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I don’t often do this, but I’m going to engage in a small bit of shameless self promotion. (OK, not shameless. I’m currently sucking down a healthy dose of shame – hell, I’m uncomfortable announcing new blog posts on Twitter, never mind banging a drum about my own published work – but you don’t need to know about that.)

Today, over at Ravencraft’s Romance Realm, there’s a blog post and awesome giveaway featuring a load of the authors from Seducing the Myth, Lucy Felthouse’s anthology of erotic short stories with a mythological theme. I’m one of those authors, and (on the basis that all publicity is good publicity) I’ve contributed some words to the review post and am challenging my oh-so-British aversion to self-promotion by pointing you towards the giveaway.

The haul will contain a $15 gift card for EdenFantasys.com, pdf copies of Seducing the Myth edited by Lucy Felthouse and Big Girls Don’t Cry Wolf by Kay Dee Royal, any single-author ebook (winner’s choice) by Bronwyn Green, and a copy of The Vampire, The Witch and the Werewolf: A New Orleans Threesome by Louisa Bacio. All of these writers are in Seducing the Myth, all are fabulous, and there may also be other stuff as well.

So get on over there, damn you. Go on, you know you want to.

I am in the midst of a moral dilemma. As moral dilemmas go it’s not exactly a whopper, but it’s bothering me at a low but constant level, and I feel I need to share it with you, my gentle readers.

This dilemma involves a cat. It’s not even my cat. I have two, both wicked and splendid in their respective ways, but this creature is an interloper, a gatecrasher who is trying to muscle in on our small but happy tribe. He sidles in through the cat-flap and scarfs down my cats’ food, he explores the house with the commando caution of a ninja, and he even sleeps in my boys’ beds when they’re not looking. Last night he woke Girl1 by repeatedly trying to angle her goldfish out of its tank; my two have always ignored said fish, but to our new friend it’s clearly wearing a label that says ‘midnight snack’. We are infiltrated and invaded, and none of us know quite what to do about it.

My cats veer between slightly startled tolerance (“oh, hello, you appear to be in my bed again. No, don’t bother to move, I’ll just sleep here on the floor”) and outright spitting fury; there have been some memorably loud and violent clashes, most often just after midnight as I’m dropping off to sleep. Sometimes they even seem to welcome the intruder, and he certainly seems to like them. When they’re not trying to claw his eyes out, that is.

This cat – we’ve even given him a name, which he appears to answer to – is a startlingly beautiful creature, black and sleek with a delicate pointed face and the most astonishing amber eyes. He’s cautious and we don’t touch him often, but I have stroked him and even snuffled his head as I do with my own boys, and he is friendly and generous with his purring even as he maintains a dignified personal space. (Not like my two, who are complete tarts and will roll over for anyone who will rub their bellies.) I’m fond of him, and have occasionally dropped scraps of cheese for him, which he accepts as no more than his due.

None of this really constitutes a moral dilemma – invasion and colonisation, yes, dilemma, no. My problem is not the cat’s presence, although he startles me regularly. My dilemma is that I WANT TO KEEP HIM.

I have never fed him properly, although he is usually around when I feed my two. This, I feel, is a step too far – he has owners, and I even know who they are (neighbours about three houses away, who I’ve never spoken to but recognise to nod at when we pass in the street). Sullenly and guiltily, I think about how outraged I’d be if I discovered someone else was feeding my cats and trying to lure them away from home, and I stay my hand as it reaches for an extra saucer, an extra portion of food. I’m tempted, though – oh, so very tempted to try and adopt this beautiful creature that seems to prefer our house to his own. After all, he seems to have adopted us.

Elderberry cordial

Viscous, glistening, the deep black-red of old blood, my elderberry cordial chugs and glugs throatily as it folds itself out of the jug and into the bottle. The kitchen is filled with the sweet cloying scent of elderberries – an odd, not entirely pleasant aroma, somewhere between ripe tomatoes and decay – and the children come and sniff experimentally, not sure what I am making or whether they like it.

I gathered the fruit two days ago, with my mother (who has faster hands than I) and my partner (who is taller, and could reach the fattest clusters that always dangled just beyond my reach). The tree is a weed that fought for its place in the hedgerow bordering my garden, and I love it for its persistence and for its frothy blossom and jet-bead berries, both of which it bears with exuberant abandon.

We stripped the berries from their umbrella stalks with forks, occasionally giving chase as they bounced out of the bowl and rolled across the floor. The less energetic ones nestled closely in the bottom of the dish, forming a single layer that gradually tesselated into a tightly faceted surface like the concave eye of a giant fly. It seemed a shame to disturb them, but I did, tumbling them into a pan and covering them with water.

Two boilings, a kilo of sugar and a handful of cloves later, and I am in possession of three red, sticky pints of what I am assured (by the internet, so it must be true) is a surefire cold-and-flu preventative. I tried making elderberry jam last year and no one liked it but me (that sweet almost-decay scent again, combined with a shockingly high density of pips), so the cordial this year is an experiment, an attempt to use the fruit from the tree I love in a way that the rest of the family can stomach.

The bottles, now glowing smugly in my pantry, promise winter colds warded off by warm fruit-punchy drinks, perhaps laced with honey or a splash of brandy, and with more than a hint of Christmas about them. I shall thank the tree and toast it through the rainy window as the fire glows in the hearth and the cats argue lazily about who gets to curl up on my stomach.

So I’ve had another story published! This is a great and awesome thing, and I’m incredibly proud of myself – and of everyone else involved, especially Lucy Felthouse, editor extraordinaire and a good mate whom I have yet to meet.

The short story is a piece of erotica, my second foray into this genre and (I think) a step up in quality from my first (which appeared in this anthology). It’s called ‘Beltane Fire’, an account of a Beltane ritual that might have taken place in the days before Christianity arrived in Britain, and it appears in La Felthouse’s second anthology, ‘Seducing the Myth’.

The rest of the anthology is made up of stories by a great selection of authors – new and established, male and female – and I had the privilege of reading it before publication in my professional capacity as proofreader. I’m proud to be associated with the book, and with all the authors – great work, y’all!

The book is available at a number of sites online and is gathering a fair bit of attention; I believe there’s also a paperback version due out soon. I’m still not convinced that erotica is my forte, but it seems to be the only place I’m getting published at the moment, so hey – I’ll take that and run with it, as far as I can… I do have some other things in the pipeline, as they say, but for now – ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘Seducing the Myth’!

Available at:

This post is written in response to a Writing Workshop prompt provided by the splendid Josie, who blogs at Sleep is for the Weak.

What Today Meant

I work in a school for children with special needs – specifically, Asperger’s and speech and language disorders. I have worked there for just over two years, a time during which my life has changed immeasurably as my own children have grown and matured, but also with the development of my understanding and admiration for the children I work with. I joined the school armed with a shiny new diploma in How To Be A Teaching Assistant, but precious little else in the way of experience or expectations.

My own children are what is known in the ASD community as ‘neuro-typical’ – that is, they have no social, emotional or intellectual impairments that significantly affect their everyday life – and I had never worked in any school beyond volunteering to listen to my kids’ friends reading. Back then I had no idea what to expect, but these days it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that my idea of a normal day at work is a few worlds removed from what a TA might experience in a mainstream school. I’ve supported children through some hugely challenging behavioural episodes, been on the receiving end of a few fists and feet, dodged more than a few items of furniture and helped rebuild relationships that have been shattered by the daily battles of living with ASD.

However, I have also been privileged to witness the huge and world-changing progress made by all the students I have worked with. I take a certain amount of personal pride in this, because I believe that I’m good at my job, but the progress and the achievements are theirs and theirs alone – I and the staff I work alongside are there merely to support, not to smother, protect or take any credit. I see these achievements every day: the selective mute girl who now chats freely with friends (although not yet with staff); the boy with Tourette’s who is setting himself up as a DJ and rapper; the girl with dyslexia who was a school refuser but has just taken her GCSE English exams. These are all things which we as a school observe and celebrate.

However, there are also a million tiny things, moments no-one else would notice but which are massive and life-changing for the children concerned. Today I saw one of these moments on the face of a boy who used to struggle with crippling social anxiety. When he first came to us his fear manifested itself as bullying and physical violence towards people and property, usually followed by agonised remorse and complete social withdrawal during which time he couldn’t leave his home.

This boy (let’s call him Isaac) has worked hard with his education and therapy team during the last eighteen months, and has made such great progress that with support he is now able to access a few lessons a week in a mainstream secondary school. More than this, on Saturday at our school Open Day he went on stage in front of a hall full of people and played drums while a group of staff played and sang the Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’.

My own son attends the secondary school where Isaac goes, and he saw Isaac’s performance when he came to Open Day on Saturday. On Sunday, after some thought, my boy said to me, “Mum, I know that boy who played drums yesterday; he goes to my school sometimes, I see him at lunchtimes. He was really good. Next time I see him I’m going to introduce myself and tell him I liked it.”

This filled me with deep and quiet pride, that my boy should have recognised Isaac’s achievement and felt it necessary to pass this along. I hugged him and said I thought Isaac would be really pleased if someone said hello to him at school. However, I also thought I should warn Isaac first; the shock of an unknown person apparently singling him out in a busy school dining room might be too much for him.

So today, when I saw Isaac, I said that my son had recognised him from school, had liked his drumming and would probably say hello to him and have a quick chat next time they saw each other. Isaac blinked, momentarily nonplussed, but then a jolt of pride and success made him suddenly luminous. He grinned at me, a thousand-watt flash of utter delight that a stranger should have noticed him and thought he was good at something. I was suddenly and blindingly reminded anew that apparently tiny things mean so much to the students I work with.

And that’s what today meant. More than this, though – that’s what every day means, even the terrible dark days where I feel I’ve achieved nothing and been ignored, verbally abused or even injured in the process. For these students every day is an incomprehensible challenge, but each achievement is worth so much more because of the effort that goes into it. Supporting children to overcome their particular challenges is what I do for a living, and this makes me proud every day.

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