If I Could Go Back In Time to Prep for Covid-19 😷😷😷

Now I’ve always looked at ‘preppers’ with a confused curiosity, but oh how silly that seems now! I can’t help but think about all the things I’d have done differently had I even the slightest idea that anything like this could effect the health and wellbeing of the world and it’s economy.

So I figured what better way to explore this train of thought than with a time-travelling blog post from the future… or, present? Whatever.

I’m not gonna go so far as to suggest that I’ll put all these changes in place for the future, but there’s no downside to some of them. In the Corona-less future some of this may seem a little kooky, but I feel we’ve all had to learn some hard lessons about the fragility of our economical systems, and how far simple viruses can spread throughout the modern world. Their effects can be terrible, as I’m sure we’re all now aware!

A Year of Safety Money

The first and most applicable of all my ideas would be to save a whole year’s worth of money. I mean bills, finances, credit cards, food bill, a little extra to treat the kids. Not as much as you’d be used to living on, but enough to stay afloat stress free.

I’ve had a couple ideas about how this would be possible for the future, if and when we ever go back to normal! And let’s be real here, it’s a staple we all should strive to achieve if we can. The easiest possible route I can see to this outcome, is to split income by 50% and live off half the money if possible. The remaining half is put away safe, and just like that, we’ve saved a year’s worth of survival money in a year!

We’d have to cut back on a fair amount of spending, but I think a lot of people could get somewhere close to this 50/50 split if the right adjustments were made.

If it’s completely impossible to do that, simply calculate the bare necessities for a year, and do your best to put x-amount of money up until you get there. Be strict, make cut-backs, and get to it ASAP. Done!

Long Life Food & Toiletries Store

Ideally, I’d have loved to have had the opportunity to not leave the house at all throughout this whole fiasco, for the overall safety of myself, my children, and my family. That would have been perfectly achievable if we had a long term supply of toilet roll, hygiene products, canned fish, meats, fruit and veg, pasta, rice, long life milk, herbs, and all the rest of it.

I’ve been known to smirk at this particular ‘prepping’ tactic in the past, but now I’m pretty sold by it. And let’s be honest, there aren’t many downsides to it. Besides, who’s laughing now?

In any case, if afforded the opportunity, I’d have definitely started building a store of these items, and cycling through them regularly. There’s no issue with having all this stuff, using it, and replenishing with fresher dates regularly.

Who knows, I may even adopt this lifestyle in the future? It’s a cheap and efficient way of living after all!

Have Less Debt

This is perhaps not as important as the first two, but it would be nice to not have so much debt, and as a result not have to have so much saved in the ‘one year survival’ fund. Not to mention wayyyyy less phone calls to make about payment holidays!

Moving forward, I’ll be focusing heavily on getting my credit cards paid and cut to pieces, and instead only enter into interest free, fixed-date agreements at most!

It’d be nice to have an emergency card available for times like these, but if the first couple steps were in place, it’d not be necessary at all! Win/win!

A Basic Vegetable Garden?

A vegetable garden like this wouldn’t take much to throw together!

I keep thinking about how nice it’d be to pull fresh vegetables and herbs out of my own garden day by day. It’d certainly offer a little sanity into the world of frozen and canned veg, and offer an extra bit of fun and activity into the day… especially with the kids!

I’m not talking turning my garden into the village farm shop, with chickens running around and an eternally pregnant cow, but a couple raised veggie patches and a couple window-ledge herb pots would offer a little extra interest and satisfaction with dinner!

I think that’d just about do it! Most everything else is accounted for. I have a decent enough gym setup between my weights, powercage, and the body I was born with, and I have my little lovelies to keep me entertained whether they’re stropping, playing games, or chilling in front of the TV. I’ve got enough books to last several lifetimes and wouldn’t have it any other way!

What would you do if you could go back in time before all this? Love or hate my time-travelling tips? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Before you go, if you enjoy little musings like these, a couple of the following post might take your fancy!

My ‘Spiritual’ Journey

So I have this little list of prompts that I sometimes work from, and today’s topic was concerned with a ‘prized possession’ from childhood. As far as I can think back, I never really had anything I was particularly attached to until around the age of 12, which was a sterling silver pentacle pendant on a rope chain, which I wore religiously—quite literally—every day of my life.

This small pendant represented my dedication to the pagan set of beliefs, which I guess at the time for me encompassed all sorts of religions outside of the typical Abrahamic systems. I wore the heck out of that thing. Seriously, I think by the end of it’s time with me it had spanned around 7 years, and had hung from many-a-necklace.

Aww, little teenage me, rocking my penta-cool… still a heartthrob 😉

So what happened to it? And most importantly, what changed?

Put simply, I did, and so too did my notion of the Neo-pagan belief system deeply rooted in some Wiccan revival birthed out of the 50’s.

I’ve never been content to search, find, and then rest. I’ll never be completed. I’ll never find the answer. It’s just not in my makeup. I search, I discover, I explore, I search some more, and so the cycle revolves. By the time I make a full revolution around all my current interests, be they rooted in philosophy, psychology, religion, history, or otherwise, my entire understanding of things, and my position on them, is almost unrecognisable from before. It’s not a changing of mind, but more an evolution of ideas.

And overall I’d say that’s what offers my life some clarity and purpose. Clarity in the unclear, comfort in the chaos, an eternal knowing that I’m not done, that there’s more. That I can purposefully represent my understanding of things at the time, and equally be 100% comfortable in the knowledge that I’m wrong… or more aptly, not entirely right. Not finished. More. Expand it. Follow the tangent, come back, adapt.

There’s always more. There always has been, and there always will be. It’s the way of things.

My journey took me deeper into the various systems that were harboured under the umbrella of paganism, and as that search expanded I found that they all had little business being lumped in together. Each broad enough in themselves and wildly diverse in their stance, opinions, practices, and cultures.

I slowly phased out the pentacle pendent and replaced it for a Mjolnir, or a Thor’s hammer in layman’s terms. This was due to a deep connection to the culture of the Norse people, history, and Gods. It felt natural, normal, and worked for me in principle, action, and mindset. I later discovered that my heritage is famously Viking, and this made total sense to me—but that’s for another post entirely.

Of course, in and amongst this deepening of my understanding of the religions of the world, came an exploration into various schools of philosophy, where I eventually pretty much settled solely on Stoicism as a compass to help direct my outward actions.

Interestingly enough, my earliest writing achievements, and my very branch into writing itself, all stemmed from paganism, and for that, I will always be grateful. The root to all I am now started in that school of thought, and encouraged a broadening of ideas. Without that pentacle I wore around my neck as I grew from boy to man, I would not be the man I have become today. I learned to learn. To think for myself. To explore. To always search, and grow, and evolve. And that has led to a deep interest and fascination in the condition of humanity and all it encompasses.

I’ve come a long way between that little pendant, to get to where I am today, but even to this day I do wear a pendant… Just not one with a religious meaning. I’ve come to rest on a silver wolf tooth, with a wolf’s head, to represent my set of values and nod to my Norse Ancestry at the same time. It’s a representation of me in my entirety. Everything I stand for and believe. My Mjolnir.

How about you? Did you have anything you were attached to as a child? What’s the story there? And what helped shaped you into the person you are today? Let me know in the comments 🙂

If you enjoy musings like this one and want to see more personal style posts, try these 🙂

Don’t Call It A Comeback!

Let’s refrain from all notion of making a comeback, or some grand return to the blogosphere, and instead just jump right back into it. Deal?

I haven’t written in a long while, (outside of the realms of social media, anyway), and a large part of that is due to how much work I had to do on this site before feeling comfortable moving forward. I tend to get bogged down in small problems that stack up behind large problems that need solving, and before I have any chance to stop it or catchup with it all, I succumb to the temptation to hide away, pop down the Winchester, and wait for it to all blow over.

But there is no longer a Winchester. It’s been closed for the foreseeable, and with it, my hiding place is no more. Over the past couple weeks I’ve cleared up most, if not all, of the issues I faced here on WordPress, and have had lots of time to think about the direction I want to head in. That gives me a solid, but flexible, plan. A clear, concise notion of what I want to achieve by building my once precious website and community!

Above all, though, I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a list of set-in-stone commitments and grandiose expectations of what happens next. My physical business is responsible for the health, wealth, and wellbeing of my family, and my various coaching elements are extremely important to me on a purpose basis. I love to write fiction and I sometimes like to sketch. I enjoy wasting hours at a time singing to old swing songs and can easily lose myself in a Netflix series. I, as an individual, am very broad in my likes and temptations.

And so herein lies the answer to my biggest, stillness-inducing question about this website. What do I want to project? What do I want to produce? What do I want to put out in front of the world, to equate to some level of success and an expression of my creative side? And that elusive answer, after six months of worry, and putting off, and ‘I’ll figure it out tomorrow’s,’ is embarrassingly simple. ME. Plain, erratic, social, sometimes boring, othertimes awesome, me.

The writer. The thinker. The talker. The drinker. The overall and total wanker: Me.

So here I am. Back, active, and ready to mingle. Of course I’ll be writing fiction for the blog here as I always have, but I expect it’ll be fewer, and farther between. I want to set up a Patreon and various things like that to attach my fiction commitments to. But for now, and most importantly, I want to write, and with it build relationships with the varied, awesome, and interesting people right here on wordpress and beyond.

If you’re interested in doing the same, hit that follow button and leave a comment. I’m excited to get back into it all 🙂

Depression: The Truth You Need!

Today I was going to write about the art & fiction studio I built for nurturing creativity at home, but my thoughts and words have carried me instead toward depression, and the truth we all need to hear to finally get a few steps ahead of it. Of course any writing in this direction must be navigated with caution, and also, the best intention, so let’s first take a second to consider why you’d want to hear my personal thoughts on this controversial topic. That way, you can decide whether or not you want to hear my take on things before you go ahead and read further. So here goes…

Through years of suffering the most vicious and debilitating yo-yo of depression myself, I’ve spent countless amounts of time and effort researching psychology, physiology, mental health, philosophy, ancient cultures, self help strategies, (See: Where Self-Help Becomes Self Sabotage) Eastern practices such as yoga and meditation, and more. Of course, as you’d expect from a depressive, I’ve spent equal amounts of time in bed too. If it’s psychology, spirituality, physiology, or physicality related, you can bet your arse I’ve spent many a sleepless night scrawling through the literature. Beyond that, I have myself written a few hundred thousand words on the topic throughout various conversations with coaching clients, on social media, and through blogging and freelancing. I researched and wrote the entire launch site of a clinical psychiatrist out in Toronto (no names, my lips are sealed), and have freelanced multiple articles on the topic. All that aside, I have no degrees, I have no certifications, and I am in no way a practitioner of any kind of medicine or therapy.

With all that out of the way, I can say with absolute certainty that finally, I am not depressed. Not at all. My life is not amazing. I’m not rich. I struggle. (I write and blog for Christ’s sake!) I argue with my family and I go through the motions with my kids and my finances stress me out. But all of those things are met with and dealt with the correct understanding, and don’t fill me with dark, unnatural thoughts or a total lack of energy or system shutdown. I’m not overwhelmed on a mental health basis. And that’s what we’re all here for right? Because our wants and needs don’t align with our thoughts and bodies. Because we want to do things but our lack of energy debilitates us and our inner thoughts dissuade us. We know that it’s not right. We know that it’s ‘infected’ with something. And we want it gone.

I’ve crawled down into the darkest holes and flown through the highest highs. The moments of hopelessness and the fleeting motivation-filled surges have had me on a rollercoaster I couldn’t get off for years. And I don’t want that for any of you. I went through the CBT thing, the therapy thing, the medication thing, the self-help thing, and the ‘its not real’ thing. But none of it helped kick the darkness away for good. Now, over the last couple years, I’ve realised why. All the above ‘methods’ for treatment often carry over the same underlying lie that fundamentally blocks you from improvement. It’s not the methods themselves that are flawed, they’re all perfectly fine. It’s more the way they are delivered. So, are you ready for the truth?

The big deception, the egocentric protective barrier we are so happily spoon-fed, the great illusion, the easy escape, the fundamental lie we are being told is this: It’s not your fault. Yes, in fact, it absolutely is.

It’s not your fault. Yes, in fact, it absolutely is.

Now try for a second to think of depression as a warning sign. As a last ditch effort to force change upon you, rather than a state of mind. Despite the 50+ generation that tell you to just cheer up, and that life’s not that bad, It’s almost common knowledge that depression is more than a state of mind. It’s a severe chemical imbalance bought on by a misalignment between brain and body.

A lesser known, or even thought of, angle, is that depression is your brain’s last attempt to get you to align your actions with your body, your mind, your desires, and your passions. It’s a warning to move toward where you want to be. For too long now you’ve ignored every moment of motivation, every fleeting idea, every sudden urge. You’ve unconsciously suppressed and stunted and failed over and over again, every time you ignore yourself, or start something you don’t finish, and instead hidden behind social media and motivational videos and Netflix and takeaway, dumping instant gratification into your system for failure, over the well deserved pride you can take from a drawn out effort for success. Your body has dumped chemical after chemical into your bloodstream while you’ve numbed yourself to the how’s and whys, until your entire system has nothing left but to render you impaired until change is made.

Understanding this is the first and most important step toward improving your symptoms. It earns you control and responsibility for it. Gives you power over it. Sure, ‘it’s your fault’ is a tough and controversial pill to swallow, but the ‘it’s not your fault’ narrative isn’t offering any long term turnaround for anyone. In my opinion, responsibility for ourselves and our bodies is a sorely missed necessity in our society these days. Our civilisations berate us with all the tools we need to mess ourselves up, but essentially, it is still our choice to partake, and equally our responsibility to put right. We can’t knowingly head further and further down a certain path, and then claim no responsibility for the destination. I understand why others would tell us that ‘it’s not our fault,’ but such a lie, or at the very least, a kind deception, is not what’s going to help us in the long run. Own it. It’s yours. Your body, your mind, your actions, your chemicals. Your responsibility.

Now that you have control and ownership of what’s happening to you, you can start putting yourself back together. Small tiny steps that put your brain and body back in alignment. You say you’re gonna go for a 1 mile run on Sunday, and you do it. Success. You say you’re gonna sell a couple of pointless items around your home and you do it. Success. You cook rather than swinging by McDonald’s, you read the book before watching the movie, you lift weights before sitting down for the night. It’s a process of undoing and rewiring the system that got all unbalanced and tangled up in the first place.

Every small, earned success pulls one more wire out of the mess and straightens it out. There may be hundreds, or thousands to deal with, but the positive effects are cumulative. It is instant gratification that got us here. Rushes and rushes of positive chemicals and hormones dumped into the system, without any real work, effort, or longevity. Ditching that instant gratification is going to be painful. You’re addicted, and it’s harming you. Like cigarettes, or drug misuse. You’ll have to do without those sudden rushes and go through the withdrawals, while earning your positivity in a less frequent, but ultimately more stable and long lasting way.

I guess I’ll wrap it up with this. Ditch porn, drugs, alcohol, and other instant gratification lies that fill you with an altered sense of reality that comes crashing down once the effect wears off. Switch out sudden rushes of unearned positivity with enjoying experiences in your own life, in the real world. Spend less time accumulating likes on ‘social media,’ and more time socialising with real people, away from any media whatsoever. All this shit sends your system into a resistance to positivity in the long run, and does you no real good. What happens if you give a child everything they want whenever they want it for no reason at all? They get spoilt, right. Well our brains and bodies are exactly the same. Evidence of this can be seen in lottery winners and celebrity circles, filled with alcoholism, suicide, depression, and drug addictions.

Take ownership and responsibility for what’s happening in your body, and slowly put it back together bit by bit.

You can start right now by reading a couple of my earliest posts here. How To Take Control of Your Life and How To Achieve Success in Anything. So what do you think? Will this mindset help you finally win out in your battle with depression, or is it ringing a little cray-cray to you? Let me know in the comments!

The Dreamer -Free Flash Fiction

Every week over at Fiction Writer’s Group, we share a photo prompt for a flash fiction piece. The word limit is 300, which ninety-five percent of the time is no problem for me. This prompt, however, proved difficult. Trying to extract a 300 word story was almost impossible! I had grand fantasy plots running around my head, stories of a shaman travelling the spirit realm to save her dying mother from cancer, and more. What I ended up with is a kind of mingling of all those ideas into one, and a decision to work those ideas into a short story/novella for my upcoming collection. For now, I hope you enjoy this short but sweet story, ‘The Dreamer.’

Free flash fiction cover photo. A photo prompt of a girl and a lion sitting on a tree branch, both with peacock feathers accentuating their hair.
Photo prompt for flash fiction: Source Unknown.

Poppy Pringle lives in an ordinary semi-detached home in Western London. Her ordinary father, Peter Pringle (prefers Mr Pringle), cuts his front and back lawns at an ordinary height at ordinary times throughout the week, and her ordinary mother, Priscilla Pringle, has ordinary hair and ordinary makeup, and all around dresses as one ordinarily would for the ordinary office job that takes up her painfully ordinary nine-to-five.

To the outside world, Poppy lives the most ordinary, uneventful, and dare I say unremarkable life a young girl in Western London could live. Her neighbours would watch her skip up and down the road picking bunches of flowers for her mother, and they’d say, “There’s that cute little Poppy from down the road,” while silently, in the deepest, darkest regions of their psyche, curse her for ripping up their marigolds and petunias as if it hadn’t taken time and money to create their own gardens. Her teachers would look upon her delicate frame and impressive test-results and say, “A good’en, that Poppy Pringle- if only she were less vacant and could make some friends.”

Princess Parthinia of the Outer Realm was anything but ordinary. Her chocolate brown skin and rosey cheeks resonated perfectly with the golden back drop of the ever-setting sun. Silver fireflies would dart around her wherever she walked, and her beautiful strands of hair, comparable only to the feathers of a peacock, would accentuate her beauty in this magical world.

Stories of her and her great companion, Patch, the lioness with a peacock mane, were told the world over.

Poppy Pringle was Princess Parthinia, and Princess Parthinia was Poppy Pringle, separated only by her great-grandmother’s feather necklace.

What she didn’t know yet, was that each of her worlds depended on her.

* * * * *

So, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed it. Honestly, it was so hard to tie that off in such a short amount of words. You can trust that Poppy Pringle and Princess Parthinia will return soon. Let me know what kind of stories this image inspires in you in the comments below!

Enjoy flash fiction pieces like this one? You can choose from an ever growing collection between 300 and 1000 words right here!

More Flash Fiction

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again…

Seriously debating a photo of Eminem here…

Now I’m not arrogant enough to believe that my disappearance or lack of posting means much to anyone at this point in time, but I do still feel responsible for those who have followed my blog in good faith and have been let down on the content side. This half a year has been an unusual balance of ups and downs, with all the ups remaining almost exclusively offline with family, business, and relationships, and all the downs in my writing & reading side as a result of improvements in those areas.

That said, the whole chapter has come full-circle, and everything seems to be levelling out beautifully. After a structureless increase in visits from my children over the past few months, (while obviously welcome, it’s hard to make plans for writing and the like when time with the little-ones will always come first!), my daughter Lily has asked to come and live with me full time!! Myself and her mother have worked out between ourselves that, yes, that is happening, so on the family front there’s more routine and structure there to work around.

I’m that annoying type of person that needs a structured routine. Sleep and wake times, morning and evening rituals, planned out activities at certain times, spreadsheets (yeah, I know…), the lot! Seriously, without one, the whole damn world collapses around me and I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Still, even with knowing that, when my routine does eventually slip away into chaos, I struggle to sit and create a new one. Just think: I haven’t scheduled ‘write routine’ into my daily routine, have I? Can you imagine how hard that makes everything? Do you even know how much this very post breaks all those rules!? I’m practically sweating!

In any case, if you can forgive me, here I am. Writing. Now. This very second.

I haven’t much to say in this post aside from declaring my intentions upon returning to the blogosphere and sharing my excitement over having my daughter come to live with me full-time (more in a later post: nurturing creativity in your children.) Over the past couple months I’ve still been alive, and thus, have still been having ideas, reading books, making plans, and all the rest of it, so rest assured the content will come quickly and often to make up for the disappearance.

The flash fiction and book reviews will continue on a regular basis, but there are other things that will change. For instance, lifestyle is gonna be much more of a thing over here. I’m a keen psychology and philosophy buff, and so love learning and sharing all matters on the condition of life and the many ways in which we can live it. I’m hoping to provoke conversation with the community, and help to shape my own life and the lives of others through what we learn together.

Another thing… a webseries. I’ll be writing one. It’ll be over on Wattpad I think, free to the masses. Nothing too serious or heavily edited, just a fun story that I can add to each week. I’m going either Riverdale-esque college drama with some horror/fantasy elements thrown in, or vigilante multiverse with some horror/fantasy elements thrown in. Go figure.

All that and more. More focus on my art journey, a bigger push toward publication, and maybe a patreon for exclusive bonuses to help pay the bills. One thing that’s certain, you’ll be seeing a lot from me and I can only prove it by cracking on, so, in a while, crocodile!

Fancy a quick five minute read before you go?

My Slice’a Freedom

Like A Nettle Sting

Endgame

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Book Review

Out a few weeks ago for breakfast with the family, and I figure it’d be nice to call a friend of mine to see if he wants to meet us out. I know it won’t be easy, so I put on my best, most convincing voice. After a few moans and groans, naturally, he agrees to drag his lazy ass up and indulge me. Great!

We ate, we laughed, and we paid the bill. (My treat- a tragic part of the bargain.) And then the worse happened. He wanted to go shopping. I HATE shopping, no matter how brief, and what’s more I’m stuffed to the brim from breakfast. I just wanna get home. To make matters worse, he wants to do charity-shop shopping which, while marginally more enjoyable, takes a hell of a lot more humming-and-harring and mulling over decisions. I know this, and he knows that I know this, but he has me. I did, after all, drag him out for breakfast.

So we head out into town with the quest ahead of us. He’s a man on a mission, a spring in his step and a newfound energy to boot, while I drag my heels reluctantly behind him. You’ve all heard of the gay-bestfriend? Well today I was the straight best friend. Straightup role-reversal. And all of a sudden I’m a style advisor. Yeah I know, man of many talents. *shrugs*

Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, or at least, that’s how it feels to me. From one shop to the next, appraising the finest, if somewhat dustiest, of the suit jackets on offer. This one’s too cream, but oh the fabric of this one is sublime. But what about the cut? And ew that stitching’s seen better days. After around six and a half hours (twenty minutes) he comes to a decision, and we head over to the til with his new-old jacket while the bored cashier eyes us suspiciously. Seriously, it’s like she’s expecting us to pull guns out from under our coats and shoot up the place for whatever pound coins she’s taken that morning. But who can blame her? Who under fifty shops in charity shops anyway?

And that’s when I see it. There on the small secondhand book section right by the til. A shining gem in the dimly lit emporium of forgotten things. I swear I could see dust particles dancing around in the rays of light that emitted from this thing. A rare treasure indeed, lying unsuspectingly under my nose the whole time. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I pick up the book curiously between my thumb and forefinger as if it were a piece of forensic evidence for bagging, while Jamie exchanged back and forth chitter-chatter with Professor McGonagall ringing up his items on her ancient til. Pretty sure she used a calculator…

Have you ever had an urge to just walk and keep walking until something clicks and you discover everything there is to know about yourself, figure out the meaning to it all, and unwrap the secrets of the universe all at once? To just be utterly and completely free from all constraints, all trappings of the modern world, and just exist in the face of whatever existing throws at you? Imagine moving from place to place on foot, sleeping and living by the land, surviving by the kindness of people and the work you’d do for them, exchanging stories and pleasantries and friendships along the way. It’s an unlikely fantasy I’ve romanticised for years, so when I see a title like this what am I gonna do but pick it up?

Needless to say I charm the cost of the book out of my friend (a whole, single, pound coin), and leave the shop with the yellowed book in tow and a smile on my face.

The Verdict

The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce follows the story of, you guessed it, Harold Fry. After receiving a letter from an old work friend explaining that she has cancer, he sets out to post one back. The sun’s shining, his wife is busying herself at home like she does, so he decides to walk to the next post box. And then the next. And the next. Before long he finds himself in a diner, eating a burger and talking to a stranger. The stranger inspires him, and as an act of faith he makes the decision to walk to the other side of the country to save Queenie Hennessy’s life.

I loved this book from cover to cover, and genuinely have nothing bad to say about it. The way Joyce uses scene breaks and character switches to manage pacing is expertly done, and the underlying stories of Harold Fry, his wife Maureen, and their son David, is revealed through a sequence of expertly written memories and recollections throughout Harold’s journey. Everything he’s buried over the years, all the hurt, the disappointment, and the pain, comes bubbling up in a smooth and flowing masterpiece, until it comes together in an unavoidably tragic confrontation of the past.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is both a heart-warming and heart-breaking read, which carried me to the end without a second’s hesitation. I can confidently say that this book will stay with me for the rest of my life, and has earned its place in my favourites. If you’re in the market for a funny, tragic, charming, and exciting read, I can highly recommend this book. I promise you’ll thank me for it.

You want a smile on your face like this? Then UK buyers can pick up their copies from amazon HERE, and US buyers HERE. Not only will you be treated to an unbelievably charming read delivered straight to your door, you’ll keep my lights on and maybe even put some food in my belly!

The Fun Part!

My copy of the book will be sent out to Mary Bradford, an author and friend I feel lucky to have had the pleasure of getting to know well. You can check out her website and ever-growing collection of titles here. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win a copy of each of the books I read, subscribe to my newsletter at the following link, and enjoy exclusive flash fictions and discounts on upcoming releases as an added bonus!

Sign Up Here!

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought down below. If not, just tell me something. I read and write like all the time… I’m lonely. Until next time!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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It’s Been A While… Dealing With Depression & Plans For The Future

Hello WordPress! Like the title suggests, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and I figured I owe you an explanation. But before that, while it seems like a lifetime ago, I hope you all had a lovely christmas and new year!

So what’s been going on? Well, over the new year half of the family business has been handed to myself and my brother, so there’s that. On top of all the lifestyle adjustments and responsibility shifts involved with that, I’ve been hit with wave after wave of illness. Colds, infections, and the real kicker, seasonal depression. I’d say it started to move in just before christmas, and by early Jan, had unpacked all it’s boxes and settled in for a while. I haven’t quite evicted the unwanted tenant yet, but let’s say that the paperwork has been filed and a few gears have been set in motion.

As a longterm sufferer of depression, here’s my QuickStart guide to regaining control when things get bad.

  1. Take your time. The world will wait while you figure things out. There’s absolutely no need to rush or feel pressure to fulfill anything. It’s important that you recognise this as soon as possible, because it’s one of the most stunting mindsets to get ahold of you. Figure out what you need to do, and put some steps in place without trying to do it all.
  2. Straighten out your priorities. I am the number one guy to tell you to focus on delayed outcomes and longterm goals, but taking some time to figure out what is vital to you now, and ensuring you put that to the top of your list, is a must. During times of depression, your energy is zapped real low. Do what you need to to survive, and rest a lot. It will seriously help. You’ll start to move up that priority list as soon as you have more energy to do so.
  3. Walk. Sounds simple right? Because it is. Just get out and walk. Fresh air, low intensity cardio, and time to be free with all your thoughts. We were designed to move around outside. Please try it, you will enjoy it, and as time goes on will be one of the most helpful aspects to your overall wellbeing. Want to supercharge your walk? Sign up for a free trial of audible, get your first full audio book, and listen to it on your walk. Not only will you have all the benefits of walking, but you’ll also be learning something new or being transported off into fictional worlds while you go. You won’t be disappointed!
  4. Start Mindfulness Meditation. If somebody told you that you could perform just 10-15 minutes of an activity that takes virtually no effort, completely backed by science and hundreds of studies across the whole world, to completely change your life and improve your health, would you do it? Of course you would! So stop ignoring meditation. With so many benefits to so little time, you’re not gonna lose anything to try it, so grab an app like Headspace and make it a habit.

That’s pretty much it. Of course there are effective medications out there to help sufferers, of both the ‘swallow this chemical’ and ‘talk to this professional’ variety, alongside a plethora of self-help methods like increasing confidence and working out. But let’s be honest, how hard is self development when all you want to do is sleep? It’s best to take your time and work on a few things until the fog lifts, and then put things in place when you can see through the fog. Never delay professional medical treatment with mental health issues. Read about my experience here: Where Self-Help Becomes Self Sabotage.

Well that’s what’s been going on, so let’s move onto what happens now that I’m back in action.

We’re Sorta Becoming A Book Blog!

206D21D4-9CA4-4A8F-AAFD-4FD847527753During my downtime, I confronted two key facts in my life. Number one is that I have too many books cluttering up three different bookshelves, and number two is that I don’t read nearly enough. I decided that I need to read a book a week, and stop buying more until I’ve put a serious dent in what I already have.

So I’ll be reading a book a week, and I’ll be reviewing those books and posting a link to them every Sunday. There’ll be a healthy variety of thriller, horror, fantasy, literary, and classic novels. Basically anything and everything. I like books and am not all that picky. And to tackle the clutter problem, once I’ve read each book I’ll be sending it out to someone at random who has subscribed to my email list and follows me on facebook. So for your chance to get books sent to you for absolutely nothing, quickly drop a like at my Facebook page and subscribe to my email list here.

Flash Fiction, Novellas, and Webseries

If you’re here because you enjoy my little micro-stories, don’t panic! I’ll still be writing one or two a week to keep my skills sharp and my mind quiet, alongside working on longer works and publication submissions in the background!

I have an ongoing collaboration with blogger HannahMaggie, who sadly has taken the brunt of my inactivity over the last couple of months. If she doesn’t hate me (I’m soooo sorryyyyyy) I’m gonna jump back into that and we’ll hopefully bring it to you soon, and as the months go on, all sorts of exciting projects and collaborations for you to sink your teeth into.

So that’s about it. I’m all out of words. I’m back and I’m in business, and can’t wait to share everything I’m working on with you. If you haven’t checked out my catalogue of flash fiction yet, do that now!

Rest assured, I’ll be back soon with a review of my first official read, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.’ Spoiler alert, it was an amazing read!

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If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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The Sky Rip -Free Flash Fiction

Quick online reads is a free online flash fiction series bought to you by author Gary D Holdaway

The morning it all changed was an ordinary one. Joanna sat out on the porch in her usual chair with her usual cup of instant—one and a half spoons of coffee, two heaped spoons of sugar, and just the right splash of milk. The birds sang their usual tunes in all their usual trees, and the gentle breeze bought along it a medium temperature somewhere perfectly between too-hot-for-her-gown and too-cool-to-shiver in-her-pyjama-top.

“Morning Love!” Called Old-Jim from his side of the picket fence, while collecting his usual paper. He tipped his cowboy hat and winked before pulling the door closed behind him, as he usually did.

All the world was exactly as it should be. The lawn needed mowing and the leaves needed blowing, which Edgar would do once she woke him and he consumed the two eggs, toast, and orange juice she laid out for him. It was a routine that run as surely as the Patel’s opening their recently converted ‘Spar’ shop down the road, consistent, reliable, and dependable.

She now wonders how she didn’t notice right away, and how Old-Jim had missed it too, but when she stretched her arms above her head and leaned back on the chair that had moulded to her shape over years of loyal dedication, she saw that the sky had a black void running right through the middle, like two halves of blue paper had been torn apart from either side.

When she saw it, she choked on her coffee and fell backwards out of her chair, scrambling back to her feet in a panicked frenzy to get another look.

“Edgar! Edgar, come down here!” She shouted. Her voice must’ve reflected the sheer panic that consumed her being, because Old-Jim came running out onto his lawn and through the small gate to meet her, just as fast as Edgar appeared beside her tying the rope of his inside-out dressing gown, huffing and puffing like a man who’d just run a 200m sprint.

He started to ask what was wrong, but the words were silenced as he saw it too. The three of them stood bedazzled on the front porch, captivated by the bizarre and frightening sky-rip. What was it? Where had it come from? What did it mean? The questions batted between the three of them in a blind back and forth, gaining no ground as they went. Once you saw it, it was hard to look away from it. It was entrancing.

Other neighbours had started to rouse by now, and they each stood by their own houses, on their own porches and lawns, staring up at the sky.

It wasn’t like the sky had opened to reveal the universe or anything like that. There were no stars and galaxies to be seen. No planets or satellites or meteorites. It was an absence. A black, gaping, nothingness.

Joanna pulled herself away long enough to look at her husband. He was wearing his absent, dumbfounded look, reserved only for football matches, or when she asked a question he felt was too self-explanatory to ask. He was a dick actually. Why did she put up with him? Come to think of it, as she stared up into the void, she realised she had never loved him. What was love worth, anyway? What was the point? Had she ever loved anyone? Her mother never showed her any warmth, her father made a hollow attempt to shoehorn his way back into her life. Even her brother… what a selfish bastard.

In the next minutes, hours, days, months—how long had it been?—she stared at the sky-rip, deconstructing the fabric of her reality. Life itself was as black and empty as the void that captivated her vision. The delicate warmth, the gentle breeze, the presence of those around her, time itself, fell away into nothingness as the blackness consumed more and more of her vision, eating it’s way out toward the edges with each passing, still moment.

Eventually the blackness would take all of her, and with that her life would be over. She knew it, she could feel it. She wanted it. Begged for it. The quicker the blackness consumed her the quicker her torturous existence was over.

She didn’t know, stood motionless and consumed by the void in her silk gown and years old pyjamas, but those around her were feeling the same. Their false realities upturned and twisted into the truth of all humanity. They were nothing but a cancer on the world. I took from them my warmth, and with it their hope, faith, love, passion, and kindness. They had proven how worthless they were. How much they didn’t deserve the lives I so kindly bestowed upon them.

I gifted them with the tools to thrive, and they refashioned them into weapons of separation and destruction, fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong. Constantly taking from the world without giving back. Consuming, consuming, consuming. Insatiable in their hunger for power and control.

The Sky-rip consumed Joanna’s mind. She, alongside the rest of the world, fell into the limitless blackness, never to be unleashed upon the earth again.


Today’s flash fiction took that particular turn somewhere in the middle, and was entirely unplanned. From the very first sentence, the story revealed itself, unfolding line by line right up til the end. I have absolutely no idea how it happened, but I’m happy it did. I’m very happy with the concept here. Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Exciting Change On The Horizon

You may have noticed that over the past couple weeks, my noise over here on the blog has reduced itself to an occasional chatter. There’s a few reasons for this, but only a couple that have any relevance to the purpose of this post. The next few paragraphs are not going to be a self-involved updates post, where I simply list all my stresses, successes, excitements, and plans—posts like that suck, right? We want the good stuff… The stuff we can use. Of course, I will be mentioning those things, while trying my best to help you avoid the same traps and pitfalls yourself, and fast track your online ventures and presence.

I Forgot My ‘Why?’

When you started your blog, or your instagram, or your facebook page, you had a reason for doing so, a purpose. Some kind of meaning that made all the efforts of social media worthwhile. It may have been to build a presence in your chosen field, to market your own or affiliate products, to raise awareness for a charity, or to fix something that you perceive as a problem in the world.

My reason was to build a presence in the writing world, but beyond that, to provide quality reading material for those who A: don’t have much time to read, B: are new to reading, and C: Need convincing of the benefits and wonders of the written word. In a world filled to the brim with TV shows and movies, reading has taken a real knock. I myself am guilty of shunning one for the other.

We know that reading is good for us. We know the book is always better than the movie. But we haven’t always got the time, or patience, to sit through it. Enter Quick Online Reads. Allow yourself to be transported off into the lives and stories of vibrant characters, experience the amazing benefits of reading, all during a single tea break. Enjoy from the comfort of your phone, tablet, or computer.

If I can help convince people, in ten minutes or less, that reading a story can be just as, if not more enjoyable, than mindlessly binging episode after episode of dragged out plot and product placement, perhaps I can help bring reading back to its prominence in this modern world, and help others discover a world they never knew existed.

As readers, we know the benefits of reading are seemingly endless, and that the book is always better than the movie. But those statements alone are evidently not enough to change the mindset of a nation. What if we start smaller? Throw out the 500 page novels that can take a good 50% or more to get going, and convince them with a short, snappy plot line that formed a character, connection, and provoked emotion all in an instant. We wouldn’t expect a middle aged couple that occasionally take a casual twenty minute stroll to go run a marathon would we?

The aim, the goal, the purpose—beyond a reputation for myself, deeper than a fan base to sell books to—behind setting up my little corner of the net, was to offer a reading experience for non-readers in order to help convince them that to read is worth the time. I’m not going to force novel length work down the throats of those who aren’t yet ready to accept them. By offering flash fictions, short stories, novellas, and eventually novels, perhaps I can put a small dent in the sad reality that a majority of people don’t like to read these days.

What about you and your blog? Have you lost track of the ‘why’ behind your blog? Having a solid, consistent purpose, and predictable, human posts, are key to building a strong brand. Your brand is your voice. It’s your promise. It’s what builds trust among your readers and followers, and turns them into fans and customers. Grab a piece of paper, or post down in the comments, why you started your blog. What you wished to achieve, what message you wished to send, what purpose you set out to accomplish. Make sure this purpose is reflected in everything you do, and has solid alignment across all your social media platforms.

I got so bogged down in posting every day that I burnt myself out. Not only that, but I lost track of what the hell I was doing here along the way. I had Fiction, mental health, blogging tips, social media tips, lifestyle posts, all of which I love to write! But that’s not to say they all belong together on this particular site, and certainly not posted at random. Unpredictable posting is a big turn off for your loyal readers. Even if you only have one or two loyal readers at this point, you don’t want to upset them, confuse them, and ultimately send them away. They keep coming back because something you said, did, or wrote, instilled a level of respect, expectation, and trust. Don’t betray that in the pursuit of more followers, more views, more more more. Each single person that builds a connection with you and your content for the reasons your purpose dictate, is more valuable than 100 casual followers. No matter what your goals. Believe me when I say that.

So What Does This Mean For The Site?

Well, back to basics. Fiction, fiction, and more fiction. My aim is to post a piece of flash fiction three times a week, and work on collaborations and guest posts the rest of the time. At the bottom of each piece of flash fiction I’ll ask you guys for a prompt for my next one, and we’ll continue on in that fashion until the end of time. (Or somewhere near there…)

That’s one hour of each morning. The next hour will be spent exclusively on writing submissions for magazines and anthologies, crafting short stories for my own personal collections, and creating exclusive content for those generous enough to support my efforts through Patreon. (That way, I won’t have a crazy two weeks of stress and online silence due to catching up with all my deadlines…)

I haven’t worked out all the tiers and benefits yet, but I will definitely be setting up a Patreon at some point in the near future. There’s a webseries in the works, an interactive community surrounding the webseries where you get to write the life of a character and shape the world, and a whole bunch of exclusive content and behind the scenes tips and tricks for all budding writers out there. Of course patreon supporters will all benefit from discounts in any future books or products, and my eternal gratitude.

On the social media front, my instagram is about to get a huge revamp. I’m talking a consistent theme, beautiful imagery, and a whole bunch of inspiring, chilling, horrifying, philosophical, and entertaining quotes. That, and an exclusive Insta-story flash fiction once per week. If this interests you, head over there now 😊 Do bare with me while I apply all the changes though!

As for Facebook, I intend to start using it. At the minute I kinda dump links to my posts and occasionally ask questions, but I hope to switch this up ASAP. Facebook is for a more active back and forth. It’s where I’d like to build real relationships with my readers, run live Q&As, and set up events. I think a whole bunch of my lifestyle stuff will end up over on Facebook, alongside my typical musings and philosophical ramblings. After much deliberating, I don’t feel it belongs here on this site at all. So if you’d like to come over and join the conversation, please do that now.

Future future future, I’d like to *ahem* set up a YouTube account. A place to read my stories aloud, perhaps have them as elaborate voice overs to animated photos and storyboards. Maybe even use it as a place to practice my own sketching and illustrating skills as well? I’m not sure yet, but I know that I’d like to. I am camera shy however, and I don’t much like my voice… so we’ll see.

And with that I think I’m all out of updates. I’m super excited to get back to the bones of this site, and feel so much lighter with a clear plan laid out ahead of me. How do you balance your time between blogging, social media, and your offline life? Let me know in the comments!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Demi-Gods Exist -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s entry is an experimental work in progress for a longer piece of fiction, with a bunch of kinks that need ironing out. Still, I like the direction and wanted to share this early draft with you. I like the perspective, but certain aspects need further depth, and some situations could do with a little tweaking. Specifically the section taking place in the school. Anyway, it’s coming up for the sixth week since I quickly tapped this out, so will be due a proper rewrite! The finished piece will be almost unrecognisable, and I won’t be able to share publicly, so I figured I’d share it with you now. Hope you enjoy!


Demigods exist. I know, because I am one. I guess I’ve been a demigod since I was born, but to be honest, I’m not really sure how it works. Am I actually the son of Odin? Or is it that I was chosen somehow at a later date? My name plucked from a hat in Asgard (where the Gods live) perhaps?

Maybe you’re asking yourself how on earth I can be a demigod, and have no idea how it all works? Well, it’s complicated. There are like, clues, ya’know? The first and most obvious of them is that I can feel them. They’re with me with everything I do. They’re constantly over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, guiding me.

Just earlier today I was walking the dog. Mum didn’t get back ‘til late and she still had to walk Thor, put Freya to bed, and have a shower, all before cooking for us. I was absolutely starving, so I told her I’d walk the dog for her while she carries on with the rest. Fair deal, right? It’s what they were telling me to do, anyway. I’ve learned I don’t have much choice when they’re telling me to do something. The voice gets louder and louder, until my urge to give in is just too strong to ignore. I’ll end up getting out of bed in the middle of the night to do my homework, or feeling so desperate to do something that I end up doing anything (like the dishes, or changing Freya’s diaper) just to busy myself. It really can be quite stressful, this demigod business.

Anyway, out I stepped into the cold. It was a dark evening. All winter evenings are dark, but it seemed spookier this evening because the air was heavy and the fog was dense, the streetlights painting the whole floor with a deep orange glow. My footsteps echoed down the street, Thor’s excited breathing filling in the rest of the silence. The quietest of sounds seem so loud at night, don’t you think? And when footsteps echo behind you on the path, and your eyes get tired and everything seems to get darker in an instant, and all you can think of doing is running without looking back because you’re pretty certain someone or something is behind you…

I calmed myself down. It’s nothing, I told myself. Still, I peeked over my shoulder, and I could hear my heart thumping through my chest. As I rounded the blind corner of the back path, just before the end where it meets the main road and the street lights start again, I saw a man. A dark man. He stood still at the corner, beneath the streetlight, his shadow stretching out in all directions. Long cloak flapping in the wind, his hat hiding his face behind thick, black, emptiness. With him was a dog, as still and eery as the man that stood beside him.

My brain said ‘Odin.’

Then my brain, in a deeper, raspier voice, replied, ‘Correct.’

I stopped where I stood. In a sharp snap of the neck he looked at me, and the weight of the air suddenly pressed hard against my shoulders. I had to tense my entire body to stop it from flooring me. I can only describe the feeling as the weight of power. Sheer, overwhelming power, radiating from this ethereal apparition. That cold, dark, heaviness. It happens when I pray to Him sometimes, too.

Thor’s thirsty breathing stopped as he pulled his tongue back inside his mouth, both bored from sitting, and unsure of this figure in the distance. I had two choices. Face this man, or turn around and walk back the way I came. I made the smart choice and turned around, walking all the way home as fast as I could.

Do you see how he called me out on purpose? Just to catch me and tell me something? It’s not nice. It’s scary and imposing and I don’t want it. But they wont leave me alone.

Another clue is how uncomfortable I feel in this world, like I’m not supposed to be here. Like I’m different, somehow. Other kids laugh, and joke, about silly things. They obsess over girls and video games. Sometimes they even cry when little things like disagreements happen. I try to help, but it never seems to work out.

A few weeks ago, Jonah Benson was upset over how his girlfriend had held hands with Brent Talbot. He sat beside me in home room, scratching love hearts into his desk between the initials J.B. And S.H —Standing for Sarah Henson, obviously. I told him not to worry, that kid relationships never last anyway- It’s all about learning to be an adult at this point in life. He stared at me blankly for a second, stopped inscribing initials with that pencil, and stabbed me in the hand with it!

I don’t get it! I only told him what the Gods tell me. They give me lessons all day everyday, and nobody wants to hear them. So what am I, as a demigod, supposed to do? Just ignore them myself because the world is too lost to save? I rushed to the medical room crying, pencil still dangling out of my hand. When Mrs Lonsdale pulled it out, there was a tiny red hole surrounded with the grey of the lead. It was actually pretty cool to look at, but it wicked hurt. “I’m going to send you home, Danny,” She said in her kind, delicate voice, “I’ll call your mum.”

I liked Mrs Lonsdale, she had a beautiful soul. Shortly after, she led me out of the school and into the parking lot, where my mum waited for me with the engine running. She knows I like it when the blowers stay warm. There’s nothing better than warm air rushing at your face after being out in the cold. Mum had to go back to work, so she left me at home with Freya, Thor, and our nanny Ethel. She didn’t like me very much, I had heard her telling mum one time (listening when I wasn’t supposed to be) that I’m the reason dad left. That I was too different for him to cope with. That my ‘artism’ was too much for him. I guess she meant that I was too artistic? Who knows? She was always nice though, and we all watched TV together until mum got home.

After dinner, mum tucked me in my bed and read me the stories of Asgard. My favourite ones, like how Loki transforms into a female horse to stop a giant and his steed from winning a bet, or when he convinces two sets of dwarves to compete against each other for the favour of Asgard, securing six epic items for the Gods. I like Loki, he’s different too.

She kissed me on the head, gave me my medication and a sip of water, and walked to the door.

“I love you Danny,” she said, “You being different isn’t a bad thing, you know? You’re gonna do great things.”

She turned out the light.


So there you go, a slung together, clunky story with a lot of mystery at this point. Still, I hope you can see through the blackened layer to see glimmers of the diamond beneath. I’m excited to have a do-over with this one. So what did you think? Do you have any suggestions that could help me in my upcoming rewrite? Let me know in the comments!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Consistency & Positivity over Pressure & Burnout

This post is just a quick one thrown together from the comfort of my own bed, on my phone. It’s a reminder to myself and all of you who read this, that consistency and positivity are leagues apart from putting too much pressure on yourself and burning out from the stress.

A positive attitude with hope and confidence in yourself, mixed with small, consistent steps in the right direction, are guaranteed to bring you success in your ventures. As humans with big hopes and dreams, we tend to easily slip into the feeling that we must do more than we are doing, must get to where we’re going faster than we already are, and honestly, that mindset is just piling undue stress and pressure on top of dreams that started out with love and passion.

Think of it like this. Positive action, positive thoughts, and positive habits will bring positive outcomes, whereas negative action, negative thoughts, and negative habits, will of course bring negative outcomes.

How we choose to frame our situations goes a long way to how those situations eventually play out.

“I said I’d do a blog post per month, but I haven’t been able to do it. I’ve still got a few collabs to work on and I haven’t even started on my true horror book yet. God knows how I’m gonna get it all done.”

So there’s my situation right now, framed in negativity. If I continue along that train of thought, I’ll become overwhelmed, I’ll stand still, and I’ll end up sabotaging any and all progress I’ve made and have yet to make on this wondrous journey through life. Now, let’s portray the exact same message, only this time, positively.

“I’ve earned some extra money being busy this week! I could take Friday off to write at my own leisure, or work that little extra and treat Ellen to something nice. I can’t wait to get a chance to work on my collab with Hannah Maggie, I’m loving how my character is turning out, and the collab with Iosonas Bakas is going to be so worth all the delay. He’s a great artist and I’m a good writer, what we make will be epic!

“Deadlines for two submissions are due soon so I better get a move on if I’m gonna start my true horror novel in December. They’ll either be accepted or they won’t, but if they are that’s great! And if not, well, I’ll spend some more time on them without the pressure of a deadline and use them for something else. Win some, you lose some.”

You see how much of a difference that makes? Realistically, I can’t post a blog post everyday. I set myself a challenge and life got in the way. That’s a bummer. But the purpose of that challenge was to hit 1000 page views this month. I’m already on track to be ahead of that target, and I’ve written around ten posts. Good ones too! The challenge has spawned great growth and ideas, including my Instagram graphic story intros to drive traffic to the blog, my “Like a Nettle Sting” and “Father’s Rage” flash fictions, both of which I’m happy with, and a couple of helpful lifestyle/mental health posts which may go on to help someone in need. I’m not going to let myself be disappointed about that, and ruin a good thing over a non-thing.

Remember, the best and worst situations in life can be viewed positively or negatively, and it truly is our choice which side of the coin lands face-up in any given circumstance. Only one of those choices leads to happiness.

So, one post a day… that’s a big no-no. Sorry 🤷‍♂️ I’ve got two amazing collaborations going on that I want to spend some time on, and I have two submissions that I’d be a fool to not make deadline for. But I’m not going anywhere, and this blog is a part of my life now. I love to log on, search around the blogosphere and read all your great posts, engage in comments and community groups. I’m gonna slow down for the rest of the month though, at least until a few items on my checklist have that all important tick beside them.

With a great girlfriend, two amazing kids, some talented bloggers working with me, and excellent opportunities that require my attention, I have all the happiness and success I need. I’m a mile ahead of where I was last month, and that’s what’s important!

The only person you need to compare yourself to is yourself the day before.

So that’s all for today. Just a small one, which I hope reminds you of why you set out to do whatever it is you’re doing. Was it for stressful deadlines and pressure, or for the love of the craft and your own passion and growth? Our experience of life is in our hands. It’s all about how we frame it!

Night folks. Feel free to drop a rant and let me know what’s going on in your world right now. How do you deal with stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Like A Nettle Sting -Free Flash Fiction

Cam didn’t like walking in the woods anymore. Actually, he hated it. Since Toby was born, he’d developed a bit of a gut. And a bit of a flabby chest. And his arms, legs, back, neck—they developed a bit of chunk too. When he’s honest with himself, he declares it as a joke—“Not everyone can say they earned 100 pounds for no work at all!”—but it’s anything but funny. That hundred pounds meant he could no longer climb the stairs without stopping to catch his breath, or have a comfortable bath. That hundred pounds made his knees feel like they were gonna snap in half each time he put some weight on them. That hundred pounds, the hundred pounds that came almost exclusively from chain fast-food restaurants and gallons of fizzy drink, added up to him hating walking in the woods, despite the beaming smile on his son’s face as he danced through the bluebells and told himself stories of fairies and monsters.

Toby was the spitting image of Cam—pre fat gain, of course. He had golden hair that trailed into little curls around his ears and shined white in the light of the sun, a button nose that pointed ever-so-slightly up to the sky, and squeezable, squidgable cheeks that, when pinched, forced uncontrollable giggles from him. He was the stereotype gleeful kid, with a cuteness factor plus ten.

“Careful mate,” he said as Toby neared a rogue patch of nettles, “they’ll hurt ya.” By then it was too late, and as any parent knows, there’s no teaching a child before he’s learned for himself. Cam watched his arm bury itself in the nettles up to the elbow and pull out just as fast—if not faster—along a sequence of screams and cries that frightened the birds off their overhead perches.

The next five minutes were dedicated exclusively to calming him down, cycling through each technique in sequence until one showed some sign of progress. Tickling, that was a no-no. Swing-swing, that didn’t work. Real tears—not the crocodile kind—were streaming by the time Cam managed to console him. He rocked him slowly up and down, left and right, a few haphazard sniffles where Toby’s breath struggled to returned to normal.

The boy needed his mummy. Cam wasn’t cut out to be dad, mum, best friend, and all in between. He wasn’t sure anyone was, not really. He was the kind of father to come home after a long day, get the kids all excited before bed—have their happy hour, as Claire called it—and then relax in front of the box with Claires head in his lap, stroking her hair as she dozed off.

God how he wished he could have her back. Sure, they argued, and they argued hard. But they loved each other even harder.

Cam thought back to one evening a year or so before. It was around five, but the winter darkness had already claimed the night. He remembers that day well because It was so cold out in the yard, and one of the younger lads had turned up wrapped in multiple different layers. It looked like he had doubled in size overnight! The boys bantered him heavy that day, and every day beyond that until the sun felt brave enough to peek its head out again. That boy though, the boy with all the layers, was the only one of them to not go off sick all winter. Each day, no matter what, he turned up to lug wood and brick, mix mortar and dig dig dig.

Claire had had a rough day too. It was written all over her face the second he stepped through the door, muddy boots traipsing in dirt behind him. Not his proudest moment. She blasted him the second she laid eyes on those brown pools where the slush had defrosted off his soles, and rightfully so, it was mindless.

After Cam and Toby’s happy hour, they all sat to eat dinner together as they always did, but the air was blue that night. Hardly a word spoken between them, the tension thick like smoke. Claire barely stopped to swallow her last bite before she had whipped Toby out his seat and got him tucked up in bed.

Cam stayed downstairs and took the plates through to the kitchen. His thinking was that he’d do the washing up, whip round all the toys in the living room, and light some candles around the bath so they could share one. Right?

Wrong.

Claire stomped down the stairs and blanked him on her way past into the kitchen. Cam stood with Toby’s little doll in his hands, the one he pushed along in his cousins secondhand toy pram. He followed her through to the kitchen, where she stood still at the sink, staring out the window.

“What’s up with you?” He asked, coming up behind her and taking her in his arms.

Wrong again.

She shook him off and turned to face him. “What’s up with me, Cam, really? What’s up with you? I spend all day keeping Toby happy, tidying up behind him, doing all the cooking, take him for his bath, put him to bed, listen to him moan, and cry, and scream, and giggle, and bang his blocks on the floor to the same songs playing on repeat all day long. And then you come home, have your little happy hour with him, and you’re best friend all of a sudden. Job done, TV time. You’ve had such a hard day right?”

They argued then. Where Cam should’ve listened, he felt the misplaced need to fight his case. He had had a hard day. And if he didn’t have his fun time with Toby, when would he? He was out all day. He was sorry about the mud on the floor, but the ground was soaking wet outside and he didn’t want to bring wet feet through the house. The back and forth went from the kitchen, to the front room, back into the kitchen, out into the garden for a cigarette, and finally back in to the living room, that stupid doll dangling from its leg in Cam’s hand all the while.

“Claire, I’m not saying I have it any harder than you. You chose the hardest job in the world. I know for a fact I couldn’t do it.”

“Well you seem to think you can just throw all his toys in the corner and that’s that.”

“No I—“ Claire snatched the doll from his hand then, and chucked it into the pile of toys beside the tv unit to demonstrate. Where Cam didn’t let go of the leg, it tore straight from the body. Now a dolls leg dangled from Cam’s hand, and a legless doll—that had seen better days—rested atop a pile of assorted toys with a foolish, lifeless grin fixed on its face. Claire couldn’t help but laugh, and neither could Cam.

In a few short seconds, they had gone from arguing to giggling like children, one of the rare hilarities of parenthood. One of the moments that put everything in perspective. They made up, they made love, and they fell asleep in each other’s arms with a smile on their faces.

Cam could remember each separate feature of her face. Each curve, each angle, each expression.. Sometimes, while he was cleaning, or working, or grocery shopping, he’d have brief flashes of memory, where he’d see her as clear as anyone still living. He’d drift away into the good times—the best times—and the hard times.

He saw her now, out in the middle of the woods with the sun shining through her. Gently rocking Toby back and forth with her beside him, her hand on his, whispering in his ear. “You’re doing good, Cam. Hang in there.”

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How To Best Manage Our Time For Less Stress

With all the hustle and bustle of modern living, it’s a wonder how we get anything done at all. In this age of minimum wage and maximum costs, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is hard enough, before finding extra time for your partner, family, and friends. Of course, on top of all that, there are the things we ‘want’, or ‘wish,’ to be able to do and be better at. Sadly, these are often the things that take the worse hit of them all, and we go about our lives from expectation to expectation, never finding that all important time to express ourselves and work on our passions.

But what if we could juggle all that important stuff, while working on personal projects and skills, and still have time for relaxing, movies, and friends? Have you ever seen the video where some dude puts rocks, pebbles, sand, and beer in a jar, to demonstrate how best to use our time? Well it’s a good watch, and it will serve as a good primer before jumping into the thick of this post.

Watched it? Good! So you can see how a simple shift in our priorities can instantly turn our life around. Time is the one currency in the world we can’t earn back. It slowly dwindles down until eventually, there’s none left. While we can throw around a large amount of our pounds and dollars each weekend, knowing that come Monday we’re back to earning more, perhaps invest a little in ourselves or put it to work to earn more of it, time is not expendable. So how we invest it is important.

How we use our time determines whether we are happy and fulfilled on our deathbeds, or miserable and filled with regret. Would you be glad that you caught every show on Netflix, and never let your friends share a status without being the first to like it? Or would you be happier to know that you rose to the top of your field, always helped put a smile on the faces of others, had amazing experiences with your friends and family, and lived an active life filled with success and adventure?

You see, a lot of the things that we stress over, are directly caused by the amount of time we spend doing the little, enjoyable things in life, rather than focusing on the larger issues and commitments. The enjoyability isn’t enough to outweigh the stress, and we become overwhelmed as a result of our own procrastination. But if we take a second to fit in all those big responsibilities first, we see that we can still fit in all the small stuff around it, with less resistance and stress at that!

Today I just wanted to take a minute to share with you that small piece of advice. It seems obvious, but in practice, you’ll likely be surprised at how wrong you have your life structured. I know I was. Grab a pen now and write down all the things that you like doing, want to do, have to do, and wish you could do.

Your list should look like this:

-Work/financial goal
-Read more books
-See my family
-Go out with my friends
-Take the kids for a walk
-Get my book published
-Maintain a weight training program
-Watch anime
-Check out Haunting on Hill House
-Meditate

Now that you’ve written down all your likes, wants, and shoulds, I want you to assign each one a priority. Either Rock, pebble, or sand. Rocks are larger tasks that require a great degree of focus and time, and will ultimately enhance your way of life. Pebbles are still important, but require much less of a time commitment, and sand items are the fun little things you like to do. Then reorder them with rocks first, pebbles below, and sand at the bottom.

Rocks

-Work/Financial Goal
-Publish a book

Pebbles

-Take the kids for walks
-Maintain a weight training program
-See my family
-Meditate daily

Sand

-Read more books
-Go out with my friends
-Watch anime
-Check out Haunting on Hill House

Now that we have everything structured and where it needs to be, lets have a think about how we can squeeze all of this into a week.

168 hours in a week, of which 56 hours should be spent sleeping. This leaves us 112 hours to play with.

Let’s say that work takes up 40 hours, we’re left with 72.

Of those 72 hours, we want to commit a good 20 hours on our big side goal. In this example it’s publishing a book. That includes creative writing practice, courses, writing, editing, networking, and everything else to do with that particular goal.

Right, there’s the rocks out the way. Now we’re left with 52 hours. 7 hours spent walking with the kids, and 3 hours spent maintaining a weight-training program takes away another 10. Boom, 42 hours left. At this point we’re sleeping well, working hard, progressing towards a huge goal, staying fit, and spending time active with the kids.

Of these 42 hours, we’ll spend 10 of them with the family, and 5 with friends. Why not? We’ve got lots of time… These are our refreshing bursts, the things that make it all worthwhile. Our relationships and connections outside of work, outside of the stresses of life. These are the things that make us smile.

Still, we have 27 hours left in the week. And you really have no way to pay all the bills, work on your passion, keep yourself fit, spend time with the family, and enjoy a couple movies here and there?

If you spot anything in your life that is demanding too much time, then you need to do something to bring it back in to a better balance. But that’s a different post altogether…

Now of course these numbers and priorities will be different for everyone. Some of you have degrees to work on, dissertations to write, school papers to grade during half term, a network of hundreds of employees to run, or any variable thereafter. Still, by balancing the priorities and reorganising them by order of rocks, pebbles, and sand, I’m confident you can live a happy, fulfilling life, so that when the moment comes where sadly you have reached your end, you do so smiling and satisfied.

How do you find time to balance your day? Have you ever tried adjusting your priorities and seeing where you can fit everything? It’s always a surprising and enlightening exercise.

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My Five Favourite Posts So Far- Don’t Miss Them!

I promised myself that throughout the month of November I’d write a post for this blog every single day, in an attempt to bump my views up to over 1000 this month. So far I’m on track to do this, which is great! I’m so grateful to have had such a far reach over the course of a couple of months, and while it hasn’t been easy, and I still have such a long way to go, I’m over the moon to have enjoyed my small bit of success in my own corner of the internet.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve settled into my blog more, and I’m starting to find my feet. It’s an odd mix of flash fiction, lifestyle, and writing tips, but it works for me. I’ve got a whole load of kinks to work out, and a bunch of restructuring/scheduling to get it running smoothly, but all in all, this haphazard collection of thoughts and fiction is the perfect reflection of me. I love my little site, and I have big plans for its future.

The last few days I’ve not been very well, and the juggling of blog posts, contest & anthology submissions, (not to mention my work in the background) has been wearing me down at the same time. When I got home from work earlier today, I crashed, and I stayed asleep for around four hours! Super-Nap! I do feel better for it, but now it’s 9:30pm and am suddenly hit with the realisation that I haven’t written a damn thing for the blog yet!

To make matters worse… I didn’t know what to write! I felt too groggy to attempt any fiction, too under-the-weather to talk depression, and didn’t want to get into anything too heavy. Then I figured, why not write about the writing I’ve done so far? Today I simultaneously hit 100 blog followers and 100 followers on my Facebook page, and finally cracked 250 on my instagram! I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, and some of you may have missed a couple pieces that I believe deserve some recognition. So without further waffling from me, here are my 5 favourite posts I’ve written so far!

A Eulogy

My first post, and singlehandedly responsible for my return to writing, the eulogy I wrote for my grandfather is a piece I hold close to my heart. While we weren’t particularly close, he being in Germany and me in the UK, he was a truly great man that came with his own presence. He was intelligent, funny, strong, and resilient. Without being forceful or overbearing, he smoothly commanded a level of respect from all who knew him. His death was sudden and unexpected, and from it came an outpouring of words that haven’t stopped since.

I love this piece because it stands as a homage to him, but beyond that, talks about the journey of kingship in all men. It explores what I believe is the ideal journey of all men from birth to death, and allows me to explore the archetypal philosophy of King. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d love if you did. He’d love it too. A Eulogy

How To Take Control Of Your Own Life

Actually my second post here, this is an article that I had originally written for a totally different blog idea, so the tone and voice may be different from what you’ve grown used to. Still, buried within this post is some unapologetic honesty, which forces us to take a close look at ourselves and why we may be unable to achieve what we want. Continuing on this strain, I wrote a post to follow up called “How To Achieve Success in Anything,” which further explored how we hold ourselves back from the things we love and want.

I love this post because honestly I enjoyed writing it. That style of honest, motivation rant is right up my street. It’s also a small insight into the kind of blog I was gonna be running here, which has now been sort of adapted and absorbed into this one. Hopefully in the future I’ll still run with that original idea, but who knows? I’m pretty busy with all this! If you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here: How To Take Control of Your Own Life.

The Man In The Hat

Coming in at under 300 words for a weekly writing group contest, The Man In The Hat was a short exploration of a character I’d held in my mind for a long time. Two characters, actually. The mood of the piece is enigmatic, and it really doesn’t give much away. While the situation isn’t one I saw for a longer novel, I enjoyed setting these two characters free just for a few hundred words. If you’d like to go check that out, it’ll take less than a couple minutes and you can have a go at figuring out who the man in the hat is. Hopefully it wets your appetite for one of my near-future works! You can find it here: The Man In The Hat.

The Fury Of The Godless

Growing in cultural popularity as of late, Vikings have always been a huge thing of interest for me. Having a northern heritage myself, and feeling a particular calling to that wild pantheon of Gods and Godesses, it’s always fun to explore the darker aspects of Viking behaviour throughout the Middle Ages. I wasn’t entirely happy with this piece, but it was received well by all who read it, and reading it back now, I actually love it. Cleverly titled Fury Of The Godless, we question whether the Godless in question are those who’ve slaughtered a monastery of men, or those from the monastery itself. The Northmen had Gods, and they loved them freely. But did the Christians truly love their God? You decide for yourself here: The Fury of The Godless.

Endgame

My most recent piece of fiction comes in at under 750 words for a YeahWrite weekly contest. The prompt was catalyst, and metaphors are this month’s main theme. Being new to YeahWrite, I wanted to make an impression, and weaved a metaphor throughout the entire piece. I’ve fallen in love with both characters in that story, and wish I had more words to fully develop and explore them. Writing this piece was easy. The main character pulled me through smoothly, leading the way as I translated her thoughts through the tapping of the keys. I think I’ll revisit this at some stage and weave a full short story or novella from it. I seriously loved writing it, genuinely love reading it back, and hope you will too. You can check that out here: Endgame.

There’s more that I’ve enjoyed writing, but these are the main five that stand out to me, not necessarily on a quality basis, but on a basis of Enjoyability and meaning. These five are either going places or have taken me places, which is really what writing is all about.

Which post is your favourite so far? Have you got a post you’re particularly proud of you’d like to share with me? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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3 Easy Techniques To Help Deal With Depression

Yesterday we took a look at all the ways self-help can cross the boundary and become hurtful to those with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Where we take time to learn all the steps and attempt to blindly implement them into our lives, we become obsessed with self development and end up trapped in a yo-yo of motivation and failure. If you haven’t read that yet, you can quickly check it out to make sure you’re not already stuck in this infinite loop, and give yourself the best start in tackling your depression: Where Self-Help Becomes Self Sabotage.

Today we’re gonna heed the warnings of the previous post, and bare them in mind while we take a look at three easy techniques to help deal with depression today. Just a few easy-to-implement changes can both improve your mental health and work on your personal development, without overwhelming yourself. Let’s jump straight in!

Seek Medical Attention for Your Mental Health

The first step in your self-help journey is to get the help you actually need. As we covered in the previous post, an attempt to quickly improve our lives and mental health forces us to take on more than our depression and anxiety will lend us the energy to undertake. We need to take it slow. Any long lasting change comes at a snail pace, bit by bit, slowly tweaking our routines to add in a positive technique or two each month. We simply cannot rush when it comes to changing our lives and improving our mental health. If you’ve spent your whole life living a certain way, how can you expect to change it overnight? Another point to note, is that mental health issues aren’t just in the mind. By the time they’re bad, there’s all sorts of chemical imbalances in your body. That all needs fixing too. Sure, you can self regulate chemical balance, but its hard, and slow, and dangerous to put off the inevitable. See your doctor, tell them what’s happening, and get the medication you need. Don’t put it off another day. If you need convincing, and you still haven’t read the previous post, do that now: Where Self-Help Becomes Self Sabotage.

Start Meditating Every Day

Meditation is a practice with a plethora of health benefits, and it’s effect on our mental health and outlook are extremely potent. No, the point is not to clear your mind, or to fall asleep, or any of the typical misconceptions. It’s your daily ten minutes to check in with yourself, and let thoughts flow freely through your mind. It’s our time to breath correctly, and to learn to deal with thoughts and feelings positively. As an independent practice, meditation should not be ignored. For the sake of ten minutes per day, making meditation a recurring part of your daily schedule should be your first effort in recovery.

There are many ways to meditate, but some awesome people have made it very easy for us to learn. Simply download the Headspace app and start the ‘take ten’ introduction. Ten, ten minute sessions over ten days, to show you the ropes. That’s all it takes to get yourself on the path to long term mental health improvement.

Take a Walk and Listen to Audiobooks

In an attempt to tip-toe around the cliche that is ‘get some fresh air,’ I really cant state enough the importance of getting out for a walk! Okay, okay, so I’ll admit that fresh air really does help, but that’s not what I care about here 😉 The main benefit comes in the form of exercise and routine. Each day you’ll be out in nature, performing one of our most basic human functions. You’ll burn calories, you’ll work through your thoughts, and you’ll improve your overall health and longevity.

You can supercharge this practice by plugging in a set of headphones and subscribing to a site like audible. Here you’ll have access to great books, and be able to simply listen and gain knowledge while you walk. You can opt for fiction and go off on epic adventures, or take the non fiction route and discover topics like philosophy, psychology, self-development, history, nature, and more. Not only will you be reaping all the benefits of getting in a daily walk, you’ll also be learning and growing. This is a daily practice that I’ve adopted myself and have loved ever since!

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Take Up A Simple Workout Plan

Exercise is important in both physical and mental health. Improving our longevity, bone and muscle density, our chemical balance, our discipline, and more, a resistance training program is one of the most important aspects of a person’s self development. They don’t have to be complicated or difficult, and we don’t all have to be body-builders. Bringing in a simple and structured plan like Stronglifts 5×5 or Starting Strength is more than enough! You can download the apps, log your reps and weight as you go, and not worry about anything. A progressive workout in under an hour! No stress, no knowledge. Just plug in and go…

Overtime we’ll lose weight, gain muscle, improve our mobility and functional strength, and gain confidence in ourselves and our capabilities. It’s not an instant cure for mental health issues, but it is a suppressant and long term solution for at least some of the issues that fuel a depressive mind. What’s more, we’ll be more in line with our basic biological function as human beings. We’ll be more efficient in pushing, pulling, squatting, and lifting. Win/win!

So hopefully you see that just a few easy techniques to help deal with depression are enough to get you started, without filling your schedule with hundreds of new things. You can work these changes into your routine right away, with little to no adaptation. All in all, its a sacrifice of just 10 hours per week, in exchange for more happiness and overall growth. Over the next few days, we’ll take a look at improving our sleep patterns, eating and drinking well, and developing a realistic routine for daily growth and development. Be sure to follow to get an email notification when those posts are published, and share this series with any of your friends you think this could help. I hope you take inspiration from this post and get started right away. Until next time!

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Where Self-Help Becomes Self Sabotage

By the time I ended up at the doctors for help, I was in a hole so deep I don’t think I ever could’ve climbed out. My family all but dragged me kicking and screaming, desperately clinging to my ignorant refusal to accept the word into my life and onto my medical file. I had self-helped to the point of self sabotage over the course of God knows how many years, and everyone but me could see that it wasn’t getting any better. I was on a downward slope, and while I managed to cling on to a few tree stumps and reeds on the way down, it wasn’t enough to stop the eventual death waiting for me at the foot of the mountain.

Depression. *thunder crash.* The word itself comes with its own darkness, except it’s not darkness, really. It’s more like a vacuum. Anyone who’s been there knows what I’m talking about. Depression doesn’t suppress the light in your life, it sucks all trace of light out of a room, leaving total blackness where it dared to encroach on it’s territory.

From the point that you become medicated, you also become a target for equal parts sympathy and misunderstanding.

“Yeah it’s hard, ain’t it? But you’ve got so much to live for haven’t you? Snap out of it you silly sod.”

Before we continue, I want to first point out that I was very rarely ‘sad.’ Depression is not sadness. It’s not ‘oh no I dropped my last cookie and now I’ll be hungry all afternoon.’ It’s not walking around all day plotting your own suicide, either. It’s more of a misalignment of thoughts and purpose. A ‘what’s the point?’ in everything you do.

You can go through your day and experience amazing things. You can laugh with your friends, smile with your family, tuck your kids in bed and kiss your wife, but still when alone time comes, the darkness hits.

Whats the point? You’re worthless. You’re useless. You’ll never not feel like this. You’ll never be anything more than what you are. You’re born, you pay bills, you die, that’s it. They’re better off without you. You’re better off without you.

The voice of depression is quiet and convincing. It’s sneaky. It will creep into everything you do and infect your inner thoughts, gaining in strength each time you give it permission. Of course, permission doesn’t come consciously or willingly. It’s voice comes smooth as silk to start with, convincing, cunning, chipping away at your psyche bit by bit.

Before long, we recognise that we are depressed, but not before going through all the motions first. We’re not depressed, we’re realistic, right? And we’ll be okay, we just need some rest and a teeny bit of alone time to breath. We’re just stressed and in a bad mood right now, it’ll pass. These are the first lies we tell ourselves. The first outward signs that something is wrong. Here we have two choices. Accept it and get help immediately, or get online and see how to improve alone. Of course, we always choose the latter.

Overnight we become self-help gurus and life coaches. We become psychologists and raging advocates for fitness, health, and positive energy. We write out an intense ‘Turn My Life Around’ routine, filled to the brim with workouts, meditation, yoga, strict sleep/wake times, green tea, meals prepped in advance, hollywood level hygiene, volunteering, and all the rest of it. Everything on this list has a positive effect on humans, whether depressed or not, and we dedicate ourselves to doing all of it every day for the best chance in eradicating the parasite that has taken up residence inside our minds. But it’s quite a lot of new stuff, so we’ll start tomorrow. Clean slate.

Actually, I got a pretty rough night sleep last night, and 5am is not the time to be going for a run when I didn’t drop off ’til 1:30. You know, now its Wednesday, so I may as well start next monday.

Perhaps by monday morning you do in fact feel ready to start this regimen. You get up bright and early after a good night sleep, and you feel like you’ve become a multi-millionaire lifestyle blogger overnight. You get your run in, your workout, the perfect breakfast, and go on to live the best, most productive day you’ve had in a long time. And maybe you maintain this with varying levels of success, for a couple of weeks.

Then the thoughts start to come again, and before you recognise they’ve been working on you the whole time, they’re convincing. Depression was just biding it’s time, letting you have your way for a while. But you know you’re never gonna get better. You know you’re never gonna improve. And it’s not like you’re ever gonna be in great shape like those instagram models, so what’s the point in all this working out?

Of course, this track takes us nowhere but back to bed. Try as we might, there’s no arguing with the silver-tongued voice of the black demon once he’s dug his claws in to our minds. There is only one true weapon we can take up against him once he’s seized control: medication.

Self-help, and all the positive lifestyle changes mentioned above, are excellent additions to anybody’s life. But it’s also a dangerous trap we can all too easily fall into. Medical attention should come first, HAS to come first, before trying to self-help our way to healthy minds. It’s impossible to implement all the changes we want to make at once. It’s impossible to repair our chemical imbalances, our deep-rooted negative mindsets, with positive action alone. Insistence on trying is merely self-denial, and often only results in a yo-yo effect where the highs and lows get a little lower each time, slowly chipping away at our character.

If you take anything away from today’s post, let it be the courage to seek medical attention right away. You don’t need to suffer anymore, and you certainly don’t need to give up, or put on hold, any part of your life to be properly medicated. After a couple of weeks, when your serotonin inhibiters kick in and you’re enhancing your life through positive action and a newfound energy, you’ll thank yourself. Trust me.

Drop your thoughts and experiences with depression in the comments, and share this post with your friends and loved ones to help raise awareness in an issue that effects 1 in 6 of us. No one should suffer any longer than they need to.

Find out how to slowly and healthily use self-help to improve your mental health in the next article in this series: 3 easy techniques to help deal with depression.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Endgame -Free Flash Fiction


When Marcy was diagnosed with lung cancer, she knew she had to make some changes. Terminal was the news, and once she delivered it to her nearest and dearest—only having broken down to tears once or twice—she headed home to get in some much needed planning time.

She booted up her computer and opened a blank document, where she stared at the blinking cursor for what seemed like an eternity. After a few more minutes of blankness, she typed, “I’m going to die soon,” and stared at those haunting words while she tried to make sense of what it meant.

This was it. As her grandson, Jimmy, would say, she’s reached her endgame. Well, that wouldn’t be so bad if she hadn’t played it so damned safe all this time. Where all the other players hung out in bars, experienced fleeting romance, and got into epic side quests, Marcy carefully played the main story, donating all her skill points to a singular track: longevity.

Now with that skill-tree nerfed, what was she left with? What was the point in ginger and kale smoothies, or six gym classes a week, when her days were numbered? Her whole life she had prepared only for a longer endgame, and now in some sick twist, in some corrupted save file, she was stripped of all those efforts and left with no help from the developers.

She was angry at first. At herself. At the world. At the miserable faces on the sidewalk, taking for granted the one gift they all have in common. But what good could anger do? She could hitch up her skirt and ‘break bad,’ but Heisenberg wasn’t her style. Neither was rage-quitting with a bottle of whiskey and a pack of sleeping pills.

Racking her brains for a while, she backspaced her first few words into oblivion, and opted for a new one. All caps. ENDGAME.

She was too late for a reset, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the last expansion with the character she had built so far.

Beneath the title she typed out a list of urges she had suppressed over the years. At the top was McDonald’s, beneath that pizza, sleep all day, and skydiving. When satisfied with her list, she smiled at herself, tapped enter a couple times, and typed ‘freedom.’

With that, she grabbed her keys and her purse, buttoned her coat, and bounced to the door.

Claiming an entire booth—living on the wild side—Marcy took her first ravenous bite of a Big mac. She ordered large fries, nacho-cheese bites, and five chicken selects on the side. Jimmy ordered his usual twenty nuggets and slathered them in bbq sauce as he shovelled them in whole.

Any hint of disapproval was switched out for amusement. Where McDonald’s had always come begrudgingly, it was now the best place in the world.

“I’ve gotta say Grandma,” Jimmy said between bites, “I like how you’re dealing with this.”

“Well you’d approve of anything so long as fast food is involved,” she joked.

“No I mean it. Real-talk. You deserve to let your hair down.” He paused, dropping a half eaten fry back into the box, a look on his face like he’d lost his appetite. “It’s so fucking unfair.”

“Language!” She hissed, eyeing the couple of kids in the booth to the right of them. In truth, she didn’t want to get caught up in the fairness conversation. Fair or not, it was happening. She was surprised to see him so worked up though. He had a level view on life and death. Even when his parents (Marcy’s daughter and her husband) died, he showed a level of acceptance far beyond his years. “And don’t start all that… I’m relying on you to show me a good time while I’m still able. If I thought you’d whine about it I’d have gone it alone.”

Jimmy took a deep breath and sat back against the padded bench seat, propping his arms up either side like one of the cool kids from a late 70s musical. He was only a toothpick short of Danny Zuko. “Okay grandma, what you got in mind?”

“I may be dying, but I’ve still got a few quests left in me.”

“And you wanna party-up with me? You know there ain’t no respawn?”

Marcy smiled the cheekiest of smiles. “Darling, I’m banking on it.”

Word count: 739

3 Books That Shaped My Writing Style

This post contains affiliate links

Despite popular belief, us writers are a simple bunch. Despite the raging depression and social anxiety, (not forgetting the fact that we have seven thousand characters, settings, and ideas running round our minds at any given moment,) we’re not actually all that complex.

Each writer’s style is a unique combination of the books they’ve read, the experiences they’ve had, the movies they’ve seen, and the stories they’ve heard. A writer’s ‘favourites’ become their standardised norm, and their ‘current’ can effect that voice in any number of ways.

Growing up, my favourite movies were horror, my favourite author Stephen King. My household is as close as it is unbelievably loud, and I have a history with Paganism, witchcraft, and the occult. I’ve been the popular kid in school, the no-shit tough guy, the rebel without a cause, the unlikely empathic, and the manic depressive.

Over the years, all these ones and zeros come together to form a unique string of code, which we then, as readers, interpret as the ‘writing style’ or ‘voice.’ Ask any writer his favourite books, movies, or childhood memories, and when he answers, you’re almost guaranteed to reply with, “ah, that makes sense.” See, simple, right..?

Today’s post is an insight into the books that have shaped my writing style. They may not each be my favourite books of all time, but they are the most prominent ones that I can recognise and call upon within my own work.

Horns- Joe Hill

For a story about a guy that develops devil horns on his head and the ability to extract the truth from whoever he’s talking to, Horns was very real. Of course Joe’s own voice, is similar to his father’s, Stephen King, but different somehow. More daring, more cynical. His youth offers him a more fresh, experimental outlook in his writing.

Horns was funny, deep, frightening, and emotional all at once. It was as entertaining as it was gut-wrenching. I remember reading through the perspective of one of the characters, and at a moment having to wipe a tear. That’s the first time I’d gotten so deep into the psyche of a set of characters, that I felt pain along with them, and that’s because the characters were so well built, so relatable, that you couldn’t help but become engrossed.

A lot of Joe’s style, and a lot of this book, comes across in my work. I personally believe I ‘levelled up’ in my writing since reading it. As writers, you’ll notice similar ‘ah-ha’ moments, where your writing takes a huge leap in the right direction. My work became more character driven, my tone became more unapologetic, and overall my writing took a positive turn. If you haven’t read Horns, treat yourself. Despite it’s movie adaptation, Horns is one of the best stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

The Gunslinger- Stephen King

I’m a huge Stephen King fan, there’s no getting around it. Before the Gunslinger, I had read countless books from his collection, from my favourite ‘Salem’s Lot,’ to the more recent detective thrillers ‘Finder’s Keepers.’ The Gunslinger is not by any means my favourite, or even one of my favourite books, but it is a great book, and it gave me validation in an aspect of my voice that had been bubbling beneath the surface for years.

I’m a philosophical mind. Every waking minute, every situation I see, presents a larger set of questions I’m keen to ask and answer. My viewpoints and ideas are universal in nature, and I suppressed that side of me when writing fiction for many years. King’s ‘Gunslinger’ convinced me that the two don’t need to stay separate, and gave me permission to experiment with a philosophical edge in my work.

Beyond that, the ‘plot’ of the first book is very loose. It’s more an exploration of the character himself, rather than a magical journey across lands with a goal to achieve. While the larger ‘Dark Tower’ series tells of a dark fantasy adventure, that individual book does not, which encouraged me to write stories that not only go from A-B, but explore the inner psyche and motivations of its characters. Sometimes, the growth of a character is enough of a plot to keep a book fluid and alive.

The dark worlds that exist around the Dark Tower and connect many of King’s novels, begins with book 1, The Gunslinger. I highly recommend it.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

The Revenant- Michael Punke

Jumping forward a number of years, The Revenant is one of my more recent reads. I loved it, cover to cover. While the book runs along a set path of injury, survival, recovery, to revenge, it also offers an in depth look at the character and his history, through a series of vivid flashbacks. The Revenant offers a guide in providing a rich backstory for any given character, without taking away from the unfolding plot in the current time.

We see him struggle to survive through serious trauma, and develop a love and respect for the character that I personally feel was missing from the movie. We find ourselves rooting for the guy, feeling his pain, going through his struggle, and existing in those pages right alongside him. This effect was achieved through a clever string of current and past events, that allowed us to feel like we know him.

While outside of my genre, The Revenant instantly became one of my favourite books of all time, and provided me a little further education in deep character driven novels. We’re talking about a book where for 200 pages, the guy laid on his back at the very brink of death, and never once became boring. If you haven’t read it yet, I seriously recommend it. I thought it wasn’t my kind of thing, but loved it anyway. I’m confident you will too!

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Bonus!

Not particularly an impact on my voice, so I couldn’t add it to this list, but Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ had a huge impact on my approach to writing, and is just an excellent book start to finish. You can check out an entire post I wrote on the book, here: The One Book That Changed My Writing Life, And Why It Will Change Yours Too.

So there you go, three books that shaped my writing style. Of course there are many more, but those are the first that spring to mind. Which books do you hold accountable for shaping your style? And if you’re not a writer, what are your favourite books and why? I love to read! So I’m always looking for recommendations.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Father’s Rage -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s entry comes at a huge delay! Photography blogger, Fragglerocking, was kind enough to provide a photo prompt for a flash fiction. You should definitely check out her site! She goes on tons of cool adventures with her camera, and always has some amazing shots to share with us.

I toyed with ideas for this one for a while, and settled on one in particular. In the middle of writing though, it changed track a little. I was going to write a scene where the children in the story were watching their parents fight through a window as it all went horribly wrong, but in approaching that point in the story, I realised that during intense fear, it’s as if we are existing in a dream state, watching ourselves act on instinct from outside of ourselves. I stuck with that and am satisfied with it’s tie-in to the prompt. Now, let’s get on with it!


Rebecca and I sat on my bed, trying our best not to listen. We were supposed to be sleeping, but my father’s voice bounced off every wall in the house, and vibrated up the stairs into our bedroom.

Sometimes Mummy left the chain off the door, but never when Daddy had been drinking. When Daddy was drinking, the chain stayed on. We didn’t come out, he didn’t come in. Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach. Out of everything but earshot.

“Jimmy, I’m scared,” Rebecca said, cradling the pillow around her ears like I showed her, “Why is daddy so angry?” Her eyes glistened with the tears she fought back, big and blue—too big for her face—like our mother.

I put my hands on hers and pressed the pillow firmer against her ears. “Don’t worry Becks.” I kissed her on the head and laid her back on the bed. “Just don’t listen, okay? Try and get some sleep.”

The shouting got louder then, and Mummy made the mistake of shouting back. The sound of a slap cracked through the house. Silence.

Silence.

Silence that stretched a lifetime.

Rebecca darted upright. I sat perfectly still, holding my breath. Rebecca shuffled closer and nuzzled her head into my shoulder. We had both heard the sound of our father’s back-hander before. Had each felt it’s sting for ourselves. This was different. Had Mummy… slapped him?

Seconds after we heard the sound of smashing and crashing all throughout the downstairs, while father screamed words we weren’t allowed to say at the top of his lungs. Becks cuddled up to me, shaking. Mum was quiet now, probably cowering in the corner while father tore through the house like an enraged bull. I’d seen it before, and the next morning always included helping mum clean up the wreckage while she quietly sobbed, whimpering as she crunched down from where father had broken and bruised her ribs.

I pushed Rebecca off and leapt up to my bedroom door, banging and kicking and screaming, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” All I could do to help. I had to get out of the room. I wasn’t sure what I could do, if anything, but I couldn’t sit on the bed quietly while my mum was abused and intimidated any longer. It had to stop.

Becks was crying now, and rocking back and forward on the bed. Still wrapped in her quilt, still cradling the pillow around her head. The side of my hand was aching with impact shock, but I kept banging. Kept screaming. I’d scream and I’d bang until I pushed out a hole in my door if I had to, even if it broke every bone in my hand. In a rush of wisdom beyond my years, I felt how my mother must’ve felt. Desperate to escape, desperate to fight back and end it, But powerless. My obstacle was a stupid wooden door with a two pound chain from ‘Discount Hardware UK,’ while hers was a sixteen stone man fuelled with drink and hate.

I banged and kicked and screamed and cried, entranced, dazed, desperate. The whole time was a blur, like a dream. Like I was watching myself from behind a glass window, sad and scared and secretly hoping that the door held true.

The sound of the doorbell ended the sounds of our father’s destruction. My panic faded away in that second, and I came back to myself. Becks continued to whimper and rock on the mattress. flashing red and blue lights illuminated the bedroom ceiling. I ran to the window and peered down to the street. The police were here. Thank God, someone had called them. I released a long, shuddering breath. How long had it been since I breathed?

A few minutes rolled by. I could hear hushed voices from the hall by the front door all the while, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. The one officer that had been loitering by the patrol car rushed toward the house, and a moment later both officers dragged father back to the car in handcuffs. They stuffed him in the back as he resisted, the taller officer punching him in the back of the head as he went.

One of them called something in on the radio—the shorter one with a Starsky-and-Hutch moustache—and they both headed back toward the house.

I didn’t think anything of it until officer Gomez came up to our room, and told us that we’d have to stay there for a little while while he and officer Rickly called some of their friends.

We were ushered out of the house that night, and by that time there were lots more vehicles outside. The first-responder car and an ambulance, two more police cars, and a Channel 5 news van.

Becks and I never saw our mother again. Our grandmother didn’t let us go to the funeral. She told us it was too much for children to go through at our age, and that some things are for adults only. We stayed with our neighbour while our grandparents drove off in black.

Our father will never be released. He’ll die in prison. Becks and I agreed that even if he does get out, we’ll kill him. He’ll never be free.

And neither will we.


Like flash fiction like this one? I publish one or two each week to give me a creative break from my longer works. Leave me a prompt or idea for the next one and I’ll add it to the list!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

It’s November! And for us writers that means it’s time to draft an entire novel at breakneck speed. Is the end result always great? Hell nah, it’s about as draft as a draft can be. But is it fun, productive, and an epic way to tell yourself the story that’s brewing in your mind? You can bet your arse it is! If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

Just Tell The Story

Encouraging NaNoWriMo survival guide badge, to help readers learn how to write a novel in a monthNaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself to get your story down on paper (or screen) as fast as possible. Unburden those epic characters from your mind, and bring them to life through words. It’s about breaking the barrier of the dreaded novel, getting the hardest part (finishing) out of the way, so it has no power left over you. 50000 words sounds intimidating, but its not a hell of a lot when you think about it. You’ve got a main character, a couple of side characters, an antagonist, a plot to unfold, multiple character arcs, all drawing to a final showdown. You’ve got this. You’ll hit 50k in no time.

The First Draft is For you

In Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ he talks about how you write the first draft with the door closed. It’s for you, and only you. The first draft is like a foundation, upon which you build your novel. You’re effectively telling yourself the story, with the intention to polish it up, catch plot holes, weave in a theme or moral, and all that other pretty stuff, throughout your second draft. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Start writing your story, and let the characters pull you through to the end. The hardest part of this novel writing mumbo-jumbo is telling the damn story, so rush it down! There’s time for making it cohesive, polished, and epic after.

Let’s Do The Math

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- Keep Calm and Write OnIt’s time to pull out the calculator folks, let’s dissect this baby and crunch some numbers. There are thirty days in November, that means, if we want to set ourselves a daily word count to achieve the goal, all we have to do is divide 50k by 30.

Run it through your calculator and you get 1,666.666 words per day. (Here we can see how the devil created this challenge and put his unique stamp on it.) So if you intend on writing every day of November, shoot for 1700 words per day. Simple.

But let’s be real here, are you really going to write every day? It’s unlikely. Whether you have work commitments, kids, blogs and social media to keep up with, or murders to go cover up, you’re gonna need some breathing room to deal with your personal shit. So let’s assume we can stick to a target of writing for twenty days out of the month.

50k divided by 20 is 2500

Now, 2500 words per day may seem a lot to some of you, but remember, that’s only twenty dedicated days to your NaNoWriMo challenge. While you’re pushing to write a novel in a month, it is only a draft. 2500 words of draft isn’t all that hard to get down once you get flowing, especially if you are following some kind of plot or structure. The trick is to write write write. Don’t keep checking your word count. Set an hour of dedicated, uninterrupted time, then check. If you’re done, then you’re done. If not, shoot for another hour, and go over if you can! You may save yourself another day of writing, or end up with an epic!

Remember Your ‘Why’

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the challenge aspect of it all. Such demands can be stilling for writers and creatives. But try to remember your ‘why’ for taking up with NaNoWriMo. It’s not to win, It’s not to show off, and it’s not to write the most amazing novel that’s ever been written. It’s to tell yourself a full, complete story, and to break through that ‘novel completion’ boundary before it ever gets ahold of us. It’s a creative exercise to show us what is capable, with a little determination and consistency.

Exercises like this are great for an individual’s psyche. To have a positive end result at the end of a periodical commitment, reminds us that gratification and success takes time and effort. We are often disappointed and sunk into ‘lows’ due to our minds being wired to instant gratification in the modern world. Getting fifty thousand (or even twenty thousand) words down throughout a set period of time, where you are pouring in your heart and soul, rewires the part of the brain that expects everything in the now.

Look, we all have different reasons for doing things, but storytelling is an art in and of itself. It’s a beautiful element of human nature that we could scarcely live without. It’s been here from the beginning of time, and it’ll be here ‘til the end. Let’s not get lost in the intricacies of it all. Just tell the story, build the characters and setting, and enjoy the process. You’re a story teller by nature. Bravo! Now go do your ‘thang. Come back to this NaNoWriMo survival guide whenever you need a little nudge in the right direction.

Plotting Tools

Save The Cat Writes a Novel- Click to purchaseClick to purchase from amazon.com

I’m personally not a plotter. My work is pretty much exclusively character driven, and a plot tends to still me and crush my creative flow. That said, for a challenge like this, it helps to have at least a timeline of events you’d like to happen, so that you can easily work from one to the next without too much difficulty. You can always go off track and your characters can still surprise you, but the briefest of brief outlines offer a little guidance when you may be lost. Equally, if you don’t fancy writing at the point you’re at, you can jump ahead and write a scene that strikes your fancy. Win/win. It’s all words!

If you’d like a real structured plot to guide you, I personally recommend looking up the snowflake method. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out Save The Cat Writes a Novel. Even for us non-plotters, this book is novel-writing gold. It provides a guide filled with beats and moments for within your story, without tacking a rigid structure around everything. Do yourself a favour writers, and pick up your copy today. It really will help turn your novels from good, to great.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

(This is an affiliate link. I only provide links to products that I have personally used, bought, and love. I will never endorse a product I have no experience with purely for monetary gain.)

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

All this aside, there are a few things we’re gonna need throughout November to keep us sane and on track. Us writers are a picky bunch, and we need a variety of items in order to complete our work. Below I’ve compiled a list of handy items to have on or around your desk at all times, and cues on how to use them.

  • A pad of Paper- for doodling on and scratching out notes.
  • A variety of pens- for even more epic doodles.
  • Tea & Coffee- because caffeine.
  • Coloured pencils or markers- to colour our doodles and highlight stuff.
  • A cat or other stroke-worthy cutie- because we’re writers. We’re lonely.
  • Alcohol (if of drinking age)- this helps…
  • Slippers and a Dressing Gown- comfort is key.
  • A chair cushion- once again, comfort is key.
  • A cuddly blanket- to hide from the screen when we’re stuck.
  • A teddy bear- to cuddle when times get hard. And to talk to…
  • An alter to the creative Gods- complete with candles, incense, frog eyes and snake skin, and blood for ritual sacrifice.

That should just about cover everything. Of course, bring yourself, your laptop, and your charger, and be sure to disconnect all your devices from the internet. We don’t need any distractions!

Well, that just about brings us to the conclusion of our NaNoWriMo survival guide! Doesn’t sound that hard, right? Seriously, as long as you set yourself a daily goal, and commit yourself to completing the challenge, you will succeed. It starts and ends with you. You can implement the above advice to streamline your experience, but ultimately it comes down to your dedication to getting your novel down on paper. You know you can do it, I know you can do it, so go do it! And if anyone asks you how to write a novel in a month, send them this way!

Share this post with your friends and writing groups, to help them achieve success in this amazing challenge right alongside you! And if you’d like to stay up to date with my NaNo activities and connect with me personally, head over to my Facebook. I’ll be posting daily NaNo tips and inspiration.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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5 Facebook Fan Page Tips- Let’s Help Each Other Out +Community Camera Roll Fun!

Over at Facebook, I post all kinds of events and content exclusive to that community. Over time I intend Facebook to be my main social hub, where I engage with the community, host giveaways, and offer exclusive content and events.

For your chance at a £25 Amazon gift card, head there now!

Today, I posted an event calling for the community to post a photo from their camera roll for me to fashion a story from in the comments. Being only a small page in its infancy, I’ve only had two entries so far, but I’m proud of those two! I wanted to share with you the first couple of photos, and the consequent stories they inspired.

But first, I’d like to exchange a few tips and tricks in Facebook page growth, From the absolute beginning to your first 100. Growing from your first thousand becomes much easier, but the initial run up to that can be a hard, lonely slog.

So let’s make a deal. I’ll share five tips and ideas with you, and in the comments, you offer me one in exchange, okay?

If you’d like to link to your facebook page down in the comments, go for it. I’ll click straight over and give you a like. Return the favour by doing the same here 😉 Without any further delay, here are my top five Facebook fan page tips.

  1. Giveaways- Offer something for free in exchange for a like and share.
  1. Link To It- in blog posts, in your email signature, on twitter, in groups when called to. People can’t find it if you don’t put it out there!
  1. Focus On Engaging Posts– write the kind of posts that encourage likes, shares, comments, etc. Engagement on a post shows in the newsfeeds of their friends!
  1. Offer Exclusive Content- give people a reason to follow your Facebook page. If it’s just the same as your twitter, G+, and blog, why should they be there?
  1. Post Image & Video Content- it’s more eye catching, engaging, and shareable. Attention spans are low on social media.

So with that out the way, what are your tips and tricks? How do you increase audience and engagement on Facebook? From zero to your first hundred. From one hundred to a thousand. From a thousand to beyond… Remember to let me know in the comments.

Moving on, let’s jump into a couple of the stories inspired by my small community today. I was lucky to have been offered two great photos to work from!


Valley Of Rocks

Image submitted by Peter Thompson

After a casual stroll we hit the Valley Of Rocks. In spite of my wife’s enthusiastic response, I didn’t see much special. A few stones stacked atop one another. She spoke of the jagged formations, and the erosion something-or-other. Wow, I could have seen that on David Attenborough, only I’d be warm, dry, and comfortable. Instead, I’m shivering my tits off on the coast in November. Still, I smiled and nodded and agreed. It was safer that way.

After some humming-and-harring between my wife and herself, she decided it’d be fun to walk the extra five miles to The Hunters Inn.

‘Maybe there’s a gift shop,’ she reasoned, ‘and we could get lunch. Make a day of it.’ Great. Food. That sounds good. Five miles of windy coast wasn’t about to dissuade me from filling my guts. If there’s one thing I love above all else—excluding the nearest and dearest, of course—it’s food.

After an hour of lunging down the coast, holding the hood of my Jacket up over my head against the persistent gusts, we came upon The Hunters Inn.

That would’ve been great, but the bloody hunter wasn’t in! Closed for remodelling! And they didn’t think to maybe, I don’t know, put some sort of notice on the sign FIVE MILES BACK?

We lugged ourselves back along the coastal path, this time downwind, but now dripping from the heavy rain that just couldn’t bare to wait another hour before coming down. It wasn’t forecast of course, that would suggest that any organisation in the UK had some idea of what it was doing.

We arrived back to the car out of breath, soaked, and chilled to the bone. The windscreen fogged up the instant the engine was running, but it’d be another ten minutes before the old rust bucket delivered air that felt even slightly warm.

Julie, I love you. But next time I’m picking the day out. He pulled the urn out from under his jacket and placed it on the passenger seat. He removed the bucket-list from his glove compartment and checked off the ‘Valley Of Stones.’

I miss you, Julie.


Walking Away

Image submitted by Janet Bayes

He turned to face her once more, before frowning and walking away. A faceless silhouette, a shadow that stretched before him as far as their history stretched back. Step by painful step, out of their lives for good.

Away from her, away from the kids, away from the life they built together. She liked to think that final look was a second of hesitation, a momentary lapse in resolve. Despite everything she had done, he was torn about leaving.

The sun set into the ocean, alongside her heart. He never stopped to look back again.


So there we have it, two fun facebook stories, free from any pressure or expectation. As long or as short as the image inspired, born from the generous submissions from my community. You should give something like this a try on your own facebook page.

So, you remember that deal we made right? Leave me a comment with your Facebook fan page tips and drop a link to your own page. Let’s each expand our audiences!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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The Awakening -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s quick online read comes from the photo prompt above. Each week, myself, Ian Steventon, and T J Kelly challenge each other to write a piece of fiction in under 1000 words. You can check their entries out by following the links above, but for now, grab a quick coffee, and enjoy!


When Marcus headed out into the woods for his routine walk, he didn’t expect to end up running for his life away from a horde of ritualistic maniacs. He raced across dense woodland, fighting through patches of nettles and leaping low shrubbery as he went, his face and legs cut raw from hostile twigs and branches. His lungs were on fire, his breath shallow gasps of air that cut through the silence of the trees in short, raspy bursts.

He could hear them on his tail, their own crazed breathing blaring in his ears, as if some sinister playlist injected the sound straight through headphones. The pounding of their boots grew ever louder. Ever closer.

He didn’t dare look back. He knew if he did he could fall, or slow down, or be petrified through fright. Robed monsters in the fading light, shrouded in the ghastly shadows of twilight. He knew what would happen if they got him. After what he’d seen they couldn’t let him go. Worm food. And by what sickly means? For what twisted goal?

No. He must keep going. Must get safe. He’d sprint all the way home, where Dinah was getting ready to serve her famous red pepper and tomato tacos, where Lucy bashed her toy cars across the wooden floor and drove her mummy mad through the noise. He’d lock all the doors and check them twice, dial 999, run Lucy a bath, and tell Dinah all about what he’d seen. The police would arrive at the old castle ruins, and the vile lunatics would’ve cleared out. They’d find the poor girl where they left her. Cut up, bled out, tied to a wooden structure suspended over demonic symbols and mystical ornaments, all speckled red with splashes of gore.

He’d never, never, forget that girl. Her pallid face drained of all life. All hope. Her small, delicate fingers curled around that expressionless doll, it’s leg torn from it’s torso and tossed aside like trash. Her last remaining scrap of innocence, the only comfort along her final breath.

He felt a blunt pain where a rock struck the right of his pelvis, another along the center of his spine. That one hurt. He didn’t care. He had to keep going. Had to get to Dinah. Had to call the police. That little girl’s parents needed to know what happened to her. They deserved to grieve their daughter.

The next thing Marcus felt was a sharp pain across the top of his head that sent multicoloured stars darting across his vision. The impact sent him crashing to the earth, and then, nothing.

* * * * *

When Marcus awoke he was roped up on the same wooden structure that he had witnessed just before. His body was bruised, beaten, and dripping with blood. Smaller cuts had clotted with darkened chunks and scabs, his cheeks warm where the wound on his head continued to stream out across his face. Surrounding him were the robed figures, their faces a hostile red where the flickering candle light illuminated them against the blackness of night.

“He awakes,” One declared, throwing his arms out to the side as if in worship. The congregation repeated him a second later in a monotonous droan. He awakes. “This man, this Marcus Frank Hammer,” He read from the ID card he had removed from his wallet, “Believes he can interrupt our sacred awakening ritual. This, this Outsider!”

Outsider, Outsider.

Marcus was frozen in fright. The ritual items that lay decoratively beneath the young girl before, had been replaced by a circular pit, stacked high with logs and kindling. The smell of fuel saturated his nostrils, kept him dizzy. Unfocused.

“we all know the punishment for such crimes,” he said, his icy gaze locked to Marcus’ panicked eyes.

Burn him, burn him

Marcus tugged against the ropes that bound him to the structure, all his might failing him. “Though such burdens are hard to bare, it falls upon us now to make the hard choices.”

A mound of fresh earth lay off to the side where Marcus guessed the little girl was buried. After all, they had to make room for him up on the wicker-man. Round two. A double meal for the sickos. What a sacred, bless-ed day.

Images flashed across his mind, polaroids darting in and out of focus. Dinah in a candle-lit bath, Lucy’s gleeful expression Christmas morning, a loaf of his mothers homemade onion bread. He could smell that. Along the waves of imagery came tsunamis of feeling, floods of emotion, he himself a mixture of anger, fear, sorrow, and rage. The thought of never seeing his family again sunk him into a low he had never felt before. A stilling, overwhelming numbness. Just blackness in the cold reality of his situation. He was never gonna make it home. His entire family, all of his friends, would have to suffer his loss.

“He was too young,” they’d say, “And the way it happened, gasp, nobody deserves that.” He could hear their condolences as clearly as the first strike of the match. On the second, flame came, and it was tossed into the fuel-soaked fire pit.

It came in an instant—sickening, blinding pain. Nothing but panic, noise, heat, smoke. The smell. The smell of his own body burning. The smell of the paraffin. Just seconds after, the pain stopped. Gone almost as fast as it came. His first few layers of skin had all but melted from his body, now just a dangling, skinless figure of muscle and bone.

In these moments he accepted his fate. Accepted death. Willed it. Anything to end the torment, the sight of the robed freaks rejoicing around him, the tiny, pale hand that had burst out of the earth. He tried to scream but he already was. He tried to close his eyes but he couldn’t. His gaze locked onto the one thing he didn’t want to see. Couldn’t bare to see. Wished he’d never seen.

The soulless, pale little dead girl crawling out the earth, tiny limbs bloodied and dirtied and dragging her back above ground. An expressionless creature of evil, each of it’s breaths a raspy growl from the very depths of it’s throat. Eyes red and hungry, thirsty for blood and pain and death.

“Behold the awakening!”

Behold, behold.

The creature stood before him, dead eyes reading his soul. Haunting his final moment, his final breath, dead hand clutching that legless, lifeless doll.

She smiled.


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Interview with Mary T Bradford

Mary Bradford is an Irish published author of novels, short stories and plays. My Husband’s Sin, is her debut novel. Available now, the sequel, Don’t Call Me Mum. The Lacey Taylor story, Book 2, not to be missed!

I’m very excited to say I had the opportunity this week to ask author Mary T Bradford a few questions about her writing journey and career. In this interview, Mary offers us an insight into the publishing process through sharing her own experiences with us, and gifts an interesting and unique piece of flash fiction at the end. I’ll say in advance, I was impressed and surprised at her take on the prompt. I expected the typical ‘kidnapping’ approach, but Mary shows us that the imagination of an author cannot be predicted!

You can find Mary’s website here. Want an interview like this one? Leave a comment!


Where did your writing journey start?

I guess it started way back when I was five years old and joined my local library. I love reading and although I have read all my life I never thought about writing a story until I was in my twenties. It began with my first born, I wrote down all the antics he got up to as a toddler. I suppose it documented his early years and when family read those pieces they encouraged me to consider writing stories. I enrolled on a creative writing correspondence course with a Dublin college and graduated with a diploma with distinction. Most young people would probably ask what a correspondence course is. Well it’s like an online course nowadays but you posted your assignments to your tutor and received your work by post too, so it involved a lot of trips to the Post Office. So after that I continued to write short stories and submitted them to national magazines and newspapers. Thankfully I have been successful in publication.

Is writing something you find energising or draining? Tell me a little about the process. What you like, what you don’t?

It really depends on what the project is. If it’s something new, I am energised and all set to go, but if it’s a story that I’ve been working on for some time, well then I might drag my feet a bit to finish it. There is so much to a writing life, there’s more than just the stories to produce. There are interviews to reply to, website posts to write and newsletters to write up plus the promotion and marketing of your work. It isn’t easy and it is definitely non-stop. A writer is always working on something, even if not physically on a laptop or with pen and paper, but in their mind. Thinking is a large part of a writing life. Working out characters, plots, twists, trying to tie stuff together, it’s always on your mind, always. I enjoy the creating side of writing, it’s the marketing I dislike.

What are your favourite few books? Do you have any that stand out among the others, perhaps have shaped your own writing somewhat?

I loved, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, an Irish author. I enjoy his style and his storytelling. I’ve only ever cried my eyes out, really sobbing, with one book that was titled The Last Snows of Spring, by who I can’t recall. I read it when I was nineteen, it broke my heart. Also, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, an American writer, I so enjoyed. When the film came out much later, it was awful, they ruined a beautiful story. I don’t think any, one or few books have influenced my writing as I read lots of different genres except fantasy and sci-fi. My work has been compared to Maeve Binchy, Claudia Carroll, and others who write about family and relationships.

Give us a rundown of your first published book and how did you find the process? What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time and do it again?

My first novel, My Husband’s Sin published by Tirgearr Publishing was like a jump in to the deepest ocean and not knowing how to swim. The story came to me while at a funeral and looking around me, the secrets that so many must take to their graves with them. It started with a character, Lacey Taylor who was raised with her father, Joe and upon her mother Lillian’s death there is a revelation that upturns Lacey’s whole life. Her father had died before Lillian, taking a secret with him which she, Lillian feels obliged to reveal to Lacey and her siblings.

Regarding the manner of writing it, I wrote it in longhand, as it was my first book, I enjoyed the process of the story revealing it myself through the characters and even when it came to editing it, about seven drafts later, I still wasn’t deterred, just a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Next came the whole dealings of synopsis and query letters to publishing houses, now that’s a nightmare. Advice to myself now that I know what it takes I would say, during times of doubt remember many start writing a book but few finish, keep at it, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Finally, tell us about your new release, could you compare it to other books?

My second novel, Don’t Call Me Mum, published in March of 2018 by Tirgearr Publishing came about because readers requested to continue the Lacey Taylor story from my first novel. This second novel flowed easier for me as I knew the Taylor family intimately at this stage and so the writing process was shorter timewise. Having readers ask for a sequel in the reviews of my first novel, was encouraging and reassuring for me as a writer. Knowing people out there enjoy my stories makes the time spent working on them worthwhile. I have since been asked to write the third book in the Taylor’s lives and I am writing it at present along with another novel which is a stand-alone book.

Comparing my books to others I would say they are family orientated, about relationships, everyday life like Carmel Harrington, Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult to name a few.

You’re trapped inside a sealed room. It’s pitch black. All you can hear from outside is some kind of heavy machinery. Write a quick story in under 200 words based on this prompt, to give the readers an idea of your style and imagination.

Not turning up should set off alarm bells for his co-workers. But, Charlie often missed a morning due to this and that. He knew the boss was itching to fire him but couldn’t afford to.

Charlie was an expert in demolition, knowing exactly what strength explosive or whether the wrecking ball would be more effective.

Today it was the wrecking ball and judging by the noise outside, it would be swinging through a wall shortly at him.

This job had stirred his curiosity when he heard it housed a panic room. So after work yesterday, he had gone exploring and now was locked inside the very room that intrigued him.

Trying to remember which direction the ball would hit from, might help get him out alive.

Listening to the drone of machinery, getting ready to knock it, he sat in a corner.

His eyes had adjusted to the pitch darkness and like an old cine-frame his life rolled by.

Snooping often caused him grief. His mother forever telling him, ‘One day, Charlie, it’ll land you in real danger.’

“Well, Mom, this could be the day.” Sighing, his heart pounded.

Smash!

Charlie picked the wrong corner to sit in.


Many thanks to Mary for her honest and insightful answers! If you’d be interested in an interview like this one posted on the site, let me know in the comments. I aim to interview a different writer and blogger each week!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

£1.00

A Year of Creative Growth