BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

Are you on the look out for a gift for someone for Christmas?

Not only are my books available to buy through Amazon and from Lulu.com but you can also buy a signed copy of all of them direct from me as well.

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of the first book in the ‘Circle’ series, The Circle of Fire, now’s the time to start out on the journey, or if you prefer short stories of a slightly more adult persuasion, then Tall Tales for Dark Nights or Answers From The Darkness could be just what you need to revel in the long dark nights of winter.

Not only am I reaching out with my books but also I reach out for everyone to connect with in as many ways as possible.

Come and join my page on Facebookand follow me on Twitter.

Message me if you want your very own signed copy of any or all of my books but come and join the fun on all of the platforms you can.

 

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TESTING TIMES

Do you like to try new things?

Do you enjoy the challenges that come with stretching yourself or would you prefer to play in the more familiar waters?

It’s an easy thing to talk about, trying new ideas, but then actually putting the talk into action, that’s where the effort really comes into play.

If you think about the first time that you did anything, how did you feel? Did you have that burning desire to just throw yourself into the activity or were you more restrained? Were you scared? Were you doing the new activity despite what you felt?

When I started out on my writing journey, I was writing away on The Circle of Fire from day one but I was also working on various short stories at the same time. When I started writing those other stories, it wasn’t with the idea that they’d all end up in the collection book, Tall Tales for Dark Nights, rather that each of the stories was meant to be a way for me to explore other ideas and challenge myself to complete the tasks of putting together coherent stories over a shortened format and in different ways.

I’d started writing a novel but that didn’t mean that I was just going to stay on that single project. Putting myself in ‘harm’s way’, as it were, has meant that I could test myself, seeing if I could do a thing.

So do we all do this?

Do each and every one of us push ourselves to take those kind of risks in our life? Do we all push beyond what we know or is it more that the vast majority of us are content to remain at our current position?

It’s not that I instinctively want to do things I’ve never done every single day, rather that I want to see how far I can stretch myself and see if I have it in me to reach what I go for. The internal testing of ourselves is a way that we can drive for personal challenges. It gives us the scope to explore ourselves and see just what we have in us. It doesn’t mean that we’ll always be successful, rather that we want to just see a little bit more of who we are as individuals.

After all, we can learn a huge amount from the mistakes we make along the way, we just have to make sure we’re at least attempting things so the lessons can present themselves.

ALWAYS RIGHT?

Anyone out there work in the service industries?

Working in bars, shops or places of recreation?

I stood in the line at the post office today, little parcel tucked casually under my arm, and waited my turn. Now the post office in question is actually a satellite branch inside a local Spar shop so although the core services are the same, there can’t be the same range that you may expect to see at the larger dedicated outlets.

Now, the man ahead of me in line tried to complete a transaction with a very large item but the facility wasn’t able to do the business. Now here’s where we get to the interesting part. ‘Man in Line’ decided that the young lad who was serving him was the perfect recipient for his ire at the fact he couldn’t do what he wanted.

“What’s the point of having this as a post office if you can’t send things from it?”

To his credit, the lad behind the counter calmly explained the situation but ‘Man in Line’ just continued to moan, muttering away that it wasn’t good enough and that the lad was just not helping. Happily he left pretty quickly but it highlights a wonderful phenomenon.

When the customer isn’t always right.

No doubt there are loads of stories with anyone who works in these kinds of places but why do these things happen in the first place?

Why is it that we as a people have now become so utterly focused on what we are doing that we end up ignoring the rules or attempt to bulldoze our way to our goal despite it not being possible?

It’s a normal thing that we get angry. Getting angry when we want to do something but can’t, still normal, but when the reason we can’t is because it’s out of the realms of possibility, now not so great.

Why do we want to rage against a situation that’s immovable? At what point do we move from trying to overcome something in our way to then deciding that we should be able to do everything and anything we could want and the rules that are in place shouldn’t have to apply to us. And even more, that the person who’s telling us no is the one who’s being unreasonable.

I’ve been told that a child should be able to use the gym I worked in, outside of the usual planned times, just because the mother wanted it to happen, and when I explained she couldn’t, that she ‘pays my wages’ so how dare I suggest that these rules be enforced. The next port of call was the sentence that’s like fire on my skin, “I’m taking this further,” meaning ‘if you don’t give me my way, I’m going to (try to) get you in trouble.”

Now working in the industries I have, I’ve seen so many examples of people doing everything they possibly can to be absolute arses to those who are there to do a job. The ‘I pay your wages’ to ‘You have to do what I say’, come barging out when the desires they may be harbouring are rebuffed.

Is it that the angry people just want to be a pain? Some do.

Are the workers being deliberately awkward to a small handful of customers? Again, some might.

But do we end up bending over backwards until we’re coiled like a spring for the tiny percentage of pricks out there who just want to complain about absolutely everything that the majority end up having to fit around the dense core?

I’m writing a series of books about Dragons and magic but something which is folded into the core of the tale, is an examination of power. Not only do I want to see that magical power comes to the fore, but that how people are treated on a more day to day basis. I’m trying to look at different characters at all levels of the ‘machine’ as it were, and see how all of these people mesh together. The master of the estate may have all of the power but how is it being wielded?

In the real world, how the dynamic plays out between the customer and the worker can be a glaring light shone on the human condition. Does the customer try to bully the worker? What happens if the worker just withholds service because they feel like it?

Shouldn’t we all recognise that each and every one of us is held within certain criteria? Certainly, ask, test the chances of getting something beyond the normal but if it’s knocked back, don’t explode. If we all just mesh together then won’t the gears just move more smoothly?

FACTS AND FIGURES

Went for lunch with my mum today. It’s something we do each Monday and we can have a catch up chat and generally spend some quality time together. I pick her up from her house and we drive into town to have a meal. Today followed that very familiar routine and we headed off with the radio playing.

Now, for the purposes of this post, a few weeks ago is where the fun begins.

It was after midday and I listen to Radio Two so the Jeremy Vine show was on, that week hosted by Vanessa Feltz, and one of the topics up for discussion was the state of the whole tangled mass that is better known as Brexit.

I’m not going to speak about the relative points of the situation, nor am I going to spend the rest of this post talking about what I think should be happening, (*cough* REMAIN). What made me think was how there was nothing but gut feeling being thrown around in comment.

All the way through the process in 2016, there seemed to be very little of real detail concerning the whole process. The same could be said for huge chunks of the US election of the same year. Rather, there was a great deal of time spent talking about what people thought about a topic rather than the topic itself.

I had a conversation with my dad years and years ago and we were talking about a warm up that was being done by rugby teams before a match which ended up being an interesting situation. My dad thought one thing and I thought something different. Not much of an issue so far, I know. The thing to make it more memorable, I’d recently graduated from university with a qualification in Sports Science and I’d also passed further Personal Trainer qualifications. One of the areas I’d been studying was the nature of warm ups and the how’s and whys.

I was confidant with what I was saying, that it was based in scientific study and I’d been reading on this subject for a while and I was able explain the details of what I knew. My dad listened and asked questions as I went and all seemed to be going well until he flatly decided that I was wrong and he was right all along. It didn’t matter that I could show that I was correct or that I was explaining a topic that I did actually know a bit about, he was right, end of discussion.

We all have our ideas on all manner of topics but there will be people out there who hold competing thoughts and opposite points of view. Which leads us to the fact that diametrically opposite points on a subject can’t both be right, so when confronted with new ideas which go against what we may think, our own confirmation bias leaps out and we end up sitting with our fingers in our ears to all things that could dismantle our flawed thinking.

Think of the Anti-Vax movement. One study claims a link between the MMR vaccine and childhood autism and swathes of parents the world over go into meltdown. That the study was then completely debunked as drivel didn’t matter. That study had explained exactly what a group of people had thought, confirming that they’d been right all along. The thousands of other studies which said the complete opposite then became the work of a worldwide conspiracy by ‘Big Pharma’ to make money as they poison the next generation. Excuses are made to jump over the holes in the ideas until eventually, it rolls round to fingers in ears against anything different.

Indeed, the confirmation bias that people have was one of the driving forces behind my short story ‘TRUE LOVE’, ( If you haven’t read the story, follow the link to listen to a great friend of mine doing a reading before you carry on). I wanted to try and create something that was an almost blank which had very little explicit detail about the protagonists of the story so the reader would conjure them up alone. It allowed me the chance as an author to make the reader confront the reasons why they may have seen things the way they did. Did they fill in the blanks in a particular way because of specific reasons or did they just assume?

We all have bias. We all have opinions and having them challenged can be a tough experience. It means we have to examine what we think to be right and has the power to flip the world on it’s end so it’s more than relatable that we’d be reluctant to let go of our ideas at the first sign of a dissenting voice but being able to recognise these points when they are presented is huge.

Back at the unfolding madness that is Brexit, it does feel that feelings were taken as being the same worth as facts. Lots of comments came out about what people feel about Brexit but when push came to shove, there was just nothing there to explain specific issues. Sound bites ruled the world and played into specific ideas that people felt. Fear is easy to stoke if you don’t understand. You’re scared of the dark because you can’t see what’s there. You don’t understand a reality so come to conclusions based on emotion.

The almost revolving door of Brexit secretaries and on-going shambles of trying to build a coherent agreement on what leaving the EU means highlights that the comments made by so many of the Leave camp that it would be easy to negotiate a trade deal, easy to get out of the EU were in fact nothing but tools, playing at the confirmation bias of those who thought that it couldn’t be that tough a process without really knowing what they were talking about.

Those who wanted to Remain didn’t steer clear of the same process. It was called out all of the time by Leave as being Project Fear, just focusing on the worries of all those out there who wanted to stay in the EU. Pointing out exactly what was happening, being completely honest in one way while obscuring things at the same time. Facts weren’t involved.

Playing on the bias of people to frame an argument isn’t a new idea. Everyone tilts how they explain a point to someone to make sure that they can have their point passed on. It’s a massive skill to be able to cut through the obfuscation and see the truth of what’s happening and political landscapes have been managed like this since forever. It just highlights how important it is to be critical with all information and never let your bias show.

GOING UNDERGROUND

You ever notice how often in storytelling, things take place underground?

The civilisations of the past and all manner of other things could be hidden under our feet and we’d be wandering around oblivious to the treasures which could be there.

If you’ve ever sat on the London Underground, the Paris Metro or the New York Subway, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the sheer vastness of possibilities which stretch out underground, hidden from view. These examples are labyrinthine worlds which allow for the transport of people around the cities but so very much more could be out there.

When I started out on my storytelling journey, one of the many issues that I had to overcome was how I was going to have all of the actions with weird and wonderful creatures and magic of different kinds happening without every single person on Earth being able to see everything. There was going to be the need for secrecy in the dealings of The Circle so finding ways to obscure what was taking place was front and centre of the planning. And what more effective a way to have huge civilisations waring with one another without being seen than to have so very much of these groups hidden underground?

Across the globe, we know that there have been discoveries from beneath the ground which have helped us understand our histories and where we sit in the timeline of the planet. But knowing that artefacts could be there is very different to actually going out and uncovering them.

The truth which could be out there allows for all manner of possibilities to be offered up. The ancient underground city of Derenkuyu in Turkey is built within a mountain. It was carved from the stone and is large enough to have been able to hold up to 20,000 people. The ideas of why it was created and then abandoned can stretch in almost every conceivable direction. From it’s advantages of being hidden, more defensible or that it was somehow the result of input from aliens, we can imagine huge scaled possibilities and there in is the fun.

We want to know.

We need to understand.

Our evolutionary success has been built on our intelligence and always trying to uncover what’s going on allows us to build a full and complete picture of the world around us. We know that underground is a great place to hide people, to hide things and to hide knowledge so the understanding that underground could show almost anything burns within all of us.

Underground holds a huge number of chances for story telling but it comes from our total need to explore and know. Just think of all of the things we could know but haven’t uncovered yet.

PROVE IT

I watch Supervet on Channel 4 and marvel at the ingenuity of the procedures and the tenacity of the animals as they fight against all manner of conditions and injuries.

But the hardest parts to watch are the rare occasions when, after all of the work, all of the attempts, all of the love, the list of available options has been exhausted and the family are forced to confront the truth that the furry member of their number can’t be saved.

Time and again, Noel Fitzpatrick pushes the limits of what can be achieved with the science that he has at his disposal and it can become almost mundane when yet another animal is patched up and sent on their way, such is his and his teams skill. But that doesn’t happen all of the time.

The family have to deal with the fact they’re losing a member but Noel has to deal with the explanation. And he does so with the compassion and empathy you’d hope was on display from every person who has to shoulder the burden of such news.

He talks of the efforts that have been made, the science, the care the animal has received and that there just isn’t anything left that can be done. But then he makes the most important point. He talks about the animals pain.

If the animal were to be left to live until their systems were eventually too weak to sustain life, they could be dragged through months of never ending agony where they have no quality of life. Every second of every day would be a tortuous hell as they’re forced to continue without there being even the slightest respite or chance for recovery.

And it’s at this point that humanity takes over,

The consideration for the quality of the life the pet could have comes into play. It wouldn’t be humane to let the animal suffer through the sorrow and pain when there’s no chance of improvement. To prevent that horror, it’s more humane to end that suffering by bringing the animals life to an end.

We recognise the need for that humanity for the animals of the world because we see that humans have the power to make the agony stop, that it really has to be quality over quantity when dealing with the life being led, and that trying to imagine how we would feel if we were in the same position as the dog or cat.

Wonder why we don’t behave the same way with people.

HONOUR

Funny thing, honour.

It’s kind of an unwritten rule of life, honour. You have to have it but it’s not as easy as nipping to the shops to pick up a fresh box. You have to build up your stash by using your stash. When you show your honour you can feel it growing as those around you react to it.

You see in stories and films where characters are declaring their intentions to do a certain thing or to ask for the trust of another, that they swear on their or another’s honour. It becomes an anchor of value to highlight the strength of a person’s word and the stronger the honour, the more worth it has. People in books don’t break their word when it’s been bound by the honour of their family because the blow back is always monstrous.

But honour in the real world isn’t just a matter of swearing by your name. To be honourable, to have honour, is not just something that we just say and there we go. It’s the follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Your honour is your who you are.

So honour is a great thing.

Nope.

As with so very much of the lives we lead, context is what does the work.

We’ve heard of honour among thieves but doing the right things in a criminal environment may not be the same things as outside those places. The fact you follow through when you say you’re going to do something is the same in both worlds, it just doesn’t mean that honour solely applies to a certain set of acts or thoughts.

The blight of honour killings on all manner of societies which are driven by a perceived slight on the family name are ways of redressing the balance with the most extreme response. Again, it’s the follow through that shows the value and any failure to do what has to be done can sometimes lead to a worse outcome than actually going through with what was said.

The different ways that honour can be slighted and then defended is as wide and varied as the human race has the possibility to make it. We value our names, our reputation, and if something were to bring that into question, we leap to it’s defence. Someone were to suggest a family member were marrying the wrong person, was saying that you cheated on some work project or that you informed to the Police could all be construed as being a slap in the face of one’s honour but each would sit as an issue in different circles. What’s a slight to one may not be a slight to another.

All in all, to have honour is to have integrity. If you give your word on something, if you shake on it etc. it’s your honour that means that you will do it and it’s that shared behaviour that means that we can trust that others will do the same or suffer the consequences.

We need to have follow through. We need to have that way of behaving that is a method of all parts of society being able to function together and there be a consequence if a person’s word is broken.

It’s a good thing, though, that we’ve moved beyond duels at dawn.