Put the pizza down!


I should really write this on my other ‘fat-fighting’ blog, but I’m ashamed to do so. That particular blog is steadily picking up followers, many of whom I’m sure are also deeply embroiled in their own battle of the bulge, and so I would feel a tad guilty admitting to what I’m about to.

A few days ago I made a commitment to making a serious effort to combat the pork. I wanted to drop, I forget now, maybe 10lb in two weeks. A tall order for anyone I reckon, but I confidently said ‘yep, no problem. I’ll be thin as a rake in no time at all.’ Then it occurred to me that I’ve made this same promise, or variations of it so many times that it’s getting a bit dull now. I simply like food too much.

I’ve been off work for most of the week. An accumulation of untaken leave has forced my hand to stay at home and take the leave else I risk losing it.

One good thing about this is that I’ve been able to stave off boredom by getting back into reading and writing. A bad thing about this is that I’m just sitting at home with my head in a book and my hand on a pie, or a sandwich. Furthermore, come the evening, which is traditionally my weakest time, I like to have a tipple of wine too. The problem right now is that I haven’t been out today to get myself tonights bottle. So, for the past half hour, I’ve contemplated going out to the local coop which is only five minutes drive and buying myself a bottle. Then I remembered there is a pizza takeaway place on the same street. I could stop there and order my pizza, then while it cooks I could go get my wine. If I left now I’d probably be home by half eight and catch the second half the football (Chelsea Vs Man Utd).

I know I shouldn’t… but the soul is weak… the pizza is sooooo good.

Should I stay or should I go?

What makes us happy?


Tough question that one, because it’s too subjective, but its one I’ve been contemplating off and on for a few weeks now. Broadly speaking, I think happiness for most people falls into the categories of money, career, family and acceptance/respect. You may have identified others but these are the what I call the Big Four, and because I’m having a bit of writing binge at the moment, I’m going jot down my feelings about each category.

Money: Well, they say it makes the world go round and that is probably true. Wealth has always been the discriminator that judges our place in society. These days if you are not driving around in a premium car with the latest iPhone in your pocket and decked out in the latest fashion then your made to feel as though you aren’t keeping up with current trends. You feel the urge to buy things you cannot afford and run the risk of racking up serious debt. This is a madness born of cancer in today’s society. Many can access money in this day and age, but if its borrowed money then all those nice shiny things can only give a temporary feeling of happiness until the reality of the cost becomes apparent. Money, therefore, makes my list of the Big Four – its used quite literally to buy happiness, but if you’re buying things you think you need with money that isn’t yours, then the happiness is fake.

Career: For some reason, we are told we need to seek promotion, the next rung up the ladder. Does anyone ever stop to consider if they are actually fine where they are? Nine times out of ten, a promotion means more responsibility and that will have a knock-on effect for other areas within your life, be it with family or socially. Sure, you’ll probably be paid more, and if that is what you need then fair enough. I would say that if the new salary balances well with the impact on other areas of your life then go for it. However, if you have enough money already then I think you need to seriously ask yourself why it is you feel you need to move up that career ladder. Yeah, maybe it’s for the challenge and you love your profession and want to have a greater impact within your chosen field, but at what cost? In my view, the question of whether or not you should go for a new job should centre upon the impact it will have upon future happiness and not be a decision driven by money or what you think society thinks about you and your position in it. If you’re happy, then why change?

Family: Family is important to me and my happiness. In fact, a source of unhappiness for me would be that I don’t see my mother and father, brother or sister nearly as often as I would like. However, I have a wife and a son of my own and so naturally there is a conflict in exactly who I spend time with. I have no real idea if others feel as I do about their own families but I’ve ruminated for some time on this subject and reached the conclusion that maybe this is a northern thing. I find, generally speaking, that northern families are closer and more likely to live close to one another. This is, of course, based only upon my own observations and I may be way off the mark. I do consider myself northern though, if ever so slightly nomadic. A displaced northerner maybe?

Acceptance/respect: I think we have always sought to be accepted by our peers, friends and family and if we are all honest, I also think we don’t like to admit it. I’m a paramedic by trade and can categorically say that peer opinion is so important. We have an unwritten benchmark in the prehospital arena when taking the measure of another clinician. We do it by asking a very simple question, ‘Would I want this person treating a member of my family?” If the answer is yes, then that is all the professional recognition you need. You are accepted above gender, culture, political persuasion, age… whichever yardstick you choose, it matters not. If you wear green and have the respect of your peers then nothing else really matters. Of course, to lose that respect is devastating. I’ve seen more than a few of my colleagues lose confidence and become depressed following a ‘bad job’. Maybe someone died, or they were involved in something that sounded horrendous – multiple casualties in a bad traffic accident. The paramedic may go off sick for a while after and the mumblings around station might be that the job sounded awful, but often it’s because the paramedic is questioning themselves and by extension, questioning if they still have the respect of their peers.

Of course, there are many forms of acceptance. Social media adds an entirely new dimension to friendships these days. Having a son who is yet to become embroiled in this ever increasingly connected world causes me some consternation. Its a dynamic I never had to face, but I can see the evils within, the faceless bullying and sense of disconnection that could befall anyone who falls out with others in their social circle.

I was going to end this there but after reading through I can see I have made a glaring omission in my list. What about love? The way I think of love would be to say this: If money makes the world go round then love can stop it. It can even end your world such is the potentially devastating effects of feelings its loss. It is the glue that holds everything else together, the force that permeates every facet of your life and lifts a normal life into the peaks of happiness. It enhances every other category of happiness which is why I do not consider it to be one of the Big Four because it is simply too big, too influential, to be held an equal to something like money or career. You may have other opinions about love that differ from my own. Perhaps you feel that love should be on equal footing with those other categories or maybe even not at all, but if you do then I know something about you. You’ve never been in love.

M.

Hello?


Who am I kidding? Having decided to get back into writing, and blogging to some degree, a quick browse of my most *cough* recent post tells me I’ve been here before and clearly failed. Oh dear.

Well, I suppose you could say that it will be easy to beat that pitiful effort. All I need do is blog twice and I will have doubled the previous attempt.

What is different this time though? Hard to say. Last time I sat down to blog I may have been thinking exactly as I am now, that I enjoy writing so why not do it more often? Perhaps I had just put down another cracking read and fancied having a go at writing my own book? Its certainly happened before and I wouldn’t be the first to have thought that. I’ve even had some success. Not much, but some. One story published in a magazine, and two in an anthology of short stories put together by my chums over at the Bolthole. Between the three stories, I made around £28. Not a huge sum by any standard but the money is irrelevant. Seriously. If you have ever tried to get anything published then you will understand the depth of need you feel in wanting so badly for acceptance. When it comes, its validation that someone else, even if it is just one person, values your effort. You can build on that, take heart and make the next one even better. You have a chance to learn the craft because you know, having had some success, that you are on the right path and that with perseverance you will hone your craft over time. All writing courses will tell you to write every single day. Stephen King has said it many times. Write, write, write. Even if you don’t feel like it and would rather watch some television dross, write something first. A headache? Write something. You get the point.

So, what is the catalyst that has brought me back to the keyboard? Well, there are three reasons really and all have come within a week of each other. I have taken this to be a sign.

  1. A good friend of mine has recently had his first novel published. We started writing at roughly the same, both of us being heavily into the published stories which the Black Library (The publishing wing of the Games Workshop) were pumping out on a near-weekly basis. We attended a few conferences and conventions together and dreamed of our own work being published by the Black Library. They were good times. Where my path deviated was when my son was born. It’s very difficult to find the time to write with a pint-sized ball of energy to keep you distracted, but they’ve been fun years. He’s an amazing boy and I’m very proud of him, but I’m also a little pleased that he has started school too. It gives me time to remember what I was doing before he came into our lives. Still, I’m also very happy for my friend who clearly continued when our paths diverged. He is now published by HarperCollins and his book is called Goodbye for Now.
  2. The rights bought by the magazine which published my story Legacy have now expired and so I’m free to find another buyer. I had a quick browse to check where I could potentially sell it and fired it off to an editor putting together a general fiction anthology. Fingers crossed they like it. I also tied up another story called Beast. Beast is a horror written in a kind of Lovecraftian style which I think works, but we’ll have to see. Again, I found a potential buyer and fired it off with a little covering letter.
  3. Wilbur Smith. I’ve just finished his book On Leopard Rock. What a life that man has had. I love how he describes writing as the ultimate freedom and passport to do whatever the hell he likes. I’ve admired his work since I read River God, the first book of his I sampled, and have pretty much devoured anything he has ever produced. I much prefer his earlier work but also, I’m pleased he has finally come clean about co-authoring. Us readers ain’t stupid. We knew it wasn’t him writing those later books. Still, the man is to be admired and I would love to get back into writing so that I can create worlds of adventure that people can lose themselves in, just as he has.

Well, I think that is enough for today. Not a bad start, eh? The football is on in a minute though. I’ve just signed up to Now TV and bought a monthly subscription to their sports package. I can now watch premier league games which are streamed to whichever device I chose to use. Downstairs I have my Xbox, upstairs is my Mac and out an about I have my iPhone. Its cheaper than Sky and much more flexible for my needs. Chelsea welcome Man Utd today. I predict 3-1 to the Blues and a continuation of abuse for José Mourinho.

M.

What not to say to authors (and what to say instead)


AUTHOR ALLSORTS

NOTE: I LOVE being an author. I feel like the luckiest THING ever. This post is not a sign of my unhumbleness.

…However, since the wonder of being published, I’ve got one niggle. Whenever I talk to anyone about my books, people say the same things to me. Over and over. There are obviously a lot of myths out there about authors, so I’d thought I’d answer the main ones here, all in one go.

Myth one: Authors are all filthy rich…like JK Rowling

What not to say: “Wow, you’re an author? So, where’s your castle then, JK Rowling?”

The reality: Honestly, I’d make more money if I was paid a pound for every time someone brings up JK Rowling when talking to me about my career, then I’d ever make from selling books.

Here is the basic maths…

An average book costs, say, £7.99.

An average…

View original post 864 more words

My Boy


Here is a picture of my son, Arthur, sitting up and watching us pull faces and make odd sounds for his amusement.

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I confess that he doesn’t look overly impressed but at least he’s not crying. Babies, I have discovered, do crying, sleeping, and shitting very well indeed. It’s pretty much all Arthur does so a rare moment in which he just sits and stares at you must be captured and then obviously blogged about.

I’ve done my best monkey impression, mimicked an array of farm yard animals, danced (even the ‘walk like an Egyptian’) and made fart noises on his stomach. Did I get even one smile? No.

Oh well, I don’t mind. When those smiles do come they light up the whole day and then keep you smiling in anticipation of the next.

One of these days I may even capture one of the smiles with my camera. That’ll be a happy day.

Fat Count


Another 4500 words today which would normally be cause for celebration. However there will be no such thing today. 

One of the problems with being glued to a desk all day in an effort to hit targets is that you snack. You get the munchies all the bloody time. Get a bored and there’s a bag of Smarties that will cure that. Stuck for something to say? No problem, why not have a few bags of crisps while you think about it. Celebrating because you’ve hit your word count for the day? Why not have a bottle of wine?

I’ve been steadily expanding for some time now, particularly since I broke my collarbone. Being unable to drive has meant I can’t go to the gym which as kind of bigger excuse for me to be able to say I can’t do any exercise whatsoever. 

This is not good. I can feel my lack of energy dragging me down everyday now. I’m constantly lethargic. Everything is too much effort unless it involves sitting on my fat arse and typing into a keyboard.

This will change. Starting tomorrow I’m going to try and go for a run. I’ll start small again, like I did last time and start off with a 2 kilometre run. A few months ago I had built up to 5km. I could run that every night and you know what? It felt great. 

So, tomorrow this emphasis switches from Word Count, to Fat Count. 

Wish me luck.

M 🙂

Word Count (Part 2)


Word Count, hmm, I like that. I should have called my blog that. Short, straight to the point. Like me.

Anyway this is just a very brief update. I said yesterday that i was hoping to have a 7000 word day. Well I managed 3000 which is not too bad. I’m on target anyway. Total word count now stands a little over 20K which is just lovely to look at. Lovely? I mean awesome. Come on Mark, man up. 

Right, as I said, quick update and that was it. Lets see if I can get another 3000 out today.

M.

A Good Day’s Work


Just a quick one to say I reached today’s target quite comfortably. I put down 4000 words which might not sound terribly much but it is. I find any distraction difficult to deal with when I’m writing and today I had the nieces over for tea and my wife was in all day. Breaks are important though and so we entertained the children with a BBQ, then went on a walk around the local area and even managed to fit in an episode of Game of Thrones. So, 4000 words is really pretty good.

Tomorrow I’ll be hoping to achieve even more. The wife will be at work leaving me on my own so there will be no excuse. Hmmm, except perhaps that I re-discovered Civilisation this morning. If you’ve never played that game then I advise you not to start. There is not better way to lose countless hours than by playing that game. If only it wasn’t so damn awesome.

Right then, a glass of wine to finish and then bed.

M 🙂

 

Word Count


3,500 words per day.

That is the bare minimum I have to lay down to stay on target. 

In my previous post I described how my beloved Bonneville met its end and how I broke my collarbone. As a result of this I have six weeks off work to recover. There is much you can do with six weeks but I have decided to use the time to complete my novel.

You should note that I spent my first week outlining and planning but I’m confident that will end up being time well spent in the long run. I like the idea of sitting down and just writing with no plan but from experience I know that this will result in thousands of words going no where. I know some people who wok this way and good luck to them. I can only think that they must already have a deep understanding of where they want their story to go before they begin.

Right, I best get back to it. This post was intended solely to get me off my arse and typing and its done that. 

I’ll update in future with a brief synopsis of what my story is about. 

M 🙂

Happy Days


Well. I’m going to be a dad. That sounds so unbelievable when I say it. It’s no easier writing it either. What the hell does this mean for the rest of my life?

I’d like to think that I had loads of things planned that I wanted to do before I die. Not that I think becoming a parent is akin to the end of my life in the literal sense but, it kind of is in some ways isn’t it? Come to think of it, I had loads of things I wanted to do before I was thirty and I don’t think I managed any of them so I can’t really complain. Things are going to change though. That’s for damn sure. Baby is in the post, on its way, it’s a done deal.

Boy or girl? Don’t care. Whenever I considered this in the past the result was always that I wanted a girl but that was before the years of trying. There comes a point where you couldn’t give a monkey what gender it is so long as it’s got two arms, two legs a head and a hole in its arse. In fact, scrap the hole in the arse. Perhaps I can have the world’s first non-shitting baby? So no I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. It’ll be a happy day regardless.

With all good news there is also bad news though. My desk has to go. I love my desk. My massive computer and dual monitors sit on it. I love these things too. Oh, and my Captain’s chair, and my lamp. These things make up the little world I sit in when I’m writing the stories I’ll one day send off for rejection. Alas, they have to go. The room I’m sitting in now is to become a nursery and one day a bedroom again. I can no longer call it my office. Well, I’ve got a few months left to enjoy it. Well, no I haven’t. I’ve got a few months left to get used to the idea of it all going. I’m hoping to keep up with the writing and will be certainly be spending the next few months upping the output but, well, I think I’m more likely to become adept at changing nappies than publishing stories aren’t I? Still, I have plans. Contingency plans. After all, it can’t stay awake forever can it? As soon as it nods off I’ll be off to my computer… oh, no I won’t because that’ll be gone. Hmm, okay I’ll open up the laptop and get writing again. It’s a superb plan and will obviously work.

What other news? Ah yes, I finished a story today and spanked it off in the direction of Alternative Realities for consideration by Top Bloke, Matt Sylvester. Let’s hope he enjoys reading it as much I did writing it.

What’s next? Well for my next act I’ll be creating another work of fiction, this time for Emby Press in an effort to get into the Occult Detective anthology. This one’s edited by one Josh Reynolds no less so I’m super excited to be having a crack at this one.

Right then, that’ll have to do for the time being. There’s a mountain of dishes waiting for me downstairs that I just know the Mrs will go ape-hit over if I don’t get it done pronto.

M J