Inspired Geek


Wow, what a great weekend. I’ve just spent Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday in the company of some great friends at one of the best events of the year. Where have I been? I’ve been to the Black Library Weekender which is held annually in Nottingham.

It’s always great to see friends you’ve not seen in a while. I find it especially gratifying as they are the only people I know who I can be properly geeky with. No one in my circle of friends at home would have slightest idea what I was talking about if I said I was really looking forward to seeing what Gotrek and Felix will be up to this year, or that I really like the direction the Horus Heresy is taking right now. I’d be looked upon with disdain, possible mirth and by some, downright disgust.

To those people, I say you will never understand, can never understand. My mind lives the dream of geeks all over the world. I am a space marine. I have walked Mars beside Titans. I do have a pretty good idea of what the Warp is. These things are fun and interesting to me.

So, to me the Black Library weekender is just one long weekend of awesome, shared with good friends.

Particular highlights for me were listening to multitude of questions asked by the audience during seminars (I thought my mind worked in mysterious ways but whoa!), learning about upcoming submission plans and watching people pitch their own ideas during Pitch Factor (think X Factor). Several lucky people were able to impress the judges enough to win the chance of having their story critiqued by an editor. Last year’s winner took part and this year she was published. I confess I had my hand up through most of the contest but so did many others; kudos to those who had the balls to get up and have a go. I’ll have another try next year. Why not? It’s all good fun.

Needless to say I came away from the weekend inspired, if not a lot poorer. But hey, it was a holiday for me, a chance to get out and be a geek which is not something I ever get to do around here. So what now? Well, it’s back to being a closet geek, scribbling away in the dark, living my own private dream.

If you enjoy the Black Library’s books I can thoroughly recommend you get your backside along to the event next year. You’ll make some good friends who are passionate about the rich and diverse universes of Warhammer fantasy and Warhammer 40k, you can chat with the authors and if you’re like me, drink far too much.

Good times,

M.

Thieves, robbers and mechanics.


By God I was in a fluster the other day although to be honest it was my own fault. A victim of my own inability to organise my life. I did what many do, I assume, and put off checking when my actual MOT was due. I must have glanced at last years certificate at some earlier point, probably when I bought the car, and just forgot when it was due. I got the month right, this month, but my guess was out by about two weeks.

The bugger expires in a few days time. It’s not the end of the world though. I have a motorbike I could take but a quick check of the weather reveals its going to be a  dreary, wet and blustery few days over the weekend. I love my bike, but I don’t like being cold and wet.

Anyway, after a frantic fart, a bit of hopping up and down and half hour of apoplectic emptiness I finally got up off my arse and decided to ring around to try to book an MOT. I didn’t have to spend too long on the phone however. Fortunately the first garage had a vacancy for that very afternoon. I thanked them, perhaps prematurely now I come to think of it, hung up and jumped in the car.

The garage is quite literally ten minutes away from my home and so I was pulling up outside their premises before the lady who took my booking had even finished her cup of tea.

The chief spanner appeared from behind the desk as if from nowhere and took my keys.

‘Anything wrong with her that you know of?’ he asked.

I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder, unsure if I had accidentally brought my wife with me.

‘Nothing at all. Should be straight in and out I imagine,’ I said.

He gave an odd smile that was more of a sneer as I remember it and a wink that didn’t include him actually winking, as though he was going to but thought better of it. I suspect he is one of those poor unfortunates whose face contorts to reflect every emotion that passes through the owner, if only for a millisecond at a time. I find individuals such as this disturbing. It’s like they are changing their mind before your very eyes and are too brazen to hide it like normal people.

‘Take a seat over there. I take it your waiting?’

I nodded and waved the book I had brought with me. ‘Brought a book, though I doubt I’ll get much read.’

‘May as well have a coffee too then while you wait.’

I admit, all was going swimmingly well at this point and if it hadn’t been for my earlier near rage induced stroke I might have had a truly uneventful day up until that point. Alas, fate is ever-present and looking back I can see now the almighty boot being cocked back ready for delivering a kick to my anus that would both hurt deep within and spill my wallet’s contents straight into the chief spanner’s coffers.

Alarm bells began to ring, mildly at first, when I had been sitting waiting for nearly forty minutes. I could see no other cars being worked upon and so stood up to take a look through a kind of internal window. Have you ever been to a restaurant wherein you can be seated and see the kitchen staff at work preparing your meal? I can only assume that someone in the automotive industry thinks this is a good idea because this garage had installed a clear partition that allowed those waiting to watch the spanners at work.

I shouldn’t have stood up to watch really. I could have saved my sphincter it’s initial quiver of expectant rogering had I stayed put and read my book.

In the garage MOT bay I could see my car and in front of it was chief spanner pointing at two minion spanners and then back at my car. The two minions were also pointing at the car and occasionally scratching a head or an arse. Then, almost as one, they all turned and looked at me. Chief spanner waved, that odd half wink, laugh sneer expression appearing once more.

I could think of nothing else to do and so in a moment of awkwardness I waved back and then went and sat down again, a bead of sweat squeezing itself out upon my brow.

Chief spanner appeared a short while later. It’s easy for me to say this in retrospect but I swear there was a kind of victory in those cold dead eyes of his.

‘Bad news I’m afraid, Mr. Thompson.’

‘Oh really? You’ve not the right tool to perform your tests?’

He laughed, I laughed, trying not to mutter ‘bastard’ between my clenched teeth.

‘Your near-side headlight washer is kaput for a start and so that’s an automatic failure right there.’

‘You’re kidding!’

‘Fraid not, Sir. Headlight washers came in to the test in April. Lots of people fail on this one so I wouldn’t be too concerned,’ he grinned.

‘Well I am concerned. I need my car for Saturday. Can this washer thing be fixed?’

‘Fixed? No, not fixed. It must be replaced.’

‘Well, can you replace it?’

He sucked in though his teeth with a slow shake of his head. ‘We can yes, trouble is we don’t stock that part. I’ll have to order it in.

I said nothing, just blinked.

‘While we wait for that we can work on the other problem though,’ he added.

More blinking,

‘Your plates are illegal.’

‘My license plates?’

‘Are illegal, yes, fortunately we can make some up here.’

‘Those plates were put on in 2008. They’ve been on for every MOT for the past five years and no one has ever said a word about them. Why now?’

‘Well, my lads are exacting. I demand it of them. They’re completely up to date with VOSA regs. Could be the previous garages you took it too didn’t have our same standards.’

More blinking.

‘How long have you owned the vehicle, Sir?’ he asked.

‘About five months or so,’ I said, resigned to fact that my wallet was about to be raped.

‘Ah, could be then that the previous owner had some other plates that he put on for the MOT. Yours says TT at the end doesn’t it?’

I nodded.

‘Yeah, see that’s not allowed. Bit poncy too. You don’t want that do you? No, let us change it here. It’ll be legal then and look half decent.’

Slow blinking now. Twinges in the corner of my right eye signal the arrival of my rage tick.

‘Can you please fix my car,’ I say simply.

‘Oh sure. Sure we can.’

‘By Saturday?’

That awful sound of air being sucked in between his pursed lips signal to me that he’s really enjoying himself. My violent fist clenches. Seriously, in comparison to my other fist, my right always clenches when I’m angry so I refer to it as the violent one.

‘Could be, could be. Depends if I can get the part in. Then there’s the time it takes to fit too.’ He looked out through the internal window at my car. ‘Takes a while to get at the area too. Taking the bumper of an Audi takes nearly an hour on its own.’

My mind is screaming I think you’re full of shit, but I say nothing, blink and simply nod.

So, I drove home in a bit of a state I have to say, twitching, my violent fist clenching the steering wheel to make that rubbery juddering sound.

I had the car back in early the next day. It turns out they could get the part in, thank God, but it wouldn’t be until late morning and so they provided me with a courtesy car. A bloody knackered Ford KA with about as much presence as a sun-baked turd. I drove it away from the garage convinced I could hear chief spanner sniggering even when I was a mile away.

I didn’t get much change from £200 in the end and was once again nearly rendered apoplectic, if such a condition can still be said to exist in this day and age, when they handed me the bill.

Were it not for my calming mantra, I feel sure an ambulance may have been called.

My mantra, which I run though my mind whenever I am angry goes something like this.

Can you do anything about this situation you have found yourself in? Yes? Then why are you worried?

No? Then why are you worried? If there is nothing that can be done then what is the point of the worry?

I do believe this infallible and excellent logic is attributed to the fourteenth Dalai-Lama, (Tenzin Gyatso?) who must surely be a touched with some degree of inner peace that can only come with knowing something of a grander design. Oh well, that is one for pondering another day.

Until next time,

M 🙂

Here we go…


Well, the time has come. Marching Time to be specific.

Having just agreed and sent back my contract there’s nothing else to do but sit back and wait for the book to hit the market.

I thought waiting to hear back from the editors was stressful, but you know what? It really wasn’t. Not in comparison to a new fear which has risen up unannounced like a silent fart. You see, I’ve never really had a review before. Sure, I’ve had editors give praise (Not all the time. One actually scoffed in my face once. Scoffed!) from time to time but I’ve never had an honest to god review from a member of the anonymous public. It’s really quite frightening. Seriously, my poor bowels are working overtime. I keep blaming the dog but even the wife’s beginning to cast suspicious glances in my direction.

Alas, it’s out of my hands now. All that can be done is to wait and hide any stones.

I wonder if all writer folk have this fear? I mean, I keeping thinking back to the stories I’ve sent in and I know there are scenes I perhaps could have changed, rewritten or even omitted. Yet this is writing. If I change something then I’m actually writing a completely different story. Maybe one day I can do a director’s cut thingy if I’m really unhappy about something. In truth I’m not feeling to bad about what I’ve sent in. I’m never 100% happy anyway and so maybe this is a feeling I’m just going to have to suck up and learn to live with. Poor dog though. Really, he doesn’t deserve to have my wind blamed on him.

Scratch that. The dog has left the building. He’s actually just got up and left. It’s just me and a suspicious wife now.

Woe is me.

M.

All work and no play…


So you’ll recall me saying that today is a work day? I have been on call since 6am this morning and do you know how many calls I received asking for my services?

None.

I have sat on my fat arse counting my teeth with my tongue for most of the day.

Okay no. That’s not strictly true. Today I have:

Done the dishes.

Swept the floors.

Cut the grass.

Watched the Bourne Legacy (Pretty good but preferred the previous three).

Watched two episodes of Game of Thrones season 2.

Made a lasagne. (Not microwaved. I actually made it.)

Ate a lasagne. (Interestingly WordPress spells Lasagne with an ‘a’ on the end instead of an ‘e’.)

Took the cat to the vets.

Bought a motorcycle. (If you’re interested it’s a Triumph Bonneville T100. In black.)

Tinkered with the broken boiler.

Contacted heating engineer to complain about broken boiler.

Went for a 3k run.

Its gone 6pm now so I’m officially off duty. To celebrate I thought I’d try the beverage Port. Never had it before but I’ve heard its awesome.

Right then. I best go and open that bottle and have a lay down. Its been a long hard day after all.

M 🙂

The End of a Hard One


It’s been hard, so bloody hard… and long. But at the end of the long hard week things are steadily getting back into a normal routine. On a lighter note I have a new chair. Would you like to see a picture of my new chair?

Behold! My writing chair. Always wanted one of these. Its a treat for your ass.

Damn odd week this one. On the one hand things have been going swimmingly well with the publication of my first short story (and payment!) and its feedback. Yet, on the other hand I have been astoundingly busy to the point that this is the first chance I’ve had for some ‘me time’. Some people get pissed up, go out and see friends or just chill out when they get the time. I write. I write because I enjoy it immensely and it’s my way of chilling out.

Although busy, this week has been great for ideas. Perhaps having a break is good for the mind? For example, last night I hosted a BBQ for some friends who have been helping out down at the farm. Whilst getting steadily beer’d up the conversation swung widely between topics and herein was a virtual quarry of awesome. I must have looked a little disinterested as I tapped away like a mad man on my phone but no, my mind and ears were both feverishly mining ideas. Honestly, at times I felt as though I’d walked into a plot mine crammed full of brilliant material. Okay admittedly I was as drunk as a skunk by the end of the night but on re-reading some of the ideas I jotted down I can honestly say I’m pleased. I’m literally burning to start planning one of them. No, no sharing just yet I’m afraid.

Project Time appears to be on hold at the moment. Not sure why. I have two stories in with that mob and to be honest I would have thought we’d be close to publication by now. Maybe we are but no one is offering any news yet so I guess I’ll just have to be patient.

In movie news I watched Cloud Atlas this week and loved it. I’m a sucker for atmospheric sound tracks and this film has that in spades. Obviously I downloaded the album shortly afterward and added a few choice songs to my writing playlist. Speaking of which, that playlist now has some thirty songs on it which just repeat in one big loop. You’d think I’d be sick of some of them by now but nope. Every single one still inspires me now. Music, the writers best friend and partner in crime with that other great acquaintance – wine. Wine crime? Can I get a lol? Oh come on. That was pretty good.

Right, I’m off to commit some wine crime right now by finishing a bottle I started last night.

Later.

M J

Marching Time


Image

The folks over at the Bolthole forum have been kind enough to release the cover art for the upcoming anthology, Marching Time. Doesn’t it look awesome??! Expect gritty time travel based war stories from a number of starving pen monkeys including yours truly.

M.

Bleeding Fingers


Today I have mostly been writing and editing old stories. It’s been a bloody long day but come the end I will have submitted three stories to various markets making my total now doing the rounds, six!

I know at least one of them has already been accepted. I suppose I should put a little sampler up on here at some point but I’ll check with the editor first. A paragraph can’t hurt surely?

My novel is also grumbling along. That’s a beast of a project. I’ve never attempted one before though so maybe it will get easier with time? Who knows? I have the first half roughly planned out and also a good idea of what happens in the end but as I said, it’s a beast. Just finishing the damn thing will be a hell of an achievement.

Today has been a good day. I cannot deny that simple fact. I worked a night shift last night in police custody and was out all bloody night. I did a little over 180 miles in total scooting between the various custody suites but hey, that’s a story for another day. I’m just pleased I’ve got so much done on no sleep.

Come to think of it, I really should check and see what exactly I have submitted and to who. In my sleep addled state I could have made some blinding errors of judgment. Sod it, too late now anyway.

Right, this was just a quick update so, off with you. Get back to your own desk and write something yourself.

M J

Ups and Downs


This has been a truly bizarre month. Emotionally speaking I’ve been all over the place. This is what happens when you spend a lot of time pondering your place in the grand scheme of things or, where you would like that place to be.

For the last ten years I have been working with the ambulance service and have been qualified as a paramedic for around six or seven. The job has changed immensely to the point that I no longer recognize my role anymore. If you ask Joe on the street what a paramedic does he’ll probably tell you a paramedic saves lives. A paramedic goes to nasty car crashes to un-mangle people or appears out of the blue to resuscitate a dying loved one. I used to believe all that too and although these things do happen, it’s not very often and on the odd occasion I do get called to things like this there is rarely anything that can be done. Here we come to the heart of the matter. I find I’m asking myself ‘What good am I actually doing?’ more and more often. Sure, plenty of people are pleased to see me when I roll up to their house after they called 999 but, why wouldn’t they be? I get there super fast, listen with sympathy to their plight and then proceed to offer any help I can. Broadly speaking, I can categorize virtually any callout I go to and pigeon hole it into one of three automated responses. These are:

  1. I pick someone up off the floor that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get up themselves. Chances are there is a big strapping relative nearby who could have done this himself but won’t. People are too afraid of moving someone for fear of aggravating any perceived injury. In reality it takes me just five seconds to assess if injury is present. I do this using a very sophisticated method of assessment that goes something like this. ‘Hi, so have you got any pain?’ If they’re not injured, I lift them. If they are and it needs more than a plaster, it’s off to hospital.
  2. I arrive to find the patient does not need an ambulance, never did and is either bemused as to why I am there or, more likely, is over the moon that someone has rushed to their aid for such a trivial thing. I will spend the next hour trying to refer this patient to the correct service.
  3. The patient/relative deliberately called 999 because the problem needs immediate attention. This type of call equates to about one in four. More often than not, we cannot treat this patient’s condition at home and so transport them to hospital. Rarely, the patient is very unwell/dying and there’s not a not a lot we can do anyway. Why not? Well, there are two reasons for that too.
  • The patient has been involved in a traumatic accident. Invariably, their survival depends on the degree of injury and has nothing to do with the skill of the paramedic. We might buy time, but that’s about it. Fate is inexorable.
  • They are unwell/dying because of the culmination of a lifetime of poor decision making. The morbidly obese, the sedentary sloth, the lifelong smoker, alcoholic, drug abuser etc. Included in this group are those who never had the opportunity to make poor decisions – those born with chronic conditions, or their genetic predisposition renders them a ticking time bomb.

This is a generalization of course but for the most part I believe it hold true. My point is that there is rarely a day when I feel I am making a difference because quite simply, fate or the patient’s life up until that point, won’t let me.

So, that’s why I’m leaving. I’m going to remain on bank and maintain my registration but it’s time to call it a day. Life is too short to spend a chunk of it miserable. Anyone who has ever had depression can tell you that. Sometimes you have to do what makes you happy. Money is not everything so long as you have enough to keep the wolf from the door.

Think of it this way. There will come a time when you look back at your life and examine what you’ve achieved. What do you want to look back on? Will it be the life of a man/woman who spent a significant chunk of their life miserable? Or will be one where you smile at those decisions that took you somewhere else and allowed you to live a more enjoyable life?

And remember, if you did take the leap and try something else, what is the absolute worst that can happen? Ask yourself that, and make your decision. I hope you’ll find that even if the worst were to happen, it won’t compare to a life half lived.