Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Blowing my own trumpet

According to those who know far more about the writing game than I do, the modern author’s workload should consist of four parts writing and one part promotion. One day of every week should be spent attempting to convince people to buy my books, be that by using social media, a blog such as this one, cunningly placed advertisements or whatever. In what is a saturated marketplace, I need to draw attention to my output in an effort to get the general populace to transfer their hard earned from their own bank accounts to mine.

It’s a somewhat daunting proposition. I’m finding it hard enough even admitting out loud that I’m a writer, as it sounds so entirely pretentious. In the world I inhabit we’re supposed to work for our living, not go around pretending to be some la-de-da artisan. Such behaviour is reserved for idealistic teenagers who aren’t yet old or experienced enough to have had their dreams kicked out of them. By my age I’m suppose to know better.

So here I am looking forward to the release of two novels this year, yet still a little reluctant to tell anyone about it as it sounds so much like boasting. I told a few close friends, but for the most part I’ve insisted on this new adventure being kept strictly as some kind of guilty secret. I guess that has to end if I’m to make any kind of serious go of this; getting published is only the first part - selling books is the difficult bit. It’s time to start blowing my own trumpet.

My first novel is entitled Leisure, although due to a technical screw up it may well end up being my second novel. Its submission coincided with the publishers getting a new email system and so the manuscript lay unseen at the bottom of some digital abyss for six months. It is about the staff of a decrepit and forgotten leisure centre, who have long since given up on providing any kind of customer service and instead run amok in the endless corridors, entertaining themselves and living out their perverse ideals, sheltered entirely from any form of consequence. Leisure is an erotic farce, a ridiculous, nonsensical adventure set outside of society’s rules. It is due for release this autumn.

My second – or first – novel is called Peeper; it marked my first attempt to write something a little more serious and not hide behind sarcasm and stupidity, and instead try to create believable characters that the reader may actually care about. It is the story of a small town private investigator getting involved in a case that drags him way out of his depth into a seedy and dangerous relationship with a woman named Veronica. I’m hugely proud of it, and I can’t wait for people to meet Veronica, as she really is something else. While I was writing the book I got almost as obsessed with her as the main protagonist in the story does, and one night I actually dreamt I met her. That was odd.

Leisure is scheduled to be released this autumn through MuseitHot;

Peeper is also scheduled to be released this autumn through Sinful Press, and you can read some very kind words about the book on the homepage of their website;

So there you have it; I am a writer, and these are my books. Please buy my wares, that I may earn my living. I promise not to spend it all on drugs.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


The whole purpose of my starting this blog was supposed to be a way of me pedaling my smutty books to the marketplace. I must not, I told myself, get sidetracked by ranting tangentially about politics or Welsh rugby, and should concentrate entirely on the side of this being a writer malarkey that I entirely suck at - the self promotion and marketing aspects which are so vital for success. So far I have failed entirely in these aspirations, which is why I am now sitting here dashing off a piece about priorities, in a bid to remind myself of where I ought to be going.

I’ve managed to keep rugby out of it so far, which is something of an achievement I suppose. I must bear in mind that I contribute my share of vitriol on that particular subject matter to a different blog entirely, and judging by some of the colourful hate mail we receive, that webpage is doing the job it was created for rather well. As for that other thing I was not supposed to be talking about – politics – I’ve sadly succumbed to temptation and vented my spleen, earning myself a black mark and a must try harder. Fortunately I think I’ve now found a way of curing myself of this annoying habit of bending people’s ears with my unwanted opinions - I’ve stopped watching the news.

Life is hard enough these days without having a billion extra worries beamed into your head on a daily basis. I turned on the TV the other morning and discovered that a dog had died after being poisoned, and that was the point at which I decided I’d had a gutful; I don’t need to know about dog murderers, or some bunch of maniacs kicking the shit out of each other on the other side of the world. None of it has any bearing on my life, whatsoever. The more you stop and think about it, the more you realise that all the television does is control you; it tells you about all the things you should be scared of, and then it parades a bunch of stuff in front of you that you can’t afford to buy. Don’t go outside, it is saying. There are muggers and terrorists lurking around every corner wanting to blow you up and kill your dog. Stay here instead, and listen to me while I tell you about new mobile phones and fancy clothes and sleek sports cars. Feast your eyes on how the rich and famous live, and wallow in your misery as you compare your own cruddy existence to how wonderful everything could be if only life were fair. Now go get a payday loan and buy yourself some PRODUCTS.

Fuck it all. The idea of dropping out of society and refusing to play by the rules any more has never been so appealing. I’m not a consumer, I’m a human being.

Last year my wife and I bought a narrowboat. We booked time off work and had a fortnight to move it from its old mooring in Yorkshire down to Cheshire so it would be close to our home. This hundred and fifty mile journey took a couple of hours in the car, but when you’re travelling by canal, zig-zagging back and forth across the countryside at two MPH, everything takes a whole lot longer, and in the end it took us the full two weeks to complete our voyage. During this time we didn’t have a working TV, as the boat’s batteries were too old and worn out to power anything more than the 12v lights, and so we lived in a cocoon, entirely free of knowledge of what was going on in the outside world. I have to say – it was bliss.

Your priorities change in such circumstances. I was no longer worried about whether or not the actions of some group of fundamentalist loonies might impact on my life; I was more concerned with finding a place to empty the chemical toilet. Our needs became simple; food, drink, warmth; find a place to buy coal for the fire, or a supermarket to stock up on groceries. Take things one day at a time.

And when we returned to civilisation and turned on the television, we found out nothing had changed. The world hadn’t ended, the country hadn’t been invaded, the economy hadn’t collapsed. None of those dire circumstances they constantly warn us are just around the corner had transpired. Life went on regardless.

So what was I supposed to be talking about? Ah yes, priorities.

The priority of this blog from now on will centre on the function it was created for. I am a writer and I have just signed the contract for a novel to be published, meaning I have two books coming out this year.

No more bullshit. No more ranting about crap I have no control over and has no meaning to my life. No more news; no more results of studies that mildly contradict the results of yesterday’s study which said we’re definitely all going to die of cancer if we don’t eat three tonnes of fruit every day.

No more distractions. From here on in it’s smut all the way.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Woe is me

I haven’t done much writing of late, haven’t had the inclination to sit here and attack the keyboard and vent my spleen, and the reason for this is that the depression that has plagued a third of my life has made an unwelcome return. I’ve felt it creeping around the edges of my mind, trying to worm its way back in, and for a goodly while I was able to hold it at bay – life was good, I didn’t want to go back down that road again. But then when my best friend in the world died from cancer a month ago it proved to be the final straw, and I stopped fighting and allowed the blackness back.

It’s hard to tell people you’re ill when – at face value – there’s nothing apparently wrong with you; you aren’t limping, bleeding or struggling to catch your breath. You feel like the world’s biggest fraud sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and seeing people come hobbling in with their genuine ailments. But, in a way, that’s all part of the illness; you’re a fraud, there’s nothing wrong with you, everyone knows you’re faking it and they’re all disgusted. These are the thoughts that are going through your mind, and you can’t make them stop. Your brain has turned against you. Welcome to the world of the big D.

A couple of weeks back I could barely bring myself to turn on the TV. I’d sit watching the news and would look at the journalist thinking that person has made a success of their life, and I’m a total failure. I’m pathetic and my life is pointless. Wouldn’t it be great if I could just go to sleep and never wake up again? They call these ‘intrusive thoughts’, these blasts of self hate that rampage through your brain. But at the time they don’t feel in any way intrusive; for something to be intrusive it has by it’s very definition to have come from outside. These thoughts haven’t come from anywhere or anyone else; they are your own voice, and they are entirely rational. There’s no point arguing, because the case that you’re worthless scum is entirely watertight and beyond argument. It makes perfect, unimpeachable sense. In the same way that cancer turns your body’s own cells against you, the big D turns your own thought patterns against you.

I have a phrase I use to describe my blackest, bleakest moments; an epithet I picked up from a Stephen King book many years ago (I think it may have been ‘It’); The Deadlights. When I’ve sunk so low I can barely think, move or focus my eyes I know that the Deadlights are on; I sit and stare blank at the wall, lost in a sea of darkness and unable to find my way back to the light. These times mark the very rock bottom, the depths of despair, and it was when the Deadlights came on for the first time in a decade a fortnight ago that I knew I had to get some help. I went to see the doctor and she issued me a prescription for Prozac, and now the gloom and despondency is starting to lift. And only now, now that my mind is starting to come back under my own control, do I see this as a good thing; one of the surprising things about the big D is that in no way do you ever see it as a threat; the big D is your friend; it puts a blanket around your shoulders and keeps you warm, protecting you from all those awful people on the outside who despise you. There’s no point making an effort to get better, because you’d only be wasting your time; stay here in the murk where it’s safe, for the big D is the only friend you’ll ever need.

Unfortunately the big D is a liar; it isn’t your friend at all, and is dragging you blindly on towards the cliff edge, where ultimately you will topple over and plunge to your death. If you never had suicidal thoughts then you probably cannot begin to comprehend how someone could be so crazy or selfish as to take their own life and inflict so much pain and misery on those they’re leaving behind. What you aren’t seeing is that it was the big D that made them do it; that the big D had them convinced that no one cared, no one would even be sad at their passing, and that all possible avenues forward were blocked. In the same way that cancer ravages your body and leaves you dead, the big D will keep on whispering in your ear that it’s entirely rational to swallow that bottle of pills, or that the only sensible option left is to throw yourself in front of that train.

The big D took hold of me when I was fourteen and, despite bucketfuls of antidepressants and counselling, never left me alone until I was nearly thirty. I had a ten year break, but now it’s back and telling me it wants a second bite of the cherry. But not this time; I will not allow the big D to destroy any more of my life, for I know its tricks and methods all too well. The Prozac is helping, and admitting to my friends and family that I have a problem is helping too. The big D didn’t want me to tell anyone, it wanted the gloom that was seeping back into my life to be our little secret, all over again.