Weekly Ramble #80

Hello friends, today I am re-blogging some reflective thoughts I had last year after realising they were going to demolish my old high school. The difficult years I spent there made for inspiration for my debut novel Open Evening which will be FREE to download next weekend!

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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…

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‘From Voiceless to Vocal’ by Danielle Larsen – Review

Candid, brave and ultimately inspirational…

While many of the subjects in this memoir aren’t easy to talk about, Danielle Larsen delivers her story flawlessly and highlights the moments and events of a journey that makes for a gripping read. In this day and age the subject of mental health needs to be talked about more and this book does that. Being wrongly diagnosed at a young age ultimately paves the way for Larsen’s struggles while the main bulk of the story focuses on her being in a relationship with an abusive controlling partner. For much of the time it’s frustrating to see the abuse that unfolds – why can’t she just leave? Unfortunately it’s a little more complex than that and part of the journey is understanding that it’s hard to leave sometimes and breaking those shackles is difficult when the circumstances of gaslighting and emotional abuse are present.

“Normal does not have to mean good or comfortable, but simply what one gets used to…”

This book acts as guide in some senses to spread awareness while also informing others. The narration style feels natural and relays every moment with dignity and there are some moments when you cannot help but feel for a person who has been through so much – a lot of it wasn’t even her fault and you just want her to succeed in the end. There are even some brighter moments later on which highlight finding inspiration from musical theatre and how we all need to find something for emotional release. For Danielle Larson to share a memoir like this it’s incredibly brave and ultimately inspirational because the message is no matter how many chips are down you can always come back, there’s always hope and survival is probably the greatest gift we have.

5 Stars – A gripping and touching well-written read that bravely shares so much. Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

The stories that inspire us – ‘Timeline’

Hello friends, today’s re-blog is a timely one as it has been exactly a year since I began a new series of posts highlighting and celebrating the stories that inspired me. Seeing as my audience has grown in that time I thought I would share it again.

The deeper meaning to this one leads into marketing and my best advice for bloggers and writers is to always have more content for readers to invest in..

Lee's Hall of information

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Welcome to a new series that hopes to give insight to some of the stories I have experienced that shaped me and my writing. Many of them I hold close to my heart and some you may end up taking on as recommendations. Without the stories in this series I would not be here today!

Although this series will cover stories from all mediums it starts with a book that might possibly be one of the most important I have ever read. This is the story of destiny and how I came to find a story called Timeline. 

I grew up near…

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The stories that inspire us – Half-Life

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Growing up in the 90’s means that I’ve been witness to some incredible technological advances throughout my life. Video games in particular literally leaped from 16 bit all the way to 64 in a matter of years, but that’s just talking about numbers. The experience of a story is what resonates through us all and one particular story that I first discovered all the way back in 1999 still resonates through me. I’m talking about Half-Life and yes I am one of the people who played it quite soon after release at 10 years old.

TOP 30 BEST Video Games of the 90s (BEST RETRO GAMES) | Chaos - YouTube

Back then parents didn’t really take much note of game ratings and I’m not sure there even was anything strict to really regulate them at the time. Summer holidays consisted of being out all day and then watching the likes of South Park at night or the late movie which again probably had an age rating, there wasn’t a snowflake in sight and well most of my generation turned out okay…

And then this game came along that was included in one of my friends brand new Dell PC’s. It carried an air of mystery as neither of us had heard about it back then and so we went in to Half-Life totally and completely blind. By that year, ’99, the concept of a first person shooter game was relatively fresh from the birth of the genre earlier that decade with Wolfenstein paving the way to Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Alien Trilogy and even Goldeneye for the N64. all of which, deserve a nod. Neither of us knew then what we were getting into.

Lifetime fans such as myself sometimes forget that Half-Life is a first person shooter game because the story is so rich and immersive from the very start – something rare for the era and so after installing this game we began.

Games slowly immerse you these days through a sometimes cinematic sequence where very little is required to do other than get a feel for the environment or what is to come. You have the makers of Half-Life to thank for that as early on, in fact for the first half hour of the game and after what appears to be a calm and very visual but solitary train ride commute, you are Gordon Freeman, theoretical physicist who is late for an experiment.

Half-Life 1 Train Ride - YouTube

This clever but immersive way of starting the game heightens the sense of weight for a situation which is about to unfold. You are late for work and rushing around – something many of us can relate to. You are introduced to other scientists who also work at this extensive Black Mesa Research Facility. The sense of mystery is overloaded while you are unaware of a sinister build up to this experiment which subsequently goes wrong and then the real game begins…

The experiment gone wrong results in something called a resonance cascade and as you the player are in the test chamber when it unfolds. You see just a snippet of what has been unleashed. Another world full of primitive creatures has began to merge with the one of Black Mesa and Freeman must now fight his way through a heavily damaged work environment to look for answers and try and clean things up.

It’s part Stephen King part alien blasting shooter because eventually Freeman comes across allies and enemies who are human as a cover up attempt begins. The army is brought in and so this trifecta of scientists, aliens and soldiers collide, yet you remain silent throughout the unique set up. There are no cut scenes, no level finishes, no speaking from the most iconic game character in modern times, he is the silent crusader working his way through the puzzling hazards of a huge science facility sometimes armed to the teeth and then just with a crowbar. Of course watching the whole thing is a thin man holding a briefcase who appears every so often, a presence now known as G-man. All of these concepts were unique and were never done until Half-Life. Apart from those now iconic loading screens this game just runs from start to finish.

Half-Life on Steam

As a 10 year old kid, this game had a resounding effect on me. That first play through is something I will always treasure and now in modern times and as a person who works in a huge science facility with radiation hazards, cutting edge technology and of course plenty of scientists; I can’t help but think that Half -Life inspired that journey in some senses.

My debut novel carries similar traits that you’ll find in Half-Life, especially the concept of soldiers arriving after everything falls to shit. This game and its setting, story and concept was something that had never been seen before and dare I say it, has ever been successfully emulated. The story stands the test of time and was expanded upon for the subsequent sequels but this one, stands above them all.

Have you played Half-Life?

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.

‘Magpie’ by Paul Jameson – Review

A quaint wonderfully written short.. 

Magpie by [Paul Jameson]

Magpie is a quaint and wonderfully written short by Paul Jameson who immerses readers from the get go with his unique folklore style. Having read it in just one sitting this story serves as just a snippet of the authors ability to tell stories that fuses classic and modern style description and composition. Having read his other work ‘Nightjar’ this book carries the same feeling and of course just an edge of darkness so readers who enjoy one will certainly enjoy the other.

From the note at the end it’s clear to see this story found the author in some sense while he was exploring a real place which heightens the immersive element of the setting. There’s a level of mystique about near enough everything including the history of what happened in this world and our own imaginations are given the scope to follow a story the author first followed. This is a story and reading experience that I highly recommend.

5 Stars – Magpie is currently Free to download and you can grab a copy here for a very limited time.

If you interested in reading more about Paul Jameson check out a very recent Hall of Information Interview I did with the him here; it’s a must read insight!

Let me tell you a story…

This was going to be an Instagram post, but it deserves my best audience. Good things in this life are incredibly hard to find. Moments to be proud are too and even with everything that has unfolded this year from the depths of the unexpected, this milestone was always going to be celebrated. So let me tell you a story…  

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Ten years ago today I took a plunge into the unknown. Perhaps the biggest dive I have ever taken into the excitement of what could be. It was on the 21st of July 2010 that I first walked through the doors of the Iver Heath Drama Club a place that has always let me be whoever I want to be.

I’ve been to a lot of places, I’ve known a lot of different people. I’ve worked in different industries and socialised in many groups but I have never ever fit in anywhere like I have fit in at IHDC. This is the most important thing the club stands for; inclusion; something the world is always fighting for but something IHDC is ahead of the world with.

From being a performer which they always supported to writing their shows which they fostered and took on with care. To be a success in IHDC all you have to do is show up, embrace it and work hard – perhaps this formula can translate to success in all walks of life. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t of ever had the confidence to realise my dream of writing stories and now after all these years, here we all are.

I don’t write shows for me, I write shows for them. And after all the time that’s seemingly flown by, and especially after what is currently going on in the world, good things like the Iver Heath Drama Club deserve celebrating.

Thank you IHDC, for 10 years of memories, for the shows, the audiences, the moments, the friends and family I now have. Hopefully soon we can all get back together and do what we do best, put on entertaining, fun and all inclusive shows for the community.

Here’s to many more decades! Rock and roll man!

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best books I’ve read this year… so far Part 2…

Because one measly blog post isn’t enough to cover the great books I’ve been immersed in during the first part of 2020 – year of the shit storm. And let’s face it, I love a sequel, I can’t help but leave the door open and in this sense it’s for the greater good of books so here we go, let’s dive in to some part 2 of best books….

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

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Westerns have always captivated my imagination. From the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to the modern television epic ‘Westworld’ and even the final part of my all time favourite film trilogy Back to the Future Part 3. I’m a connoisseur of modern country music and have even dabbled in possibly the greatest video game story ever told which also happens to be a western; Red Dead Redemption 2.

With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until the right book came along and The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is just that. Authentic history meets romance that spans over some years during a time in America where the modern world is still emerging. Nina Romano has constructed an epic tale of love that delves into Native American culture complete with the sights and smells. The love between the main protagonists is perceived as destiny and that’s how I saw it anyway. To quote my reviewIt’s both poetic and sometimes poignant while even being brutal in parts, of course the old world was back then and you cannot fault the factual elements that are intertwined with the fiction…’

‘The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb : The Willie Abrams Saga’ by C.J Evans

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Continuing with the historic fiction theme we’re going a few years ahead to a post WW1 world where a pair of american veterans are living out their retirement in Cuba (booze was banned back home). While it seems to be the ideal life, the sun, the sand and the daiquiris, history soon catches up with Willie Abrams. It’s part treasure hunt come rescue mission with a little dusting of Indiana Jones – if he went to middle america on a mission to find an artefact and use it to bargain for an old flames release. And quoting my review; The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb is an easy to read tale of action and adventure guaranteed to keep readers interested all the way to the end! This one will definitely whisk you away for a while!’

‘Scarred’ by Damien Linnane

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We’re going down the crime vigilante rabbit hole now with ‘Scarred’ by Australian author Damien Linnane who has put together a unique and sometimes violent tale that will question your judgement of justice. There’s a conflict in the story that runs throughout – that being whether or not the actions of the MC are right and wrong. To quote my review‘there are so many messages within the story such as revenge not always being the answer and the true morality of justice…’ 

American Blasphemer: A Novel by John Matthew Gillen

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This story captivated me like not many books do and I’m afraid that’s all I can say because ‘American Blashpemer’ is the first book I have read and reviewed for Reedsy Discovery and because it was an ARC, the review will be coming very soon, but trust me you don’t want to miss it!

Life Signs by Christina Engela

PHIS#2 Life Signs by Christina Engela - cover

The sci fi stories of Christina Engela appear quite frequently on my shelves, they are both fun and in good supply. Like the many of her books I have reviewed in the past ‘Life Signs’ deserves a shout out as well as the wider Panic! Horror in Space series. This one is a trio of stories that tie into the wider world of space, horror and even some comedy. To quote my review: ‘From poignant to quirky and fun, these stories pretty much cover everything that Engela is known for with a writing style and depth that will draw you in…’

‘Mr Mercedes’ by Stephen King

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Okay it may not be an indie book but sometimes we all need a break to switch things up. I bet Superman even has cheat days, not that I am comparing myself… plus I had this in paperback on my to read shelf for quite a while. Now I know, it’s Stephen King and if you tune into his twitter, we can probably describe his tweets as ‘interesting’ at best, he’s not quite at the J,K Rowling level yet but he’s on his way, the less said about that, the better….

Mr Mercedes is outside of the usual genre we all know and ‘love’ King for but he still manages to retain the depravity and the places he’s willing to go in order to tell a good crime story. That being retired detective who has let himself go is taunted by the criminal he never caught. It’s very readable, has a few gasp type moments and overall worth a look. You can check out my full review here

And so that wraps up another Best Books blog post. Of course there are still some other books which didn’t get a mention, so look out for them! Peace out, thanks for reading, stay safe…