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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

New Beginnings

It’s comin’ on the end of August
Another summer’s promise almost gone

And though I heard some wise man say
That every dog will have his day
He never mentioned that these dog days get so long…

(The song, by the way, is ‘Waiting in the Weeds’ from the ‘Long Road Out of Eden’ album. It’s a lovely song, go listen to it).

Upcoming honest-from-the-heart blog stuff. Feel free not to look.

Continue reading

Another Week Over…

This year’s whizzing by quite quickly. Feels like no time at all since The Gildar Rift came out and yesterday, Valkia the Bloody was unleashed on GW shops. As part of this, I spent the afternoon loitering in Games Workshop at Durham, where I signed lots of copies of the book, along with copies of The Best of Hammer & Bolter v1, Age of Legends and some copies of Architect of Fate. I had a lot of very interesting conversations with people of all ages and the shop was buzzing very nicely.

I always enjoy these things, because it’s a pleasure to meet people who enjoy reading – not just my stuff, but anything. More than one conversation was had about other works of fiction; there was one girl, perhaps about 14 years old, who was keen for suggestions on other Fantasy genre books to read. She went away with a huge list, a copy of Valkia and a smile on her face. This is entirely good.

In terms of writing, I’m on a hiatus at the moment whilst the Editor-beast goes over a bunch of pitches sitting in his in-box. I’m sure this won’t last. It’s very odd, though; I’d gotten so used to writing almost constantly that to suddenly be doing less is a real wake-up call to how hectic I’ve been for the last 18 months. No wonder I’m tired!

Work is ticking over quietly; I’ve reached the stage now where I go in, do my job and come home again. I have no love for what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give it anything less than my all. Ploughing on, really. It’s just so frustrating. I work hard for no thanks and little reward and if ever a job could be considered dead-end, this is it. I can’t advance or progress, there’s nowhere to advance or progress to. And quite honestly, constantly fighting against the government’s outrageously stupid targets is soul-destroying.

Himself, on the other hand… is successfully escaping the clutches of his current pea-brained employers and has landed himself a job with Games Workshop. He’s going for his induction day on 9th July and this is entirely good for him. If he’s going to stay in retail, he’ll at least be in an industry he enjoys, doing something he likes with like-minded people and where the employers themselves actually invest time and effort in developing their employees. Still means I’ll not see him at weekends, but hey… perhaps that’s just me being selfish.

Oh – and a nice review of Valkia the Bloody appeared this morning at the Founding Fields.

Bringing a Little Colour…

First off, thank you to everyone who took part in my spontaneous Valkia the Bloody competition. You all made me laugh hugely and that’s always greatly appreciated! I sometimes regret running competitions, because I then have to pick winners… but Fluxeor and Cyrillus‘s entries made me genuinely spray tea whilst watching. Congrats guys – drop me an email at pyroriffic@gmail.com and I’ll sort out sending you your signed copies. (Aside: I just mis-typed that as ‘singed copies’, I promise not to set fire to them).

Now, rambling ahead. You have been warned.

Did it rain on St. Swithun’s Day or something? Seriously, I am properly cheesed off with the rain now. Every morning for what feels like the past umptybajillion days I’ve got out of bed and opened the curtains.

‘Wha’s s’like?’ says the Husband sleepily.

‘Grey,’ I reply in a dull monotone. And that just about sums up this weather and what it does to my mood. Grey. If you took all the books in the British Library, wrote the word ‘grey’ repeatedly on every page, painted over the top with grey paint, then bound them in grey leather and put them on grey-painted bookcases in a grey room, that’s pretty much what it’s been like since the rain started.

Yes, there’s green out there at the moment, but it doesn’t offset the grey so very well.

Summer is threatening to emerge from just around the corner though. I chanced a glance at the weather forecast and instead of the little grey lines symbol for next week, there’s this weird yellow round thing. I was honestly shocked. I’ve really and truly forgotten what it’s like to see that on a weather forecast. And that made me a bit happier.

I just happened to glance down. Today, I’m wearing grey. Was it a conscious choice, I wonder? I should go and change; wear something red or orange or (god forbid), yellow. Let me explain. I had a story idea once about a magical being of light whose Arch Enemy [tm] captured him and ‘Imprismed’ him: split his core personality into components represented by each of the colours of the rainbow. Each of these shards flew off into the ether never to be seen again. The Handsome Hero’s task was to roam the world and find these mysterious beings. Red was the colour of war, green was nature, blue was water… yellow was the sunny personality character who you’d want to slaughter by the end of Book One.

I don’t want to be yellow. I want to be the Indigo Wizard; dark and brooding and generally a bit sulky that I don’t officially get noted as a colour in the spectrum any more. (This is true. It’s like Pluto being declassified and not being a planet any more; what are scientists trying to DO to my childhood mnemonics? ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle Vain’ sounds stupid, as does ‘My Very Elderly Mother Just Shot Uncle Ned’s…’ I suppose you could change to that ‘Ned’, but then you’re encouraging kids to talk about murderous octogenarians.

Anyway, it’s a Saturday. I planned to take Smallish Son into town and indulge in cake and coffee with him, but he’s being a teenager and staying in bed with a Studio Ghibli film, which despite my lack-of-cake disappointment, I can’t criticise. This leaves me free to throw myself into my writing work. I have a number of story pitches to do and I’ve realised that at least two of them feature more grey. Or silver, at least. So I’m going to hit up the beast of war in my personality and take the red path. This would be, for those of you keeping track, Project: Angstastic.

Enjoy your weekend!

Ups and Downs

Been a long, long week. As I mentioned in my alt.fiction update, I started to feel really poorly by Sunday afternoon. I went for a job interview on Monday feeling not unlike this.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get the job which was just what I needed when I was already at a low ebb. At this point, I was something like this.

I was a poorly bear.

However, being the Hero that I am, I went into work on Tuesday morning. I lasted until lunchtime before I was kicked out of the building and told to go home. I then spent the remainder of the week feeling very unwell and generally deflated. I rallied a little a couple of times, but then immediately felt the aches and general unwellness kick in. I did no writing, I largely stayed on the sofa feeling pathetically sorry for myself and wishing that I didn’t hate the taste of Lemsips so much. I can honestly say that’s the first time in years that I’ve felt like that and I hope it doesn’t happen again for a long, long time.

On Friday, I braved the outside world and took the train down to London, in preparation for Salute 2012, which was held at the ExCel Centre over in the Docklands. Much rage was experienced and contained on the train trip down, followed by meeting with my dad and brother at King’s Cross. We wandered to Soho and popped into the new Choccywoccydoodah shop on Foubert’s Place, where I dared to try a slab – and a slab was what it was – of their spectacular ginger cake. Oh my god.

Oh. My. God.

It was immense. It was delicious. And it complete beat me. Phenomenally delicious and served with raspberry coulis and a blob of ice cream. It was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered. Wish I’d had that on Tuesday when I was at my lowest ebb!

Once that was dealt with, we braved the horrors of the Tube and found our way to the Ibis Hotel, Docklands.

Instead of the Ibis Hotel, Docklands ExCel.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

After making some embarrassed noises to my family, we continued down the Docklands Light Railway to the wrong station and walked the rest of the way. Finally, we located theright hotel, where a poor unfortunate couple were trying to check in, only to be told that they should have been at the Ibis Hotel, Docklands. I felt their pain.

My dad and brother departed and I chilled out for a while before meeting up with the BL and Forgeworld guys for dinner. I can honestly say that a night of that much laughter really did me good (although being made laugh so hard that you snort rum and coke out of your nose is not THAT good) and come Saturday morning, I was up bright and early for breakfast. I fought my way through the hotel-full of synchronised swimmers from assorted countries (no, really) and discovered that there were no bowls, cups, coffee, spoons or in fact anything useful. Eventually I managed to get a bowl of cornflakes and a croissant. Hooray!

Headed into the ExCel with the guys and ran around making myself useful. It’s an interesting personality quirk; if I’m with people who are being busy, I have to help, even if only to fetch gaffer tape, or do a coffee run. I’ve always been like that. When I was a kid, I’d go to birthday parties and spend a lot of the time helping the Mum tidy up or prepare things. I can’t help it. It’s like my pathologically early for everything character trait.

I was astounded by the size of the place. Seriously, it was huge. This was my first time at a Salute event and I was blown away by the number of stands. I took a wander around and went ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ a lot at the various things and was really impressed at the range of figures. After it all kicked off and I signed a few books and spoke to a few people (sadly not copies of Valkia the Bloody: she didn’t make it to the event), I noticed the vast difference in the wargaming hobby as a whole to Warhammer in particular. I’ve been to several Games Days now and I can say that the male/female ratio is far less even at Salute. The appeal of Warhammer clearly involves women far more: I guess it’s the high street element of the hobby, or perhaps the books (which was what got me into it, after all).

I spent my money at Forgeworld; I now own a Contemptor Dreadnought who’s waiting patiently to be built and painted before taking his place alongside the Silver Skulls army. I also bought a Minotaurs Chapter Master/Chaplain for Dearly Beloved, because he wanted one and I’m justnice.

All too soon, it was time to depart and find my way back across London. I was quite glad, because by now I was starting to flag again. M’colleague and mentor Jim Swallow escorted me all the way back to the train like the true gent that he is. The train departed without a hitch and before I knew it, Durham was the next station. Came home. Collapsed in a little heap and slept.

Sunday, I slept some more.

Today, I went back to work although I’m still not at 100% fitness.

Project: ME, ME, ME is a bit behind as a result of being poorly, but my INCREDIBLY KIND AND HUGELY TALENTED EDITOR has given me an extension. Me being me, I’ll probably still hand it in on time, though. I can’t help myself. But it’s nice to have the safety net.

So it’s been a week of ups and downs, but now normality – or at least what passes for it – has been restored.

To end this entry, here is a picture that makes you REALLY THINK.

NEVER TRUST A DUCK.