S.E. Berrow On Hiatus

I’m sorry to announce that due to various life stresses such as house-buying, work and social commitments, I am now officially On Hiatus.

By this, I mean I can no longer fool myself that I have the time, will, or inclination to create. My mind is a hideous, carnival-like hellscape — a carousel of anxiety and despair, going round and round in my head; a house of horrors from which I cannot escape, where the worst possible scenario threatens to jump out at me around every corner.

My mind is so occupied with things that are not writing, that I cannot effectively edit The Mayor: Part One. I cannot churn out even a paragraph for my John novella. I can’t even maintain this blog — it’s not acceptable. I fall at every hurdle. I fail at every task and goal I set myself. All I succeed in doing is sitting down at a desk and staring at a computer screen. I type out maybe… 4 words over the course of half an hour? Then I cry. And cry. And cry.

Not being able to write is making my anxiety worse. As such, this is me accepting that it’s just not going to happen until I am in a better place, both physically, and mentally. Thus… hiatus.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I fully intend to pick everything up again as soon as this dark cloud passes. Also my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre, is drip-feeding me her own edits of The Mayor: Part One for me to read and absorb, and we have our writing retreat to look forward to in late November. Until then, I can still research. I can still world-build. I find these sorts of things are less taxing than editing or writing — they are true escapism. When I’m having an OK day, I can also stretch to adding to my outline of The Mayor: Part Two, which is definitely productive.

I’ve also commissioned some artworks from my illustrator Brettarts of some of my favourite scenes and characters from The Mayor to inspire me and bring me pleasure. Below is one such example of these depicting my characters, Melora and John. I can’t wait to have this incredible image printed, framed, and put on display in the office of my new house (when things eventually start moving on that front). I hope you like it ♥

JohnandMelora

I’m sorry to my friends and Beta readers I’m letting down with this news, but please know that it is absolutely necessary if I am to make it to next year at all.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Phantoms, Dollhouses and Easter Wishes

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. For those of you who are working over the Easter Holidays, I will keep you in my thoughts! ♥

No writing challenge answers this week. Today’s blog post consists of Important Life Updates:

I’ve moved house!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents whilst I wait for the sale of my boyfriend’s flat to go through. I can’t say how long I’ll be here for, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and today was the first day since Tuesday (the day I moved out) that I’ve actually begun to feel truly settled. Throughout the whole of March I’ve essentially been AN ENORMOUS BALL OF STRESS and I can only apologise to all who encountered me during that time and had to put up with me and my madness.Sarah Andersen

I’m glad it’s over now and can get stuck back into the thing I love to do most…

Writing

For those who’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m massively behind with the deadline for finishing my WIP, The Mayor. I originally intended to finish Draft One by the end of December, but had to push the deadline back until the end of February for the sake of my mental health (see here). That revised deadline went completely out the window when I started going through the process of selling my home, plus I began having serious self-doubt along with Anxiety-triggering frustration over my complete inability to finish my manuscript. Going on a really nice holiday for two weeks at the beginning of March helped me out a lot; I didn’t touch my manuscript once the whole time I was gone, and when I came back I felt refreshed and excited, ready to finish everything off. I had a really productive week in the middle of March playing around with my deliciously cruel penultimate chapter… only for reality to set back in that I needed to start packing, stat.

Basically, March was a complete write-off as far as writing was concerned, but April is a new month, a new start. I’m in a new place where I have fewer responsibilities to shoulder all by myself (house maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc.), plus I’m genuinely excited to get to grips with the last two chapters and very short epilogue. Wish me luck.

Once I’m finished (please, God, let it be soon), I’m going to take a break — maybe write a novella about my character Jonathan Carson — whilst K.F. Goodacre takes to my work with razor-sharp scalpel and hammers my words into some semblance of a manageable pile.

Dollies!

Speaking of K.F. Goodacre, it seems her talents know no bounds! As a belated birthday present, she very kindly made me my protagonist Melora in doll form… Behold! She is exquisite:

Melora joins another doll made for me by K.F. Goodacre — my character Jonathan Carson. Don’t they look great together? I’m so in love. Raise your hand if you think Kim needs to start her own Etsy account making dolls of other people’s characters for money? *Hand shoots up*. Thank you so much, Parabatai! ♥

Note: The John doll is a couple of years old now. The character’s ethnicity has changed since its creation and as such, his skin should actually be much darker than what’s shown here. Kim’s assured me she will, at some point, flay John’s skin off and replace it with something more fitting. He’s got to match his brother Jaspher, after all. Watch this space…

Lastly…

Kamelot‘s new album The Shadow Theory is out next week. OMG. I’m so, so, so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially since they dropped their (brilliant) new single last Friday entitled ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, featuring Lauren Hart from melodic death metal band, Once Human. CHECK. IT. OWT:

 

Can’t wait. Simply can’t, can’t wait. Will explode from teh squee. Super excite! BRING ON LONDON IN OCTOBER ♥

That’s all for now. Ta-ta!

S.E. Berrow

2017: Year In Review

Last year when I did my annual review, I talked about how I felt as though I’d sleepwalked through the whole of 2016 (click here). I didn’t write, didn’t exercise, felt like I was sinking beneath a mountain of debt and like I’d never amount to anything. Amidst a pretty depressing backdrop of political upheaval, numerous celebrity deaths and an overwhelming sense of generational pessimism, it’s no wonder I felt so low.

BUT! I’m very pleased to report that 2017 could not have been more different. I made 3 New Years Resolutions and made excellent progress with every single one:

1. I trained my arse off and took part in Tough Mudder London South (and signed up again to take part next year).
2. I put my flat on the market and have successfully managed to find a buyer (I’m looking to move somewhere new with my boyfriend in early 2018).
3. And, most excitingly of all, at the time of writing I have added a whopping 76,088 words to The Mayorwith more to come before the year is out. Amazing! I’m on track to complete Book 1 before my new deadline of 28 February 2018.

The world is still a political clusterfuck of awful, but I’ve been patiently and steadfastly tending to my little patch and things are beginning to grow ♥

1. Album that surpassed all others:

Will To Power by Arch Enemy

Will To Power Arch Enemy

What. An. Album. A tremendous follow-up to War Eternal, Arch Enemy take their sound to new dizzying heights with their new guitarist Jeff Loomis and Alissa White-Gluz’s effortlessly versatile vocals. I don’t think there’s a single bad track on this album, but my favourite moments — hands down — have got to be:

  • Alissa’s delivery of “Get the guards and walk a dozen paces” in the gut-wrenchingly harrowing ‘First Day In Hell’; a tribute to her grandparents who survived a Nazi Concentration Camp.
  • The towering, sweeping empowerment of album closer, ‘A Fight I Must Win’.
  • The effortless slide from clean to harsh vocals in ‘Reason To Believe’ (the first clean vocals to ever feature on an Arch Enemy album).

Stunning.

Favourite tracks: ‘First Day In Hell’, ‘A Fight I Must Win’, ‘Blood In The Water’, ‘Reason To Believe’

2. Most missed artists:

Although Rasputina had an album out this year (The Feel Good Hits of 1817), I’ve come to realise that I sincerely miss the band they used to be. Melora Creager is making a concerted effort to completely remove herself from the internet, thus making anything new she puts out extremely difficult to get hold of. She’s vowed to make everything US Mail Order-only from now on i.e. no ordering online, no Paypal, no digital downloads and extremely limited pressings.

Whilst I totally get where Melora is coming from here (she got catfished quite spectacularly and it’s clearly messed with her quite badly), I do find her efforts unintentionally discriminate against fans who live abroad. For example, if she’d gone through with her original intention to make The Feel Good Hits of 1817 US Mail Order-only, it would have cost me £25 just to take out an international postal order, plus the cost of shipping which is $17 for an LP, $10 for a CD, plus the price of the album… a whopping total of $60-$70 for an album that was mostly covers and re-releases anyway. CRAZY!

But y’know, I’ll probably end up paying it anyway, because I’m a die-hard fan and will support this woman ’til the day I die. It just makes me infinitely sad that my favourite artists (like Melora Creager, Abney Park, Voltaire) rally so hard against the internet when I am literally only aware of their music because I discovered it through the internet in the first place ♥

Rasputina

3. Album that really surprised me:

Heart Shaped Wound by Aurelio Voltaire

Heart Shaped Wound

Surprising because of how personal it is!

Heart Shaped Wound contains a number of songs about gothic-folk musician Aurelio Voltaire’s tumultuous three-month relationship with an internet-famous cosplayer shortly after his divorce.

I distinctly remember Voltaire’s Instagram posts from around this time. Every single day he was posting pictures of himself with this young woman, shouting from the rooftops about how much he loved her, whilst she clearly didn’t feel the same way.

So when I heard the lyrics, “You get a tiny matching tattoo on that pristine canvas four decades new to impress a walking ransom note who’s got more ink than all the plays that Shakespeare wrote”, I did a double-take because I knew precisely who and what that song was about. Usually I’m not a fan of break-up songs. I mean, I don’t know the full story, but if any man came on to me that strong and then wrote an album about me after I broke up with him, I’d be pretty peeved! But hey, the music is good and Alissa White-Gluz features on one of the tracks… so hooray!

Favourite tracks: ‘The Folly of Love’, ‘Leaves In The Stream’ (feat. Alissa White-Gluz), ‘Human Nature’

4. Person I would most like to have tea with:

The inimitable Victoria Schwab. I’ve spoken at length before about how much I love this woman and why, so click here to learn more!

Victoria Schwab

5. The things I’ve completely had enough of:

The orange baby. Brexit. The rise of Nazism and the empowerment of the far-right. Theresa fucking May. Nigel “Garbage Fire” Farage. The political landscape in general. This whole year has been one huge political clusterfuck and it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Must. Stay. Strong.

6. The thing I wish I had bought myself but didn’t:

A Summer holiday. Mark and I went to Colombia very, very early on in the year (an… interesting experience), so by the time Summer rolled around, everyone else was disappearing off abroad whilst I was stuck at work with a broken air-con. It sucked.

7. Page-turner:

I. CANNOT. CHOOSE. BETWEEN THESE. THREE BOOKS. OMG.

A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Magic! Princes! Faerie porn!)

8. Album that stirred my soul:

Ritual by In This Moment

Ritual in This Moment

Another album devoid of a single bad track. Though I confess myself a little disappointed at the complete lack of heavy vocals, Ritual is a stunning exercise in exquisite song-craft. From the galloping stampede of heavy-metal ‘Black Wedding’ (featuring Rob Halford of Judas Priest), to the beautiful vulnerability of ‘Twin Flames’. Ritual impresses again and again and again.  Plus every other song seems to be about setting someone on fire; my villain William Kale would have an absolute field day.

Favourite tracks: ‘Roots’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Black Wedding’ (feat. Rob Halford), ‘Twin Flames’

9. Album that made me smile:

Kingslayer by Almanac

Almanac Kingslayer

I mean, with cover art like that how can you not smile?

Markedly leaning more towards the power side of symphonic metal than their previous effort, Almanac have once again delivered a stonker of an album with Kingslayer. This was a solid contender for ‘Album that surpassed all others’, very nearly knocking Will To Power off the top spot.

Favourite tracks: ‘Regicide’, ‘Hail To The King’, ‘Last Farewell’, ‘Guilty As Charged’

10. Most stylish person:

Edgar has been rocking his winter coat this year. He has essentially become an explosion of fur.

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Such a majestic fluffbutt.

11. Best ‘thing’:

Successfully rescuing my boyfriend’s niece’s cat Dolly after she went missing for 10 whole weeks. I lost so much sleep over this, it was so distressing! She was incredibly shy and nervous cat, even before she escaped; she’d never set foot outside before, flat-out refusing to come when called; and, because her owners live over a pub, she was too terrified to come home with so many strangers about.

Thankfully, my boyfriend spotted her hiding out in the local field and we set a trap for her. We checked back after couple of hours and there she was! Terrified and very thin but otherwise perfectly healthy. We could hardly believe it!

She’s now back home now, safe and sound, and apparently has become much more confident and affectionate since her ordeal ♥

Dolly

Also Mark and our friend Ant discovered the joy of The Panic Room this year!

So far we have successfully completed the Lovecraft-themed ‘The Gilman Hotel’ (i.e. the best escape room ever), ‘Old Father Time’ and ‘Defective Detective’. We’re booked in to do ‘The Dollhouse’ next… God knows why. It’s a horror-themed room and I’m a wimp; I could hardly handle Gilman!

I cannot recommend these guys enough! They have two locations: one in Gravesend and one in Harlow.

12. Favourite visual feast:

The Loot Train Attack scene in Game of Thrones (S7:E4). WOWZA. Chills. Here’s a cool video on the making of it:

13. Best fictional character since Sirius Black:

This year is the year I became obsessed with a bat-winged faerie prince called Rhysand. Click here to read a little bit more about him; he’s the most recent addition to my list of Top 10 Book Boyfriends.

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14. Coolest rock star:

Victoria Schwab. Wait, what do you mean she’s not a rock star?!

VE Schwab

QUEEN. See my answer to Question 4 above.

15. Best gig:

It’s a toss-up between going to see Evanescence at the Eventim Apollo (14 June 2017) for the sheer nostalgia value, or Amaranthe at the Islington Assembly Hall (3 November 2017). So much crackling energy and a stellar setlist!

Sadly I never got round to writing a review for either of these events because I’ve been so busy squirrelling away at The Mayor. I hope to be able to write more gig reviews in 2018 once Book One of The Mayor is complete.

16. Most special moment:

My long-weekend away with my boyfriend in November. We visited the wonderful ‘Terry Pratchett: His World’ exhibition in Salisbury, saw the Magna Carter, and took in the gorgeous Georgian architecture and Roman baths of Bath.

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17. Song of the year:

‘Roots’ by In This Moment has become my anthem for 2017.

 

18. Biggest achievement:

TOUGH MUDDER.

Tough Mudder

Without a doubt the hardest thing (physically) I’ve ever had to do in my life. I laughed. I cried. I almost died. Nothing can compare to the sheer elation and sense of accomplishment upon crossing that finish line!

Best Obstacle: Block Ness Monster
Worst Obstacle: Arctic Enema (BECAUSE I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE)

19. Biggest regret:

Je ne regrette rien.

20. New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Complete Book One of The Mayor
  2. Complete a second draft of The Mayor
  3. Move in with my boyfriend and our menagerie of animals

Bonus! Instagram’s #2017 Best Nine:

BestNine

Happy New Year!

S.E. Berrow


For more information on items, people or bands mentioned in this post, please click the below links:

Music:

http://www.archenemy.net/en/
https://rasputina.com/
http://www.voltaire.net/
http://www.inthismomentofficial.com/
http://www.almanac.band/
http://www.evanescence.com/
http://amaranthe.se/

Books:

http://www.veschwab.com/
http://www.robinhobb.com/
http://sarahjmaas.com/

TV:

https://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones

Madness:

https://toughmudder.co.uk/

‘Rhysand’ fan art is by Taratjah.

Of Gingernut Biscuits and Pirate Doubloons

This July, I won my first ever Camp NaNoWriMo. I feel like I keep participating in these events and failing — which is rather disheartening — so this time I made sure to set myself a realistic goal that I could meet despite having a full-time job, a boyfriend, and a family to placate.  The aim was to write for the equivalent of 1 hour for every day of the month of July. It worked! I smashed it, I had fun, and I’m just that little bit closer to meeting my self-imposed 31st December 2017 deadline for completing a first draft of The Mayor. Hazzah!

Camp NaNoWriMo

Something else cool, my writing partner K.F. Goodacre recently attended a medieval festival called the Loxwood Joust. First of all, can I just say how jealous I am. I love all things medieval (I read Medieval History at University) so it is my fervent hope that I am able to go with her next time. It looked like such amazing fun!

Whilst she was there, she very kindly picked up some homemade gingernut biscuits for me, which were made according to a recipe from the 18th century. The true thoughtfulness of this gesture will be lost on you, Dear Reader, so I will endeavour to explain. Melora  the 18th century protagonist of The Mayor — adores gingernut biscuits. They are her absolute favourite, and I use them as a neat little device for helping her to form bonds with other characters. Kim knew this, so she bought them for me from this festival (not very medieval, I know, but still historical I guess!). They’re so awesome, I’m almost reluctant to eat them. Almost.

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As if that weren’t enough, she also gifted me with a genuine pirate doubloon from a company she has forgotten the name of (I’m trying to find out) who have helped provide productions like Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean with their props. Lookie!

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OK, it’s not actually a doubloon. Real doubloons were made of gold. This is essentially the pirate equivalent of a penny, but it is still beautiful! I love it. It looks very similar to the necklace that my character Nell Shoar wears, wouldn’t you agree?:

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Thank you so much, Kimothy! ♥ I knew you were my writing partner for a reason. Thank you for continuing to inspire and motivate me to write this blasted thing.

Lastly (slightly off-topic) Voltaire’s new album Heart-Shaped Wound dropped on Friday. It. Is. Awesome. Voltaire, for those of you not in the know, is huge news on the Goth scene and his piratey album To The Bottom of the Sea features heavily on the playlist for The Mayor. Decidedly more melancholic and personal than the likes of say, ‘Zombie Prostitute’ and ‘Brains!’, I strongly recommend Heart-Shaped Wound. Please check it out here — it’s on sale and you won’t regret it! It even features the likes of incredible metal vocalist Alissa White-Gluz (now there’s a musical collaboration I definitely didn’t see coming! It’s so good to hear her singing cleans again).

That’s all for now, folks. Take care,

 

S.E. Berrow

Sorceresses, Fools, White Rabbits and Jules: World Book Day Shenanigans

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, on Thursday evening a few friends and I met up for a book-swapping party in honour of World Book Day. In addition to book-swapping, we also dressed up as our favourite literary characters just like hundreds of children across the country were doing for school, because we felt like revisiting our youth.

(I say this like it’s something I used to do as a child, but my school was incredibly boring and never hosted dress-up events on World Book Day. Thus I was super excited to be doing it for the first time!)

My character of choice was Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s excellent Skulduggery Pleasant middle-grade series; a kickass young goth-sorceress who hangs around with a skeleton detective. Below is a picture of what she looks like. Being a kickass young goth-sorceress myself, I think it’s pretty easy to see why I chose her!

Here is what I managed to put together:

To create my Valkyrie look I used a fabulous real-feel synthetic black wig by YOPO Cosplay Wigs for Valkyrie’s signature long black locks. Makeup-wise I painted my entire face –including my lips — with Kat Von D’s Lock It Foundation (Light 42 Neutral) and used no blusher or face contour to get a pale, not-quite-human look. I also used Lipcote lipstick sealer for good measure to make sure the lips stayed pale and weren’t affected by any food or drink I consumed that night. For the eyes, I figured that as a young teenage girl Valkyrie might be more concerned with fighting bad guys than doing her makeup, so I kept it light with contouring shades from Kat Von D’s Shade & Light eye palette in Smoke and just a very sparing application of Buxom Lash Mascara on my upper eyelashes only. Lastly I used the ‘Define’ shade from the Kat Von D palette to darken my eyebrows to match my hair. Then I whacked on a pair of black jeans, black boots, a blood-red T-shirt and a black leather jacket, used a black hair-tie to make Valkyrie’s necromancer ring, grabbed one of my (many) decorative skulls for Skulduggery’s head and off I went!

Here is my book haul for the evening:

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Of the above, I’m most looking forward to reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic which I’ve heard such good things about. I was even more excited after I read the blurb to learn that some of it is set in the 18th century, the same time period that The Mayor is set in. My ‘TBR’ shelf grows ever heavier…

Check out some of the other characters my friends dressed up as below!

mad-fool-cain-julian
From left to right: Maria is the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland; Kim is the Fool from Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy; I am Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series; Cassie is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy.

Did you do anything fun for World Book Day?

S.E. Berrow

 

2016: Year In Review

For me personally, 2016 was a total write-off. I feel like I sleep-walked my way through most of this year. I hardly managed to do any writing, I didn’t do enough exercise, and financially I seem to be worse off than when I started. These last couple of months have been better, because back in late November I decided to ditch the antidepressants I’d been prescribed since 2012. This was because I noticed a direct correlation between taking these tablets and my lethargy levels, which have impacted my weight, work and overall mood. The withdrawal symptoms have been truly godawful, but these have lessened now (if not entirely gone) and my energy levels are way, way up. I still have Bad Brain-Chemistry days, but seeing as my anxiety and depression is active, not reactive, that will always be there; it’s just that I am now armed with the means to deal with it more easily than I was before.

On that positive note, it’s worth remembering that there were some really good things about 2016 amidst all the depressing celebrity death and political upheaval. I list a few of these things below in my annual sum-up (you can read 2015’s effort here). So, without further ado…

1. Album that surpassed all others:

Dirge For The Archons by Diabulus In Musica

dirge-for-the-archons

The Spanish symphonic metallers actually managed to out-Epica Epica this year with their stunning fourth album, Dirge For The Archons. Old-school, stripped-back symphonic goth-metal at its absolute finest.

Favourite tracks: ‘Marble Embrace’, ‘Earthly Illusions’, ‘The Hawk’s Lament’, ‘Zauria’

2. Most missed artists:

Of the numerous celebrity deaths that have occurred this year, none have hit me quite so hard as the very first that was announced. The world is a much bleaker place without David Bowie in it ♥

lazarus

Also the late Andrew Sachs, whose brilliantly quotable work as Manuel in Fawlty Towers continues to take-up a disproportionately large amount my dialogue.

manuel

3. Album that really surprised me:

Lemonade by Beyoncé

lemonade

Where on Earth did this album even come from? It’s rock, it’s roll, it’s blues, it’s full of rawness, empowerment and badassery and I love it. As if that wasn’t enough, it even has contributions from Jack White and the Weeknd on it. Not every song is my cup of tea, but I can totally appreciate every single one of them. Excuse me please, I’m off to join the Beyhive.

Favourite tracks: ‘Formation’, ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ feat. Jack White, ‘6 Inch’ feat. The Weeknd, ‘Daddy Lessons’

4. Person I would most like to have tea with:

I’ve really missed my Southern belle gal pal Lindsay this year. It’s completely rubbish that there is a whole ocean in the way between us. Personally, Lindsay, I think you should take advantage of the rubbish exchange rate and visit Jamie, Jasmin and I in the UK asap!

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5. The things I’ve completely had enough of:

The EU Neverendum, Brexit, the Labour Leadership crisis and the US Presidential election, all of which I’m happy to lay the responsibility of at the feet of our loathesome, unregulated press for bigging up the most vile, odious little toad that ever stepped foot on the political stage: Nigel not-even-an-elected-MP fucking Farage.

Also a lack of funds, but that’s just an inherent part of life that I am slowly learning to live with.

6. The thing I wish I had bought myself but didn’t:

One word: shelves.

7. Page-turner:

This is a tough one for me to pick this year… My reading habits were largely dictated by the Mr B’s reading subscription that Mark bought me for last Christmas so I didn’t read as much as I normally would have. One book really sticks out in my memory though, and that’s because it had such a profound impact on the way I think about the meat industry.

Under The Skin by Michel Faber

Under The Skin

Click here to read my 3/5 star book review (although looking back on it now, I’d definitely rate it higher).

8. Album that stirred my soul:

Paper Dolls by Ayria

paper-dolls

Released early in 2016, Canadian industrial act Ayria’s fifth album was almost prophetic in its pessimism of the year to come:

“You’ve broken her,
Crushed her will,
Maybe for all future generations.
It’s too late to say that you’re sorry
For taking her down with mob mentality.
She could have ruled the world,
But we fed her to the wolves
Because we all abhor it,
Our vanity, it kills.
We left her there as a warning in case it wasn’t clear.
Don’t misunderstand: we rule by fear.”

Favourite tracks: ‘Underneath The Water’, ‘Feed Her To The Wolves’, ‘Chameleon’, ‘Sticks And Stones’

9. Album that made me smile:

The Shadow Self by Tarja.

the-shadow-self

It is impossible to listen to the Imaginaerum-esque lilt of Nightwish kiss-off  track ‘Diva’ and not smile.

Favourite tracks: ‘Supremacy’, ‘Diva’, ‘Too Many’, ‘Demons In You’ (feat. Alissa White-Gluz)

10. Most stylish person:

This year I have been taking all my style cues from a Epica’s Simone Simons — she was totally rocking the blue lipstick in Epica’s ‘Edge Of The Blade’ video; I have worn Kat Von D’s Studded Kiss lipstick in ‘Poe’ almost exclusively this year as a direct result — and Charlotte Wessels, whose ombre-pink hair I have shamelessly copied in recent weeks.

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11. Best ‘thing’:

It feels a bit weird calling a living creature a thing, but that would of course be my new shelter kitten Edgar. Even though he is a brat who wakes me up before my alarm goes off in the morning, perpetually pesters Petra and destroys my beautiful black and white-striped wallpaper, he is also a cuddly, needy, purry little beast and I absolutely adore him.

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12. Favourite visual feast:

Gosh, there are so many contenders for this award this year: the music video for Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’; the ‘Pretty Lavinia’ video by American Murder Song, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Rise Of The Tomb Raider and the gorgeous Skyrim remastered edition for PS4…

I think I’m going to have to give this particular award to the final scene of Episode 5 in Game of Thrones, Season 6. I cried to the point of being sick.

hodor

13. Best fictional character since Sirius Black:

Lara Croft, aka. the Tomb Raider, who turned 20 this year!

lara-croft-20-years-of-tomb-raider

14. Coolest rock star:

The super talented Kat Von D, who finally, finally released her incredible make-up line in the UK this year exclusively at Debenhams. No more international trips to Sephora for my poor put-upon mother! I wear a lot of dark eye make-up and bold lipsticks, so for me her make-up is just perfect, and it’s all completely cruelty-free too ♥

kat-von-d

Kat also just seems so super nice and amazingly passionate about everything she does and I love that about her. Plus her cats are just the most gorgeous creatures I have ever seen:

poe-and-piaf

In fact, sorry Kat, but I’m going to name Poe and Piaf as this year’s coolest rock stars in your place. Is that allowed? Too late, it’s done.

15. Best gig:

Delain at the KOKO, Camden (13 November).

delain-mine

So much fun! You can read my review of the night here.

16. Most special moment:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-01-54-49

This one ♥

Also going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with my jammy friend Michael who won us an incredible pair of front-row tickets on the Friday Forty back in July:

the-cursed-child

17. Song of the year:

I’m going to defy convention. There will be no song of the year this year. Instead, there shall be…

17. PODCAST OF THE YEAR!

My Dad Wrote A Porno by Jamie Morton, James Cooper, Alice Levine and Rocky Flintstone.

my-dad-wrote-a-porno

If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, oh my goodness, you simply must. The very first episode had me in tears of laughter on my daily commute. Literally, there were actual tear tracks running down my face as I struggled to contain the laughter in public. The really great thing is, everyone around me was doing the same thing. Everyone in London is listening to My Dad Wrote A PornoEveryone.

Come, join the esteemed ranks of Elijah Wood, Daisy Ridley and yours truly… Become a Belinker today!

18. Biggest achievement:

Running the 5K Colour Run in the Summer and also helping to raise so much money for Battersea Dogs & Cats with my tea party.

19. Biggest regret:

 

The fact that I didn’t put as much effort into reducing my credit card bills as much as I should have.

20. New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Get healthy and fit in plenty of time for Tough Mudder in September.
2. Buy a house with my boyfriend and move in with our menagerie of animals.
3. Write Book One of The Mayor.

Bonus! Instagram’s #2016Best Nine:

 

14a4e19f-ceaf-4910-8f3f-24dddc19d497
Happy New Year!

S.E. Berrow


For more information on items, people or bands mentioned in this post, please click the below links.

Music:

http://diabulusinmusica.com/
http://legacy.davidbowie.com/
http://www.beyonce.com/
http://www.ayria.com/
http://tarjaturunen.com/
https://americanmurdersong.com/

http://www.delain.nl/

Books:

http://www.michelfaber.com/
http://www.mydadwroteaporno.com/

Games:

http://www.tombraider.com
https://elderscrolls.bethesda.net/skyrim/

Theatre, Film & TV:

https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/
http://www.fantasticbeasts.com/

http://www.gameofthrones.com/

Style & Beauty:

http://www.smoonstyle.com/
http://www.katvondbeauty.com/


Note: The original ‘Year In Review’ structure and the vast majority of my questions were shamelessly stolen from a MySpace blog post written by the inimitable Darren Hayes many years ago. So old is it that I’m not even sure the post exists anymore (I can’t find it regardless)! You can find out more about Darren Hayes and his wonderful effervescent self here:

http://darrenhayes.com/

Merry Belated Christmas!

focks
Me on Christmas morning… do you like my focks?

Once again I find myself bestowing festive greetings upon my followers a full five days after the big event, but better late than never! I hope you all had a simply marvellous time and that Father Christmas brought you lots of lovely, wonderful things ♥

Once again I threw myself upon the mercy of my boyfriend’s family as my own abandoned me for some winter sun. I have been promised that next year things will be different as my mum has put her foot down and demanded a Christmas at home next year (a likely story!).

As is to be expected, I was yet again spoiled rotten, Mark’s mum even going so far as to cook me a delicious nut roast for my Christmas dinner… It was absolutely delicious, and I believe I will be eating the leftovers from now until forever. Thank you so much, Wheeler family!

Some of the beautiful gifts I received:

  • Vaara perfume from Penhaligon’s from Mark’s incredibly naughty mum
  • Some fantastic cookbooks from my parents (including Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward)
  • Some money from my nan, which I have used to buy some more perfume from the Body Shop, a new pair of pyjamas, and some new make-up from Kat Von D.
  • A trip down memory lane from my sister in the form of The Great Animal Search (Georgia and I loved this book when we were little, and then my dad accidentally left it behind in a Floridian pizza hut somewhere)
  • A 6-month renewal of my Mr B’s Reading subscription
  • A skull-shaped tea infuser from Mark’s sister
  • A ton of tea from T2

And, the best thing, from my boyfriend who likes to spoil me rotten…

MY DREAM TEA SET ♥

iggy-and-loulou-teaset

I am not kidding you, I took the above photograph back in July for posterity, back when owning this incredible designer teaset by Iggy and Loulou from T2 was but a distant dream. I literally believed that I was photographing art. If it were possible to take my brain and transform it into a tea set, this would be it. Black and white porcelain with rustic etchings of anchors, birds, 18th century dancing figures… the teapot lid even has a skull on top.

iggy-and-loulou-teapot

You see this picture here? Unlike the previous image, these photos were taken from inside my own home. That’s right. Thanks to Mark, I am now the proud owner of this incredible tea set! I can’t believe it! What do I do with it? I don’t even know. It’s too beautiful to use. I’ve had to put it away in a box to stop Edgar from smashing it into a million pieces. It needs its own cabinet! It needs to be on display for the whole world to see! Oh my goodness, I’m so excited.

Thank you so, so much, my darling! I love you so, so much and thank you to everyone else for all your thoughtful, wonderful gifts ♥

Tomorrow marks the very end of the rubbish year that has been 2016. As yet my plans are a bit up in the air but, if you guys are going out to celebrate, remember to stay safe as always and I hope that you have a very, very Happy New Year!

Here’s to a more positive and productive 2017. Cheers!

S.E. Berrow

The Color Run™ and Me

It’s been a busy last few weeks and I fear that I have been burning the candles at both ends. Is it perhaps the time of year? The disgusting UK humidity (we gothic-types do not do well in Summer and heat)? Work has been pretty full on and I haven’t had much time to rest on my weekends… Case and point being last Sunday (4 September), in which I took part in The Color Run™ Presented By Skittles. This is a 5K run in which participants turn up at the starting line in a plain-white T and get splattered with coloured paint powder every 1km. I was invited along by some of my work colleagues a mere three weeks before the event took place at the London O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula, and I did fear for a little while that I had taken total leave of my senses for the following reasons:

  1. I didn’t think I could run 5km without training.
  2. Despite knowing this, I still didn’t train because I am a masochist.
  3. I hate wearing colour. My aesthetic is somewhat gothic, it’s just not my thing, OK?
  4. More than wearing colour, possibly more than anything else… I hate mess!

Well, as it turns out, I actually can run 5km — albiet very slowly — and being spattered in colour and mess is actually a lot of fun! OK, so my hands did feel all grimy and gross as my sweat mixed with the powder and became poster paint, but I did shower immediately as soon as I got home and it was one of the best showers I’ve ever taken, so it was worth it.

the-color-run

The Color Run™, founded in the USA, host a number of 5K running events across 60 different countries. The next UK event is taking place in Brighton on Saturday 17 September with more to follow, so if you get the chance, head on over to their website and see if there’s a run coming up soon near you. Speaking as someone who by no means runs long-distance on a regular basis, anyone — and I mean anyone — can take part in this event. I saw kids about a third of my height taking part, and there was even someone just doing the whole thing in a motorised wheelchair. It’s not a race, it’s just a bit of fun for a good cause!

Money was raised from the event towards the official charity sponsor, the NSPCC. I also set up a Just Giving Page to raise a bit of extra money for them, so if you are feeling charitable, please do consider donating either by pressing the Just Giving button on the right-hand side of this screen, or by clicking here.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Visit The Color Run™ official websites to sign up to an event near you:

http://thecolorrun.com/ – USA (main website, with links to other countries)
http://thecolorrun.co.uk/ – UK

NSPCC’s website:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

My Just Giving page:

www.justgiving.com/seemerunincolour

A Few Things to be Excited About!

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.44.50
Highlights from the beautiful Vatican City, Italy, including Michaelangelo’s Pièta, the Swiss guard and the simply gorgeous artwork in St Peter’s Basilica, all of which is mosaic.

I have just returned from my holiday – a rather swanky trip around Europe on the biggest cruiseship in the world, Harmony of the Seas, with my  lovely boyfriend Mark and my cruise-addicted parents. We set sail from Barcelona, stopping in Parma, Marseilles, La Spezia, Rome and Naples. It was bloody hot and extremely expensive, however there was much history to observe and lots of antiquity and culture to immerse ourselves in. My day on the Imperial Rome tour with Mark was without a doubt the best day, visiting such major sites as St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Alas however, the holiday is now over (which is probably for the best because Mark and I were spending a fortune…) and I am now back at home with my wee beasties Petra and Edgar, whom my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre has been looking after in my absence. I have to admit, it is very nice to be home! It’s just such a shame that my holiday can’t go on a little longer.

This also now means that I can crack back on with my Camp NaNoWriMo project, which I have extended by a week to make up for the time I lost whilst on holiday. Wish me luck! K.F. Goodacre promised to write me a torture scene if I meet my word goal.

In addition to looking after my cats and house, K.F. Goodacre also went to the Young Adult Lit Con (YALC) on Saturday and waited in line to meet Derek Landy for 50 minutes just to get my first-edition hardback of Skulduggery Pleasant and a flyer for #SPX signed by the man himself! Isn’t she wonderful? Thank you so much, Kimothy!

Finally, more exciting news, Epica’s new track ‘Universal Death Squad’ dropped on Friday and pre-orders have been opened for their upcoming album The Holographic Principledue to be released 30 September later this year!

Of course I immediately downloaded the song as soon as I got home, listened and then treated myself to this baby:

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 23.08.58
THP Deluxe Boxet Bundle

First impressions of the song so far is that the instrumentals sound great. There is a stunning piano bit right in the middle that just blows my mind, with some stirring choir pieces and a real orchestra at last ♥ Initially I felt that Simone’s vocal melodies were quite weak, but after watching the full lyric video I’ve decided that they fit. Literally, the song is about a draconic takeover by a technologically advanced robotic race, however knowing Epica this undoubtedly has a double-meaning. Cyber and drone warfare? The internet of things? The zombifying effects of political apathy? Watch and listen below and decide for yourself:

And now, if you don’t mind, it’s been a very long day, I’ve been up since 4:30am GMT time, and I am absolutely knackered. Time for me to get some sleep so that I awake fresh and eager for a new working week tomorrow.

Goodnight and take care,

S.E. Berrow


For pics of my cruise around Europe, please feel free to visit my Instagram. See such wonderful things as a Whirling Dervish, molecular gastronomy, badly-assembled balloon animals and perfectly preserved porn from a Pompeii brothel:

https://www.instagram.com/sallyella79/

For more information about Derek Lady and #spx, visit Derek’s blog:

http://dereklandy.blogspot.co.uk/

For more information about Epica, please visit their website:

http://www.epica.nl/

Gothic Adventures in Nottingham

I can’t believe this was over a month ago now, but I wanted to talk about how I spent much of the Easter weekend in Nottingham with my good friends Beth and Mandy. Beth and Mandy are both still at university doing their History PhDs (poor things) so we were looking to celebrate the end of term in style! We did this by attending an Amorphis gig at the Rescue Rooms on Good Friday, visiting the Kitty Café on Saturday, and then checking out The Pit and The Pendulum pub on Easter Sunday.


Amorphis

We had briefly seen Amorphis support Nightwish at Wembley Arena, 19 December 2015, however back then we had only managed to catch the tail-end of their setlist, much to Beth and Mandy’s disappointment. It was good to see them play a full gig of their own this time. Though I have been known to blast a bit of ‘Bad Blood’ upon occasion, I am not particularly au fait with Amorphis’ stuff and due to some train issues (i.e. it never showed up) we also missed both support acts, so I didn’t feel qualified to write a full gig review. What I did see and experience however was quite good, though not especially distinctive or exciting. Amorphis have a very steady, rhythmic sound that blends death and prog metal with folklore-based lyrics, specifically taking inspiration from the Kalevala; the Epic Poem of their home-country, Finland. Whilst I had a lot of fun and it was by no means a bad show, I feel as though I may as well have gone home and put one of their albums on. They were technically very good, but the sound and performance were very rote; not dramatic enough for my personal tastes. I did manage to dig up a copy of their setlist for the night though, so if they sound like your bag check out the below. I recommend ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Death Of A King’, both of which were gig highlights:

Amorphis1. Under The Red Cloud
2. Sacrifice
3. Bad Blood
4. Sky Is Mine
5. The Wanderer
6. On Rich And Poor
7. Drowned Maid
8. Dark Path
9. The Four Wise Ones
10. Silent Waters
11. My Kantele
12. Hopeless Days
13. House Of Sleep

Encore:

14. Death of a King
15. Silver Bride
16. The Smoke

 

Amorphis, Nottingham, Rescue Rooms

Verdict: 3/5


Kitty Café

The following day, we all had a bit of headbanger’s neck, so we took it easy in the morning, mainlining episodes of How To Make A Murderer on Netflix before making our way into town for the thing I’d been looking forward to most about my visit… lunch at the The Kitty Café!

Kitty Café

Cat cafés, for those who don’t know, are places that serve up food and drink – often of the high tea variety – to customers whilst they are surrounded by adorable rescue cats, all of which are up for adoption. The concept originated in Japan – because all things cute, crazy and a little bit genius start there – and since then, they’ve begun to spring up all over the place.

Kitty Café - catsObviously, if you’re planning on visiting a cat café, make sure they’re reputable and put the health and well-being of the cats first (I’ve read some real horror stories). In keeping with this, the Kitty Café in Nottingham has strict rules about what will and will not be tolerated during your stay. It was very clean environment with a calm, relaxed atmosphere, and the cats were all very contented. A £5 donation fee was charged upon entrance (£3 for concessions), and then the food and drink was all very reasonably priced inside. I had a pot of tea to myself, with an absolutely enormous tuna and caramelised onion melt topped off with an indulgent slice of banoffee pie. It was absolutely delicious! On our way out I also bought a branded teacup and a cute cat scarf as souvenirs, the proceeds of which go towards the welfare of kitties.

The only downside of our visit was that due to the place being so completely booked up, we only had a time limit of one hour to enjoy ourselves. Still, it was more than enough time to eat our food and we had an absolutely lovely time. I cannot recommend it enough! ♥


The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the PendulumLast on our list of must-see places to visit whilst in Nottingham was the Victorian-style Eerie pub, The Pit and the Pendulum.

We went here for lunch on the Easter Sunday, shortly before Mandy and I departed by train to our respective home towns. Considering that we had positively gorged ourselves on take-away pizzas and oily curries already that weekend, I’m not sure any of us were in the mood for a greasy pub lunch… Nevertheless, the pilgrimage had to be made! Named after a short story about dread and torment by horror writer Edgar Allan Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum is a gothic themed pub run by alternative members of staff decorated in the style of a torture chamber. As well as stone walls, heavy gothic tables and chairs and artwork paying homage to Poe all over the walls, there is an actual pit with a great bladed pendulum hanging from the ceiling in the spiral stairwell.

PendulumIf I am honest, the food in here was not that great. I had a fish finger sandwich and it was pretty dry and dire. However, it was lunchtime on an Easter Sunday – the town was completely dead – so the kitchen probably resented us being there at all. I have been well assured by Beth that the place really comes alive at night, and they specialise in gothic club nights and a couple of drinking challenges called The 7 Deadly Sins and The 7 Contrary Virtues (you get a T-shirt for completing them). A return visit is definitely on the menu!

Many thanks to Beth and Mandy for a wonderful Easter weekend. I had so much fun and hope to do something equally as awesome soon.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


For more information on the locations that we visited, please visit the below links:

http://www.rescuerooms.com/
https://kittycafe.co.uk/
http://www.eerie-pubs.co.uk/pit-pendulum

Amorphis’ official website:

http://www.amorphis.net/

Fancy a listen? Check out these officially-released videos from their latest album, Under The Red Cloud:

‘Sacrifice’: https://youtu.be/oiOX2axSWvg
‘Death Of A King’: https://youtu.be/Kc-gEds3eTM
‘The Four Wise Ones’: https://youtu.be/nkqj4vbwdIw

All photos included in this blog were taken by me, except the photos of Amorphis which were taken from the band’s official Facebook page.