We’ve all heard the phrase or variations of it, “You catch more flies with honey”, about the importance of methods to get results.

No doubt we’ve all, at some point, been on the receiving end of the wild stick treatment and you want to reach out and crush the one dishing it out. We may fully understand the problem but that stick seems intent on striking away until the end of time, making us acutely aware of the depths of our ineptitude and doing everything in it’s power to crush us beneath the righteous ire.

But that delightful carrot is so much better.

Being given the chance to receive a reward for completing a task is great. You know that when you reach the finish line you’re going to be basking in the knowledge of a job well done as well as accepting the carrot you were promised. Everyone wins.

So why would anyone use the stick over the carrot?

The carrot rewards good performance yet the stick punishes poor performance. If the only thing available is the reward when you do well, the worst you can expect is not doing what you should. The stick gives it balance.

The stick on it’s own just becomes a landscape of dour, crushing bleakness where you end up looking over your shoulder all of the time, waiting for the inevitable explosion. In this situation, the carrot becomes that blazing beacon that means that life could be so much more. Balance again.

We see it in life, and I’m trying to stitch it into the books I’m writing, where people become stuck on one or the other rather than keeping that balance. The carrot becomes the way the hero does things, the stick, the baddies. Big Brother of 1984 existed as the ultimate stick whereas Julia is the carrot, the gleaming hope of a better world for Winston Smith.

Stories mirror life in so many ways and making sure that there’s balance in the way people interact and how systems function create the reality that make the world believable.

We all need to have both aspects of motivation. Being treated with too much saccharine or with too much salt isn’t good for us so we all need to make sure we give the same consideration to everyone else.

Onwards to the best results.



I spent yesterday working on a new short story for the next collection and it’s a precursor to a book I will write at some point in the future. I was looking at machine / human interaction and interface as a place to start but it made me consider how everything we all do and how all of our hopes and desires feed in to how societies as a whole function.

I’m sure we’ve all read a story where the world that the characters find themselves is in someway broken, with there being a vast and unequal difference between the few and the masses. The different examples of these stories all put us in the shoes of the ‘have-nots’ as they fight against injustice and correct the problems but I’ve been looking at all of the little steps that had to have taken place along the way to bring the horror the story starts with.

Humans are a social species. We arrange ourselves into groups rather than exist on our own.

Evolutionarily, this meant that we could pool our resources and take advantage of the safety those numbers provided and over time, hierarchies were formed. Now I’ve read that due to our brain physiology, we are predetermined to organise in this way but the ability to build an ever growing population in a ‘mostly’ harmonious society isn’t something which should be written off so simply.

So how do societies break?

At no point would anyone vote for a party in an election which intended to jump to the very final stage of the collapse of society. Societal fall has to come in stages. Each tiny shuffling step hiding a wider truth. Heavily armed troops roaming the streets executing people out after curfew would never just appear, rather it would be the result of constant little erosions, probably designed at each point on the way, to be as part of a plan to keep people safe.

But rules and order are vital so allowing a population to have free reign to do whatever they desire isn’t the answer. Very quickly there would be swathes of gangs taking things from others by force, leaving the weak at the mercy of the strong, just in a different way.

Our societies are linked together by ordered rules to allow for no-one to take steps they shouldn’t and with an equal account of freedom to give all of us the chance to do things we want to.

The brutally authoritarian or chaotically anarchic both mean that things have broken down but the result is equally as bleak for the majority. We all recognise that to create a society in the grasp of a power crazed lunatic in a book means that readers will see the potential horrors of regimes gone wild so side with the characters who are on the outside looking in, think The Hunger Games. But all along the way, the tiny steps that went into making a Panem or an Airstrip One had to have been agreed to. There may not have been a great choice, but there was always going to be a choice.

Society is a wonderful thing. It binds us all together and allows us all to exist in a more controlled fashion than if we had to do everything ourselves. I for one, have no clue about hunting for food. We all fulfil a set part and the society trundles on.

The steps that would have to be made to take us towards a dystopia akin to 1984 will never seem like the steps they are but as each one follows on from the one before, the chance to undo the changes shrinks.

I like society. Human societies are wonderful things and they should be protected at all cost so we need to be acutely aware of the details of all of the choices we make along the way.

Panem didn’t happen overnight and at one point, it was what was wanted.


P.S. This is blog post number 200.

Who would have thought I could keep it up for so long?


It seems a strange thing that the underdog in any situation should be so readily supported.

This weekend saw the FA Cup on the telly box and all of the promo pieces seemed to focus on the examples of the little guy standing up and giving the big guy a bloody nose. And these aren’t the only examples of the phenomenon.

Think of every book or film which deals with a valiant protagonist taking on, and ultimately overcoming, an oppressive regime and the underdog is front and centre. Luke Skywalker, Winston Smith, Offred, Tron. These are all people who are mere cogs in the great machine that is the society they exist within yet they strike out against that society, against the clear injustice they see all around them, and in their different stories, are able to at the very least slap out at the oppressors, through to the complete overthrow of a regime.

This isn’t a new idea either.

The rebel uprising of Spartacus and his band of freed slaves has been told over and over again including being immortalised as both film and TV show and that, not only took place, but happened over two thousand years ago and most have heard about the story of David versus Goliath.

So why do we all seem to want to cheer on the little guy?

Are we all just a contrary lot who want to see the favourite get tripped up? Is it that we can’t accept the truth, like Jim Carrey? Or is it something else?

Now in sporting terms, fans will back their team when all the analysis shows they have no chance because it’s their team. It’s a tribal identity which goes far beyond big ‘un v little ‘un, but for the neutrals, our heads understand that on side is the heavy favourites but we just cling to the ‘what if’. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, the result will end up going the way you’d expect but on the very rare occasion, that one time, the system is turned on it’s head and the giant killing action is completed.

In storytelling, we love the idea that just a single voice, from the bottom of the power pyramid, can wield enough power to topple the mightiest dictator because, maybe, just maybe, should we have to, we could do the same. We want to see ourselves as the principled hero who’s going to stand up for what they believe in despite the overwhelming odds stacked against us. This doesn’t have to mean that we all want to be lightsaber twirling Jedi or that we all harbour desires to grow up to be an almost messianic saviour character in a broken world of the future, rather it can signify that deep down, we all recognise the need for that level of principle in a world which often punishes those ideals.

Who’s seen actions at school or work which have seen the relative bad guy win?

We all face choices to speak out or stay quiet every day and we all know what we should be saying on every occasion. But looking around the world and through history, it’s far too easy to pinpoint examples where speaking out would result in a swift and brutal response. There have been regimes which have stamped on even the slightest hint of dissent and ‘wrongthink’ could be punishable by death yet in these environments there are still the few who are willing to stand up for what they believe.

It’s our collective desires to be the good guy, the one doing the right thing that is so important. We see characters standing up for what’s right and that’s what we all want to see in ourselves, despite the risks. The bravery to stand up against a much stronger foe despite the imbalance of power.

Long live the underdog.


Did you miss me?

Yesterday was Monday and Monday night is blog night. Yet yesterday it wasn’t. Nothing happened. There was just a blank space where the blog post would usually be and there was no explanation as to why.

Now I understand that it’s more than likely that the delay of a single night for the publication of the latest blog post went completely unnoticed but there are so many things in our world that if they get delayed, will have a slightly larger impact.

I’d planned to be blogging on a specific topic and was all set to get the piece written when I got home from work but as is so often the way, I just couldn’t get away at the time that I originally thought and all of a sudden, my plans were out the window. Now rather than trying to play catch up and probably not doing the piece justice just so I could get it finished, I considered the effects of the bump in the road.

How important is routine to you?

Do you react better when you have a complete plan of everything that’s going to happen for that day or would you rather just wing it and see what unfolds?

Order is so often used in story telling as something which must be fought against. The world of George Orwell’s 1984 is one where the systems of order impose such a restrictive routine on everyone that even inside your own head, there could be a risk of falling foul of the rules and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale shines a bright light on the suffering of the human race, following the life of a woman who has found herself reduced to the role of baby factory.

These examples hold up routine as a stifling rigidity which carries threats to any and all who dare to step outside of the prescribed pattern. Routine has become the thing that is the oppression.

But routine is vitally needed? You can’t just cast it off and to hell with the outcome, can you?

Being able to maintain routines can allow all of us to do what we want.

Having routines allows us to stick to patterns for the good of the whole but also for the ability to make the best use of our free time. We may not want to deal with routine on any given day off but the routines that everyone else stick to is what gives us the chance not to do it ourselves. Our whole society is a house of cards which leans on itself, relying that routines are maintained all of the time to keep things propped up.

Individual routines are what get tessellated together to form everything we do so have to have some kind of order in place. The problems can come when routines are placed above the reasons they were put in place to start with. Slavishly sticking to routines just because that’s what the routines are is over looking where the value should be placed.

I like sticking to my routine of blogging on a Monday, it lets me know what’s what. But I’m open to change if needed.


And so it begins.

The world affecting circus that is the Donald Trump presidency of the USA creaked under way last week and bumbled directly into a problem driven by the facts of a situation.

After showing an almost rabid desire to have the highest numbers on almost everything you could imagine (even down to pointing out that The Apprentice viewing figures for Arnold Schwarzenegger were smaller than they’d been when he’d been the one firing people) day one saw the delight continue. The number of people who were actually in attendance to see the inauguration and those who were watching on TV.

Now on it’s own, this point is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the number of people who attended the event is an utter irrelevance. If Donald Trump is able to oversee world peace and be the driving force behind everyone coming together for the good of humanity as we start to explore the stars, he could have had no-one turn up to begin with and there wouldn’t be anyone who’d care.

The issue came that his ‘people’, despite evidence to the contrary, steadfastly clung to the party line of there being more people there than at any other presidents inauguration. Regardless of the facts, the decided line was going to be what they wanted it to be. To compound this they defended what was said with the soon to be immortal phrase, “alternative facts.”

Alternative facts as an idea scare me.

Information can be interpreted in different ways but if there are one hundred thousand fewer people in attendance of an event, you can’t spin the fact to be anything else. Facts are facts and as such aren’t subject to the whims of people wanting to say the opposite. Indeed there was no such concern with alternative facts when the result of the election was decided.

As a writer, I deal with words all of the time and there are examples where words can be used in many different ways which can be at odds, wicked being  both good and bad depending on context. But truth is more than that. Personal opinion on any given point has to be up for scrutiny and if the facts show the complete opposite, your opinion is wrong.

Literature has many, many examples of the use of ‘alternative facts’ by systems and people trying to do something despite the truth. One of my favourite books is 1984 and the existence of doublethink within the story showed clearly how truth can become nothing more than a hindrance to what the ruling power wants, changing as is required.

I hope that Donald Trump and his team  are able to prove all of their doubters wrong and deliver for the good of the country and the world at large but even now, so very few days into the job, there are already clear examples of an almost dictatorial obsession with everyone agreeing with what he wants to be the truth. Is truth going to be lost along the way amidst alternative facts?

How many lights do you see?


During last week’s post I gave my opinion on YA books and some of the titles I mentioned had distinct similarities. The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent all have the coming of age story running through the core of them but the other thing they all have is the dystopian future where the struggle against a system built to keep people down flavours everything.

So why does the horror view of the future seem to be so enticing to us?

A Utopia is the perfect world and a dystopia is the perfect opposite yet we see so often, depictions of the dark side as our societal destination rather then the more pleasant option. Don’t we want to see the world where all of our problems have been resolved? Why is it that we seem to gravitate to the thought of there being a monster waiting for us in the future ready to enslave us rather than the relative happy ending?

Star Trek can be held up as showing the human race in a positive fashion in the far future. We’re treated to a world where money is no longer an issue and that humans work for the betterment of the whole rather than the singular accumulation of wealth. Everyone gets on with the work they have to do as a piece of the society and they all just lean on each other in terms of maintaining life. They look beyond the planet, almost as if the issues of Earth have been solved yet when we get out into the void we start having all the familiar conflicts and problems as humans meet with all the other races. Indeed, the main antagonists in each of the series are there to conquer and enslave. Now we’re back into the land of fighting against the power to maintain our humanity.

Do we thrive on the thought of overcoming conflict? Do we want to see ‘the man’ be beaten by the relative underdog as a way of reassuring us that all of those problems we experience on a day to day basis can be overcome if only we apply ourselves. If governments can fall in those tales, surely we can find a way past our nasty boss? Can we all use the images of a society corrupted by the few, as a way to look at the world we live in now and help us prevent us making those mistakes? If we see all these stories of the broken future, will we be moved to do enough to stop it becoming a reality?

It could be easy to look at the world that we all live in now as heading in the direction of a dystopia where our lives are more and more controlled and fear is everywhere but we need to remember that there can be so much more. In 1984, The Hunger Games and the other books that I spoke about at the start of this post, the bleakness of the world needs to fought whereas in Star Trek, where the human race has resolved those issues, we’re out exploring the galaxies. Surely that’s got to be a good enough reason to look for the positive.


As I close in on the release of my second book, The Circle of Duty, I’m turning my mind to the horror that is the impending reviews.

I’m not just expecting everyone to just start ripping lumps out of my work but the fear of what is going to be said is a very real thing. I’m going to be sharing a piece of art I’ve created over a period of years. I sat and worked on this story for so many hours, in so many locations, that the thought of it being crucified by public opinion is not one that fills me with glee.


I had a bizarre idea last week and I’ve no idea where it came from.

I decided to dive on the Amazon website and have a look at some of the reviews on there for some other books. I knew that if I could see that everyone came in for a critical mauling at some point, at least it would take the edge off the inevitable body blows should they start coming. My first book to check? 1984.

I read 1984 when I was studying English at A-Level and found it to be an amazingly powerful story. It’s now one of my favourite books but guess what? Twenty three one star reviews. Granted some are jokes (well I think they are) talking about Michael Jackson and Culture Club but there are a healthy stack which dismiss the book as poorly written and boring.  Next up was To Kill a Mockingbird and again there was a group of jokes but again, a rather healthy chunk of ‘worst book I’ve ever read’ and ‘gave up’.

Book after book which are deemed ‘classics’ were on the receiving end of withering criticism from people who just didn’t like what they’d read. So if it can happen to them, it’s a fair chance that similar treatment will come my way at some point. All I can cling to is the fact that I’ll take on board every piece of criticism which could make things better for future work but the comments which don’t really evolve beyond ‘didn’t like it’ can be viewed through the eye of P.T. Barnum. Everyone has an opinion but that isn’t the only thing everyone has!