Tag Archives: #amwriting

January……

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January – the first month of the year when you are supposed to feel motivated and energised to take on the challenges of the year to come.  Eh……maybe not!

January – cold dark month lasting at least 96 soul draining days…… I jest (slightly)

Did I feel motivated and ready to take on 2018 31 days ago? I thought so…..

In the spirit of honesty, I’ll confess to having struggled with my own  creative motivation   this month. The stresses and strains of every day life may have been a contributory factor or I may just be making excuses…who knows! We are now at the end of January and I’ve not met the goals I had in my head at the turn of the year and I’m mad at myself.

As part of the “day job” in the “salt mine” I’ve been delivering coaching sessions to my team to encourage them to think about what motivates them in a work sense and to think about what areas they wish to develop themselves in. I’ve now delivered the same session, tweaked to the individual, fourteen times.  It struck me earlier that I needed to deliver it one more time. I needed to deliver it to myself!

I’ll not bore you with the ins and outs of it all but the focus of the coaching was a motivational triangle. The three sides represent Clear, Capable and Motivated. Is it Clear what’s expected of you? Are you Capable of meeting these expectations/goals? Are you Motivated to succeed?

I paused for some self-reflection as I went for my lunchtime meander in the cold. A bit of soul-searching.

And the result……

Clear – YES I am clear of the expectation /goal I have set myself. I need to finish the first draft of book baby 4.

Capable – YES I am capable of achieving this. I need to remain focussed and not “waste” the time deviating off at a tangent and writing other pieces.

Motivated – YES I will finish this! I have invested too much time in the project to abandon it at the last gasp. It is so close to being finished in reality.

So, without further ado…. I have a book to finish! ….. Goodbye January. Hello February!

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A Little Excerpt From Book Baby 4.

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GULP….. time to share a little tiny piece of Book Baby 4 with you all.  It’s still a work in progress but I thought I’d share a little excerpt with you….just to tease you.

For me this is more than a little nerve wracking. Not even my “infamous five” alpha readers have seen this yet!

Book Baby 4 still doesn’t have a title but features a band that those of you who have read Impossible Depths and Bonded Souls will be familiar with. It’s working title is AL – After Life.

Here’s just a little sneak peek into the After Life story. Enjoy!

After Life’s usual rehearsal hall was in the basement of a former church. The church above  had closed its doors a few years before due to dwindling numbers of worshippers. When Ellen and Taylor arrived with Rocky next day, they found that they weren’t the first to arrive, despite being deliberately early. Cal and Luke were already practicing.

“Morning, boys,” called out Rocky loudly. “No Jack?”

“He’s gone over to the music store to pick up some drum heads,” answered Cal. “He split two earlier. None left in the trunk.”

“Two?” echoed Rocky, shaking his head. “That boy’ll bankrupt us all at the rate he goes through them.”

Casually Ellen slipped off her leather jacket and laid it over the back of a nearby chair. As she crossed the room to join the band on the low makeshift stage, she was aware that all eyes were on her. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she asked, “What’s the plan?”

“To rehearse,” stated Luke tersely. “And to see if you can deliver the fucking goods, princess.”

“Luke,” growled Taylor as he lifted his guitar from its case. “Cut it out.”

With a sneer, Luke bowed his head slightly, “Humble apologies, Miss Lloyd. Ladies choice.”

Before she could reply, the door creaked open and Jack returned carrying a bag with his new drum heads in it.

“Sorry, people,” he apologised. “Are you all waiting for me?”

“Yeah,” drawled Luke sourly. “And on Little Miss here deciding what we’re playing.”

“Kashmir,” stated Ellen with a calm confidence.

“Kashmir?” echoed the bass player unable to mask his surprise. “You mess this up and you’re history! Hear me?”

“Luke!” snapped Rocky. “Enough, young man! Give her a fair chance.”

“It’s fine, Rocky,” said Ellen, praying she sounded calmer than she felt. “Luke, I’ll make a deal with you. One error and I’m gone. One from you and the result’s the same. You go.”

Both Jack and Cal laughed before Cal commented, “You asked for that, mate.”

“Harrumph,” muttered Luke sulkily.

“Luke, that sounds fair enough to me,” said Rocky. “Especially considering the way you spoke to this young lady last night.”

“Fine,” he growled, inwardly seething at having been backed into a corner.

 

A few minutes later, Ellen stood centre stage with her trembling hand wrapped round the microphone. Taking a deep breath, she heard Jack and Luke begin the thundering drum and bass intro then Cal and Taylor came in on guitar. Precisely on cue, she began to sing, keeping her voice low and even with a hint of menace.

“Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face.”

Over the next eight minutes, she poured her heart and soul into the vocal. Channelling every last ounce of her inner strength, Ellen shut out all thoughts of Luke and the pressures on her, focusing instead on nailing every note however high or long. Beside her, Taylor was playing with a passion to rival her own, almost as if he were willing her through the iconic anthem with his own music. As she reached the final couple of lines, Ellen’s heart was pounding and her palm was sweaty.

“Let me take you there!”

Her voice rang out across the hall as the band finished off the song with a flourish. It didn’t escape her sharp attention that Luke fluffed a section just before the end. With a small smile, Ellen raised her eyebrows and stared at him through her tinted glasses.

“Fucking insane!” declared Cal enthusiastically. “Awesome voice, girl!”

“That was quite something,” agreed Jack from behind the drum kit.

Without looking at Ellen, Luke unplugged his bass, laid it down and stepped off stage. As he walked towards the door, he called back over his shoulder, “The bitch is in.”

 

Book Baby 4 coming Summer 2018  (I hope!)

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

 

 

 

 

 

Libby (a short story of childhood’s end)

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Sunrise was her favourite time of day. At sunrise there still hope that, with the start of a new day, Lucy would remember she was there.

On the far side of the bedroom, a muffled sound escaped from under the duvet as Lucy rolled over in bed. A teddy bear was shoved unceremoniously onto the floor as Lucy muttered, “At least Libby didn’t take up as much space in the bed.”

Libby’s heart skipped a beat. Lucy still remembered her. She was safe for another few days. She glanced down at her hands and feet, then curled up on the rocking chair and went back to watching the sun come up.

 

For ten years Libby had been Lucy’s closest confidante. They had played together day after day. They had gone to school together for seven years. They had holidayed together, first in Devon and Cornwall and then, as Lucy grew older, they had visited France, Spain, Portugal and America. She had liked travelling with Lucy. Everywhere Lucy went, Libby went too.

On the last trip to America, Libby had met another girl about her own age while she had waited at the bag drop at one of the many rollercoasters in the theme park. She had been surprised by the cynicism shown by her new acquaintance.

“It won’t last much longer. Trust me. Just you watch. You’ll grow apart real fast. It’ll end and losing…what was her name? Lucy? Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

Almost five months had passed since that Easter trip to Florida. At first, Libby has dismissed the American girl’s comments as nonsense. Forget her? Why would Lucy want to forget her? They’d been inseparable since Lucy was three years old. But, as the seasons moved from Spring to Summer, Libby began to pick up on subtle changes in her beloved Lucy. Some days she would leave for school without her. Other days she would arrive home late and barely have time for her between dinner and bedtime. Once she went away for the entire weekend and left Libby behind without a wave or a backwards glance.

At Lucy’s thirteenth birthday party, Libby had kept to the shadows and was hurt that Lucy barely spared her a thought all day. She even blew out the birthday candles without Libby by her side to share a wish!

“You’ll grow apart real fast. Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

The words began to haunt Libby day and night….

 

As August wound its way towards to September, Libby found herself excluded more and more by Lucy. For hours on end she would wait patiently for Lucy to remember she was there and to involve her in her day.

By the middle of the month, Libby began to panic. Once morning when she awoke early to watch the sun rise, she realised she was fading away. Her hands and feet were barely visible. Just before panic took over, she heard Lucy talking in her sleep and heard her mention her name. Instantly she felt whole again. Her hands and feet were there. Her black patent ballet pumps were shining in the early morning sunlight.

 

Unfortunately, this had only been the beginning of Libby’s torment.

 

As August ended, there had been no less than half a dozen similar fading episodes. The last one had really scared Libby. Her hands and arms had disappeared all the way up to her elbows; her feet and legs had vanished right up past her knees.

Lucy was forgetting her!

Lucy was growing up!

Yet again, the American’s words tore at Libby’s faithful heart, “Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

September marked a milestone for Lucy – she started high school. From the relative safety of the rocking chair under the window, Libby had watched as Lucy packed her new school bag and laid out her new school uniform.That night Lucy had gone to bed without wishing her goodnight. In the darkness, Libby had cried herself to sleep on the rocking chair.

 

Now, as she watched the teddy bear, always a favoured bedtime bear of Lucy’s, lying on the floor, Libby finally resigned herself to her fate. September had been filled with gaps in the relationship with Lucy and there had been almost daily episodes of fading out. For the past week, Libby had barely seen her hands and feet. Even her long pigtails had faded at the ends!

To save herself, Libby knew she had to take action. She realised that she could no longer rely on Lucy to remember she was there. Now that she had been fully restored to her old self, Libby decided that today was the day.

 

The week before a new family had moved into the house next door. From Lucy’s bedroom window, Libby had watched a little girl playing alone in the garden. Hiding behind the curtains, she had watched the little girl, Wendy, play on her swing and slide down her chute. Seeing her playing on her own for hours on end had tugged at Libby’s heart strings.

 

After Lucy left for school, Libby waited on the rocking chair until Lucy’s mum had come in and opened the window to let some air into the room.  

This was her chance!

A quick glance outside informed her that Wendy was already out playing in the garden with a bright red ball.

Carefully, Libby climbed up onto the window sill. With a last look round the bedroom, she balanced on the ledge for a moment, then carefully climbed down the trellis, trying not to damage Lucy’s dad’s Clematis.

As she crossed the garden, Libby began to panic anew. It was the first time she had been outside alone in over ten years. What if Wendy couldn’t see her? What if Wendy rejected her?

It was too late to go back now.

Slipping through a gap in the fence, Libby made her way into the garden next door. For a few minutes, she stayed in the shadow of the big, old, apple tree that dominated that corner of the garden. With a nervous smile, she watched Wendy play with the ball. The little girl was throwing it up and trying to catch it. Eventually she dropped it.

The ball rolled down the gentle slope and landed at Libby’s feet, nudging her black patent shoes.

“It’s now or never,” thought Libby, bending down to pick up the ball.

When she stood up again, Wendy was staring at her.

“I like your shiny shoes.”

“Hi. Thank you. I’m Libby,” said Libby, tossing the ball back to the little girl, who caught it safely in her arms.

“HI. I’m Wendy,” came the shy reply. “Want to play?”

“I’d love to!” declared Libby with a smile.

“Daddy’s going to build me a tree house in that tree,” explained Wendy as they walked back up the slope. “It can be our club house. Our special place. You can live up there when it’s done. It can be your fairy castle.”

“I can?”

“Of course you can! You can stay in my room till its builded but you’ll need to hide. Need to be a secret,” whispered Wendy seriously. “Mummy doesn’t want me to have imaginary friends. We can be secret princess friends forever though.”

“I’d like that,” said Libby as her heart turned a somersault of delight.

She was safe at last.

 

(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)

Dying Is Easy -Coming Back Is When Things Get Tricky (flash fiction)

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Inspiration for these weekly blog posts comes from all angles and on occasion some unlikely thought processes.

But here we are at Wednesday ( I wrote this last night) and inspiration has yet to strike this week……drums fingers impatiently.

Part of me has been itching to write a piece of flash fiction but again the inspiration bank was shut tight.

  Hmmm…..time to Google  “writing prompts”.

The screen lit up before me with a multitude of ideas. I read through several screens worth then one finally caught my eye

“Dying is easy. Coming back is when things get tricky.”

I gave myself an hour to come up with something inspired by this statement.

Here’s the result:

 

Dying is easy -Coming back is when things get tricky

 

Everything around her was totally still and calm. As she sat at the picnic table staring out across the river, there wasn’t a ripple on the water. A sea of tranquillity.

Inside, she felt far from still or calm or tranquil. So much had happened over the past week. So much had changed. Her mind was racing with thoughts of the things she still needed to do but time was against her.

From the position of the sun and the length of the September shadows, she guessed it was around four o’clock. If that was the case, she had less than half an hour….. time was slipping through her fingers like grains of sand.

“Just one more goodbye to say,” she thought to herself as she turned to go.

The warmth of the autumn sun had brought people outdoors and she passed close to several couples as she made her way along the road. No one gave her a second glance as she walked by.

Silently, she wished she had her phone. At least if she had that with her she could check if she was going to be on time. Both of them were creatures of habit and she prayed that this was one of the days that they were in sync with each other. Part of her realised that it was unlikely considering how events had unfolded over the week but she had to try, had to hope.

Her energy reserves were dwindling. It had been a manic forty eight hours.

“So much to do, so little time,” she thought as she walked along in the sunshine.

When she reached the next grassy area, she was relieved to find both the benches were vacant. Ever conscious of the time, she decided to sacrifice a moment or two to take a seat. Around her, she could hear birds singing in the bushes and seabirds calling down on the shore. Resting wasn’t helping and she felt even more drained as she hauled herself to her feet one final time.

The next section of the road was in shadow and cooler. Up ahead, in a patch of sunlight, a flash of colour at the bend in the road caught her eye. As she reached the spot, she stopped. The area around the bent signpost was covered with floral tributes and mementos.

Rooted to the spot, she read over each of the cards nestled among the flowers; read the messages of farewell; read poems; read stories of shared memories; smiled at the photos cradled in amongst the flowers.

Who knew so many people cared?

Images flashed before her eyes. The silver 4×4 taking the corner too fast. The squeal of its brakes. The crunch as the vehicle struck. The screams as she was thrown forwards before being crushed against the pole.

Then nothing…..

Then the searing pain of separation as her soul tore itself free from the broken body.

Unseen, her soul had watched the scene unfold; watched an ambulance arrive, closely followed by two police cars. As the paramedics had worked on her badly injured body, her soul had slipped quietly into the ambulance, fearful of being left behind. She had watched over the body she had inhabited as they transported it to the local hospital, operated on it then waited in the corner, invisible to her family, as the hours ticked by in a small private ICU ward.

Almost forty eight hours ago, her broken body had surrendered it’s fight for life. Just as panic was about to set in, she had seen an old woman enter the room. No one else reacted to this new arrival.

“Come on , my dear,” coaxed the old woman gently. “Time to go.”

“Go where?” she had heard herself ask.

“Well. Some folks call it Heaven. Others think its Hell. I prefer to think of it as home.”

“But I can’t! I’ve not said goodbye to everyone. I need more time!”

“Your time has passed, my dear. Time to move on.”

“Please,” she had begged. “Just a few more hours. Let me see the people who mean the most to me one last time. My children. My family. My friends.”

The old woman faltered then shook her head, “Highly irregular but, if it helps you to settle in your new home, I’ll give you two days. Not a second more. Two days to the minute of your physical death.”

“Plenty of time.”

“Is it?” asked the old woman. “We’ll see.” She paused then continued, “When the time is up, I’ll come back for you. Be warned, you’ll start to weaken as the time passes. When I come back, you need to come with me. No more begging. No pleading. You just follow me.”

“I’ll come,” she heard herself promise.

 

As she stood reading the messages, she acknowledged that forty eight hours had been too short. It had broken her heart to see her family grief stricken, knowing she couldn’t reach out to comfort them. Only the cat had sensed that she was there. She had watched helplessly as friends arrived at the house to offer their condolences. Neighbours kindly delivered meals to the family as they too dropped by to express their sadness over their loss. It had touched her to see that so many people cared.

The flowers and messages spread in front of her reinforced that once and for all.

She knew her time was almost up but there was still that last goodbye to be said. Squinting into the sun, she looked along the pavement, praying that her instincts were correct. She thought she saw a movement in the distance, a familiar outline approaching at a steady pace.

Behind her, she heard a soft cough.

Before she turned round, she knew it was the old woman come to escort her home. With one last lingering glance into the sun, she waved and whispered, “Till later.”

Everything around her faded to nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifteen Weeks To Go…..gulp!

My lunchtime meanderings this week have brought home to me just how quickly this year is flying by!

It doesn’t see like any time at all since I was looking up at the trees that border the salt mine’s car park thinking, “Oh look! New wee shoots and leaves!” Today I walked past those same trees looking up and thinking, “Wow! I love these autumn colours!” (These particular trees put on a stunning display of autumn reds and golds every year.)

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This swift change of seasons (did we actually have summer?) has got me thinking….

Back at the start of the year, my first blog post of 2017 detailed some goals I’d set myself. (Here, see for yourself  https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/a-new-year-means-new-goals-and-a-fresh-chall )

Now, nine months later, how far have I got with these?

Upon reflection, and after a brief surge of panic about the fact that we are almost half way through September, I’m ok with where I’m at…I think.

Goal number one was to complete, edit and publish Book Baby 3. This was always the primary goal for 2017 and it has been safely ticked off the list. Book Baby 3, otherwise known as Bonded Souls, was let loose on the world on 15th April and, to date, no one has said my baby is ugly.  Bonded Souls is on Amazon sitting alongside it’s siblings, Stronger Within and Impossible Depths, and like them on Amazon.co.uk, is boasting five glittering stars. (It’s still waiting for it’s first rating on Amazon.com  … hint…hint)

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I still find it totally surreal to see the three books. Complete dreams come true moment.

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Goal number two was to write the first draft of a new novel…GULP! A tall order.  Well, I still have fifteen weeks of 2017 left and, to be honest, I’m going to need every minute of them. Book Baby 4 – no, it’s not a Silver Lake tale – is somewhere between a half and two-thirds written but progress is slow. For a few weeks there, my new imaginary friends really didn’t want to play nice! Over the past couple of weeks, they have all been better behaved – thanks goodness- and I finally feel as though I might be getting somewhere. This first draft may be adding a whole new dimension to “rough” draft but with a bit of luck (and peace and quiet) I might just get it down on paper on time.

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I am now silently praying that time slows down so that my chances of finishing it before midnight on 31st Dec increase!

Wish me luck!

 

p.s.   for all you Silver Lakers, Jake and Lori keep interrupting my train of thought with Silver Lake ideas….book four in that series will happen!

In The Heart Of The Book (1000 word flash fiction)

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As she opened the latest delivery, she thought again about how lucky she was to be living her dream. In this technology filled world, running and owning her own bookshop had been a dream since childhood. The smell and the feel of actual books had held her captivated for decades. Now, in her late thirties, the books fitted perfectly around family life.

Working in the shop, the tiniest shop in the street, gave her an insight into other peoples’ family lives through the books they brought to her. In exchange for a minimal sum, she welcomed in boxes and bags of literary memories. Sometimes the bags came with a funny story about their previous owner; parents passing on children’s books told tales of babies long grown up; wives told tales on husband’s as they brought in books relating to pastimes that has been a passing phase; widowers brought in their late wife’s romance libraries, wondering how they could have read such “rubbish”. Every book in the shop came with a story.

The box in front of her was a curious mix. It had been handed in late the afternoon before by a young man a few years her junior. There had been something vaguely familiar about him but she hadn’t been able to place him. He had commented that the books had been his father’s and had long since been consigned to a shelf at the back of the garage. Something, a sixth sense perhaps, made her ask if he was sure they were all to be donated. His answer had been, “I guess so. He told me to clear out the garage.  Everything. The house has been sold and there’s no room in the new flat for everything as it is.”

The contents of the box proved to be an eclectic mix. She lifted out  sports biographies, a few books about classic cars and car maintenance, a handful of John Grisham paperbacks and a couple of Dan Brown’s. In among them she spotted a copy of a book that been one of her own mother’s favourites, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

With a wistful smile, she ran her hands over the familiar cover noting that, like the copy she had that had been her mother’s, this one was well-read. As she reached to put it on the shelf, a folded piece of paper fell out and drifted to the floor, landing at her feet.

Lifting the pale blue sheet of paper, she unfolded it. Finding notes inside books was one of the sneaky pleasures of the job. Over the years, she had found countless shopping lists, Christmas lists, addresses, postcards, bus and train tickets, boarding passes and the occasional more personal letter. This was one of the latter. The blue page had previously been crumpled and parts of it torn off but someone had taken the time to smooth it out and fold it carefully, stowing it safely inside the book.

Her heart skipped a beat at the distinctive flourishes to the handwriting.

The first part of the letter was missing.

My head knows I shouldn’t feel like this but my heart begs to differ and is leading it astray. The countless unspoken thoughts and conversations in my mind are safest left there…..perhaps.

Who am I kidding here? You know me inside out and well enough to know how I feel without me having to say it out loud.

We both know the risks of that…..

Resting my head against your chest, hearing your heart beat, feeling your arms around me, feeling safe, feeling wanted, feeling loved….”

The rest of the letter was lost. The bottom section of the page torn off.

Shaking the book, she hoped the missing fragments might appear but nothing. Hurriedly, she searched through the box, vainly hoping that one or both of the missing pieces might be there. Nothing.

Opening the book, she prayed she might find another clue. What she found was the possible remains of one. The top corner of the title page had been roughly ripped off but the tails of the letters from the inscription remained. Whatever it had said, it had been written by the same person who had penned the love letter. She would know that handwriting anywhere, even after all this time.

It was her mother’s.

Deciding to err on the side of caution for a while, she re-folded the letter, placed it back in between the pages of the book and put the slim volume safely on the shelf beneath the counter.

A little voice in her soul told her the rightful owner would be back for it as soon as they realised it was missing.

 

A month went by and the well-loved copy of The Alchemist lay under the counter, gradually being buried by letters and receipts. Occasionally, she would bring it out and read the letter over again, trying to work out who her  mother had been writing to.  She never mentioned the book to a  soul. It was her secret. A final connection to her mother.

 

Two more weeks passed by.

 

Late on the Monday afternoon, she was absorbed in the task of re-organising the shelves, perched precariously on the top step of the rickety, wooden stepladders she had brought from home, when the bell above the shop door tinkled. Balancing on one foot and leaning on the shelf, she half turned to see who had entered the shop.

She recognised him immediately, despite the changes caused by the passage of time.

“Hello. Be careful up there,” he said warmly. “I was hoping you’d be able to help me.”

He paused while she climbed down the ladder.

“My son brought a box of books in here about six weeks ago. I’m trying to track down one of the books that got into the box by mistake. It’s of sentimental value.”

“I have it right here,” she replied, smiling at him with a smile so like her mother’s that his heart skipped a beat.

 

(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