On the evening of 31st December 2019 I spent New Year’s Eve the same as all previous ones – surrounded by pals and merrily mooching from pub to pub. Beer flowed, jokes and laughter were abound, and hugs and handshakes were everywhere. Little did I know that would be a luxury I’d take for granted.
Face masks were alien to me – something people in smoggy countries wore. Social distancing was non-existent as I shuffled through crowds to the bar. And a curfew was something given to disruptive children. Never in a million years did I think things would develop the way they did. I left 2019 thinking I was in for a great year. My book cover design business was getting busier, and a welcome warm holiday was but a few months away.
Yet twelve months on, things are much much different, having given way to a more quieter, sombre affair.
When writing my last post in May, I never expected things to be carrying on until now and beyond. It’s easy to see why many cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel as we forever revolve from lockdown to relaxed rules. People around the world are still terrified and afraid about their uncertain futures.
2020 has been a bizarre year for everyone, one filled with sadness and despair, loss and loneliness, poverty and illness. We had always prayed that Christmas would be the time all returns to even a small sense of normality, but recent regulations has destroyed any possibility of a happy family get together with friends and family.
And yet even during these dark times, there is always hope and happiness, and great lessons to be learned.
We must learn be more kind and understanding of the situations and predicaments of other people. We must not judge others for not doing as we do. As many began to flee London, having been given mere hours before Tier 4 hit, we must not judge them for packing trains and buses. We have no idea what is happening in their lives, or where they need to get to.
Those who have gone and and met family and friends, against the rules – we cannot judge either. We have no idea what frames of mind people have. Many are doing what is necessary to literally survive.
Anti-vaxxers cannot condemn and laugh at those desperate for the vaccine. Many people are terrified, and just want to protect themselves and their families.
Likewise – people who want the vaccine cannot roll their eyes at those who refuse it. With the wealth of information and arguments on both sides, it’s understandable many may not trust what is being thrust upon them.
We are all fighting our own individual battles, and are coping the best we can during a time none of us has ever experienced before.
It’s easy to lose faith, and to write off 2020 as a complete miserable disaster.
By looking for the silver linings of this very strange year, maybe we can use this experience to better ourselves, and turn it our advantage. Be kinder, be more grateful of the things we have, and always look for the wins.
Maybe you used this year to learn new skills, found ways to expand your job online, reconnected with friends and family, appreciated the things in life you have, or in my case – watched how many people decided to write the book they’ve been putting off.
Or maybe you just looked at the world with brand new eyes.
There is always much wonder, beauty, awe, and possibility around us, even during the darkest times.
Life can be unpredictable, and knock us sideways at a moment’s notice. But it’s how we react to these events that really matter.
Never give up, ever.
Please have a wonderful Christmas (or whatever you celebrate at this time of year), and have an amazing New Year.
Keep smiling in the knowledge it cannot rain forever.
The night is always darkest before the dawn.
Be safe, be happy, and do whatever it takes to keep your mental and physical health in top form.
See you in 2021.
Much love always!
It’s been so long since I wrote in the blog, but I feel now is a good time for a new entry.
So, Covid-19 – it’s something that’s touched the entire planet. And I’ve no need to explain why. We all know the statistics, the symptoms, and the pain it’s caused.
I’ve also no need to talk about any strategies or routines to get through it. Whatever I say, has been said a million times already.
What I can say though – is that it’s ok to be scared during these times. Humans have always feared the unknown; it’s in our nature. We’ve cemented and anchored our lives to a paradigm that barely shifts. We go about our day, fully secure that no matter what events or circumstances befall us, we have a fixed background to base our lives against. If we lose a job, we can always find another. If we lose a loved one, we can find comfort in our friends and family. And if we see tradgedies around the world, we know the world will inevitably mourn, cope, and move on. Even those fleeing warzones rely on the stability of the rest of the world to help them find refuge. Life goes on, and despite the odd blip and bump, the way will smooth out, and carry on as it has before.
Covid-19 is different though. It struck the entire world so hard and fast that we barely had chance to prepare and comprehend what was happening. Some countries were hit harder than others, but all were affected in some way. The planet ground to a halt and waited with baited breath, hoping that the pandemic would quietly pass without causing too much damage.
Governments tried their best to organise their countries, strategically attempting to curb the virus as best they could. These were unknown waters, and those that stayed high and dry were praised, and those that got it wrong and floundered were beset by outrage. But to predict such outcomes were difficult, if not impossible. Geography, culture, and population variations, amongst other factors seperated each country, meaning a course of action that worked in one place wouldn’t work somewhere else.
And now the populous hides, told to stay indoors and wait out the uncertainty.
As I type this, the sun beams outside, belying what lingers in the air.
People are frightened.
People are scared everything they have worked hard for is slowly dissolving before their eyes.
People are unable to pay bills, having lost their jobs, or being unable to work.
People are losing loved ones, unable to be with them in their final moments.
People are on the verge of starvation.
People are missing those closest to them, only slightly delayed by phone calls and facetiming.
And you know what?
It’s ok to be afraid and sad.
It’s ok to worry about what’s to come.
And it’s ok to lose hope.
Because that’s in our nature. Uncertainty terrifies us.
But that uncertainty can also be full of hope.
Great things can come from despair.
Because humanity is also resiliant.
We’ve proved time and time again we can endeavour and triumph.
The pandemic will pass. It won’t be our end. We’ve broken through deadlier ones before.
We will go outside, and breathe in a cleaner world, rich with life and hope.
We will learn to make money once more. But it won’t dominate our lives as it once did.
We will interact more with our neighbours and smile at strangers.
We won’t take for granted seeing and hugging our friends and family.
We will respect the fragility of the planet, and look after it more.
We will spend more time with the people we love, and not slaving our lives away for money.
Because we fought this battle together, and together we will win.
Nothing unites us more than a struggle.
Sometimes we need the foundations of our lives ripping down, in order to rebuild better and stronger.
So be scared if you need to. But also know things won’t always be this way.
Things will get better.
A brighter dawn is approaching.
Be safe, and be happy.
This is for all my friends and family who are worrying at this time.
I love and miss you all so much. And you’re all in my thoughts.
I’ll see you all soon. Look after yourselves.
Life can be tough – it’s a known fact.
It can pull us down, twist us, break us, and crush us.
And just one simple decision can send us on a path of pain and sadness.
But even down the darkest roads lay a glimmer of light.
We are friends, and I want you to know I am always here for you.
And I know you’re there for me too.
We must never forget to ask each other for help when we need it.
We must never be so proud that we can’t admit we are low.
We may make fun of each other, and banter until we cry with laughter.
But this must still be tempered with warmth and love.
Otherwise friendship can decay under the weight of solely harsh words.
Even though we may not see each other often, or only speak on occasion,
I am still your friend.
And time nor distance has no bearing on this friendship.
Little changes when we do reunite.
Even so, we must take great effort to keep making memories.
And always have events to look forward to.
Photos must be taken, and cherished for a lifetime.
Simple coffee breaks, to parties and holidays.
Each meeting must be special and unique.
We are friends, and I want you to know I am always here for you.
My door is always open. The kettle is always ready to pour.
And I am always ready to listen with a sympathetic ear.
Too often we are reminded that this world connects us in more and more ways,
yet only seems to push us apart further and further.
We must remind ourselves that our online lives are an illusion.
They are a condensed persona we display after scrubbing away the dirt.
As time pushes on, we must bridge the gaps that seperate us,
and reminisce about the journeys life has taken us.
Life is truly beautiful, and we share this part of history with many people.
Of all the years mankind has existed, we are lucky to share this time with those we love.
We must realise that each and every one of will face tough times at some point.
To be human is to feel the full gamut of emotions.
From the deepest lows, to the soaring highs, I want to share them all with you.
For we are friends, and I am always here for you.
Everyone knew about the ghost in the nightblub I worked in. Tiles had gone under many names over the years, but the bar itself was largely untouched. As well as reputedly being the longest marble bar in the UK (or was it Europe?), it could be clearly seen where the divisions of first, second, and third class once were. The Victorian look of the venue gave it a unique, look – beautiful yet forgotten, almost decaying in some regards. During the years me and my friends worked there, there were the assortment of strange events. Phone ringing internally on their own, disembodied laughter, figures appearing both sides of the bar, unexplained footsteps coming from the dancefloor in plain sight, keyfobs being pulled, and doors closing on their own.
But all these events can probably be explained away by the more skeptical and easily dismissed. And I could probably agree with them.
But one event in my life, I still today have no explaination, and even today I struggle putting it down to imagination or lack of sleep etc.
Around the age of 23 I began writing a screenplay for a project called ‘Last Battle’.
It involved a young man called Richard Crowell – successful in both his personal and professional life. Yet when he is tragically killed in a car crash, he awakes in the realm of Heaven in a kind of hospital. Noticing everyone appears sombre, and all are looking at him with suspicion and sadness, he enquires to a nurse. He is then told that Hell has finally amassed enough souls to stage an full on invasion of Heaven, and it is he who (for better or worse) is prophecised to determine the outcome of the war.
Now Hell has appeared in a few works of mine, and I find it as a playground for my imagination to conjur up various monsters. As a Pagan, my non-belief of Hell helps in this. But ‘Last Battle’ was different, and required approaching with care and authenticity. I researched for months, delved into works ranging from the Old Testament to the Divine Comedy. I wanted to give character to angels and demons alike and flesh them out in ways that felt correct.
Since the script involved the War of Angels – where Lucifer and his minions fell from grace, I needed to research this. This was largely before the internet was a valuable source of information (Wikipedia wasn’t a thing at this point), and I could only scour what books I could find. Thankfully my father is a big occult fan and this meant he had tons of material to delve into.
Some sources say one third of Heaven fell in the War – approximately 130,000 angels. So whilst this number of characters is absurd to write about, I landed on 13 instead, and used the works of Jacques Collin de Plancy, the books of Solomon and various other dark texts to breathe life into these 13 fallen angels and demons.
Sat at night in my father’s attic office I was scribbling down names, signals and symbols in order to develop the characters. Now looking back I think I was naive and silly to be dabbling in things I clearly didn’t understand, yet onwards I went!
Suddenly, I noticed I could see my breath. The room had become VERY cold, and had taken on a bluish, oppressive look. But this was late Spring, and had been a warm day. I became aware of what felt like a thousand eyes watching me; as if I was writing on a stage. Intrigued witnesses were peering over my shoulder at what I was penning. Icy chills ran down my spine. Whatever was in that attic with my didn’t feel human (or former human) at all! I’ve never felt fear like that before and I did wonder if what I was doing was a good idea at all.
I grabbed my Encylopedia of Angels and began frantically scribbling out the names of the Angels on a fresh page. Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Auriel – you know, the more famous ones. Gradually, the room seemed to warm up again, and the dull blue tinge brightened into a warm glow again. My breath vanished, and the watchful eyes seemed to melt away.
Now like I say, this all could be just an overimaginative imagination – and as the years go on, I conclude this more and more.
But at the time it seemed so real and visceral, and felt so…unknown.
The time is coming when I will rewrite this story, but in novel format. And once again I’ll be dragging out those occult books again.
Maybe this time I’ll take precautions.
Anyone know a priest?
And so tonight these long nights take their strongest turn of the year and begin to recede once more in favour of warmer sunny days. This year for us Brits has been a unique one – having one of the hottest Summers on record coupled with an extrarodinary performance from our lads in the world cup (making for great pub visits!), another Prince got married, a Princess got married, wildfires spread, we celebrated 100 years since the first world scuffle ended, watched in awe as offended levels grew to extreme new heights when someone uttered the words ‘stupid woman’ in Parliament, and some bloke swam around the entire UK, all whilst that dreaded ‘B’ word hung in the distance.
Now 2018 is drawing to a close, and many of us are quietly wondering what an uncertain 2019 will bring? Will our leaving of the EU come and go without barely a whisper? Will we be sent into wrack and ruin? Or will there be a second referendum happening, and bring the whole thing to a grinding halt? Who knows?
But whether or not our government proceeds with our first uneducated answer (seriously – the day we voted to leave, a friend of mine who’s British born, but whose heritage is Pakistani was screamed at in the street by and old man “We voted to leave, now get out of our country!” Get a grip and an education you dumb old shit!) we should still be optimistic.
More and more it’s doom and gloom being shown by the media, and thus it’s no wonder mental health problems are on the rise. It’s hard to stay happy when Theresa May acts like a broken guffawing record – “The people voted to leave, so we will deliver on that vote.” In other words “You asked for this shitstorm, and whether or not it’s what you envisaged, you’re gonna deal with it!”
But there is a light! More than ever, mental health awareness is becoming bigger everyday, and the words ‘Man-up’ are becoming less prevalent than ever. And rightly so. With over 200 classified forms of mental illness, it can reveal itself in many ways. As someone who has had loved ones deal with mental issues, it’s important to know and understand the signs before it’s too late.
So going into the new year:
- Be unwavering in your kindness to others.
- Give love and respect to everyone, even if they mistreat you. You have absolutely no idea what they are going through. Your kindess could be just the thing they need.
- Keep an eye on your friends and family. Notice usual changes in their behaviour, such as withdrawing from the world. Smiles can hide a soul screaming for help.
- Always have time for others. You have no idea what five minutes, a cup of tea, and a sympathetic ear can do for a person’s well-being.
- Recognise the beauty and colour in the world. Just because good things don’t get reported (an understatement if ever there was one!) doesn’t mean they aren’t happening all the time.
- Remain in the now – don’t fall into always remembering the past, or worry about the future. Only the ‘now’ matters.
- Breathe deeply and rejoice in the gift of life today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.
- Don’t put things off. Forgive easily. Love with an open heart. And never leave until tomorrow what can be said today. You might not get the chance.
- Help others and give generously, even when they have no way of repaying you.
- And no matter what, take everything within your stride. I’ve seen people with the worst luck in their lives, yet they remain happy. It’s not the circumstances which determine your happiness; it’s your reaction to them.
I’m proud of my nation. In the past we’ve stood battered and bruised in the face of a supposedly undefeatable enemy and screamed defiantly we would never ever surrender. Now that enemy has taken another form and it’s coming from within. By raising each other up, we enrich the whole country, and make us stronger and more resiliant to this threat.
So as the days begin to get brighter, and Friday the 29th March 2019 grows ever closer amid the chaotic death knells inside the Houses of Parliament, we need to realise it’s us as a people that have the strength to carry on and perservere. To keep pushing on regardless of the outcome next year. Keep the peace alive, keep the hope glowing, and let’s remember why we have the word ‘Great’ at the start of out nation’s name.
Much love to you all.
Have an amazing Christmas (or Yule, or whatever you celebrate), and a fantastic New Year!
Footnote: This post pretty much came out of nowhere. I feel I needed to write about the worries of some of my friends and clients, as well as the impact it’s having on the mental health of people. This and the fact this unique year is growing to a close. I did initially start writing about my own experiences of this year, but felt that was a bit boring.
‘Lucifer, when this is all over, I’ll finally have the gift to go that realm, tear down the pillars of Heaven, and drag the bloodied carcass of that God from his celestial throne.’
New chapter here. 🙂 War is coming from all angles now.
When I started writing this I wasn’t sure whether to include the Heaven/Hell aspects as I’d done that already with Last Battle. But it feels right to include it now.
DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please! Cheers!
October is only a couple of hours away. And with this month brings the beloved Halloween. Or as some like myself call it – Samhain! And it’s a further reminder that I myself, am a crap Pagan!
As we move through life, it’s inevitable our beliefs and faith changes, depending on circumstances and events that unfold. Religion is always a taboo subject; something we’re taught never to bring up in conversation, in order to avoid arguments and confrontation. I however, have always been fascinated and respectful of the beliefs of others, and will often ask questions about it if the other person is open about such things. Recently, a new friend of mine told me she was Zoroastrian – a religion I’d never heard of before, and yet it’s one of the oldest, originating in Iran around 3600 years ago.
As for me, I was always told I was raised Christian. And although I’d been baptised, it wasn’t until I reached my late teens did I realise that wasn’t the case. My mother came from a highly Spiritualised family. Her side was full of talks of ghosts, spirits, sightings, reincarnation, clairvoyancy, and the love from beyond the grave. They even had a family medium. I think her name was Mrs Oxley. I can recall cassette tapes of family members sat with her and other mediums, talking about messages from the other side. It was wonderful to grow up this way, as I felt that people who had passed, weren’t really gone. They could simply be contacted through a tape recorder!
My father’s side were a bit more mysterious. I remember as a child, my father kept a metal tin made for playing cards, and inside were a pack of tarot. The Versailes pack which he had painted himself. As I grew up, I’d see more and more books and trinkets relating to witchcraft, the occult, astrology, and various other pagainstic things appear in the house. In fact, my dad even looks a bit like Aleister Crowley himself!
I never knew where he got this fascination from (in fact Dad, if you’re reading this, tell me!). His mother, my grandmother was a child of nature – a beautiful soul who would take me and my sister on long country walks through fields and forests whenever she and my grandfather babysat for us. She would know the names of every plant and flower, and of every tree. She would collect bushels of branches and flowers, and bags of blackberries on our mini expeditions, often banging into people walking by with her collections. She adored the outdoors and was akin to an elderly Snow White. Nature indeed loved her. She often remarked she felt she’d been dunked as a witch in a former life, and looking back, with her knowledge of old wives tales, and insistance of having the house decorated with all manner of flora, I can see it was probably true.
As I grew up and left school, I would read through all my dad’s books on paganism and Wicca, and I felt more in tune with those beliefs, specifically Celtic Paganism. In time my father would surround himself with a group of friends whom all followed this path, and many became a good source of information. Eventually I created my own visualisation which I ran through every night for many many years. I would wear a crow around my neck for the figure Morrigan. I was quite a timid child growing up, and this mythological being inspired courage and bravery. I think this is where my love for birds and phoenixes originated, and even now I’ll be fully aware when a crow lands nearby.
Nowadays I’m pretty crap at following the sabbats and rituals of the Wiccan ways. Of course I’ll think to myself “Oh! Today is Imbolc!” and then go on my way. I do however keep my own beliefs and principles. Most of which originate somewhat from this old religion. Some people may scoff at some of these, and I respect their opinion. I would never argue their views on them.
- I believe the Earth is a living, sentient presence, which rhymically breathes, and is aware of what’s happening to it.
- I believe plants and wildlife are the same, each having thoughts and emotions, and responding to their environments.
- I belief in being respectful to all people and creatures, and having respect to their opinions and own beliefs.
- I believe in doing what we please, as long it harms no other.
- I believe there is a massive intelligient energy which governs absolutely everything. Something we as humans cannot fully comprehend. Some religions put a face, or many faces to this energy, and call it god, etc. I prefer to call it the Universe.
- I believe this energy is neither good nor evil, yet can be swayed to bring about changes in our lives as desired.
- I believe we are all responsible for our lives, and must work hard to be the best we can be.
- I believe we are simply a mind swimming around in a mass of jumbled up energy. Our brains act as a translator, taking some of this energy and deciphering it to make it understandable to us. It adds form, colour, and other aspects we all collectively agree on. If you think about it, all we are seeing is a cinema screen at the back of our brains.
- I believe we return here many times through many lives. And we choose what experiences we are to have before we arrive. I must admit though I sometimes struggle with this concept. As who would choose some of the suffering and pain we see in the world today.
- I believe our soul can divide and come from a larger version of ourselves on another plane of existence (like a central hub). Thus we can be here as various animals and other people at the same time. This would account for the fact there are more people alive today, than has been in all of history. I got this concept from the Seth Speaks books and it’s always stuck with me.
- I believe we harmonise with what we give out. Be what you want to see in the world.
- I believe the universe speaks to us all through symbols, events, people we meet, and slight nudges we receive. The more we are open to such things, the more we are pushed towards our greatest experience.
- I believe there is more to history than we are told. I believe there’s many civilisations that existed way beyond what we thought. I believe there’s rich knowledge lost throughout the ages and we’re only just beginning to discover these things again. I also believe this is being held back from us by certain powers.
- I believe humanity is on the whole good, and we must not believe the world is becoming a crueler place.
- I believe in being kind to everyone and everything we meet. We’re not here for a long time. I believe being kind and sending out love is the key to being happy.
There’s obviously more, but I think these are the main principles I go by. I will eventually write down the visualisation I followed for many years.
Looking back, I do believe the combination of Spiritualistic and Paganism growing up have made me who I am. Those close to me will say I’m an unusual person. Maybe weird? Maybe unique (a nicer way of being called weird)? But I think it’s made me stable, happy, fully confident in my own abilities, respectful, passionate, hard-working, unafraid to give myself fully to others, and able to practice kindness to everyone I meet. It may not be the most orthodox of upbringings, but it’s one I’m lucky to have, and one I’d never change.
Love to you all as always 😀 xx
It’s always the way isn’t it? The sun is shining, the world is in order, your job is secure, your relationships are solid, your wealth is growing, and you’re in great health. All the previous life worries you once endured and fought through seemed to have vanished. They just don’t enter your mind anymore. Things are bloody brilliant!
Then suddenly it feels as if life, god, the universe, or whatever sees this and thinks “Hmmm, they’re enjoying themselves way too much! Time to change this a bit!”
And before you know it, an almighty curve ball slams straight into your face!
Boom! You come into work to find out you’re being made redundant.
Boom! Your significant other decides to break up with you.
Boom! Your roof decides to fall in, uncovered by insurance and costing you way more than you can afford.
Boom! Illness hits, you and hits you hard!
Or any other of life altering situations! Where the hell did that come from?
Without warning, it can feel like this nice soft rug of life has been violently ripped out from beneath you and you spiral face first into the course, rough ground. And as you pick yourself up, just as that little rain cloud above your head starts to release even more misery around you, you’re left wondering what to do next.
Long ago, after a particularly harsh dumping by the same person for the second time, I vowed I wouldn’t mope around for months like I did the first time. I wouldn’t be a slave to this person’s actions.
I don’t mean I vowed to block out the sad emotions that came with it, as this is unhealthy and can lead to further problems down the line.
But I vowed whatever was to come, I’d accept it, and aim to move on as quickly as possible. Feel the emotions, acknowledge them, and let them go. “Begone with you!” I knew I’d be happy again in a relationship one day, so why waste time complaining on what had just transpired.
This way of thinking did help when I found myself being made redundant. Rather than kick off at the loss of my job and my apparant bad luck, I found myself becoming excited at the new opportunities before me. I remember getting my stuff on the last day, being pretty sad to be leaving my friends, but I went home, got a takeaway, had a long hot bath, and cleared my mind of any negativeness. Instead of focusing on the bad, like having to tidy up my CV, slog through job listings and go through interviews, I focused on the good. I had a sizable redundancy package to clear some debts. I finally was able to learn to drive through a crash course, and then was able to buy a car. I could now look for other jobs where I’d learn more, and meet new people. Ultimately the universe forced me down another path – working for myself. Which had always been a major goal in my life, but I always felt was a long way off. And now I’m grateful that I was kicked through that door!
I guess my own views of the Law of Attraction also helped here. I took responsibilty for everything that happened in my life. Even the really bad stuff. And honestly, it made things easier.
Disclaimeer: please don’t get me wrong here – I’ve had friends who have gone through some serious bad times, especially with illness, and I’d never suggest they attracted those things – some shit really does just happen sometimes.
Ultimately, we all just want to be happy. And life is way too short to dwell on past events, or worry about future ones. As Chris Gardner would say – ‘Start from where you are’ (great book by the way!). Look from the outside in at your life, and at any areas that might not be working. You hold the answers to change your life. Yet always remain positive that you are being pushed towards your own desires and goals, no matter how turbulent the journey may be.
Shit happens, but it doesn’t have to persist. How you deal and process events is what really matters. Go with the emotional flow and always strive to become better. If life was 100% easy we’d never grow and get stronger; it’s here to test us and help us develop. How you react to the actions of others is also paramount. It’s easy to live in anger and bitterness, but if you never forgive, then you’re only hurting yourself. And if you can’t forgive, then release and forget. Living happily is always the best revenge anyway. And never use the actions of someone else to justify your behaviour to others. Always be kind, it’s what people remember most about us.
The truth is, we’re all going to have setbacks. But it’s up to us how far back we allow them to set us. Wouldn’t you rather hit the ground running, instead of crashing and remaining down and dormant for longer than neccessary? Life is short, and people on their death beds will tell you a multitude of regrets they have. Get back on the horse and have as few of these regrets as possible.
Live in the now, be present, give love wherever you can, treat others how you want to be treated, look for the good and the opportunites in everything that comes your way, let go of the pain, and sooner than you think – that sun will shine again, and your world will once again be in order.
Much love to you if you’ve read this far.
Keep smiling and have a wonderful day. x
Celeste glanced over and grinned, flicking a riglet of blonde hair from her face, seductively narrowing her eyes. ‘I wonder what her insides taste like?’
Another chapter in Hell for the Dancescu’s – getting closer to their demonic uncle.
Chapter 13 is here.
DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please! Cheers!
Ok so I’ve been in two minds about posting this, but seen as it’s a blog (sort of) documenting my experiences, I thought it best to record it.
On my wall is a list of projects and goals for my own work. Over the years of self-employment all I’ve done is take down the list, change the year and pin it back up! Nothing gets ticked off! It’s even become a running joke with some of my pals. Every so often I’d remind myself about doing writing or illustrating, but it’s usually a fleeting moment.
Recently I’ve felt a strange weight on me. Like my environment is full of cotton wool, or a heavy atmosphere around me. For months I’ve been unable to shake it. I’ve changed my morning routine, moved my desk around several times, change how I meditate, looked at my diet, and even the bloody coffee I drink! Nothing seemed to help. I didn’t feel present. I couldn’t focus. It was like those dreams where you try running but end up moving very slowly. I was becoming so distant.
As the focus waned more and more, my backlog of work recently began to build up. I was falling behind. Customers were complaining, money became slower at coming in, and people (and even clients) were asking if all was ok with me. I felt fine – I think. I wasn’t upset, or depressed or anything. I just wasn’t…aware. Even this morning seeing my father for lunch, I’m sure he felt I was distant and uncommunicative. I can’t explain it. Like part of me was asleep, or elsewhere.
Then only a few hours ago it happened. Sat at my desk looking at all my emails and trying to gear my mind into getting work done, I glanced up at my list of personal projects. Looking over the familiar titles of books and images there was suddenly a ‘snap’ in my mind — a crack of a whip back into lucidity. A wave of realisation hit me. And with it came a rush of happiness. Suddenly I remembered one of the main reasons I went self employed in the first place. To spend more time on my own projects. Over the years I’d faltered and let my own dreams slide whilst hammering client work more and more. Don’t get me wrong — I adore my clients and couldn’t survive without them. But I feel the part of me, the ambitious, dreaming part of my soul had gone to sleep and given up. Looking at that list awoke that part of me with a vengeance.
Immediately following this i found myself blasting through the current piece of work I was on. I wrote a new schedule to give my own projects time, renewed my affirmations, and before I knew it I felt more organised. My world suddenly feels colourful and vibrant again. I’m singing away to my music once more and my emotions feel more intense again! The weight is gone, the clouds lifted, and I can’t completely explain it. I feel unstoppable. Even my posture is more upright. I’m looking at my home with fresh love, my relationships with renewed gratitude and closeness, and my dreams with a gut-wrenching desire to be completed.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt such clarity in my life. All because I glanced at a tattered goal list on the wall. I feel it’s now time to focus hard on my life once again, bring all those dreams to fruition, and resolve myself never letting such things slide again.
Now I realise why I have such an attachment to phoenixes!
As the UK and other parts of the world continue to enjoy baking hot temperatures, lounging around on beaches and parks in the hazy glorious of the heat, it’s easy to overlook the dangers of such extreme weather.
Apart from forgetting to dab ourselves and our kids in Factor 50, the boiling sunshine can have more destructive connotations. Here in England only a few weeks ago we had grass fires dotted around the country — some of which a few firefighter friends of mine battled. But thankfully there was no loss of life (to my knowledge anyway).
In Greece though, things have taken a turn for the tragic. Several fires in the past day have caused a large loss of life as villages near Athens have burned away, with the inhabitants still present in them.
One very sad story involves a group of 26 adults and children unable to escape the blaze around them. In their last heartbreaking desperate measure, they embraced, and perished together.
It’s a stark reminder that tomorrow is never guaranteed. That today could easily be our last. Those people didn’t wake up on this final morning knowing it was the last time they’d see the sun rise. And neither will we when our time inevitably comes.
It’s true I’ve spoke about this before, but in the comings and goings of life it’s easy to forget our own fragility. We all need (including me!) reminding that each day is a blessing and that we need to make the most of every moment on this earth.
So never forget to tell people you love them. It’s the one thing you might regret one day. If you haven’t told someone you love them, or hugged your kids today, don’t put it off.
If you’ve a dream job you want to pursue, or a place you wish to visit, makes plans now accomplish it. You can’t do them from your death bed.
Give thanks everyday you wake up. As Morning Coach’s JB Glossinger would say – many people went to bed last night and didn’t wake up. Each day is truly a blessing.
Always strive for happiness. You may want riches and possessions, but ultimately it’s happiness we all desire.
Your own heart and mental well-being are paramount. Never put up with people or situations that hurt you or pull you down. Your gut feelings about things should never be ignored. React to everything in the best way you can and watch those things change.
Always have something to look forward to, and keep hope in your heart of better things to come. Ignore worries or fears.
Be kind. It is the biggest thing people remember about us.
Ultimately, we all will die one day and we want to know we’ve lived to our best potential, loved deeply, laughed loudly, enjoyed experiences, built connections, pursued goals, and pushed forward without hesitation or regret.
Life is beautiful. Truly beautiful. We just need to open our eyes to it.
Huge love to you if you’re reading this. You’re amazing. Never forget that. And I wish you an amazing today… and tomorrow. xx
Behind me, displayed proudly on a shelf amongst other books I’ve contributed to over the years, is my own novel – Spirit’s Destiny. The first of the Tapestry of Fates saga which I’m currently in the process of rediting.
Looking at it now, the artwork is a little ropey (by my own current standards) and the tale itself could do with a full re-edit. But despite it’s flaws, nothing can describe the feeling of finally getting a copy of it in my hands. As if years of blood, sweat and tears had condensed itself into a couple of hundred pages wrapped in a neat little paperback before me. It’s a truly uplifting feeling of accomplishment.
So now whenver I speak to a new author, in the process of talking through and creating their cover, and I can hear the excitedness of becoming published in their voice, it throws me back to my own feelings of getting a book on the market. The amount of times I get an email or voicemail saying “It’s feeling so real now I’m seeing the cover,” is staggering, and never fails to make my day and know I’m in the right job. I feel proud and satisfied that I can help someone pursue their dreams.
And this doesn’t just go for the Creative Covers, but for Phoenix Designs too. Whether it be a logo, branding design, or even business cards, I love listening to people talking about their new business or venture, and again giving them something visual to own and proudly display is an incredible feeling – a feeling I always wish to capture in my own goals.
With my new venture ‘Twilight Dew’ on the horizon, along with the books I’m pushing through, I hope to soon recapture that contentment I felt all those years ago with Spirit’s Destiny.
We should all strive towards our goals no matter what. Sometimes just a spark is needed, an initial push to get going. Success is always just around the corner 🙂 x
A couple of years ago, I was driving and weaving my way through the nearby city of Preston with my dad, and causually asked him why he didn’t move us here as a family.
Many years previous, just after I’d turned eleven, my father got a job at British Aerospace in Warton, with Preston being the closest city. Somehow it made sense to move us to another city and let me and my sister grow up there.
He told me that after looking around the surrounding towns and villages, he’d taken to Lytham St. Annes – a small coastal town past Warton, much quieter than the hustle and bustle of my home city of Leeds.
It was a decision of my father’s that had a huge effect on my life. and was one I remember looking on with great excitement, despite leaving all my friends and extended family behind. Had he decided on Preston, or any other town then indeed my life would have been much different. I would have never met my friends I’d grown so close to, never worked at my second home the pub that dominated my life for so long, or maybe never have took the direction of art and design as a career. I can honestly say I’m grateful my dad took us to the small coastal resort. So big of an effect it has had on my life, that even some family members back in Leeds are contemplating making the move here from across the country.
And this is what happens with each and every of us. Not only are we living our lives through the decisions we make (hopefully making sensible correct ones), but we’re also buffeted around by the constant actions of others, floating around an ocean of consequences. Some decisions enrich us, enabling bright, smooth sailing, some cause minor ripples, giving us small stresses and worries, whilst others can cause giant tsunamis, threatening to overturn and sink our entire existance.
Each day a myriad of decisions blow around us and at times it can feel like we’re at their chaotic mercy. If we’re not careful we can lose control and be buffeted around helplessly. But a ship can only be sunk if the water is allowed inside. And it’s in these difficult times that we must remember that ultimately it’s us as a person that decides how we react to such events.
If someone decides to fire you from your job one day, how do you react?
If someone breaks your heart, how do you react?
If someone does you wrong, how do you react?
If someone attacks you, how do you react?
If someone lies to you, how do you react?
If someone steals from you, how do you react?
And so on…
Without controlling our emotions, and flying off the handle, it’s easy to be swept up in toxic negativity. And more times than not, this itself will lead to even more disaster.
This is evident in the movie American History X, we see this when the imprisoned, and humiliated anger, hate-filled neo nazi Derek is confronted with a line from his former teacher – “Has anything you‘ve done made your life better?” It’s the truth Derek needed to hear to finally let go of all the rage that has dominated his life.
If we calm ourselves, think deeply about how we are to react, and come from a place of control, then not only do we calm the waters around us more rapidly, but we display a strength of character that steers our lives to a brighter outcome.
Obviously this can be hard, as we are all only human, but if we are consciously aware that we do have control, then we find the calmness comes much quicker. Fighting a storm with a storm does not improve anybody’s life. Better to silence the maelstrom, and deal with issues effectively.
The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters is an incredible book that delves way further into this.
So how to we retain control?
We’re all different, and clearly some things that work for some people won’t work for others. For me meditation helped a lot during my turbulant years after my redundancy. It helped calmed the angry voices chattering in my mind and allowed me to look at things clearly, and with a positive attitude. Also without the chatter, fresh ideas would surface and come to me, giving me clarity and affirming that things were always meant to be this way.
So if tomorrow you wake up and are hit with a big bombshell as a result of someone else’s life decisions, just take a deep breath, count to ten, punch a pillow if you have to, remain focused, and deal calmly with the issue.
As James Allen once said –
“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”
Today is the day I stop saying ‘One Day.’
One Day will never come.
So tonight after finally dragging myself away from my work, I found myself propping up the bar of one of my local pubs, regaling my pal Craig of all the incendents and amusing events of this particular watering hole. Drunken mishaps, large scale parties, fancy dress nights, charity events, and even (now comical) brawls. I say all of this because I had once worked at this pub, and the nightclub it rested upon for over eight years on and off.
In recent years St Annes had seen a sorrowful decline in its nightlife, with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs sadly shutting up one after another. Gone was the absolutely rammed establishment I stepped foot into on my first shift almost twenty years ago; now replaced by either a few hardcore lifers, restaurant workers who had just finished their shift, or temporary party goers – having a swift drink before venturing onwards to either Blackpool or Lytham.
My good friend, and practically brother Danny would always say ‘Make memories’, and those words indeed rang out loud in my head tonight loud and clear. Suddenly it dawned on me that I owed most of my life to this establishment. 90% of my current friends, relationships I’d had, and even relationships of my friends, had originated from me starting at that pub. I feel my mother getting me that job in 2000 was the most pivotel event in my life. How very different my life may have been without having ever worked there. And yet now it was sad to see that place so empty.
As we grow older do we reminisce more and more until our cherished memories either fade progressively, until we have distorted them beyond recognition? Or held them so dearly the time inevitably comes when we have nobody left to remember them with?
Do we attempt to replicate those memories, hopeful that the good times will never end? Or do we grow, and develop new sets of recollections? I guess this all depends on whether such memories are good or bad. Embrace or destroy them?
We can always keep photos, and indeed these helped me colour the tales I spoke of tonight (I need to remind myself to print more of these out!). Even things like Facebook bring up our comings and goings year upon year.
Reading the ‘Seth Speaks’ books, I’m forever hopeful that when we die, we can select a memory at will, as if a DVD from the shelf, and replay it exactly as it happened. Could you lose yourself though, forever looping through happy times?
Perhaps this a little too deep for the early hours of Saturday morning as I sip at my black coffee. Or maybe it’s a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever.
As meloncholy this post has become, I’m determined to end it on a positive note.
The fact we can make great memories, or even remember amazing ones, is truly a gift. We should treasure this fact, because why we may not know our true purpose on this Earth, we can at least have a great time along the way.
And if you ever find yourself in an empty bar, sadly remembering the great times you had there, find gratitude in the fact that they indeed happened.
Life is meant to be lived, and if you have great memories, rest assured you’re doing just that.
‘Oh my dear girl,’ she grinned. ‘There’ll be no trying about it. Your journey ends here. Time to die.’
Slowly but surely getting there! Deep into Hell now.
I’ll be making a map for this soon, but because it’s based off 17th/18th century Hungary, Romania and Transylvania, a lot of research will be required.
Chapter 12 can be downloaded here.
DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please! Cheers!
Going to my sister’s and spending time with my amazing nephew and nieces who are aged five and four – it’s incredible what imaginations a child possesses. Enthusiastically telling me all manner of tales try to fathom where they got these stories from.
But it’s something we all remember growing up. Playing make-believe and acting out a veritable range of characters, from warriors to pirates, wizards to nurses and doctors. It’s easy to see how imagination can lead to some stories taking on lives of their own, and as young kids get older these tales can develop into legends and myths; some becoming quite sinister in nature.
Pretty much every town and city has its urban legends. Usually involving some shadowy figure that lurks on the outskirts, that nobody has seen, but everybody knows a friend of a friend who has.
This is where an urban legend of my old school comes in.
Growing up on the outer edges of Leeds, my middle school was a pretty small one, yet it backed on to an area of land known locally as The Valley. The land itself, approximately a few miles squared had playing fields, hills, a train track running through it, and a small lake. The land was surrounded by housing estates as well as an old hospital. As young pupils, we were only allowed to venture on either during PE, cross country running, or a close part of it during breaks and lunchtime.
No offence to anyone from the area, but the Valley did seem to attract some undesirables. I remember joyriders trying to run us all down on our Sports Day – the teachers pushing us all back before the kids in the car crashed into a tree. Back then, this didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. It already had an eerie feel to it growing up, and indeed a girl in the year above me (I was 9 or 10 at this point) was found raped and murdered at the far end of the Valley not long before we moved to St. Annes.
That tragic event was after this urban legend took place. Like I said, my school was a small one, and in each year of only two classes I had either my sister or a close cousin in it. My sister would tell me of The Black Scarecrow and White Scarecrow who had lurked around the Valley, chasing children and adults they came across. Apparently one dressed all in white with a black cross on him, and the other wore all black with a white cross on him (although my sister doesn’t recall the crosses part). Now whilst sounding like some distant members of a certain white supremacist group, this tale actually scared little 9 year old me when I went on those fields.
Not only content with terrorising people passing through the Valley, but one apparently hung himself from a tree in front of some children, whilst the other doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on the same area of land. A white cross was carved and painted into the tree where one of the Scarecrows swung dead.
To this day I can recall that tree, and I’m 90% sure it exists. My sister agrees too.
Today I asked my cousins and sister about the myth and what they recalled of it.
Now speaking to them years later, it appears the source might have been revealed.
My eldest cousin Wayne says back when he was a pupil at the school he and three friends were allowed to do what they wanted one afternoon and they asked to do cross country. They were told they could go, but only if they went in a group. Whilst coming down part of the Valley known as the Black Hill, a scruffy man came from the bushes brandishing what they thought was a shotgun. All four ran away but one girl fell and twisted her ankle, forcing the others to carry her as the man pursued. Reaching the school, they went straight to the headmaster who quickly gathered a few other teachers and went searching the Valley. Wayne recalls the headmaster’s face dropping when they told him and how he reacted so fast that it felt like they were in real danger.
Soon word of the incident spread, and rumours of a man from one of the estates who hated children circulated. Another rumour was that he lived under the old hospital. Eventually other kids claimed they had saw the man, some even being attacked, and he was now being described as a scarecrow – possibly due to a recent showing of Children of the Corn.
More rumours of attacks ensured but nothing was ever proved.
Looking back, I can’t pinpoint when I was originally told the stories, but I do remember looking out on to the Valley from the school during one stormy day and feeling very creeped out.
It’s bizarre how some memories stick with you.
I guess I’ll never find out just how much of the tale is real, or if the only incident was my cousin running away from the scruffy man.
Regardless of this, I’ll continue to listen to the enthusiastic story telling of my nephew and nieces. I only hope their tales are a little less gory and sinister.
On saying this, my niece Darcie revels in the fact her name means ‘Dark’ so maybe I’ll have some dark tellings to pen from them one day.
And now for something quite off track that I’m used to writing. 😀
Unbeknownst to most people I know, the concept and notion of love is something that dominates quite a lot of my life, and even drives me to work, write, and paint. Even though I rarely talk about it.
Fuelled by an unhealthy obsession of 80’s movies, old Disney films and power ballads, I think I have beliefs about love that many would consider unrealistic.
I’ve used the idea of a perfect romance as a kind of muse in all my workings. And even though it’s not quite obvious when reading my writings (especially with some of the gorier work!), a simple scratch of the surface will show it’s subtle undertones of love.
In my screenplay of Last Battle, the protagonist’s only drive was to return to his wife and child, willing to go head first against the armies of Hell in the name of love. And likewise in the same tale, I penned about a couple – one controlled by Heaven, one unwillingly controlled by Hell desperately fighting it out amid the fires of the underworld, trying to understand what has become of them. Another character fights in the belief that his long lost love can still see him, and uses this notion to give him courage.
With Tapestry of Fates I wanted to build up the story and characters own paths within the wars in the first book, before helping them to understand there’s more to life than just fighting in the second book, which of course leads to some romantic interventions, in turn causing the subsequent battles against E-Clipse to become more desperate and heartfelt.
This is route I’m planning with Fallen Tears also, as the twins near the source of the vampiric reign, I want to introduce a kind of romantic spanner in the works without altering the book as a whole.
So why is it that a bloke writing so much about love has remained single for quite a few years now (insert wise crack here about not being able to get a girlfriend)? I’ve been on dates after all, and that’s something I do enjoy greatly, but that could be because I love getting to know new people.
It’s no secret that I’m quite an emotional fella. Not in the crying sense, but as in deeply feeling everything around me. I hate nothing more than seeing people upset and would move mountains to make people happy. Sometimes being overly emphatic can be seen as a weakness, as it’s a trait easily exploited.
I guess I can only say that I don’t yearn for just a simple coupling, sleeping around, or jumping in and settling down with the first person that shows interest. Like my stories, I want meaning to develop before anything else.
Rather I feel I have an eye open for that perfect romance I like to write about; a chivalrous, all-consuming, soul-burning love that many believe doesn’t exist.
And does that kind of love exist? I feel I’ve seen enough evidence in this world to believe so.
Do I believe it’ll come to me? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does it make a fussy bastard? Some might even say I’ve not right to be fussy! 😀 But it’s something I won’t try to force, not sell my soul to achieve.
Whilst I’ve seen how true love can create Heaven for some, I’ve also seen it create misery in others. There’s nothing worse than regret, and living beside someone for mere convenience without any affection is one of the biggest in life.
Perhaps I even put off the idea of becoming fully involved with someone as the muse of love is such a powerful working drive for me. At times in the past I’d even use the thought of a some particular girl in order to push forward my work. But now I think it’s more of the notion itself that helps spurn my creativity.
It’s a surprise to read that Napoleon Hill wrote a similar idea in his book Think and Grow Rich – a chapter called “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” that was removed in the early editions, with it being seen as too risque for the audiences of the 1930’s. Basically it describes that many of the successful businessmen at the time turned their desires of sex into a powerful drive that spurned them to work hard.
So whilst I’ve rambled on over one of the most boring blog utterings I’ve ever posted, whilst simultaneously giving my mother a heart attack about the possible lack of grandchildren, I wonder how I’ll end this in a suitable way.
One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in fiction is J.K.Rowling’s Severus Snape. Whilst we all spent many books and movies believing Snape was a cold-hearted, wicked man with a terrible agenda, the saddest part came when we learned the truth about his love for Harry’s mother, gently hinted at in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”
As tragic as this story arc is, it’s the semblance I adore. And the willingness to sacrifice himself even for his love’s offspring is pretty much as deep as you can get.
“Oh, me and my friends used to all go on holiday together,” the old woman replied cheerfully to my pal as she told her a few of us were going to Tenerife for a break.
“We went every year! All over Europe, America……they’re all dead now.”
Despite the old woman’s deadpan, matter of fact remark, what she spoke of was an infallible reality that we will all have to face up to one day.
And on that holiday in Tenerife we held a little toast to our friend Mark who was no longer with us, but was present in that very bar many years ago. It was his birthday today, and the anniversary of his death looms ever closer.
The truth is, nobody knows when the Sword of Damocles will fall, and another of our loved ones will be taken. I’m guessing whoever is reading this will also be thinking of a certain person, or persons they have lost – for I too have said goodbye to a number of close friends and family over the years.
So occasionally we need reminding that our time here on this earth isn’t going to be forever. That eventually our own mortality catches up with us.
This isn’t meant to be a morbid post at all, but rather a gentle hint to safeguard our beloved memories. Because the thing that will keep us happy in the future is the chance to reflect on our happiest times with those we love.
So keep your friends close, and never let time time or distance be a factor when it comes to keeping in contact. If you feel you should contact someone you’ve not spoken to in years, do it. There’s nothing more tragic than regret.
Enjoy nights out, even if the locations shift over the years (although if you feel the need to go night clubbing in your eighties, do it!)
Take long country walks, followed by rewarding pints in an old rustic pub.
Have movie and take away nights together, whether at a cinema, or at home.
Have BBQ’s in the Summer, cozy meals in the Winter.
Give gifts generously, even if they never get you one back.
Forgive easily, don’t let mistakes break you apart.
Take plenty of photos, some day they may be all that’s left.
Hug warmly, you never know when the day will come when you yearn for one last embrace.
Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve; love is a gift that was meant to be shared, not to be buried deep inside.
Kiss with your eyes closed, and with sincere passion; these are precious moments to be cherished.
Be kind; you never know the battles others are facing.
Always smile warmly at everyone you meet, you never know when the fates will conspire to bring you together again.
Be humble, yet proud of your accomplishments.
Possessions come and go, yet true friendship lasts a lifetime. People will like you for who you are, not what you own.
Talk deeply, and put the world to rights.
Live without fear, and share your problems. Good friends will stand by you no matter what.
And should the sad inevitable happen, a lifetime of fond memories, however tragically short, will always provide the comfort and strength to carry onwards.
Life has it’s dark times, but that darkness can always be blown aside if we allow it.
I truly hope that old lady has a record of all of her times away with her friends. I hope she reflects daily, and feels blessed to have such close people in her life.
Have no regrets.
And never stop smiling. x
Imagine the situation:
You start working for a new company, with a cushty office job. You walk into the building on your first day and the surroundings look glorious, the decor is tasteful, the atmosphere is inviting, and you’re surrounded by eager, like-minded colleagues; around a hundred of you in one large open office.
But just as you’re about to settle in to begin work, the boss comes in and calls over everyone.
“Ok everyone, this week we’re going to do something different. On Friday we’ll evaluate what each of you have done, and whoever we decide has done the best will be paid. Only that person will be paid.”
And so you begin working, throwing yourself into the projects and giving them your all.
Friday comes and the bosses take all the work away, and then a few hours later announce that one of your colleagues has won. They, and only they have been paid this week.
All your hard work was for nothing.
“But don’t worry everyone. There’s always next week.”
So whilst your colleague is happy with his ‘winnings’, and your boss is happy he got a ton of work for free, you’re sat wondering how you’re going to pay the bills and feed the family.
Welcome to the world of a 99Designs designer – a place where you pay a set amount and have numerous talented artists and designers battle it out to win over several days or weeks.
Now you may be thinking, as someone that requires some design work doing – “Hey, I don’t care about that. I’m getting a great deal here! I get to pick and choose from tons of work.”
But here’s where it could actually harm you.
To be slightly hypocritical here, I have been one of these designers on a similar site when I first became a freelancer a few years ago. The design brief for this ‘competition’ was for a futuristic woman’s portrait. I threw a few designs out there, making sure the client knew I had rights to the images used. There was a bit of feedback and after adjusting my images, found out I was in the lead! This was great! But this was an open competition, meaning other designers could see my work.
And in turn – steal my work!
Suddenly others were taking my actual image and using it!! By simply adding to it, they were claiming it was their own work! Finally I was knocked off the top spot by someone using an image from the game Final Fantasy XIII, a character named Lightning. Not only had they not adjusted this image, but they had claimed actual ownership of it!
Now this client was from a large American communications company (I’m not sure why they didn’t use in-house designers) and using this image will have caused a lot of legal issues down the line.
Not to be vindictive, but I actually emailed the client telling them to be careful and directing them to a Final Fantasy XIII trailer. The client thanked me stating that he could has lost his job had he proceeded!
The Lightning design was rejected, and the client faced a torrent of abuse on the comments section.
And here is the problem – not only do sites like this give designers a bad name and water down the talent pool, but because the sites don’t have to be regulated much, anyone can join and try their best to win a fast buck by putting forward stolen work. And obviously this can harm the client in long run.
Not only this but as a client you will spend hours pouring over hundreds of entries, giving feedback to each. If 90% of entries are garbage, this is a massive waste of time. Then there are the language barriers – as the competitions are open to the world. I’ve seen so many of these problems as client and designer become frustrated over miscommunications.
Clearly in other countries, the prize money is worth a lot more, which makes these sites all the more attractive.
And now we come to Fiverr!
A while ago I got a message through my Facebook page if I did ‘custom fantasy covers’ and what my price was.
I stated my terms and the ACTUAL reply was – ‘Oh I see. It’s just because I’ve seen some on Fiverr and wanted to see if you could do better. Do it well and they’ll be a lot more work your way.’
That’s right – this guy had asked if I would produce a fully illustrated, fully customised book cover – around ten hours worth of work, for the huge amount of $5.
That’s about £3.70 – about the cost of a pint of Stella.
And he was deadly serious.
I kindly said he would never find a designer who would work for that. He didn’t reply back.
The worse thing was, his profile picture was him in a suit, sat on the bonnet of a sports car, wearing a huge cheesy grin. Prick.
With Fiverr you’ll see the words ‘Custom’ and ‘Unique’ bandied around a lot. The sad fact is that this will never be the case. Guaranteed many other people will have your exact logo should you go this route. As the age old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Fiverr and similar budget design sites will only give you very low quality, repeated work.
Saying this though, I have seen young student and beginner designers making use of these sites to build their portfolio. But these are few and far between. It would be more beneficial contacting them directly and building a rappor.
And thus this brings me to the end of my post – using a good designer who you can trust.
If you’re serious about your business, and want to promote it in the best light. Then you will always be better off finding a designer you can trust. Someone who will understand your requirements inside and out. Someone who will actually give a damn about your success, who will guide and offer advice rather than blindly follow orders. Someone who will keep all your work backed up and on hand should you lose it all. Someone who will be willing to liaise with printers, other designers, colleagues of yours to make your life easier.
Of course you may pay a little extra (although 99Designs is NOT cheap!) but the money will certainly be worth it.
And don’t just take my word for it. A simple google search of these sites will tell you exactly what I have.
Find a good designer, and give your business the attention it deserves.
Good design should be cultured, not farmed. 😉
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten…”
Callum regained his composure and stood tall at the grotesque abominations before him, gritting his teeth. ‘This place will not break me!’
Years ago I owned a book called Visions of Hell which I used to help write Last Battle. That book has now served me well in writing this chapter as the Dancescu twins finally enter Hell. I’m so happy I took a bit of time to work on my own projects.
Chapter 11 can be downloaded here.
It’s 10:46 on a Monday night. I’ve got four screens beaming work, calendars, an Asana work list, and a forever looping vision-video at me in a my dimly lit room. Another long to-do list sits on the wall with many, MANY items yet to be checked off tonight. All the while downing alternating cups of coffee and water whilst listening to a mixture of Hollywood Undead, Carl Cox, and Dance with the Dead (check out that for a combination!)
Am I happy? F*ck yes!
Am I content? F*ck no!
It took me quite a while to get these two in their correct place. The struggle that sometimes overwhelmed me to keep my head above water in the early days of freelancing made almost want to quit and get a ‘normal’ job. To settle, and be content with what I was given. So not only was I discontented, I was becoming massively unhappy too.
But of course I eventually ‘owned’ the struggle and accepted it as part of the process in order to get where I wanted to be. I refused to be where I see a lot of people were – content, yet unhappy. I made a promise to myself to keep these two the right way around. The book ‘Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be‘ by Chris Gardner (the awesome guy who wrote The Pursuit of Happyness) really helped me see this.
You can have all the riches in the world, the nice cars, the houses, the lifestyle etc – but unless you’re truly happy, it stands for absolutely jack shit. We all want to be happy, but we forget what that looks like, or what will bring it into our lives. So many lottery winners end up depressed because the thing they thought would fix everything ultimately didn’t. I’ve been lucky in the fact I’ve had some great friends and family, and there have been some memorable times in my life so far. I’ve got my health, the means and desire to produce great work, and the determination to see my own projects through.
I’ve learned to remember what’s important and what isn’t. Yes of course I want to progress to a place of abundance in all aspects of life. And this is why we should never be content. We should always want to better ourselves, not just in material possessions, but in spiritual terms, and matters of the heart as well. Push forward and the satisfaction of acquisition through our efforts will inevitably make us happy.
And during those times where we are the most unhappiest? When we want to quit and give up? Those are the times we need to be the most aware and conscious of what is happening, because afterwards, when the battle is won and things are finally going our way, we’ll remember those times and be proud of our hard work that pulled us from our slump. During one Morning Coach episode, JB Glossinger commented on a conversation with Penn from Penn and Teller, where the magician said he wished he remembered the difficult times more when they were doing small shows as it was important to his journey.
I do realise I’m babbling now, but I guess what I’m saying is – don’t be unhappy in life, just be discontented. Gain happiness by looking around at what you do have and being grateful. There’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for – even if it’s just the air you breathe, or you have been given a life. Then always look for ways to improve your situation and grow. Even if I become a multi-millionaire I would refuse to be content, I’d continue using the wealth to better the world around me. There are goals, but no final end-goal.
Let’s all live in happiness, no matter what the circumstances, and work together to better ourselves, and the world around us.
Be happy, and never give up 🙂 x