Your Attention, Please

Your Attention, Please

17101812_770818499736825_885949455_n (1)

I’m joined by the ever fabulous Ailsa Abraham, whose novel Attention to Death will be launched tomorrow. It’s a murder mystery with LGBT characters, so it sounds right up my street!

attention to death

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

Attention to Death is released on 10th March and here is the info on it.

“Find Attention to Death on pre-order on Amazon:

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.”

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in  their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?


Ailsa Abraham  is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)









In my beginning…


Such a brave and inspiring lady.

The Bingergread Cottage

… is my end (T.S. Elliott)

images Aslan

I wasn’t going to make a big song and dance about my recent dementia diagnosis but everyone has been so very kind and lovely that I had to write a BIG thank you note.

In case anyone missed it, my brain is deteriorating rapidly and my last MRI scan showed the results normally associated with an 80-year-old. This is only going to get worse and my time left is limited. Details – the blood vessels in my brain are getting very thin indeed and so the chances of a major stroke or heart failure get higher and higher.

I’ve had post-stroke symptoms for some time. You may remember where I told you that at my last MRI in 2014, the specialist and I couldn’t decide if I was post-stroke or early Multiple Sclerosis and we almost tossed a coin for it. At least…

View original post 307 more words

Behind Every Exquisite Thing…

Behind Every Exquisite Thing…

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.



Nowhere is this truer than in Tammam Azzam’s Freedom Graffiti. In 2013, the artist superimposed Klimt’s best known masterpiece onto a war-scarred building in Syria – an eloquent comment on the war in his home country, and a passionate plea for peace.


Klimt’s original painting, (1907-08) took its inspiration from a line in Schiller’s 1785 poem, Ode to Joy: “This kiss is for all the world.” A very apt sentiment indeed in today’s political climate!


Azzam’s early works were characterised by a multi-media technique. Using rope, clothespins and other recycled objects, Azzam’s hybrid pieces experimented with depth and were inspired by the artist’s changing perceptions of specific urban environments.

Following the start of the uprising in Syria, Azzam turned his attentions to digital media and graphic art. He created visual statements on the conflict, which resonate with international viewers, seeing digital photography and street art as powerful and direct forms of protest that are difficult to suppress.

Azzam has drawn on paintings by artists such as Matisse, van Gogh and Dali, in an effort to spread his message: “We are all citizens of the same world.”


Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna Christmas Market


Every December I’m always excited; that’s when the Christmas Market comes to town. Stalls selling pork shanks with dumplings, bratwurst and hot cherry wine – I’m in my element!

Then of course there’s the ferris wheel, shopping for all those lovely homemade gifts, and my favourite thing of all – the outdoor ice rink. Here’s me and my son enjoying our favourite winter pass time.

So when I wrote a novel set in Austria, I couldn’t resist the temptation to include a scene from the Viennese Christmas Market.

The Christmas markets in Vienna are an age-old tradition. The forerunners of the present-day events date back to 1298 when Albrecht I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or “Krippenmarkt” – not a Christmas market as such: the first Christmas market in Vienna wasn’t until 1626.

The first records of a Christmas market mentioned temporary huts in front of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, from which bakers, gingerbread vendors and confectioners sold their goods. This market was shut down in 1761.

The Christmas market was resurrected in 1764 when the Saint Nicholas and Christmas Market operated at the Freyung (1st District), moving to Am Hof in 1842.


In 1903, the stands at the market were illuminated by electricity for the first time. The Christmas market had a home at Am Hof until World War I, when it closed down, starting again in 1923.

The Christmas market was closed down during World War I and in he bleak post-war years didn’t start again until 1923, when it was moved to Freyung, and later to the front of St. Stephens. After that, it moved to Neubaugürtel before returning to Am Hof from 1938 to 1942.


Vienna Christmas Market, 1940

In 1943 the market was once again held at Stephansplatz.

Since then, the character and prevalence of these markets has changed considerably.

The Birmingham Christmas Market remains one of my favourite winter nights out. Cheers!


The Women Friends

The Women Friends

The Women Friends was one of Gustav Klimt’s final works. Nothing is known about the two women in the painting but it is believed they were a real couple.


Gustav Klimt, (1917) The Women Friends

Lesbian imagery played a role in Klimt’s catalogue of works since his 1904 painting Water Serpents. But while the water serpents are imaginary creatures, inhabiting a fantastical, underwater world, the women friends are part of the here and now, making it easier for the audience to identify with them.


Gustav Klimt, 1904, Water Serpents

Klimt’s 1913 painting, The Maidens also explores this theme. Here, womankind is shown with many different aspects to her identity of which sexuality is only one. She is entwined with other figures representing death and evolution into womanhood.


Gustav Klimt, (1913) The Maidens

Stylistically, in The Women Friends, Klimt achieved a flat visual plane, throwing off the three-dimensional verisimilitude of his earlier career. His appreciation of Japanese art with its ambiguous background / foreground relationship influenced this painting and his mosaic style paintings from his golden phase.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Gustav Klimt, (1907) Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer

Like so much of Klimt’s late work, the painting is partially about space and the various illusions that art creates to deal with it.

Gustav Klimt: Death and Life


Gustav Klimt, (1910) Death and Life

Gustav Klimt’s painting Death and Life, (1910), features not a personal death but rather merely an allegorical figure who gazes at “life” with a malicious grin. The painting is comprised of two halves: on the left, the figure of Death is the classic grim reaper, a grinning skeleton, covered in a blue robe decorated with symbols. To the right are a group of women, at various stages of life, one of whom is held by a dark, muscular man, who is not entirely noticeable at first glance. This exemplifies Klimt’s preoccupation with the female form and his celebration of women as life-givers. All generations are represented in this circle of life, from the baby to the grandmother. The women do nor cower from Death, indeed they seem oblivious to him. The painting only depicts moments of intense pleasure and calm. Perhaps this new found serenity is rooted in Klimt’s own awareness of aging and his closeness to death.

Klimt described this painting as his most important figurative work. However, in 1915, he began making changes to the painting. The background, reportedly once gold-coloured, was painted over in grey, and both Death and the circle of women were given further ornamentation.

Much of Klimt’s work incorporates themes of death and life. In his 1908 painting, Hope I, for example, a pregnant woman stares out at the viewer, behind her, masklike faces symbolising madness, sorrow and death.


Gustav Klimt, (1908) Hope I.

Death and Life was clearly influential for Klimt’s contemporaries among them Egon Schiele.


Egon Schiele, (1915), Death and the Maiden

In Schiele’s painting, the woman appears to have crawled towards the figure of Death on her bended knees, and appears relieved as he embraces her.

Klimt himself may have drawn inspiration from the artist Edvard Munch, who created numerous representations of the relationship between life and death.

Above left: Edvard Munch, (1899) The Three Stages of Woman. Above right: Edvard Munch, (1894) Death and the Maiden.

Klimt’s original painting, Death and Life won the first prize at the World Exhibition in Rome in 1911. It remains one of the iconic images associated with this great artist.

Prostitution in Renaissance Italy: The “Necessary Evil”


Great post on prostitution and same sex attraction from Dirty Sexy History.

Dirty, Sexy History

fig-1-brothel A 15th-century depiction of a brothel. You can imagine the man walking in saying, “Well, at least the prostitutes are women.”

In the wake of the fourteenth-century plague, which killed over half of Italy’s populations, cities were faced with a crisis. To make matters worse, Italian men seemed uninterested in repopulating the peninsula, struck by a sin worse than death—same-sex attraction. Fifteenth-century preacher Bernardino of Siena railed that “even the Devil flees in horror at the sight of this sin.”

Italian cities responded by encouraging prostitution. In 1403, the government of Florence opened an office to promote prostitution in order to prevent the worse sin of sodomy. Venice legalized prostitution in 1358 and created a brothel district in the commercial heart of the city, the Rialto.

fig-2-meretrice Cesare Vecellio’s “Public Whore” waves a flag and wears high-heeled chopines. (1598)

Prostitution was a reality of life in Renaissance Italy. But in spite…

View original post 673 more words