On genre – Thriller vs Romantic Suspense

MG 5x8The launch of Match Games is coming ever closer. And the question of genre is becoming evermore pressing. Amazon categories. Where to start?

How I would love to call it a thriller.
But it’s not.
Yes, it’s fast and furious in places.
Yes, there are car chases, beatings and blood.
There is betrayal, crime and backstabbing.
But, according to a lot of research, a thriller it is not.
A thriller starts with a bang.
Match Games starts with a stack of newspapers and several pints of lager.
In a thriller the audience knows who the baddie is virtually immediately.
In Match Games…well, the baddie is multi-facetted.
In Match Games we stumble along with Lukas in his laborious search.
Apparently, it’s more like … a mystery.
Suspense, certainly.
Like what I always thought a thriller to be.
The search for the baddie.But then there’s love.
And some romance, unexpectedly.
And now everybody shouts at me: “If there’s love and they are still together at the end, it’s got to be categorised as ’Romantic Suspense’!”
Oh no!
It’s definitely not some soppy romance.
Confused, I turned to my author friends online.
And then I saw sense.

Just because there’s love in it somewhere doesn’t mean that it must therefore be called romance. If a story contains humans (or even aliens), then there will be love. It’s part of life. To cut it out would make it sterile. Even Reacher occasionally feels something.
What determines a romance is the plot: if you can remove the love interest and there’s still a story, then it’s not a romance. In a romance the potential love interest is introduced almost immediately. The story is about them getting together, period. Two people, getting together, with something in the way. Match Games doesn’t do that. The first thing that’s introduced is a mystery, and a potential crime. No female in sight.

If love happens later as a result of other things, it’s not romance. It’s important to get that understanding right, because romance readers are not patient ones, and they’re incredibly vocal. If they feel betrayed, the backlash is insane, apparently. A romance reader wants a story about two people struggling to get together, and they MUST have a happy ending. Always. And that happy ending better involve the two people, in each other’s arms, happily ever after.

There is no realism or real life in romance.

With this advice in mind I will list Match Games in the following categories:

FICTION > Mystery & Detective > International Mystery & Crime
FICTION > Thrillers > Suspense
A huge thank you to Melinda vanLone for her contribution to this article.
What is your favourite fiction author?
What genre do you enjoy reading and why?
Please drop me an email and share your thoughts with me schirmerbea@gmail.com
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A Digest From Old SlopsHop #3

lovely-welsh-sheepdogA digest from Old SlopsHop, where sheep are up high in the meadow, ears to the ground.

Les Gillespie is desperate. Lola is just not cooperating. Not at all. He has tried food, toys (Lola despises that attempt of bribery), even beer; it’s like Lola has made a pact with that bloody cat, Rasta. Les needs to have words with that Tom, but that Tom is always up in the hills. Up a long time before Les gets up and only down again when Les is already firmly installed in the pub and has forgotten all about his troubles with Lola.

And then that Marjorie comes in. Les tuts. A classical musician she is. Plays the double bass for a living in that orchestra across the hills, in Madchester. Famous they are, allegedly. World famous. They tour all over the place, apparently. Except that Marjorie says that they haven’t been much further than Blackburn in recent years.

She likes to keep herself to herself, that Marjorie. She’s a bit snooty, in Les’s opinion. But that’s no surprise, given her profession. Call that a profession, playing the double bass for a living. Playing. It’s all in the title. Tom hears her practising sometimes when he walks by her cottage. It hardly sounds professional; more like a low drone, repeated over and over. Why she has to practise music that’s that slow is beyond him. Surely with a bit of talent she should be able to play this slowly straight off the sheet.

Mindy, the landlady of the Saracen’s Head was saying the other day that that Marjorie immerses herself in the meaning of the music and in the composers’ lives. Some of that classical music is political or even mathematical, allegedly. But that just sounds like a load of old cobblers to Les.

“Why don’t you ask Marjorie for help?” says Mindy and serves him another pint.
“Why would I do that?” Les replies, grumpily.
Mindy says, that maybe Marjorie, being a musician, might be able to help Les with his whistle problem. Les tuts. But Mindy is insistent and beckons Marjorie over. Les can see Marjorie rolling her eyes. She obviously is as keen to talk to him as he is to listen to her. But then she gets up and walks over and smiles gappy smile at him, false, of course.

When Les explains his problem, the fact that Lola won’t react to the whistle, Marjorie looks at him, aghast. She tells him that she is a bass player. He says that he knows that already. Everybody knows. Then she tells him she is allergic to high pitched sounds. But now that he’s sitting here talking about the problem she won’t get away that easily. Les mentions that Lola runs away when he blows the whistle. Marjorie suggests that maybe Lola is a dog with a bass player’s heart. At this point Les is beginning to think that she is seriously bonkers and has lost her mind entirely. But it appears that Marjorie is serious. She mentions that she might know someone who might be able to help Les, herself not being able to discern or tolerate any notes above middle C. His name is Julius, she says. He plays the piccolo with her orchestra, over the hills, in Madchester.
Less squints, still dubious. But it might be worth giving Julius a try. With sheepdog trials coming up next week Les is desperate. It is not about winning, but about not losing face, like last year. Little does he know that Lola feels exactly the same.
Julius is a little bit too pretty for Les’s taste. With his flaxen hair, the slim, tall lad looks no older than fourteen to Les.
Les explains the problem with the whistle. The fact that Lola does not obey it anymore. At the mention of her name Lola’s head turns up abruptly. She sees the whistle in Les’s hand and cringes. She crouches down to the ground, whimpering.
Julius observes Lola carefully. He has seen similar reaction to high-pitched instruments by the very young, during education projects that he teaches in schools. The reason for this being that the very young and animals alike, are able to discern high-pitched tones much more accurately than those of more advanced age and walking on two legs.
In fact this ability is so much more developed in dogs and very young infants, that desperate parents often ask themselves what they are doing wrong when the child never ceases to cry; the reason for this simply being for example an over-active central heating system, generating an extremely high-pitched shriek, inaudible to the grown-up’s ear. Young infants can in fact discern overtones above otherwise inaudible pitches, and if those clash with each other their disapproval is entirely understandable: to their young ears this sounds like several band saws operating next to each other. Who wouldn’t cry?

Julius, with an inkling in the back of his mind asks to take a look at the whistle. His keen eye, used to discerning minuscule changes in pad alignment and any hairline adjustment needed to the intricate mechanics of his tiny instrument, immediately spots that the whistle is slightly out of shape. Only slightly. Only a minuscule kink in the side of the otherwise perfect cylinder.

“Blow it.” He says and passes the whistle back to Les. “Carefully.” He adds.
Julius watches Laura disappear into the next room, taking his eye off the whistle momentarily. The dissonant and entirely inaudible shriek that slices through his brain a millisecond later is entirely unacceptable and makes him drop to his knees, clawing on Les’s waistcoat, begging him to stop.
Now Les is not used to men kneeling in front of him and feels very uneasy in the present circumstance. Especially when Julius starts to cry and buries his head in Les’s lap. Les drops the whistle.
Suddenly that bloody cat is in the room. Rasta taps the whistle repeatedly until it gathers momentum, slides across the floor, Rasta behind it, tapping it on, until the whistle slides out of the open front door, across the threshold, across the terrace and straight down the open drain in front of the Saracen’s Head. Les watches all this from the bar, Julius’s head now turned away from Les’s lap, his eyes following the progress of the whistle.
Julius looks up at Les. “It was broken anyway. They are not expensive, are they?”
Les huffs and tuts and pulls the young man to his feet. “How the bugger should I know? I’ve only ever had the one.”

This concludes the matter for Les. Now he has to go over the hills to that Madchester to purchase a new whistle. Annoyed, he lifts his glass to his lips. It is only when he has taken a few sips that he notices Lola sitting by his side, wagging her tail.

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NaNoWriMo Novel finished – The HemiHelix Effect Episode 1

NaNoWriMo Day 27 – The Novel is finished!!! rubber band43565 words. You can read chapters 1-19 following the links below. I’d LOVE some feedback!
The final eight chapters are available for you to read too, but may I ask you to directly contact me for them, either here or email me at schirmerbea@gmail.com or sign up in the box at the top right or at the bottom.
Also available directly are the linking chapters between this novel and The HemiHelix Effect Episode 2 – “Displacement” (working title)
All this is for copyright purposes only, as this is an unpublished, unedited novel, I hope you understand.
I would love to have some feedback as to how you have liked the story and any suggestions you have in improving it.
With very best wishes and hoping to hear from you soon,
Here are the links:

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Congo Calling Shostakovich

shostakovich_tullypotterOn Music Through Muddle
(thank you, Pravda!)

In 1936 Dimitri Shostakovich first fell from favour with the Russian authorities. The Soviet newspaper Pravda described the music in his opera Lady Macbeth as “Muddle Instead of Music”.
Clearly this arrogant remark was aimed at destabilising and tarnishing Shostakivich’s image; it succeeded  entirely. He received an official ban which Shostakovich was persuaded to present as a voluntary withdrawal of his 4th Symphony. Whatever the case, it seems possible that this action saved the composer’s life: during this time Shostakovich feared for himself and his family. He  was forced to lay low and it wasn’t until the release of his 5th symphony that he regained favour.
“I’ll never believe that a man who understood nothing could feel the Fifth Symphony.” Was Shostakovich’s reaction to the enthusiastic reception Stalin gave the symphony.

Perseverance is the daily staple of the artist. For most, daily stretches to weekly, monthly and yearly.  A classical musician in a professional symphony orchestra will have done on average fifteen years of practise, up to eight hours a day (more if you’re a pianist) to reach the standard expected in the profession today.

Pravda’s “Muddle Instead of Music” is especially insulting as it suggests that no editing process has been applied to “Lady Macbeth”; as if the opera is just a rough first draft brainstorm and has been presented as such to the audience. This arrogant assumption is what hurts the artist most; not the criticism of his art, but the assumption that he hasn’t honed his work to the absolute best that he can deliver before launching it to the general public.

Shostakovich, like any other composer, will have grown his work through a painstaking, deliberate process. Pravda’s choice of words is interesting, but back to front; applied to the works of any creative artist “Music Through Muddle” would be a more appropriate description of the creative process.

Just like Audi’s slogan “Vorsprung Durch Technik” – Advantage Through Technology – “Music Through Muddle” suggests there is a  process through which a result is achieved. Or in Audi’s case, an advantage being achieved through a process.
Just like a crescendo to forte starts as a  piano and is a homogenous process unless marked otherwise, any work of art starts as a muddle. Be it a music composition, a sculpture or a block buster novel with international film rights: it’s started with some diffuse idea somewhere at the back of someone’s mind.

In 1994, ex-professional pilot Armand Diangienda had an idea.
(and now I hand over to my colleague Cheryl Law for this week’s guest post):

Mention of the Democratic Republic of the Congo may evoke thoughts of a nation struggling in the shadow of civil war and poverty, but over the last 20 years a remarkable musical feat has been achieved in the sprawling metropolis of Kinshasa, Africa’s third largest city and home to 9 million people.

It all started in 1994, when former professional pilot, Armand Diangienda, launched Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra in his home, with 12 wannabe musicians and not quite enough instruments.  Today L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste is a huge success story, with one international tour already under its belt, and its UK debut took place on 11th September 2014 in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, in a ground-breaking collaboration with the Hallé.

For the musicians of OSK, life is not always easy.  Brought together by the love of music-making, many of the orchestra’s members struggle to make ends meet.  Innovative improvisation is a part of everyday life and their gritty commitment to their art is frankly admirable.  There’s the viola-playing electrician and hairdresser, who is frequently called upon to fix the lights in rehearsals, and the cellist who gets up at 5 am to sell omelettes in the local market before walking for hours to rehearsals which can go on late into the evening. Some play on home-made instruments, and they ad lib when things go wrong; modelling violin strings from bike brake cables, and copying scores out by hand.

Diangienda’s dream to build a symphony orchestra has come a long way since he turned his home into a make-shift conservatoire, and last year he was awarded membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society, an honour previously bestowed on the likes of Brahms and Mendelssohn. It’s well deserved; injecting hope into the lives of people struggling with incessant daily challenges, Diangienda has, in one of the world’s poorest nations, created riches that money could never buy.

The BBC will show the documentary of the visit in a progamme airing on BBC 4 on Sunday 16th November 2014 – Congo Calling – An African Orchestra In Britain

The Hallé are performing Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony tonight and Sunday night 13th & 16& Nov 2014)  at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Thank you for reading!

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QuizTime! Do you have what it takes to be a professional bass player?

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A Digest From Old SlopsHop #2

The sheep are weary / Les Gillespie is ignorant / Rasta has a plan / Mindy has a revelation

A digest from Old SlopsHop, where sheep are up high in the meadow, ears to the ground.

The sheep have been understandably restless this week. Les Gillespie has been up and down Back Sitch almost daily, to get weary Lola used to their presence. It had been such an embarrassment last year, when on day two of the Coalby sheep trials Lola had headed straight for the wrong flock and tried to round them up. If Les had more empathy and more talent in reading his faithful bitch’s eyes he would have understood that it was not confusion or stupidity that made Lola stray, it was her utter desperation to get away from Les’s shrieking whistle. Dog whistles are too high pitched for human ears, so Les did not realise that the whistle had been bent beyond sonority when he had accidentally dropped it a few yew years ago whilst driving the tractor; it had ended up between the vehicle’s break pads and since then produced a fierce, dual-pitched sound, three Hertz apart, that drove Lola to the brink of insanity.

Afterward his walk Les, as always, went to quench his thirst at the Saracen’s Head. Lola had to wait outside as always. She was glad for the rest, glad for the peace and quiet. She didn’t mind being watched by Rasta, in fact she regarded him with interest and compassion. Lola knew instinctively that Rasta suffered from ignorant Human as well as herself. Lola could see it in Rasta’s demeanour. The way Rasta turned his head when his Human strode past him without as much of a thought about Rasta’s lunch. Lola often envies Rasta for his agility, remembers fondly watching Rasta climb the cupboard in the kitchen in search of nourishment. That day Rasta glanced at Lola a split second longer than usual and Lola knew they had an understanding.

Inside, as Mindy’s only customer, Les endured her endless tirade about plums.
“What about yellow plums?” he suggested lamely and took a swig of his beer. The ensuing onslaught made him wish he’d never opened his mouth except for the intake of liquid. But then Mindy fell silent. Les knew that a silent woman is usually an angry woman. He desperately thought of something soothing to say when she suddenly burst out laughing.
“You’ve got it!” She shouted again and again and danced around the bar area.
Les waited patiently and with bated breath.
And she told him of her plan to fox everyone at the plum bake-off by producing an apple pie and passing it off as yellow plum. She’d use her special spice mixture. She’d use a splash of elderberry to give it an unusual tinge.
Les was getting hungry and asked for a pickled egg. Mindy chided him for thinking of pickled eggs when she was talking cake. Les smiled a toothless grin and apologised.

Outside, Rasta had a plan. The ham had either been moved or eaten. Rasta couldn’t smell it anymore. But he had a plan. The cold box that Human kept the cream in. Rasta entered the kitchen through his own private entrance door. He’d tried opening the cold box before, without succees. Rasta put his paw into the gap at the side of the cold box. He could feel the cold already. He could also smell something delicious. Rasta extended his claws and pulled as hard as he could. Impossible. Rasta sat and thought. Then he walked to the other end of the kitchen, accelerated as hard as he could and threw himself against the cold box with all his might.

Five minutes later Max Overeight, local councillor of the United Kingdom Independent Liberation League, smiled warmly at the cat and the sheepdog sharing half a chicken outside the Saracen’s Head. Leftovers from yesterday’s roast, he assumed. It never even crossed his mind that if cats and dogs can share, then why not people with other people? Max was too preoccupied to prepare his speech for the annual plum fair. A clean line had to be established. Steps had to be taken. No more nonsense. It’s what his voters want. The Pound, not the Euro. Plums, not apples.

Dark Peak traffic update: congestion at Pikenaze Hill is due to continue at night, but only on weekdays. Cones to funnel traffic down to one lane will be put out by 9pm, because of the working hours of the cone contractors. Actual work is not due to commence until midnight, because to the working hours of the resurfacing contractors. Extreme delays are expected on Wednesday and Thursday night due to football matches finishing in Sheffield and Manchester after 9pm. Later night shopping in Manchester on Thursday night is expected to compound the problem.

Weather outlook: It remains unnaturally warm for this time of year.

This concludes the digest from Old SlopsHop, in the Dark Peak, here sheep are up high in the meadow, ears to the ground.

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Diary Of A Novel – Day X + 2 ( do not skimp on editing!)

image“Match Games” is still at the editors. And I am realising that this “Diary” is probably going to be more of a “Weekary” as work has started to get really busy again in the run-up to Christmas!
But progress on the adventure of the steep learning curve of presenting “Match Games” on my site is being made.

And once again I realise the importance of professional editing

The really big hurdle was the 20000 words or so I got back from my editor with the merciless order to CUT, CUT, CUT! “How?” I screamed silently in the middle of Sibelius 2nd Symphony, the loud bit. It read perfectly to me. Then I read it again. The bit in the cave. Lukas Novak’s nemesis. It was too long, she was right. It was tedious in places, she was right! It was really interesting to people who know the cave well, like myself and two of my beta-readers. But to the rest of the world? To all those people that are (hopefully) going to read “Match Games”?
It’s just another cave.
I cut it back harshly. And read it again. It hadn’t lost impact. On the contrary. It was tighter and had more pace.

Once again I told myself do not skimp on editing in the future! I had skimped on my own editing, sent it to a professional editor far too early. I should have done more edits myself. I did three. Five would have been better. Lesson learned.

Technical problems solved and ideas developed since last post

  • I’ve been doing an online newsletter course with the wonderful Dan Blank and a host of inspirational people. With the help I am getting on the course I have developed a much better sign-up form (still via wufoo), see right.
  • At the bottom of each post there now is a second sign-up possibility.
  • I have signed up with shareaholic and registered to unlock additional features (it’s free). As a result  “share” buttons are now showing at the bottom of each post, automatically. Share buttons also now float at the right hand site of the website, which looks really neat.
  • A further shareaholic feature are occasional “you may also like” suggestions at the bottom of some posts. I have not worked out how and when they appear. It’s on the to-do list. I need to optimise the images used for these previews.
  • The biggest achievement of the week has been developing my first quiz, “German For Outlanders” – German for foreigners, through Qzzr.com . Another steep learning curve!Oh yes, and here is a great template for writing good blog posts 😉
    See you soon, please sign up below for updates.

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Quiz-time! – Today: “German for Outlanders”

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Unsung Heroes Of The Orchestra – Cheryl Law’s Guest Post

Mark and Jeff

The Hallé’s own Mark & Jeff

Each time I go on tour I am reminded of the unsung heroes of travelling orchestras.  They don’t take a bow, but behind every successful tour is a slick operation that happens as if by magic. It begins days before the musicians have even boarded the plane, when thousands of pounds worth of precious instruments, music and music stands are carefully packed into reinforced trunkers, loaded onto a lorry, ferry or plane, and finally driven hundreds of miles, across borders, through the night, and intostrange cities.

The drivers of these lorries are the linchpins of an orchestral tour. As well as being HGV drivers, Stage Managers of orchestras have to negotiate unfamiliar laws which prevent lorries from driving on foreign motorways or cities on Sundays, because concerts happen on Sundays too. They check the trunkers to make sure they only contain what they are supposed to, and not stray books, clothes, shoes or even wine (yes that did happen once) which might cause them delays at borders. Sometimes they don a smart DJ to move a piano mid-concert, and they probably know how many cello desks there are in a Beethoven piano concerto and how many trumpets in Strauss’s Til Eulenspiegel.

Touring is a fantastic experience for musicians, and the excitement of playing in foreign concert halls is exhilarating. However, once we leave a concert platform most of us don’t spare a thought for what happens next, but, working when the orchestra rests, Stage Managers are always one step ahead of us in our schedule. As we hunt out a “tour bar”, their workday is recommencing on stage, starting with dismantling the magnificent orchestral set. The lorry is carefully reloaded, driven through the night and, hours before the orchestra arrives, unloaded again and a new stage set, ready for another concert in another hall, and so the cycle starts again.

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The Digest From Old SlopsHop


where sheep are up high in the meadow,
ears to the ground


The sheep have been up high in the meadow all week, keeping themselves to themselves. Nobody really knows why they are up there. But then nobody really knows what motivates sheep anyway, deep inside. It may have been that the weather has been unnaturally warm for this time of year and that the grass is sweeter up there after the heavy September rains.

Elsie Sidebottom has seen the ghost again, up by the planes. This is of course utter nonsense. But Elsie is adamant, as the rest of the Sidebottoms have been for years, that there is a ghost up on the moors. That in fact it has always been there, even before the plane crashed. One of the Sidebottoms, from the Brookhouses branch, recently told the Winterbottoms, who are by nature scared of ghosts and that kind of thing, that there wouldn’t have been a plane crash in the first place, if it hadn’t been for the ghost. Since then little Carl Winterbottom imagined the ghost to be some kind of a very tall, bearded man, holding a powerful lantern up into the night skies above Bleaklow. Carl worried about this a lot when he and his family returned from Magaluf last week and descended low over the Dark Peak on their approach to Manchester airport.

Old Tom Hollingworth had other concerns than a measly ghost. He was just keen to get up to the planes before the fell runners did. Tom despises fell runners. He told Liz Blackshaw once, when she offered him a glass of water outside her cottage, saying he looked parched, that these mountains are supposed to be a serious, all day challenge, that should leave One marked and that etches itself deeply into One’s face, should One accepted it. The mountains are not some outdoor gym, built for a quick half an hour jaunt up and down before breakfast.

Therefore, on Tuesday, Old Tom left at seven, without breakfast, not at his usual eight o’clock and stumbled over Rasta Whyley. Rasta was sunning himself early in a blissfully Human-free environment, on the back step, when Tom rudely kicked him out of the way. Rasta felt once again that Human should be more considerate. After all Human is only an employee. Rasta hissed and half-heartedly clawed at Tom’s battered boots. As always he did not bother with a losing fight when he encountered one. No point getting involved. He knew exactly where Human keeps his ham. How human of Human to think that the cupboard was out of Rasta’s reach. Just because human needs a stool! Rasta didn’t even bother looking back, but keenly listened to the increasing distance of Human’s hurried footsteps.

The cricket pitch is being prepared for next weekend, now that the season is over. Much to the annual disgust of the Mindy Alport, landlady of the Saracens Head, who hates plums at the best of times. She’d much prefer the sheep dog trails to take place here, not up the road, in Coalby. After all, the sheep graze high in SlopsHop’s meadows, not Coalby’s. Why move them out of their natural habitat? No wonder the poor buggers looked confused last year, panicking up and down Coalby Manor’s manicured lawn to the sound of Les Gillespie’s shrieking whistle which made his mangy sheepdog Lola howl in agony. No wonder Les came last. Still Mindy would much prefer to watch him torture the sheep than endure the plum pie bake off.

She said as much to Old Tom as he strode past the pub, on a mission, as usual. Tom mentioned in no uncertain terms that he was not looking forward to the fell race and the ensuing piss-up afterwards. Only Mindy could have sworn he’d expressed this in two words, both starting with the letter ‘F’.

Dark Peak traffic update: due to congestion at Pikenaze Hill the air quality in the whole of the Smalldale Valley continues to be poor for the time of year. Residents are advised to keep windows shut. The constant congestion is caused solely by the volume of traffic passing through the valley. Local politician Max Overeight, of the United Kingdom Independent Liberation League, voiced the opinion of the people clearly at last week’s Council in the Nag’s Head, Old SlopsHop. The bypass was needed. Urgently. Now. The community did not care about a couple of bluebells. No wonder UKILL are gaining support in the area. By the time Max got round to mentioning that the new housing estate at Dipdale had been given the go-ahead by Parliament, after previously being rejected at local authority level, most of those present had sampled too much of the local ale to quite notice what this meant for their daily commute.

Weather outlook: The areas microclimate continues to contradict the national average. Rain is expected at times, with sunny spells in between. It remains unnaturally warm for this time of year.

This concludes today’s digest from Old Slopshop, in the Dark Peak, here sheep are up high in the meadow, ears to the ground.

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