I penned the first words of Becoming You nearly thirteen years ago. It’s latest, and final, incarnation puts to bed a story that has been with me for over a quarter of my life.
Now, let’s be straight with each other (no pun intended), it is a revised version of Become You, a longer and less succinct novel I self-published many years ago. I’ve not changed my name or the title dramatically to trick anyone into buying it, however it has been greatly refined and improved. Although I’m sure it will happen, there is no need to yell, in capital letters, on certain book selling and review sites that you have cracked some sort of conspiracy and that Becoming You has been around for years. There is no conspiracy. A quick Google search will reveal Become You in all its glory. I’m proud of both versions of my story.
In fact, I’m proud of self-publishing. All those years ago, it was a big thing. I wrote the book, I created the cover art (to this day, my two cover models, Alanna and Robyn, still believe it’s the best cover in history) and I sent it out into the world. I’m proud that the hobby of writing has developed into something more. I’m proud that Bold Strokes Books is my publisher. What’s not to be proud of there? Bold Strokes Books is the world’s largest LGBTQ publisher. I now have a fabulous editor, Cindy, who I’m eternally grateful to for teaching me how to become a better writer.
Becoming You is a journey. It’s the journey of a girl (no, not me, I was never that together) who stumbles her way into self-acceptance. Like the formula of most romance novels, we can always guess where the story ends, but in this case, you‘ll get to know Airlie Porter intimately. It’s her journey and it’s raw. Stripped to the bone kind of raw. But that’s life, isn’t it? We all live, love, and hurt. We all have a story, we all have a truth, and we all arrived where we currently are by living our stories. Some sail through life, others endure.
Airlie Porter stands before you, naked and vulnerable. Love her or hate her, there’s something about her we can all identify with.
For many years, she was mine. Now she’s yours. Be gentle with her.
-Or am I?
At the penultimate bus stop on my way home from the city of Cambridge today (the English city that is), I stared out a rain splattered window and watched at least three policemen climb aboard. I was on the top deck and I heard them ask the driver if they could look around.
I looked on with interest as a tall, dark, bearded policeman clambered his way up the narrow stairs, systematically bumping metal on metal with every step. He was quite handsome and for some reason I imagined he wore expensive Eau de toilette when he wasn't in uniform. As he reached the top, directly opposite me, I watched him adjust, with one hand, a long cylindrical metal device so it would stop hitting the railing. I noticed he was only using one hand because the other was resting on a MASSIVE gun. I want to say semiautomatic weapon, but in reality, I have no idea what it was and I'm not Googling it because I'm sure I must already be on a watch list for some of the things I Googled when researching my contribution to Girls with Guns; Hammersmith.
Now, unless you're from Tasmania (or other parts, I'm not discriminating) you will understand that to be less than a metre away from a gun-slinging police officer is rather unnerving. I'm not a big fan of the bullet-shooting-type weapons, or many others for that matter and I knew the sooner the guns left the bus, the better I'd feel.
Then I began to wonder what sort of person were these officers looking for? In the UK, normal police officers don't carry guns. It occurred to me that they may not be looking for a normal person. There was potentially an armed and dangerous felon on my bus. I was in the countryside in the middle of bloody England, one stop away from the quaint little market town I live in. Who dare be dangerous and travelling on my bus! And then I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, thank goodness this man-mountain police officer has a gun!
I walked home from my stop in a daze of confusion.
Am I a pacifist? Maybe sometimes and maybe not. Do I think the world could do with less guns? Of course. Make love not war. Be a lover not a fighter. Bring back flower power. Do they have a place? That's certainly something to think about.
And now for your amusement and maybe a little taster of what my novella, Hammersmith is all about, here's a list of things I Googled for research:
- London underground maps
- Suicide bombers and their traits
- Weapons MI5 use
- London underground station statistics
I'm sure there were many more, but that's a fairly accurate summary. If I suddenly disappear and return having written a novel about a wrongly accused terrorist in which I share a painfully real account of waterboarding, you'll all know what happened to me.
Hammersmith is teamed up with two other stories from two amazing authors. Carsen Taite thrills us with Bow and Arrow and Ali Vali brings it home with Hell Fire.
Girls with Guns will be available from Bold Strokes Books in early April
I'm very flattered that my new book, The Fifth Gospel, has been labelled as lesbian fiction's answer to The Da Vinci Code. Whether you love or hate The Da Vinci Code, it was one of the highest selling books of all time-I'm definitely taking the label as a compliment. However, just to clarify, I'm no Dan Brown, but then again, he's no Michelle Grubb either! I'm yet to read a lesbian sex scene he's written, although (and I'm not trying to sway him either way with his next main character) if Robert Langdon had have been a woman, I think it would have spiced things up a little and certainly made for some interesting scenes with the French heroine.
I really enjoyed the book, although I have spoken to people who say they hated it. I'm slightly bewildered by this because when I hear someone tout how much they hate the book, I politely ask if they finished it. Without fail, everyone has. Honestly, who reads over 500 pages (depending on the print version you have) before you decide you hate something? Having said that, I have many friends who simply must finish every book they start. Perhaps if you've put yourself through hundreds of pages of hell, you might deserve to say you dislike it after all?
Love it or hate it, The Da Vinci Code entertained millions of people and while The Fifth Gospel won't hit the New York Times best seller list, I hope it has the opportunity to be widely read. One reviewer said, "Gay or straight, spiritual or not, you should read this book." I don't know that reviewer, but I like her.
And now for a sneak preview. Check out the prologue and then scoot over to your local retailer for a swift and painless delivery to your device, snuggle down in bed, and enjoy.
Felicity Bastone heard it, but she didn’t believe it. Well, not immediately anyway.
“I am telling you,” the stylish young Swiss man whispered in frustration, “he is a sodomite.”
Felicity glanced up and down the bustling alleyway through grimy windows. Rome was teeming with tourists—it was August after all—and she possessed enough smarts to at least take a deep breath and assess the situation. And this situation required some serious assessment.
Two men, one Italian, the other Swiss, stood staring out the same window of a run-down coffee bar on the crowded narrow thoroughfare called Via Daniele Manin, only two streets behind the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. It seemed odd to be discussing such issues in proximity to a basilica, but then, in Rome, you were never too far from a holy place. Felicity stood a comfortable distance from the men. Her eyes felt heavy from drinking the previous night and she knew she looked less than appealing. To the casual observer, she’d appear sluggish and thoroughly disinterested. She rested her iPod in full view on the bench in front of them before sliding her earphones into place. Nodding her head and tapping her feet, she listened to absolutely nothing but their heated conversation.
In this neighborhood and in a coffee shop barely attractive to locals, let alone tourists, Felicity was convinced the men spoke English, soft and fast, so the locals had little chance of comprehending their conversation. Desperate for coffee, she hadn’t bothered to consider the decor; she’d simply followed her nose to the closest scent of caffeine. It seemed that Felicity’s olive toned skin and dark features left many Italians believing she was one of their own. With a mixture of Spanish and Australian heritage, she blended in perfectly. Not that her aim was to blend in; she was on holiday after all. Being a tourist had its advantages, but so it seemed did impersonating a local, albeit unintentionally.
The last time Felicity heard a conversation anywhere near the caliber of this one, she had been the instigator. The article she wrote that followed proved to be an award-winning exposé in the small, but highly regarded, Sunday Experience Magazine. It had been the one and only time her investigative journalistic skills had paid off and the story went global. Of course, she’d had many successful articles, bits and pieces scattered throughout her seven years, but there had only been that one big break so far. At thirty-two, she was doing okay for herself, and freelance work was providing much of her bread and butter. She preferred it that way. Landing a full-time job as a journalist was great in the early days—job stability, food on the table and the ability to regularly pay the rent—but now freelance work provided her with exactly what the name suggested: freedom.
As she systematically considered the impact of what she was hearing, she knew this story, even if remotely true, would, for some, be far more devastating than the corruption, fraud, and downright filthy criminals involved in the international pedophile ring she’d helped uncover. The impact of this current revelation, either partly or completely true, had the potential to devastate the followers of one of the planet’s most powerful religious institutions. Over one billion people could potentially wake to find their world had shifted axis.
Felicity sipped her coffee and contemplated what she should do
As a child, I remember being intrigued by religion, mostly because it made little sense to me. I remember watching a TV drama in the eighties called Brides of Christ, set in a Sydney Catholic girl’s boarding school in the 1960’s. A very young Naomi Watts was one of the stars. To be honest, the show, as great as it was, left me wondering why so many people followed the church. I was a child in the eighties watching life in the sixties and it simply didn’t make sense. I remember asking my parents if the church had changed. Surely because things were so different in the eighties, the church had to have moved with the times? I was wrong. When I looked into it and as I read more, my opinion of religion sunk to an all-time low. From that time on, I was an Atheist.
Except I wasn’t. I discovered Shirley MacLaine autobiographies (there’s so many of them, I think I gave up after the first half dozen) and then reincarnation began to make sense. Suddenly, the thought of having a higher sense of self-consciousness wasn’t such a daft idea. Why did I have an inkling not to cross the road against the lights just before a car sped through? Why was it that the very first wave that crashed over the rocks after I stepped to the safety of higher ground, was gigantic and would have killed me? Coincidence? Probably, but even now, I like the idea that something bigger than me, and something inside me, is perhaps guiding me. God? A higher self, or just sheer, damn luck?
So, why are we talking about religion? Well mostly it’s because my third book will be released mid-January. The Fifth Gospel has nothing, yet everything, to do with religion. Is it a love story? Of course. But I hope it also delivers the simple message that love is love. I know it’s a well touted mantra, and I know I’m preaching to the converted (pun intended) but sometimes it is just as simple as it sounds.
Recently, I attempted to explain to a friend about gender, sexuality, and how for some people, their brain identifies as the opposite to the body they were born into. She understood, sort of, but in the end I just shrugged and asked her if it really mattered who people loved, as long as they loved and felt love in return. Ironically, that was the bit she understood perfectly. And while my book touches on another matter that some might find shocking or offensive, please read with an open mind. The message remains the same and always will: Love is love, love for many is fluid, and our sexuality doesn’t define us, inhibit us, or make us any less valuable as a person.
Love does none of those things. Humans do. Some devalue less conventional love in an attempt to add value to more conventional love. But why? We spend our entire lives seeking fulfilment in love. Why devalue it? Let’s celebrate it in all its forms.
The first time I heard the polar bear joke, I was watching a television show over two decades ago. In it, a catholic priest was attempting to tell a woman that he loved her and I assume, that he would leave the priesthood to be with her. I think I may have held back a tear or two at the time, but I've always remembered that joke because there have been times when I can relate to the polar bear or, in this case, the priest.
Recently, I returned to Australia for a holiday with my wife. If you've ever made that journey from the northern hemisphere, it's a long one. I remember glancing at her as we flew over the north coast of Australia from our stopover in Singapore and having two thoughts. Firstly, I was thrilled to be returning home and I was thrilled she was with me. My second thought, however, left me feeling uneasy. I was embarrassed and disappointed that I was dragging my wife into a country where our marriage meant nothing in the eyes of the law.
We left England as a married couple, with the same rights as every other married couple in the UK, and if I'm being perfectly honest, it's a great feeling. I was saddened to have to accept that we wouldn't arrive at our destination with the same feeling, the same rights, and the same opportunities.
In case you're one of the many misinformed people of the world, marriage equality has not reached the shores of the so called "Lucky Country".
I'm no longer surprised by the shocked expressions of friends in the UK to hear that Australia doesn't have marriage equality. I no longer defend Australia when friends admit to not realising how "backward" Australia is. I simply nod when they joke that even New Zealand and America have marriage equality. Yes they do and it's fantastic. The latest comparison is Ireland. Even Ireland has marriage equality and those poor people had to have a referendum to make it happen.
What I do defend is Australians. Australians aren't backward. I believe the majority of Australians are in favour of marriage equality and I sincerely hope that next year, they vote for the political party that simply promises to do their job and legislate accordingly.
Jumping on my political high horse certainly isn't my favourite pastime, but I'm tired of being dismayed and disappointed by a country that is slowly becoming isolated from the rest of the world. I understand that there are countries in the world where gay people are murdered, pushed off buildings, and tortured, but I honestly think Australia can do better.
I loved being home in August. I loved spending precious time with my family and friends and I loved sharing that with my wife, but I couldn't help feel a little like the baby polar bear in the joke, not so much about who I am, but about where I belong.
In July, I left England to return home to Tasmania and three weeks later, I left Tasmania to return home to England.
Oh, and for those of you that don't know, here's the joke:
One day, up in the frozen north a polar bear and his son were out for a stroll. Daddy bear sat on a lump of ice to admire the view and sent his son off to play. Two minutes later Junior came back to dad and says, "Can I ask you a question Dad?"
"Sure, son what is it?"
"Am I a real polar bear, Dad?" asks Junior.
Dad smiles and says, "Of course you are, son. Now go and play."
So off Junior goes again to throw some snowballs at the seals. Soon he returns.
"Hey Dad, are you sure I am a real polar bear? Is there not a wee bit of brown bear or black bear in me?"
Dad smiles again and says, "Look son, you've got big hairy black feet, a white coat, and a black shiny nose, of course you're a polar bear, now off you go and play."
Once again Junior runs off, slides down the ice, chases a couple of seagulls and after ten minutes of fun he returns with a puzzled look on his face.
"Daaaad....are you absolutely sure I'm a polar bear?"
"Look son, I'm a polar bear, your mum's a polar bear, your granny and grandpa are polar bears. Why are you asking all these questions?"
Junior looks up and says, "Because I'm just so damned cold here! "
If it's a surprise for you to learn that I've written a romantic comedy, imagine how I feel.
I'm a big fan of a romantic giggle on film, but there's something about reading witty dialogue and clever humour that brings a cheeky grin to my face.
Like everything else, this genre has it's own abbreviation; the Rom Com. We all knew that, right? But I've realised that when a funny movie involves women without romance, it becomes a chick flick or in literature, chick lit (type chic lit quickly and you can find yourself in all sorts of typo strife).
Now, I'm just typing out loud here, but where are the bro-mance or bloke flick, man-lit genres? Maybe we could get that trending #bro-mance!
I realise when you take away the word 'romantic' from 'romantic comedy' you're left with just a comedy, but take Thelma and Louise for example. Without the great dialogue and charming banter, it's possible those two ladies would have found a high clifftop within the first half hour just to put us all out of our misery.
I truly believe that when you weave the timeless combination of eggplant, forceps, a dog poo in the park, and a summer romance in Melbourne into your masterpiece you've reached some kind of literary utopia.
Keep Hold is out in October. It's a must read if you like moussaka (or nurses or doctors or accountants or dog poo in the park or just a good old romantic comedy).
Available from the publisher; Bold Strokes Books, from October 1 and all of the other usual places mid-month. Follow the link on my site and I'll take you where you need to go.
Yes, it's true. My second novel is scheduled for release in October this year and here is the exclusive first look at the stunning new cover.
Keep Hold is my first novel to be set in Australia taking place in Melbourne one stinking hot summer. As we all know, Hobart rarely enjoys a stinking hot summer, so unfortunately Tasmania misses out again.
Melbourne is a great city and I love visiting; at least I can find my way around without resorting to my smartphone to tell me I'm lost!
Keep Hold introduces you to Claire and Kathryn, two people I could imagine becoming my friends (even if I did find myself frequently rolling my eyes at one of them) and two people who metaphorically find themselves on the scariest roller coaster ride in the world.
Like many roller coasters, they seem like a good idea at the time. Whilst standing in line, your bravado remains in tact and as you edge closer to the front of the queue, you tell yourself you might as well just go for it; you've come so far and the last hour that you waited in line can't be for nothing.
It isn't until you're strapped securely on the beast that you realise you've made a mistake. You realise you can't get off and no matter how hard you scream, you have no control.
All you can do is Keep Hold!
But this isn't about me, it's all about fellow Bold Strokes author Mardi Alexander.
She may have conducted many "official" interviews in her time, but this is the scoop, the truth and the real deal. You can rest assured I've asked the hard questions and demanded some damn straight answers.
I've already mentioned your undies on social media, so let's get this one out of the way before your fans disown you. What's your favourite coloured undies?
I’d have to say red because they match my fire truck – it’s all about ‘fashion in the field’ – that and I’d like to think they make me go faster .
I always thought getting lucky once was pretty good. What's special about ‘Twice Lucky’?
To be sure, to be sure! Seriously, heaps of things – it’s set in Australia, it’s about two women who never thought that they would ever fall in love and they end up getting a wonderful chance to do so, despite the danger that pops it’s ugly head up.
It’s my very first ever piece of writing, so you can’t get much more special than a debut and to share that debut with you and ‘Getting Lost’ – making March “Aussie Author Month” - I’d say that’s definitely ‘Twice Lucky” especially for our readers.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I start off with an idea already roughed out in my head of the big story picture, and then enjoy the side bits that morph on their own accord, as I muddle along. I try to write of an evening if I can – leaving the day times for work, farm and family.
My writing process during the week is enhanced by tea, whereas a weekend treat could be ‘inspired’ by a nice single malt, or two.
Do you know the second verse of the Australian national anthem (besides the first line. Everybody knows the first line)?
Okay, confession time, here’s the thing, until recently, I didn't know there were five verses to Advance Australia fair! I know the first verse, and it turns out the first three lines of the third verse, then I mouth and hum a lot until we get to the end when I cheerfully round out “In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia fair.” (Reading back over that last stanza, makes the anthem sound like really bad toilet humour…)
Tell us about your next writing project?
My next book, which is hoped to be out in March 2016, is “Spirit of the Dance”. This one is also set in Australia and comes with a distinct heavy rural feel to it. It’s a romance, but there are some underlying gritty bits built in. It involves a returned soldier, a local saddler and horse trainer and a small conservative country town where life is simple, predictable, and safe. By necessity, it is also full of secrets.
What's the most outrageous thing you've ever done, whether it be jumping out of a plane, BASE jumping or breaking the land speed record on country dirt roads (I've done none of those BTW)?
LOL. I have certainly done some odd things in my time, but to date, perhaps the most notable thing would be squatting down, in the dirt, with my eyes tight shut as a car exploded in front of me.
I remember undertaking a fire training exercise where the instructors set a car alight with a small controlled fire, the idea being that two of us would go in and extinguish it safely within a reasonable time period, the next pair would follow and do the same and so on. While the instructors were explaining about the exercise, the assistant set light to the car. By the time the instructors finished talking about the scenario and flagged us in to start, the damn car was a raging inferno (it was packed with flammable material for the purpose of the exercise). As I crawled up ready to hit the engine with the hose the front tyres and shocks exploded right in front of me, quickly followed by the rear tyres and I remember over hearing one of the instructors going “Oh, I wasn't expecting that to happen!” Needless to say, we put the car out in record time and I went home and changed my knickers.
After that incident, it gave me the courage to step up and out of my comfort zone, to give things a go…and of course to go out and buy more underwear for said ‘special’ occasions.
What book are you reading at the moment and is it any good?
I’ve just started “Graceling” by Kristen Cashore – I don’t know if it’s any good yet, only a couple of pages in, but the cover is pretty hot with a wild sword wielding gorgeous woman looking deliciously dangerous.
I bought it because the writing style differs from what I have been reading lately and thought it might give me a few style ideas to think about and give my brain a break from romances, by mixing it up with swords, a few broken arms, chopped of fingers and the odd smack up the chops for good luck. The idea was to pick something light and different…oh alright, I bought it for the cover.
We never write about our characters having PMT or going to the toilet or changing tampons or accidentally putting their knickers on inside out. Are you even just a little bit tempted to build up to a steamy sex scene and then have your main character say "If you touch me again I'll rip your bloody arms off!"?
Yes, and no. LOL. Sometimes I play with the ideas, just because I can, and other times I avoid them like the plague because reality is full enough of that stuff already and it’s enjoyable to live in a world where sex is always great, it’s never ‘that time of the month’, morning breath is irrelevant and nobody farts and makes the paint peel off the walls.
Which did you prefer. The Hunger Games or Harry Potter and why?
I haven’t read either books, but I did see the movies and I liked them both for different reasons – The complexity and craftsmanship of Harry Potter was astounding and yet the Hunger Games, which was incredibly simple (comparatively) sucked me in quite easily. Both were enjoyable, but on completely different playing fields of entertainment.
And finally, in the spirit of outstanding Australian interviewers, who would you turn straight for?
Keeping with the Australian theme, I think it would have to be Hugh Jackman. He’s nice, down to earth, sensitive, manly, handsome, the quintessential Aussie, complete with a dry wicked depreciating sense of humour. Yeah, if I had to I could turn for him…as long as he didn’t sing to me - I’m not that keen on his voice. So Hugh, if you’re reading this, you can come on over and sleep on the couch, but no singing big guy or you’ll find yourself sleeping in the shed pretty darn quick.
As I begin to write the final pages of my third novel, The Fifth Gospel, I'm excited to share with you the very first page of Getting Lost which will be set forth into the world on March 1.
The exciting journey for Getting Lost has come to an end from a writing perspective, but as we all know; the end is usually the beginning.
Here's to an unknown future.
Happy reading X
"I’m not your mother.” She smiled sweetly, but her tone
meant business. “And Russo here, he’s not your father.”
Russo, a pale, tattooed, skinhead Australian with
stunningly handsome features and eyelashes that were
the envy of girls, momentarily took his eyes off the road
to glance back, giving a cheeky wink.
“We’re all adults here, so unless the problem you have
requires the help of a tour manager or a coach driver,
I suggest you buy a phone card to call home.”
The first day spiel was second nature to Stella.
Commanding the attention of everyone on board, she stood
at the front of the coach, sporting her much despised
corporate-issue lilac polo shirt and beige cargo shorts. Her
wardrobe usually consisted of designer European branded
jeans and shirts, but on day one, she conceded to wearing
the common corporate crap.
“I love the new hair.” Russo was referring to her short blond
haircut. Stella always sported the latest look.
“Don’t even ask, wise guy.”
“Go on, how much?” Russo shaved his head and was
constantly astounded to hear how much she would pay
London designers to cut her hair.
“Your weekly salary.”
Russo whistled. “It suits you. Pity you’re about two feet
too short for the catwalk.”
Stella had no comeback. She was short, but she mouthed
the words “Fuck off” just to have the last say.
As I edged dangerously close to the bottom of the fifty foot rope where I dangled fearlessly from a helicopter in Paris, my camera clicking shot after precious shot, I somehow miraculously managed to snap this little beauty that now adorns the front cover of my new book, scheduled for release in 2015.
You're not convinced? I'm not surprised.
If you're wondering if there's even the slightest possibility that I took the photo, I'll give you a little hint; I'm scared of heights and even more scared of flying!
So it's not my handiwork, but I think it looks great. Inside this bundle of joy, you'll meet Stella (smart, charming, sassy and just dead cool) and Phoebe (stunning, intimidating and possibly a murderer). Then there's Russo (the sex God), Rebecca (the dead one) and a whole bunch of supporting characters to take you on the journey of a lifetime - 28 days, thirteen countries - step aboard and enjoy the ride!