All posts by Gary Holdaway

A multi genre author of short stories and novels, writing a curious mix of quick online reads and lifestyle posts.

A Year Of Creative Growth

The Incident

“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.” -Seneca

It’s April 4th, 2020. It’s 10am, a Saturday, and we’ve been on lockdown for what seems like an eternity. In reality, it’s been only two weeks since my last social activity, which in the typical fashion these days was a Friday night piss-up.

I hadn’t seen the kids in what seemed like longer, though it was in fact a few days shorter than the aforementioned escapade. I’m used to a Sunday evening to Wednesday morning one week, and a Friday evening to Wednesday morning the next. To go a near two week stretch was unbearably foreign—like sucked through a black hole to a different universe, lost radio connection, never getting home again, kind of foreign.

Add into the mix a removal of my typical ‘kids-free’ activities, and I was lost. Where the days would be spent working, trawling from customer to customer with a brief chat before moving on, I was at home without routine. Where my lunchtime, or afternoon time, or breakfast time fast-food trip would see me sit in the car park and people watch for a while as I tucked into whatever the drive-through coughed up, all my spots were closed down.

Where the evenings rolled around and I’d typically be showering and dressing to go for a meal, drink, or whatever else with my friends, my phone remained stagnant and silent. There’ll be no more pub-grub and pints for a while, that was abundantly clear.

So here I was and here I stayed for a few days. Ripped from routine in a void of responsibility, without potential for social activity—or any out-of-the-home activity for that matter. Lost.

The Search For ‘Something’

“Above all, it is necessary for a person to have a true self-estimate, for we commonly think we can do more than we really can.” -Seneca

I knew this couldn’t carry on, it wasn’t me. I had things to do. Things I LOVED to do. Things I hadn’t had time to do for a long time, and yet here I was, with nothing but time! Read, write, walk, meditate, stretch, workout, reflect. Get my blog back in order and steer it in a direction I’m happy with. Work on the courses I’ve got planned out ready to write. Finish that short story I started late last year. Put out social media posts to help others get the best out of their lockdown time and come out stronger. Oh, and while I’m at it, I can get that lifestyle coaching business up and running!

And just like that… BANG! I have too much to do.

And isn’t that just typical of me.

So far in the purgatory between the March 20th announcement and this warm Saturday morning, I’d managed to keep up a habit of dragging my heels 4km per day, lifting weights from a haphazardly created regime (with no particular goal in mind), and occasionally reading some Stoic philosophy.

A grand accumulation of around three-and-a-half hours per day, with the remaining twenty-one spent twiddling my thumbs. Lots of thinking. Lots of planning. Lots of directionless activity.

Put short, lots of nothing.

In my defence, I did spend 2 minutes once pulling up a list of 300 blog prompts that would have little-to-no purpose on my blog… I spent a further 10 scrolling through them. I was going to use them—I’d get around to it, eventually. One blog post per day for a year! Easy…

The Realisation

“I was shipwrecked before I even boarded … the journey showed me this—how much of what we have is unnecessary, and how easily we can decide to rid ourselves of these things whenever it’s necessary, never suffering the loss.” – Seneca

Hold up, stop. Who am I? What do I want? What am I even doing right now? This isn’t me.

I’m not the guy that purposelessly floats through life, spouting advice while waiting for the next excuse to not take it myself. I’m not that guy that dives into every fleeting thought wildly and without direction. I’m not. Where have I gone? When did I lose me? Was it during this lockdown or even this year? Or some time further back, hidden behind hardly-remembered nights and hangovers?

When exactly did I become the person that talks about what I’m going to do, without taking action? Scratch that, who even cares? Here I am, so what am I going to do about it?

The realisation came almost as fast as this forsaken Covid-19, washing over me in waves, unraveling the muddled ideas with each crash. Here I stood alone on the shore, long after others had left for home. Firm, focused, staring out over the horizon. Each gentle swash erasing away the barefooted imprints in the sand, until all that remained were the impressions beneath my feet, and the potential to stomp forward in any direction I choose.

I wasn’t blocked by the obstacle, I was the obstacle, and anything else in the way could be turned to my advantage. This lockdown wasn’t going to wreck me, it was going to rebuild me.

I refuse to be the person that falls apart when faced with nothing but myself. I choose to direct my own life, without the need for work, bosses, parents, schools, or external structures to hold me together. I am the structure, the individual, and the guide.

Right then. It’s time to build some foundations!

Sowing The Seeds of Growth

“What if someone despises me? Let them see to it. But I will see to it that I won’t be found doing or saying anything contemptible. What if someone hates me? Let them see to that. But I will see to it that I’m kind and good-natured to all, and prepared to show even the hater where they went wrong. Not in a critical way, or to show off my patience, but genuinely and usefully.” -Marcus Aurelius

So here’s the thing, I’m not a one-trick pony. I never have been and I never will be. My interests span from pencil sketching to philosophy, from writing fiction and reading books to psychology and religion, and back again. But how to channel all of that into some sort of feasible direction?

Of course it had to start with what I already had here on the site, and that has led me to a weekend of categorising, subcategorising, editing and re-editing what I had already created. I had a mind to throw it all out and start again, but what a waste that would’ve been. I like the idea that all the previous content here, be it hastily churned out flash fiction or a post on how to start a blog, has it’s place, and will act as a foundation upon which to build, brick by brick, a better version of myself, and by extension, this site.

I’ve chopped my passions and interests into large, chunky titles, that will help to offer a spot for everything I could possibly feel like writing as and when I feel like writing it. These categories and subcategories will grow, as posts in each of them stack up and a natural evolution occurs.

For now, I’ve narrowed it down to Fiction, Book Reviews, Lifestyle, and Musings. They all pretty much speak for themselves, barring perhaps ‘Musings,’ which kind of stands for my personal blog posts at this moment in time.

Fiction can accommodate all sorts from flash fiction to short stories in various genres, until enough stack up in one glaring category to warrant a grouping of the posts. Book Reviews are much the same, and allows me to nurture my passion for reading with a creative outlet in the form of gushing over the pages.

I expect Lifestyle to grow and expand the most, not only in various subcategories, but across broader top-level categories as time goes on. Things like Mindfulness, Psychology, Philosophy, and so on. I simply love writing about these topics, and have all kinds of intentions to keep an active mindfulness journal, take nice photos of things out in the world, and experience many more adventures along the way!

From Sapling to… Great Oak?

Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? -Marcus Aurelius

And here is the answer I’ve been searching for. The one ‘focus’ this humble corner of the internet provides. A place to share all that is me, present and future, as it occurs and evolves all on its own. Here is the creative expression of my entire being, put out on display for the world to see, if they so choose to watch.

Ahead of me rests a year of creative growth! Freedom in the unknown and unforeseen, purpose and solidarity in the forward motion. I can’t wait to share it with you!

How has this lockdown been for you? Is the Covid-19 stressing you out, dragging you down, or lifting you up? Let me know in the comments!

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 🙂

Mr. Nowhere -Free Flash Fiction

In the darkest region of your mind, you give him life. That small spark of creation, the tiny curiosity that resides in the hearts of all mankind, breathes shape into him. Your fear, and your doubt, and your hate, gifts him more life. He’s here now. He’s watching. He knows you know.

He’s the figure that moves in your peripheral, and the ghastly nothingness left behind when you turn your head to catch him. He’s the shadow in the corner of the room, darker than all other shadows—so dark and dense you know it has form. He’s the whisper in your ear, the tingle of breath over your shoulder. He’s almost a part of you.

He’s the overwhelming feeling of heaviness when you have your back turned to the room, the sense of eyes on you while you go about your home alone. He’s the paper that drops from the fridge behind you while you lean into the dishwasher to collect your cutlery. He’s the answer to all the questions you never dare ask. The doubting, the brush-offs, the ‘ahh it must be the wind’s.’

Every footstep you hear behind you when you walk down the hall, that’s him too.

When you walk beneath the moonlight, and the street lights cast an eery orange in the cold fog around you, he is what follows just out of sight. He is what looms around each corner, what watches from behind every bush. He stalks your most horrific dreams, orchestrating your terror like a puppeteer pulling the strings.

He is the voice that tells you to give up. To just let it go and give in to nothingness. Every deep, dark, frightening thought that enters your mind, is his coercive tongue massaging your ear.

He’s why the kids wont go to bed—why they say they’re scared when we say they’re being silly and need to go to sleep. He stands in the corner while you plead with them, smirking over your shoulder. He’s the creature that stalks them while you’re getting your downtime, the figure they squeeze their eyes closed tight to ignore. He rustles their covers and scrapes the underneath of their beds while they sob themselves into an uneasy sleep.

He hovers above you, only an inch from your face while you lay your head back in the bath to rinse the shampoo from you hair. He’s the creak across the hallway that’s always ‘just the pipes,’ that hideous feeling of terror on a windy night. He’s the stillness between breaths in the dark, the monster in the garden, staring up at your bedroom window until you fall asleep.

You’ll feel him at his most powerful in a thunderstorm, when the world shakes and the sky cracks open. He’s there, in the dark, whenever you’re not looking. He’s the figure just outside the reaches of the flickering candlelight as you make your way to the fuse box. He’s the roar of the heating as the boiler flicks on in the middle of the night.

He feeds off you in the day, leeching your life away with every small seed of doubt. In the dark is where he thrives. He looms over the bed every time you close your eyes, silently begging you to open them. When you do, he dematerialises and hides in the shadows, leaving just a feeling behind. A frequency. You can feel him, you can almost hear his vibration, but he hides just out of sight.

Showing himself to you would be less fun than this. He wants your pulse raised, your breathing shallow, and your mind racing. He wants you convincing yourself that it’s just your imagination until you pull the covers tighter around you and close your eyes once more.

He is here now. Watching. Waiting. Just beyond the light of your screen. Hungry for your terror. He’s under your bed while you read this, or resting his head on the pillow beside you. He’s in the corner of the room, or scratching at the glass of your window. He’s just behind the office door, or in the bathroom at school. He is everywhere, waiting for you to pretend he isn’t. Waiting for you to pretend he doesn’t exist.

Don’t let him know you know. Don’t let him see.

You’ll only make him angry.


Apologies in advance if I’ve made you feel uneasy… I didn’t want to. He made me do it. If you leave a comment and let me know what you thought, He might just leave you be for a while. Have you had much trouble with Him in the past? Where does He commonly crop up in your life? I’m eager to know how He stalks your days and nights.

Most of my activity happens over at Facebook, so please come join me over there. There’s a prize draw for a digital Amazon gift card once the page reaches 1000 likes!

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

My Slice’a Freedom -Free Flash Fiction

The following flash fiction was hastily created for the Kanturk Arts Festival flash fiction competition, based on the below photo prompt. When I first saw the image, I was struck with a sense of loneliness and hiding. I was put in mind of the awful conditions in which black people had to suffer during the times of slavery in America. I remembered reading of situations in the past, where certain whites would help to shield and hide those who’ve escaped captivity, either beneath barns, in attics, or anywhere else for that matter. Sadly, those instances were too few, and no amount of fiction or storytelling can ever romanticise or undo the horrific wrongs of our world at that time. In this image I saw an escaped slave, working in solitude to create tailored items. The story expanded from there, as you’ll read in a second.

In any case, sadly this piece didn’t pick up a win in the contest, and while I think the story has its own merit, I felt squeezing the story into only 500 words was an injustice to the characters and themes I initially envisioned. (You can read the winning pieces here.) I researched extensively for this story (hence the short time to write the thing), and I discovered the amazing story of Nat Turner and the small revolution that would go on to change the face of slavery forever, for better AND worse. I highly recommend you spend a few moments going to research him once you’re done here. While I do like the end result, my heart wasn’t truly in this rendition of the story. Upon learning and researching for the story I had in mind, I quickly realised that I didn’t have enough words to convey all I wanted to in the way I wanted to. So in a way I feel blessed with another chance to tell the story I want to at a later date. For now though, please enjoy this abridged flash fiction piece.


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Are you Vin Buckley that created this painting? Please get in touch with a link to your work.

Gabe stitched through the leather with a careful precision, paying close attention to the tattered pages strewn across the workstation. Moonlight filtered in through cracks in the overhead floorboards, bright and heavy as the night of the revolt. Shadows flickered and shifted across the damp blocks, the flame of his lantern casting a taller, thicker version of himself on the opposite wall. He watched himself work in shadow form, free from scars and riches and class. Not a black man, a white man, a soldier, or a slave. Just a man, working his craft in calm solitude. Shadows revealed the reality of humankind, each equal in the absence of colour.

His wounds had healed up to tightened scars stretched out across his skin, a few pale additions to the tally that claimed most of his back. He tied off his final stitch, wondering what became of the brothers and sisters that followed Nat Turner toward freedom. Robert told him many escaped just like Gabe, but many died too. 

Gabe packed the finished product into a dusty box he excavated from beneath the workstation, and placed it neatly beneath his bed frame. Sleep came fast and without complaint. 

He awoke to the sound of Robert creaking his way down the ladder, moaning and groaning as he did. “Wakey-wakey, Kid,” he said, breathless, “I come bearing good fruit and bad news.” 

“I’ll take the fruit,” Gabe replied, “the news can wait a while.”

Robert placed the basket on the bed beside him, sighing as he did. “Actually Gabe, it can’t. Nat Turner’s been captured. They hanged him and a whole bunch more at Jerusalem. With what’s happened, they’re stricter than ever. Scared too.”

“Oh the white folk are scared,” he retorted, “s’that right?” Gabe shook his head while he processed it. His best friend, born and raised on Ben Travis’ plantation, gone. Dead. Silenced by the hangman. “Jesus Nat. God was menna-be on our side.”

Robert placed a rough hand on his shoulder. “God’s as much a slave to us as you are to them, Gabe. He’s bound to those with the loudest voices.”

“You mean with the most guns.” Gabe pulled out the box from beneath the bed and handed it to Robert, the burden of the news weighing heavily in the features of his face.

Robert opened the box to reveal the finest pair of boots he ever laid eyes upon. The blueprint he never dared lift from the paper himself, now crafted to perfection. “Gabe, did you… How?”

“I fallowed’ya sketches. Was thinking if they good enough, maybe I keep making ‘em?”

Robert stood silently, inspecting them in awe.

“Sir, your generosity’s seen me safe, but I may never walk free. These boots, they can run free and wild. Travel the highs and lows of all the great states, go on a’ventures. They’ll see men marry fine wives and drink fine wine. Each pair’ll carry a little piece of me with ‘em. For now I can only dream of freedom. But these boots… these boots can go where I can’t.’ 

“My slice’a freedom.”


For what it’s worth, I can’t wait to tell this story again, and do it the justice it deserves. Think of this as just a tiny snapshot of the greater story in play. Of course I can only  imagine the tragic circumstances of what it was like to exist back then, and can I even imagine what it would’ve been like to be black back then? What I can say for certain is that  I can do my best to relate the sense of entrapment, loneliness, struggle, fear, and torture, while being awestruck of the hope, love, and fight that never escaped those poor souls that were treated so terribly. A truly awful period in history. Shameful.

Shadows revealed the reality of humankind, each equal in the absence of colour.

Like this story? Try out my favourite flash fiction on this site so far: Endgame.

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The Silver Linings Playbook- Matthew Quick Review

Going into The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, I didn’t know what to expect. As you may know if you’re a regular here, while I’ve always enjoyed reading once I get into a book, I’ve never consistently consumed fiction as regularly as I am these days. So far I’ve read five books in five weeks, and that has to be a record for me! I’m super proud of that little achievement and not showing any signs of slowing down. I’m really enjoying it! So while there are unread books on my shelf and you’re happy to read about my journey, I’m happy to keep on sharing my thoughts and opinions.

Let me start out by saying that, like my Crazy House by Robert Pattison Review, this was the first exposure to a genre for me, on a multitude of different levels. Silver Linings is equal parts romance, family drama, and personal struggle, all delivered in a deeply personal ‘journal style’ written by the main character, Pat Peoples.

I loved Silver Linings as much as Smokey loved eating the pages!

Pat’s a man that has white-knuckled his way through bipolar disorder his whole life, and after an incident resulting in the courts ordering him to reform in a mental health facility, we watch as he battles hard to impress his estranged wife and right all his wrongs.

The Silver Linings Playbook is all about Pat finding the end of ‘apart time,’ trying his best to improve himself in all the ways that would impress his wife. Is this a wise approach? To pitch his whole improvement on the unlikely chance to reconcile his marriage? Probably not, like everyone keeps telling him, but they can’t see the Silver Linings like Pat can. He’s gonna prove them all wrong.

Aside from the wonderfully written story, Silver Linings doubles as a reminder for all the classic books that I NEED to read along my journey. Huck Finn, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird and more, all mentioned and speed-read by the loveable Pat Peoples. The author’s own love of literature is reflected in the respects he pays to these epic titles, and I personally wrote a little list under the title ‘Pat’s Reading List‘ as I raced through the pages of his own unfolding story.

Silver Linings is funny, sad, and painfully real. The exposure to Pat’s mind is an honest treat, and I think many of us can relate to his thoughts at least in the furthest reaches of our psyche.

I LOVED Silver Linings. It sits deservedly at the very top of my all time favourite reads, and has further encouraged me to explore modern literature with an open mind! So what do you say? Have I convinced you? I’ll close out by saying that if you haven’t read The Silver Linings Playbook, you need to get on to it right away.

I treated myself to the movie once I’d finished the book, and while it was good, it doesn’t even compare to the book (obviously.) the characters, plot, and pretty much the whole tone of the story is shifted for Hollywood’s sake, much as you’d expect. So please don’t rate the book by the film.

I’m so out of shape right now 😭😭 but… kittttyyyyy

UK buyers can pick it up from amazon here, and US buyers here. These are affiliate links, which means I receive a small payment from amazon to help pay the bills and feed the kids 😉 Do me a favour by doing yourself a favour -said in my best Ray Winstone/ Vinnie Jones impression- and get yourself Silver Linings right now!

The winner of this copy, with the official Smokey stamp of approval (bite marks with cute kitty teeth), is Jane from the charming photography blog, Fragglerocking. Go check her out, she’s awesome!

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!

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Have you read The Silver Linings Playbook or seen the movie? Let me know what you thought in the comments. What’s your favourite book? I’ll add it to my 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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Crazy House by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet- Book Review

Until only recently, my reading library had been somewhat… conservative. Stephen King is the man, of course, with second place falling to Joe Hill (naturally, it is his son after all). I have read outside of this very exclusive list, but in all honesty, not as much as I should’ve. A bit of Tolkien, some ‘movie’ books like The Revenant, and some fantasy epics (before I realised that for the most part I’m not a fantasy fan).

The point is that the big writers most readers know and love, the likes of James Patterson, Chris Ryan, and John Grisham, have never been experienced by me. So when I see a book called Crazy House, I automatically assume I’ll be reading some Rob Zombie style murder house filled to the brim with excessive gore, psychopaths, shallow characters, and a pointless love interest. What can I say, I’m a horror fan to the core…

Crazy House review James Patterson Gabrielle Charbonnet book cover
Needless to say, I was both shocked and excited to discover that I had opened up into an expansive, dystopian world, with two powerful female leads, three if you count the antagonist, which carried me from page to page in anticipation of what happens next.

My sister in law recommended this book to me and I went in blind. My first exposure to both James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet as authors, and the closest thing to a dystopian I’ve ever read. (I tried Divergent but could only get 30 pages in before I decided I didn’t like the author’s style.)

In all honesty there isn’t much I can say about the premise of the book without spoiling the details of the world that reveal themselves throughout the novel. Some ‘reveals’ are pretty obvious, I’d even call them tropes, and yet others are surprising and deepen your connection with the characters involved. This is what makes the book such a riveting page turner. It perfectly balances the expected with the unexpected, and weaves them into a flowing narrative that keeps you on the edge of your… reading… chair?

I mean seriously, does anyone actually sit comfortably while reading? I find myself laying in all sorts of positions and switching them out every time some part of my body starts to ache…

Anyway, back to it. Crazy House jumps straight in by introducing us to Careful Cassie Greenfield, a smart, sensible girl as popular as she is conscientious. We see instantly that she lives in a world of strict roles and proffessions. Like most dystopians, conformity is their salvation. Each member of their ‘cell’—a fenced in town with a job specialisation, making up the larger United organisation—is put through school and assigned a job role based on their results. Cassie appears to be the typical straight-A equivalent within this world’s parameters. We are introduced immediately to the conflict as we watch Cassie discover that her twin sister, Ridiculous Rebecca, has broken curfew, taken the jeep, and hasn’t made it home over night.

With her mother having been sent off for a ‘mood-adjust’ never to return, and her father attempting suicide outside of the system’s built-in euthanasia program, Cassie heads to school in a panic. Panic over her sister’s whereabouts mixed with an equal panic for missing school and damaging their family name any more than it already has been. From here the plot begins to unfold, and through the perspectives of Cassie and Rebecca Greenfield, we are treated to an action-packed story that keeps on delivering the excitement.

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And what about the dragon flys..?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I don’t often read novels with a female lead, (not through choice, just circumstance), and where I ever have, they haven’t been written by male authors. That surprises me on two fronts. Not only do James Patterson and Charbonnet do an excellent job of presenting the lives and perspectives of strong female characters, but they does it in such a way that the characters being female is not an all important plot point. They aren’t ‘strong female characters,’ they are simply strong characters, which I think highlights and addresses a huge issue in storytelling at this time.

The more I think on the matter, some of my favourite characters of all time have ben female. Underworld, Divergent, Hunger Games, The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan, Holly Gibney from Stephen King’s Finders Keepers series. The list goes on and on. And the one thing that sets them apart from female characters that I haven’t quite connected with, is that they are simply presented as characters. They’re not a shallow statement piece like Alice from Resident Evil, because, let’s face it, whether male or female that character is flat as a pancake. What really makes a character is that they’re human beings. It doesn’t matter if they’re female or male, they just happen to be one or the other, and they are relatable and alive!

On this basis alone I applaud the writers of the aforementioned characters, and I applaud the authors for flawlessly entering that mix with this novel. Before I close up this review of Crazy House with a shining recommendation, I’m gonna weigh up the differences between my expectations going in, and the reality of the novel.

First up, Crazy House is not a gory, Saw-like experience filled with gratuitous violence. Rather, Crazy House is what Rebecca calls the place she has been taken to—an off-the-books death-row prison that runs experiments on its kidnapped residents. Furthermore, it’s not a horror. I guess it’s a thriller in many ways, and the action keeps coming, but I’d call this a dystopian. Finally, by the end of the book I was praying that James Patterson would expand on this world and write a sequel. The world he’s created is so expansive, and reminds me a lot of the Colony-81 story I’m halfway through writing. Thankfully he’s delivered, and it looks like I read the book just in time! The sequel ‘The Fall of Crazy House’ (pre-order now) is set for release 18th April 2019, so there’s still time to grab Crazy House and enjoy it.

I have already pre-ordered my copy and it will jump to the top of my reading list as soon as it arrives. How much more of a recommendation for Crazy House do you need than that? All readers with a piqued interest, go grab Crazy House from Amazon UK or Amazon US right now. You won’t be disappointed!

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The Giveaway!

My copy of Crazy House by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet will be shipped out to Ian Steventon shortly. Congratulations! Ian is a writer and friend, not to mention fellow Fiction Writers Group founder. You can find him here.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a weekly book giveaway, simply subscribe to my mailing list. I never spam you with marketing emails or anything like that. You’ll gain automatic entry into the weekly giveaway, and receive a monthly newsletter with an exclusive flash fiction, discounts on upcoming releases, and more!

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Have you read Crazy House? What did you think, and are you excited for the sequel? Let me know in the comments below!

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 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!

£1.00

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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I Need To Wee -Free Flash Fiction

I need to wee. I’ve needed to wee for ages. Each time I readjust my position, each time the bed bounces slightly beneath my weight, each time I so much as breath a little too heavy and fill my lungs enough to raise me from the bed, I feel it wanting to burst out.

I probably should go for a wee. But I won’t. Not because I’m comfy, because I’m not. I’m laying on my stomach propped up on my elbows, my neck craned upwards to stare at the tiny screen cupped between my hands. Not because I don’t desperately need to go, we’ve already established how conscious I am of the fact.

The truth is I won’t get up and go for a wee because I’m answering automated Facebook questions on my phone, and I’m having way too much fun. These brief moments of time—I say brief, but we all know how ten minutes easily becomes a couple hours—are bizarre, transcendent things. I find myself slipping into a trance-like state, where I’m as free as I’ll ever be, outside of myself somehow. Is it because I’m so deep into technology, bedazzled by the stuff, or because I’m so deep within myself?

Movement has ceased to nothing, thinking has become instantaneous, and all I am is reading and typing in almost perfect unison. There’s no second guessing or deliberating before the answer comes out. It springs to mind, and is simply a thing in an instant. It’s an instant thing from a mind in a moment. Maybe funny, maybe uplifting, maybe cringe-worthy. But definitely something, and definitely thoughtless. Well, maybe not thoughtless but, certainly not simulated or rehearsed. Not crafted by any means.

I still need a wee,

and I still haven’t been.

I’ve answered ten more questions,

or maybe fifteen.

What am I writing poetry now? What even is this? Those of sane mind would think I’m drinking, but I most certainly am not. Perhaps I’m being cleverly unclever, transparently mysterious? Perhaps I’m telling a retelling of a telling I told myself moments before I did in fact go for a wee. Perhaps I held my wee in so long it pushed me into some bizarre delirium.

or maybe, just maybe, the instantaneous freedoms found in answering questions on instinct, finding answers within myself, have blessed me with a temporary honesty. A brief flux in space and time where words and thought mesh, and the world is let into my mind.

When you think about it, and I mean really think about it, you don’t truly own or lay claim to anything other than your own mind. Your thoughts are all you have control over. Everything else is just everything else, which means only to be influenced, advised, or less, containing its own mind and randomness. Even your body has a mind if it’s own. Err… does that make two minds? Anyway, Isn’t that funny? And why does that fit here, in my story? It doesn’t. So let’s get back to it.

And what story was I even telling here?

Oh yeah! A wee. I still need a wee, but I haven’t been yet.

I’m gonna go do that now.


today’s quick online read was inspired by my evening’s events. While putting the kids to bed I relax in the next room and casually browse through social media. Tonight, I discovered the ‘answer a question’ feature in Facebook, and had a hell of a lot of fun just going through them and answering. The kids fell asleep long before my fun was over, and once I realised it was time to move, an hour had slipped by! And, you guessed it, I needed a wee.

Anyway, in the same fashion I went about my questions, I thought it’d be fun to write a stream of consciousness style flash fiction, that leaves you probably perplexed but hopefully amused, and perhaps even a little sympathetic to the character and his woes. It is easy to become so engrossed in our screens and the influences transmitted through them, that we lose ourselves for a while. Maybe it’s time to sit down and honestly answer a whole string of questions like I did tonight, and answer them instinctively, be they funny, cynical, serious, or depressing, if only just to free our minds from the constraints we place on them, and be free with who we are.

I hope you enjoyed tonight’s post. 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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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?

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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.”

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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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.

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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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 🙂

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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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!

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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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.

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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