Archive for the ‘Outpost H311’ 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.

Year in Review: 2019

Another year has gone by, and it’s time to look back at the goals I set at the end of 2018 and see how well I did.

With regard to the exercise and healthy eating, that has gone reasonably well. I am still doing my personal training session, 25 minutes once a week. I still don’t enjoy it, but I do it, and I am now seeing the benefits. I have more strength in my upper body, my arthritic knee doesn’t hurt as much, and I have more flexibility in my body generally. I am also still doing the swimming, and I can now swim 40 lengths (which is 1km) in 30 minutes. I’ve never been a big fan of exercise, but I am starting 2020 fitter than I’ve ever been before.

I’ve been following Weight Watchers since June last year. Progress is slow. The system has changed again, and although it is slightly easier to follow, it’s a lot harder to lose weight now I’m older than it used to be. The last time I was on Weight Watchers, I was back into the size 12 clothes after six months. I am not anywhere near getting into the size 12s now, although the size 14s fit a bit better than they did when I started.

Of course I haven’t weighed myself for about three weeks now, with all of the Christmas chocolate and such around. On Monday I have to go back to the Weight Watchers meeting and face up to just how many pounds I’ve gained over the Christmas period.

I also pledged to keep in touch with friends. I haven’t done as well on this as I was hoping. There are still people I wanted to see last year that I didn’t. But there were some that I did, and most I have at least made contact with, so this is a work in progress.

I have not done so well on the writing either. I made a start on the sequel to OUTPOST H311, but I didn’t plot it first. I got about 15,000 words in, realised what I had wasn’t working and gave up. That will teach me not to plot. But I haven’t managed to get a handle on the plotting either, so that book has gone nowhere.

The fourth Shara Summers novel sits on my laptop, about 35,000 words into the first draft. The third Shara Summers novel does not currently have a publisher, so I stopped writing that series to work on OUTPOST H311, which does have a publisher. But since I’m struggling with the sequel, maybe I should just go back to the Shara series. Just to be writing something.

So, here are my goals for 2020:

1. Get back to a regular writing routine, aiming for 3000 words a week. What I write isn’t important, as long as I’m writing something.

2. Keep up the exercise routine. Aim to have improved my personal best of swimming 1km in 30 minutes by the end of the year. It would also be nice to fit into those size 12 clothes by the end of the year as well, but those menopausal hormones do keep making it very difficult to lose weight.

3. Aim to declutter. I have a house full of stuff, everywhere, and I never throw anything away. This year I want to go through things, bit by bit, to tidy up my personal space. And if I can learn to organise my brain as well (which is also full of stuff, flitting from one thing to another at record speed), all the better.

It seems appropriate to finish with an image from the table-top game Cyberpunk, which we played a lot of in the early 1990s and which was set in 2020. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be too prophetic.

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you achieve your goals for the year.

Monthly Round-up: February 2019

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

February is, of course, Women in Horror month. A chance for we women horror writers to blow our own horns and remind people that we are out here, jostling for space amongst the men. I went to a social gathering of fellow horror writers a couple of weeks ago, in London. It was a very pleasant evening, and good to chat to fellow horror hounds. Chatting to another woman, I explained to her how many times over the years I’d had people say to me some variation of, “what’s a nice girl like you doing writing such horrible stories,” and she nodded in agreement. Meanwhile another writer (male) involved in the conversation looked at us somewhat incredulously and said, “I keep wondering if we still need a Women in Horror month, since women in horror are so well established now. But I guess we do.”

As we still need Pride parades because there are still bigots out there who refuse to accept that LGBT+ people have the right to exist, we need Women in Horror month because there is still a preconception that women don’t do horror. Things are changing, slowly, but there is still work to do (in both of the aforementioned groups).

Hence, I have been busy pimping myself this month, and I have things to report.

OUT NOW

I am pleased to announce that the 43rd edition of the e-zine ‘The Siren’s Call’ – an all-female edition for Women In Horror month – is now out. It contains my story ‘Cigarette Burns’ as well as lots of other stories and poems by fabulous women horror writers. The issue is available to download free of charge from The Siren’s Call site now.

PUBLICITY

I had a guest blog post on Colleen Anderson’s site this month, about why I write horror. You can have a read here.

WORK IN PROGRESS

More good news to report here – the sequel to OUTPOST H311 is officially underway. I haven’t written too many words yet, but I have made a start on the first chapter, and I’ve made progress in plotting and character sketches. I feel like I am gently, but firmly, coaxing my muse out from the rock it’s been hiding under, and it’s starting to wake up.

I have also thought of a title for said sequel. I want to call it ‘OUTPOST: ARMAGEDDON’. I’d like to know what people think of this.

And that’s it to report for this month. See you at the end of March!

Monthly Round-up: January 2019

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s been a while since I posted a monthly update. Mostly because I haven’t had much to report.

COMING SOON

I am pleased to announce that my short story ‘Cigarette Burns’ will be appearing in the 10th Women In Horror issue of THE SIREN’S CALL‘ e-Zine (issue #43). This is the second year I have appeared in the special WIHM issue of this e-zine.

PUBLICITY

I’ve really not been pimping myself of late, so nothing to report.

WORK IN PROGRESS

This is where it gets difficult. I’m still trying to get my writing mojo back. I have several works on the go, but struggling with all of them.

The fourth Shara Summers book I have recently done a bit of work on, but since I still don’t know what’s happening with the third Shara Summers book, and the first two really aren’t selling, I am not sure if there is any point in my carrying on with this series.

The collaboration I have been working on with Hubby – a rather sweeping crime thriller set in the 1960s – I have put to one side because I think there are so many problems with it I don’t know how to fix it.

And finally, there is the sequel to OUTPOST H311. Which I do want to write. The first book seems to be doing reasonably well, sales-wise. The problem is I haven’t finished plotting the sequel yet, and that stage of staring at a blank page wondering where to start is even more overwhelming than usual.

Hopefully by the end of next month I will have something more positive to report. In the meantime, if you’ve read any of my books I would really appreciate it if you could consider leaving a review. Knowing I have a few readers out there provides more encouragement to a writer than you could ever imagine.

What I’m Doing at FantasyCon 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This year, FantasyCon is heading up North to Chester, a town I remember visiting as a child – mostly because there was a nice zoo there. That was over 40 years ago, and no doubt it’s changed a lot since then.

However, this weekend I go back there again for my annual fix of all things horror, SF and fantasy. It seems I’ve got a rather busy programme this year, and all the cool kids are posting their FantasyCon activities, so here are mine.

Friday:

9:30pm – ‘Occult and Supernatural Adventures’ panel in the Edward Room. Pete Sutton moderating. My fellow panelists are Mike Chinn, Sue Tingey and Georgina Bruce.

Saturday:

2:00pm – I am doing a reading in the Disraeli room, with Ray Cluley and Rosanne Rabinowitz

3:30pm – ‘Writers and Roleplaying Games’ panel in the Edward Room. Alasdair Stuart moderating. Fellow panellists are Danie Ware, Allen Stroud and Gavin Smith.

I will also have copies of both ‘The Whispering Death’ and ‘Outpost H311’ for sale on the BFS table in the dealer room, and will likely be hanging around in the bar for at least part of the time. And I might make an appearance at the karaoke on the Saturday night. I never could resist a good sing.

So, looking forwarding to catching up with friends old and new in Chester this weekend. Don’t be afraid to come say hello if you see me. Don’t listen to the gossip – I am quite harmless really , and I’ll be wearing a prominently displayed name badge so you can identify me.

Now all I have to do is figure out what I’m going to be reading. And get past the customary dilemma of what to pack for a Con…

 

 

 

Monthly Round-up: August 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The last round-up was three months ago, and quite a lot has been going on in my life since then. I got made redundant from the day job in July, but fortunately managed to find a new job after just a few weeks of intense job-hunting. But now I am in the position of being the new girl, which feels strange after nearly 13 years in the same organisation, and it is quite intensive.

Hence, with all this real-life stuff to deal with, not a lot of writing has been happening.

OUT NOW:

I may as well take the opportunity to promote OUTPOST H311, which is doing reasonably well sales-wise at the moment. If you like Nazi zombies, this is a book for you. Tell your friends. There aren’t enough Nazi zombie books in the world, and this one attempts to address that.

PUBLICITY

Three online interviews with me have gone up since last time, and links are included below

21 June – Cedar Hollow

20 August – Ginger Nuts of HorrorGinger Nuts of Horror

23 August – Kendall Reviews

WORK IN PROGRESS

As already mentioned, not much writing going on. There will be a sequel to OUTPOST H311. That’s all I can really say at this stage.

And that’s about it for news this time. I hope to see you again next month.

Monthly Round-up: May 2018

It’s been a while since I did a round-up but this month there is news!

OUT NOW

The most important news is that the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is now out! It is available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon UK, Amazon US and I’m even including the links to Amazon Canada for my Canadian friends.

I’m quite excited about this book. It seemed to be quite difficult to write, for various reasons, and it was a long road to get it to this point. But now, at last, here it is.

PUBLICITY

I’m still working on this. As ever the best promotion for a writer is a good review, so please do consider doing a review if you read the book, even if it’s just a few words. It all helps.

I’m also interested in guest slots on other people’s blogs, so if you run this feature, please get in touch. I can offer reciprocal slots on the ‘Monday’s Friends’ feature.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve been manically busy in the day job, not to mention prep for the release of OUTPOST H311, so not a lot writing is being done at present.

And that’s about it for now. See you next month!

 

Monthly Round-up: February 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

On 1 February, I went in for surgery.

Since then I’ve been at home recovering, so February is pretty much a write-off. However, it’s been very cold while I’ve been off, so it’s not been a bad time to be stuck indoors. And by the time I go back to work, which I hope will be next week (pending doctor approval) it will be daylight when I leave the house.

That said, there are a few things to report this month.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

I’m pleased to announce that my story ‘Morgan’s Father’ is included in the Women in Horror edition of the SIREN’S CALL e-zine. This issue is completely free to download as a PDF and is chock full of horror stories by women, so download your copy now.

In other news, we don’t yet have a release date for OUTPOST H311, but the onus is on me at the moment since I’ve had the edits back and I’m working through them. And it’s taking rather longer than I was expecting. Partly that’s due to being on sick leave. For the first two weeks following surgery I couldn’t really do much except lie about reading or watching TV. No concentration for anything else. However, this week I’ve been making progress with the edits, so hopefully there’ll be more news on this next month.

PUBLICITY

I contributed to Mark West’s Stephen King mixtape, which appeared on his blog on 26 February. This was a post including a long list of writers talking briefly about their favourite King story. I chose ‘The Breathing Method’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I haven’t worked on any WIPs for a while, what with surgery getting in the way and all. So the current status is unchanged. There are two current works in progress:

A WHITER SHADE OF PAIN: a crime thriller set in 1967 which is a collaboration with my husband. We plotted the book together, then I wrote Draft 1 and he started on Draft 2. The latter isn’t finished yet, but I’ve taken it back to make further changes to the amended chapters. So I suppose it’s currently on Draft 2.5.

DEADLY SUMMER is the fourth Shara Summers novel, which takes my intrepid sleuth to New York City when she gets a job in a US soap opera. I am about a third of the way through the first draft. I halted work on this when I started writing OUTPOST H311, and I haven’t got back to it yet.

That’s all to report this month. I anticipate that by the end of next month, spring will have sprung. But you can never tell, with British weather.

 

Monthly Round-Up: January 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I really hate January. It has no redeeming features. It’s dark, cold and wet, everyone is broke after Christmas, there is nothing to look forward to and as I never see daylight during the working week it’s the month my SAD seems to hit the hardest so I spend most of it feeling depressed.

Hence, I am always glad to see the back of it. Happily, we are now out of January and there are a few things to look forward to in the coming months as there is news to report.

COMING SOON:

I am pleased to announce that my previously-published story “Morgan’s Father” (most recently available in the collection SOUL SCREAMS) is to be published in the forthcoming ‘Women in Horror’ edition of the ezine SIREN’S CALL.

My new horror novel OUTPOST H311 is currently with the editor, and will be released later this year from KGHH publishing. I will let you know when I have more news regarding release date.

PUBLICITY:

I’ve been a bit quiet on this front of late, and there’s nothing to report at the moment, but there are a couple of things I’ve been working on and I hope to have something to report soon.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

With the horror novel finished I’ve been trying to figure out what to work on next. I’m back at work on the collaboration with Hubby, which has been a somewhat long-running project. It’s a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman with a dream to play bass in a band, who gets caught up in the heady world of London gangs and the rising music scene when she searches for a friend who’s disappeared.

The fourth Shara Summers novel is about a third of the way through draft 1, but I have not done any work on it for 12 months. I am still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. I enjoy writing it, but it’s not selling, and is there any point in carrying on with a series people don’t want to read?

As we move into February and the days start to get lighter, things start to look brighter. Join me again at the end of this month to see what it had in store!

Year in Review: 2017

(Cross-published on the WriteClub blog)

Well here we are at the start of 2018. This is a time to make resolutions to change things in the forthcoming year, and review how things went in the last one.

This time last year, I resolved to have two finished WIPs by the end of 2017. Well, I got halfway there. I finished the latest horror novel in mid-December. The novel is called OUTPOST H311 and it will be published by KGHH Publishing some time this year. Stay tuned for more info on this.

The other WIP – the fourth Shara Summers novel – remains unfinished. I am at present trying to make up my mind whether to continue with this series. The third novel is still without a publication date. Although it was accepted by MuseItUp Publishing some 18 months ago, health and personal issues affecting both my editor and my publisher there have delayed publishing schedules.

I enjoy writing the Shara series, and the few reviews that I’ve received for the first two books in the series have been positive, but they really aren’t selling, and I’m finding this very discouraging. What’s the point of writing books that no one seems interested in reading?

Since I finished OUTPOST H311 I’ve taken a bit of break from writing while I think about what to work on next. I have got a couple of vague ideas, but nothing concrete yet.

This year, I resolve to have at least one WIP finished by the end of the year. I just haven’t made up my mind which one yet.

Happy New Year one and all, and hope 2018 brings success and happiness.