Archive for the ‘Summer’ Tag

My Life in Music: 1973

As has been evident in my previous posts in this series, the music that made an impact on me in the early years of my life was influenced by my parents’ tastes in music. The song for this year is from my mother’s music collection.

It’s from an album by the Carpenters, called Now and Then. The album is effectively a mix of old songs and new, with one side being original Carpenters tracks and the other covers of old songs, set up on the album to sound like they were being played on the radio, with a DJ between the tracks.

The Carpenters were a big influence in my childhood, because my mother had most of their albums. I thought Karen Carpenter had a beautiful voice, and of course she was a drummer before she was a singer. Women drummers were rather rare in the 1970s and I’ve always been drawn to women who dare to venture into worlds traditionally occupied by men. It has been pointed out that Karen’s anorexia, triggered apparently by media criticisms of being ‘chubby’ in the early days of the Carpenters, perhaps is evidence of the fact she was never very comfortable being in the limelight, and might have been far happier had she stayed hiding behind her drum kit.

I do remember that when she died, in February 1983, my eighth-grade English teacher used the event to trigger a discussion about anorexia in class.

The track I’ve picked for this year is not my favourite track off the album but it is the most evocative. We listened to it a lot, and we must have had the album on tape, because when I hear this song it reminds me of being in the car with my mother, driving through Mossley, the town in Lancashire where I lived for the first ten years of my life. The tape had a ‘wobble’ in it partway through this song. Those of you who are the same generation as me will remember that a hazard of cassette tapes – the only portable medium of music we had in those days – was that tapes would often get ‘chewed up’ by players, and they never played quite the same way again.

Sara in Portsmouth, Summer 1973

And the photo? My album says this was taken in Portsmouth. Evidently it was summer, which means I was probably a couple of months away from turning four. I was all skinny legs and knobbly knees at that age, but I’m wondering now if it is actually 1973. All the childhood photos I have of me I gathered together before I moved back to England from Canada in 1988, neatly arranged in an album in order of year, but I am starting to wonder if the year is accurate in all cases.

I do vaguely remember this holiday, though. My grandparents lived in Portsmouth at the time. Being a naval town, Portsmouth had big black anchors arranged as sort of sculptures in the town, and I remember climbing all over them. Well, I remember them being giant-sized anchors, but I was very small back then. In this photo I am standing on a narrow wooden post on the beach. It was hot. I was very good at balancing on things when I was very young – I lost the ability to do that a few years later, when the fear of falling kicked in. I do remember it was the only time I had my hair cut very short, during a summer that was rather hot (though not as hot as the British heatwave that kicked in a few years later). I decided I really didn’t like it short, and I refused to have it cut that short again. Even as an adult, I’ve always worn my hair fairly long.

Anyway, following this collection of memories which appear to span quite a number of years, here is the song for 1973, which definitely was released in this year – ‘One Fine Day’ by the Carpenters.

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Monthly Round-Up: June 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Well, summer is here. The UK enjoyed some sweltering hot weather this month, over 30c for several days. This is pretty unusual for us – so much so that we all bake, since very few places have air conditioning. Fortunately for us, our office does. The underground does not, however, and being packed in like sardines on the Central Line in rush hour when it’s so hot is pretty close to being in Hell.

But of course British weather is nothing if not unpredictable, and now we’re back to rain again. I love the long days at this time of year, and there is still plenty of summer left before we’re back to the long nights of winter.

Anyway. On with this month’s news

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

There’s nothing new to announce, and I’ve got no further news on when SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH is coming out. So this month I’m just going to plug my current publications. They are all available on Amazon US and UK, so why not have a browse?

PUBLICITY

On 4 June there was an interview with me on Rochelle Weber’s blog, in which I talk about the Shara Summers series.

There’s another Goodreads giveaway running at present for THE WHISPERING DEATH. It’s only open to UK readers, due to postage costs, but if you fancy a free signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH, the contest is open until 15 July.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I was aiming to have the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, done by the end of June. Well it’s not quite done yet, but I am nearly there. I have over 60,000 words done and I reckon I’ve only got another 10,000 or so to the end. If all goes well I should get there in July. So, hopefully there’ll be more news on this next month. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Monthly Round-Up: June 2015

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Summer has reached the UK! Hooray! Long days and the occasional glimpse of sunshine, and I’ve even felt brave enough to put away the tights when wearing work skirts. Still plenty of rain, of course – this is England. But the alternative rainy days and sunny days seem to make the strawberry plants in our garden thrive. We’ve got more strawberries than we know what to do with right now.

Anyway, I digress. On with the news.

COMING SOON

I am pleased to announce the imminent launch of the FORMER HEROES anthology, by Far Horizons Press. All of the stories in this anthology are by writers who are also live action roleplayers. It’s an eclectic mix, all dealing with characters who were once heroes. There’s some fantasy, some sci fi, some horror. My story, ‘The Unending Scream’, is most decidedly a horror story. Would it be anything else?

There’ll be an online launch on Facebook for FORMER HEROES, so you can join the party without leaving the comfort of your own home.

And, speaking of LARPERS (a bit of a reach, I know), we are still aiming for an Autumn release for THE WHISPERING DEATH. I hope to have more news about this soon.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

Today I’m visiting Eric Price’s blog to talk about a subject common to all writers, both seasoned pros and newbies alike: Writer Insecurity.

WORK IN PROGRESS

SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers book, progresses well. Most of my work on it is being done in Starbucks on Aldwych in London, early in the morning before going to work. Of late, though, I’ve had to sit in different spots, since my usual seat has been taken. I really hate that.

Well that’s all to report this month. See you next month!

Stressed

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Generally I don’t post when I’m stressed. When I’m stressed I get grumpy, and I don’t want my blog posts to turn into long whinges. However, I am doing so today for reasons I hope will become clear later.

I’ve had a couple of holidays this summer, which were not stressful in themselves, but coming back to work after time away always makes me regret going away in the first place – the work piles up when I’m gone, and suddenly there isn’t enough time to do everything.

I seem to have been struck by a series of ailments over the last few weeks – nothing serious or long lasting, but it has meant I’ve spent altogether too much time sitting in hospital waiting rooms.

We are in the process of buying and selling property, which is a long, drawn out and stressful process. I’m not going to say too much about this at this stage, because English property law being what it is, nothing is set before exchange, anything can go wrong – and frequently does – before that stage, and so it’s best not to assume it’s actually going to happen until the keys are in your hand. However, the process involves dealing with estate agents and solicitors, which is stressful enough without all the other stuff going on.

Most crucially, though, I am still wrestling with the WIP. I am mired in the “my writing is rubbish” stage, believing the whole thing needs dismantling and putting back together, and I am not sure where to start.

However, I am starting to think that life stress is connected to writing stress and vice versa. When the writing is going well I am in a much better frame of mind and can pretty much handle whatever life throws at me. When it’s not going well, suddenly all kinds of other hassle creeps in – notably, things that wouldn’t be bothering me quite so much if the writing was going well. I started today with an early morning writing session that didn’t go at all well – I spent much of that hour staring at the page thinking what I had written was complete rubbish. Hence, I didn’t have a good day at work, either. When I start the day with a good writing session, the day job is much easier to handle.

So the only stress in my life I should actually be focusing on is my troublesome WIP. If I can kick that into submission, everything else should be a breeze. Even the house move…

Let’s Talk About the Weather

The weather here in Britain has been somewhat depressing the last few weeks. We’ve had rain, wind and grey clouds. Occasionally the rain stops, the clouds move and the sun peeps out for a few minutes, at which point you start to feel a bit hot in your rain coat and winter sweater. But then the clouds roll over again and another torrential downpour starts up. We occasionally have a few days of hot sun, but this is invariably followed by more rain.

To be honest, this is not unusual weather for the British summer. However, as all this has been going on my family in Canada have been grumbling about relentless 40c heat and no rainfall for weeks, and it has made me think about the diversity of this small blue planet of ours.

We’ve been to places like Borneo and Vietnam, where it’s incredibly hot and humid. When it rains, the rain literally comes down in sheets, but it’s so hot that when it stops the streets dry out in a matter of minutes.

We’ve also been to the Nasca desert in Peru, where it rains once every ten years or so. We’ve seen the Nasca mummies, which are the skeletonised remains of people who died hundreds of years ago, their bones bleached white by the sun, their hair and clothing and sometimes even traces of skin still preserved because there’s no moisture in the air to rot them away.

Right now there are places on the planet that are suffering terrible droughts, and other places where there are floods. More than half of our planet is covered in water, yet still there are places that don’t get enough water to sustain life.

So we might complain about the weather – and in Britain it’s a national pastime. But it does serve to remind us that nature is a far more powerful force than humanity is. No matter how technologically advanced we get, we can’t control the weather.

Allergic to Nature

I have mentioned my dislike for all domestic chores. This includes gardening. I know plenty of people who find gardening therapeutic and pleasurable. I do not fall into this category.

For starters, I seem to be allergic to all plant life. Being around flowers or anything with spores just makes my nose run all the more. The other thing I dislike about gardening is, like other domestic chores, I find it dull and a waste of energy, and I would much rather spend my time doing something more interesting like writing or reading. Hubby is also averse to gardening, but I think his dislike stems from being made to mow his parents’ expansive lawn when he was a boy.

When we bought our house, we were careful to select one that didn’t have acres of greenery to look after. We have a small back yard that is paved over. Sadly, the weeds still seem to grow between the cracks of the flagstones. Short of someone inventing a substance to kill all plant life permanently, and thus ensuring no weeds will ever grow again (has someone invented such a substance? I suspect that it would also kill every living thing within a 5-mile radius, and hence impractical to market), we are obliged to occasionally go out into our yard with the garden shears and start hacking at anything green.

So this is what I had to spend my bank holiday afternoon doing, sniffling all the while because of my allergies. And trying to avoid touching any of the plants with my bare skin, because I get dermatitis on my hands that seems to be aggravated by plant life. I have no problem with allergies, on the whole, with chemical or synthetic substances. Just the natural ones. Sometimes I wonder if I’m some sort of techno-human, evolved to live in harmony with the industrial world rather than the natural one.

Still, today it seemed we won the battle with the weeds. And as summer is coming to an end, hopefully it will be another few months before we have to bring the artillery out again. So I can reward myself by holing myself up in my house, in front of my computer, out of reach of the nasty foliage. Hopefully it can’t get me in here.

Quiet Time

The last Monday in August is a bank holiday in the UK. It’s also – very depressingly – the last bank holiday we get until Christmas (yes we are deprived of bank holidays here in England; let’s not go there).

Consequently, it’s the time a lot of people traditionally go away. The schools are still closed for the summer, and millions of Brits hold onto the last vestiges of Summer and escape either to Europe or other parts of Britain for some rest and relaxation.

Hubby and I tend not to go anywhere this time of year, however. We don’t have kids and neither of us are teachers so there’s no need to pay the inflated air prices of the peak season. Besides, when we do travel we go quite far afield, to places where the sun will still be shining in December.

At this time of year, I enjoy the quiet time. My train carriage is half empty; I can enjoy the luxury of an empty seat next to me to put my bag on, instead of having to stuff it under my seat to make room for a fellow passenger. There’s no queue in Starbucks when I get my morning coffee. There’s often even a seat on the Victoria Line train – shock, horror.

Next week things will be different. We launch into September and Summer will officially be over, school starts again, the train will be crowded and everything will be back to normal.

Today, though, on my daily commute I will enjoy while I can the luxury of a half-empty train carriage.

Rain Revisited

The Met Office appear to have backtracked on their original prediction (back in April, I believe) that the UK is in for a hot summer. They are now admitting they were wrong. It would appear that our two-week heat wave at the beginning of July was it, and we can now expect rain for the rest of the summer.

Well, if I have to keep the raincoat and umbrella handy for the next couple of months, so be it. We can’t control the weather. And this is the point, really. We’re a decade into the 21st century and we still don’t have the ability to predict the weather. I don’t think we ever will. No matter how technologically advanced the human race gets, we can’t control nature. As nature keeps reminding us. I still have the belief that one day, nature will get tired of our species and treat us the way we might swat a bothersome fly, erasing us from existence with some spectacular natural disaster.

So as we can’t beat nature we have to learn to co-exist with it, and that includes putting up with the rain. Well, at least there’ll be no water shortages this year.

Small Blessings

It’s no longer hot, but it’s no longer raining, either.

I may be an anonymous commuter, but I still have a job, in a time when a lot of people no longer have theirs.

A place I often go to for lunch was serving my favourite soup – smokey bacon & lentil – today. So I had my lunch there, sitting by the window, watching all the people go by on Regent Street. It was a pleasant way to pass the time, and a small but welcome respite from work.

And it’s Friday. I can look forward to a glass of wine at home tonight, and a lie-in tomorrow.

I really have nothing to complain about. Life is good.

Rain

The heatwave is over, and the humidity broke yesterday with a truly spectacular rain storm. We’ve had a lot of rain the last couple of days and the temperature has been getting ever cooler. Yesterday I left work on time, aiming to catch the 5:30 train out of London Victoria station.

I came out of Victoria underground station at about twenty past five, at which point the rain had become a solid sheet of water falling from the sky. Water was also pouring in through various places in the roof of Victoria station in torrents, creating a series of indoor waterfalls. The floor was already covered in three inches of water, and it seems the rain had only just started to fall.

I picked my way across the soggy concourse with my umbrella, as all around me people scurried for shelter. I was genuinely worried, at one point, that the roof was going to collapse – the sound of the rain pounding on it was thunderous, and the amount of water pouring in through the ceiling was startling.

Fortunately, there was no water coming down by the train platforms. I got on my train, and by the time it pulled out of the station – on time – the rain had eased off dramatically.

I later found out that Victoria station was closed at 5:30pm because of the serious flooding, and everyone trying to get home after that point had major problems. I must have been on one of the last trains that left.

I must have been charmed last night. Not only did I get home without a problem, the rain had stopped by the time I got off the train at the other end. I didn’t even get all that wet. How fortuitous is that?