Mutterings and utterings of a budding novelist

Personal Life

An Awakening

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!

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Is there a tomorrow?

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

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Loving my Job!

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

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Decisions – Ours and Theirs

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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 youve 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.”


One Day

I will never say ‘One Day’ again.
With each morning it becomes closer to my grasp,
Yet tomorrow pushes it one step further away.
An endless cycle, until it becomes the final day.
When my grasp falters and the journey stops.
Today is the day I realised that ‘One Day’ will never come.
Today is the day I think and begin anew.
Today is the day I forget past aches and stop them intervening my current thoughts and feelings.
Today is the day I stop worrying about the future and have faith it will all be taken care of.
Today is the day I focus on the present and live in the moment.
Today is the day I count each moment alive a blessing.
Today is the day I say no to negativity in its many forms, making sure they have no effect on my being.
Today is the day I find beauty and harmony in the world around me.
Today is the day I give thanks to every lesson life has taught me.
Today is the day I move towards making my own dreams and desires a reality.
Today is the day I make that trip I always promised myself.
Today is the day I visit that friend I said I would.
Today is the day I tell that special person how much I love them.
Today is the day I tell my children how precious they are to me.
Today is the day I build bridges with that family member that broke long ago.
Today is the day I take better care of my health and start eating well.
Today is the day I give gratitude to my own health.
Today is the day I stop fussing over my appearance and start loving myself.
Today is the day I look after my own mental well-being.
Today is the day I wish happiness and love to everyone I meet.
Today is the day I break free from whatever shackles hold me back.
Today is the day I realise I have the power and strength to make my life the best it can be.
Today is the day I believe in myself.
Today is the day I know I will never give up.

Today is the day I stop saying ‘One Day.’

One Day will never come.

Today is the day I am happy.
Today is the beginning.
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The things you think of when you’re driving across the country at 3am. 😀

 


Urban Legends and The White & Black Scarecrows

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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.

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My old school. The Valley is on the right.

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.

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The only picture I have of the Valley itself. My happy sister Kelly, cousins Lee and Wayne, and me stood up! 😀


The Muse of True Love

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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.