Tag Archives: #interview

Introducing Sarah M Reed

This week I’d like to introduce you to fellow indie author, Sarah M Reed. I first came across Sarah’s work when I read If I Fell In Love last summer and I’ll be honest I fell just a tiny bit in love with Ray in that book. 

The lady herself has a new novel, The Boyfriend Pact, out today- yes, today! (The link to purchase it is below.)

So without further ado, here’s how my recent virtual interview with Sarah went :-

Tell me a bit about yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was seven years old, my first-grade teacher did a unit with our class on how books are created. We all wrote our own story and made it into a book. My book was entered into a schoolwide contest and won a blue ribbon for first place. I have been writing ever since!

Your latest book The Boyfriend Pact is due to be released on 21 Jan 2021. What can you tell me about it without giving away any spoilers?

“The Boyfriend Pact” is a best friends to lovers story that has a little steam and a whole lot of feels. It actually started as a novella that I wrote in high school twenty years ago, but when I dusted it off and set about trying to expand it into a full-length novel, it became something completely different. I love the way it turned out.

Which of your characters do you like most? Why?

Lauren, from my first book, “If I Fell in Love,” is my favorite because she is the most like me. However, Michael, the main character of “The Boyfriend Pact”, is the best book boyfriend a girl could have, so…

Is there one particular person who inspired you to write?

There have been many – starting with that first-grade teacher and on through the years. Recently, I’ve been inspired by the community of other female indie authors who have welcomed me and accompanied me along this journey.

A cruel question, but what’s your favourite book/who’s your favourite author?

Just one?? I am a big fan of rom-coms, so I love Jennifer Crusie, Jill Shalvis and Jo Watson. I’ve read pretty much all of their books. “Faking It” by Crusie and “Nobody but You” by Shalvis are the two books that I could (and have) read over and over again and never tire of.

Tell me a bit about your approach to your writing. Are you a meticulous planner or do you tend towards letting your characters go with the flow?

I am a go with the flow type of writer. I have the characters in mind ahead of time, and a general idea of where the book is heading, but sometimes the characters have their own ideas about things and I have learned to go with them. Their ideas are often better than mine…

I love to write outdoors. Where’s your favourite place to write?

Since I have two little kids to keep an eye on, I do most of my writing at the kitchen table. Keeps me right in the middle of the action!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

In terms of life? Be today who you want to be tomorrow. In terms of writing? Just get it on the page and then clean it up later.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I have found that usually writer’s block happens when I am trying to make the story go in a direction it doesn’t want to go. If I take a step back, think it through, let me imagination go… oftentimes the right path will come to me.

So, what’s next creatively? Are you working on anything else just now?

I am writing a love story for two of the side characters from my previous books: Lexi from “The Boyfriend Pact” and Simon from “If I Fell in Love”. Then I have a romantic suspense I’d like to write, which will be similar in style to my second novel, “In Pursuit of Happily Ever After.” After that, I don’t know.

Let’s finish with a few of Sarah’s favourite things…

Favourite foodice cream

Favourite drinkjust water (boring, I know)

Favourite bandthe Beatles

Favourite holiday destinationDisneyland. Seriously. Disneyland at Christmastime is magical.

If you want to catch up with Sarah, here’s the links to her social media:-

FB page:             www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100054158571494


Goodreads:              www.goodreads.com/author/show/20514616.Sarah_M_Reed

And if you want to get to know her characters better, then the links to check out her books are below:-

If I Fell in Love   www.amazon.com/If-Fell-Love-Sarah-Reed-ebook/dp/B08BKRLH3T

In Pursuit of Happily Ever After www.amazon.com/Pursuit-Happily-Ever-After-ebook/dp/B08JK6GQB9

The Boyfriend Pact         www.amazon.com/Boyfriend-Pact-Sarah-M-Reed-ebook/dp/B08R32N93Y

I was lucky enough to be given an ARC copy of The Boyfriend Pact a couple of weeks ago. I was curious right from the start about where this storyline was headed. Within a few pages I felt totally invested in these characters’ lives. This is one of these books you can hear in your head as you’re reading it. More importantly, its one you can feel too. I’m not about to give any spoilers away here but this tale is filled with love- the kind of love you find in friendships, family and in relationships. I love how Sarah captures the quaintness of Winston Prairie. I could also hear the buzz and smell the cooking in the scenes involving Michael’s family. Great read. Don’t believe me then check it out for yourself.

Introducing……

auction-hammer

Occasionally, whilst working away at the day job in the salt mine, I stumble across a kindred spirit.  The indie author I’m about to introduce you to works for the same organisation but in a different salt mine. Our paths crossed on the office’s business social media site and long story cut short, I’ve invited him along this week to share some insights into his creative thought process but first, allow me to share his fabulously quirky short story with you :-

 

 

Alana of Great Lindford      

by Christian W. Smith

 

Christie’s Auction House
London
July 2051

“And so ladies and gentlemen we move to the highlight of today’s sale: Alana of Great Lindford’s “The Prescient Requiem”, a series of 4 paintings in oil, selling today from the Royal Collection.” As he spoke, the elderly auctioneer stood ram-rod straight, a military air hanging over his precise diction and movements. With his throat dry from several hours of talking through the course of the day’s auction, he drank appreciatively from a glass of water in front of him and continued…

“These paintings by Alana in the first few years of the 1600s came into Royal ownership when they were personally gifted to James 1st in 1609 by the Reverend Richard Napier. Napier was one of the founding fathers of mental health within the UK, a protégé to the astrologer Simon Forman, and under his care, many patients found refuge and help…

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Great Linford,
North Buckinghamshire
July 1602

Sunlight dimpled through the foliage of ash and oak trees that surrounded the Great Lindford Rectory, adding to the peace and tranquillity of the grounds. This quiet place. A place for contemplation. A refuge.

Pathways wove through beds of many colours; bluebottles, with intense blue florets mingled with pink-stained foxgloves, hemmed by banks of glorious golden nasturtiums and bordered by enthusiastic pale red and violet phlox. This morning, though, the riot of colour went unseen as Richard Napier, clergyman and astrological physician, wandered forth in pensive contemplation.

Alana held his thoughts. As she had done for the months she had resided in the Rectory under his care. Buckinghamshire sent him the worst of their mentally incapacitated – the maniacal, the lunatics. To these sad and failed folk with unsound minds whom society had spurned through fear and misunderstanding, Richard lent his renowned skill, his love and devotion.

Alana was one such. A gentle girl by day, but borne by terrible dreams in the night. Several shaded benches dotted beneath broad spreading oaks where his wards would sometimes rest. Indeed, there now sat the very object of his reflections – Alana, waif-like and pale, her long blonde hair braided and interwoven with blossoms, sitting perched on the edge of a bench, a nervous bird ready to take wing, daisy chain held skittishly in intertwined fingers.

As Richard came near, she stood and looked down submissively, wide blue eyes full of fear. Not of him – no, there was no fear there – but of the storms that raged within her frame, that daylight and the quiet gardens kept at bay, but which, when night fell, would overtake her. Strange visions. Oddities and pictures she did not understand. They would not go away. They would not cease. Every day she lifted fervent prayers for an end to come.

“Morning, child,” the reverend spoke quietly. “Please, sit. Continue your contemplations.” He knew there would be no response from her; she had not spoken in all her time there.

“The drawings go well?” She nodded as she sat again and withdrew a scrap of paper from her dress pocket, showing it briefly to him then returning it carefully to its place of origin.

“The same picture, I see”, he reflected.

Again, a nod.

“You fare well?”

For a third time, the nod came.

“That is good, child. I will see you at supper.” With that he came to a decision. This matter must be brought with haste to Simon. He returned to the rectory and entered his study. Here, in the sparsely-furnished room with just a wooden writing desk, a bookshelf and a chair by the shuttered window for his daily prayers and reflections, order reigned. A regimented man, he was, with papers stacked tidily and quills held in a neat rack; the housekeeper’s daily clean ensuring dust-free surfaces to work on.

A small wooden cross above the desk was the only adornment and he touched it as he sat down to write. Simon Forman had mentored him and befriended the slightly reclusive and awkward clergyman. Simon would know what to do. Pondering his missive, he lifted a sheet of writing parchment from the tidy pile on his desk, and selected a quill from the stand. Unstopping the ink bottle, he dipped the nib in then began to write.

To the Venerable Simon Forman Esq.

Hie, my friend. May this letter find ye and thine lovely wife Tronco well in London, and may the Grace of our Lord shine favour upon the pair.

The scratch of nib on paper always eased his disquiet. Today was no different and at the familiar rasping, his shoulders relaxed and his unease slipped away as he continued.

Work within the Rectory fares well and I spare no rest for the poor souls who labour so mightily under the duress of a darkened mind. As ye know, my hours are spent praying and beseeching our Lord for them and in the providing of victuals and rest. Per occasion the offer of hospitality, in guise of a mattress, is extended to those in more serious need and it is one of these more profoundly afflicted of whom I scribe.

I write thee today of Alana, a lady of the local town – by day her manner is genteel and calm yet given to wild ideas and crazee dreams that fall upon her in the night. They writhe and rack her and drench her in sweat as if a bathing bucket were thrown uponst her. Yet, ev’n in this chaos she utters no word – she is entirely lacking in speech. I then dowse her head with a tincture of beetroot, honey and laurel oil for the headwarks she silently complains of. Mercifully it appears to ease her throes.

Without words she communicates with gestures and drawings. Oh Simon, what drawings she makes with charcoal and pen. Scarce does she but finish one afore she beginns one other. No longer able to supply materials to the extent of her desire to draw, I beseeched the Lord Thompson of Lindford Manor to benefact the lady, which he has done and ennuff inks and papers are henceforth forthcoming from his estate. Many pictures does she draw, but at present only one theme does her art elucidate. I say true – ag’n and ag’n she draws the same image which I shall endeavour to picture with words for thine self.

He sat back in his chair and regarded one of the pictures that Alana had given him. It was a rough drawing, one that he had seen improved on in later sketches, but it was developed enough to attempt to describe to Simon.

Imagine standing back from on the bank of a lake – in front of ye is visible bare earth leading to the bank, and also the bank itself. Beyond, lies the lake. Imagine further the sun is falling, its dimming light turning the waters of the lake blacker. A fire is lit behind thine person and casts a flickering shadow upon the ground. Then out of the water rises a rounded silver platter, like the mysterious Excalibur rose, until the upper half of the circle be visible reflecting the light of the fire behind. That is as best I can describe it. Also too, it could be seen as a waxing moon in the night sky, yet sinking below water. But when I point at the moon, she shakes her head and makes motion that I fail to interpret beyond this – the moon looking down upon me. What means she by this? This image the poor girl will sketch in prolonged spells on paper anew. To be sure, I confess to be quite at a loss. I wayte upon what insight my beloved mentor may impart.

To end, I enclose a short sermon series on the Revelations of St. John and an essay, “Melancholy and the Lunar Elipsis”, both recently completed.

In Our Father’s name, Thine humble servant

Richard Napier

The Reverend scrawled his signature across the bottom of the page with a flourish, then sprinkled fine sand across the page to soak up the excess ink. He pressed the seal of the Rectory into the hot ruby wax and calling his servant, requested that the letter be delivered forthwith to the village inn that a passing traveller might take it onwards to the capital. A waft of steak pie tickled his nose, his stomach rumbled and he left the study to find what magic Zillie was creating in the kitchen.

Several weeks later a reply was forthcoming. He eagerly ripped the seal apart and drank in his mentor’s responses:

Honoured Richard,

May our Divine Lord and King be thine Blessing and thine Guide, and the stars be ever in alignment.

Tronco and I rest easy in Lambeth, though the bobolyns of the College of Physicians still cast their disapproving gaze upon my astrological diaries and scorn the insights contained therein. Fools, they are, whose sole gain in life is to diminish mine and resoundingly I curse them. I urge ye to pursue with all vigour both the teachings of our Lord and the heavens. I thanks ye deeply for the sermons and essay and wholeheartedly concur with the conclusions that the waxing and waning of our astral brother, La Lune, sends ripples through our minds and hearts.

I applaud thine efforts with thy charitable works. Our Lord Bless Ye and Keep Ye in his Spirit. I noted with interest thine description of poor Alana and wish ye well and kindness in thy cosseting of her. To whit, for answers, I presently have none, though might make suggestion that should Alana be familiar with watercolours, or even with oil and canvas, that upon an occasion, intermittent to the charcoal and pen friezes that form the basis of her works, she would lift a brush instead. Perchance, if colour abounded, a clearer meaning to her work may be inferred.

As ever, Peace and Grace be upon thine house.

Simon Forman

*************************

Christie’s Auction House
London
July 2051

The auctioneer’s gravel voice mesmerised the crowd. “What we know of Alana survives from parish records. We know that she used mainly pen and charcoal to compose her art, though no copies of these early works remains. It would appear, from these records, that when satisfied with the structure and composition of any particular image in pen or charcoal she would then continue by painting in watercolour. Finally, at the pinnacle she would turn to oil, creating just one single instance of each theme. Ladies and gentlemen, those 4 single instances are here before us today. The only known works of Alana of Lindford.”

Excited applause rippled from the gathered. They knew what was to come.

“The question everyone asks, and to which there is probably no answer – was Alana a prophetess, a seer, a diviner of the future? Or was she simply mad? Or indeed neither…

“Are these paintings her visions of the future or simply meaningless Rorschach blotches in which we see what we want to see? To guide us through the descriptions of the paintings I’m honoured to introduce Viscount Severn from the House of Wessex, who is the curator of the Royal Art collection.” A clipped turn brought the auctioneer face-to-face with a well-dressed gentleman seated to his right. “He can establish the authenticity and provenance of these works. Welcome, Viscount. The floor is yours.”

The Viscount dipped his head in acknowledgement, adjusted his scarlet cravat and continued where the auctioneer had left off.

“Thank you for having me today. It is truly an honour to be here. You may be wondering why the Royal Family is selling these paintings at this time. I should enlighten you that I am also the patron of Sound Minds. Sound Minds is a charity close to the hearts of both King William and Prince Harry, as it focuses on military personnel suffering from a mental illness. It was King William himself who suggested that if a suitable donation could be found from within the Royal Collection, then it could be sold with the proceeds donated to the charity. This series of four, Alana’s “Prescient Requiem”, seemed perfect. So let us begin. Shall we turn our attention to the first in the series – ‘Rise’.

Next to the Viscount were 4 velvet veils. He drew aside the first, shaded in a deep burgundy, to reveal a painting and a photograph side by side, both oriented in landscape and both approximately 2-foot-long by 1 and a half feet tall. He explained to the gathered audience: “‘Rise’ is the first in the series of four. Next to the painting we have placed a photograph of the view of Earth from the moon during the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969; the photographer is none other than Neil Armstrong during the first moonwalk. Rising in the background is Earth, and the foreground shows an American flag planted on the Moon’s surface.

The similarities between the photo and the painting are startling – the shape and colours in the painting are obviously Earthen and could that smudge of red and blue in the foreground be a representation of the US flag planted by the astronauts during their lunar visit? Or is the smudge, just, well, meaningless? A nonsense?…”

*************************

Great Linford,
North Buckinghamshire
September 1602

Richard’s pointed beard, normally a neat and kempt visual indicator of his calm and soothing personality, was today a ruffled mess, his greying hair splaying in every direction. So agitated was he, that he wasn’t even aware of its disarray, his distracted hands continuing to run through the tangles. How to help that girl? What succour can I give? Simon, Simon – I need your insight and wisdom.

Walking at haste to the parsonage study he sought pen, ink and paper and in agitation, began his next letter to his friend.

To the Venerable Simon Forman Esq.

Hie once anew. Near 2 months have passed since our last communications with much to report on from the interim. I thank thee for the suggestion of the use of colour – truly an inspired suggestion. Realising thy sage advice, I hastened to the Manor to seek an audience with Lord Thompson and requested his aid in the supply of canvas and paints. Thankfully he thinks well of my feeble works and was most forthcoming for both watercolours and oils. Alana took to the watercolours with great fervour, though avoiding the oils at first. Several canvases has she painted in the watercolour medium. Simply practising I suspect since once satisfied enough with the outcome she has turned to the oils and has painted one exquisite masterpiece. I have seen the decorated walls at Hampton Court Palace and this canvas matched any there, though envisioning it en couleur has not cleared the question of its meaning and I am scarecilly any more illuminated as to its significance.

Coming to the crux of his letter, Richard wiped his brow, beads of sweat and drops of ink unknowingly smearing blue streaks across his face. A deep breath, a violent exhale and he returned to his story.

But herewith lies my vexation: no more does Alana paint the picture of the fire on the silver platter. A night, but 7 days past, was more wretched than any in her time at the Rectory. In dawning hours didst Alana throw herself about her room incurring many wounds and making unnerving sounds that did wake the household. Til now, Simon, in truth I thought her dumb, her mouth unable for utterance. But now I know the real truth. She is silent by choice. I begged her tell me of what she saw in the dark and tortured night, but silence swooped once more upon her tongue and she bade me depart, glaring madly at me and gesticulating angrily though I had but tended her wounds and bound her bluddied head not half a candle earlier. Now she sketches anew, the oils discarded. Charcoal and pen once more are the favoured mediums. The headwarks grow fiercer and I now administer an infusion of mint, willow leaves, lupins, fennel and lichen boiled together. This she consumes from a silver altar bell to aid ingestion.

Richard shivered a little, not from the cold, as he penned the next paragraph.

But, Simon, I fear she is demonised. I know nothing of exorcism which might be the only treatment for her ails. Verily doth my soul quail at that, and I am somewhat loathe to share space with her. But I must persist – her absolution surely rides in, only upon a horse of my provision.

I fear I’ve not helped matters and that by giving aid to create these images I have extended her suffering. Would she now be drawing pictures of towers with rounded tops sitting atop a bed of fire had I not supplied the paints for her progression? Would the anguish of the night a week past have occurred if she had not birthed such a beautiful creation? By placing paintbrush in her trembling hand, have I lowered the curse to be a shackle around her neck and a prison from which there is no escape for her? I am afraid for her.

Please do send news of any domestic affairs as I hope a breath of a life more usual will blow some clarity into our predicament.

Thine servant, in darkening times

Richard

His signature, sprinkled sand and stamped seal concluded the narrative and a ruddy-faced servant was summoned for onward carriage of the letter to the local inn, once more to find a traveller to London.

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Christie’s Auction House
London
July 2051

The Viscount drew down on another gilded cord – this time a tawny mustard coloured curtain parted and the next pair of pictures was revealed. “After ‘Rise’, which we’ve seen could possibly be a vision of the Moon Landings, comes ‘Stand’.

“In Alana’s painting, there’s what looks like a stone tower on the left, and three round white-washed towers situated around another brown tower, all of which are sitting on a bed of fire. Look now to the photograph of a Space Shuttle taking off from Cape Canaveral. This particular photo is of the first ever shuttle flight, Columbia’s, on April 12th 1981. Flame and smoke billows out as the shuttle lifts. There are two thin white solid rocket boosters either side of the orange-coloured external tank and the body of the space shuttle sitting in the foreground. To the left of the departing vehicle is the scaffolding of the Fixed Service Structure, with a lightning mast, crane and the White Room through which the astronauts access the shuttle – this could be what looks like the stone tower in her painting. Whilst not identical, as Alana’s towers are all very similar in width whilst the rocket boosters and the external tank are not, once again the similarities between the two images are pretty striking, wouldn’t you agree?”

Nods around the room in response to the rhetorical question, accompanied the Viscount’s movement to the third curtained exhibit. Behind emerald drapes hung Alana’s third image, ‘Soul Glass’.

“‘Soul Glass’ looks like two groups of eight stained glass windows, 4 across and 2 down, set in a frame and bolted to the side of a small house. Confusingly, this picture looks as if it is set in a forest and has raised the greatest question mark over whether these images are really prophetic. You’ll all recognise the International Space Station in the photo to the right, also with two groups of solar panels in a 4×2 configuration with the body of the Space Station joining them together. No forest though!”

Light chuckles dusted the room.

“Still, the shape and layout are very consistent despite the disparity of the backgrounds.

And finally we move onto the last picture, the ‘Marionette’. Everyone will be familiar with Anchor One, the Space Elevator terminus situated in the mid-Atlantic that has revolutionised how we access space. Here is the latest photograph – you’ll immediately notice that there are only 3 pairs of tethers currently in place. Yet in Alana’s painting there are 7. Does that mean she was wrong? To find out, I can tell you that I have personally been in touch with the CEO of SkyWay, the company behind Anchor One, Richard Lyne and showed him this painting. He was well aware of it already and reciprocated by showing me an artist’s impression of Anchor One as it will be in the next 10 years or so. Did you know there are 7 tethers planned in total?”

Clearly everyone did. This was an educated auction crowd.

“Ah, you do. Excellent!”

Everyone laughed.

“Indeed… 7 tether pairs tied to 7 individual platforms and arranged virtually identically to Alana’s painting. Incredible.” After pausing for a moment, the Viscount needled them, “So incredible actually, I might just put these back in the Royal Collection!”

Horrified looks stared back at him.

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Great Linford,
North Buckinghamshire
November 1602

Around the rustic wooden table sat three people: Richard, Alana and recently arrived from London, his dear friend Simon Forman.

“It is so good of you to visit, Simon. We are glad of your company and your insights.” Extending a plate to his guest he said, “Try this partridge. Zillie is a fine cook and this is her specialty.”

A hungry Simon gratefully filled his plate with several of the stuffed birds, then ladled carrots, chicory and spinach on top of several potatoes. Alana’s eyebrows raised at the sight and Simon chuckled, rubbing his expanding girth.

“I love food, Alana. Always have. Tronco despairs of me.” Turning to his host, “Thank you for having me Richard – it is fine to see you after such a long time, though our correspondence does keep you close to both of us. I am here but for just a night and must return to Lambeth on the morrow.”

“A shame and a pleasure at the same time.” came the reply.

With his long-time friend in attendance, the reserve Richard normally held in deep check, loosened and he shared anecdote after anecdote of some of the trickling tide of humanity that passed through the Rectory doors. “Fine Joe wouldst throw off his clothes at the supper table and cavort around this room afore running off down the lane. Ev’ry day without fail. Henry, poor man, he be the groundsman labourer, would saddle his horse and of necessity, retrieve the naked Fine Joe, sometimes from inside local houses, twice from the river – one of those in a beastly winter. The lad nearly died from chill.”

Guffaws arose from both men at the memory and even Alana chuckled silently to herself.

Likewise, Simon, despite a loving wife with whom he could speak of most things, held inside a cache of unspoken utterances of some of the starker sights his eyes had seen through his medical practice. Harkening back to the awful plagues of London, “In 1593 the plague were terrible fierce in London. The sores and carbuncles of Mars were fierie hote and red and did rise up. I lancet them oftentimes. Thousands died, but I was spared. A terrible time indeed.”

The meal passed quickly – the men’s camaraderie evident to the quiet onlooker. Soon Alana’s thoughts turned to the night ahead and she pushed her plate away with a hiss. The two men regarded her with concern.

“Fear not, child” soothed Richard. “We shall stand by at the ready.”

“Child…” started Simon. “I have an ointment here. A potion called oleum dulce vitrioli, brewed from oil of vitriol. I learned the makings of it a brace of years past and it has aided many in matters of the head. Take a short drink, then we will see you abed for the night.”

Alana’s blue eyes looked cold and scared, but a flicker of hope flashed in them as she eyed the stoppered bottle their guest had placed upon the table. Pulling the cork she drank, ceasing at a motion from Simon indicating when enough had passed her lips. Then she nodded her head at the two men and made her way up the stairs to the straw mattress in the loft that was her bed. Under the blankets she laid, hands clasping and unclasping in great anxiety. Then she closed her eyes and waited for the dreams to come.

***

The tweet and call of bird song, cheery and bright, woke Alana in the cool early morning as daylight spilled through the open shutters. She could not believe it! No dreams. Nothing! She could not remember the last time that had happened. She lay in semi-shock. Perhaps the potion really did have the power to stop the dreams? Grabbing her coat from its peg beside her door, she threw it on and skipped downstairs to have a sturdy breakfast of cold meat pie and manchet bread with the Reverend and his guest.

Later that morning Richard and Simon watched as Alana painted in watercolour.

Richard leaned over and whispered in his mentor’s ear. “Something is different about this one. Sketches go faster than I’ve ever seen her, as though the sands of time are running against her. 7 plates on sticks in water held up by ropes, in shape of a hexagon. Where do these images come from? Watercolour precedes oil and soon, perchance in a few days, she will tackle the oil.”

Then the two friends left her to her painting and wiled the morning away, debating with great fervour the relative merits of a variety of treatments, acutely aware the sands of their brief time together were dribbling away.

After an early lunch of Simon called his coach, hugged his friend goodbye and began the lengthy journey back to London. As Richard stood outside the Rectory waving goodbye, the sun dipped behind a bank of clouds. Yet the drop in temperature wasn’t what made him shiver. A sense of foreboding loomed.

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Christie’s Auction House
London
July 2051

The Viscount looked like he was seriously pondering his threat. “But, don’t worry, I won’t! King William would kill me.”

A collective sigh of relief ran through the crowd.

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Great Linford,
North Buckinghamshire
December 1602

Cool moonlight spilled ghostly shades across the loft as Alana awoke drenched in sweat once again, despite the frigid January air. Blankets lay strewn across the floor where she had thrown them whilst the tumult of the dream was upon her. For pity’s sake she sobbed quietly, will this never end? Just that very morning, she had finished the oil painting of the vision of ropes stretching into the sky and tied to odd structures with fat legs and weird egg-like carriages that shot up and down the ropes. And why were these odd buildings in the middle of the sea? It made no sense. Each time one picture finished another took its place, though this time she had hoped the ending of the fourth vision would not become the beginning of the fifth. Already though, a brand new dream had shoved itself upon her mind. This time it was a bleak landscape, red earth, red rocks. She knew no place like this. Where are the trees? The rivers? The sun is still there in the sky, but is it a little smaller? And there were people in the dream – she had glimpsed them walking and talking and dressing in white suits. Living in little round houses with connecting tunnels that had no obvious windows or doors to the outside. Taking rides in carriages with no horses. Nonsense images. Nonsensical visions.

Alana’s heart sank. There would be no ceasing of the dreams. There would be no end. Finish one and yet another would take its place. Without end. Amen. She understood now that the curse would not be lifted and this insight gave impetus to her movements, an air of finality hanging over them.

Up from the tangled bed clothes she rises and lays the four oil paintings in her place there. Destroy everything! Crazily she shreds the papers that bear the multitude of her nightmares. Slops paints until the containers are empty. Snaps paintbrushes, tossing them aside with a glare. When all the tools are destroyed she stops in front of the canvases laid across the straw mattress. As her manic air subsides a note of pride replaces it as the beauty of the work penetrates her fevered gaze. Deciding then that, actually, she cannot bring herself to destroy these final pictures, she strides across the freezing boards to the wooden dresser. Shivering now, but moving carefully so as to not wake the reverend with any errant screech of wood she opens the top drawer. Takes out two shifts and tears them into strips. Then, as she has done a thousand times with her hair, she braids the strips into rope. Long enough to loop securely around her neck with one end… Where could the other end be tied? That heavy metal spike holding my cloak beside the door, perhaps… Was it strong enough? It wasn’t high enough, really, only as high as her chest. Still, it would have to do. She ties the other end around the base of the spike then slides down the wall as if settling into a chair, legs stretched out in front of her. The loose rope goes taut with her weight when her bottom still remains about a foot off the ground. It will have to do. Trusting the spike and halter to hold, she relaxes her body and lets the rope throttle her.

Soundlessly she jerks into stillness.

***

He squirmed at the oaken study desk as he pondered how to explain the latest events to his mentor. Sighing, he simply began – there was no way else.

Dear Simon,

I trust this letter finds ye well, though it departs from a household in mourning. There is no easy way to share this. I bring grave news. Soon after thy leaving, the girl has hung herself. Vexed and entrauma’d she has denied her claim on the afterlife and Simon, I am beset by guilt. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. I broke fast in usual time, at dawn, two days past. Of normal course, Alana would arise and join me for food and Matins. When mid-morning had arrived without sign of her, a dreadful fear did fall upon me. Swift did I hasten to her chamber and there did find the pitiful wretch sitting next to the door, a rope of torn shifts around her neck, tethered to a rusty nail in the wall. She had been dead some time when I found her. I am distraught, and Zillie the housekeep is quite unable to work.

Thought it must be said, dearest Simon, that truth be, also I have ne’er seen her more at peace. A quiet calm did rest upon her visage and a smile did grace her lips. Her hands were crossed in her lap, though the death could not have been easy. These dreams have been the death of her, and I could do nothing for her. I have failed her though I have also buried her and said the words of Christ over her.

Her penultimate act was destroying all paper copies of her work, though I am grateful to say not the four oils. These she had laid reverently upon her mattress, perhaps cognisant that too great a cost had been paid for their creation.

I cannot burn them, but the burning question is what to do with them as I wish not to keep them.

I apologise for not enquiring of thy welfare – I am most heartsore – though pray God ye and yours are well.

In Christ
Richard

***

Dearest Richard,

I hold no malice at the lack of thine enquiries – there is no cause for apology. Not to my house, and not to Alana’s. Ye have not failed her. Thine provision of board and lodgings, and availing a willing ear, of sourcing the elements of her art, have made ye her friend.

The melancholy of the mind that troubled her was not of thine making – therefore her death is neither. I trust our Lord will look with compassion upon her actions, and that the hellish fires below do not consume her. I will pray for her soul.

Do not destroy the oils, Richard. May our Divine Majesty provide a way that they would be released from thy custody. Let not the angst of her passing be a shadow upon ye and still I urge ye continue all fine travails for those with unsound minds.

Be blessed in Christ, and His Light

Simon

 

***

Great Linford,
North Buckinghamshire
March 1608

For the first time in nearly 5 years, Richard’s clumsy gait held a spring in its step. He even whistled as he made his way up the path and into the rectory study. He hummed a tune as he busied himself with paper, quill and ink, smiled and settled himself to compose a letter to his friend.

Dear Simon

Remember ye Alana? Near 5 years have passed since she took her own life and my heart has rested not once in all this time at the holding of her paintings in this house. But I have trusted thy sage advice and held them, despite my unrest. Now, Praise God, His plan for them is revealed. Sir James Thompson, son of the former mayor, is firm friends with the King. Recently the King and his royal retinue have visited at Lindford with Sir Thompson holding a week of sport and games in his honour. A great banquet was held and I was surprised to see a footman at my door with an invitation to attend. A clear thought struck me. I should give the paintings to the King. He is a fine man with a solid grasp of troubled minds and he will know well what to do with them. Thus did I attend bearing the paintings and with the help of Sir James didst enter an audience with the King afore the celebrations began.  A momentary panic did descend when one of his party threatened to throw the paintings on the fire to warm the room. Seeing my woe at this outcome the King cuffed the offender a blow across the cheek that reeled him across the floor then thanked me for my gift and promised to steward it carefully. Indeed a fine man is the King. I am at long last relieved of the burden – relieved indeed.

Richard’s quill pen scritched and scribbled as the rest of the message of relief spilled from him. When at last he had fully imparted all his news, he stood, stretched and walked into the garden. At the bench where Alana had sat so many times, so long ago, yet what felt so recent also, he too now sat.

“It is done, dear child.” he soothed. “May you forever rest in peace.” Then he closed his eyes and let the warmth of the spring morning settle on him.

*************************

Christie’s Auction House
London
July 2051

“Please remember all proceeds, including Christie’s fee which they have generously donated, will all be going to the charity, Sound Minds. So please think of Alana, think of our servicemen and women who have given so much in the service of our great nation and dig deep.

“I was not at the Moon landings, nor have I seen a Space Shuttle launch, except on TV, and undoubtedly I will never visit the ISS. But I was there on Anchor One when it was opened. I was a member of the official UK delegation. I watch the first capsules climb into the sky and accelerate away up the graphene tether. I have been back to Anchor One when the second tether was opened and I stand here today in absolutely no doubt that Alana saw the future. Thank you.” The Viscount swept his gaze once more around the attendees then sat down.

Immediately the auctioneer stood and led a round of applause that swelled around the room as the gathered aficionados appreciated the rarity of the event. The swelling turned to a standing ovation which continued for several minutes. At last, as the applause slowly died, the auctioneer raised his hands and motioned to the crowd to sit. When all were seated and the room was quiet, he surveyed them, holding their attention with his hawk-like eyes, then announced, “We’ll start the bidding at £15million.”

 

 

Notes

Reverend Richard Napier (1559-1634) and Simon Forman (1552-1611) are both real historical figures.

Napier studied theology at Oxford University, which he left in 1590 to become the Rector of Great Linford, in Buckinghamshire. There he studied theology, alchemy and astrological medicine until his death. The combination of astrology and medicine enabled Napier to build up a substantial medical practice, both of physical and mental illness. Although the mentally ill comprised less than 5% of those he tended, it is clear from his notes that he had great empathy for them and dispensed a multitude of eclectic treatments that they found highly palatable. Though magic was a capital crime in this period, Napier steered clear of such accusations by maintaining a moderate and conforming Anglicanism in his diocese. He is therefore viewed both as the last of the Renaissance magi and as a crusader for orthodox Anglicanism – a curious combination.

Forman studied astrology as well as Napier and this gave them common ground when they studied together in the mid-1590s. Forman mentored Napier and this formed a bond between them that remained for the rest of their lives.  He also studied the occult and was a herbalist, having been apprenticed to a local merchant who traded in herbal remedies. He worked initially as a teacher, branching out as a physician in 1583. He survived two outbreaks of the plague (1583 and 1594), which enhanced his physician’s reputation. His arguments with the College of Physicians were also well documented as he branched out once again to become a surgeon. This drew their ire as physician and surgeon were seen as two different professions and they withdrew his licence to practice. Undeterred he continued, but a patient’s death led to him serving time in prison, damaging his reputation. His reputation suffered further when after his death he was accused of conspiring to murder the poet, Thomas Overbury. Nonetheless, he produced a wealth of manuscripts, diaries and an autobiography, many of which are still held today within the famous Bodleian library in Oxford.

Anchor One is not real. Yet. It is the fictional space elevator complex set on the equator, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, midway between South America and West Africa. Space elevators, for those not familiar with the concept, are essentially strings hung down from space, on which cable cars run up and down. Stick with me and you’ll learn more about it in time.

Alana, too, was not real.

Letters are written both in old English and modern English. You can read them

 

 

***

To the respected Simon Forman Esq.

Hello, my friend. I hope this letter finds you and your lovely wife Tronco well in London, and may the Grace of our Lord shine upon you both.

Work at the Rectory goes well and all of my time is spent looking after the poor people with mental afflictions. I spend all my time praying for them and asking our Lord to look after them and providing food and rest. Occasionally I offer a bed to those in more serious need, and I’m writing to you about one of those people today.

Her name is Alana – she’s a local lady. Calm and considered during the day but at night, she is has wild ideas and crazy dreams. They cause her to writhe and twist and drench her in night sweats as if she were having a bath. Yet even as this goes on, she makes no sound as she cannot talk. When it is over, I pour a mixture of beetroot, honey and laurel oil on her head for the headaches she indicates she has. Thankfully it appears to help a little.

Since she doesn’t talk she communicates with gestures and drawings. Oh, Simon, what drawings she does with charcoal and pen. She’s constantly drawing and no sooner does she finish one before she starts another. I didn’t have enough paper, ink or charcoal to keep up with her so have requested help from Lord Thompson at Lindford Manor to take a more active role in looking after her. He’s now done this and his estate sends over enough to keep up with her. For all the different pictures she draws, she only draws one theme. I mean it – just one theme. Again and again she draws the same image which I’ll try to describe with words for you.

***

Honoured Richard, may our Divine Lord and King be your Blessing and your Guide, and the stars be ever in alignment.

Tronco and I are well in Lambeth, though the idiots at the College of Physicians are disapproving of my astrological diaries and scornful of the insights within them. They are fools who are only happy when I am unhappy and I curse them for that. Follow the teachings of our Lord and learn from the heavens with all your energy. Thank you for the sermons and essay; I would agree that the waxing and waning of the moon has an effect on our hearts and minds.

Well done for all your charitable work. Our Lord bless you and keep you in his Spirit. Your description of Alana was interesting and I wish you well in looking after her. I don’t have answers to your questions, but if she is capable of painting in oil or watercolours, then maybe occasionally she should paint, rather than drawing in charcoal and pen. Perhaps by seeing colour in the images it might make it easier to interpret their meaning.

As ever, Peace and Grace be upon your house.

Simon Forman

***

Respected Simon Forman,

Hello again. Nearly 2 months have passed since we last communicated and there is much to report on from that time. Thanks for the suggestion of using colour – it was inspired. Realising your good advice I went to talk to Lord Thompson at the Manor to ask for his help in supplying canvas and paints. He thinks highly of my feeble work and was very generous with both watercolours and oils. Alana is very pleased with the watercolours, though has avoided the oils initially, painting several canvases in watercolour. I suspect she was just is practicing and now satisfied has started with the oils painting one exquisite masterpiece. I have seen the decorated walls at Hampton Court Palace and this canvas matched any I saw there, though seeing the same painting only now in colour has not made its meaning any clearer. I am none the wiser as to its significance.

But here’s my frustration – Alana no longer paints the picture of the fire on the silver chalice. 7 nights ago she had the worst night of her time at the Rectory. As dawn approached, she threw herself around the room, wounding herself many times and making unnerving noises that woke the whole household. Up until now, Simon, truly I thought she couldn’t speak. But now I know the real truth – she is silent by choice. I begged her to tell what she saw when the night was dark and tortured but she stayed silent then threw me out, glaring crazily at me and gesticulating angrily though I had just tended her wounds and bandaged her bloodied head just moments earlier. Today she’s sketching again, and for now has discarded the oils in favour of charcoal and pen. Her headaches grow fiercer and I give her a tea of mint, willow leaves, lupins, fennel and lichen boiled together. She drinks this out of a silver altar bell for better ingestion.

But Simon, I fear she is demonised, and her only treatment might be exorcism, of which I know nothing. I quail at doing that and am not inclined to be in the same room as her. But I must carry on – surely I am the only one who can help her.

I’m scared I’ve not helped matters and that by giving her the tools to create these images I have extended her suffering. Would she be drawing pictures of towers with rounded tops sitting on a bed of fire, if I hadn’t given her the paints as a help? Would that terrible night a week ago have happened if she hadn’t produced such a lovely oil painting and only had the charcoal and pen? By putting a paintbrush in her trembling hand, have I permanently bound her in the curse, shackling her in a prison from which there is no escape? I am afraid for her.

Please do send news of what is happening in your home as I am hoping that hearing about normal life somewhere else will give some clarity to our own.

The situation grows darker.

Regards,

Richard.

***

Dear Simon,

I hope you are well, though I send this letter to you from a house in mourning. There isn’t an easy way to tell you some bad news. Shortly after your visit, the girl hung herself. She was frustrated and traumatised and has now denied herself entry to Heaven. Simon, I am feeling so guilty. It’s my fault – my fault. Two days ago I had breakfast at the usual time, just at dawn. Alana would normally join me for some food and an early morning service. When she hadn’t appeared by mid-morning, I suddenly grew afraid and quickly ran to her room. She was sitting next to the door, a rope of torn shifts around her neck which was tied to a hook by the door. I am so upset and Zillie, the housekeeper, is unable to work.

 

It must be said though, that to be honest, I’d never seen her look so peaceful. Her face was calm, with a little smile and her hands were crossed in her lap, though her death could not have been easy. These dreams have killed her and I couldn’t help. I failed her, but have buried her anyway and prayed for her.

The last thing she did was to destroy all the paper copies of her work, though thankfully not the 4 oils. These she had laid so carefully on the mattress; possibly she was aware at how much they had cost of her to create.

 

I can’t burn them, but I don’t know what to do with them except that I don’t want them. I’m sorry for not asking after you – right now it’s too painful – but I hope that all of you are well.

In Christ,

Richard

 

***

Dear Richard,

I’m not upset by you not asking how we are – please don’t apologise. Not to me, and not for Alana. You did not fail her. You gave her board and lodgings, you listened to her, you found the tools for her to paint. These things have made you her friend.

Her troubled mind was not of your making, therefore neither is her death. I trust our Lord to look with compassion upon her and save her from the fires of hell. I too will pray for her soul.

Don’t destroy the oils! I pray God will provide a way to relieve you of them and of the pain of her passing. Please carry on your great work for all the others who suffer from mental illness.

Be blessed in Christ and in His Light.

Simon

 

***

Dear Simon,

Do you remember Alana? It’s been nearly 5 years since she killed herself and I have not had peace whilst her paintings remained in this house. But I have listened to your wise council and held on to them regardless. Now, Praise God, His plan has been made clear. Sir James Thompson, son of the former mayor, is firm friends with the King. Recently the King came to visit Sir Thompson at Lindford where a week of sports and games was held in his honour. A feast was held and I was surprised to see an invite appear at my door. At that moment a clear thought struck me: I should give the paintings to the King. He knows about mental illness and would know what to do with the paintings. So I took the paintings to the feast and with Sir James’ help had an audience with the King before the party began. I had a moment’s panic which the King saw when one of his retinue threatened to throw the paintings in the fire. He punched the offender so hard in the face that he flew across the floor, then thanked me for the gift and promised to look after it carefully. The King is a fine man and at long last I’m relieved of the burden. Very relieved indeed.

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did when I read it.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to fellow indie author Christian W Smith aka Mark Grint.

Mark, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer?

 

Mid-2017 was the first time I wrote seriously. Disenchanted with perpetually failing projects in several large Finance organisations, I wanted to create something that worked, even if only in fiction. I’d been investigating space elevators to a considerable degree and chose that environment as the grit around which pearls (?) of stories would form. As it turns out, so far, my stories have had only a passing, yet critical, link to space elevators – the first, a novella called ‘Victor’, was about a young African boy whose genius was discovered by a holiday-making lecturer to his country. The lecturer arranges for Victor to come to the UK to study engineering and he becomes one of the team that discovers how to produce a material strong enough to make the space elevator. Hint – we haven’t actually discovered how to do this in real life yet. But the story isn’t really about space elevators – it’s about a boy. And relationships. And as I went about crafting the story, I realised that I actually quite liked writing.

 

What was the inspiration behind Alana of Great Lindford?

 

Space elevators were first written about in 1895, by a Russian called Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. I wanted to write a story that dwelt to some degree on a significant gap in time. I thought his existence would form a good base for one end of the time continuum. But it turns out I know very little about Russia in the 1890’s! So didn’t feel I could do justice to the task of bringing a time gap to life if he was the origin. So I had to find another way to link two time frames. So I went Nostradamus/Leonardo-da-Vinci-ish and made up Alana, a lady who saw visions (?) way back at the turn of the 17th century. It was likely she would be viewed as mentally ill and that’s how I found my scene setting in Richard Napier’s house. In my online research I discovered Napier and found he was a real person, who was kind and generous to the mentally ill and he had a real-life mentor with whom I could make him fictionally correspond. Since Alana was unlikely to be literate I thought a better medium for her visions would be a painting. After all a picture is worth… One painting led to four. The auction scene gave me the opportunity to bring elements of her artwork to life and explore their significance to the story.

 

Do you have any other short stories or novels published?

 

Yes ‘Victor’ is the lead story in a space elevator short story anthology with other authors such as David Brin, John Helfers, Todd McCaffrey and Theresa Paterson, published through Amazon in December 2017. The book is called Towering Yarns Volume 1.

 

What does an average evening/week’s writing look like?

It doesn’t. Or rather, up until now it hasn’t. It’s way more miss than hit. Finding time and being disciplined about writing has proved a real struggle for me. Indeed, not just for writing, but through much of my life and so it was with profound hope that I have recently discovered I have ADHD (inattentive type), and that I’m not mad, lazy or stupid. But I have a lifetime of poor organisational habits due to the ADHD that means despite the diagnosis and treatment I’m having to work hard at building good habits. Even replying to Coral’s questions has taken longer than it should have!! But I’m getting there, and so ask me this question in a year’s time and you’ll probably get a different answer.

 

Are you a planner or a “pantser”?

 

I’m a planner to the degree that a story needs a structure. It has to make sense. I keep planning to no more than broad strokes but they’re critical to the story’s success. But the actual writing is organic. Organic like mouldy bread. As mould starts as a spot or two, then swells to a larger spots and eventually grows to cover the plate, so too does my writing, I’ll write a part of the story, then a completely different part, and a different part again. I’ll probably return back to the first text and rewrite it and think it’s much better then do the same somewhere else. Eventually, finally, the narrative grows until the whole story is covered. And then I’ll tweak the whole thing. Actually, I’ll probably end up rewriting parts half a dozen times. So the actual writing is repetitious pantsing, but the primary story line is well planned and generally well researched as well. 

 

Do you find it a challenge to balance life, the day job and writing time?

 

Ah man, don’t we all! It’s virtually impossible. I have two kids, a doctor-wife who works shifts, and way more going on than is healthy. As a result, it’s probably more accurate to call me a part-timer.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

“An A-Z of Murder” – I’m (mostly) taking a break from space elevators for the moment to write my own anthology of murderous short stories. It’s an A-Z because the characters will be created alphabetically. So far I have 4 story lines covering an eBay deal that turns out to be a scam, sibling rivalry (actually between twins) set in 1965, a neighbourhood stalker, a murder on a ship like “The World” whose inhabitants are not resident in any country and therefore under no country’s judicial jurisdiction.

 

What advice would you give to any other budding authors reading this?

 

I’m probably not the best person to ask for about advice, as I don’t have the greatest output, but here’s what I would say: perspective is everything, and moving perspective keeps the reader interested.

Let me elaborate with examples:

The rickety cart bumped its way along the muddy tracks.

Bumping along the muddy tracks, the rickety cart threw around its cursing driver.

Bert cursed the bumping cart that tossed him from side to side, the muddy track making progress difficult.

The man on the hill pulled his cloak tighter around him against the wild wind and watched the rickety cart and cursing driver make its way along the muddy tracks.

The keening wind whistled. Down the side of a rugged hill it tumbled. A muddy path waited at the bottom and the wind turned and danced along this. A bumping cart came down the path. The wind swirled, whipping through its wheels then climbed up to tango around the cursing cart driver.

 

And if perspective is everything, then use of tense is the other everything and great vocab and descriptions are the last everything.

 

Share two interesting facts about yourself.

 

I was charged by a buffalo when on a 5 day canoe safari in the middle of deep bush in Zimbabwe. It stopped 5 metres away. My heart had stopped long before then.

I have two beautiful kids who are amazing and I adore them. I also have two terrible kids who drive me crazy, but I love them. I only have two kids.

 

If you want to check out Towering Yarns vol 1 here’s the links:

Amazon.co.uk link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Towering-Yarns-Christian-W-Smith-ebook/dp/B07C82HZ3F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543619084&sr=8-1&keywords=Towering+Yarns+Volume+1

Amazon.com link

https://www.amazon.com/Towering-Yarns-Space-Elevator-Stories/dp/1981495207/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543619232&sr=8-1&keywords=towering+yarns+volume+1

 

Alana of Great Lindford published with full permission

Copyright belongs to Mark Grint

A Pre-Christmas Coffee Catch Up With……Jake Power

coffee catch up

It was a chilly Saturday afternoon when I finally managed to catch up with Jake Power, front man with Silver Lake.  The band were in Glasgow a day early for the final show of their hugely successful Bonded Souls tour. Many of the arena shows in the UK have been sold out weeks in advance and Sunday’s show in the SSE Hydro is no exception. (I bought my ticket pre-sale over six months ago)

As we sat in a city centre coffee shop, I asked Jake how the recent run of shows had gone.

“They’ve been incredible! British audiences are so much more passionate than American crowds. And louder! You guys really know how to rock!” he enthused. “I don’t mean any disrespect to our American fan base but shows at home tend to be in smaller venues, security can be strict and things seem a little more reserved. In these 10 000 seater arenas here, we’ve seen mosh pits every night.”

Before reaching the UK, Silver Lake toured through mainland Europe so I asked how those shows had measured up.

“They were all great. Some countries are more passionate than others. Italy was insane. We played shows in Milan and Rome. Those crowds were crazy! Cologne in Germany was a good show too. We played in Amsterdam just before we came over here. That one didn’t pan out so well. There were a few glitches. The fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the venue twenty minutes into our set. I feel we owe those fans another show. We only had time to play three or four songs after they let us back into the building.”

With three critically acclaimed albums under their belts, I asked Jake what the Scottish fans could expect for the final show of the tour.

“A full two hour set, that’s for sure,” was Jake’s immediate reply. I was rewarded with one of those “Power” smiles! “We were talking about the set at lunch earlier. Grey has it written on the back of a napkin. I think we were up to nineteen or twenty songs. If we can work them all in before the curfew then we’ll play them.”

“Jake, you’ve been on the road for the last six weeks and have already commented on stage that it’s the longest that you’ve been away from your wife. How tough has that been?”

“Very,” admitted Jake, running his hand through his long blonde hair. “Usually Lori would travel with us for part of a tour. We had planned that she’d come over and spend a week or so here and travel back home with us but, when we really thought it through, it just wasn’t going to be practical. Both of us felt it would be too much for Miss Melody and would trash her routine.”

This is a rare mention by Jake of his baby daughter and seizing the moment I asked how she was.

“She’s incredible. I can’t wait to get home to my girls. Melody’s at the stage she’s changing every day. I’ve missed so much in six weeks. Her personality is developing. If only she slept a bit better at night!”

Almost shyly, Jake showed me a photo on his phone of his wife Lori holding their baby girl. So far, they’ve shielded their daughter from the media but trust me, she’s adorable.

Now that the Bonded Souls tour cycle is winding up, I asked Jake about his and Silver Lake’s plans for the coming year.

“We’re all taking a break over the holidays then I head into the studio late January with Weigh Station. Those guys plan to have a new album out in the spring and to do a few of the summer festivals. Maybe a few side shows too. My diary has a few dates both here in Europe and in the US pencilled in from May through till August. Silver Lake are planning to hit the studio again in the fall. The schedule is filling up for next year and the year after. There’s talk of a full Weigh Station tour and a Silver Lake tour.”

“So, what’s first on your agenda when you get home, Jake?”

“Laundry! I’m running out of clean shorts,” laughed the charismatic front man, his hazel brown eyes twinkling with mischief. “No, seriously, laundry and some quality time with my li’l ladies. A quiet family Christmas.”

“At the beach?”

“No. Actually we’re heading off to the Poconos on Dec 23rd. Lori and I spent a short honeymoon there last Christmas, thanks to our manager Jethro. We stayed in an amazing log cabin near a huge frozen lake. It was so quiet. So peaceful. Both of us loved it so much we decided to go back this year. We’ll head back to New York for New Year’s then home to Rehoboth a few days later. Both of us have some business commitments in the city the first week in January. We’ll bring in the New Year with Maddy, our manager. She throws these huge New Year’s parties every year at her apartment. I’m under strict orders to be there with my guitars.”

As Jake stretched out his long denim clad legs and settled back in his seat, we ordered another coffee then I asked if he found it hard to slip back into “normal” life after a tour.

“It takes a few days to adjust,” he confessed. “On tour we are ruled by the clock constantly. Jethro and Maddy run a tight ship. We stick to the published itinerary. Doing as the boss tells us..well, most of the time.” He paused then continued. “The first day or so, Lori usually gives me a bit of space to do my own thing. Come down time. Time to go for a couple of long runs. Time to sort out my guitars after the tour. Time to do my laundry! I suspect things might be a little different this time. It’s the first time I’ve been away from my daughter for so long.  I just want to spend time with her and with Lori. Family time. That has to come first.”

As our coffees arrived, I asked Jake how his bandmates chilled out after a tour. He laughed then revealed, “They’ll kill me for saying this. Grey needs to get his hands dirty. He’s a mechanic and his yard is full of “projects”. He’ll be under the hood of one of his wreckers before the jet lag hits him.  Paul needs a day to go fishing. He also needs to get past Maddison and that can be a challenge. She’s a scary lady! I’d put money on it though that Paul has a boat trip booked for the end of next week already. Rich is the only one who takes a proper vacation every time. He heads to Florida to his sister and her family. I guess he likes to thaw out in the sun after this cold winter weather. He’ll be back in Rehoboth mid-January as we have teaching workshops booked in.”

“Workshops?”

Jake nodded. “We’re both music teachers at heart still. Every chance we get, we run a workshop or two at the high school where we both taught. As we’re home for a few weeks, Rich has worked out a four week course. Grey and Paul are involved here too this time. I think it’s two workshops per week after school and two all-day Saturday sessions. The aim is to pull a band or maybe even two bands together in time for the Valentine’s Day Ball.”

It struck me that home really is at the heart of Silver Lake. All four members live in and around the same small town, Rehoboth, Delaware, and all seem keen to give something back to their local community.

“We owe a lot to the local fans,” Jake acknowledged. “They’ve been behind us for a long time and it’s a pity we don’t get to play more shows closer to home. The closest we get to Rehoboth is either Baltimore or Philly. We talked about doing some small local shows like we used to. You know, Friday night set in a local bar. Something impromptu and low key. Hopefully we’ll make it happen in the spring next year.”

I asked Jake if he had any plans for any solo shows.

“No but never say never,” he replied with a grin. “I’ve only ever done one. That was couple of years back at the air force base in Dover. My brothers are both air force. Peter called in a favour at the last minute. The band he had booked to play had missed their flight or something and were stuck in Canada. I only had a few hours’ notice but I didn’t want to let him down. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done! I felt like I was stripped naked in front of two hundred airmen.”

Now, there’s a thought, ladies….

I pointed out that Jake had appeared half naked several times with Weigh Station, prompting a fit of laughter.

“You can blame the late Dan Crow for that,” said Jake grinning. “And before you ask, I intend to keep all my clothes on in the Hydro tomorrow night. Too damn cold here to do anything else!”

Checking the time, Jake apologised that he would need to go, explaining that he had a call to make back at his hotel. I had time to squeeze in one last quick question so, as Christmas is only a couple of weeks off, I asked what he hoped Santa Claus would bring him this year.

“Actually, I’m hoping for a new laptop,” Jake said as he reached for his leather jacket. “I dropped mine in London the other night. It fell off the table in the dressing room. Smashed the screen. Split the casing. I haven’t confessed this to my wife yet though. I only got it just before we left for this tour. Maybe I’ll be on the naughty list for that and end up getting underwear and socks on Christmas morning.”

As I watched Jake leave the coffee  shop, flashing a smile at the waitresses behind the counter, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’ll get that laptop or not….

 

 

The Silver Lake series is available via Amazon both in  Kindle and paperback formats

Amazon.com link   https://www.amazon.com/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon.co.uk link    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Book 4 in the series is planned for  2019

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Sneaky Peek Into The After Life

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I read recently that if you’re struggling with a storyline as a writer then you should try interviewing your characters. An intriguing thought……

My current cast of characters are putting up a bit of a fight and progress on my first draft of Book Baby 4 has been a bit stop/start. I’ve found myself wandering off at a tangent and writing some short fiction pieces instead of focussing on my first draft. I’ve also made numerous notes of ideas for the next Silver Lake tale (currently pencilled in for 2019) Perhaps part of the issue is that Jake and Lori and the others won’t wait their turn!

Anyway, time to try to regain control over my current delinquent characters…… 

As agreed via email, I’d arrived at Glasgow’s O2 Academy at three o’clock to interview up and coming band, After Life. The five piece band who are based in London are currently on tour supporting Aussie rockers, Bodimead.

Instead of being shown into one of the art deco venue’s dressing rooms, Rocky, After Life’s father-figure manager, escorted me up to the venue’s balcony and suggested I take a seat while I waited for the two members of the band to arrive. Firmly and a little bluntly, Rocky said I’d have thirty minutes with them and not a minute more.

Down below on the stage, Bodimead’s crew were finishing setting up for the show and I wondered if I was going to be lucky enough to catch some of their sound check and a glimpse of their front man, Flynn.

A couple of minutes later, I was joined by Taylor Rowe and Luke Court, the lead guitarist and bass player from After Life. Both of them flopped down into seats in the row in front of where I was sitting and greeted me with a warm hello.

Before I could ask my first question, Taylor began waxing lyrical about the art deco beauty of the venue. I quickly established that this was their first trip to Glasgow and asked how they’d found the city so far.

“We arrived quite late last night so all we really saw in the dark was the hotel, the restaurant and a couple of bars,” confessed Taylor. “I went for a walk this morning. There’s some stunning architecture around here.”

“And a lot of hills,” muttered Luke. “Our hotel is at the top of a vertical street!”

This is After Life’s first tour with their new female vocalist, Ellen Lloyd, so I asked the guys how the band had changed since she’d joined them.

“We listened to hundreds of auditions a few months back. Well some of us did,” began Taylor with a wink to Luke. “Ellen’s was the one that really stood out as being different.  She has an incredible voice. Really impressed us at the first rehearsal. She’s brought a whole new dimension to our show. A theatrical element that we hadn’t explored before.”

“And a shit load of talent,” added Luke. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t hit it off with her at first but her voice really blew me away. She’s got so much talent. Wait till you hear her tonight. She can convey so much emotion with only a few notes.”

I commented that I’d hoped she would’ve been able to join us but Taylor apologised for her absence, explaining that she was resting her voice ahead of the show. Conscious of time, I asked both musicians about what  I could expect from their set later on.

“A visit to the After Life,” joked Luke with an infectious laugh. “No, seriously, we hope you enjoy the show. We’re playing mainly our own material with a couple of covers thrown into the mix. Usually we have time for eight, maybe nine, numbers before our Aussie hosts call time. It’s an eclectic mix.”

Taylor added that several of the songs had been written or co-written by Ellen and were due to be recorded next month for their debut album.

“We’re booked into a studio in London for five weeks. Just hope it’s enough time to get it all recorded. We’ve still a few songs to write too,” admitted Luke. “Exciting times in the After Life.”

Casually ,I probed if this was Luke’s first studio experience, enquiring if he’d not recorded anything before with his uncle. Luke is the nephew of reclusive guitarist, Garrett Court, of Royal Court fame.

“Despite the family history, I’ve never recorded in a proper studio before,” revealed the band’s bass player. “My uncle lives in New York these days. The last few times I’ve visited, he’s had me working in his music store. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of guitars. Total guitar geek heaven. Garrett likes to play this game with his customers where he tries to match them to an instrument rather than let them choose what they want.”

“Be fair,” interrupted Taylor. “From what you’ve said, he’s pretty sharp at it.”

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Luke.

I asked if Garrett had seen his nephew play with After Life.

“A few times. Not recently. Not since Ellen joined us. We were hoping he’d make it over for the London show but he had other commitments.”

“So, what commitments are in After Life’s immediate future?” I asked curiously.

“Well, we’ve seven shows left with Bodimead, including tonight’s. Then we’re playing a full set at Wales Open Air on 5th May. Rocky’s given us a week or so off then it’s into the studio on 13th May. Beyond that, we’re not sure. We hope to get the record out around the end of October or November time so we’ll get some shows booked for around then,” explained Taylor. “It’s all starting to pick up pace. Rocky’s already hinting at going over to Europe or even the States at the start of next year.”

“I’d love to tour America,” declared Luke with a grin. “Play some of those venues that you only read about in magazines. Would love to play some of the clubs on Sunset Strip or a show in Vegas.”

I joked that he’s the band’s true “rock star” in the making.

“Maybe,” he confessed suddenly seeming almost shy. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the dream coming true.

To finish, I asked Taylor what his dreams for the future look like. He thought for a moment or two before answering my question. “I hope the record does well and that we can start to make some money from this game. I’d love to be able to buy my own house. My own bolt hole. I’d love to see the band grow and sell millions of records and play sell out headlining shows but, on the other hand, I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we end up playing arenas if I don’t have my own space to call home.”

“You’re just a beach bum at heart,” teased Luke.

“Yeah and I’m not denying it,” laughed Taylor. “I grew up on the beach surfing, playing guitar, beach bonfires and stuff. I miss that after a while in the city.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see After Life’s manager approaching. I asked the guys if Rocky was as strict as he appeared to be. They exchanged glances and laughed.

“He tries to be,” said Taylor. “I live with him and his wife Lizzie when we’re in London. Ellen too. He keeps us all in line, especially Luke, our party animal here, but it’s really our drummer, Jack, who’s the strict one. He takes no nonsense. Rocky can usually be talked round, especially if its Ellen doing the asking. On the other hand, if Jack says no then it’s a no and not even Ellen can sweet talk him. Well not yet anyway. She’s working on it.”

 A few hours later, I was standing downstairs in the venue, beside the bar, watching After Life out on stage. This is a band worth watching. There’s a raw energy to their performance. A passion for the music and a rare synergy among them. Their mysterious front woman, Ellen, plays a witch/priestess persona on stage, using her flowing black cloak to dramatic effect during the songs. Her voice is one of the best and most versatile female rock voices I’ve heard over recent years but I can’t help but feel there’s an air of fragility to her too. There’s more to this songbird than meets the eye, I feel.

With a puff of smoke and some clever lighting, she vanishes from the stage. Vanishes to the After Life.

image sourced via Google – credits to the owner

 

 

Now, make yourself comfortable. I have a few questions for you…

interview

I’ve been dithering about this blog post on and off all day. I’ve started it and stopped. I’ve written an entirely different blog (I’ll save that for a rainy day). I’ve stewed this over and over and, in typical me fashion, have totally over thought it all. “No change there”, I hear some friends cry.

This morning, armed with my second mug of coffee for the day, I sat down to interview myself for this week’s blog. I’ve been really restless with my writing and not been making much progress – well not as much as I had hoped for over the past ten days-  and thought an interview might be the way to refocus my train of thought.

But what questions to ask myself? ……..

I’ve wracked my brains (didn’t take too long). I’ve Googled and then I’ve Googled some more until I had a list of questions to ask myself. 

I’ve whittled the list down to ten and I’ve not actually answered them …yet.

Here goes…..

Q1- Describe yourself in ten words.

Wife. Mother. Friend. Writer. Short. Introvert. Caring. Loyal. Habitual. Worrier.

Q2 –  What am I really scared of?

Spiders, boats and bananas – long story.

Q3- When did I last push the boundaries of my comfort zone?

Last week when I took my Baby Girl out to practice her driving. She was great but I was a nervous wreck! Really tested me.

Q4 – Does it matter what others really think of me?

No. I used to tie myself in knots trying to please people but not anymore. After a huge amount of soul searching I’m comfortable with “me” as I am. 

Q5 – Which is worse : failing or never trying?

Never trying, definitely.

Q6 – How many friends would I trust with my life?

Two and, no, I’m not naming them.

Q7 – Have I made someone smile today?

Yes, I think so. I’m also grateful to the people who have made me smile. Never under estimate the importance of that. There’s a lot of power in a wee smile.

Q8- Am I source of inspiration for my friends and family?

I honestly have no idea! Several people have said so in the past but I don’t feel inspirational. I am just “wee me”. My family may argue strongly that I’m a source of frustration rather than inspiration!

Q9 – If I could live anywhere in the world where would I live?

In a house right on the beach. I’d love to live in a beachfront house that leads down onto the sand with the ocean beyond. (Those that know me know which beach.)

Q10 – Hold old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

OK, if I exclude the fact I have two teenage children which kind of impacts the answer here, I feel about 25 inside. I don’t have any hang ups about age. I still do the things that I enjoy doing and don’t think “I’m too old for this.” Age to me is all about mental attitude and I’m not grown up enough to be as old as I am. Several years ago someone at work gave me a backhanded compliment about a necklace I was wearing. They said it was an unusual choice of necklace for someone as “mature” as me. She obviously didn’t know me well…I’m not as mature as me and long may it continue!

 

Ok folks, now it’s your turn to interview yourselves. Makes you stop to think a bit….

Just Imagine…the opportunity to interview Jake Power

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Just imagine if……..

 

Sitting at a corner table on the balcony of The Greene Turtle in Rehoboth, De recently, I gazed across the crowded beach, wondering what to expect from the interview that lay ahead. I’ve interviewed my fair share of rock gods over the years but I was just a little bit excited to be given the opportunity to shoot the breeze with Silver Lake front man, Jake Power.

Arriving a few minutes late for our scheduled appointment, rock’s latest heart throb sits down opposite me, apologising profusely for keeping me waiting.

“Time keeping isn’t one of my attributes,” he jokes somewhat sheepishly. “My girlfriend even bought me my dream watch for my birthday last year in an attempt to keep me on time. She’s failed there I’m embarrassed to admit but I love that watch!”

Life for the Silver Lake singer/guitarist is busy right now. Following a successful European tour late last year and an Antipodean adventure with Aussie rock giants, Bodimead, earlier this year, Silver Lake are currently in the studio recording their second album, under the watchful eye of Grammy award winning producer, Dr Marrs.

When I ask Jake how recording is going, he flashes me one of his famous “Power” smiles. This guy is hot!

“We’re getting there. It’s only week one so it’s been mainly Paul and Grey who’ve been in. Rich and I have been working at the house tweaking the guitar parts. There’s still some lyrics to be finished off too.”

I ask how it feels to be the first act to record in the newly completed JJL Studios in Delaware.

“It’s pretty neat. The first day we were all like big kids in a new classroom. Wanting to touch this. Play with that,” confesses Jake. “I think Jim was getting pretty mad at us, to be honest. He had that withering look in his eye.” (Jim being producer Dr Marrs)

Up until late last year, our rock god was a schoolteacher, teaching music at a local high school along with fellow Silver Lake sensation, Rich Santiago. I ask him if he misses the classroom.

“I do,” he answers with little hesitation. “But this crazy life is the one I’ve been chasing down for twenty years. It’s great to go back and visit the school now and then as time allows. We’ve done a few workshops. Keeps my hand in.”

“And what kind of a student were you?” I ask, hoping for an insight into a teenage Jake Power.

“I was actually a good student. B+ average. I got an A in English Lit and Music. My mum was pretty strict about school and studying. She made sure study came first before music. She made sure I put in the work. Even through college, I worked my ass off but there was always a band or two on the go. My heart’s always been in my music.”

So after spending years in several small local rock bands and then forming Silver Lake some five years ago, with Rich Santiago, Grey Cooper and Paul Edwards, I was keen to hear how Jake felt about being catapulted into his dream world. Was it living up to expectations?

“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind experience,” he begins. At this point we’re interrupted by the waitress arriving with the drinks order. She treats Jake like an old friend, prompting me to ask if the bar is a regular Silver Lake haunt.

“It is,” replies Jake with a laugh. “Many a Silver Lake night out has started or ended here. Lori and I held our engagement party here too.”

After a mouthful of beer, Jakes returns to my original question about his new found rock star lifestyle.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky. I totally appreciate that. Molton gave us our first big break when we played a few arena shows with them last summer. The UK tour with Weigh Station was an incredible opportunity. I’ve loved those guys since I was a kid. We learned so much from them on that tour then being out with Bodimead gave us another view of how things are done. It’s been a steep learning curve but we’re a tight unit. A family. Maddison and Gary keep us all on a tight rein. Maddison is a scary lady when she’s mad so we all tend to toe the line.”

I ask if there are any more live shows on the horizon.

“Actually, we’re playing a birthday party next,” Jake reveals. “It’s the record company’s 21st birthday in a couple of weeks so we’ve been invited to play a few numbers. Then, as far as I remember, we’ve a few festival appearances lined up through August. I get a hard time for never knowing our schedule. Drives Maddison insane.”

It’s easy to fall under the spell of this unassuming rock star. He’s easy to talk to. No ego. No entourage with him. He says that he walked along the beach to the interview, explaining that he lives not far from the centre of the small Delaware Riviera resort. Eventually I ask what keeps him so grounded.

“This place. Lori. The other guys,” he explains. (I should perhaps explain that Jake’s girlfriend, Lori, is none other than album artist to the stars, Mz Hyde)

“Off the road, our lives haven’t really changed,” continues Jake. “At least not yet. We all still live in the same houses or apartments. Rich treated himself to a new car but that’s been the only big splurge spend by any of us so far. We can all still come in here, enjoy a few beers and no one bothers us. I hope to keep it that way.”

“Do you ever get stopped around town for autographs?”

“Sometimes. It’s a tourist town so there’s a lot of traffic through here, especially in summer. It goes with the job though. If Silver Lake didn’t have fans out there buying our record, buying tickets to the shows and shit then I’d still be teaching class and playing at weddings on the weekend. Signing a few autographs is a small price to pay.”

Trust me, Jake Power can play at my wedding any day!

So what can Silver Lake fans expect from the new record?

“I don’t know,” laughs Jake, his hazel eyes twinkling with mischief. “Ask me that in another few weeks when it’s finished. Seriously though, it’s a progression of Dragon Song, our first album. Some of the new stuff’s a bit heavier. We’re trying to develop that Silver Lake sound. I don’t want to give too much away just yet.”

“Any ballads planned for it?”

“One so far,” Jake reveals quietly before adding, “The fans seem to love the ballads in the middle of the harder stuff. I guess we’d be in trouble with them if we didn’t sneak one onto the new record.”

Spotting Jake’s tattoo of the music to Silver Lake’s Stronger Within on his forearm, I ask him about that song and the tattoo. For the first time in the interview, he hesitates and, for a moment, I thought he wasn’t going to answer.

“That song’s pretty precious to me,” he confesses. “I wrote it not long after I met Lori and, as I’ve said before, it’s really about her. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. At that point, she was really proving to herself, as well as to me, just how mentally strong and determined she can be. The tattoo followed on from the song. I’ve gathered a few over the years. Each one has a personal meaning to me. They represent important events in my life. The music represents my relationship with Mz Hyde.”

From the way he speaks of her, Jake Power is a rock star madly in love with his partner(Sorry, girls)

He finishes his beer and apologises that he needs to get going. My allotted hour is long since up. Deciding to push my luck a little further, I ask what the pressing engagement is. Jake laughs, runs his hand through his long sun bleached hair and explains that Grey’s car has broken down again and that he’s arranged to help him tow it to the shop.

And with that, he shakes my hand, thanks me for the beer and heads off along the crowded balcony.

I sat on, finishing my own beer, watching the flow of people on the boardwalk below. I spot Jake in the crowd, walking briskly, just another anonymous face among them.

I get the feeling that that anonymity won’t last much longer. Jake Power is destined for rock god stardom…. I think I’ve fallen just a little bit in love with him.

 

credits to the owner of the photo sourced via Facebook.