Archive for the ‘D&D’ Tag

One Hundred Years of Solitude

The UK formally went into lockdown on 23 March 2020. Which wasn’t actually a hundred years ago. It just feels like a hundred years.

In July and August things started to open up again – pubs and restaurants, shops, hair and beauty salons, sports centres and gyms. In August, when the government messaging changed from ‘work from home if you can’ to ‘go back to the office if you can’, our office in Westminster opened up again (albeit briefly), and we were taking it in shifts go in, one or two days a week. There were only ever a handful of us in at one time, and things were a bit strange, but it did feel like a shift back to normality. But then the government message changed once more, and the office closed again. We were told that we should go back to working from home again, and be prepared to do so for perhaps another six months. But we had the ‘rule of six’ at that point, which meant people could meet in groups of no more than six indoors or outdoors, and that meant we could start running round-the-table D&D games again with some extra safety precautions (individually wrapped snacks, for instance, instead of everyone dipping into the same big bowl).

But now England has a ‘3-tier’ system depending on the number of cases in an area, and from today all of London is in Tier 2, which means you can’t have anyone in your house who doesn’t live there, and you can’t meet your friends in a pub or restaurant. or anywhere indoors. Some parts of the north of England are in Tier 3, which has further restrictions, and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, all of the rules are different again.

It’s all very confusing, and as well as no more D&D games this means I will no longer be able to go out for dinner with friends to celebrate my birthday next weekend, as I was planning to. The only person I am now allowed to go to a restaurant with is my husband, since we live together. So I guess it’s going to have to be just him and me celebrating.

Over the last six months of lockdown, there are a few things I have learned about myself.

  1. I don’t really like working from home. It was OK for a couple of weeks, and it would still be OK if it were one or two days a week, but five days a week with no face to face contact with anyone I find really isolating. It’s making me seriously question this lifelong ambition I always had to be a full-time writer. It won’t suit me. It’s too lonely. Which leads to…
  2. I am not an introvert. I always assumed I was, since I spent a lot of time alone when I was young, but this was mostly because I had trouble making friends. Truth be told, I like talking to people. Being alone I find exhausting. Over the years I’ve attended many conventions and gatherings alone because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, and if it was something I really wanted to do I would just go, confident that once I got there I would find plenty of people to talk to. And I have made friends that way, so I would recommend it.
  3. I really like swimming. I have a love/hate relationship with exercise of all forms, but since the pools opened up again I have been swimming three mornings a week and it has greatly improved my mental health. Swimming is actually the only form of exercise I do enjoy, and I hadn’t realised how much until I wasn’t allowed to do it.
  4. I am really struggling to write during this crisis. Particularly horror. I am working on a sequel to OUTPOST H311, but I’m finding it really difficult to write an apocalyptic book when it feels like we’re in the middle of a real-life apocalypse. I think perhaps I am not alone in this – there seems to be a collective anxiety about the coronavirus crisis that is affecting creativity for a lot of people.
  5. I don’t like surprises. I like to plan. I did already know this about myself. I set myself up at the start of the working day with a list of things to do, and another list of things to achieve by the end of the week. I like to put conventions, and gigs, and weekends away, in the calendar. I like to know what I am doing tomorrow, and next week and next month, and even this time next year. Covid-19 has taken all that away. All the things we had planned for this year have been cancelled. We can’t plan any trips away, or even an overnight stay in the UK because everything is changing so fast and we don’t know where we’ll be this time next months, or even next week. The move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in London was announced with just over 24 hours’ notice. There is still talk of Tier 3 if Tier 2 doesn’t work, or even another ‘circuit breaker’ full lockdown for a couple of weeks when the schools break up. How can one make plans to do anything, under all of this?

In an attempt to find some balance, I am now going to try and list some positives that have come out of the last six months:

  1. We are saving a lot of money by not having to pay for train fares every day.
  2. We are both getting more sleep, since going into London for work required getting up a lot earlier.
  3. Hubby and I are actually having conversations with each other during the day, whereas when we were both in the office all day, we’d just communicate via email. We are also getting to eat lunch together every day, which is sort of nice.
  4. I have actually learned to cook. A bit. Although I am still largely hopeless, there are now a couple of recipes I can make for dinner, and they actually turn out quite well. I just have to make sure I make a point of buying the ingredients in my weekly shop, if I’m planning on making one of these recipes.
  5. I still have a job. A lot of people I know haven’t any more, and every day it seems there’s someone else in my social media sadly announcing they’ve been made redundant, so maybe I need to be grateful about the fact I am still earning a regular wage.

I am reaching a bit here, because on the whole I am waking up in a rather dark mood every morning and struggling to find reasons to be cheerful. With everything I was looking forward to this year cancelled, and not able to book anything for next year because of uncertainty, there’s nothing to look forward to.

I also hate this time of year, because I hate the dark and the cold weather and I really struggle with depression in the winter. I brought my anti-SAD lamp home from the office and I start each morning at my home working desk under its very bright light for two hours. It does seem to help for a while – until I start thinking about the state of the world again.

At the moment shops and retail service providers are still open, I am still able to go swimming, and if Hubby and I fancy a night out we can still book to go to a local restaurant, as long as we follow their Covid-19 rules. So I guess we should be making the most of these things while we can, as we may well go into full lockdown again with everything closed at some point.

But by God, I can’t wait for this year to be over. There has to be an end to all this eventually. I struggle to see that far ahead, but I guess all any of us can do is get through this terrible year as best we can, and hope that better times will eventually come.

End of a Decade

There’s a thing going around social media at the moment inviting people to summarise what they’ve achieved in the last 10 years, as we approach the end of the 2010s and get ready to move into the 2020s.

When I thought about this I decided it warranted a blog post, as it’s actually too big a topic for a

Misty & Misha – 1996-2012/13

tweet.

So, here we go. Here are the things that have happened in my life since 2010.

 
  1. We said goodbye to our two cats Misty and Misha, and took on two rescue kitties Alia and Cassie. Three of those four were named after characters in various D&D campaigns.
  2. I became a published novelist. This is actually a huge deal, as it achieves a goal I set my sights on in childhood. In the last 10 years I have had five novels (three horror, two crime) and one short story collection published. I feel very confident that as far as achievements go, this decade of my life will always come out on top. And because I can’t let this moment go without a blatant plug, here are the Amazon links to my books (UK and US).
  3. I started learning to play the bass guitar.
  4. We met a lot of role players. Hubby and I met playing D&D and it’s always been a big part of our life, but for quite a long time we were gaming with the same crowd. We now have three different groups on the go. Hubby runs the game for all of the groups, and I am a player in them all. Two of the groups have more women than men. Two of the groups consist of players around our age, and one of them consists entirely of people under the age of 35. We try and play once a month with each group, so we do a lot of gaming these days, but each game has a different atmosphere and we always have a lot of fun. And it’s good to have met so many new friends through gaming.
  5. We moved house once, from a three-bedroom 1970s terraced house to a 100-year-old four-bedroom semi detached house. I have to admit I am totally in love with this house. We have spent a lot of money on improvements since moving in, seven years ago. Every time I walk through the door it makes me happy, and it feels like home.
  6. Another one of my life ambitions since childhood has been to travel. We have taken some amazing holidays in the last ten years. Places we have travelled to include: Fiji; Berlin; Borneo; Vietnam; Bali; Mauritius; Guam; New York; Thailand; Cambodia.
  7. On a sadder note, two close family members have passed away: my father-in-law, and my stepfather. We have also had to grieve a couple of friends.
  8. I started the decade a size 12, after following a weight loss plan. I finish it a size 14, once more following a weight loss plan. The whole weight loss thing has been a lifelong struggle, to be honest. I am far too fond of sugary treats, and harbour a dislike of healthy food and exercise. I have spent most of my adult life trying to lose weight, only to have it all come back again. However, thanks to a personal trainer (who I have now been seeing for a year) and a regular swimming routine, I feel I am finishing this decade fitter than I’ve ever been, despite the weight loss struggle, and despite the fact that when one gets older, it becomes much harder to lose weight.
Alia and Cassie at 12 weeks old – June 2013
Guam, March 2019

Since I was born at the end of a decade, as each one ends I celebrate a Big Birthday. Hence, this year has marked the end of my being a 40-something, and I move into the 2020s as a 50-something. Sometimes when I think about that it seems painfully old. But one can’t stop the passage of time, and writing this blog post has made me look at the achievements of the past decade, and realise there was a lot to celebrate.

None of us know what the future holds, but I am hopeful that at the end of the next decade I will still be here to highlight more things to celebrate.

Halong Bay, Vietnam – 2011
Bali – 2014

 

Girl Power

Growing up in the 1970s, I was acutely aware of gender stereotypes. I was a very ‘girly’ girl as a child – fond of dresses and dolls. I didn’t climb trees, I didn’t like getting dirty. Then I moved into the 1980s, and adolescence, and I became more aware of the imbalance between girls and boys. And it seemed unfair. I figured out very early on that I didn’t want to have kids, and I liked doing things that girls weren’t supposed to like doing. I started writing horror stories at age 14. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons at 15. I was the only girl in the group for much of the year, and I have already talked about how all the boys ganged up on me in a previous post.

Fortunately for me, when I want to do something, the fact that other girls don’t do it has never put me off. But this isn’t always the case. A lot of girls are put off pursuing an activity or career they enjoy, because being the only girl can be off-putting, especially if you get picked on, as was the case in my first D&D group.

This is why it’s crucial to have role models, especially for girls. Why are there not more women playing lead guitar, or bass guitar, or driving race cars? Why are there not more women pilots, or women fire fighters? There are, of course, women doing these things, but they are still very much in the minority, and they need to be a lot more visible in order to inspire the next generation of young women to follow in their wake.

My inspiration for playing bass guitar was Suzie Quatro, who I remember seeing on ‘Top of the Pops’ in the 1970s and I thought she was a cool rocking chick. My inspiration for writing horror was Stephen King, who of course is male but he writes sympathetic female characters – something some male writers aren’t able to do – and it never occurred to me, as a teenager, that writing horror was something women weren’t supposed to do. Over the years there have been a number of people who have said to me something along the lines of ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing writing horror stories?’ but it does happen less frequently these days, and I hope people are more enlightened. After all, in the view of many people the first modern horror novel was FRANKENSTEIN – written not only by a woman, but one that was only seventeen years old at the time.

Mary Shelly. Image (c) National Portrait Gallery

I’ve considered myself a feminist since the 1980s. Although we have made some inroads since then, it seems we’ve still got a long way to go. I was touched recently by a news article about four-year-old Esme, who told her mother she needed to be a boy because she wanted to be a fire fighter, and she’d only ever seen male fire fighters in books and she ‘didn’t want to be the only girl.’ This prompted fire crews all over the UK to post tweets and videos from their female fire fighters, to prove to Esme that you can be a fire fighter if you are a girl. The story is encouraging, but also highlights how important it is for female role models to get more coverage.

We also seem to be making some inroads in sports. The women’s football league got national TV coverage on terrestrial TV for the first time this year, and had the best viewing figures ever. And the England team did quite well, I note – getting to the semi-final. I am not a follower of football, but this made even me happy.

I am also happy that there is a series of races for women drivers, again on terrestrial TV, for the first time this year. I have been a fan of Formula 1 for over 25 years, and I’ve been banging on for just as long that there aren’t enough opportunities for women racing drivers. This year we have the Formula W. OK there are only six races, of only half an hour each, which is nowhere near equivalent to Formula 1, but they don’t have anywhere near the investment, and it is a start. If people watch the Formula W races, and support them, they might get more investment and most importantly these young women (and they are all young, but so are the male drivers), will pave the way for little girls who dream of becoming racing drivers to understand that this is a dream within reach.

We need these trailblazers. We need women of courage, battling against the preconception that women can’t do these things to prove that they can, and the fact that they are doing these things needs to be publicised so that young girls can see that they can do these things and they won’t be ‘the only girl’.

The final Formula W race takes place at Brands Hatch in the UK next weekend, and I have tickets. I will be there in the stands, cheering on these trailblazing women.

In a small way I hope I am also encouraging a new generation of women bass players. When I have my bass guitar lesson, there is a young girl – maybe about 12 – who watches me through the door for the last few minutes while she waits for her own lesson to start. She seems to genuinely enjoy watching me play, and always gives me a ‘thumbs up’ at the end of my lesson.

I feel that at last we are taking steps towards gender equality. They are very small steps, but at least they are being taken. Which is why it’s so important to support trailblazing women when they come along, forging a path for others to follow in their wake. And it’s why I am so excited about going to Brands Hatch next weekend for the final race in the Formula W series. It doesn’t really matter who wins the championship. In my opinion, all of these women are winners.

I’m finishing this post with a video of the trailblazing woman I still see as an inspiration: Suzie Quatro, performing ‘Devil Gate Drive’ in 1974.

D&D Girls

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the mid-1980s. It was September 1984, the beginning of the school year and I had just started Grade 10. There were various announcements at the start of the year about all the clubs that the school ran, and if you were interested you had to turn up to a particular room after school that day. I was persuaded to go along to the first D&D meet by a friend of mine who was keen to try it out. She did not carry on through the year, having been persuaded by her church that anyone who played D&D was doomed to everlasting fire (we had to contend with a lot of that sort of stuff, in those days). But I enjoyed it, and continued playing. The group met in one of the science rooms, and we played once a week, after classes. We were playing version 2, and I rolled up a thief called Tera.

The cover of the Version 2 Player’s Handbook

For most of the year, I was the only girl in this group of teenage boys, who seemed to treat me, on the whole, as some kind of alien species. In the final game of the year, before we all finished school for the long summer break, all the boys in the group decided it would be fun to gang up on the only girl. They attacked my character, intending to kill her so that they could steal her stuff. Fortunately for me, the DM decided that this really wasn’t fair and he stacked the dice rolls allowing my character to escape and run away.

In those days, girls apparently didn’t play D&D. Is it any surprise, frankly, given the way we were treated? Fortunately I am made of sterner stuff. As a teenager I never really bothered too much about what girls were supposed to do and not do. I enjoyed playing this game, and I was going to continue. When the school year started again after the summer break, I joined the D&D club once more. This time I was one of three girls. We decided to break away from the boys and run our own all-female game.

Thirty-four years on, and I’m still playing D&D regularly. In 1989 I met my husband playing D&D. Not only do we still play together, but we now have three different groups. They all feature different players, but he runs them all, and I play them all. We normally manage to play each game once a month. For us, this means we’re playing three out of four weekends a month and I have to remember which character I’m playing. I make notes for each game. It helps me to remember, at the start of each game, where we were for the last one.

In the years since I started playing, things have changed a bit. For starters, it’s apparently now socially acceptable to admit to playing D&D, or at least it is according to this article. In the 80s it was very much the domain of nerds (or sinners, apparently).

It’s also acceptable now to be a woman who plays D&D. Of our three groups, there are two in which women out-number men. One of the female-dominated groups also consists entirely of people under the age of 35 (except for Hubby and I, who bring the average age up quite considerably). This makes me happy, too. The generation that has never known life without computers, mobile phones and social media, are enjoying the interaction of face-to-face tabletop role-playing games, and the unique thrill of rolling dice and recording character stats on a crumpled piece of paper covered in coffee stains.

There are still arseholes out there – mostly online, it seems, hiding behind the anonymity of digital alter egos – who seem to feel the need to give women role-players abuse. But on the whole, I think women who game have an easier time of it than they did when I started playing. And that does make me feel like we’re making a bit of progress.

High School Reunion

I spent eight years of my life living in Canada. I moved out there with my mother, stepfather and sister in 1980. I was ten years old at the time. I resented having to move countries. I moved back in 1988, at eighteen years old, after finishing high school.

The high school I attended was Grand River Collegiate, in Kitchener, Ontario. I spent five years there because in those days Ontario had a grade 13 – now long gone, I understand. The school opened in 1966. Last year, 2016, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it decided to have a ‘reunion weekend’ to celebrate fifty years of ‘Renegades’.

I have a lot of bittersweet memories of my teenage years. Does anyone ever have a good time during puberty? But in high school, at least, there were some good experiences, and it was a big improvement on junior high. It was in high school I began to have confidence in my writing – that this was, at least, something that I was good at, and I had some very encouraging English teachers. I made some good friends in high school, friends I am still in contact with. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. And I was finally able to drop that most hated of classes, Physical Education. The Canadian education system – at least when I went through it – did not seem to comprehend that some people will never, ever, be any good at sports, no matter how hard you push them. But that is a post for another time.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Me (L) and my sister, haunting the old school corridors 30 years on

Ultimately the most important lessons you learn are those you discover after school. I was bullied in school. I suppose most people are. Perhaps we had it easier, in the days before social media and the internet when your bullies had to come face to face with you instead of hiding behind Twitter accounts. Bullying is always tough. But you grow up, you learn to love yourself and you learn to put the hurtful things the bullies said behind you.

Anyway, the school opened its doors for an open house weekend as part of its reunion celebrations, and I decided to go. My sister, who still lives in Canada, came along. We were both, briefly, at the same high school. But she was three grades below me and at the time she found me terminally embarrassing, so we were rarely in the same place at the same time.

It was a strange experience, going back into my old high school after nearly thirty years. I think back to those times and sometimes it feels like it wasn’t me – like it all happened to someone else. And the school has changed quite a lot since I attended. There’s a proper drama room with a stage now. We just had a room with a carpet and no desks – we had to sit on the floor. There’s a really high-tech music room, with soundproof practise booths. But as I walked around, every so often a memory would hit me. We went up the stairs to explore the upper floor and I suddenly remembered clattering up and down those stairs every day, between classes. I went into the girls’ toilets and remembered that these were the ones I used every day, at school, because they were conveniently placed between corridors. I’m pretty sure the decor, or the facilities, hadn’t changed in 30 years either.

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Exhibit A: Evidence of Sara’s terrible dress sense during adolescence?

In the corridor that used to be where all the French and business studies (ie: typing) were, ‘decade rooms’ had been set up. So of course I headed straight for the 1980s room. Photographs of the time were hung up every where, and who should I see in that room but my old typing teacher. While I was talking to her telling her how in all honesty her typing class was the single most useful class I ever took in my life, my sister was prowling the room looking at the photographs. I was in quite a lot of them. I threw myself enthusiastically into high school and joined all the clubs. I was trying to get people to notice me. My sister was making a point of trying not to be noticed. She kept bringing me pictures I featured in. Most of them I remembered – I bought all the yearbooks, and most of the pictures were there somewhere. But then she brought me one I hadn’t seen before. “How do you know that’s me?” I said. “The face is turned away.”

She gave me a look and pointed at the picture. “Look at that outfit! Of course it’s you. And socks with sandals? Who else would wear that?”

Perhaps she had a point. I am attaching the picture as Exhibit A. I am the person with long brown hair in the foreground, lookng away from the camera. You can judge for yourself whether or not my dress sense was as terrible as my sister perceived it to be.

On the whole it was fun, revisiting my high school for a day, and it brought back some good memories that I had forgotten all about. But I think the most important thing about reminiscing on high school days is to remind yourself how far you’ve come since then.

New Year Reflections

The start of the year is a time to reflect on what’s past, on where you find yourself at the present, and where you want to be going in the future.

We are now a couple of weeks into 2016 and I find myself, on the whole, to be in a pretty good place. I have several publications under my belt including three novels and another coming soon (SUFFER THE CHILDREN, my first novel, due for re-release from MuseItUp Publishing later this year). I’ve got two more novels in progress, and ideas for a few more. The day job is going well, and I’ve seen significant improvements in my health since taking the decision to drop twenty pounds in 2015.

However, my life is also pretty packed. The day job pays well but works me hard, and I spend not only eight hours a day five days a week there, but three hours a day commuting to and from London. I have my bass guitar lesson once a week and am doing regular open mic gigs with Hubby. I am trying to develop a regular exercise routine, we play Dungeons and Dragons twice a month, I run the T Party writers’ group which meets once a month, and this is before we start talking about fitting in the writing, the promotion, the conventions, and holidays.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a whine. I am where I am in my life because I chose to be there, and I do not regret anything. However, there is always room for improvement, and the start of the year seems to be a good time to look at what I  can do better.

First of all, this blog has been neglected for the last couple of years, and I am going to endeavour to change that this year. Monday will still be the guest blog feature Monday’s Friends, as it has been for some years now. Wednesdays will be a writing-related post, cross-posted on the WriteClub blog. I hope to pick up the Ten Commandments of Writing feature, which rather tailed off halfway through last year. Friday Fears will feature with more regularity, and I would welcome contributions of two-sentence horror stories from anyone who feels inclined to send me one – credited, of course.

In addition, I’d like to feature other posts on the blog, about more general subjects. I can’t promise this will be weekly – it’s more likely to be once or twice a month. But when I started the blog, I was talking about commuting and London and weather and travelling and all the things that I deal with in my everyday life. And because I don’t want to be the kind of writer that only comes online to say ‘buy my book’, I’d like to get back to this again.

So, that’s one resolution: more regular blog posts. A second, more personal one, relates to the aforementioned weight loss. This was something that I didn’t really discuss on the blog, but those who follow me on Twitter will be aware of it, since I was Tweeting about my weekly weigh-ins.

This was something that came about when I went on a short holiday to France in June and couldn’t get the zip of my favourite summer dress done up. Coming at a time when I’d lost several family members and friends to cancer within a fairly short period, I was more mindful of needing to look after my health and decided the time had come to get a bit healthier. The weight loss was all about trying to shed bad habits, as well as a few pounds. I hate the gym, I hate vegetables and I love all things sweet and sugary. But sometimes you have to do things that are good for you, whether you want to or not. I aimed to get back to ten and a half stone (that’s 147 lbs for the Americans amongst you), which is what I was when I last lost weight, in 2009. The intervening years had apparently seen a gain of over twenty pounds, which I wanted to lose again. I managed to hit my goal just before Christmas, but then came all the eating and drinking and not moving from the couch for two weeks that accompanied the holiday season, and I’m now a few pounds above that goal again.

However, I resolved at the beginning of this year to try and go back to the good habits I’d adopted at the end of last year: regular exercise, more fruit & veg, fewer sugary treats, fewer takeaways, less red meat. I’ve ridden this whole weight-loss roundabout before. The weight comes off, I go back to eating what I like to eat, it comes back on again. This year, I want to try and keep the weight off – especially since Hubby bought me several new dresses in my new smaller size for Christmas, and I want to be able to keep on wearing them.

It can be quite difficult as a writer to stay fit, since writing generally involves sitting on a chair for hours at a time, moving only to get more tea and another couple of biscuits (favourite food of The Muse, apparently). And I am inherently quite lazy. I have no trouble getting up early to write, especially when my early morning writing sessions involve a yummy breakfast muffin at the coffee shop I set up in, but I am much less inclined to get up early to go for an early-morning swim.

There, then, is Resolution Number 2. And then there are the writing resolutions, which I discussed in the December round-up post. I have two novels to finish. I have to crack on with them.

There’s an additional resolution that comes in to help me with all the others, and that’s to be more organised. I’ve got a rather anally retentive personality anyway, and I love lists. Lists are the key to staying organised. I have to do lists for every week, involving both writing and non-writing related goals, and they get dutifully ticked off as I complete the tasks. Finding time to write, or to exercise, equally involves noting appointments in my diary and making sure I turn up when I say I will – even if not doing so lets down no one else but myself.

It’s always dangerous to declare one’s intentions in a public forum, since you have a lot of people to answer to if you fail to fulfil them. But it also provides a good motivation to sticking to your resolutions.

Hence, I start the year full of good intentions. I guess we need to come back here at the end of the year and see how well – or otherwise – I’ve managed to do!

Whatever you wish for this year, I hope 2016 delivers.

Cover Reveal: The Whispering Death

FINAL COVER

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s time to unveil the cover for my forthcoming horror novel THE WHISPERING DEATH!

This one is being released by British horror publisher Kensington Gore in the Autumn. The e-book version may, in fact, be available in a few weeks. The print version will follow in a couple of months. I am hoping to be able to launch it at FantasyCon in Nottingham in October but I am awaiting confirmation on that.

This is the scariest novel I have written in a while, and it’s not for the faint-hearted as it has rather a lot of gruesome scenes. It also has a lot of references to LARP, to D&D, to Resident Evil and is an homage to geekiness in general. Oh, and it has zombies, too.

I am very excited about the release of this book. For those of you in the UK and not going to FantasyCon, I’m endeavouring to arrange another launch, in the South of England, to offer another opportunity to attend. As always, watch this space for further info.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser in the form of a blurb for the novel.

Blurb for THE WHISPERING DEATH

Death comes to us all; life is the name of the game and everyone has a role to play.

When a group of live action role-players perform a ritual as part of a game, they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil that tears their world apart. The reanimated corpse of a long-dead magic user, corrupted by powerful dark magic, offers a promise of unlimited power, but at a terrible price. Having helped open this Pandora’s box, Mark and Elizabeth must race against time to close it again – before it’s too late.

THE WHISPERING DEATH Finds a Home

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I am pleased to be able to announce that my new horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH, has sold to British small press horror publisher Kensington Gore. There’s an exciting announcement about it over on their website.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is about a group of live action role-players who unwittingly release an ancient evil loose upon the world during a game. I am particularly fond of this novel because it is effectively about a group of geeks, and I was able to incorporate all the geeky things I love into the novel. LRP. Dungeons & Dragons. Video games. Zombie films. And it’s got a kick-ass heroine who’s also a geek girl. I had such a good time writing about her.

And it’s a novel that at one point I lost faith in. It had gone through several rewrites when I first started subbing it, last year. After getting fairly consistent feedback along with the rejections I decided it needed rewriting. But the rewrite took it to a place where the ending I wanted wasn’t going to work and I got quite depressed about it.

But it just goes to show you should never give up. Have faith and keep collecting those rejections. Eventually, acceptance will come. And sometimes you have to believe in your own writing, even when it seems no one else does.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is scheduled for release later this year, which means I am expecting edits to come my way very soon. And this one will be out in paperback as well as electronic format. Yay!

On A Roll

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With two finished novels out on sub, it was time to begin in earnest a new project.

I’ve mentioned in passing a collaboration with Hubby. Who, it has to be said, is not a writer. However, after 30 years of running Dungeons & Dragons games, he’s become very good at plotting – especially with our group, who frequently decide to go off and do something that’s not actually in the module, which means he often has to do some spontaneous plotting to keep the game going.

The WIP is a crime thriller set in the late 1960s, and is about a young woman with aspirations to be a rock musician. The novel takes her from California and the Monterey pop festival in 1967 to the emerging and influential music scene in London. On the way she gets mixed up with gangland London, in a search for a friend who’s gone missing.

This project is in its early stages.  Hubby and I have been working together on the plot outline, and I’ve been doing the writing thus far. Though I am relying on his expertise on references to bands and songs of the late 60s, and what make of guitar bands of the time would be playing, as he knows a lot more about this than I do.

Thus far I’ve been struggling with the first draft. The first 20,000 words took months to write, and I was struggling to find the voice of the main character.

But suddenly, I’ve found the story and the character, and the novel has become much easier to write.  In the last two weeks I have written as many words as I did in September and October combined.

The project is in its early stages, and I am reluctant to say too much about it as anything can happen between now and the end of the book. But thus far it’s going well. I am on a roll.

Here’s hoping it continues.

New Feline Friends

This is a post all about our new kittens.  Just to forewarn you.  Just in case you don’t like cats, or something.

When I blogged about putting my old cat Misha to sleep a few weeks ago, I’d already decided to get new cats.  The house just felt too empty without them.

We took our other cats from kittenhood to old age, and we decided we’d like to do the same to some more cats. There really needed to be two, to keep each other company, since we are generally out at work all day.

We went through the Cats Protection League in the end.  As it happened, they had plenty of kittens looking for homes – as it was June, it was possibly the right time of year.  They dutifully sent someone round to check our home was suitable for cats.  No problems there, since we have plenty of space and a good size garden.  And thus we were sent to a CPL ‘foster mum’ who had kittens needing homes.  The lady we saw was lovely, but was one of these people who seem to be better with cats than with people.  The place was absolutely full of cats.  About a dozen of them were hers – I gathered that she would adopt any cat who came through her care who did not find a new home.  There were also lots of kittens, in cages.  The two that immediately charmed us were a pair of black and white sisters, who were 12 weeks old.  They seemed very laid back when we picked them up and stroked them, and seemed very friendly.  We were told that they were the last two of a litter that had been abandoned at the police station.

They were extremely nervous when we brought them home, and spent two days hiding behind Hubby’s guitar cases before they would come out.  But eventually they got a bit braver, and started to explore their new home.

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

They are both black, with white back paws and white patches on their chest.  We have named them Alia and Cassie.  Alia has a bigger white patch on her chest, and is a bigger kitten, though I imagine this situation will not remain as they get older, as Cassie is greedier and is now almost as big as her sister.

We’ve had them about a month now, and they are four months old.  They are very familiar with the house, and with us, and they are into everything.  They chase each other around the house, climb up anything that’s static and chase anything that moves.  They are particularly fond of chasing shoe laces – normally when you are trying to do them up.  My last cats were old when they died, and spent most of their time sleeping.  I had forgotten how active kittens can be.  You have to be careful where you step, as they have this habit of following directly behind you, and you have to be careful what you leave lying around, as they’ll either play with it or try to eat it.

They were rather timid when we first got them, but they have now got to be very friendly.  They run and greet me when I come in from work, wanting strokes and cuddles.  When other people visit the house they remark on how friendly the kittens are – they now seem very comfortable with visitors, and have worked out that if they come over looking all adorable, they’ll get some attention.

The Cats Protection League are quite insistent that all kittens get neutered at the appropriate age, and that cats are not let out until they have been neuteured, to prevent unwanted kittens.  I have no issue with this policy, and I have every intention of getting them neutered.  But that can’t happen until they are five months old, and they are already trying very hard to get out.  We have to be careful not to leave either the back or the front door open, as if they notice it they will make a run for it.  The UK has been sweltering in a heatwave over the last three weeks.  Not being able to open the back door to let some breeze in has been a tad inconvenient.

We have instead been opening the windows, but now we have to be careful of that too, as Cassie has already got out through one of the upstairs ones.  The window is right above the front porch.  It seems she made her escape from the window to the porch, and then the porch to the ground.  I spent ages hunting high and low before ascertaining she wasn’t in the house.  I found her eventually under the car, looking rather terrified.  It seems this kitten wanted to explore the world, and when she got there she decided that the world was big and scary.   I had trouble persuading her to come out from under the car.  In the end I had to entice her out with a plate of tuna, so I could grab her and bring her back inside (they are both very fond of all kinds of fish, we’ve worked out).  She seemed no worse for wear for her little adventure, but I’m not sure she’s learned not to jump out of windows.  Just in case, I’m now endeavouring to make sure they are open just a tiny crack, and not leave a space big enough for a kitten to squeeze through.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill - currently a favourite spot.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill – currently a favourite spot.

If anyone’s wondering about the names, we have a tradition of naming our cats after characters in current D&D games.  These two kittens happen to both be named after magic users, but since they are mostly black, like witch’s cats, that seems appropriate.  Alia is my character in one of the games we play.  The more discerning geek might have remembered that Alia is the name of Paul Atreides’ mad sister in Frank Herbert’s DUNE.  This is, of course, where I originally got the name from.

They do keep insisting on doing cute things.  So I have no doubt you will be hearing lots more about their adventures in future…