The Final Ramble – 2020

Unprecedented is probably the biggest understatement to describe this year but somehow we face the end of it.

Reflecting can do strange things to one’s thoughts. The future, the now and the past all come to mind. What we’ve been through as individuals and together will shape our lives maybe for many years to come and I won’t lie, back in March even I thought this fragile society we live in could possibly collapse – it came near but not near enough because we dug our heels, stayed indoors and got through. We dealt and most of us tried to make do while others suffered. Still good folks out there are suffering and its important to think of those in need no matter what time of the year it is.

There have been so many ups and downs, it really has been a rollercoaster and not for one second do I regret carrying on with this blog, carrying on producing content and overcoming everything to publish my 6th book. I wouldn’t have met folks like you if I didn’t and not to mention the loyal folks who have seen this blog rise from absolute zero. All of you make me somebody – perhaps my dream in all of this. The rewards have formed into a hopeful and promising future, I’m still only on the first few rungs of the author ladder but I’m getting there. Armed with a dream I’ve had since the age of 12 and you guys, the loyalists who somehow see what I see, together a vision shared is one dreamed. I just made that up but it sounds pretty epic and let’s hope better days are just that.

Thank you for joining me this year, wherever you are have a safe end to 2020, be kind to yourself and others, you, they and we deserve it. Even though you’ll probably be busy over the coming weeks, I urge you to check back here on Christmas day. I’ll sign this post off with a quote I first laid down back in 2017, some thing’s don’t change, they just get better…

Weekly Ramble #90

This year has represented many things for me but probably above all it has proven how much I really miss socialising with people.

Writers are stereotypically introverted and of course we have to be alone to create but I get my energy from being around others. This virus has taken away that opportunity to recharge through socialising. There were days when I was much younger and relied mostly on the release of being social and being out there under the streetlights or even in a lively bar out in the world. It completed me in a sense and got me through more than I realised. This year has been difficult without that. Perhaps this is why I’ve stepped up my social media presence – there’s a pandemic so I have time and it’s also a great way to talk with lots of different folks. It’s probably why I have started interviewing fellow creatives on here also.

As humans we all need escape and being within the confines of indoors has taken it’s toll on the best of us. Until things get better out there I’ll be staying in mostly. I’m lucky to have a significant other who is a perfect companion in all of this and together we’ve binge watched the best of TV this year. The horizon does seem bright but 2020 hasn’t been anywhere near a write off, it’s been the most successful ever for my writing and blogging. Views are at an all time high, sales have been satisfying and the following of this here blog better than ever. Burying myself in work as an author and blogger has pulled me along, let’s hope that continues. I’m eyeing up next year to be even bigger and my efforts are not going to slow one bit.

I’m thankful but also enduring toward this year, November felt four months long, let’s hope December flows a bit better and then 2021, well anything is possible…

In a couple of days I am going to be taking part in Pitmad – a Twitter pitching opportunity where authors and agents connect. I’ve recently finished a project that would serve as a great opportunity to pitch. More soon hopefully… and if you’re on the tweet machine and see my Pitmad tweet give it a Retweet!

You can also catch my rundown of the best books I’ve read this year, that’ll be dropping on Friday! Peace out, rock and roll man!

Come what may…

Very early into this online authoring and blogging venture I learned that the American people are decent. No mater what happens today, especially if you are an American, remember that. Politics aside, to me you have always been supportive, loyal and welcoming. As people and whether or not you know it, that’s what you truly stand for no matter who represents you in office.

Some of my greatest supporters come from the USA. Some of my better interactions on here have come from American people. Even at the very beginning when I didn’t really know what I was doing and when I first put out stories on that outlaw site called Booksie, there were supporters then who still check in now from across the pond.

Perhaps with the coming result and even before you might need to hear that. So come what may, I don’t judge anyone on their politics alone and you American folks are always welcome here, with open arms.

Lockdown Equals Opportunity

What a week this is shaping up to be. I mean is this the run up to the final episode of 2020? We’ve got lockdowns announced left right and centre along with an election across the pond. It’s felt like one hell of a long slog to get here with March literally being three years ago, or so it seems…

While in an ideal world it’s fun to compare this present reality to one of our favourite or not so favourite shows (Game of Thrones, cough, cough…), in real life there isn’t the luxury of fading to black and rolling to the credits, or blaming the writers who secured a gig with Star Wars just before they started production of the final season…

Over here in the UK – or specifically England, we’re about to face a second lockdown. Having been there before and because so many of this blog’s followers are facing similar circumstances in other countries I can wholeheartedly say that with a lockdown comes opportunity. Now I’m not talking about the business shark antics that take advantage of someone else’s misfortunate – what do you think this is the 80’s? But when the first lockdown hit back in March I eventually realised people need content for a distraction. Because I had the time to focus more on producing content, the numbers, follows, book sales and pretty much everything went up. This blog has faced more success this year than ever before!

If you have something to offer in this world that will serve other people, offer it, especially now…

Those who can produce content, right now this is your opportunity, not only does it express the importance of you personally carrying on, but someone somewhere will appreciate your efforts. It’s a circle of well-being because for me expression through words makes me feel good and my hope is that those good feels are passed on to readers. The world is in a state of flux right now but those who can remain doing what they did before without endangering themselves are serving to preserve what will be left after this era has gone. We as humans have always looked to escapism to survive the crap that is happening out the window, be that escape for someone. You’ll find purpose in creativity and content trust me.

Carry on, write that blog post, produce that video, put out that tweet, review that book because you’ve probably got the time now, seize it because lockdown equals opportunity!

Toxic Undertones

Quite recently I’ve been caught off guard with a handful of ‘bad’ social media interactions which have served as a stark reminder of how toxic and volatile the underbelly of social media really is. There seems to be a consensus of those laying in wait, ready to pounce upon negative situations with their own negativity sparked from a desire to either be a troll or to be an opportunist in the face of adversity in order to get follows, likes and interaction. This can seem to happen at any time and it’s something I’ve always known but presently perhaps forgot while my momentum is building and my following is growing.

As an author in the modern social media age, my market is based mostly within it, and as much as I would love to just turn around and walk away, I’m not in that position just yet, although it’s just another driving factor to get me there. Having a higher following on social media will attract many lower level folk who are trying to get their own foothold and sometimes they use whatever leverage they can to climb. Such recent experiences have forced me to back away from my usual level of engagement, especially on Twitter which is a particularly volatile, mob cultured petri dish of assholery that can turn on you in an instant. The ‘mute notifications’ button has been utilised is recent days.

While this post isn’t an attempt to vent, it’s become an opportunity to do so and that’s okay, this is my patch. And my philosophy on book reviews is simpler now: they don’t actually matter in the broadest of senses, I cannot help but sometimes notice the ilk of review that is literally an attempt to troll, or be funny. Although after a night’s sleep the nagging pain they cause is gone, and I am big enough and old enough to know my stuff is in the public domain and that it isn’t for everyone but any type of cross word against me will affect me, I’m human after all. Any review really, is a good review, because it’s proof somebody took the time to look at your words and possibly buy it. Most of them aren’t constructive, even the positive ones, what I can do with ‘your book was great’, although I still appreciate the sentiment. No matter what anyone says, they’ll never know the journey, the struggle and the ultimate satisfaction of being a better person for finishing the crafting of a book. Their words about your words will never match them.

I guess all of this is just the symptom or the outcome of reaching a new plateau of a bigger following. This blog is growing and the content includes reviews and investigations of other parties who might not appreciate that so perhaps this is a glass house situation. My ambition has always been to write books and tell stories, no amount of toxicity will stop that, after all I am radioactively coated in stubbornness, so I’ll always survive, it’s all I know what to do. It’s up to us as individuals not to get lost on the journey.

Weekly Ramble #81

September is finally here. For many, this a month that 2020 has been building to and where some perceived things would return to normal. That old normal is still far away but we’re carrying on through it. To all those going into the unknown this month, good luck and you are not alone.

Right now in all my social media author blogging endeavours I feel like the thrusters are to the max and I’m nearly three quarters down the runway. Take off is apparently imminent and this year from the very start I have pushed and pushed and pushed. From book promotions, to blogging, reviews and even Twitter which is approaching the 4000 follower mark. I have thrown near enough everything at trying to get a bigger better and more engaged following. Of course lock down gave me time to do this which I seized along with some fantastic encouragement from the acquaintances I’ve come to know, old and new. Thanks for the support everyone.

Every ounce of my efforts have been with my 6th book release in mind, that is along with the networking part of social media which is turning out to be mostly fun – connecting with others seems to be more satisfying than selling books and book sales seem to be happening a lot more now. August was my most successful non book promo month for sales pretty much ever. What did I do different? I just blogged more, tweeted more and engaged more. Folks invest in you before they even consider your work. This also led to the best ever month I’ve had on twitter – 500 followers were gained. As I said the whole thing is being turned up to the max. All of this will be relayed in a growing guide book which I plan to put out next year sometime.

September was always going to be important to me. It’s possibly my biggest month ever in authoring so far. Book 6 is a sequel and a 4th book in a series, I’m not expecting a huge amount of sales, 15 on release will be redemption and satisfaction all at once. Either way 2020 has been one hell of journey….

Weekly Ramble #80

They are going to knock down my old high school. This is a fact that I have recently learned which is both bitter and sweet at the same time for me. This year has presented many opportunities for deep reflection, time on our hands will do that and it’s sometimes important to revisit things with the eyes and mind you’ve grown into.

Many people over the years have relayed or recalled their school days as either mostly positive or straight up terrible while others stand somewhere in between. I’m still processing today that the school I went to and the experiences I had may have been of the worst possible persuasion.

The truth is, that place took years for me to fully recover from. During those years after, I came to realize that there were normal people in this world that you could mostly trust, share real conversations with and generally function as a person alongside. So was it really that bad you ask? And my response would be, yes.

Not only is the concept of high school a mostly regressive thing to me; throw together a bunch of hormonal kids all at different stages of being hormonal, drill into them conflicting information about how important preparing for the future is and then top it off with a pressure to fit in and also succeed.

If you combine that with the environment I had to endure you would most certainly agree and the ecosystem that I weathered and survived was socially hostile, violent and toxic. It was a place that I could never truly fit in or let alone dare to be myself. Today we celebrate being ourselves. Inclusion is celebrated and still a noble cause worth fighting for. Back in that place, you couldn’t wear certain clothes, listen to certain music, think a certain way or even look at someone the wrong way without being punished for it and sometimes that punishment was violent. If you ever thought of stepping outside from the current and flow, you were targeted by a stifling mob culture of kids.

Head down, voice quiet and just bide the time. This was the only method of survival in that place I knew how to adopt and even then you weren’t safe. Perhaps that is why wherever I have gone since, I’ve survived. My invisibility strategy was enough for me to stay mostly unscathed physically and for the most part I went through this journey without being noticed. As for today; I’m not remembered probably by most who I shared those narrow packed corridors with. They were people who I had nothing in common with and many of the less desirable types had socially peaked at 16, I guess I could live without being remembered by the likes of them.

The teachers, who didn’t help but as an adult I know now they couldn’t help. Many of them couldn’t relate and were probably horrified by the fact they were trying to answer their calling in life at such a place. They were trying to function and survive themselves in what was an every person for themselves environment. Over the years I was there (5 – trust me I was counting), the place became more and more unstable over that time. A combination of worse schools closing locally and a change in leadership interrupted the order of things. Now you had younger kids fighting older kids, and sometimes these younger kids would win which just spun the volatile environment around some more. A wider level of ‘Gotham’ style chaos began to ensue. There was no safety. There was fighting everyday. No wonder I took the world of working in my stride, the sensation of it was both refreshing and liberating. The civility of it, a culture shock to begin with.

Anyone going through the struggles of high school, or anyone who has been through it, you are not alone. And it does get better. Leaving it behind is both weirdly sad and happy all at once. Being a writer means I am seasoned at compartmentalizing and putting thoughts away. There is no trauma now, but I can still explore old memories to cope and reflect. There may just be a hint of bitterness because I never went to the prom by choice, or even had many decent memories of that time, let alone any true friends.

I no longer represent the shy, quiet, keeps things to himself kid, that was just a survival mechanism. Over the years I learned to socially come out of that defensive shell because the toxic environment of those narrow corridors has long gone. As that confidence grew and whatever that place did to me faded, I began to do everything in life that I would get punished for in that place. From the music I now listen to and embrace, to even the hairstyle I adopted just two years after that place’s grip on me faded. Some of this stuff I do is to stick my middle finger up to the fact I couldn’t do it back then. Everything I have aspired to be was once just an escape from that place, and now I am who I envisioned to be, well and truly and without the school that I survived.

Now I’ve learned the place is being knocked down I’m able to take a long breath of relief because even though on the 25th of August 2005 I vowed to never return to those corridors in physical form, I will never be able to now, for definite. Since I left, the place took an even bigger downturn before half re-branding. Now that brand looks to fully absolve itself perhaps from such a shadowy past with new modern building beside the proposed playing fields which will serve as simply a grave of the days I struggled alongside so many others.

After reading this, you’ll see Open Evening – my debut novel in a whole new light because that story highlights the social struggle of high school; something that came from my own personal journey. I fused that element of what I knew and fashioned it into a story for some and a statement for others. Maybe I knew all along while I walked through that place, one day I was going to get these fuckers back, and the book did. Like always for me, the writing says everything I never could.

It became both therapy and reflection for me as a writing experience with an element of realism among the actual monsters that jumped out from beyond the unknown. The school burned down in that story, and now in reality it’s going to fall for real.

Good riddance.