THE DAY AFTER

You know that come down you get after a great convention weekend? I’ve got that.

We had a great time and all the talk about dragons and all things science fiction and fantasy really managed to pour a huge amount of fuel into my mental tanks.

How often do we all just soak in all the good things we need from a particular event? A convention, a family gathering, a long awaited holiday. Our batteries get low and an event can suddenly re-charge what we’d run out of.

I published a new book of short stories recently so it’s understandable that some of my ‘well’ had been depleted but thanks to this weekend I’m full to the brim again. I’ve been feeling pretty good about the latest stretch of my writing journey so the energy from this weekend really has done the business.

New jacket and waist coat even came out to play as can be seen in the picture of me in the selection below.

I even managed to come up with a new idea for a YA novel. It came to me in a dream and I had a mad scramble to get the notes written down while they were still fresh in my mind.

Looks like 2018 is filling up with ideas nicely.

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SOON

Who looks out there at certain things, certain events, and just can’t wait?

When I write, I very often get caught up in the story I’m working on and can’t wait to reach the next part of the narrative, excited to finally get there and explore that next area of the story. I know that what I write is something that I’d enjoy reading and having that story bubbling along in my head all of the time, I just can’t wait to arrive at the next stage.

I won’t deny it. I’m very often like a small child at Christmas on the run up to a convention. I get myself wound up with all of the thoughts of what’s going to happen on the given weekend. The people I’m going to speak to, the talks I’m going to hear, the total of the shopping, the films, the acts, all of  it, drives my mind along like you wouldn’t believe all of the time leading up to an event and that’s a chunk of the fun for these events.

Excitement for the upcoming anything in our lives is great. If we don’t have anything to look forward to, life can get pretty boring so looking forwards allows you to set goals and do all you can to reach them.

In readiness for this weekends extravaganza at the Sci-Fi Weekender, I threw a focused effort into completing the short story collection, Answers from the Darkness, in enough time to get the copies delivered. I’ve been counting and re-counting the books I have in readiness for the off, packing and re-packing everything, checking and re-checking the clothes I’m going to be wearing as I watch the clock count down.

I love conventions. I love the chance to see all the associated things and the chance to interact with all of the people who attend. We all share some ideas, and we have disagreements but they’re always a great source of enjoyment as we get together.

Having that ‘whatever’ to look forward to is a powerful thing. Kids at Christmas and birthdays show it clearly, so much so you’d swear they were going to explode. And why do we stop doing it? As we age we get told not to wish our lives away and as the years pass by, it could be easy to be spending all the time looking backwards wanting to keep hold of a time when there was more ahead of us than behind.

But we never know when it’s our ‘time’. With nothing to look forward to, you’re left with a very bleak landscape ahead. Having a wonderful thing, whatever it could be, to be aiming for, to look forward to, to be waiting for, gives you that bundle of butterfly’s in the stomach and let’s you appreciate that little bit more of life.

And if you’re going to the Sci-Fi Weekender, I’ll see you there. Come and say hello. I’ll be looking forward to it.

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ANSWERS FROM THE DARKNESS

Today I release my latest collection of short stories ‘Answers from the Darkness‘.

Last year was a swirling horror show for my family and off the back of that, my work on the third novel in The Circle series slowed to a near crawl. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried to force the words onto the page, nothing could release the grip on what was stopping them.

So instead I had to work through my issues in another way.

My short stories have helped me to explore ideas and work through the images in my mind following my Dad’s death.

I’ve played with some things, worked on some stuff for the world of The Circle, and tried to move into outer space with a few stories. And I enjoyed giving it a go as I climbed out of my own darkness.

The stories are looking at some uncomfortable topics and are quite gruesome in places so I’d suggest, not for kids. Everyone come and download a copy, the print copy’s coming soon.

The answers are in there……………..

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IT’S HISTORY

Relaxing Sunday afternoon spent in front of the TV unwinding and enjoying doing nothing. Watched two films, Percy Jackson : Sea of Monsters and Night at the Museum : Secret of the Tomb. Classic Sunday afternoon fare really, fantasy action, thrills and spills.

Good times.

Now the relative merits of these films could be debated for an age, as all films could be, but they both start with a similar ideas. Taking characters from history and playing about with them.

Greek Gods or magically re-animated dinosaurs, the pages of the history of planet Earth can lend all kinds of new fuel for writing.

Now a couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the power of putting things together that wouldn’t normally interact and figures and events from history can be a good way to do this but it’s so very much more than that.

All kinds of characters and locations are there to be explored in ways of understanding and deciphering the human condition. Having modern day characters have to try and relate to ones from centuries ago can make it easier to hold ourselves up to the light.

But just by using the characters from history or mythology, we can see that maybe, humanity has always had to deal with the same issues. Talking dinosaurs can allow us to discuss painful ideas without the risk of being too real. We can examine ideas and work through problems which can be too uncomfortable but for talking animals.

Now the fun doesn’t stop there.

What could happen if we start to look at people or events from any and all points in the past from the opposite standpoint from what we all know?

The classic of ‘What if the Nazi’s had won WW2?’ is a well known place to start. What if the USSR had won the race to the moon? What if the extinction level event which did for the dinosaurs had never happened? Dr. Horrible is the classic villain yet he’s the focus of the story.

By shuffling the deck, we story tellers get the chance to re-write history in whatever way we can dream up and that can mean we can hold up to the light any and all possibilities that cross our minds.

Everyone strap in and enjoy the ride.

COMING TOGETHER

There I was, writing away on the next book, concentrating hard to get the words on the page while I had the radio playing in the background, and an ad came on for the stations annual five hundred word short story competition for youngsters. I was working on a short story myself so it was good to hear the drive to get others going in the field.

What Radio 2 did in the promo was to expand what you could get out of it.

Rather than simply being a relative call to arms, that particular promo also gave a small tip. It was done because they had webchats and other resources available on the website so was just an example of what else the kids taking part could use to deliver the best possible story they could.

But that little nugget was awesome.

As a way of getting going, think about putting two things together that wouldn’t normally go together. If you’re struggling to find a way of starting out, look at the way that you can subvert the normal.

It was so basic yet summed up everything that I’ve been trying to do in so much of my writings. It had boiled down my writing process to a single sentence.

In my first novel, The Circle of Fire, the central idea was doing just that. The big scary monster was the good guy. The main character was created to be a representation of a stereotype of the gym going man so I could turn it on it’s head as the series went on. My short stories include ideas around what we all think, and how we interpret words and I’ve tried to look at things in a very different way.

Don’t we like the idea of turning things on their heads?

Don’t we like the idea of what we’re all used to seeing being shown to be wrong?

Rooting for the little team versus the huge club. The David versus Goliath.

Excitement comes from looking outside the norm and by slamming things together that shouldn’t be together under normal circumstances. It can allow all manner of topics to be explored. The film Enemy Mine has the story based around a human and an alien being stranded on a planet. They’re sworn enemies and have been fighting in space prior to their crashing. Everything grows from there. The Odd Couple indeed.

Then think of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Yet again, we see the strange bed fellows. The court room, the home of justice and all things honest is shown to be a terrifying place if you come from the wrong population. Truth, that which we all know that we have to maintain, becomes an irrelevance before the glare of twisted ideology.

All kinds of stories are out there to prompt thought and to entertain, and very often, by bringing things together that shouldn’t normally interact, you can uncover some interesting stuff.

Now I’m off to write a story about an HR performance review of someone on the Death Star.

VIOLENCE

Violent acts are all around us one way or another every single day. If you’ve indulged in a bit of road rage on your way to work or barged past someone who was walking too slowly, holding everyone up, that’s violence. Dragging someone into the street and giving them a damn good thrashing with a baseball bat is also violence. Threatening someone is also violence.

All in all, it’s everywhere.

I’m writing book three of The Circle series at the moment and like the others, there will be conflict between different people and creatures which means I’m going to have to include some violence. So why is it that violence, which can cause so very many negatives, is so popular in our fiction?

We see every day on the news, a seemingly unending supply of examples of brutality from all over the globe. Acts of terrorism, murders, wars, and any other act of violence that you could possibly care to dream up yet we all love stories which include just those very acts. Now it would be too easy just to say that as a people, we’re all becoming desensitized to violence because we see it so often that when it pops up in a book or on TV we just see it as being part and parcel of life, but for e that seems too simple.

Computer games and films are regularly blamed when a violent act is perpetrated as being what pushed a person over the edge. The music of Marilyn Manson has been pointed at as a driving force behind violent behaviour from someone who listened to it.

I can’t recall a time where a book was held up as an example of driving someone to violence.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned way back when amid a moral panic regarding it’s contents and we’re all no doubt familiar with the phenomenon that is 50 Shades. Books of an erotic nature like these immediately make people angry but all manner of depictions of violence are held in the pages of a library so anyone can dive in and swim around.

After the 50 Shades book was released, there was an increase in the number of injuries of a sexual nature which were reported to hospitals as people gave the practices in the pages a go without doing all of the research they needed to. Yet there seems to be no qualms about descriptions of violence in other books. Granted, we’re unlikely to see a Val McDermid book be released and than have thousands of people set off on macabre killing sprees but why is it that there’s never the clamour for the books with violence in them to be sanctioned?

Now I recognise that 50 Shades books are held up as examples of normalising violence against women and the dynamics of the relationship in the novels is far from healthy, but people found it a way to explore their own sexuality and decided to give some things a go, potentially unwisely, which resulted in the injuries.

We see books where serial killers conduct almost unspeakably brutal actions as the hero chases after them. I’ve read books which included people being tied up in the mouth of an underground tunnel like a spider at the centre of a web and left to be killed by the arrival of the train. Val McDermid and a description of a torture device involving a naked man, a chair with no seat and a razor and hook covered and electrified cone is not something that I would ever wish to see come to pass in the real world and the entire works of Clive Barker seem to speak for themselves yet that violence doesn’t appear everywhere after the release.

Violence is a great tool in story telling. Violence can provide a level of connection that the reader may not have without it. We recognise what it would feel like to experience the violence so can empathise. We can also see just how far a character may have been pushed if they are willing to commit an act of violence. We know that we would never do something like that but also, exactly just how bad things must be if they’d reached that point of striking out.

But violence is not a thing of it’s own. Violence doesn’t exist separate from anything else just randomly doing it’s thing for no reason. Violence is the tool of a stimulus. Control of people can be maintained by acts or threats of violence. Emotion bring violence to the fore. Anger spilling out, envy and also sadness. People are driven to violence because of their situations and we’ve got to remember that it isn’t always something which should be squashed. Violently breaking free of oppression, self defence. These things mean that we need to recognise that violence isn’t the end point.

The works of Shakespeare and so very many religious books all have examples of the kind of brutality that would make your toes curl yet we encourage our young people to explore these books when they’re young as positives.

I’ll continue to use violence in what I write when the story requires I do. Just throwing it in there because you’re feeling bored won’t add to the story and could just look sensationalist. When my characters are violent, they have to be because of the story I’m putting together. I won’t have them being sadistic just because. There’s always a cause to violence and very often, the journey that matters is finding out what that cause is.

NEW YEAR, NEW ………………..

What does 2018 have in store for us?

No-one knows for sure but we all have a super power in this regard. Buried inside all of us is a power which holds the possibility of moulding and shaping the world to our desires.

We don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive anything or be hit by a weird space ray to bring this power to the surface but it can often take some kind of external stimulus.

2017 was nuggets of good forced to orbit a brutal black core of despair but the new year has allowed me to take stock and recognise that my super power was being brought to the surface.

I see in myself, both the need but also the power, to shape my reality in the way I want. I’m going to grip this year and make changes so I can get to where I need to be. I’m still feeling the pain of 2017 and I’m sure that the after taste of what happened will last a great many years but I’m going to start punching back.

The world is coming for all of us in one way or another and the fact that the fight approaches is something none of us can avoid. What we can do though, is make sure that we reach into our own reservoir of superpower, draw together our defences and just meet the onslaught head on.

Let’s all become our very own superheroes in 2018 and become the fully active force that our lives deserve. It’s never a time to take a backward step so let’s all do all we can to be as good as we can be and never let the monster of life beat us down.

Onwards one and all.