Musings from the mind

Mourning the loss of honesty

burglar-308858_1280

 

It seems that every day I have reason to be a little more dismayed at how rare a thing honesty is. Everyone is out to screw you somehow, to part you from your money without thought to the quality of what they’re offering in return. Be it goods or services, quality is at an all time low today and I am constantly amazed at the generally shoddy quality of everything offered to me by individuals and large conglomerates alike.

Am I the only one left alive who still strives for excellence? Am I the only perfectionist left on planet Earth? Not that anything I create or do is perfect, but I STRIVE for it, I genuinely want it for everything I ‘put out there.’ Everyone else it seems, is either just too lazy to bother doing something well, not good enough at what they’re doing to do it well, or they knowingly don’t give a shit and actively try to get away with the worst possible quality for the highest possible price.

Today’s consumers are not entirely blameless either. They routinely accept shoddy workmanship and are happy to receive bad quality goods or services. Everyone is creating some crap for sale these days and it’s all badly made and over priced. I’ve seen some horrific shit for sale on Facebook, shit I’d be embarrassed to offer for sale. Companies big and small are expecting more from their customers and yet provide less and less themselves. No one seems to take a pride in producing quality goods and offering quality services anymore. We’re dumbing down in all areas of life and I for one do not approve.

I want a tattoo. I want a small design with some writing encircling it. Simple you may say. Yes, but they can’t do it unless I produce a photograph of the design I want for them. I’m not a qualified graphic designer with access to Adobe Photoshop software and I don’t know anyone who is/does. Not only must I produce the full design for them but they still expect me to pay them for doing it? What the actual fuck?

Twenty years ago, ten years ago, this would have not happened. The human race is no longer evolving. It’s going backwards and will soon be climbing right back up into the trees again.

The passing of the pen

ink-316909_640

Since man first began recording his language in written form, the pen has been an integral part of life. Whether that pen take the form of stone tools, wooden sticks, paintbrushes, quills or what we recognise as a pen today, man has used an implement for marking down a physical representation of the sounds he makes when he speaks. When I was a girl, there was no way life could continue as normal if pens and pencils suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth.

When I was at junior school, we were taught to write with pencils, with the promise of graduating to pens when we ‘went up’ to senior school. It was a signal that you’d grown up when you used a pen at school instead of a pencil. The other important right of passage was going from what our teachers called, script, which was non joined up (non cursive) writing, to ‘joined up’ (cursive). I can remember one of my first year senior school teachers commenting to me her surprise that I was not yet writing ‘joined up’ like the other kids, and how embarrassed I was.

Part of our learning was concerned with the physical act of writing. We were taught to write neatly, how to do the little tails on the lower case letter a and how to form a proper lower case s. It was regarded as important back then, when writing and writing implements were an essential part of life. No one ever imagined things would change.

Not so now.

For the first time since man hunkered down in caves and grunted to each other, we live our lives without pens. We have laptops, tablets, ipads, desktops, smartphones but no pens. Thankfully we do still need to understand written language, but we don’t actually write it any more, and that is sad. The standard of written language I see every day on social media is appalling, with text speak making up the majority of it. It seems the vowel is fast becoming extinct as our way of expressing ourselves evolves. Even our kids use keypads at kindergarten.

What’s even sadder is that no one seems to mourn the passing of the pen. Fountain pens are now sought after as collectors items and few shops sell them.  They are thought of as intriguingly retro, humorously victorian, and fascinatingly steampunk, but never useful. No longer will you see a man with a small blue stain on the bottom of the breast pocket of his shirt, nor anyone with a similar blue stain on the inside tip of their middle finger. Most probably won’t even understand what I mean by that last sentence. Those few writers who do still write with pen and paper are thought of as weird. We smile at their funny habit that prevents them from writing as fast as the rest of us. This should not be so. Using a pen takes time. As you write, you think about what you’re writing. That investment of thought means you have a real ‘connection’ with what you’ve written, more so than you ever do with typed words. It’s a subtle thing, but profound.

We can’t move backwards. Nor can we un-invent technology. We can however, make an effort to keep hold of what is important, and the ability to write down your language is more important than you know, especially in this nuclear age. Just think, if they drop the bomb and we lose all our technology, how are you all going to survive if you have no pens and don’t know how to use them?

On becoming a superhero

face-66317_640

Are you a woman under fifty? If so, prepare to receive a surprise gift on your fiftieth birthday. This gift is something you may have spent your younger years wishing for, and believing you could never have. It is however, something you will find out is nowhere near as cool as you think it would be. I love a superhero movie as much as the next person, and have often thought it might be cool to fly like Superman or Ironman, have X-ray eyes, or the power to become invisible. Well you can become invisible, and you won’t have to undergo any horrible painful tests,  there will be no need to drink a nasty tasting concoction, and no scary injections of dreadful chemical mixtures. What must you do, I hear you cry? It’s simple, just be a woman over fifty.

This phenomenon creeps up on you without you realising until it’s too late and then, bam, you’re invisible with no way back. Like a spectre you glide into crowded rooms unseen by those present until you throw a cup across the room and scream. You queue in stores and fast food joints and when finally you get to the front of the line, the sales person looks right through you and serves the guy behind you. Your fifty plus year old joints complain more and more, but you will never get a seat on a bus because no one knows you’re there.

Hoping to get yourself a younger toy boy? Forget it sister. Unless you walk down the street stark naked, singing a falsetto rendition of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to get their attention, Most men will cease to notice you. There are some men who will notice you, but that will most likely be for all the wrong reasons. The fat, balding, paunchy, toothless, beer swilling, farting sofas will notice you, but only because they know that the younger and better looking chicks won’t give them the time of day. They’re trying to ‘settle for second best’ by trying it on with the invisible older women, and assume said women will be grateful for the attention.

I turned 53 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been aware of my superhero status for a few years now. My 83 year old mother and I have discussed this topic often and she reports to having noticed the same thing happening to her from middle age. She also informs me that this superhero status, once gained, is permanent. Once invisible, you can never hope to be seen again.  You are doomed to wander through your winter years like a ghost wandering a lofty mansion, the occasional grunt or shriek to shock people into wondering what the hell that noise was, and if their house is haunted?

This new found ability does have one or two advantages though, that help to temper the shock and disappointment. No longer must you spend hours wondering what to wear. No longer do you have to spend hours applying layers of make up. You don’t even have to bother shaving your chin or plucking your eyebrows anymore. Your middle aged spread can wobble unashamedly, and you can relax about the diet. After all, you’re now way passed such concerns. No, your priorities now are tracking down cut price life insurance deals, funeral plans, and dealing with bladder problems. The younger generation don’t know how sweet their life is, do they?

But of course, this is what society wants us to believe.

Why should we suddenly become invisible? What is wrong with our society, that a woman who has worked hard bringing up children, working, caring for elderly parents and useless husbands, is rewarded for her efforts with indifference and a yawn? Without us, the younger generation would not exist to enjoy the life they take far too much for granted, so why can’t they be grateful? Because that is the way of life today, that’s why. Old is a dirty word, something to be afraid of and avoided at all costs. In choosing not to notice us, they are admitting their fear of confronting their own mortality and the march of time. We cannot all be Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, with enough money to hire clever people who can help us come out from behind our cloak of invisibility. Most of us just have to accept that we no longer exist, and some of us will end our days alone, not found for weeks. Our mouldering corpses will still be sitting in front of the tv and finally, for a moment, we will no longer be invisible. The younger generation will shake their heads and mutter, “What a shame, how could an old person go unnoticed like that.”

Its seems the only way to stop this unwanted new superhero ability, is to become the neighbourhood weirdo, the crazy cat lady at the end of the street, the old bat who talks to her plants and probably has a body hidden in the cellar, “so the guy in bar told me.” Not all of us fancy any of those roles for ourselves. Most of us would like to be just as visible as we were when we were thirty years younger. We’re not asking for wolf whistles, (although that might be nice once in a while), we don’t want to be thought of as man eating cougars or new age converts embracing veganism. We want to be ordinary women, just like always. We want a smile, a nod, a “good morning.”

Is that really beyond the realms of possibility for a civilised society?

Cyber Abuse – why does it happen and what do we do about it?

crowd-sourcing-154759_640

The internet is a wonderful tool in so many ways, and there is no doubt that it largely enhances our lives.  From online shopping which makes daily life for the disabled or isolated, much easier, to educational information available to everyone, to online business opportunities, it opens life up to us in ways we never realised were closed before.

As with most things in life however, there is a darker side to the internet, and it seems to be gaining in strength.  There have been several high profile instances of cyber bullying and general aggressiveness, the latest of which is the abuse suffered by Stan Collymore, the retired English football player.  He has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, mainly via twitter, which has escalated into death threats and all sorts of other horrors.

There are two questions that spring to mind immediately.  Why do people do this and what can we do about it?

The first of these questions is multi-faceted, but simple to answer – because it’s anonymous.  You don’t have to identify yourself truthfully anywhere on the internet, and this allows you the safety to behave in ways you would never dream of otherwise.  You can call yourself any name you can think of, you can put any random photo on your profile, and no one need know who you really are.  This is extremely empowering, especially for those people who are socially introverted, and/or too afraid to take part in what used to be called ‘normal social situations.’

Suddenly, we can now spit forth all of the darkest horrors that dwell deep within the most animalistic region of our minds, and which we tend to keep locked away when we have to physically interact with people.  No one in their right mind would walk down the street, see a black skinned ex footballer, and yell the N word at the top of their voice.  The chances are that the aforementioned would come over and nut you one if you did.  We all know this, and, not wishing to invite fisticuffs with another person who might hurt us far more than we are able to hurt him/her, we keep our mouths shut and our kneecaps intact.

Get on the internet however, and suddenly those risks are not there anymore.  We no longer have to risk getting a black eye or broken nose, we can be as horrible as we like and be totally confident that we will always get away with it.  That gives us all a lot of power, but it is a power that causes nothing but pain.

I think there are several underlying causes of this upswing in anonymous aggression.  Firstly, our societies are terribly over populated and our territorial boundaries are being invaded every day as more and more housing goes up, gardens get smaller and more people are being housed in apartments without even a balcony, let alone a garden.  We now have more neighbours, far more closer to us than ever before and we are forced to live in far too close a proximity to everyone else.  Everyone likes their own space, but when your own space is not much bigger than your own footprint, it has a detrimental psychological effect, so much so that there is now a new educational discipline called Environmental Psychology.  People can now study the effects of overcrowding and the way it affects us.

This enforced crowding, leads me to the second reason.  The closer we are forced to live with our neighbours, and the less personal space we are allowed, makes us withdraw from social interaction more than we would have done fifty years ago, in order to try to get some time away from all these people so close around.  This withdrawal does nothing to enhance or develop our social or interpersonal skills, and subsequent generations are much less effective at what I call, compassionate social interaction than people of my parents’ generation was.

Given our dwindling ability to interact in a compassionate way, the dwindling of our personal space, and the enforced ‘close proximity living’ we are all experiencing, the type of interaction offered us by the internet, with it’s anonymity, makes cyber abuse bound to happen.  We now have a platform on which to vent all of the pent up feelings our lives cause us, and knowing that we can say whatever we want without anyone having to know who we are, the temptation to vent forth with our most vicious feelings is too strong for many to resist.

So what can we do about it?

This is a hard one, and one that does not have a simple answer.  We should encourage our younger generation to interact physically more than they do, limit their time on the internet so that real interaction becomes the norm for them, and give them other opportunities to vent their feelings in a way that does not involve hurting anyone else.  Ideally we would all have the opportunity to live in slightly larger personal spaces than we now do, but unless there happens to be a sudden pandemic anytime soon, we are doomed to live shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours.  Education is very important and often overlooked in this particular arena.  Those who have spent many years being educated to a high standard, have not only showed that they have high self discipline, necessary for study, but they often have life goals that involve getting out into the world and doing something with their time and skills.  Under educated inner city no-go area housing estates are often filled with people who have not had such a good education and who have practically no job prospects.  They have more free time in which to sit around and get bored, due to not having a high standard of living, and the temptation to spend hours daily on the internet, and using it as an outlet for all of their woes, is very high.

We need to be teaching the younger generation how to be a compassionate social person in a high density society.  This is where we can blame the parents – us, for not having done our job properly.  Human nature is naturally compassionate, to a degree, but we are also naturally competitive and want to be better than the next guy.  We are capable of great violence and as kids, we need to be taught how to control our selfish urges and live in harmony with others.  With all the educational, racial, cultural and religious differences between us and our neighbours in our new borderless societies, we need to learn how to live and let live.  It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and we haven’t taught this to our kids.

When it comes to social media, those in charge of these sites need to jump on any wrong doing quickly and deal with it, and this is where they are falling behind.  In all of the recent high profile cases, the social media site(s) involved have done nothing about the abuse.  This needs to change, especially as there have been several suicides resulting from cyber abuse.  The problem for us as users is that we are almost totally powerless to force their hands.  We can email, tweet, post etc demanding they toughen up, but 99% of people, while agreeing, won’t bother to get involved, (another demonstration of today’s lack of compassion for others).

I’ve had a few nasty comments on facebook over the years I’ve been involved with it, and my response is always to go public with it.  I copy and paste the comment, with the person’s name, and let all my followers see it.  I respond not with aggression, but with honesty and openness and show the world who this person is.  Hopefully the ensuing embarrassment will help them to decide not to do it again.  If I get a reputation for always showing the world what you’ve said to me, the chances are you will try to make sure what you say to me is not abusive.  That’s my opinion anyway, and however flawed it may be, it works for me.

I hope Stan Collymore gets the result he deserves, and I hope the twitter bigwigs get off their fat asses and tighten up their response to such crap.  In an ideal world this shit would not happen, but this is not an ideal world, because people live on it.

4 Simple truths to keep you on track

panda-149818_640

Being an author is, in many ways, strange.  You’d think it would simple; you write down what’s in your head, and after tidying it up and obeying all the normal ‘rules of good writing’ you publish it.  Physically that’s all you have to do and it’s easy, but there are all sorts of emotions that go with being a writer, and they often seem to be at opposite ends of the extreme.

On the one hand, you are happy and fulfilled that you have managed to create something tangible from something so abstract.  Thoughts, feelings and ideas have become a physical thing you can hold in your hands, and that’s amazing.  Then you have disappointment that people aren’t falling over themselves to read it, that people aren’t as amazed by it as you are, and that they don’t gush over it all the time.

Sometimes, other emotions come in and mix everything up and you have turmoil for a while.  Sometimes you feel like giving up and never writing again, other times you wonder what planet everyone else is on because they can’t see what a magnificent and world changing creation you’ve just brought into being.  As an author, you will experience them all, you will swing through the whole arc of these emotions, and many others.  The trick is to keep a few basic truths at the forefront of your mind.

Motive Why do you write?  There is only one right answer to this question, and unless you give the right answer, you will never be at peace with your life as an author.  The right answer is, “because I have to.”  If you answer that you want to make money or get famous, impress your friends, or because it’s therapy for you, then my advice is simple; stop writing.  Writing to get rich just will not work.  Yes you may make a little but you won’t make a long lasting income from this type of writing.  There are many of this type of writer out there; just think of those times when famous books have come out, such as 50 shades, Harry Potter etc.  The moment these came out, there were suddenly thousands of people out there suddenly writing erotica or young adult fantasy.  This is bandwagon writing, and any success will be short, sharp and temporary.  Flashes in the pan go out of fashion even quicker than they come into fashion, and when they drop off the radar, you will go with it and believe me, readers have very short memories.  You will be forgotten very quickly when everyone  has jumped  onto the new bandwagon, whatever that may be, and any income will dry up.  Bandwagon writing doesn’t have the staying power necessary to ensure you slowly but surely gain a steady and loyal following for your work, which is solid, dependably good quality, and true  to the genre you were meant to write in, which tends not to be the one that is the latest fad.  If you know in your bones that you need to write historical drama, then don’t write erotica, fantasy or any other of the latest fashion, (unless of course the latest fashion happens to be historical drama).  If you write true to way your brain and soul are wired, your work will have that spark of authenticity that will be missing from anything you churn out just because it’s fashionable at the moment and you want to make a few quid.

Perspective It really doesn’t matter if you don’t get rich or famous.  If you write with the proper motive, then your goal will be to produce an excellent quality work that anyone who reads will enjoy.  Making money or becoming well known, should not be part of your goals, as they detract from producing top quality work.  Those goals produce lower quality work that is churned out quickly, is often much shorter in length, (many bandwagon authors typically write books less than 40k words), their covers are the same as all the others and badly produced, and the work itself is just dead boring and badly edited to boot.  Of course there are good quality books and stories of less than 40k words, in case anyone is thinking of sending me dog turds through the mail, but many of the bandwagon authors write short stuff.  This is because they aren’t writing true to the write genre for them, and therefore they can’t find adequate creativity to make it longer.  Another reason is so they can churn out more stuff, more quickly and keep their name out there.  Once you let go of the desire to get rich and famous, and concentrate all of your focus on just writing top quality stuff in the right genre for you, the quality of your ideas will go up tremendously.  If you want to be sure of making money writing, join a newspaper.

Originality This is really joined at the hip with motive.  Jumping on any bandwagon will not allow you to be original in your creativity, because the need to churn out the same stuff all the time prevents you from being able to let your mind wander where it really wants to.  There are only so many ways to write about vampires, zombies, dragon riding knights of old and cheap sex, and it all  becomes old very quickly.  Be original, write something new that no one has yet thought of and you can be the trendsetter rather than a wagon rider.  It’s much more fun writing something totally new, than churning out the same boring shit everyone else is churning out just because you all want to make some money.  Forget the money and write something that’s in your soul, no matter if it’s fashionable or not.

The Tough Question This one is simple; do you actually have the talent to write?  If the only way you can produce anything at all, is if you follow the crowd and produce the same 20k erotica that everyone else is producing, but the thought of writing a 100k science fiction or historical drama, crime drama, epic fantasy etc horrifies you and makes your mind go blank and flaccid, then you’re probably not cut out to be a writer.  Be truthful when answering the tough question, and if you discover you’ll not likely to make a writer as long as your asshole points downwards, take a deep breath and find something else to do that you are capable of doing well, do it to the best of your ability, and be better than anyone else at it.  There are far too many people trying to be writers, who aren’t writers of quality and who really shouldn’t be doing it.  Don’t be a mediocre flash in the pan who is quickly forgotten when the fashion changes, do what you are good at and excel at it.

These four simple truths, if answered correctly, will help keep you focussed during the down times when your emotions are taking a dip.  When you haven’t made a sale in a few weeks and feel worthless, remember these truths, answer them again and get your focus back on track.  Treat them like a self inflicted kick up the backside when you need it most and they will help you move away from all the wrong mindsets that try to misdirect you on your path, whether that path be as a writer or not.

A few personal updates

Mother has now gone back home to Cornwall after her three week visit, and it’s nice to have a tidy flat once again.  Much as I love her, she’s a messy cow and my home quickly becomes a pigsty with her around.  She’s always been an untidy person, and now she’s getting on in years, she employs a cleaner, so she never has to suffer the consequences of her slovenliness.  She says I’m obsessive but I’m so totally not, I’m  just  much cleaner than she is.  They say two can live as cheaply as one, and that may be true but the rubbish I accumulate when she’s around is way more than twice what I produce alone.  Weird.

My mother has psychopathic personality disorder, which means she feels no emotional bond with anyone and never shows affection.  As a child growing up, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t seem to love me or take pride in me, and although I do understand now, I can’t go back and have happier childhood memories, I’m stuck with them.  She has never fought my corner or stood up for me in any way, and it was only a couple of years ago when she told me about her personality problem, that I was able to realise why.  I have many memories of her not being there when I needed her, and they won’t go away no matter how much I understand why she has always failed to be there emotionally.

What my mother does instead of show love and affection, is help financially.  It’s something she can do without having to open up emotionally, so I allow her to help me out whenever she wants to and I no longer feel guilty at her bailing me out.  I did very well out of her over Christmas, and it’s nice to be able to take her financial help without feeling a failure.  Now I can let her pay out and know it’s her way of being affectionate and the more she does it, the more affectionate she’s being.

Her lack of empathy makes her seem very judgemental sometimes, and she shocks me with her attitudes sometimes.  She can’t understand why people don’t behave like unemotional robots, and although I try to tell her that she’s the one who is different, not them, she just shrugs and changes the subject.  She can be maddeningly irritating and I’m often to be found biting my tongue when she’s around, but she is also funny and down to earth.

They say we’re a product of our upbringing, and I now understand more about why I find it so hard to interact with people.  Being autistic doesn’t help but having my mother as role model, made it even harder to grow up balanced.  I guess I should have become a crazed serial killer or something, I have many of the so-called ‘pointers’ according to all the tv shows.  Maybe we’re not totally a product of nurture after all.  Maybe there’s more to destiny than people like to believe.

Well, I am still battling with Talk Talk over my proposed broadband supplier swap.  The latest is that the problem with the exchange has now been sorted, and some guy is coming over on 16th to get me switched over.  We’ll see how that goes.

I’m still waiting for the new saucepans I bought on 29th Dec.  Having phoned Argos expecting a row, he told me I should receive them within the next 3 working days.  We’ll see about that too.  It’s been a right nuisance having to do all my cooking in the microwave due to no saucepans suitable for my new cooker.

Another funny thing – I was cyber bullied on twitter yesterday by a couple of assholes who did not like my blog about UK gun laws.  Funny how it’s always the aggressive bully types who wants guns to be freely available isn’t it?  Precisely the reason it’s good they’re not.

person-153536_640

 

As a self published author, one has to constantly run the gauntlet of snobbish opinion as to traditional vs self publishing.  This is a tiresome task and one that never goes away no matter what we do.  No matter how carefully we proof read and edit, no matter how much money we spend on cover art, no matter how many beta readers we send our manuscripts to and no matter how many re-writes we do, our work will always be regarded as shit because it’s not been traditionally published.

This subject came up again on facebook just now, when some knob-head made the following comment,

“Self-published authors are exactly that, self-published.  This is almost like arguing what the difference is between art and garbage.”

We all know there is a glut of badly edited trash out there from self published authors who should never have thought about putting their shit out there, let alone actually doing it, and we all know that the good stuff is buried under this mountain of trash, making it very difficult for our work to be found by readers.  We also know that these trash writers give us good writers a bad name and are responsible for this stigma that plagues us.

The sticking point for me, and the one thing I cannot get past without getting angry, is that my work is judged by those who have never read it.  No one has the ability to know whether my work is shit or solid gold without reading it first, and my opinion is that until they do, they should shut up and keep their asinine opinions to themselves.  When I commented to this effect, on the same thread as the comment above, I was then told, “I’m not risking money and time on something I don’t trust. You have to earn that chance, you aren’t entitled to it. You do this via marketing yourself. (Of note, angry rants do not help your case.)” To anyone who believes that since I self publish my own work, I do not have the right to express my exasperation, I say this,

“Fuck you.”

My ability to express my feelings has no effect whatsoever, either detrimental or otherwise, to my written work and if you think it does, then you’re probably not the kind of person I would wish for as a reader.  You had probably better stay inside and carry on with your knitting and siamese cats, I’ve got gritty novels to write for readers with an educated and open mind.

In my humble opinion, it is people such as those I mentioned above, that are killing writing and not authors self publishing their own work.  Whilst badly edited work does annoy readers, opinions such as those outlined above do much damage to talented authors trying to get their work out there to those minds waiting to receive it and enjoy it.  It is these talentless and blinkered troglodytes who are hindering the evolution of writing/publishing, not authors missing the odd comma or misspelling there/their/they’re.

As those of us with a few brain cells know, there is no benefit to being traditionally published these days.  They may (may) give you a small advance, but they keep 80% of your royalties, they do no marketing for you and you get no say about the cover art.  A traditional publishing house will demand you present them with a fully outlined marketing plan before they consider offering you a contract and you will be expected to do all the leg work in getting your work out there.  Self published authors keep up to 70% of their own royalties and have total control over cover art, and still do their own marketing/promotion etc.  There are many editors out there advertising their services if you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to do it yourself, so self publication need never be the poor relation of the writing family.

Times without number I find spelling errors and other simple mistakes in traditionally published works by well known authors, but never have I seen comments about how bad this is, nor how this should not be tolerated etc.  No, the opinions are always about how self published authors are the street urchins amongst the traditionally published earls and duchesses.  Until this changes, the writing/publishing world will never evolve as we know it is currently trying to do.

Turning the page of another year

It’s that time of year again.  The commercial explosion is over, the unwanted gifts are already on Ebay, and the turkey is a shadow of its former self.  It’s the time when we make resolutions and see how quickly we can break them, the time when we hope next year will be better than this one has been, and the time when reflect on how quickly this last year has flown by.

I don’t know whether it’s a symptom of advancing age, but time is definitely going quicker for me these last few years, and this past year has been the quickest yet.  Many people have commented on it, and I find it hard to believe that a whole year has passed.  This time last year, I left the company I worked for and started out on my own, scared but knowing I couldn’t take it anymore.  I earn more, even though I lost some of my housing benefit, but I get to choose which customers I take, and I take all the money they pay, home with me instead of just a fraction of it.  I clean houses for a living, and although it’s not work I would choose if there were other options, I’m happier in work now than ever before.  This was one risk I took that has really paid off.

I brought out four books during 2013.  Floxham Island, Acts of Life, Bygora Vandos, and Delectus Morbidium.  My writing is improving all the time, and each book is better than the last one.  I am more comfortable as a writer, and I’m more confident that I know what I’m doing.  I haven’t sold many, but as I’ve had to admit that I suck at marketing/promotion, I’m not surprised.  This was also the year I made the decision to stop trying to market my books so much.  Not only do I suck at it, but it makes me depressed and then I start to doubt myself, so I decided to stop doing it.  Maybe one day I’ll win the lotto and be able to pay a top company to do it for me.  Until then I shall just keep writing and extending my back list.  I don’t write to make money anyway, I write because I have let the creative flow out of my head or I’ll explode.

This past year saw my horrible neighbour in the flat below, move away and a nice couple with a quiet(ish) baby move in.  Such a relief to not be woken up at five every morning.  Although not that sociable, they are friendly when spoken to, and I feel happier with them here instead of the intellectually challenged man who was here before.

I have been on a mission this year to lose weight and get into shape, and I’ve lost a stone and a half so far.  Although I’ve probably put a pound or two on over the Christmas indulgence, this process shall continue into 2014 until I real my goal weight of nine stone.  Once the fat has gone, I shall be embarking upon a get fit campaign, and have been accumulating gym equipment ready for that moment.  My spare bedroom is now a craft room cum gym cum spare bedroom.

Mother is still here on her Christmas visit, and bought me a new washing machine, cooker and gym bench, all of which I need and am delighted with.  A visit to the sales brought a new kettle (my old one dripped and spilled terribly) and floor steamer (always wanted one), so my home is now more up to date.  As someone with zero social life, I spend every moment when I’m not working in here, so I need it to be easy to run and pleasant to be in.

So what of 2014?  As I said above, my health drive will continue, and I have promised the universe that when I reach ten stone, I will give up smoking.  I will aim to bring another three books out, at least one more in my Sinclair V-Logs series, and at least one stand alone novel.  I shall be treating myself to a new tattoo in the early new year, of the symbol for Earth from the series Stargate.  I am still single, but I am not going to wish for a new man in the coming year, if it happens, then it happens.  I no longer look for love, having long ago accepted that is was never to be a part of my destiny, but I am prepared to be proved wrong.  I am also in the process of growing my hair a little, so that I can have it cut into a bob (one that’s higher at the back and lower at the front) and then I shall dye it white.  I’ve always wanted white/platinum coloured hair but never had the nerve.

As far as outlandish wishes are concerned, I would wish for huge wealth to fall upon me this coming year.  This would quickly answer every other wish I could ever think of, and solve all my problems.  There’s no harm in wishing, so long as you never lose sight of the fact that they are just that, wishes that might not come true.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and wish you a happy and safe New Year celebration.  May 2014 bring you everything you need, even though it may not be what you want or desire.  I look forward to (and hope for) increasing sales and productive interactions with each and every one of you.

Requiem for a shining star

paul-walker

 

By now, everyone will know that Paul Walker died last Saturday in an horrific car crash.  At first, when I saw someone post about it, I assumed it was another of those ‘celeb dies’ hoaxes that we are all familiar with.  It was a shock to discover it was genuine.  I was surprised how shocked I was, as I’ve never really regarded myself particularly as a Walker fan, but it really knocked me sideways.

As usual, there is a mixture of emotions.  First there is sadness, but also anger and compassion for his soul.  I am angry for two main reasons.  Firstly, because someone who was so vibrantly alive and healthy was taken.  He had a good career and had none of the usual celebrity scandals that most others have.  He worked tirelessly for his charity Reach Out Worldwide and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.  I’m angry that someone like that should be taken when there are so many celebrities who lie, cheat, break the law and generally waste their lives away who are still here and being a complete nuisance.  I was also angry that Paul should die while being a passenger in the car.  Anyone with him as a passenger should realise the care that needs to be taken with such a valuable life?  The road was almost deserted, the weather was good, and Paul was not driving – you do the maths.  I was angry that someone killed Paul.  I was relieved to hear that there is a possibility that some kind of fluid leak just before the crash may have caused some kind of dangerous fault, and I hope this proves correct as I know myself well enough to know that I would find it hard not to apportion blame.  I now find out that he died from burning to death and not the impact, and that makes my heart cry for him.  Of all the possible ways to die, that has to be the worst and I hope with all of my heart that his soul recovers from that trauma.

There has been a huge outpouring of shock and grief at his passing, one of the biggest I’ve seen for any celebrity and that shows how far reaching Paul’s energy is.  Being a nice guy whilst also a celebrity really does make a difference.  It shows just how easy it is to touch someone’s life, even when you’ve never met them.  As a celebrity, you have immense power over people and it is so easy to abuse or ignore that power.  If someone is your fan, every word you say, everything you do and every opinion you express will be adopted as their own.  I’ve seen this hundreds of times.  From changing your fb handle to a name similar to your chosen celebrity, to choosing a boy/girl friend because they look like the person, it happens all over.  There are so many women on facebook who, coincidentally, are called Diesel and who happen also to be Vin Diesel fans, that it must be a very common name in every country and every culture on the planet.  Of course this seems silly, but it illustrates just how much power celebrities have.  I won’t go into how so many of them abuse that power, I’ve blogged on that very subject before, but this is another reason I still can’t get my head around Paul having died.

This also brings up the whole subject of relationships and how we communicate within them.  Paul’s death is a good example of why you should make an effort to let go of grudges, forgive your loved ones their flaws and show them you love them, every day.  You just don’t know how much longer you have with them, and it is so much easier to grieve when you know you showed them you loved them, than cope with the guilt at your angry words.

I hope the Walker family find strength and peace to move forward from their grief, and I send Paul love and healing to leave the trauma of his passing behind.

Review of Torchwood – and other similar TV series

torchwood

 

This started out as a review of Torchwood, but has evolved into a review of all TV series that share the genre.  The reason for this is simple – they always make the same mistake.

Now, I loved Torchwood, just as I loved X files, Haven, Stargate SG1, Primeval and all the others like them, (apart from Dr Who, I hate that one.)  The first couple of seasons are fantastic; the team consists of likeable, real characters with enough charisma to look good on TV, without being too ‘made up,’ and the storyline consists of interesting adventures, with a new and exciting episode each week.  There is enough danger to keep you on the edge of your seat, fantastic effects, and no bothersome sub plots to get in the way.

And that’s the problem, that last one in the list – the sub plots.  It’s always the same with every series.  The first two seasons are great, but then they can’t help themselves, they have to make it all political (in the case of the American ones) or introduce complicated and unnecessary intrigue between the characters.  Why do the programme makers always do this?  No one likes it when this happens, and in my opinion, this is why series’ tend to fall apart after the first couple of seasons.

The only series I’ve seen that hasn’t yet made this mistake, is Supernatural.  They almost did, almost.  The first couple of seasons that Crowley was part of, became laborious and boring with his constant fucking things up.  It was predictable and I worried that I might go off the series.  Thankfully though, the programme makers must have had a moment of enlightenment, because they quickly got over that and the series is still wonderful.

I loved the first season of Torchwood, I loved the first two seasons of X files, the first two or three of SG1, the first season of Primeval and the first of Haven, and I look back on them with a mixture of fondness and disappointment.  They could have been fantastic, they could still be popular now if they had just kept it the way we like it.  Simple and enjoyable.  Science fiction is about escapism and I don’t want government cover ups in every single series, or double agents within the team, or bosses with different agendas.  I want to be entertained.

Please, programme makers, give us a series we can enjoy without all that crap.