If You’re Not Happy, Change Something…

This is one of the best bits of advice I ever got at LRP.

If you’re not happy, change something. If you’re still not happy, stop doing it.

Well, on Thursday, I had one of those ‘down on myself days’, where I kept complaining about myself. I have painfully low levels of self-esteem (no, really?) and sometimes that manifests in the worst way possible. The ‘I need to buy some new clothes but I won’t go into clothes shops for fear they’re staring at me’ way. Long term effects of playground bullying are no fun. Don’t do it, kids. But given my current ‘up’ mood, I turned that negativity into positivity. I picked the Son up after work and about two minutes after he got into the car, turned to him and suggested we drop into a local leisure centre and see what activities we could do together. He was quite keen. That startled me, but also pleased me.

I used to go to this particular leisure centre when he was about six, doing the ‘Body Balance’ classes. I loved Body Balance. To this day I can’t tell you why I stopped going. It was a weird class though, had the most bizarre effect on me. The last bit was always a ‘stress-relieving relaxation’ where the instructor turned the lights in the room out and we closed our eyes and did the whole concentrating on breathing thing. The music she played varied, but there was one bit that just… got me. Every time I heard it whilst being all relaxed and chilling after the session, I would just cry. Buckets. Not even unhappy crying. Just a release of tension, I think. Even now, I can’t hear that particular bit of music without tearing up. Someone on the interwebs took that bit of music and attached it to a bunch of utterly glorious space images. It just moves me.

So anyway, this leisure centre is no longer council run and I have to say… what a good thing. It has a completely different air to it now. Active Life is a community project and I cannot help but admire that. For two years, they’ve been investing every penny of profit back into the place and it shows. The dance studio is utterly glorious and they are buying new equipment to replace the old, inherited from a disinterested council stuff. So I stroll in, indicate the Son and say ‘so… here’s the deal, we both want to get fit. What can we do?’

The lovely lady on the front desk showed us the obligatory forms and paperwork, then took us on a tour round the place, including the X-Bike studio, where they run virtual rides from a projector. Utterly brilliant. ‘There’s several instructor-led classes,’ she said. ‘They’re hard work, but fun.’ The tour was great and I cannot stress enough how excellent the customer service in this establishment is. Bigger places could do with taking a few tips.

So because I am the kind of person who has to strike whilst the iron’s hot, I signed myself and the Son up for an instructor-led X-Bike session this morning. At 9.30am. After checking that the Son actually knew what ‘Saturday morning’ was, of course.

My goodness me, I’m unfit. I didn’t get particularly out of breath – I’m not that bad, but oh god, my legs now feel as though they are made from sponge. I happily admit that I couldn’t keep up with the whole class. It is only thirty minutes, but it’s thirty minutes of solid workout. I feel good and energised (and spongy) and although I couldn’t manage all of it, at least I now have a goal. We’re going back tomorrow for the gym induction and I’m going – by myself, which is the hardest bit – but the staff make me feel so comfortable – to Zumba on Monday.

Best thing of all, of course, is that the Son thoroughly excelled and enjoyed it hugely. Having him to go with means that there’s more of a chance I will go as well. It’s brilliant: something we can do together, motivate one another with and generally bond over. So I’m changing something. I’m swapping the sitting around doing nothing lark for getting into the gym and doing classes and burning off that stress.

Oh – and utilising the Dulux ‘reds’ colour chart?

colourchart1

This is not a natural colour for anybody to be.

 

 

It’s a bit dusty in here…

Thought I’d blow some of the dust off the blog.

I’ve been busy, lately. What with learning the ropes of a new job and generally keeping myself occupied with real life, I’ve made a discovery.

Life, when there are no immediate problems to vent about, is the most boring thing in the world to blog about.

About the most exciting thing of late… I had to fork out an inordinate number of pennies to get my kitchen roof repaired though; that was depressing. It was my planned holidays-for-the-year money that I’ve been carefully saving up – like a good girl. It was snatched out of my piggy bank and dropped into the pocket of the roofers. Admittedly, in turn, they did stop the persistent leak in the kitchen, so at least I can be grateful for that. And the roof looks much less like people chucked a pile of slate up there and just let it lie where it landed. So you know. Practical and aesthetic.

A holiday would be nice, though.

I’m mostly done with writing the second adventure for Gilrain, whose first outing was in the Tales of the Nun and Dragon anthology. That boy is a sheer pleasure to write for, because… because he’s utterly hopeless. But he’s eternally optimistic and there’s something oddly infectious about it. The style is loose and easy; very light-hearted and lets me stretch my comedy muscles a little. I’m a sucker for bad puns (I have that in common with Dan Abnett and Piers Anthony) and writing for Gilrain lets me use all sorts.

The short story I wrote for the Black Library Chapbook last year – Reaper – (known at the time as ‘Operation: Handbags at Dawn’)  is also now available as a digital short story. It’s a dirty story of a dirty man, and his clinging wife doesn’t understand… well, sort of. It’s the last moments of an unfortunate Empire soldier who, in his death throes, is tried and judged by the consort of the Blood God. I additionally got a little spotlight moment on the Black Library blog today as well, so that was nice.

I’ve been reading more than usual of late; have read Deceived, Fatal Alliance and Revan, all set in the Star Wars: The Old Republic universe. I’ve enjoyed all three of them for different reasons. But Deceived in particular was enjoyable because of Darth Malgus. I have a gamer-girl crush on Darth Malgus. It’s the voice. It’s certainly not the looks. That dratted Mr. Kemp. DRAT HIM.

 
This is the moment all fathers of daughters everywhere dread.

This is the moment all fathers of daughters everywhere dread.

SW:TOR has gobbled up most of my evenings, really. I utterly  love it for everything it has to offer. The levelling is great, the storylines are amazing (I just finished the Imperial Agent storyline and it’s my favourite so far) and the roleplay is brilliantly creative given certain limitations. I had the utter delight of meeting a bunch of guildies a couple of weeks ago at a SW:TOR event down in  London. It was a great day out and already I miss them.

In short, life ticks on.

And that’s good, ‘cos it’s not bad.

Dear Mum (2012 Remix)

Dear Mum

That time of year again. Seems to come around so fast these days. I suppose it’s true what they say; that as you get older, things seem to go by so much more quickly.

2012 hasn’t been quite so hectic as 2011, but no less fun and interesting for all that. The biggest thing of course is that Jamie turned thirteen back in February. You’d be amused to note that he is now not only taller than me, but he also has bigger feet. When he answers the phone, I feel like I should check it’s him and not his dad. He’s no longer a little boy, but a young man – and a very lovely one at that. He’s polite, well-mannered, bright and smart. Everyone says he’s  nice, that’s not just me.

Have been ‘out and about’ a few times this year with the whole writing thing; went to an event back in April down in London and then another in November. Still enormous fun, although the writing has slowed a bit. The second book came out in July and has been pretty well received. I’ve finished a third and it’s with the editor now. You were right. I CAN do it.

Both myself and Ben have changed jobs this year, although Ben wasn’t very far into his before he broke his leg. I personally blame him for saying back in January that he ‘didn’t want to do another retail Christmas’. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

I’ve had a couple of really lovely weekends away with my friend Nik. She’s turned into such a rock for me; someone I can talk to. I’ve missed that sort of closeness in my life since you died and I just know you’d have loved her too.

Is it weird that I still have moments, sometimes days, when I still miss you as though you only went away yesterday? That I still have those moments of ‘I must just ring mum and tell her…’ only to then go through that ice-cold realisation that I can’t? Sometimes, I tell you anyway. Many times when I’m in the car I’ll hold a one-sided conversation with you. Maybe I’m a bit crazy. Well, that’s nothing new.

I dream about you a lot. I don’t mind. I like dreaming about you because it means I get to spend time, no matter how fleeting it may be, talking to you again. Sometimes, grandad’s with you, and we always catch up. I love that there’s this part of my consciousness that will always ensure you are somehow near and your timing is always amazing. You lend me strength and love at the times I need it most. Just the way you always did.

I miss you. I’ll always miss you. The pain has mellowed into something deep and regretful. I have said, on many occasions, that there are so many things to be grateful for. We never had any ‘bad blood’, there were no things left unsaid and I didn’t have to worry that you knew I loved you because it didn’t need saying.

You have been, even in the twelve years I’ve lived without you, inspirational in the way I’ve brought my son up. I know how proud you’d be of him. And I know you’re probably keeping that same eye on him that you always have. He takes his options at school in the New Year. In a couple of years, he’ll be doing his GCSE’s. Can you imagine that?

Dad’s full of talk about his bees. It’s been truly lovely to see him so animated about something and I can’t wait to see how he gets on with the process. No doubt I will have much to update you with next year. Assuming we get past December 21st without the Earth imploding or whatever’s meant to happen to it (according to the Mayans, who were so smart they became extinct).

We’ll be putting up the tree tomorrow night, just as we’ve done every year on the 10th since you died. Ben will supervise from his sick bed, Jamie will put three baubles on the tree then go and find something else to do and I will end up doing it all. I don’t mind, though. I do it for you, really, not for anybody or anything else.

On which subject, this is also for you, care of David Harkins.

“You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

On which note, I’m smiling, opening my eyes and going on.

Love you, mum.

Always.

Sarah

xx

That Was the Weekender That Was…

So… just back from the inaugural Black Library Weekender event – and it was so much fun. Of course, I have returned home with ConLurgy, although Dearly Beloved is referring to it as the ‘Maidstone Lurgy’ as I think I may have picked it up from the gloriously wonderful Nik Vincent-Abnett whilst I was there.

Writing up these things retrospectively is always difficult. Every time I attend an event, I think ‘I’ll keep notes as I go along’. Every time I completely and utterly fail to do that. So, as best I can manage, here is what I remember.

Friday

With Dearly Beloved successfully busting his leg last weekend, I hit upon the bright idea of arranging hire of a wheelchair for him. This turned out to be a truly awesome idea as it meant he saved a lot of his strength and energy and managed to cope much better. It also meant, becaues the chair is one he can wheel himself around in, I was able to ‘leave him to it’ on occasion. So we arrived at the Belfry hotel in Nottingham around 2pm and were able to check straight into the room – which was quite lovely, spacious and very comfortable. We then proceeded to join up with people in the bar and watched as our little amoebic collective got bigger and bigger and bigger until the Circle of Nerds was almost all-encompassing. We retired to the corner to have dinner (mine failed to turn up with everyone else’s because they slightly messed up the order… so by the time everyone finished, mine just arrived. Nothing quite so embarrassing as eating whilst everyone stares).

We sat around and talked rubbish until we finally sloped off to bed.

Saturday and Sunday

A whirlwind of activity. Can’t even begin to tell you how many things were discussed, how many books were signed and how many promised hugs were collected. I will never get over how unfailingly generous and kind people are at these events; one fine chap even joined my signing queue just to say ‘I don’t have any of your books with me, but I really wanted to say how much I enjoyed them’. We had a great conversation and that left me feeling buzzy and happy. Other things I remember, in no particular order…

  • TEN MILLION TANKS!
  • I am Alpharius.
  • Horus Heresy graphic novel by Dan Abnett and drawn by Neil Roberts. The preview panes of this were… stunning. This will be something outstanding.
  • People cheering when I mentioned that my next novel is a Silver Skulls one.
  • Some nice guy stopping me in the car park to talk about Valkia the Bloody. “I reckon that book proves categorically that women are far more visceral than men,” says he. “Yes,” says I, not skipping the cue. “We do the whole childbirth thing.” He blinked. “Yes,” says he. “I’d never thought of it like that. You women are scary things.”
  • Sitting up until stupid o’clock reading excerpts from Dearly Beloved’s Very Silly Horus Heresy story and still not being able to get past Equerry Sock and Apothecary Cardboard without dissolving into fits of absolute giggles.
  • TEN MILLION TANKS!
  • Horus Heresy Seminar Bingo.
  • The many Alphariuses and the photo shoot. “What’s my motivation?”
  • Signing an Actual Copy of  Tales of the Nun & Dragon.

So much happened. Official reports and what-not will no doubt appear on the BL website in due course. But the venue was great, the organisation was out of this world and the attendees were brilliant, practically to a man. There were one or two ‘moments’ that soured things a little in the shape of the whining minority, but they were pretty much few and far between.

After a chat with my editor, I’m kind of taking a step back from BL writing for a little while. I effectively wrote three novels, a novella and six short stories back-to-back over eighteen months without a break and have also been maintaining a full time job at the same time. I need to take a pause for a while, especially as I’m starting a new job on November 26th! But there are still a bajillion ideas floating around in my head, so when I get going again, I’ll be right back in the thick of things. Also, depending on how things pan out, there may well be scope for Valkia 2Women Are Definitely More Visceral Than Men…

This does give me the opportunity to move my head back towards Project: Backburner, of course…

Could You Say That Again?

Before I explain the title of this blog post, here’s a very nice review of the ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon’ anthology. Proving to be a popular little collection, this one!

So… could you say that again? What’s that about, then? Well, it’s about one of my favourite things. Misheard lyrics. It comes about because I was sitting in the car driving home last night and Not So Small Son was poking around the iPhone play list, providing a derogatory running commentary on my decidedly eclectic mix of music. He eventually settled on listening to this.

It hit the chorus. Not So Small Son was singing along.

I looked at him. Briefly, obviously. Bear in mind I’m driving here.

‘What did you just sing?’

He looked back.

‘Stand <mumblemumblemumble>.’ Remember, he’s thirteen. The power of speech has been temporarily taken from him to be replaced by this seemingly incoherent rambling.

‘Are you talking to me, or chewing a brick?’

He looked at me again.

‘Stand in the liver.’

Made my day, that did. I’m a huge fan of misheard lyrics. Many is the time that I’ve heard a new song, haven’t been able to make out the words and so I just sing along using random phonetics that seem to fit. There are some absolute classics though that always render me into fits of giggles. Examples of these delights include:-

From Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen: “Is this the real life, is this just Battersea?” Also, “Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard.”

From Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf: “I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram, I’m a Cilla Black fan on a bike…”

From Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana: “Here we are now, in containers…”

And so on. Steve Winwood’s Higher Love of course has it in spades: ‘Bring me an iron lung, bring me an iron lung woh oh, bring me an iron lung, with an iron lung I’ll keep breathing on…’

Throwing this one open to the world at large because a good laugh is always a pleasant thing. What’s your favourite misheard lyric, either one that you’ve believed for years was the right one until someone stared at you like you were a bit stupid?

To close, one I saw last night that had me weeping with laughter.

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

I’ve always liked autumn. It makes me think of my mother.

My mother used to create oil paintings. Almost invariably, they were scenes of mountains, rivers and trees. Mum liked these things and she enjoyed putting them onto canvas. It was always a scene of a river leading off into a lake with a mountain in the background. Sometimes when I see one of her paintings, I like to think that’s where she is now and that one day, I’ll be walking along the banks of the river, next to the trees and she’ll be there, just beyond the picture’s reach.

She liked autumn colours most of all.

Not long before she died, she promised me a set of four paintings; the same scene in all four seasons. She only ever did the first one. She picked autumn.

See? Just around the bend in the river, behind the trees.

I keep meaning to sort out a frame for this painting, because the one she put on it got broken in one of the many house moves I’ve had since she gave it to me. But whenever I look at it, I remember her and it’s a nice feeling. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her, or miss her or wish I could have ‘one more conversation’ with her. She always knew the right thing to say or the right little gesture to make everything right. That’s a mum’s job, I think. I like to think Not So Small Son thinks that way about me. I’d ask him, but he’s currently engrossed in a game of Team Fortress 2 with headphones over his ears, happily oblivious to his mum pouring her heart out on a blog post.

Bless.

So anyway, yes. I like autumn. There’s this heady ripeness about it as a season. If spring is the playful childishness of a year whilst summer is its exuberant youth, autumn is the mature part of the year. The year in its prime; with the capability of slipping back into a summer day without warning or freezing you into two duvets. Autumn is a season that’s all about the senses. The colours in the trees, the smell of frost in the air and bonfires; the smell of the leafmould in the woods. The sound of dead leaves crackling underfoot and the sounds of fireworks (which seem to pretty much herald the arrival of autumn now!). It’s a bountiful time and I’m grateful for all that I have. Every so often, I stop to remind myself just how incredibly lucky I am to have a roof over my head; a husband and son who I love more than anything and outstanding friends.

In other news, Tales of the Nun & Dragon is now on release; early feedback has been very positive, including on my own contribution, the rather tongue-in-cheek Ballad of Gilrain, a story featuring a less-than-competent hero and his long-suffering servant who set out on a quest to slay a dragon.

Edits on Project: Loophole are going pretty well – for those of you who haven’t seen me mention this on Twitter, this is a Silver Skulls novel. My revised manuscript is due in at the end of September and I’m happy to say that after a few… less than productive weeks, I’m back on form and words are flying freely once again. Things are good on that front. I’m not going to Games Day this year which is a shame as I loved it last year, but the Black Library Weekender in November is coming up and I’m looking forward to it enormously.

Project: Backburner is sitting demanding some love once I’ve done with that, too. Project: Backburner is an urban fantasy story set locally (for me) in Durham and again, is not Entirely Serious.

Have an extract. Enjoy autumn.

EDWARD LEWIS FLANAGAN III had been born into the world some thirty six years previously, in a small town outside of Dublin. The youngest of six, he was also the only boy – and the horrors he experienced growing up at the hands of all that oestrogen had stood him in excellent stead for the path his life would take.

His childhood was supremely normal, apart from the expected mocking he received from the other children due to his apparently comical initials. ‘Little Elf’ was the nickname he received on his first day at school and it lasted barely more than a week before the five year old Ed – known even then by his family as ‘Just Ed’ – was in trouble for fighting.

Apart from this demonstration of ferocity, he was a remarkably placid boy who was well liked by his elders and peers alike. He was polite, well-mannered and intelligent. It was this intelligence that led him to Durham University to study Ancient History.

He had long yearned to get out of Ireland and studying offered him a route that came with the additional benefit of indulging his favourite thing. Ancient History fascinated Ed. He had keen hopes of either becoming a museum curator, a lecturer or, at a push, Indiana Jones. His brief sojurn into archaeology ended when out of boundless enthusiasm (and in an attempt to get laid) he had accompanied a girlfriend on a trip to the Outer Hebrides. Sitting for endless hours in an ancient midden, discovering what coprolite was had started out quietly entertaining.

Then, as time wore on, with the rain hammering down on him and with the real archaelogists sneeringly laughing at what they called ‘the wrong kind of trowel’ any of Ed’s Jones-like tendencies had been severely dampened.

It also put a permanent dampener on the relationship.

He came back from the field trip to the loving embrace of academia and was glad for it. They hadn’t even managed to sleep together, either.

Durham had captivated him from the moment he had stepped off the train. The cathedral, standing its silent vigil above the Wear peninsula on which it stood drew the eye wherever you were in the city. The uneven, steep city centre with its plethora of mysterious little passageways that went the heavens only knew where… there was everything in Durham for a young man with a curious mind and a great imagination.