for the next Texas book and I really thought Texas Wedding was the final one.

But I needed desperately to tell Hayley's story, and revisit Jack and Riley and show readers ten years of their lives and how their love is just stronger.

Texas was another Game Changer for me (notice the capitals!). It showed me that readers love sequels as much as I love writing these extended worlds.

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However, I keep changing my mind about a sequel to Throwaway. One day maybe.