The glamorous life of a musician

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“I wish I was a musician. It’s such a glamorous, romantic life…”

Or is it? Let’s have a look at a day in the life.

6.30 am: Drive to the guy who owns the band van

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7.15 am: Load stuff and leave for the venue

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8.30 – 10-00 am: set up the equipment and test the sound

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10.00 – 11.00 am: Wait

11.00 – 11.45: Play (note that the actual gig starts four and a half hours after we left home)

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11.45 – 1.00 pm: Wait, possibly buy a hamburger

1.00 – 1.45 pm: Play again

1.45 – 2.15: Wait

2.45 – 3.00 pm: Play one last time

3.00 – 5.30 pm: Load all the stuff in the van again and drive home.

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And that’s a daytime gig – imagine if all this happened at night. Because of course musicians always work when other people are free, just like cooks and cinema operators.

And all this doesn’t even take into account the hours and hours of rehearsing, or the money you spend on petrol, strings, pedals, speakers, lights, and other equipment. It’s like Michael says in the fourth book about Pax, Cutting Edge:

Sometimes he wanted to explain to people how much work went into a gig, that it wasn’t something you just pulled out of your sleeve, but that was the one thing he could never do. The whole point was that it had to look easy. If it didn’t, no one would be seduced by it. After all, who wanted their entertainment to look like hard work?

Small and unassuming

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I turn to see Henrik smiling at something on the ground. I walk over and peer down at the carpet of tiny white petals. “Ah, the arctic starflower.”

“Chickweed wintergreen,” he playfully corrects me.

“I prefer the arctic starflower. It sounds so….” I gesture vaguely. “Mysterious,” I settle for, but it sounds so ridiculous that I blush. It makes Henrik laugh, but it’s not a mean laugh. It sounds knowing. As if, once again, we share something.

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be seen in twilight, isn’t it?” he says.

I squirm. “Perhaps. It’s just… it’s such a small and unassuming flower. You can walk right past it and not even notice.”

Henrik raises an eyebrow that looks disconcertingly flirty. “Is that a metaphor?”

I give him a look. “You think I’m small and unassuming?”

His gaze flickers down to my belt and then back up. “Well, you do kind of apologize for existing.”

(The Seventh Flower by Ingela Bohm)

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Christer isSeventhFlower[The]FS_v1 too old to believe in fairy tales. He’s not the kind of guy to pick the proverbial seven flowers on Midsummer’s Eve so he can dream of who he will marry, and he certainly isn’t the type to fall for someone he’s just met. Especially not a womanizing blogger named Henrik.

Besides, Christer’s previous marriage didn’t end with a happily ever after. Therefore, he has no interest in gifting his heart to someone who lives five hundred miles away and probably isn’t even gay. His family is right: it’s time he grew up and stopped dreaming.

But Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden is a magical night, and Henrik won’t stop flirting. As the midnight sun shines down on the misty woods, maybe there’s room for one last dream.

Available at Dreamspinner and Amazon

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Pax playlists

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Did you ever wonder if those snippets of songs under the chapter headings in the Pax series were just cosmetics, or if they really existed? Wonder no more. Here are a few Pax demos, inexplicably sung by a lass who’s neither a guitarist nor in all honesty much of a singer. Also, the originals were on a cassette tape, you know, those things that you used to turn over after listening to one side? So the quality is, well, demo-like. But hey, at least the songs exist, right?

Orphan Bats (1975)

 

Upstart Crow (1976)

 

Return of the Prince (1979)

 

Endless Summer (1986)

 

Live In Love (2014)

The Seventh Flower: The club house

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

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Christer is too old for fairy tales. He’s not the kind of guy to pick those seven flowers, and he certainly isn’t the type to fall for someone he’s just met. Especially not a womanizing blogger named Henrik.

Besides, Christer’s previous marriage didn’t end with a happily ever after. So he has no interest in gifting his heart to someone who lives five hundred miles away and probably isn’t even gay. His family is right: it’s time he grew up and stopped dreaming.

But Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden is a magical night, and Henrik won’t stop flirting. As the midnight sun shines down on the misty woods, maybe there’s room for one last dream…

Find your copy at Amazon or Dreamspinner.

Behind the scenes

Just like movies sometimes come with a blooper reel, I thought I’d give you a quick peek into the rubbish bin where my many, many failed pictures end up.

The Death card is supposed to be serene and sombre, but to get there, I had to work for a couple of hours, spread out over two days, just to take one good picture of myself with the right props in the right location at the right angle. Many times, the shutter clicked during my preparations, rather than when I’d arranged myself properly – or it captured the precise moment when the wind blew the hood into my face! Add to this that it was below freezing, snow had fallen, and I desperately needed mittens…

I’m not a photographer, and I don’t have photographers’ stuff. So I take what I have – like, for example, a hot pink ground sheet (as a kind of “green screen”) and three lamps! Anything to bring out the contrasts and highlights in the sword I used for my Swords suite.

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The Moon card is supposed to be magical and otherworldly. Not, you know… a bumbling woman in dark grey trousers trying to get a rainbow curtain to behave!

 

The original Pax story, part 2

The fourth book in my series Pax Cymrica: The True History will be released on April 6. But did you know that the story of Jamie and Michael began as a much shorter affair? Back in 2011, I read a short story that would change my life. I contacted the author and she graciously replied, and we started emailing.

Now, this woman lives on the opposite side of the world from me, but she inspired me to dip my toes in m/m waters, and this was my first effort. Quite a lot of it is actually intact in the first book of the series, Just Playing – I just stretched it waaaay out into the slow burn of the century. Let’s just say that these young men got to work a hundred times harder for their HEA than they did to begin with.

For the curious among you, here is the second part of that story, continued from Hearts on Fire, March 29. The remaining part will be published on The Novel Approach (April 1).

 ***

Jamie held his breath. There was a flutter of curtains, and the vague shape of Michael appeared. Jamie’s heart lurched like a seasick puppy in his chest, but then Michael disappeared again. Was he coming down? Or rejecting him? Jamie almost whimpered aloud.

He had left the girl in a chaos of tears and accusations, half undressed. Running from her house, he had ended up here, like so many times before. Seeking out his friend, eager to pour his heart out and be comforted by his common sense and calmness. But this time he couldn’t. This time Jamie’s heart was full of something unmentionable. So why was he even here?

He went round the corner of the house in time to see the door open. Michael stepped out, only wearing a T-shirt and underwear. He closed the door behind him, crossed his arms and glanced at Jamie sulkily. Of course he was in a mood. He had no idea why Jamie hadn’t called. He had no idea what had happened on that sofa. And Jamie couldn’t tell him.

He faltered. What now? He took a step, stopped. Michael watched him, his dark eyes following his every move with an inscrutable look in them. Jamie bit his lip. He went up the steps and stood to face Michael. He felt as if he had to apologize for something, only he couldn’t think what. He put out a tentative hand and left it hanging in the air between them.

“I… missed you,” he swallowed, hating his voice, the tremble in it. Michael blinked. Jamie stepped closer, he must do something, must… He opened his arms, do or die now. A mirroring motion in Michael’s body, automatic, as if he couldn’t help himself. They hugged awkwardly, all elbows and shoulders. Then Jamie swayed slightly and their bodies touched more closely, heat flaring up at the contact. Michael responded by taking a step closer, his chin landing on Jamie’s shoulder, his hair tickling Jamie’s cheek. Jamie tightened his arms around his friend, dared to press closer. Their thighs touched, their chests. Michael circled Jamie’s body with his arms and they were one being.

Jamie closed his eyes and breathed in the sweet sleepy scent from Michael’s hair. He had come straight from his bed, bringing the warmth and intimacy with him out here into the cool summer night. He moved his head slightly, and they were pulled apart the fraction of an inch, making their cheeks touch again. Jamie breathed raggedly. Now or never. If he was ever to feel what it was like, he must do it now.

He drew back and turned to face Michael, his mouth so close, his eyes so deep and glittery…

He felt a tingling surge of lust sweep up through his legs and there was a flicker of weirdness in his groin. Shit, shit, shit. It was happening again.

Michael pulled away, and Jamie felt like he was being born: pushed out from the warm, dark womb into a place of cold and suffering. Michael had a weird expression on his face, and Jamie suddenly knew without a doubt that he had noticed.

“Fuck…” He felt his eyes widen in mortification. He had blown it. His heart was ripped out of its bony cage and flung on the ground between them, lying there, pulsing feebly, for Michael to see. Jamie had revealed everything, and shattered half a lifetime of closeness in one incredibly stupid moment.

He took a step back and turned away, hurried down the path. Michael’s voice was calling to him, but he closed his ears to it. There was the sound of feet on gravel and then Michael’s hand was grabbing Jamie’s collar.

“Let me go.”

“Wait, dammit! Ow…”

Jamie turned to see Michael bend down and grimace as he held his foot. No, I can’t stay and risk getting sucked in again. Jamie turned, and felt Michael’s hand grip his jacket from below. He fought, but Michael quickly stepped in front of him, crippling limp be damned, and blocked his escape. Those eyes…

“Please come upstairs.”

Only after a few seconds did Jamie understand. He froze, and his breath caught in his throat. He searched Michael’s face, so earnest.

“We’ll… have to be quiet, though. I mean…” Flustered, Michael hid his eyes with his hand. There was an eternity of silence, during which Jamie raced through a million thoughts and registered none. Then Michael touched his hand as if he was going to take it in his, but he didn’t. He just motioned towards the door, and Jamie followed, impossible not to.

They went up the stairs, and Jamie stepped through the door to Michael’s room, his arm in front of his body for protection, one hand caressing the other. Michael came in after him, closed the door. He hesitated with his hand on the key, as if he was about to turn it. Then he took his hand away without completing the motion.

“So how was it?”

“What?”

“The date.”

“Oh…” Jamie tried to compose his features, to gather his fraying wits. “Fine, I guess… why?”

“You don’t sound overwhelmed.”

Jamie shrugged. “As I said, it was okay. She tried to kiss me.” For some reason, he didn’t want to let on that he had kissed her back. That he had almost…

“Tried? You mean you didn’t let her?”

Jamie walked to Michael’s unmade bed and sat down, a hot blush searing his face. What kind of a guy was he, to reject the advances of a pretty girl like her? It was unheard of. Fumbling with his shoes in order not to look at his friend, he mumbled, “I don’t know how.”

Michael snorted a short laugh. “So?” At least he was smiling now. Not as distanced as he had been to begin with. Almost… happy? “You won’t know until you try.”

“I know…” Jamie sighed, leaned back against the wall and let his eyes wander around the room. His hands caressed the warm sheets without his even noticing, tracing the slender outline of its former inhabitant. “It’s just… I don’t want to make a fool of myself.” He was making this up as he went along, and it sounded good. He almost believed in it himself. “I wish I could, you know… practice a bit before…”

His voice trailed away and he fell silent. The air trembled with unspoken words. Michael breathed in, but didn’t say anything. Instead he came to sit beside Jamie on the bed, hugging himself in silence. The seconds went by.

“You know, best thing would be if we could practice on each other,” Jamie said with a contrived laugh. “That way we could both gain some proficiency without being laughed at!”

When he dared to look at Michael, his eyes were jet black. “I’d poke your eye out.”

Jamie was taken aback with the harshness of this remark. “S-sorry,” he stammered. “Didn’t mean to gross you out or anything…”

“No, wait, I just meant that… You know, with my nose.”

“Your nose?”

“It’s lethal,” Michael attempted to joke, but Jamie could tell that he was suddenly nervous. Did he guess the reality behind Jamie’s seemingly innocent words? “Because I don’t know how either, and my nose will be in the way, because I wouldn’t know where to… you know… it wouldn’t be pleasant. I’m not made for kissing.” He was babbling now, but didn’t seem able to check himself. “I guess that’s why I haven’t done it, it’s impossible…”

Jamie stopped him with an impatient gesture. “Let me be the judge of that.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them. Suddenly, it wasn’t a joke any longer. He had said it as if he meant it. He had said it as if he were planning to see it through. A shudder engulfed him where he sat, and he looked away, terrified. The silence was deepening, and he could hear Michael breathing, waiting for something, like the girl had waited, only for something else.

***

To be continued on The Novel Approach, April 1.

Pax playlists

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

Since the Pax series is above all about music, I thought I’d share some of the things I built Michael and Jamie’s world on.

Let’s start from the beginning, with Just Playing:

Swansea Till I Die
This one is sort of self explanatory, but yeah, Michael and Jamie’s classmates are kind of big on football, and Michael and Jamie… aren’t. Also, they live in Swansea. So: Swansea City FC chant!

Bye Bye Baby
The kind of thing everyone listened to back in ’75. What would have been on the radio.

Firth Of Fifth
What Michael and Jamie would listen to – kind of a different vibe than the Bay City Rollers, I’m sure you’ll agree. Also, on a more personal note, this was my first introduction to prog, and it was love at first hearing.

Hush
This was also on the radio – notably, when Jamie shows Michael a riff by getting behind him on the sofa, snaking his arms around him and playing on the guitar in Michael’s lap. Seminal event.

Nights In White Satin
The first thing Michael sings, during a camping trip that sets the ball rolling. If Jamie wasn’t hooked before, this seals it.

April’s Fool
So what does Michael’s voice sound like? A little bit like this. Not quite, but almost.

Seekers Who Are Lovers
For me, this is the song about falling in love. I’ve never heard it illustrated this well. It’s like you fall in love all over again while you’re listening.

I Want You
What the title says. Even as Michael and Jamie accept their feelings, things are complicated in Paradise. And angsty.

Next up, The Road Taken:

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
Because the world insists that they can’t be together, and because Zeppelin would have been one of their musical inspirations – even if they didn’t actively listen to them. It was in the air.

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Apparently, Jamie once played and sang this to Michael? I don’t know, I’m just the writer.

Hocus Pocus
Another example of what Michael and Jamie listened to at the time. Delightfully crazy music from the Netherlands. Songs like this give me hope for humanity.

Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra
Michael’s first taste of the harpsichord, and a contributing factor to his abandoning the bass. This is the music they overheard at the studio.

2112
The song they listened to in that farm house. It has changed many lives.

Let Your Body Decide
In the end, Michael and Jamie had to make a decision – to be together or not be together – and this song might have helped them if it had been around at the time.

And then we have Release:

Ring Out Solstice Bells
Midsummer at Stonehenge! Who better to encapsulate that vibe than Jethro Tull?

Tarot Woman
Annabelle enters the story. She has her own song, naturally.

Hurry On Sundown
Hawkwind played at Stonehenge, too. Maybe they played this old classic.

Wuthering Heights
Kate Bush would have been on the same Top of the Pops programme as Pax, but she was busy, so they just played this song and had a dance troupe perform to it.

Nature Boy
Jamie discovers a box of albums in the attic, and with it, a hidden side to his mother.

The Musical Box
This was in my headphones when I wrote the Albert Hall concert.

Finally, there’s Cutting Edge:

Want
You thought Michael was a sweet guy? Think again.

Mysterious Adventure
The kind of thing Ludo would compose.

Better By You, Better Than Me and Suicide Solution
The songs that landed Judas Priest and Black Sabbath in court. You see, I wasn’t making much up when I wrote that. In hindsight, it can be mystifying, but at the time, these songs were EVIL.

Hades
This is kind of what Ripped Maidenhead want to sound like.

Dansa i Neon
The song that plays on the car radio on the way to Arjeplog. No holds barred, take no prisoners bubble gum pop.

Screams Behind The Shadows
The Sepultura song that plays at Nathan’s place in the final chapter.

First ideas and how they turn out

A year ago, I was having a Bad Day, and when I have Bad Days I always re-watch a movie or TV series, because it comforts me to know how things will end. This time, I chose True Detective, a series that had fascinated me the first time I watched it because one of the main characters was so nihilistic.

But now it was something else that caught my attention: the format. It has such a bold beginning, with the nihilist being interviewed by people you can’t see, and as soon as I saw it, I was inspired.

What if I, too, started a story with an interview? What would it be about? How would I show the insurmountable differences between interviewer and interviewee, so that the reader couldn’t imagine the two of them ever getting together?

That’s how All You Can Eat was born. Of course, to begin with, it had nothing to do with either eating disorders or France. I meant for the story to be some kind of mystery, either with a policeman or a journalist in the role of interviewer.

From my notes that evening:

Something about a journalist who interviews someone, and the guy is scared stiff for some reason, maybe even crying, and to begin with they don’t like each other. The interviewer thinks the interviewee is easily needled, weird and weak, and he in turn thinks the interviewer is abrasive. He retells some kind of harrowing story – maybe some kind of sect, like this guy has escaped from the sect and a journalist wants to do a feature on it, and keeps coming back to the guy’s place to find out more. And it gets really late, and he tells the story, and he is really messed up and upset and at the beginning the interviewer thinks he’s pretending, but then he slowly realizes that this really was a horrible experience. Need some research on sects.

Needless to say, in the end I scrapped the sect and the journalist and made it about a dietician and his patient instead. But it’s kind of fun to keep those ‘first idea’ documents, because it shows the spark of inspiration in real time.

I’m happy with how my story turned out, but the original idea isn’t bad either. If anyone wants to nick it, be my guest!

What are the odds?

You know why I write? Because life is effing strange, that’s why. And I want to document, explore and exploit that strangeness.

I’m sitting here in the living room with my husband, listening to Saxon’s Crusader, and I’m looking at the album cover. Suddenly my eyes snag on the coat of arms worn by one of the soldiers, and I sit up straight and burst out, “It’s the Henry IV coat of arms! But he didn’t go on a crusade, did he? The play starts with him complaining that he’s too ill to go. Not that Shakespeare got his reputation for being historically accurate, but…”

And so on and so forth. Geeky, yes. But the geekiness isn’t the point. It’s the utter randomness of it all.

Let’s look at the chain of events. Once upon a time in a random country, a random king chose a perhaps not so random coat of arms. It contained the French fleur de lys and the English lion, since his ancestors (and his son) laid claim to France.

A couple of hundred years later, a random Warwickshire boy writes about him, and it’s a hit. The success of his plays are so enduring that, four hundred years later, they’re still produced all over the world. Including the one about the random king.

Enter an even more random player in this strange, eventful history: a Swedish fifteen year old girl who travels to England with her parents to cycle all through the summer and watch a few plays in Stratford. One of the plays is the Adrian Noble production of Henry IV part 1&2, and the girl falls so hard for it that she gets a concussion. Twenty-five years later, she’s still obsessive enough to write a blog post about it. Twenty-five years later, the coat of arms with the fleur de lys and the lion still mean something to her. Those symbols that have long since lost their original meaning for most people — for her, they’re the epitome of nostalgia.

I mean… you couldn’t think it up if you tried!

And now imagine something from our own time and place having that kind of symbolic value for somebody in 500 years’ time. For example, the Swedish king’s official motto having sentimental value to someone in 2416 Argentina.

Mind-bogggling, isn’t it? But it happens. It happens all the time. As humans, we seek for patterns and symbols in everything, and the meanings of artifacts change and change again, moving in and out of the personal, in and out of the general.

The distorted echoes of history. Seriously. It’s the reason to write.