Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bucks & Budgets

I've been stressing about money again.

I always stress about money, often without any real cause, but when I'm travelling it tends to be a bit worse. When I actually embark on the adventure I'm usually fine and all my worries seem to mostly have folded under the excitement of the trip, but that doesn't stop me from freaking out a little during the booking and planning stage.

When it comes to holidays I'm rather inclined to say that I'm pretty good at booking and planning. The only problem is I'm usually a little less realistic about the fiscal side of things than I probably should be. When I have enough money and time, like I usually do nowadays with work (oddly), I'm all for booking ALL the things, going ALL the places, seeing ALL the things...regardless of the cost with the intention to think about it later.

It's sometimes like shooting myself in the foot with a sleep dart, temporarily dangerous but wears off eventually.

When I travel I usually spend more than I intend - ask anyone, frugality is not my strong point. I'm constantly sacrificing in order to spend more. Food, for that matter, is the first budget to get sliced on the road. If there is a musical I want to see or some other sort of activity I've stumbled across you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to forgo munchies in order to do more stuff. The way I travel its really not fair that I'm not a lot skinnier than I am: I walk everywhere (daringly at night, as well), eat like a bird and never stop moving to eradicate time wasting. I read on the Tube like a normal person - If I want to lie by the pool with a cocktail and read, I'll just do it at home. Relaxation holidays are not really my thing when I live minutes from the beach I get bored quickly from inactivity.

The problem I've sort of thrust myself into now is having gotten overexcited, booked ALL the flights and then realised that my initial budget is not really going to cover me enough. I've already decided I'm not going to be crazy shopping this time around - I'll be home for Christmas and not buying all my presents abroad - but even I have to eat sometimes in the four and a half weeks I'll be away. I was up late last night thinking about how I was realistically going to be able to afford everything when I still had accommodation, flights to South America, and my Inca Trail trip that need to be booked and paid for. I really am one to bite off more than I can chew sometimes.

But like everything else I know it's going to be fine - I'll pull a rabbit out of a hat again like I always do, and I'm going to end up with plenty of money in the end. Instead I shouldn't be worrying about expenditure when I have altitude sickness, hiking equipment and baggage allowances I should be factoring into my planning.

Also Disneyland. I'm LA bound again after my sudden hankering to return to the Mouse City a couple of weeks ago. See? Didn't I tell you I'd make it back there sometime soon? ;-)

Whilst I'm stressing more than I should be about funds right now, things are more than likely going to be fine. My flights are already booked, which is always the most expensive part, so from here on out things are just going to wind down to the finer details. Besides, when adventure calls, what super human am I to really exist?

I'll never be able to sit still.
#SummerMisadventure2013-14

Sam xox

How NOT to be a femme fatale

I like to think that if my life was a TV show, It would be called the Misadventures of Sam.

Basically, my daily fails would translate pretty nicely into the script of a Romantic-Comedy...except, you know, without the romance. But you know what I mean.

Television and movies like to promote the attractiveness and personality of a certain kind of woman: the femme fatale. Basically this is a woman who knows her way around a razor,always emerges with cool clothes and perfect hair, works out, has a good self esteem, is proud, stands up for herself, and emits a kind of sultry sexuality. Picture the likes of Carrie Bradshaw, Lara Croft, Rachel Green and Buffy Summers. Whilst all these characters do have their faults, their confidence in their femininity is never one of them.

Female sexuality, feminine grace and effortless womanhood are things that Hollywood and society like to make us think are the way women should be. And by all means, sometimes we should, but what gets glossed over, particularly in the more serious and dramatic genres, is that women fail too.

Have you ever tried to wax yourself? I have - failed quite dramatically. Painting nails? Failed that too. Makeup? Some days I'm lucky I don't leave the house looking like Pennywise from IT. Feminine grace? I'm not even sure that's a real thing - at least I certainly don't have it.

I am by no means the image of a red-dress wearing, big-lipped, sultry femme fatale. I'm not sure I could be even if I tried. But my question is this: how many women actually are?

Strike Hollywood starlets and socialites off the list, first of all. Those women often have personal trainers, gym buddies, make up artists, hair stylists and personal shoppers. Some economise and do it themselves, but when it comes to red carpet events or social agenda you can bet your bottom dollar that the polished look and grace is not due to natural feminism. Those women trip over their shoes, too. Embarrassing and awkward things do happen to them just like everyone else; one famous example is perhaps the unfortunate fashion event fiasco that happened to Jennifer Hawkins a couple of years ago. If Miss Universe's skirt can fall off on the runway, us mere mortals can breathe a little easier.

What about characters? Firstly, they're not real. Film editors and script writers put in a lot of hours to give their characters the perfect lines and stories, they don't just come up with them on the spot like in the real world. The same with hair, make up, clothing - those are tailored from the get go. Rule number one of being a real woman - no woman roles out of bed with perfect make up on in the real world. If you went to bed with make up on and don't wake up with panda eyes then thank your lucky stars, don't worry about not looking flawless that early. If there's a man there, then he should consider himself lucky to be there anyway, and trust me, I'm sure your slightly smudged make up probably isn't going to be the first thing on his mind.

Femme fatales are all well and good in movies - but they just don't exist in the real world. No woman can possibly be like that all the time. Just think about the logistics of that sort of situation; all the hours spent putting clothes, flawless make up and hair together, salon-grade wax and nail jobs at every turn, never tripping down the stairs in heels....they sound like aliens to me. Aliens who have no souls and feel no pain.

Real women, I like to think, are more like the ones in Romantic-Comedies. Or like my personal favourite feminine role model, Bridget Jones.



See this? Right here?

Bridget is 'every woman'. She is the perfect epitome of failing with style, and she incorporates so many issues that women face daily in the effort to appear, well, effortless. Think of the scene where she's getting ready for the work function: she waxes (with swearing and cursing), curls her hair in rollers, practices pronouncing big words to impress the man she likes (in the effort to appear smarter - whilst vaccuuming, I might add), and decides to wear the iconic 'big knickers' to make her look slimmer in her little black dress. Now that is what being a woman is all about. 

No, I don't mean wearing big knickers or doing the hoovering whilst learning to impress your man - rather, running around like a headless chicken in the effort to appear smooth and graceful. We may not all do it in the same way, but we all do it. Bridget is just a charming iconic figure that embodies all these female misadventures that we both wish we didn't face and like to pretend we don't. We often go to so much effort to look effortlessly femme fatale that we sometimes end up on the couch with or without a bottle of wine (or vodka) in our pyjamas. 


Part of what makes Bridget so amusing, inspiring and relatable all at the same time is the fact that she is just the kind of woman we can all be. She faffs about, fails and constantly stumbles from one misadventure to the next whether it's being caught out on a bluff in front of her boss, falling ass-first onto a camera off a fireman's pole, or just generally not being able to cook. But although we see all those things, Darcy and Cleaver don't. Obviously they see some - Bridget's not perfect - but sometimes all her efforts to seem graceful and feminine really do pay off. Her big knickers got her a boyfriend (who wasn't fooled, but was touched), her ridiculous birthday feast gave Darcy a chance to prove he was a good guy and gave them the opportunity to bond, and her law ball make up fail showed us that flawless make up application was definitely not a god-given gift to women. 

So, ladies, don't stress. So what if your hair gets super windblown or you can't wax properly? There's professionals for that. Fell off the treadmill at the gym trying to impress a hottie? Plenty of us have been there. Can't sing karaoke? People shouldn't under the influence and expect to sound good anyway.

Forget the femme fatale image - it's just a sham most days. Just be yourselves, like Bridget Jones. It's exhausting trying to look and act so polished and perfectly feminine all the time. Men shouldn't judge us, and we shouldn't judge ourselves, for ending up on the couch in our pyjamas with a bottle of wine. 

After all, I'd rather be like Bridget Jones than Carrie Bradshaw anyway. She's much more fun. 

Sam xox



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Presence in the Basement

I have always believed in ghosts. 

Our new office in the heart of Fremantle was once a majestic old manor, constructed in the 19th century it stands to date as an architectural monument to times gone by. We moved in in July, and from the minute I stepped into the place I figured there was probably something there. Nothing got to me right away, even the basement in all its creepy glory didn't entirely make me want to cry (of course I refused to go down there ever alone; there seemed no use encouraging anything when the light hardly works and the door can't be opened from the inside). So for the most part despite the creepy basement and the crumbling old manor exterior I decided I rather liked the new place, I'd even been alone in the building before.

Until today.

Sitting at my desk at six o'clock, I decided to keep on for another half hour before heading home. I had a little bit of work left, and figured I could knock it off quickly. I phoned the security company to say I'd be another half hour before engaging the alarm, and settled in to write. Everyone had left already, the last person leaving a full hour earlier, and so I was - not for the first time - totally alone in the building.

Deciding to get rid of my coffee cup sooner rather than later, I took it to the kitchen to rinse out and standing at the sink my hackles rose like a shot. My heart started to pound, my breath became shallow. I couldn't turn around, knowing almost for sure that there was something behind me in the kitchen. I made crappy work of the cup, just needing to get away, and raced back for my desk to try to calm down. But I couldn't - my heartbeat didn't even out, my breathing wouldn't return to normal, and try as I might I couldn't concentrate on the work I had been doing. After all, how hard would it have been for something to follow me from the kitchen?

The sun had started to go down, the feeling intensified until I could no longer stand it. In about sixty seconds I had snapped shut my computer, thrown everything into my bag, pulled the blinds down, engaged the alarm and raced out the door and halfway down the street away from the building.

It took most of the drive home to calm down entirely.

Ever since I can remember I've believed that there is more to death then simply ceasing to exist, and whilst I'm not religious at all, I'd call myself spiritual or a believer.

But the reason I believe in ghosts so passionately is because of the way I feel; I tend to feel things very deeply, whether it's a crush, or taking a mean word too much to heart, or an incredible happiness. Indeed, I am passionate in all ways, good or bad, and I think I can be very empathic. But when it comes to the spirit world being empathic is very risky.

For one thing I'm not cut out for being a mediator or making friends with Casper. I'm no Cole Sear, I don't communicate with the dead or see dead people on a regular basis, but what I do do is feel them.

There have been times when I've been somewhere, usually alone, that the hair on the back of my neck has suddenly begun to rise and my heart has begun to race. I'll be calm and collected, but suddenly I'm heading for a cold sweat and I can't breathe - a panic attack will start to rise in my throat and I need to put distance between me and wherever I was. I may have been there for hours, but surrounded by people, and as night has descended or people have left, it's opened the door for something else to join me.

Other times It's happened immediately; I've tried to walk into an old building, or into a room and I've stopped in the doorway, or at the base of the staircase unable to physically make myself go any further. Sometimes I'll think I'm being silly, laugh at myself and try to shrug it off, tell myself just to go there but every time I'll stop at the same spot and not be able to keep going.

I've seen things before, not regularly, although it isn't that I see things that makes me so nervous. I almost want to see something because it would be a greater proof to myself that I wasn't crazy, that what I am feeling is most definitely real because I know it is. It has happened too many times, in too many places, for it to be just in my head.

I can't make you believe me, or make you understand - some people just don't believe in spirits and never will - but what I can say is this: I firmly believe that there is more to the world than most people see, seeing is not always believing, and just because you can't see, touch or hear something doesn't always mean that it isn't there.

I've watched a lot of shows on the topic from Ghost Hunters to Ghost Adventures, the Dead Files to Scary But True, and I've done a lot of research as well, but no amount of information can really prepare you for the reality. In fact, with so many conflicting theses and treatises circulating the globe, it's difficult to even know what to look for or what you're looking at. Scientific attempts to explain the after life have given us the impression of electro-magnetic forces causing cold spots, dramatic changes in temperature, or remnant signatures of human activity leaving an impression on a place the way a fingerprint would. Or, in a different context, the supernatural presence of spirits may be caused by unfinished business or confusion; victims of murder or similar violent crimes may wander looking for understanding, resolution or revenge.

Even the types of spirits vary depending on who you read or what you watch: remnant signatures may simply play out a scene, reliving the same moment over and over again like that of the ill-fated Catherine Howard. There are the poltergeists, often created by a strong emotion that affects the real world, or mischievous spirits like Peeves. And, of course, there are the sentient ghosts who range greatly in terms of what it is they want, how they act and to what extent they can manipulate electro-magnetic or kinetic or whatever kind of energy to cause trouble for the living.

Even, sometimes, demons or other such negative entities that may not have ever actually been alive. Shadow men, or spectres.

People have tried to capture them on film or record EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), communicate using Ouija boards, and summon them using psychics, mediums or seances. Technology is evolving all the time to accommodate for the ghost hunters that make it their mission to prove the existence of spirits to the world once and for all, debunking all they can along the way. Zak Bagans and Nick Groff, for example, never give up on their quest to capture evidence. Or even Ed and Lorraine Warren, who dedicated their lives to helping people haunted by the things that can't always be explained or defined. Even I and those with me at the time have felt something, seen the corresponding photography that couldn't be justified as something normal - a photo I still have that mirrors the feeling of terrified unease I had Hampton Court when the sun began to set.

I am not alone in believing. You don't have to agree, but it doesn't make me crazy or naive or stupid or imagining things. There may well be more out there than we know, it's a big world. There's still so much we don't understand.

I can feel it.

Sam xox

The Tanner Syndrome

Everyone has their idea of a perfect mate.

Men and women, gay or straight, we all have an internal checklist of what it is we want from a partner, and whether we like to admit it or not we score people on it. Sometimes people will do badly, or sometimes they'll be great, but the point is the idea of the 'perfect man' (or woman) is definitely one that we all share.

Since I was a lot younger, I've always had an image of what my perfect man would be like; from the innocent Prince Charming fantasies of my childhood, to the more mature standards of my adulthood, the checklist of what I wanted was always there.

Everyone's standards are different, although I'd suppose mine are particularly high because of the way that I view the world, and so the pressure for me to have items checked off of my list can sometimes bowl me over. Perfection itself is a concept that is entirely subjective to the likes, dislikes and expectations of those concerned. For example, my perfect man might not be the same as someone else's and I personally may not be every man's idea of a perfect woman. But that's ok, because at the core of it no one is actually perfect, only the way that they are perceived may be construed as perfect by a special someone that thinks you are as such. Eye of the beholder and all that; someone may not be perfect exactly, but they can be perfect for you.

The idea of the Tanner Syndrome came to me when I was about 16; I had had so many dreams about a faceless guy who was always there, the same one who was the answer to all my fantasies and daydreams. Whilst psychology is an interest, as a field of study or profession it is not something I've ever really pursued yet, so forgive me if what I'm attempting to describe is a registered psychosis already by a different name.

The name 'Tanner', comes from the first real dream I had that left me feeling overly fluttery and heart-melty that I can remember, even to this day, in total clarity. It was the name I finally gave to that elusive, shadowy figure I'd never really seen clear enough before. It wasn't the name he gave me, not at all, but it was the name that came to me afterwards and just seemed right. So for years it's stuck.

The important thing I need to mention here is that Tanner doesn't actually exist in reality, and I know that, he does however exist in a sort of spirit form which is where I'll get to the psychological nature of the Syndrome itself; the ideal of a perfect man exists, as does a perfect man for me, but not as a living breathing person named Tanner who I've met before in my dreams.

The best way to describe the Tanner Syndrome, is as if Tanner were a spirit; you can add any dramatic back story to it you like (try reincarnation). As a spirit, Tanner is occasionally able to possess a living male and which is how we meet, under the guise of someone new and as I get to know this new person he seems for a short while to be the perfect man, Tanner. This is about the time that I fall into infatuation thinking that this new person is who I want to be with. But possessions can't last forever, and Tanner will have to return to whatever dimension or plane or realm he's from leaving me with a crush on someone who was never this perfect man I thought they were. Instead, I'm left with an idealised image of them in my mind that they can't live up to. Relations between us start to falter because it hurts me so deeply, and once again I am left feeling bereft that once again this intangible, elusive being is out of my reach.

The Tanner Syndrome is purely my way of attempting to rationalise and explain a feeling that I have when I start to fancy someone new; as I get to know them they seem so perfect for me, I want to learn all about them, we have so much in common, and once again it seems like I've finally met someone. But as time goes on and little idiosyncrasies or feelings or even the way that they treat me starts to weigh me down, I begin to think that they aren't who I first thought they were, and maybe they're not as good for me as I'd first thought. And then I have to slowly let go, which breaks my heart a little every time, the loss of hope and a fantasy that made me once feel happy or loved is suddenly gone. Tanner, as always, can never stay.

Am I making sense to you? I'm at a loss for any better way to describe it; it's always been something that was felt or just happened, never something I'd needed to explain to someone before. In fact, I don't entirely know why the need to do so now. Maybe because I'm trying to condition myself better, or to change my attitude and view of the world. My standards really are so high, how can anyone really ever live up to them? Even though no one seems to want to try.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. - William Shakespeare.

Sam xox


Monday, September 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Here, Pretty Kitty.

Well, It's still not November yet and truth be told I'm starting to get jittery with all the waiting! At this rate, the book is going to be halfway done before NaNo even starts!

So, in the spirit of impatience, here's a little teaser of something I wrote on the plane last week. I'll probably keep it going on the plane home today. Or read some Agatha Christie and eat a pie. Whatever.

Sam xox



In which Eleanor has depression, get's a rude awakening and meets Rory. 

Word Count: 8,148

Leaving Starbuck’s after her office date with Jazz was harder than it should have been. Considering her new penchant for roaming the streets of London alone at night, Eleanor was reluctant to go home straight away; the further she was both in time and place from the meeting, the lower her mood seemed to drop.
                Eleanor’s depression was not the worst out there, and having it didn’t mean she couldn’t smile. She could, and did most often, but she didn’t always want to. Instead what it truly meant for her was, despite all the good she had, tried to be and was, Eleanor got down and stayed there.
                During a mood drop, like this one, nothing short of an explosion of sensation or Disney could bring her out of her mood. When she was down, 98% of the time Eleanor didn’t even want to be picked up. Like a demon she controlled and controlled her, or a parasite that caged her happiness, it really wasn’t just something that could be pushed to the back of her mind. The well-meant ‘cheer up’ speech she’d heard one too many times had started to become an insult by those who couldn’t understand.
                Rounding a corner into Piccadilly Circus, Eleanor felt a little better being in the heart of the city’s hub. At least until she noticed out of the corner of her eye a store mannequin turn to watch her as she passed a shop window.
                Between the sunflower back at Starbuck’s and now this, what started as an amused thought that she was going crazy was starting to become a serious concern.
                She halted and looked back; the mannequin was frozen, its creepy pale arms held aloft. It didn’t look like it had moved. So, she continued on.
                Passing another store, Eleanor noticed the same thing happening again and again. She continued to look back every time, but like the game ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’ she used to play as a little girl when she looked back directly at them the mannequins had frozen.
                “Something’s really not right here,” she murmured under her breath. “It’s really not.”
                She picked up the pace a bit and began to hop-skip almost towards the tube station, half-stumbling down the stairwell and into a crowd of commuters gathered there. Still she felt watched.
                Scanning the miserable January crow, Eleanor tried to pick up on anything suspicious or bizarre. A young woman in a trench coat with a floppy hat pulled low over her eyes caught her attention. It was an underground train station at night, what was with the hat?
                Almost like she heard Eleanor’s internal panic, the woman looked over at her, a pleased sneer on her face. The visual contact caused the woman’s features to shimmer revealing dark sunken eyes and sharply pointed incisors. A golden lock of hair like spun straw fell across her right eye.
                Sucking in a terrified breath, Eleanor threw herself behind a group of Japanese business men and all but bolted for the Bakerloo line.
                The platform didn’t feel any safer, but the distance from the woman in the trench coat did. Regardless, the wait for the train turned what was barely a minute or two into what seemed like an eternity.

                It was the longest Tube ride of all time. It seemed everywhere she looked there were people casting her shifty glances like Trench Coat had, and the continuous counting in her head to stop herself from running screaming through the train, had made for a vastly extended trip to Paddington.
                Fear, believe it or not, was definitely one of the explosive sensations that was sure to bring her up from a down every time. It was a little hard to feel sad when you were afraid to your core. But Eleanor had never been this scared for her either her life or her sanity before.
                When the train finally pulled in, she bolted off, profusely apologising to the elderly couple she all but knocked down. She even took the stairs as the escalators weren’t quick enough for her, and thanked her lucky stars for all the yoga and cardio she’d pushed the past year. Her thighs burned on the way up but at least the shadows on the walls didn’t catch her.
                The weird occurrences over the past few days since she’d returned to the alley and found the pocket watch had just started out as shadows and that awful dynamic feeling of being watched. It had been increasing for days, but it wasn’t until today that Eleanor had started to really worry.
                Eleanor had depression and flashes of anxiety, so she was used to feeling out of sorts. But this feeling, right now as she sped-walked the two and a half blocks to her flat in the darkness, was not the same feeling. This was fast becoming a blurred line between fantasy and reality.
                Bursting into her flat, Eleanor slumped against the doorway in relief. For now, she felt like she’d reached safety.
                Chess, her puffy ginger and vanilla tabby, purred and sauntered over towards her from where he’d been perched on her tiny Ikea couch.
                Cheshire, a gift from Jaz after they’d read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at university, was, as always less happy to see her and more displeased that it was a full hour past dinner time. His look of disdain was familiarly comforting and helped her to shrug off the trauma of the past few hours.
                “Hey Chess,” she called and rubbed her fingers at him. “C’mere pretty kitty.”
                Chess just arched a feline brow, jumped onto the kitchen counter and waited.
                “Yeah, yeah. Ok.”
                I wish Chess had been with me at Starbuck’s, she mused as she pulled a tuna can from the pantry, he’d have peed on that damn creepy sunflower. All she’d have had to do was say something like, “don’t pee on the flowers, Chess”. He was sort of a bastard like that.
                But alas his antics calmed her enough that she was soon collected enough to not need every light in the flat switched on and the television on loud. A couple more hours with a contented Chess in her lap and she was even able to pluck up the courage to close her eyes and go to sleep. Sort of.

                A bang woke Eleanor up a few hours later. She was disorientated at first, having fallen into an exhausted, dreamless sleep, and didn’t realise at first what had awakened her.
                A second bang sounded and she groped for the bedside lamp, senses tingling. It’s just Chess, her rational mind tried to say, but her fear was already rising and sending her panic into overdrive.
                As the lamp flicked on it cast daunting shadows into every corner of her room. More than one set of eyes stared out at her from the darkness, and if it really was Chess doing the banging like she hoped, then it couldn’t have been him.
                She lunged out of bed and for the ceiling light, smothering a shriek at what she saw when she flipped it up and on:
                In the corner of her room, the opposite side of the bed to her stood a tall man. He had dark, sunken eyes, very pale skin and sharp pointed teeth. But the thing that terrified her the most wasn’t his face or the ominous glint in his eyes; rather it was the masses of thorny vines creeping around his arms and torso like they had a mind of their own. Looking down, Eleanor saw that they extended across the floor, throughout the room, along the walls and towards her.
                This time, she really did scream.
                At the sound, the thorn man lunged across the bed for her missing her by a hair as Eleanor threw herself out of the door, slamming it behind her.
                Unfortunately, that wasn’t her salvation.
                On her tiny couch, with her back towards the bedroom door, the woman in the trench coat from Piccadilly sat humming a wordless nursery rhyme. At the sound of the door slamming, she turned her head praying mantis style to look around at Eleanor who screamed again and tried to back away. The woman was too fast; in a split second she was upright, across the room and had Eleanor by the throat, clawed fingers digging in to her flesh.
                “Put the girl down, Goldie, she’s mine!” The thorn man had meanwhile wrenched the bedroom door open and come into the room to join them, his vines slithering towards where they stood.
                “All’s fair, thorny; we made no alliance,” she replied, voice like syrup and eyes on Eleanor as she tightened her choke-hold enough to make the latter start to see stars.
                “I found the girl, I got here first.”
                “I don’t care; first to kill wins.”
                Another bang resounded off the walls as a third creature appeared. “Give her to me; I’ll be the one to kill her.”
                The newcomer had bluish, marbled skin and the kind of facial features that you hoped never to dream of. He looked like the most evil genie you’d ever seen.
                “Back off, Djinn!” Hissed the thorn man, a vine mimicked his toned and shot towards the blue genie like a whip. To Eleanor’s, and the thorn man’s, surprise it passed through like the genie was incorporeal.  
                He chuckled. “Some assassin you are.”The genie held up a hand, palm flat. “You lose.”
                A shock of energy blasted from his palm and went up through the room. The thorn man burst into supernatural blue flames, screaming in agony. The action caused the golden-haired woman to drop Eleanor and she wasted no time collecting her breath before making a break for the doorway to freedom. Whatever the hell those people were and why they wanted to kill her, Eleanor was disinclined to stay and find out.
                She ran out into the entrance hall and down the stairs, having a moment of further panic for Chess before remembering that despite his bulk, he was a lot quicker then she was. He probably bailed the second he sensed something was about to hit the flat.
                Finally at the front door, Eleanor threw it open and ran out into the street, barefoot, in her flannel kitten pyjamas, and smack bang into a solid wall of muscle.

                Rory Odell had been trailing the young woman with the raven hair for days, and standing outside her flat in the street he sensed something wasn’t right. He was hot to march on up to check it out, when his girl came bolting out of the front door in fluffy nightwear and straight for him. He barely managed to catch her before she bowled him over.
                He took one look at her and saw that she was barefoot, cold and in shock, with faint bruises beginning to show on the soft skin around her neck. So he did what any well-bred gentleman would have done; he threw his coat over her, grabbed her hand and said:

                “Come with me if you want to live.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blaze

I sat on the couch in my little work-paid apartment last night, with the AFL on in the background (Fremantle grand final, well done boys!) and read a book. It wasn't a long book, or too serious a book, but nonetheless that's what I did and had a really good night. 

The book was entitled Notorious by Vicki Lewis Thompson, and was quite simply just another fluffy romance novel with one added factor: it was a Blaze novel. Now, some of you women may already have clicked at that one, but for those of you not in the know here's the sitch: 

Harlequin Mills and Boon romance novels were initially released during the 1930's as escapist novels for women during the Depression age. Since then they have expanded greatly and become a steady tier of different romances for women of all kinds in need of them, ranging from Intrigue to Sweet (for extra G-rated fluffiness), to the Medical dramas and the Historical. There are so many different genres available now within the romantic scope that for the authors the world is virtually their oyster. 

Blaze, as I mentioned before, is the top most tier in terms of raciness. Basically, it's all but a step away from erotica - which is much more like porn in that the story line is only there to hold together all the sex. Blaze, while still erotic fiction all the same, tends to be a lot more story driven with both plot and character development flowing along smoothly.

Which is what this story was. 

Before we go further I need to reinforce a point that is particularly important to me, and in understanding the entire purpose behind romantic fiction: it is nothing shameful, nothing to make fun of, and the term 'lady porn' is particularly insulting. Since its origin, Mills and Boon has been intended as a way for women to escape from their lives for a little while and pretend that things are different for better or worse. Think of them as fairy tales for adult women, the kind of happy ever afters that the world likes to promote doesn't exist. And the sexier ones are not for everyone, but for those that do enjoy it shouldn't be made to feel awkward. Especially women, like me and plenty others that I know, who lack any kind of romantic life in the real world that all they have a lot of the time is in these kinds of books. 

What's so wrong with that? Would you make fun of and deny women when they only yearn for romance that they don't have and are told doesn't exist? 

People that do are the ones who should be ashamed, in my opinion. You don't have to like it, but it's not ok to ridicule those who do. 

For that matter, before I even started on the story I read the foreword by the author who said something I really stopped to think about and still do. She said that writing romance was her dream job, how lucky she was to have it and that when you are paid for something you love so much it never feels like you work a day. And I thought that that was just so lovely; here is a woman who loves to write and writes what she loves, world be damned. That's terribly gutsy, she skyrocketed in my esteem, and something that I aspire to as well. 

I don't write Mills and Boon, but I sometimes wonder if I should. I do, after all, include romance into every story I write; no tale of mine would be complete without a little love song, even if a happy ending isn't always what I want.

Give Mills and Boon a try; if you don't like it I won't hold it against you, but try to can the ridicule. Both men and women have put a lot of effort into the stories they publish just to make the people that read them escape from the reality of day to day life, give them some credit. Besides, they probably like their jobs better than you like yours.

Notorious by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Keely Brascom posed for a magazine centrefold years ago as her one way ticket out of small town Arizona. It shocked everyone, including Noah Garfield the love of Keely's teenage life who's rejection still kicks her a decade later. 

When the two run into each other during the bachelor weekend in Vegas for Noah's friend, Brandon, Keely decides that seducing him and dishing him some pay back for assuming she's a stripper (and yes, also for the rejection) will make for one hell of a weekend. But when Noah's moral intention finally breaks down, the two end up with way more than they bargained for: each other, for good. 

Notorious is full of fun, laughs, sex and light-hearted romance sure to leave to you with a smile. It made my night.

Sam xox



Friday, September 20, 2013

Affection Affliction

I suppose Disney and similar optimistic childhood learning has left me with particularly high standards. Not just about romance or work or general happiness, but also in my expectations of both myself and other people.

I put certain things on pedestals and I always believe I deserve good things. I'm not too bad a person - at the risk of sounding arrogant. I have always tried to endeavour to treat people nicely so that they'll treat me the same in return, even if I don't like them I'll just kill them with kindness. That's the way I was brought up by my parents and society - do unto others, it's a fable instilled into most children from a young age probably since Ancient Greece (except for maybe Sparta or Mycenae...ok, Greece was a bad example but you get what I mean). What I don't seem to understand or be able to accept at all is how often that life lesson is not applicable. People treat me badly or unfairly all the time. 

I know what you're thinking: life isn't fair. Well, no it isn't, but this is a great deal to do with the way people treat each other. If everyone treated each other fairly and the way that they wanted to be treated then life would be fair, wouldn't it? 

I don't pretend to be a perfect example of fairness and justice, that's just absurd, but I do think I try hard. Remember, the only true failure is when you stop trying. 

I also expect too much, give too much or give too little. On the one hand, I pin my heart to my sleeves and hope that everyone will love me. It sounds terrible, I know, but it's true. I give too much because I'm an extrovert and I'm always seeking affection (see: previous posts), but the problem is that my standards and expectations are so high that when resort doesn't meet my fantasy I get feel let down. It's not always someone else's fault, but it's not always mine either.

Let's look at anyone I've ever fancied: I want so badly for my affection to be returned that I get so hurt when it's not. And it never is - this is a fact, sadly, and no matter how many times I may say that I'm done with the whole thing it's almost always a lie. I get so hurt that I try to fake it until I make it, because its difficult for me, but I'm such a dreamer that I always give in again. That feeling is just too good to let go of forever. And love isn't the only thing that can bring it, but it is the most powerful.

Now my affection is so rarely returned by those I fancy, but I still try to treat them well. It's only when their apathy and poor treatment start to really weigh me down that I have to pull up and bare fang. I'm not proud of it - my Disney upbringing always disapproves. But it happens, and it's the worst! 

On the other hand, when I shut off and keep to myself too much people think that something is either very wrong with me, I'm being particularly rude or whatever I'm doing I must be doing it wrong. I'm open when I shouldn't be, but closed when I should be more vocal. It's an odd and sort of imbalanced way of life. It causes a lot more trouble than its worth, and lands me in situations I don't know how to deal with or get out of. I say I like me, true, but I also don't know how to be anyone else no matter how hard I might try sometimes.

What is also particularly is foreign to me is how much my ideals and values are considered to be childish or unrealistic. I don't think I am necessarily either; believing in fairy tales or wanting to fall in love or believing in fairness for all and treating people well and garnering the same in return shouldn't be things that we are supposed to grow out of. Why are they? When we grow older are we supposed to shrug off all the values and morals that fables, nursery rhymes and school taught us? It bodes the question: was the world always this cynical and I just never noticed before, or has it become this way in the past twenty years? 

Already you can see on television and in books and all other kinds of social media that we are expected to grow up, very PC in all ways, get a job, buy a house and stop doing anything childish. Whether you're a man or a woman, gay or straight, you're expectations after that change but what stays the same is this: we aren't supposed to be like me. 

It's not as arrogant as all that, but what I mean is 23 year old women aren't supposed to wear Disney clothes, or sing  along to this out loud, or dream of meeting their soul mate, or want to have their dream job or waste all their money travelling. We're supposed to buy a house, have a stream of steady boyfriends, get married someday maybe (this is becoming less acceptable too with our generation but that's another post entirely), and work hard for the money. 

All I want to do is write, travel, fall in love, watch Disney, sing songs, love the world and be myself. I fail at being a modern adult, apparently.

I grew up being told to always be myself and if people don't like it then that's their problem; people who care are my real friends and people who don't shouldn't matter to me anyway. But that is pretty much the opposite of what I hear somedays. 

It's exhausting, but still I say screw the world and its cynicism. Who cares. We are who we are and (unless you're a serial killer) that should be it. Full stop. End of story. 

Sometimes I think people could really benefit from a little childishness. A little Disney never hurt anyone. 

And before I go, don't act like Disney is the only thing I am. There's so much more to me then that, just like everyone else, there's more sides to me than just Disney.

My advice to everyone (even me) is remember what's good about yourself from time to time. Treat others the way you want to be treated, but when they don't then don't let the bastards get you down.

Life is way too short, there's way too much to do, too much to see and too much fun to be had to let other people tell you who to be. We're all different anyway, and that's what makes us special.

Sam xox

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tale as old as Time

I'm feeling terribly romantic tonight. 

It feels like I'm in love, but there's not really reason for it. 

Maybe it's hearing so much wedding talk that for the first time in my life I've actually fantasised about how I'd want mine; or the budding romance I've been writing between Eleanor and Rory; or that the attempts I've been making to better love myself are working. Who knows. Whatever the reason, the fluttery, warm-butter, heart melty, fluffy, dreamy and contented feeling I have right now makes me feel just wonderful. 

It's like a wedding, Ever After, Disney, new novel glow and a new crush all rolled into one. It's just...wonderful.

I am infatuated, of course I am - with someone real and not just my leading male characters - but it's not even that. That doesn't really mean all that much to me in the end, that doesn't give me this feeling. 

But something else always will, and maybe someone else will. 

So I take it as a good sign or a good moment to remember later; feeling this way is what I aspire to sometimes. This is how I want to feel when I do fall in love again, for real. And this feeling, right now, is why people want to do it even when they've been hurt.

I've been hurt, but it was worth this feeling. And even though I have been hurt, I can still feel this way.

Like a hug from someone you love, or a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon; or a romantic happy ending to a fairy tale. 

I'm hopeful and I don't let go of my dreams. Because I know exactly how good it feels to believe.

Like being in love. It's such a wonderful feeling.

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme...

Sam xox

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Real World (wish it would stop hassling me)

I'm not in any way, shape or form starting to cross the line between fantasy and reality. 

I know what's real and what's not without falling into an existential crisis. 

My love for the imaginary and fantasy world comes predominately from my book and similar - sometimes it's difficult to keep track of time when you're on a roll with world building, characterisation and  dialogue. Suddenly it's hours later and your new friends and favourite places don't really exist, and although you may want them to it doesn't mean that you're labouring under false apprehensions that they are.

Sometimes I wish the world outside of my head that I'm writing would stop hassling me, not because I'm sliding into insanity, but because I don't want to deal with real things all the time when I'm so excited about a story and putting in so much overtime getting it done. I'm not losing it, I'm just super passionate about this new story. 

Try to keep that in mind when you hear my sighing about what's real and what's not. Don't read too much into my statuses or my song quotes or hash tags. Trust me, I'm feeling just fine. 



Sam xox

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Breakfast at the Jane Austen Book Club

As promised, I read Breakfast at Tiffany's


I'm sorry, Capote. I loved In Cold Blood so much, but I hated Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'm sure plenty of people will disagree as it's technically an American classic made even more famous by the film adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn and George Pepard, but in terms of story I just really didn't like it. Not a 'burn it in protest' hatred like I felt for the Handmaid's Tale or even an 'I expected better' hatred like Jane Eyre or Kraken, just a general dislike for pretty much the whole story and all the characters. Holly Golightly, raw before immortalised by the lovely Miss Hepburn, was according to Capote intended to be played by Marilyn Monroe as a sultry woman of the night, loving both too little and too much. And I could sort of see it - Marilyn's tragic real life story in some ways was mirrored by the tragedy of Holly Golighty's tale, down even to the change in her name to become a starlet and her origins as a child bride. Which by the way, is always creepy.

The passage in the story that bothered me the most - and as a product of the modern world it's hard for me to relate, and I accept that - was where Holly attempts to justify her 'loose' ways to the narrator. "I'm not a whore," she tells him earnestly, "I've only had eleven lovers (Holly is nineteen for the bulk of the story), but anything before I was thirteen doesn't count". It was all I could do to keep reading after that. It just screams of tragedy, abuse and rape. And the drama of that isn't addressed. Feminism screamed a little at both the 1930's and Truman Capote.

I watched the movie right after, although the disappointment and disregard for the book meant I really didn't want to, and I actually didn't like that much better. The film is changed so much from the original text that I read Capote had felt betrayed. And I can sort of see why - the overall tragedy of the story is vastly undermined by the failure of the film to express the truth of what Holly really is, the trauma of her childhood and the unsatisfying way in which the novella actually ends. The film highly twists the tale of the attractive and glamorous Hollywood starlet into a romance amidst the glitz of 1960's New York, and even the famous scene with Audrey Hepburn in her black dress in from of Tiffany's has no real place. It looks great, of course, and I wish I looked that sleek stepping out of a cab after an all-nighter somewhere glamorous, but Capote says no.

Ironically, I think that the romantic ending of the film is what bothered me the most; It wasn't right. The book ends with Holly disappearing off into the wilds of Brazil and later Africa never to be seen again by the narrator who, despite how much of a cow she is, is desperately in love with her. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard make a tentative approach at reconciling and share a terribly romantic kiss in the rain. It was beautiful, but it didn't make sense to me. I think what I'm really trying to get across is don't mess with the originals. Breakfast at Tiffany's isn't a love story, there was no need to make it one.

And I think that bothered Capote like it bothered me.

Fun fact: The song Breakfast at Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something, in which the singer suggests that as long as he and his girlfriend had their like of the movie in common they could try to work out their problems, was actually based off of the film Roman Holiday also starring Audrey Hepburn. It's a much happier film than Breakfast at Tiffany's, I recommend it.

On the other hand, I also just finished the Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Before I get into this one, I just want to say that if you think that was quick of me reading two books - it really wasn't. It was actually incredibly, and painfully, slow. Breakfast at Tiffany's was a very long 100 pages that, lost in the crazy-business of the past week, took me forever. The Jane Austen Book Club I consumed in about a day and a half.

The Jane Austen Book Club, like all of Jane Austen's books, is supposed to fill you with hope that if you are a good person, you persevere (and atone for wrongs you have done) then love and happiness will come to you. Even if it is in ways you aren't expecting, like Emma's Mr Knightley, when you thought you'd lost your chance, like in Persuasion, or when you have to just needed to let go of first impressions and give love a try, like in Pride and Prejudice. The novel starts by stating that everyone, not every woman, everyone has their own Austen. The stories change like the reasoning behind them, but everyone has a little aspect of Jane Austen's writing within them.

I won't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that the Book Club revolves around six people in modern day California who need to change something. Bernadette needs to let go, Sylvia needs to move on, Jocelyn needs to take a chance at love, Allegra needs to open up, Prudie needs to be happy, and Grigg needs to branch out. Supposedly, Grigg is the least of all the novel's characters that needs to change, but for branching out to make more friends. He is also treated most unfairly by women of the group at first, until they start to warm up to him. Women, trust me I know, can be so passive aggressive sometimes.

I enjoyed the book - the character's pasts, the way they learnt something about themselves and the world through the medium of Jane Austen's books. The way that they all underwent some kind of change, not too dramatically, and moved forward to recapture a little of the happiness that they'd lost somewhere along the way. I enjoyed the book, but I think I liked the movie better. It added an extra layer to most of the women's present that gets lost a little in the book. Whilst the novel focuses a lot on the past by way of exposition, the film focuses on the now; what is happening to these women (and Grigg) now, not twenty to thirty years ago. Why are they all coming together now, what was wrong with their lives, and how do they fix it. I liked the additions - and the actors - that the book just didn't have. Prudie, for example, was perhaps my favourite character. In the novel she is treated almost as unfairly as Grigg; the other women barely tolerate her, or even attempt to get to know her too much. She is passionate about Jane Austen and is very much there to talk about it, learn, and meet new people, which is actually not why the club was formed. Extra layers are added to her in the film as we explore Prudie's, played by Emily Blunt (I love Emily Blunt), relationship with her mother and husband a bit more thoroughly and get to know more about why she is unhappy. She is likeable and relatable in both, but you get so much more from her with the added extras.

In a clumsy, roundabout sort of way what I'm trying to say is the distinction between films and books can be blurred. When a film follows the themes and plots of its original text, usually this is better and it works as an addition and compliment to the book. This is evident definitely in the Jane Austen Book Club, and whilst both book and film can be viewed as standalone texts, they enrich one another. Just like, when done right, so do many of Jane Austen's stories. We won't get into which film and television adaptations best represent and compliment the books because that could take a century.

Don't let my opinions of either book deter you from giving them a try; you may love Breakfast at Tiffany's or hate the Jane Austen Book Club - It doesn't bother me if you disagree, but I'd be more than interested in talking about them, differences of opinion are after all how you learn sometimes. As always, happy reading.

Sam xox

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Have you met Rory?

I seem to have a bad habit of developing little crushes on my major male characters. Since Daniel Harricourt there's been Dominic Wellsby, Quinn Tanner and of course the adorable Eric Stanhope. And that's just the leading men, not even including the countless other supporting characters I've created.

The point is - they're all pretty dreamy to me.

And now, I'd like to introduce the lastest to the fold:

Prince Aurorion Odell, crowned and reigning monarch of...this bit is still a secret ! But suffice it to say his home is within the walls of the City of Wonder and before the start of the story, he doesn't spend much time actually getting to know his kingdom outside of publicity trips and official business. Basically, he's a bit of a tool in the beginning - but he gets better.

So, Aurorion (but he hates the formality of his name and goes predominately by Rory) joins up with Eleanor Price reluctantly in the start of the story and the two set out on an adventure. There's not much else I can say really without giving too much of the story away except for this:

Rory is 28, he has dark mahogany hair and dark blue eyes, and is a master swordsman for all his years of training with the royal army. Despite his bratty and rich-boy tendencies, Rory loves swordplay and thoroughly mastered it - he's got to be good for something. You know, as well as being the rightful king...But other than that he's a work in progress - not just as a character but in terms of his personality. He and Eleanor don't get along to begin with, but they grow on each other.

And just for fun, he's a little teaser that doesn't include Rory:

She wasn’t sure, thinking back, when exactly things started to get a little weird.
                Some unknown forced compelled her to carry the pocket watch on her at all times, and by the end of the following day she rarely went anywhere without the slight weight of the brass idol comfortably against her chest. She even took to wearing the few button down shirts she owned so that she could loop the chain of the watch through the button hole closest to her heart. It just seemed right that way.
                Even odder, though, than her sudden and compulsive co dependence on the presence of the watch was the fact that no matter what approach she took or technique she applied Eleanor could not get it open. By the end of a week Eleanor had grown bizarrely accustomed to having a watch on her at all occasions but never once being able to tell the time. It was like the brass had sealed itself shut.
                But what was starting to really weird Eleanor out was the constant feeling of being watched almost from the moment she left the alley with the watch. She mused that it was magical and had more than once referred to it as the ‘precious’ when she thought no one was looking.
                On a more serious note, becoming the entrusted protector of the pocket watch had given Eleanor a sudden purpose her life hadn’t truly felt like it had held before. It sounded mental, even to herself – for she hadn’t really told anyone about the whole saga – but somehow looking after this clockwork lump of brass made Eleanor feel...important. Like she was part of some big secret.
                But she was definitely being watched.
                Waiting at the corner table of the Starbucks across from the British Museum where she worked most days, Eleanor stared at the single sunflower sitting in a ceramic pot on the counter. It was glacial outside, but the franchise owner had apparently decided that the sunny yellow flower brought a sense of summer fun to the post-Christmas hum-drum. Most people, Eleanor noticed, just glared at it like the flower was responsible for the Ice Age.
                But snowfall or not, that was not why Eleanor was staring at the sunflower.

                No, Eleanor was staring at the sunflower because she was pretty positive that it was staring at her. 

Enslaved by the Muses

I'm feeling a little under pressure and shackled these days. It's probably why I haven't really written to you this week - I've not had the time!

The new book is coming along like a steam train and on top of that work (I'm still an archaeologist) has been a bit mental, I've pretty much come home at six every night, written until late with Kingdom Hearts playing in the background and then face planted in bed before doing the same thing over the next day. I'm running myself into the ground a little and I feel like I'm racing against time in every aspect. 

But, guess what?

I'm so happy. 

Throwing myself into my work - both archaeologically and literately - always seems to go along way with me. I feel like so much is getting done, even if I still have another hundred million to do after that. I'm so exhausted but I don't want to stop! I'm completely at the mercy of my muses and my inspiration, in love with my captor, and my characters. It's very much like Stockholm Syndrome even when I'm mostly alone. Like a pleasure/pain

Billie Joe says it kind of nicely: 


I'm in distress, 
oh mistress I confess 
so do it one more time
These handcuffs are too tight, well
You know I will obey, 
so please Don't make me beg
For blood, sex and booze you give me


The blood, sex and booze is all happening within the book, though. I'm not literally begging anyone S&M style...well, not exactly. 

My only problem seems to be that social stuff seems to take a bit of a back seat when I'm in this kind of mindset. Rest assured, this is not the first time I've subjugated myself to the gods of writing (and it will not be the last!) but when this happens I usually become so scatterbrained to the real world that I tend to forget about social events or plans or things like eating and sleeping...So, if I flake out on a date we've set or I forget and don't turn up - try not to take it personally. I apologise in advance for that but it's just the nature of the game. Ironic considering my level of social need, friendliness and extrovertedness, I know. 


On a more inspired note I've been putting together a little playlist for my new book; so far they're just based on Eleanor's depression, the budding relationship between Eleanor and Rory (ooh, I haven't told you about him yet!), and the adventure. It's a work in progress, but here's what I've got so far:

Roxas Theme - Kingdom Hearts
Dreams Don't Turn to Dust - Owl City
Christmas Song - Owl City
Dear in the Headlights -Owl City
The Price of Freedom - Crisis Core
Help! - The Beatles
The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
The Dirt Whispered - Rise Against
Tea Party - Kerli
Real World - Matchbox 20
Unwell - Matchbox 20
Easy Way Out - Gotye
At the Beginning - Donna Lewis & Richard Marx
Sanctuary - Utdada Hikaru

That's all I have so far - But there are more, I just can't think of them right now. 



Sam xox

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Rest is Still Unwritten.

I feel today Natasha Bedingfield really says it all:



I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined


I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned



Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, oh, oh

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten




Remind me, the way this is going, I'm going to need some energy drinks. A lot of them. 

Sam xox