Today we have Ally Lester on a visit. They’re here to talk about their new release, Out of Focus. Welcome Ally!
Out of Focus: Welsh Place Names
Enemies to lovers, a broken wrist, hurt-comfort and pining. A short contemporary gay romance set in a little Welsh theatre.
Hello there everyone! Thank you so much to Ofelia for letting me drop in today to tell you all about my recent release, Out of Focus! It’s a bit of a departure from my usual stories because it’s contemporary! Yes! I wrote a contemporary story without any magic or myths or anything at all and I loved it!
So much so that I think I’m going to write some more set in the same little community.
Theatr Fach is a little theatre in the Welsh seaside town of Llanbaruc. The name means Little Theatre. I entirely fudged the Welsh names by utilising my ten years living in the country and Google Translate. Alex, the first of our heroes we meet, is hoping to get a job at Theatr Mawr in Cardiff. There are no prizes for anyone who guesses that means Big Theatre!
When I was looking for a place to put the Theatr Fach I thought about putting it in a real town. I decided in the end to make somewhere up. So Llanbaruc was born.
In the pre-Roman period, Wales was not a country of large settlements. Towns and villages were very sparse. Place-names tend to be based on landscape features—for example, Aber means mouth of the river…so it prefixes a lot of coastal settlements, eg, Aberystwyth is the mouth of the Ystwyth. Once Christianity came to the country, a lot of names became prefixed with Llan. It means Church, or Parish or enclosure around a church and usually prefixes a name. So Llanfyllin (Near where I used to live, it’s a lovely little town, do visit if you get the chance!) means Church of St Myllin. The M changes to an F when you jam the words together, which is called mutating. It’s right at the limits of what I understand about how Welsh works 😊.
Anyway…Llan seemed a good start to my fictional seaside town. And then I had to pick a name. I began frantically Googling Celtic saints for someone without a well known town or village and I came across St Baruc. Baruc is better known as Barry and actually has a town on the south coast named after him. There is now a fun-fair on the island where he was buried and had a chapel. As far as I could discover though, he doesn’t have a Llan-place.
I really fell for poor Baruc. He was a disciple of St Cadoc, who is one of the Big Name Celtic Saints and sounds annoying proactive and motivated. He founded monasteries, did miracles and was generally a Celtic Christianity Celebrity. Baruc trailed round after him carrying his books. One day they travelled to the island of Flat Holm*, a couple of miles off the south coast in the Bristol Channel, where Cadoc had a hermitage. This must have been before he went full-on hermit—he lived there for seven years apparently. Baruc forgot Cadoc’s books and was sent back to the mainland to get them. On his way back, he drowned. He was buried on Barry Island, hence its name. History doesn’t tell us what happened to the books.
And so Llanbaruc was born.
It’s a cosy little coastal town on the tourist trail. The theatre also shows films and has a café and gallery space. There’s an outreach college of the University of Wales and a night-club and a swimming pool and a few pubs and parks. There’s the hospital and local government buildings and a weekly livestock and produce market and all the usual schools and what-not.
Also, and I say this with no apology whatsoever, a donkey sanctuary. Do I know why it has a donkey sanctuary? No. No I don’t. I am hoping this will become clear when I write some more stories.
So, there you are. Alex and Luke are part of the Llanbradoc community. I wrote this as a one-off, but I really like the world and I will definitely be picking up other characters in the town and running with them in future stories.
If you want more information about Welsh place names, there’s a nice article on the BBC website with some interesting examples.
Read on for a bit more about Out of Focus!
Out of Focus
Alex has never quite believed he’s good enough. Not as a person and not as a lighting technician. He hates that however hard he tries he can’t get his boss, Luke, to like him. In the two years he’s been in the job it’s become a Thing with him and he’s got a huge crush on the man. He needs to move on for his own sanity and his career and he’s just about to accept a job at a bigger theatre when one of the volunteers he’s bedded and dumped pushes him off a ladder.
Luke likes Alex a lot and has done since the day he walked through the door of Theatre Fawr two years ago. He doesn’t date his staff though, or do casual—and Alex is the epitome of casual. So Luke keeps his distance despite Alex’s constant flirting.
Will Alex’s injury give Alex and Luke the push they need to open up to each other? Or will Luke’s inadvertent discovery that Alex has a secret job offer push them further apart?
A 17,500 word short story in the new Theatr Fach universe.
About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.
Excerpt from Out of Focus
Luke was furious. Bloody furious. His theatre. His crew. Alex.
He’d got back after a leisurely look round a potential new supplier of scissor-lifts and harnesses followed by a pub lunch with the business owner to find the theatre in uproar. Alex had tipped over on the zargees…which was bloody ironic given it was the approaching new height restrictions about using ladders to rig that had sent Luke on his errand.
He’d gone straight to the hospital and found Alex about to check himself out against the doctor’s advice. Bloody Alex, as well.
Alex had been a thorn in his side since he’d started in post two years ago. It was a tiny theatre and the chief technician was responsible for anything with a plug on it as well as showing the film programme and doing the lighting and sound for shows. They’d done a panel interview and Luke, a couple of members of the board and Lacey the theatre manager had seen half a dozen people. Alex had come out head and shoulders above the rest.
He’d walked in on his first proper day on the job and looked at Luke from underneath his ridiculously long eyelashes and smiled and said something perfectly professional that Luke hadn’t heard, because he was gone. Gone, gone, gone. His heart had given a big thump, he’d flushed from his chest to his hairline and he’d taken an actual physical step back because otherwise he’d have done something stupid.
Everyone on the circuit knew about Alex Tilsom by reputation. Not his professional reputation, although that was solid. His unprofessional reputation, as Luke privately thought of it.
It was a small industry.
Luke had seen whole companies explode because people fell into bed with each other and the detonation when they fell out of bed again meant they couldn’t work together. He’d been at Theatr Fach for a long time now and although there were no actual rules against it, his personal tenet was to keep his professional relationships professional.
So he let Alex’s good natured flirting roll over him, he didn’t respond like he wanted to and he never, ever commented or ribbed him like the others did about his latest conquest. It was worse because strictly speaking he was Alex’s boss. He tried very hard not to be the older creep who letched on his staff.
Newsflash. In this case he did not always succeed.
It made him feel uncomfortable and itchy inside his own skin. Alex was a funny guy. He worked hard, he was good at his job. He charmed passing crew and volunteers into bed and out again with no drama before or after. He’d be gone in two or three years…he was the sort of person who saw Theatr Fach as a stepping stone to something bigger and more challenging.
All Luke had to do was hold on to that thought and not smile back.
He’d thoroughly fucked that up in the last twenty-four hours, hadn’t he? It was his job to go and see what was going on at the hospital. And he supposed he could argue it was his job to stay with Alex overnight if no-one else could, if the stupid arse wouldn’t stay in hospital like he should have.
It wasn’t his job to mostly fail to sleep in the armchair in the corner of the man’s bedroom and creepily watch over him all night. Or was it? Was that on the right side of the line? Fuck it, who knew any more.