It’s Too Darn Hot!

The last time we spoke, it was the day before my birthday and the day before St. Albans Comic-Con. So, how did they go? Well, my birthday was kind of a non-event this year, but St. Albans went well. I was up at 5:30 and was waiting at the bottom of the road for Mary to pick me up at 6:30. Mary drives a Lotus Elise so I didn’t think the neighbours would appreciate it growling up our road at silly o’clock on a Sunday morning. I waited and waited. By 6:50 I was beginning to worry when I heard a high-performance engine and Mary roared up.

At that hour on a Sunday morning, the roads were reasonably clear, so it didn’t take us long to get there, park, phone Rachel and for them to come and find us with our wristbands to indicate we were paid up stallholders.

We had two tables together shared between the three of us so divided the space into thirds and laid out our goods. Mary is a comedic sci-fi writer – think Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett – so she went one end. Rachel with her dystopian near future Battleground series went in the middle. I went on the other end.

We were ready in good time and nervously awaited the opening of the doors. We had no idea how this was going to go down. It was already hot, really hot, and there was no AC at all in the venue. At first, things were sluggish. A few people looked at our stall and spoke to us about our books, but they were very much just browsing at that stage and most wandered off promising to be back. Hmm, as a sales consultant I’ve heard that line way too often before.

By midday, though the crowd had thickened, and we began to sell. Not crazy amounts, but slow and steady, with time to chat to our new readers which was nice. The people ebbed and flowed. It got hotter. We were sticky and I was glad I’d brought an old towel to lay on the floor because it meant I could take my shoes off, and splash water on my ankles and feet and try to cool down a little.

There was a cosplay event taking place somewhere in the venue and some of the costumes were amazing, although I did feel sorry for those hardy souls dressed as stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Deadpool etc. In their tight, all-encompassing outfits with helmets or masks, they must have been sweltering.

We continued to sell. By mid-afternoon I’d sold all ten copies of Black Ice that I’d taken, so rearranged my stall and continued with just Erinsmore, The Forest and Lifesong. Approaching 4:00 it was clear the day was done. The event was due to close at 4:30 and we weren’t seeing any new faces in the crowd, just people who’d already visited our stall and were having one last look around. We began to pack up. I’d taken ten copies each of Black Ice, The Forest, and Erinsmore, and thirty-five of Lifesong. I sold all the copies of Black Ice, eight copies of The Forest, seven copies of Erinsmore, and twelve copies of Lifesong. So, not bad. We also spoke to a lot of people, handed out cards and flyers, connected with potential new readers and I know I gained a few new followers on social media. We all felt the day had been a success and that we’d consider doing it again.

We packed away our stall and took everything out to the cars. Most of our stuff had to go in Rachel’s car – a Lotus Elise doesn’t have much space for anything. I scrambled back into Mary’s car, and we headed for home.

Although it didn’t take long, about an hour and thirty minutes, by the time she dropped me off at the end of my road I was tired, sticky, and grubby. I needed to pee, shower, drink, and eat – in that order! There was a rack of ribs in the fridge, so whilst I attended to my needs, Franki did us BBQ rib and fries which was just what the doctor ordered.

Whilst I’d been at St. Albans, the lodger had moved out, so after dinner, we went down into the basement to check it out. Surprisingly, he’d done a reasonably good job of cleaning, so it wasn’t going to take long to turn the room around for Franki to move in.

Monday dawned, and the worst of the heatwave struck. It was over 40 degrees centigrade outside, so we stayed in. I know some people recommend keeping all windows and curtains closed in a heatwave but that wouldn’t work in my house – we’d swelter. It’s a Victorian house so it’s very well insulated and having all the doors and windows wide open meant a breeze blew through the house, so it was reasonably cool indoors. We spent most of the day freshening up the basement and moving Franki’s essentials down so they could at least sleep in it that night. Franki’s old room is narrow and small and in the centre of the house. Hot air rises so the bedrooms are always unpleasantly warm, their old room especially. At least the basement would be wonderfully cool for them. I was a bit jealous. Although my larger room with its two windows didn’t overheat as much as Franki’s old room, it still retained the heat and Monday night, and Tuesday night were unbearable. I lay starfished in the middle of the bed, wearing nothing but a pair of knickers and a layer of sweat. A fan stood by the bed and ran all night continuously wafting cold air over me.

It was still like sleeping in an active volcano. Every time I tried to roll over I left a puddle of sweat behind me. Needless to say, not much sleeping went on.

Tuesday I lay on the sofa in the dining room for much of the day with the fan playing over me whilst Franki got the new room to their liking. She informed me smugly, she had felt chilly enough during the night to need the duvet over her. If it hadn’t been so hot I might have thumped her for that.

The rest of my week off passed by in a bit of a blur. Even though the temperature dropped slightly it was still unbelievably hot, so I didn’t feel like doing much. I made a start on writing book fifteen but only managed 5500 words – not the high word count I had expected to manage during two weeks off work. I was tired and didn’t feel like doing anything other than lying around reading.

On Friday Franki and I went for lunch at Pizza Express courtesy of Tesco vouchers donated by Mum, and Franki paid the excess as a late birthday lunch. It was nice. I can’t remember the last time we went out just the two of us, so it was pleasant.

There was the usual Happy Hour drink with the neighbours in the street, then I chilled out in the evening and had an early night.

I was very aware I only had three days left of my holiday and I didn’t want to waste it, but the motivation was sadly lacking to do anything. I half-heartedly wrote another 1000 words on the book, then left it. I caught up with laundry and housework and did a little gardening, but it was still too hot to want to do anything much.

Sunday afternoon we were invited to a barbecue with fellow author Rachel Churcher and her husband. It was a gorgeous afternoon and we had fun – although I will be avoiding Long Island Iced Tea cocktails in future – it’s not tea and is lethal.

Monday was mostly spent recovering from the said cocktail.

Tuesday I went back to work. It was hard going back, lack of sleep over several nights due to the heat had left me exhausted and out of sorts. My shift was 9:30 to 5, but luckily I discovered a 5:10 bus that is supposed to get me into town at 5:22. The bus didn’t arrive until 5:20 so I was late getting home, but it was better than walking.

Wednesday was work again, a weird 11-5 shift. I was attending a fellow local author’s launch party in town that evening and was supposed to be there by 6:15. This caused an issue. Yes, I could have tried to catch the bus but if it was late again – I’ve discovered buses are late more often than they are on time – then it wasn’t going to leave me much time to eat, get changed, and walk to the venue. Luckily, the lovely Rachel Churcher offered me a lift, so I was home by 5:10 and able to quickly change whilst Franki cooked spaghetti and heated the mince mix I’d made on Monday ready. We were in the venue and set up before anyone else arrived.

It was a lovely evening. There were five local authors of different genres. There was a Q&A session, each author did a short reading from one of their books – I chose the first page of Black Ice – and then the audience was invited to ask us questions.

Turnout wasn’t as high as we had hoped, but enough came to make a respectable-sized audience and they all seemed to enjoy it. We didn’t sell many books, only a couple each, but again we gave out cards and talked to potential readers.

Thursday I was back to work again, a 10:30 to 6:00 shift. This meant no bus home. Well, that’s not strictly true, there is a 6:12 bus but I’ve caught it before and know what the deal is now. You wait for the bus. It eventually turns up. It takes you for a thirty-minute scenic tour of the massive residential estate nearby. It comes back to the original bus stop you got on at, before finally heading into town to drop you off at 7:02. I decided it was quicker to walk.

I left at 6:00 and started walking. Luckily, the weather had cooled down so at least I wasn’t dying of heatstroke. I met a lovely doggy with his owner, so of course, I had to stop and fuss him and have a nice little chat with her. Walking through town, I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen in over ten years. We had a chat. I walked past Waitrose. My stomach rumbled. I wondered whether Franki had done anything for dinner. Probably not as I hadn’t asked her to.

I wandered about Waitrose. I fancied pizza so picked up a goat’s cheese and caramelized red onion one, with a bucket of cooked buffalo wings, a garlic dip for Franki and a pot of proper mayo for me. My tastebuds still aren’t right after Covid and things like garlic taste disgusting to me. Ooh, Waitrose still had the offer running on vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – two tubs for £6 – so I grabbed a tub of cookie dough and one of berry and chocolate explosion. I remembered we needed bin bags.

Leaving Waitrose and crossing over into the Arc shopping centre a car pulled up beside me and a very confused looked elderly lady leaned out the window. She was lost, looking for the Apex car park. I gave directions, we chatted, and then she drove off and I continued home. I walked in the door at 7:02 precisely. By some telepathy, Franki had the oven warmed up ready for whatever I had decided to cook and was delighted to see the pizza. Leaving her to cook dinner, I got changed and opened a bottle of wine – well, it was my Friday evening, and I was very pleased to be home and even more pleased to be able to relax with a glass of wine, pizza, buffalo wings, and Netflix.

I didn’t sleep very well though. The street was noisy, and I kept waking up, so Friday morning I was grumpy and had a headache. I had a lot of phone calls to make and emails to respond to, so I tried to pull myself together and clear the decks.

Friday afternoon it was my local authors’ get-together and for once we were meeting in real life, not on Zoom, so I wandered down to the cathedral café where we sat in the garden, drank coffee, ate cake, and chatted about life, and all things bookish.

Again, it was Happy Hour in the street with the neighbours, but it was a short one this time as everyone except me and another neighbour had other things to rush off to. I invited her to come round and sit in the garden and finish our drinks. She seemed okay when we sat down, but ten minutes later it was clear she was very much not okay. I have honestly never seen anyone go from sober to falling down drunk so quickly! I tactfully suggested we needed to get her home, so helped her into the house where she collapsed onto the sofa, and I realised I’d need help. I bellowed for Franki who ran upstairs and assessed the situation at once. Together, we heaved the poor lady up and half-carried, half-dragged her three doors up the street to her house where we found her front door had been left wide open as well as all her windows and the back door – making me wonder what state she’d been in when she left the house! We left her to go to bed, and I hope she’s okay today and if she remembers much of the evening, doesn’t feel too embarrassed. It happens. Heck, it’s happened to me. You think you’re fine, then you have one more drink which proves the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And now it’s Saturday again, although as I’m back to work tomorrow it feels like my Sunday. This morning, Franki and I lay on the sofa and made TikTok videos for my new account. That was so funny. Last summer, Franki set me up a TikTok account and posted one video promising to teach me how to use it. They never got round to it, and I forgot my password and couldn’t remember what to do with TikTok anyway so didn’t bother. Anyway, last week Franki asked about TikTok, and I confessed I hadn’t touched it in over a year. Annoyed, they reset my password and went to my account, exclaiming that I wouldn’t have any followers because you can’t just drop one video and then bugger off for the year, TikTok didn’t work that way.

I had over 900 followers. Don’t ask me how, but there they were.

So, Franki has been making a stockpile of cool videos and this time has promised to teach me how to TikTok before they return to university. I need to expand onto other social media platforms. Instagram is a lovely place to connect with other authors and form a supportive network but it’s not very good for book sales. I know several authors who have branched out into TikTok and even Twitter and are doing very well with it. I know I need to try and so far TikTok isn’t too bad. It’s confusing and noisy and I don’t understand the whys and the what’s, but I can see the results. Greater reach, greater engagement, and more chance of getting the word out about my books.

Today is going to be a relaxing day. I feel I’m in danger of burn-out so need to take better care of myself and schedule resting and recharging my batteries. I’m not 25 anymore, I’m 55, and my body can’t keep going the way it used to.

Have a great weekend everyone! Mx R is coming back on Monday from their visit with their family, so it will be back to veggie cooking. So, tonight’s dinner is southern fried chicken! And no doubt tomorrow’s dinner will be meat-based as well.

See you in two weeks.

Julia Blake

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