Mutterings and utterings of a budding novelist

Current Affairs

Death as a Lesson

It’s been quite a while since my last post, mainly because of my hectic work life. A poor excuse I know, but it’s the truth.
I had planned on writing a very different post in the near future but the events of this week have pushed me to type out some more thoughts.

For as you will you know if you’ve glimpsed even a shred of the news that it’s been a week filled with death; some events arguably more tragic than others. The scenes and images from the earthquake in Nepal which has claimed over five and a half thousand lives (and counting) as well as the many thousands more that have lost everything have made for difficult viewing, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

But strangely, it was the much publicised executions of the death row prisoners in Indonesia that included two members of the Australian drug smuggling nonet – the Bali Nine has probably affected me more than it should have done. Regardless of your stance surrounding these two and your probable disapproval of me for mentioning this in regard to the tragedy at Nepal (5500+ innocent deaths against the demise of 2 drug smugglers), the execution has left me reflecting on my own life a great deal.
I guess the reason for this is because the Bali Nine were arrested at a time when I was holiday in Turkey in 2005. Having followed the case for years, read the books, watched the interviews with them etc, I tend to think about my time in Turkey and how it would feel to still be there now if I’d done something stupid like be a heroin carrying mule, imprisoned, having never returned from my holiday. And now as two of them were shot to death I found myself a bit shaken having put myself in their positions.

It’s reminded me to enjoy the life and freedom bestowed on me, not to work so hard and be more aware of the passing of time.
To be in the moment is a tough thing to do, but it’s something we must do in order to remember our experiences later in life.
To really be aware of every sight, smell and sound.
To put away the mobile phone and not view the world through a five inch screen.
To say yes to as many opportunities offered to us.
To explore new places and meet new people.
To truly embrace this world and our short time upon it.
And to do all this with a heart full of wonder and gratitude, and with a smile adorning our faces.

It’s a sad fact that terrible tragedies and disasters like Nepal will continue to happen throughout our history. But if we can extract any kind of lesson from them, it is a solemn one to the living left behind, reminding people not to take life itself for granted, for it could quite easily end in a single heartbeat.

Keep smiling, and never let life pass you by.

x

Life after Death

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Birthday Painting

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAMMY!

This is a post dedicated to a great friend I met last year who not only helped me realise my dreams could become a reality, but included me on several of her own projects – for which I am very grateful. Me and Wendy were invited to her birthday party this weekend, but as we couldn’t make it unfortunately, I decided to paint a picture of her own work. 🙂

Sammy’s blog can be found her. www.sammyhksmith.com

ISOGAH


2012 & The End of New Year’s Resolutions

Well it’s certainly been a while since I updated my blog so I guess I best put in a final post before the end of the year!

Firstly, my lack of posts is not due to laziness, or forgetfulness. In fact there have been many points in my life that I’ve desired to record here during the past few months but have simply been unable to due to a lack of time. I’m not annoyed though as I welcome the work that has kept me busy.

The past year has had it’s fair share of ups and downs, sadly beginning with yet another family funeral, followed by another near the end. But they will not be forgotten by any means. x

Aside from the sad times, there has also been good ones. Not only have I become a published author twice, I’ve also made plenty of friends and contacts within the publishing world, opening up many doors and avenues into future ventures. There have been weddings, births, holidays, and good times with amazing friends. I’m happy and grateful to have spent these times with my amazing girlfriend Wendy who also works hard to pursue her own dreams.

Which brings me to the point of next year. Gratefully the world did not end on the 21st of this month, but amazing things did happen on that day. Thousands of people gathered around temples across the globe, ushering in a spiritual union that transcended individual religions. Many have spoken about this time being a positive turning point in humanity’s history, that peace and harmony will begin to wash over the minds of every single purpose on Earth. I think you can already see these changes happening. Simply by the amount of positive quotes and verses placed on social networks, and the number of people talking of joy and abundance. Of course, many will say I’m simply being ridiculous, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed recently.

Do I believe though that mankind is entering a more positive change in it’s evolution? Maybe. But of course it wouldn’t just happen overnight. I feel people will only be happy if they want to be happy. They will only live in peace and harmony if they believe peace and harmony exists. As I’ve moaned about before, I believe soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street damage the perceptions of living more than anything else. Viewers subject themselves to 30min of poverty, misery, and dysfunctional relationships every evening, ramming home this belief that life is just one huge struggle, and that it is ok to treat others with contempt and selfishness. And if these programs really do do this kind of damage, imagine what kind of suffering daily viewings of Jeremy Kyle brings! So my solution to begin healing Britain is take these programs off and replace them with repeats of Father Ted and Friends. 😉

Now as the New Year approaches, many people will begin writing out their New Year’s Resolutions. If you’ve ever made one you’ll know that they rarely work. Putting that much pressure on yourself is doomed to failure as we constantly think about them, discuss them with other people and weaken them, inevitably returning back to our comfortable way of doing things.

This is why if you want to make changes in your life, I suggest simply making them now. If you want to get in shape, go for a new profession, want to find a new relationship, find new ways to make money, or indeed write a book, then you shouldn’t wait until the start of a new year to begin these things. You should make a firm commitment to start them right now and imagine how you’ll feel when you’re fit and healthy, when you’re in your dream job, when you’re with the partner of your dreams, when you’ve got the healthy bank account you wanted, when you’re holding the hardback version of your book, and really feel it. Because it is that emotion you’ll feel that will fire you up into going for what you want. Then any objects in your way will  seem to magically move out of the way. And their strength will remain if you keep them yourself.

In to sum up – it’s not the seemingly mythical turning of the calendar that will help you in changing your life for the better, not is the enticing dates mentioned by ancient civilizations on big stone tablets.

It is your own desires and beliefs that ultimately create your world.

Which leads to the two golden rules of living in happiness – no matter what pain and suffering you see in the world around you, whether in the news or in fiction, you must believe the world is inherently a good place, where beautiful things and great dreams come true, and that we all have the potential to live gloriously, without pain or misery. And of course – never ever giving up on pursuing what you want in life, no matter how many times you get knocked down. Shoot a thousand arrows at a target and one will eventually hit the bullseye.

Go for it now.

And never give up.

Ever. 🙂

Chapter 5 Final Small


Catching a Break

Today Amazon.co.uk has reported that they have sold more copies of E.L. James’ astoundingly erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey than the entire library of Harry Potter books combined, making her their best-selling author ever.

No whilst I may screw my face up at the very notion of the book (to me it’s simply the premise to a porn movie), you can’t help but applaud James on managing to break open the barrier between traditionally published and self-published books. In fact she’s blown it wide open. Most critics will turn their nose up at any self-published book, deeming it inferior to one that has taken its journey through a well-established publisher. But does that mean it isn’t what the general public want to read?

To me the world of novel-writing has taken a bizarre turn in the past decade. Whilst it has always been difficult to get published, even more so now with the world’s economy, publishers have always looked upon each submission with such enormous criticism that they could only read the first page of an author’s prized work before uttering ‘Meh!’ and casting it into a rapidly filling bin.

Now this could dash the dreams of the less-determined writer, but the invention of e-books and e-book readers has allowed rejected authors a fresh chance to show their literature to the world. Of course this has its downsides – the market has become rapidly pumped full of stories that look like the reluctantly penned homework of a ten year old. And not only this, but the choice of books on sites like e-bay has become so vast that each author once again has little chance of getting their work to an audience.

It’s almost like being in a stadium filled to the brim with people all singing as loud as they can, in the hope somebody will recognise their talent above the rest.

 

So how did E.L. James manage to do so well?

Well since the book began as fan fiction for Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, it already recieved a bit of attention. It’s overly erotic themes received a few raised eyebrows on the site she posted it, and thus it was removed.

She placed the book on her own blog before again removing it to sell it in e-book and  print-on-demand paperback versions.

Then through the use of blogs and word-of-mouth she managed to get the message out. And suddenly the demand poured in.

For the rest of us authors though, with books that are tamer and less scandalous, trying to follow in James’ isn’t quite as easy. Even for those with novels of similar tones, the road to success may have been built, but it’s now crammed with traffic as copycat novels spring up.

I guess there’s no true way to find the big break. But I do feel there are things you can do to help. We’ve all heard the saying – ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ I feel there is no truer statement. Which is why it pays to be polite and respectful. Whilst working as a barman years ago, I did my best to be friendly to every single person I served, no matter how disrespectful they were to me. I can truly say that this paid off. Not only did it lead me to my friend and business partner Bev, and my girlfriend Wendy, but it has also brought numerous friends and acquaitences in all professions on whom I can call on for help.

Stopping to help someone get their car started? Who knows if that person is an artist who will design you a book cover in the future?

Helping an old lady with her shopping? Who knows if that lady’s daughter is a marketing consultant that could be a great contact in the future?

Which is why I feel a true, genuine and decent etiquette must always be employed both online and offline. There should be no ego-strutting, no borderline narcissistic personality disorders, and certainly no angry retaliation when somebody takes the time to critique your work. After all, we are all trying to sell our work to ‘people’. Why shouldn’t we treat ‘people’ with decency in order to encourage help and sales.

 

I’ve just finished Richard Branson’s autobiography and one incident has stuck with me.

When Branson was in his twenties and struggling to build Virgin Records as a successful record company, he found he could escape certain taxes by falsely declaring purchased records were to be sold abroad. So with filled vans he would take records to Calais, get a stamp to show the stock was being transported abroad, then turn around and sell them in England. Of course authorities soon caught on to this, and in the dead of the night Branson recieved a telephone call from an unknown man who tipped him off about a coming raid on Branson’s shops and warehouses, telling him to shine a blacklight over all his records and hide the ones marked ‘A’. When asked why the man was helping him, he solemnly replied that Branson had spent hours preventing one of his friends from committing suicide years early when the future billionaire manned a phoneline helping troubled teenagers.
Whilst of course I don’t advocate evading tax, this story just goes to show that good deeds can and do eventually catch up with you. Who knows, the next time you retrieve a lost wallet for someone, it could be a very grateful Stephen King. 🙂

Success!


Social Evolution

Long ago, when I was a nipper living in Leeds, the only way I knew how to contact my best friend Stephen was to run across the road and knock on his door and ask if he was coming out to play. It seemed so simple looking back now.

I wonder how different my life would have been if I had grown up with the blanket of social networking that dominates today’s youth. In many ways I’m grateful that my childhood was unaware of such inventions. The practice of door knocking was as common as climbing trees and going out on ‘Goonies’ style adventures.

These days though social networks appear to put huge amounts of pressure on today’s youth. Whilst the inevitable onslaught of cyber bullying is plain to see, I don’t think people like Mr Zuckerberg quite forsaw the impact social networking would have on our lives – positve and negative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of sites like Facebook; they’ve allowed me to contact friends I’ve not heard from in over twenty years, and allow me to get closer to family members who I can’t see often enough. One example of this is how I got to know my amazing late Uncle Mark. Although he passed away sadly last year, I was grateful that I got to speak to him more through Facebook in one year than I had during my entire life.

But there is also the bad side to social networking. People can see where you are, where you’ve been, and what you’ve been doing. If you’re a slave to the social network, then your entire life is up for scrutiny. And there in lies the rub. Just one badly worded status, one picture with a certain person, one ‘check-in’ at the wrong place, can spell trouble in your circles. And this follows on to the fabled act of ‘unfriending’ which can cause wars amongst groups. Let’s face it, deleting a person from your friend’s list speaks volumes, whatever the reasons. It silently tells somebody that you no longer care about them enough to have them in your life. Of course this may not be the case at all, but human nature is one that usually imagines the worst. And depending on the individual’s disposition, they can either become hurt, resentful, unmoved, or just plain pissed off.

Personally I don’t see why anyone would feel they have to delete anyone without a proper reason. ‘Cleaning up’ your friends list is not a valid reason. You can easily hide people without causing anamosity so why cause drama?

If you don’t speak to these people anymore, so what? I have plenty of friends I don’t speak to much, that’s the way life is. Friends come and go, they drift in and out, but we never forget them. If a person speaks to me after years and years I’ll still be their friend, no matter what. I don’t see why we need to devote huge amounts of time to message everyone we know just to prove that we’re still mates. It’s like juggling with a few hundreds balls, it’s just not possible.

Having a considerate approach to social media begins to make friendships almost business like. Watching somebody constantly put negative statuses about their life puts a label on them. They may be just using social media to vocalise some stress but if that’s all you see of that person, you can’t help but get a solid opinion of that person.

I can’t help but wonder how social media will evolve in the future, shaping our friendships and lives. We complain that the government wants too much information about us, but we will freely give it away more and more through social networking. Our peers will also know everything about us, down what cereal we ate for breakfast (if you don’t announce that already). Reviews of individuals could become the norm – it already happens in Twitter – ‘Add this person, they’re really funny!’

For now though, I’m grateful that Facebook came about when I was in my twenties – probably the best age for it.

I’m also grateful that I can check up on my old pal Stephen, living happily in Australia. Even though we rarely speak, I still consider him one of my longest serving best friends, and one day I’ll go knock on his door and see if he’s coming out to play (at the pub).

 


Death and Transition of Ambition

Remember back when you were in very young in school and the teacher went around the classroom asking everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up, to which every child replied back with some typical (mostly public service) vocation – ‘Fireman’, ‘Train Driver’, ‘Nurse’, etc. Now did this simple exercise actually happen? Or were we led to believe it did through an ever convincing media.

I certainly have no idea if it did, let alone know what my reply would have been!

But a lot of people do remember what they wanted to be, and in reaching adulthood, their chosen job is usually vastly different to the one they decided upon at a tender five years old. My girlfriend Wendy says she wanted to be a vet as a youngster, and is now a hair stylist – a job she fell into at sixteen (and thankfully adores). Why is this? Is it because we are too naive as a child to fully understand the ins and outs of each profession and by the time we learn what it entails we decide being a policeman is no longer just about ‘catching the black and white jumpered robber’ but more akin to an emotionally straining job dealing with all wakes of life, and a negative national perception?

Or is it because we believe we have no control over our lives and simply find ourselves fitting into society as easily as a jigsaw piece, conforming to what the greater world wants us to do for a living.

I myself decided in high school that I wanted to be a Graphic Designer, as did quite a few people without really being told what it was about. So after doing Graphics for GCSE, I took a BTEC National Diploma in the same subject. However, I quickly learned that it wasn’t for me. I just didn’t enjoy the ‘strictness’ and ‘precisenes’ of the art. But within the course, Art itself was taught, so I made the choice to complete my two years.

During this time my sister introduced me to Japanese animation, namely The Guyver – something that would change my life forever. Embracing my new found love for the Manga world, I switched my chosen profession to being an Animator, declaring I’d never be a Graphic Designer. But in order to get on the course I wanted, I had to take a one year’s Art Foundation course. This one year heralded a group of friends I’ve posted at an earlier date. This was also the year my own artwork yielded short accompanying storylines which would develop into whole volumes of text (this is the year my Phoenix stories came into being).

A few years later, during my Animation degree, I once again changed my idea of a perfect job. To be a Screenplay Writer! Throwing myself into the art of screenplay writing I spewed out a few works and quietly dispatched them around the world, naively thnking I’d hear great things back (I did hear some ‘ok’ things).

With my degree over, I went to work full time at the pub I’d been at for the past the past five years. Not a great job considering I’d just undertaken a befuddled 6 years of higher education in the arts!

But pretty soon my ‘jigsaw of society’ fell into place! I was offered a job by friend as a……Graphic Designer.

Either fate was playing a cruel trick, or it was leading me somewhere much better, and let’s face it, a Graphic Designer pays better than a barman (just).  With my goals in life all over the place, I took the job and have remained in it for almost nine years, and whilst it’s not quite the same as being my own boss, I do nevertheless enjoy the job and the company.

Now however, my goals have become clear and at the age of thirty, I can honestly say I know what I want to be when I grow up! 😀 Writing books has taken over my life, and certain developments over the past few years has pushed me towards this life-consuming ambition. It hasn’t been easy though, and it’s taken a lot of hard work, luck, and personal growth books to get here.

One thing I do know is that if the media continues to contrive our view of how society should be – a place where we should ‘accept our lot in life’ and ‘like it or lump it’ then we will continue to see the vast majority of people having their dreams and ambitions reduced to dust, forever tied into a job that will suck the very soul out of them, or even worse – a life on government paid benefits. Like a typical character from Eastenders, these people will lead an unfilling life of unhappiness. Life becomes nothing more than an existance. Just watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle, to see these unfortunate souls, paraded around in front of us like circus animals, chewed up and spat out by modern civilisation, vastly unaware of how they are viewed by the majority of the public. This ‘chat show’ perfectly shows the ever increasing class divide in this country.

My personal opinion is that something is lacking from our education system. When asking young pupils what they would like to be when they grow up, they should be encouraged to learn that the world is indeed their oyster and that they can have or do anything they choose with enough passion and belief, no matter what their circumstances! Giving young people hope and a firm belief in the goodness in the world may help alleviate some of the social strains we see in our country, that cumulated in the riots we saw last week. Many of these young tearaways declared there were no opportunities in this world – and that’s precisely what they’ve been led to believe.

I’m not saying this excuses what they did, far from it! A lot of these rioters are absolute scum, and deserve fitting punishments. I’m also not saying this is the only factor involved – many were simply criminal opportunists.  But it does answer a root question which politicians are frantically scratching their heads over. I simply don’t believe everyone is born bad.

Our government has shown the youth the hell that their lives can become.

So why act so surprised when they act like little devils.

As for myself, maybe if I’d been taught that nothing in life is out of reach at school, then maybe I’d have found my life’s purpose a little quicker.

I only hope I would have replied to my teacher I wanted to be a novelist. 🙂


Tenerife Decapitation

This is horrific.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/8513632/British-Tenerife-tourist-beheaded-by-Prophet-of-God-attacker.html

My thoughts go out to that poor woman’s family.

I haven’t told my girlfriend yet as we go out there on holiday at the end of June. Quite close by too. 😦