Monday Needs You

Oh Monday morning, how I despise thee. Those are my first thoughts when the alarm sounds and we are greeted with the cold, dark reality of another week. Where does the weekend go? It was only minutes ago we were celebrating Friday and the break ahead. The new week now stares us in the face, full of challenges and pitfalls. Everything seems a struggle, an uphill battle. Nothing is easy.

Seize the day? I try to, but some days it’s hard to raise your sword and shield against an unrelenting enemy who never seems to tire. You parry and thrust, you block and lunge but it’s only a matter of time before they break through your defences and deliver the coup d’etat. For every step forward you take, you slip and slide another three back, never able to land a telling blow.

Life is tiring, baffling, infuriating and sad. Yet it’s the only show in town so what choice do we have but to groan, throw back the covers and give it the best shot we can. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to those we love. They are relying on us to cling on with all our strength and give our days and weeks everything we have. We need to show up, front up and shut up. It’s not all me, me, me. Life is lived through others, not in solitary confinement.

We need to focus on the light guiding us through the darkness, no matter how faintly it flickers and splutters. We need to trust it to guide our faltering footsteps as we stumble over the many hurdles that seek to bring us to our knees. It’s all we have to protect and preserve the path ahead. It’s Monday, it’s hard but don’t give up. You are needed, loved and heard. Monday needs you. As do we.

Sunday Run

10K on a very chilly morning today. It wouldn’t have taken much to make me change my mind but in the end I knew I had to do something as I didn’t get out yesterday. This time next week will be a 15 mile marathon training run with my brother in law so it’s important to keep the miles ticking over. The Belfast Marathon is looming up fast on the horizon plus I’m running a 19 mile local race in April as a ‘warm up.’ Oh dear….

Bomb Girl Countdown – 14 Days

Not long now, peeps, until the release of my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ Click the link below to find out more.

Available to pre order now on your local Amazon site.

Thank you for your support 😊

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

Bomb Girl Countdown – 15 Days

‘Bomb Girl,’ my new novella from the ‘Kirkwood Scott’ universe is coming soon.

Available now for pre-order from your local Amazon site.

Click link below for details.

Thank you 😊

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

It’s Ok Not To Be Ok

Good Morning WordPress.

If you’re struggling today, then please be brave and speak to someone about it.

Don’t be ashamed. Protect your mental health. It’s your wealth.

Another Busy Day Begins

A grim morning outside but it’s up and at life as ever. I’ve a busy schedule. A big meeting with the big bosses this morning before an afternoon grafting in front of the computer screen. I get quite nervous before such meetings and only settle once I’m in front of my audience delivering the briefing. The nerves dissipate once I get into the meeting room. At least it’s in the morning so I will get it out of the way and can then move on with the day.

It looks like the forecasted wind and rains will scupper any running plans I have today but at least I’ve been able to get out the last two afternoons and get a few miles under the belt. 12.2 to be precise. I will hopefully get back out tomorrow again before a longer run on Sunday. Weather permitting, Rebecca can accompany me on the new bike she got for Christmas. I’ll be glad of the company.

Talking of Rebecca, she has a football match with her Under 15 girls team tonight. I will be cheering her on from the touchline as ever, while simultaneously trying to keep warm and not freeze to death. Rebecca resumed training last night but looked more like a little Eskimo as opposed to a footballer when we picked her up after the session. It was freezing cold.

Adam has physio before that as he continues to recover from the ACL injury he sustained playing rugby in September. It’s now been eight weeks since his operation and he continues to make excellent progress. Both his surgeon and physiotherapist are delighted with how well he is healing. It’s just a matter of being patient now and sticking to the rehabilitation programme. We hope he will be back playing rugby in the summer when his school tours South Africa.

Meanwhile, Fionnuala and Hannah are currently busy working on a secret project which I’m not at liberty to talk about yet. All will be revealed later in the year. I’m very proud of both of them and how they’ve taken the this new endeavour. It’s taken a lot of planning and preparation but they are both working hard. I won’t steal their thunder so will let them tell you about it in due course.

Sometimes when the alarm clock goes off and it’s cold and dark outside, you groan at the thought of waking up and facing the day ahead. You wonder how you are going to wade through all the appointments and commitments and all you want to do is slip back under the covers and forget about the day ahead. The weekend seems so far off and when it finally arrives it’s gone again before you know it.

Yet this is life, this is our one shot at making the most of the time we have on this planet. Before we know it, the kids will be grown up and these hectic times will be behind us. We will look back then with affection at the special moments we created as a family. We may even miss the craziness a little bit when we don’t have to get up quite so early and our diaries are not quite so full on.

Enjoy your day, whatever you are doing.

Bomb Girl Is Coming

My new novella, ‘Bomb Girl,’ is now available to pre order via your local Amazon site, prior to its release on 01 February. It’s the link between ‘Skelly’s Square’ and ‘A New Jerusalem,’ Books 1 and 2 of the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles.’ So if you enjoyed the former and are looking forward to the latter then this is the perfect book to tide you over. Thank you very much for your continued support 🙂

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

Unputdownable

Reviews matter to authors be they good, bad or indifferent. It’s the only way we can learn and improve our craft. Even if we cringe and read them through half closed eyes from behind the sofa. They also help promote the book, boosting its online visibility to other potential readers. Reviews, in the absence of huge marketing departments supporting us, are what we rely upon.

So please consider supporting fellow writers by leaving a review on Amazon or GoodReads when you finish the last page of their book. It only takes five minutes but could make their day or even change their lives. I received a review yesterday describing ‘Skelly’s Square’, as ‘unputdownable.’ Words like that keep me going when I feel as if I’m banging my head off a brick wall and nobody is listening. Thank you.

Hello New Followers

Hello new followers.

My name is Stephen and as well as being a blogger I also released my first novel last year. It’s called the ‘Kirkwood Scott Scott Chronicles- Skelly’s Square’, an Irish urban fantasy which has been receiving great reviews. It’s currently available to purchase via your local Amazon site in e book and paperback format. Or completely FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Click the link below if you’d like to learn more. I’m very proud of it. Thank you 😊

https://www.amazon.co.uk/KIRKWOOD-SCOTT-CHRONICLES-Skellys-Square-ebook/dp/B07V6HVLQV

Let me know what you think?

Lose Your Baggage

I feel like a pack horse trudging into work today. I’m carrying my work bag, running gear, lunch and Diet Coke supplies. I need them all at various times and for various reasons but will be grateful to be less burdened down on the return journey home later today. Carrying stuff around all day is hard work and, I for one, can certainly do without it. It’s tiring and a nuisance. Are you the same?

What’s more that’s just what is on my back. What about the unnecessary thoughts and emotions we carry in our heads and on our hearts? Guilt, resentment and anger to name but a few. Try as we might it’s nigh on impossible to shake off the demons from our past who delight in polluting our present and threatening our futures. They are a constant reminder of our failings and insecurities.

I’ve got better at it in recent years but it was this internal baggage which used to bring me to my knees in days gone by. I refused to move on and learn from past mistakes, ignoring the warning signs until it was much too late and I stumbled head first into the next disaster. I learnt the hard way, but I did learn. Today I’m a different beast, or at least I hope I am. I’ve dumped the people and negative thinking who were holding me back.

They might know this, they might not. I don’t really care. I’m focused on the people who matter and being the best person I possibly can. Without titles or opinions or anything else that hides the real me from the watching world. As a result my load is considerably lighter as I raise my head and truly see where I am, who I’m with and where we are going. Together and baggage free.

Bomb Girl – Coming Soon

Just a reminder, as if you needed one, that my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl,’ is now available to pre-order via your local Amazon site. If you liked Book 1 in the Kirkwood Scott series, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ then this could be right up your alley. ‘Bomb Girl’ will lead into Book 2 in the series, ‘A New Jerusalem,’ scheduled for release later this year. Thank you for your continued support, people. You’re keeping my dream alive 😊

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

Getting Off The Wrong Train

I got on the wrong train the other day. Not on purpose, I might add. I was day dreaming, as ever, and got on a train pulled in at the same platform at the same time as the one I normally get home. Assuming it was mine I got on board without checking it was the right one. Imagine my horror two minutes into the journey when a tannoy announcement informed me I was on my way to the opposite end of the country.

After initially panicking I was thankfully able to change trains at the next stop meaning no harm was done. I was soon on my way home, a little sheepish, but otherwise back on schedule. It was a lesson learnt, however. I will never assume a train is mine and blindly hop on it without first checking the destination. Once bitten, twice shy. Because assuming makes an ass out of U and ME.

I wish the same could be said about the number of metaphorical ‘wrong trains’ I’ve stumbled onto in the past. Decision making and common sense are not my strong suits and I’ve made countless poor decisions down the years which have sent me hurtling down the tracks in the opposite direction from where I should have been headed. A number of these have resulted in spectacular train wrecks.

A wrong decision takes the blink of an eye to commit to but can have irreplaceable long term damage. I know that better than most. But I’ve moved on and managed to ensure I’m now firmly headed in the right direction with the people who matter to me. I don’t have the time to shoot off my designated route or be in the company of those who do not have my best interests at heart.

Have you ever hopped on the wrong train, literally or metaphorically? Are you currently on the wrong side of the tracks or travelling in the wrong direction? My word for you today is it’s not too late. There’s still time to turn your life around and get back on track. I’m living testimony to that. Anyone can make a mistake, a foolish choice that they live to regret. We are human, we strive and fail. It’s part of living.

It takes courage, humility and wisdom to realise you’ve messed up and want to put things right. The good news is that all three attributes are FREE, inside you and waiting to be deployed. All you have to do is dig deep and summon them. You’re better than the sum of your mistakes. You can and will be the person you were created to be. Get off that runaway train. Today. Now. I’ll be waiting for you 🙂

Bomb Girl – 21 Days To Go

Thank you to those of you who have already taken the plunge and pre-ordered my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl,’ which is released worldwide on 01 February. Just visit your local Amazon site to reserve your copy and learn more of Ariana Hennessy, the baby girl born during the ‘Monksbridge Massacre, the worst terrorist attack in Northern Ireland’s troubled history. Click the link below to learn more. Thank you 😊

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

What’s The Weirdest Thing You’ve Ever Googled?

Er…..guilty?!

Good Morning fellow bloggers from a breezy Northern Ireland.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever googled for the purposes of research?

The Battle of Waterloo features heavily for me.

Drop your comments below. Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here.

Belfast – The Old & The New

I’m no hotshot photographer but I had to stop on my lunchtime run today to capture this shot which epitomises the old and new Belfast. In the background, one of the distinctive Harland & Wolff cranes in the shipyard where the Titanic was built. There are two of them, Samson and Goliath, which I’m note sure which one is in the picture. The two of them dominate the city skyline.

To the fore are castle ramparts which were constructed for scenes in the Game of Thrones TV series. I think some of the Winterfell scenes were filmed there but don’t quote me on that. Both the Titanic and Game of Thrones are massive tourist attractions which bring busloads of camera toting holiday makers to the city. Belfast is buzzing at the moment and I’m proud to set my books within, and run my marathons around, it.

It’s Celebration Time!

My book passed the 50 review mark on Amazon last night, all of which have been 4 or 5 stars. That means over 50 people have taken the time to read it and have enjoyed it enough to post positive comments. I’m so grateful for these kind souls. Such feedback is incredibly encouraging and reinforces my resolve to keep pouring my creative efforts into the Kirkwood Scott universe. As ever, thank you to all of you out there who support my writing.

If you still haven’t checked it out, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is available to purchase in e book and paperback format via your local Amazon site. It’s also FREE to read if you’re a Kindle Unlimited customer. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1079719628/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

My novella, ‘Bomb Girl,’ is also now available to pre-order on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

Don’t Be A Mug

I used to be a people pleaser, so insecure and lacking in self belief that I’d mould my own personality and morals to fit those of whoever were my particular friends at that time. It got me into all sorts of bother and I’m working hard to eradicate that side of my character and be my own person. I’m still a work in progress but I’m getting there. I focus now on those who matter. No more playing the mug.

I’m Excited To Announce….

I’m very excited to announce that my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl’, will be released on 01 February 2020 and is now available to pre-order worldwide via your local Amazon Marketplace site see link below. It forms part of the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles’ universe and can be read as a standalone story or link between my first novel, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ and the sequel, ‘A New Jerusalem,’ which is scheduled for release later this year.

‘Bomb Girl’ tells the story of Ariana Hennessy, a young woman struggling to move on from her traumatic birth during the worst terrorist attack in Northern Irish history. Dubbed ‘Bomb Girl’ by the media she attempts to start a new life and bury the horrors of her past. But a new evil lurks on the horizon, ready to drag Ariana and her best friend, Tess, back to the trauma of her birth during the ‘Monksbridge Massacre.’

We have priced ‘Bomb Girl’ as low as we can to allow everyone an opportunity to read it and hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Thank you to everyone who continues to support my writing and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the new story. As always, I’m grateful for all feedback and reviews in order to improve my craft and boost the visibility of the book online. Are you ready for’Bomb Girl’?

url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2Fdp%2FB083N7YT3G%2Fref%3Dcm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_dtSfEbRSQ5MNX&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd5efe25afafc42e42ff908d794d53bdc%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637141515857184725&sdata=NNnQvwPvhZS3W200bK5KcQttYejbZmc9zajY0JAWroU%3D&reserved=0

Will Christmas Ever End?

Took this photo today while walking through Castle Court Shopping Centre in Belfast city centre. Our political parties get fined if they don’t take down election posters within two weeks of the event. Should the same apply for Christmas decorations that stay up beyond the traditional date of 6th January? And if so, what? Financial penalties? Public floggings? Being force fed Brussels sprouts and reruns of ‘Elf’ for the rest of the year? Answers on a Christmas card please 😀

My First Book Club Appearance

I was both excited and nervous to make my first appearance at a local book club last night to discuss ‘Skelly’s Square.’ Magheralin Book Club had chosen it as their book of the month and kindly invited me to their January meeting. Fionnuala and I were extended a very warm welcome upon arrival before I gave a short talk about the book and how it came into existence. My audience seemed generally interested in my story.

There was then a Q&A session where I was quizzed about themes and characters within the book, plans for a sequel and the writing process itself. I was delighted to be speaking to such an attentive and well informed audience. They all seemed to love the book, even those who said it wouldn’t have been their normal genre. I left the meeting feeling both vindicated and motivated to keep writing.

Thank you Magheralin Book Club.

How’s Your Zero Talent List?

Some people think I’m a great runner because I’ve ran nine marathons. Others say I’m a great writer because I’ve written and published a novel. But there are better runners and writers out there who have done neither. I’ve seen numerous people who are infinitely more talented than me drop by the wayside. Why? Because they lack the Zero Talent skills. Don’t believe me, well check out the list below. How many of these are you lacking today?

Hit The Unfollow Button

I learnt this lesson the hard way but sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some friendships have to end. There are toxic people out there who will bring you down if you allow them. Reminiscent of Icarus who flew too near the sun and paid the ultimate price, it can be fatal. My advice? Fly, run, walk or crawl away before it’s too late. Hit the unfollow button and cut them free. It will be the best decision you ever make.

OCD Humour

Ah yes. OCD Humour from Lily Bailey, author of ‘Because We Are Bad,’ the best memoir on the illness I’ve ever read. If you want to really, really know what it’s like to live with the disorder, then read her book. It’s funny and heart breaking in equal measure. One of the reasons I decided to be more open about my OCD. I got some of my ideas about Kirkwood’s number fixations from her book. And yes, religious OCD is a ‘thing.’

10K To Start The Day

10K to start the day. I didn’t really want to go out today as I’ve been nursing a sore right knee for a while now and woke up feeling it. As a result I took it very easily and focused on getting the distance as opposed to pace. It’s done now, nothing spectacular, but it sets me up for the week ahead. The family will be eating a lot more healthily now that Christmas is over.

The Belfast Marathon is now less than five months away so I’ll keep the updates coming. I’ll be building up my mileage incorporating longer weekend runs, probably on a Sunday morning. Hopefully the knee will hold out as the run is for charity so I’m determined to complete the course. It will also be my 10th marathon which is another target I’ve had my eye on for some time now.

A Writing Update – Patience

Just a quick update that now I’ve finished the first draft of ‘A New Jerusalem,’ I’m going to set it aside for a few weeks and focus on finishing ‘Bomb Girl,’ the short story I had been serialising on WordPress. ‘Bomb Girl,’ as many stories do, has developed a life of its own and developed into a much longer piece. I still have to write the final three chapters which I hope to do this month.

‘Bomb Girl,’ exists within the Kirkwood Scott universe and some of its characters will feature in ‘A New Jerusalem.’ In some ways it is the link between the latter novel and ‘Skelly’s Square.’ The plan is to publish ‘Bomb Girl,’ and then dive into the editing process for ‘A New Jerusalem.’ It’s a lot of work but Fionnuala and I are confident we can progress both books to publication in 2020. Patience is the key.

I tend to rush around at a million miles an hour when it comes to writing but I’m going to take my time with ‘A New Jerusalem.’ I’m going to pitch it at some bigger agents and publishers, and showcase it a a number of Irish book conferences and fairs throughout the year. Thank you, as ever, to those who read, enjoyed and supported ‘Skelly’s Square.’ You are the people who motivate me to keep going.

Here’s To The Survivors

Sometimes maintaining the status quo is a massive achievement in itself. Getting by is all you can manage, keeping your head above water and surviving your current circumstances. It might not seem like much but holding tight and not letting go is a feat to be admired and respected. You need to clear the ground around you before you can even think of moving forward. Here’s to those who are surviving. I applaud you.

Happy World Introvert Day

It’s World Introvert Day. I never knew such a day existed until it popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. Who decides these days? Is there a committee somewhere locked away in a conference room debating such important matters? I can only assume there’s also a World Extrovert Day, no doubt shouted from the rooftops. We introverts prefer to inform the world quietly, via a generic social media post.

I’m an introvert as in shy, retiring and socially awkward. My idea of hell is being placed in a room full of strangers and being asked to mingle. I always feel an outsider and cringe every time I open my mouth to utter some toe curling banality. I’m not good with people I don’t know, in fact I’m awful. When it comes to social butterflies I’m very firmly in the caterpillar camp.

When it comes to communicating, I certainly gravitate towards the written medium. I can hide behind my screen and think long and hard before I hit the publish button. Believe it or not, I put some thought into my words. They flow from my fingertips whereby my tangled tongue always ensures they come out back to front and upside down. Rejection is never quite as painful when it comes in the form of an e mail or message.

I’m too old in the tooth to change now. I’ll always be awkward or ‘odd’ as Fionnuala teasingly refers to me. She understands, if doesn’t always agree with, my odd ways. In work I’m a different animal. I put on a mask and slip into character as a confident, assured manager. I’m a father, husband, marathon runner, published author. I’ve got it all sorted. Oh, if only they knew.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

It Is Finished

At 6:24 a.m. this morning I finished Draft 1 of my second novel, ‘A New Jerusalem,’ the sequel to ‘Skelly’s Square,’ which was published in July of this year. It’s the end of four months hard writing and I’m very proud of the end product. Yes, it still requires a lot of fine tuning and polishing via the editing process but the rough diamond has been cut from the stone. I’m excited as to where this new book takes me.

Thank you to all those who continue to support my writing.

It’s Never As Bad As You Think

This was me 24 hours ago. Yet I crawled out of bed this morning, shaved off my 5 day beard and squeezed into my suit. The train was less busy than usual and the office was manned by a skeleton staff. And do you know what? I survived, it wasn’t as bad as I thought and, before I knew it, I was on my way home again. Mission accomplished. Well, until tomorrow anyway.

It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, is it?

Middle Aged Men Run Half Marathon Shocker

Belfast Marathon 2020 training started in earnest today as my brother in law, Gearard and I, slogged out a 13.1 mile training run. Five loops of the village, no less. We maintained a steady space throughout with a few pit stops along the way to refuel on liquids and gels. Fionnuala made sure we were well fed afterwards so the calorie intake made up for all those we burned off on the road. Less than five months now to the big race. Yikes.

Got A Few Extra Pennies?

Got a few extra pennies at Christmas?

Like my writing?

Then why not try out my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ a fast paced urban fantasy set in modern day Belfast. Follow the adventures of self confessed loser Kirkwood as he battles childhood trauma and mental illness while trying to save the world with his equally troubled friends, Meredith and Harley. The book tackles very real issues of addiction, homelessness and disability against a background of ancient beings with supernatural powers battling for control of the planet.

Available to buy in e book or paperback format via your local Amazon site.

Or FREE to read if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

Night Out At The Rugby

Adam and I were treated by Fionnuala to two tickets to watch the Ulster v Connacht PRO 14 match at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast last night. It was a surprisingly mild evening so the extra layers were hardly needed and we found a great spot in the sell out crowd to watch the action. There were a number of Ireland internationals playing including Adam’s favourite, scrum half John Cooney.

Adam normally has to work in one of the hospitality lounges on match nights so it was a special treat for him. Our team didn’t let us down either as Ulster ran out convincing 35-3 winners. It was great to spend time with my son watching the sport we both love. Hopefully 2020 will see him back playing and working towards his dream of playing one day at the Kingspan himself.

Would Jesus Vote For Trump?

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Californian megachurch, Bethel Ministries, of late. Firstly the young daughter of one of their worship leaders died suddenly, an unspeakable tragedy for any parent to undergo. The mother of the young girl posted on Instagram asking for prayer that her little girl be resurrected, a call that was supported by the Bethel leadership. This elicited much debate within the online Christian community.

Many supported the post, stating that as Christians, they believed in the power of resurrection. Others were more cynical, some going as far as saying the church was exploiting the grief of the young girl’s family to gain publicity. There was also the issue of an account being set up to raise $100,000 for the family by Bethel, although the specific needs in question were not clarified.

Next was an article in Christianity today by one of its senior journalists condemning the Trump presidency and those Christians who supported it. He called such people ‘far right’ evangelicals who were supporting a corrupt and uncaring leadership. In an open letter to the influential publication, 200 leading American evangelicals affirmed their support of the Trump leadership, it’s policies and what it had achieved to date.

Signatories included Brian and Jenn Johnson, two stalwarts of the global Bethel Worship ministry and Kris Valloton, Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church. The latter has also attracted criticism for posting pictures online of his expensive car after a key was run up the side of it. He has been accused of being a ‘false prophet,’ more interested in riches of the material, as opposed to eternal, kind.

I’m just throwing this out there. I’ve listened to Bethel Music in the past. It’s slick, professional and of the highest quality; although not the musical genre I would usually lean towards I know it has led millions to a closer relationship with Jesus. I’ve also listened to Bethel preachers and there was nothing they said which convinced me they were evil, money grabbing charlatans only interested in conning me out of my my hard earned cash.

I haven’t picked up my Bible in a while but have felt a stronger urge to do so of late. Jesus raised people from the dead but there were also many he didn’t bring back to life. Does the child of a worship leader have more ‘right’ to be resurrected than anyone else? Clearly not as the prayers of Bethel and many others sadly went unanswered. Why did God choose to take this two year old girl away? Why does God choose to take any two year old child away?

Then there’s dear old Donald J. Trump. Why did so many American Christians vote for him. Were they deceived or, if he stands for office again, are they going to endorse his candidacy once more? Who are these silent majority who swept him to power. Are his policies on immigrants, health, education and world affairs truly aligned with Biblical teaching. Would Jesus vote for Trump? Or Hilary? Would he trash the polling booths or be too busy helping the homeless on the streets to care.

I don’t have the answers. Northern Ireland hasn’t had an assembly in over three years. Our main political parties take hypocrisy to a whole new level and couldn’t agree on the colour of the sun. Boris Johnson won the recent general ejections by a huge majority, leaving many scratching their heads in disbelief. Boris & Donald like each other. A lot. There’s that silent majority again. Don’t be silent. Post your comments below.

Happy Christmas Everyone

Happy Christmas to everyone from the Black clan.

We hope you all have a wonderful day.

🎅🏻🎅🏻🎅🏻🎅🏻

🎄🎄🎄🎄

Man Shopping On Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve, so like any normal, self-respecting man, I decided to go out Christmas shopping. Because why be logical and organised when you can leave it to the very last minute and run around like a headless chicken on the verge of a massive coronary? This year I took my strapping son, Adam, to help me wade through the crowds and fight off autograph seekers. Okay, I admit I made that last bit up.

The cars were queuing to get into the shopping centre at 09:00 a.m. and the huge car park already looked ominously full. Thankfully we shoehorned into a precious parking space and, within minutes, were in our first queue. Friendly staff in ill fitting festive jumpers were delighted to cater for our desperate, last minute purchases. Soon we were out of shop number one and en route to the main event.

My son, having a brain, had reserved said item, a purchase for Fionnuala. This cut out several thousand hours of hanging around and fast tracked us up the queue where a harassed looking member of staff was attempting to appease a very angry looking man. After being informed several times that it was ‘customer policy, Mr Angry stormed out of the store informing anyone within hearing range that it ‘was an absolute joke.’

We never found out what ‘it’ was but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t a ‘joke’ as nobody appeared to be laughing. Adam and I, though, felt quite smug as we sauntered to the front of the line with our reservation order. There was a temporary panic when the very nice African lady behind the counter told us our purchase was £60 more expensive than we’d been told online. A combination of her strong accent and our poor hearing.

When the communication barriers were overcome we all apologised to each other, because that’s what us Northern Irish do, before paying the proper price and heading to the collection point. There were around two dozen in front of us but our number was called within seconds much to the disgust of several fellow shoppers whose looks were very much of a murderous nature. Merry Christmas to you too, sir.

Not wishing to outstay our welcome we beat a hasty retreat to the car passing Mr Angry outside who was telling a shocked woman that ‘they won’t do it, they won’t do it.’ Again I’m uncertain what ‘it’ referred to it but the poor man looked exceedingly short on Christmas cheer. I’m hopeful, however, that as I write this his day will have improved considerably and ‘it’ will all be sorted out.

Leaving the shopping centre, the rest of the world was still trying to enter it. Fellow drivers sat hunched over their steering wheels, all united in their misery. There wasn’t a ‘ho ho ho’ in sight and I doubt even the baby Jesus would have raised a warm smile or kind word amongst them. Is this how Mary and Joseph felt on Christmas Eve? Tired, a little bit grouchy and wishing they had been more organised? Probably.

It worked out alright for them in the end though. Christmas Day was a triumph with shepherds, wise men and the obligatory angelic host. They even got presents although Mary probably rolled her eyes at the impractical offerings from the rich blokes on the camels. Wise men? Yeah, right. Gold, I can use. But frankincense and myrhh? Men and their Christmas Eve shopping. I guess it was a problem even in 1st Century Palestine.

Happy Christmas Eve everyone 🎄🎄🎄

Have You A Writing Question For Me?

If you haven’t done so already this weekend is probably your last chance to pick up my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ as a Christmas gift. Written for all ages it’s a contemporary Irish fantasy where a young man, haunted by the ghosts of a traumatic past, uncovers a vicious battle raging on the back streets of modern day Belfast between ancient powers of good and evil.

Tackling very real social issues such as mental illness, physical disability, addiction and homelessness against a backdrop of supernatural beings and explosive action, the book has received multiple five star reviews on Amazon and other platforms. Book 2 in the series, ‘A New Jerusalem,’ is nearing completion so all support would be much appreciated. The book is available in e book and paperback format via your local Amazon website.

Or FREE to download if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Thank you.

Have you read Book 1? Share your thoughts on it below with the WordPress community.

Have you any questions for me about the book? Leave them below and I’ll be happy to answer?

Happy Anniversary To Us

Seventeen years ago today, Fionnuala and I walked down the aisle. She has stuck with me through the rough and the smooth and been everything you could wish for in a wife. I am very fortunate to have met her and owe everything I have achieved to her. Here’s to the next seventeen years and many more after that. We are heading up to Belfast later to celebrate the big event. I love you Fionnuala xx

Are You Too Comfortable?

It’s been a chilly week in Northern Ireland so our electric blanket had been utilised to full effect. Slipping between the covers now at night is reminiscent of sliding into a hot bath, without the whole getting wet business. The only problem comes the next morning when you are forced to abandon your toasty environment to face the raging wind and rain outside on the daily commute to Belfast.

This is a necessary evil as it pays the bills….and Santa. I don’t want to get up and would much rather stay under the covers, warm and safe. It is my comfort zone and such places are hard to vacate, especially when you see what is waiting for you on the other side. It’s a no brainer but duty and responsibility unfortunately kick in to force you to throw back the sheets, leave your safe place and face whatever the day has to throw at you.

I’m getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone but this has only developed after a lifetime of trial and error. Many view the comfort zone as a cushy number but it can often be the most dangerous place in the world. Comfort can mean making the wrong choices or no choice at all. Comfort can mean rolling over and giving in to the various vices and urges vying for attention in our addled minds.

Comfort can equate to a death of the self, it’s listening to that voice in your head forever telling you that you’re not good enough and you’ll never amount to anything. It’s a barren, risk averse desert of nothing masquerading as the greatest show on earth. It’s smoke and mirrors, a lie wrapped within a riddle, feeding on inertia and indecision. It craves the status quo where you give in and back down.

It all boils down to personal choice. You can choose the safe option which isn’t safe at all when you stop and think about it. You can surrender to your addiction, hand anxiety and depression the key to your mind and wave the white flag in abject surrender. Comfort can be an object or a person, sucking you dry, not allowing you to realise your full potential. Ambition is stymied and hope extinguished.

Or you can fight back by wiggling a cosy toe out from under the blankets and embracing the cold. It’s not very nice to begin with but persevere for that is where your future lies. Beyond the initial chill lies the world, a world that offers genuine warmth and satisfaction way above the artificial version offered by your electric strait jacket. Real heat comes from within, you don’t attain it by flicking a switch.

Are you too comfortable?

Caption Contest – The Circus & The Church

The circus has come to town again this Christmas, pitching up in Writers Square, Belfast, next to St. Anne’s Cathedral. I’m no expert photographer but I thought the juxtaposition of the two structures was too good an opportunity to miss. The church? The circus? Clowns and clerics? Drop your caption suggestions below and let’s see what we can come up with. All are welcome.

Do You Need A Break?

Good Morning

Do you need a break? An oasis of calm in the maelstrom of life?

A desert island when you are drowning in the worries of everyday existence?

A time out in the game of life?

Well, we are here for you then.

Fractured Faith Blog will be posting every day in 2020.

We are here and hope to see you there.

My Christmas Writing Plans

Thank you to the two kind people who bought copies of the book yesterday online. It’s people like you who are motivating me every day to write Book 2. I passed the 110,000 word mark this morning which means the first draft is now over 80% complete. I’m excited with the progress these last few weeks and am now ahead of schedule with regards a completion date.

Once I’m finished it, I will take a break from ‘A New Jerusalem’ over the Christmas break return refreshed to focus on completing my linked novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ Then I will start the editing progress for ANJ. Thank you to those of you who have told me they’ve asked Santa for a copy of ‘Skelly’s Square’ in their Christmas stockings. I hope you have all been good boys and girls this year and get what you asked for.

Thank you

Another very encouraging review from fellow blogger, Lesley. Thank you very much for so eloquently capturing the essence of Skelly’s Square. I tried hard to address very serious and real issues against a supernatural backdrop liberally smattered with action and humour. The book continues to attract positive feedback while promoting mental health, disability, addiction and homelessness. Thank you 😊

A Chilly Morning At The Rugby

Bitterly cold morning but it doesn’t stop Adam and I from following Lurgan College’s 1st XV, home and away. They played two of the powerhouse Ulster schools today, Ballymena Academy and Campbell College. Pitted against their 2nd XV squads the boys played out of their skins winning one game 10-0 while drawing the next 7-7. As a small rural school they continue to punch above their weight against the bigger grammar schools.

In the New Year they will compete in the Ulster Bowl tournament, a trophy they must have a great chance of winning. After that there will be a break before they build towards a four match tour of South Africa in June/July. Adam is continuing to recover from last month’s ACL surgery and his target is to be fit for the tour. He has shown a fantastic attitude in overcoming the injury and we know he will come back stronger than ever.

My Early Christmas Present

Fionnuala cheered me up this morning by giving me an early Christmas present. It’s a beautiful print showing lots of the people who sent ‘skelfies’ of themselves with the first book. You might be able to see yourself in it. This will take pride of place in the Black household after Christmas when the decorations come down. Thank you to my wonderful wife for such a thoughtful and caring gift. I wish I had an ounce of her imagination when it comes to gifts.

105,000 Words

I almost fell asleep on the train this evening but not before I passed the 105,000 word mark on the new book. That’s me about 80% finished and I’m still on track for completing it in the first half of January, if not earlier. I’m starting to feel the strain of 1000 words a day as well as all the other stuff Fionnuala and I have to cram into a day. But I’m proud of the new book which has taken the ‘Kirkwood Scott’ universe to a whole new level.

I’ll be looking for beta readers in the New Year so if you’re interested, let me know. You’ll get to read a draft of the manuscript and provide constructive feedback on plot and characters, before it is published. You’ll also get name checked in the book acknowledgements. So if you’re interested then drop me a line as to why you think ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: A New Jerusalem,’ is a good match for you.

Book 1, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ is available to buy on Amazon in e book or paperback format.

Or if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber it’s currently FREE to read

Lagan Towpath

The towpath along the Lagan River, which runs through the centre of Belfast, was a hive of activity yesterday lunchtime as I ran along it. Fellow runners and walkers were making the most of the rare sunshine. The river itself was quiet, no rowers or other fun seekers to be seen on the water. A crane on a pontoon in the centre was busy dredging buckets of silt from the river bottom.

I ran as far as the Cutters Wharf Bar & Restaurant before stopping for a swift rest before embarking on the return journey. It’s always a relief to escape the confines of the office for an hour. I’ll take a different route today out to Victoria Square where maybe I’ll see some swans. But I’ll not venture too close in case they fancy a nibble on my ankle. Those beaks look nasty.

The plan in recent months is to average around 30 miles a week prior to starting marathon training in the New Year. I’m pleased to have largely stuck to my targets so far and am establishing a solid base to build upon from January onwards. The target is the Belfast Marathon in May which I will be running for a local charity, The Mae Murray Foundation. Fingers crossed I get there in one piece.

Lunch At The Stepping Stones

The birthday girl, Hannah, had a great day yesterday. After a busy morning shopping in Belfast with Fionnuala and Granny Marie I met up with them for lunch at the Stepping Stones restaurant which overlooks the city on Divis Mountain. It was wet and windy getting up there but, once inside, we were treated to beautiful surroundings, excellent service and wonderful food.

I was my usual unoriginal self as I plumped for the house burger while Fionnuala and Hannah opted for the Christmas dinner. Later in the evening I took Rebecca to her football match, they won 7-0, before driving home to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and have some birthday cake, cut not very skilfully by Adam. I am so fortunate to have my family and will never take days like these for granted.

Happy Sweet 16th Hannah

Today marks a very special event in our house. Our Hannah turns sweet sixteen. Where have all the years gone? Fionnuala and I are very proud of the beautiful, kind, caring young woman she has become. Hannah has a heart the size of Ireland. We hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy your celebrations. You are an inspiration and I will always be your Daddy, the first man who really loved you.

Santa Arrives In Belfast

The real Santa Claus was understandably too busy to attend Hannah’s 16th birthday party yesterday so he sent one of his helpers instead. Quite a strange helper if I do say so myself but the kids didn’t seem to mind and that’s the main thing. He crash landed on the roof and then apologised profusely for knocking slates off Granny Marie’s roof. As entrances went it was not the most professional sleigh landing.

When he did make it downstairs it became very apparent this was a well travelled helper. His North Pole accent veered from Indian to Australian to Northern Irish on a whim and he also seemed to have problems holding his trousers up. This was obviously because he had been on a diet preparing himself for the busy Christmas season ahead. Thankfully his belt saved the blushes of all concerned.

Santa met the birthday girl although he initially mistook her Aunt Sue for the teenage celebrant. He then committed the cardinal sin of getting Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber mixed up. What a silly Santa. He redeemed himself, however, by bringing selection boxes and candy canes for children and adults alike. Rumours of him secreting a tub of Pringles in his sack are currently being investigated.

Santa met a little boy called Noah who truly epitomised the spirit of Christmas. At five years old, the excitement, wonderment and innocence in his eyes reminded everyone that there is so much more to the Yuletide season than spending tonnes of money you don’t have, drinking yourself into a stupor or getting so stressed you forget the true meaning of the season.

Santa also met two very naughty boys in Adam and his Uncle Gearard who are perpetually on his naughty list. Adam was shamed by Santa informing him if he didn’t keep his room tidy then he wouldn’t get the doll’s house he had secretly asked for; and Uncle Gearard was told to keep his hands off Santa or he would get a slap on the nose for his troubles. Santa has taken up martial arts training.

Santa had to leave after that, as Rudolph was waiting on the roof and the traffic had been very heavy coming into Belfast. He gave a final gift to Fionnuala, the most beautiful lady in the room, and patted Rebecca the elf on the head as he bid farewell. He also told Noah to get to bed early on Christmas Eve or his monkey helpers would sneak into his room and tickle him. As I said, a most peculiar Santa.

What do you make of this Silly Santa

FREE Book Giveaway Competition

As it’s the season for giving we are holding a competition to win a signed copy of my first book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ All you have to do is like and comment on this post. The closing date is Tuesday 10 December at 12:00 hours (GMT). The winner will be notified in a follow up post. So get entering and win 135,000 words of laughter, tragedy and lots of Napoleonic ghost soldiers running around Belfast after our heroes.

JackSpeak

Running around Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is always an education and yesterday was no exception where I stopped at my halfway point to learn about ‘JackSpeak,’ a series of nautical slang words which sailors of old would use. I thought I’d share a few with you and see if you could work out the meaning. No cheating though, Google is banned. Let’s see what you can come up with. Ready, steady….go!

Fractured Faith. 12,000 Not Out.

We finally hit 12,000 followers earlier today. It seems like forever since we passed 11,000 which I believe is down to a number of factors. Primarily I haven’t been blogging as frequently and, when I have, they have been much shorter posts. There are only so many hours in the day and I’ve been prioritising my second novel which is nearing 100,000 words. Unfortunately blogging has had to take a back seat to this onerous and time consuming project.

Even so, hitting this landmark is a great achievement. Thank you to everyone who continues to support my writing, especially those who have been there since the beginning. Many have fallen by the wayside or dropped off the radar, so those who tune in day after day are truly appreciated. I don’t know where I would be without you all. Onwards to 13,000. Feel free to say hello in the comments below.

Who Is Your Lighthouse?

It was a murky lunchtime run today which highlighted the lighthouse exhibit on Belfast Lough. I focused on it from some distance away and it inspired me to keep pressing forward through the blustery, wet conditions. Most other days I would have run past it without a second thought but it was there for me today, when I most needed it. Lighthouses are like that. Unappreciated 99% of the time until disaster strikes.

I’ve relied on human lighthouses throughout my life to guide me and, on occasion, rescue me from the storms that life throws at us. We should never take these people for granted. They are ever present and save lives. Take a moment today to say thank you to the lighthouse in your life. Or if you’re struggling to cope look out for that one kind soul who reaches out a hand to pull you to safety.

Who is your lighthouse?

I’ve Had An Anxious Week

I’ve had an anxious few days worrying about work related matters. It started towards the tail end of last week and preyed on my mind over the weekend, before descending again from on high like a hungry vulture on Monday morning. Various unwanted thoughts have spun a not so merry dance around my head despite my best efforts to kick them to the kerb and focus on other stuff. Once an obsessive thought gets its claws into your skull it’s hard to shake.

The old me would have hoisted the drawbridge and battened down the hatches. I would have retreated into myself and not breathed a word of the internal battle raging within. Why? Because I thought nobody would understand, not even my nearest and dearest. I thought I was a weird, deviant, downright bad person, it never crossed my mind that such thoughts were indicative of poor, but treatable, mental health.

There comes a point, however, when you have to front up to your demons, tackle them head on, and take it on the chin. OCD is a bully, used to pushing sufferers around and getting its own way. It’s a big fish in the small pond that is my inner space. And like all bullies it doesn’t like people standing up to it. That’s not part of its game plan, it doesn’t expect you to fight back.

But fight me must. Anxiety is a by product of OCD. The intrusive thought settles and the anxiety follows in its wake, like a comet’s trail. The only way to combat the thought, our addled brains reason, is to to succumb to tortuous routines. These offer only temporary relief, though, and actually reinforce the obsession when it returns. Such thoughts have sought to consume me in recent days.

I don’t like feeling like this, I don’t like waking up with a cloud of worry hanging over me. Unnecessary worry, for there are other much more worthy causes when it comes to fretting and frowning. In the greater scheme of things this work concern is small fry compared to what I could be sinking my teeth into. It’s a distraction, a bluebottle buzzing around. It’s irritating and irksome.

It’s a struggle but struggling implies hope. Struggling means you haven’t given up, you haven’t lain down and waved the white flag. I dreaded work this week but I showed up. I talked about it with Fionnuala, didn’t allow it to distract me to that far off place I used to hide. Anxiety can apply the brakes but I will not allow it to stall the progress I’ve made throughout the year.

Mental illness is largely invisible. It is a silent killer. An army walk the streets every day fighting unseen battles. They are warriors who turn up and live their lives the best they can, the only way they know. One of the reasons I started this blog is to publicise such issues in the hope that my story will comfort and encourage others. That doesn’t mean I’ve won, every day I start again.

I’ve had an anxious week, it’s happened before and it will happen again. I’m no masterpiece, rather a work in progress. I cannot afford to rest on my laurels, become complacent. I’m no superstar but I’m here, every day. I am grateful for my wife and kids, who spur me on. They make me crawl out of bed every day, rain or shine. Every day, even the most anxious ones. I turn up.

Do you have anxious weeks? Can you relate?

Christmas With Kirkwood

I was delighted to read the most recent reviews of ‘Skelly’s Square.’ It’s not every day your writing is compared to Alexandre Dumas so I’ll happily accept the compliment. The book has now received multiple five star reviews and would make the ideal Christmas present for any bookworms you know. It’s available to buy in e book and paperback format on Amazon or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Thank you for those of you who continue to support my writing.

It’s Christmas 🎄

Christmas has well and truly arrived at chez Black with Fionnuala’s creative talents to the fore. She made many of these decorations herself and has worked incredibly hard infusing a festive spirit throughout the house. She’s a terrific mummy making sure the kids will have fond memories of their holidays at home. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? Comment below 🎄

Would You Like To Make My Christmas?

I know a lot of you have read and enjoyed the book. It would been a lot to me, if you haven’t already, if you could post a review on Amazon. It takes 5 minutes, it’s free, and it would be the perfect Christmas present for a first time author seeking to fulfil his dream of escaping the rat race and pursuing a writing career. Amazon reviews really boost the online visibility of the book. Thank you.

Belfast Christmas Market

We travelled up to Belfast this afternoon to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas Market. It was a little crowded for us but the girls got to sample some French-Canadian cuisine while I made my annual trek to the gigantic muffin stall. Fionnuala and Adam settled for a drive thru McDonalds on the way home. It’s 1st December and Christmas has officially begun. I hope everyone is having a great weekend 😊

You Know You’ve Made It When….

You know you’ve made it when you get an entire page in the village newsletter. This popped into our letter box this afternoon, and shortly afterwards I passed 90,000 words on Book 2. It’s been a busy day all round what with rugby matches, a visit from cousin Cadan and Fionnuala putting the finishing touches to our Christmas decorations. Never a dull moment at chez Black.

Horsing Around

I’m always making new friends on my Saturday run and today was no exception. I pass this chap most weeks but this is the first time he has posed for a picture. We obviously must have reached the next level of our friendship. Maybe one day he will come over and let me pat his nose. 6.5 miles today at a decent….ahem….gallop. Lovely dry, crisp conditions. Have a great Saturday everyone.

It’s Black Friday. It’s Free

Have you checked out my debut novel yet?

If not, the good news is you can pick it up for FREE today if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

Alternatively it’s available to buy on Amazon in e book and paperback format.

Here’s the cover..

Let me know what you think.

Thank you.

5 Things To Quit Right Now

I’ve been guilty of all five and can confirm they are all counter productive and highly negative behavioural patterns. Today I choose to change and walk a different path. A path that leads upwards, out of the abyss. It is possible but it’s a conscious decision we must make every day of our own volition. Live for you and not for others. Invest in those who matter in the here and now. Look forward, not back. Death to the past and all its shackles.

Find Your Light

Feeling worthless? I used to. Every. Single. Day. Largely because I was so insecure I craved the attention of others to justify my own existence. I looked outwards when I should have been looking inwards. It was only when I started to focus on my own abilities, rather than the opinions of others, that the scales dropped from my eyes and I saw the light. The light shining from within, not reflected from the eyes of others. Be you. Discover your true self. Find that light burning within.

Merci Beaucoup

That’s about the height of my French but it was encouraging to receive my first Amazon France review of the book today. And a 5 star one at that. It’s always great to hear from people who have invested their time and money in a first time author. I’m very grateful for, and humbled by, the wonderful reviews it has received to date. It’s pushing me on to complete Book 2 asap, the first draft now sitting at 87,000 words.

Not Forgotten

Not all of us can discuss the demons of our past. For some it is too traumatic, shameful or painful. For others there is nobody they can tell. Whatever the reason there are those amongst us today who carry an unspoken pain. They bear the invisible scars of unseen battles still raging behind their sad, desperate eyes. This post is for them. They may be silent, but they are not forgotten.

A Chip Off The New Block

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘a chip off the old block?’ It’s usually used to compare a parent and child when the latter displays some characteristic reminiscent of the former. ‘Ah so little Johnny likes football? He’s a chip off the old block then.’ The majority of the time it’s intended as a compliment and parents’ chests burst with pride when they hear the words. We’ve done alright, the kids are being taught good habits and following in our footsteps.

I don’t want our kids to be a chip off the old block when it comes to me. They can chisel away at Fionnuala’s to their hearts content but potential sculptors may stay well clear of me. Why? Well, I’m not proud of the old block that was Stephen Black. The more you chipped away towards his core the more you discovered his many flaws and weaknesses. He lurked at the rear of the museum, well away from the masterpieces.

I can chip with the best of them. For the last seven years I’ve been chipping away at my old self, smoothing rough surfaces and working towards a new, improved version of moi. It’s a work in progress and it may never see the full light of day but as for the chipped remnants. They can be swept up and consigned to the rubbish bin, never to see the light of day or be inherited by the hatchlings.

Some might say I’m being hard on myself but it’s a tough truth I’m not ashamed to write about it. We all need to pick up our chisels and work towards revealing the real us buried within that hard, shapeless lump of granite. It’s in there somewhere, you just have to believe and be prepared to put the work in to find it. Change can happen and will. Don’t be an old block, you are so much more than that.

I Am Goliath

On recent lunchtime runs I’ve noticed this little tug going about its business on the River Lagan, usually pushing or pulling much larger barges in and out of the harbour. It may be small but it’s certainly a powerful vessel that punches well above its weight on the waves. It was apt, therefore, that it sported a big name to match its big workload – Goliath. I’ve been so impressed that I stopped to take a photo of it today while catching my breath.

Everybody knows the Biblical story of David and Goliath, with much of it focusing on the former. But calling a boat ‘David’ doesn’t quite have the same impact, does it? It’s a story, though, of an underdog triumphing over seemingly impossible odds. Everybody loves an underdog, well I know I do. It goes with the territory when you are a Redskins fan. We are underdogs against everyone we play.

As I huffed and puffed past Goliath I could relate with the underdog story. Seven years ago I stood on the verge of losing it all. My family, my friends, my sanity. But I buckled down and, like little tugboat Goliath, rolled my metaphorical sleeves up. I slowly began to sort out my physical and mental health, prioritised the people who mattered and started to turn things around.

You might feel like giving up today. My advice – don’t. You can recover, you can start again, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. There will be pushing and pulling, huffing and puffing. But like me, and my nautical friend Goliath, it is possible. Scaling Everest always starts with a first step, then another, and before you know it, you’re standing on the summit planting your victory flag. Start today. Commit. Take the first step.

Do You Find It Hard To Make Friends?

Eight miles this morning which was much needed as I’ve had to take a few days off due to Adam’s knee surgery. I’ll be back at work tomorrow so hopefully the running will get back into some sort of routine. Today I chose a favourite route out to a country pub on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles, covering 153 square miles. I looked that up on Wikipedia, obviously.

I stopped at the pub to catch my breath where I was greeted by the landlord’s three chocolate brown labradors. They always come over to say hello when I pass by but unfortunately I didn’t have any treats to give them. Maybe next time. Ok the way back I passed a lady out power walking. I cheerily shouted ‘Good Morning,’ whereupon she jumped several feet in the air. She was wearing earphones and hadn’t heard me coming.

I was going to post a photo of a lovely white horse who lives in a nearby field, but he wasn’t about today. Maybe he had a late night and was still in his stable sleeping off the effects of the evening before. I look forward to seeing my animal friends on my favourite routes. I wonder what they make of me as I stagger past, puffing and panting in my hi-viz clothing. They probably think humans are crazy and they’re probably right.

I’m an introvert by nature and find it hard to make new friends. It also doesn’t help that I’ve had my fingers burnt in the past by supposed friends, leaving me wary and reluctant to expose myself again. I’m not blameless in this either and know I need to learn to move on give people a chance. If nothing else, I will always have my animal chums as long as I keep running out to visit them.

Do you find it hard to make friends?

Who are your animal friends?

82,000 Words

Steady progress this week on Book 2 of my contemporary fantasy series, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles.’ I’ve averaged over 1,000 words a day to the stage where I’m almost two thirds of the way there now. The new characters are fitting in well and the story has expanded considerably in terms of its scope and complexity. Fionnuala has started proof reading the first draft and I’m most grateful for her keen eye spotting all my many errors.

If you haven’t checked out Book 1 in the series, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ then the good news is that it’s now FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. You can also purchase it in e book and paperback format on Amazon. If you have read it then please leave a review. Constructive feedback is always much appreciated and it’s the only way I can learn and improve. Thank you, as ever, for everyone’s continued support.

Here’s the front and back covers for Book 1.

Adam’s Surgery Update

We have spent the last two days at hospital as Adam recuperates from an operation for a serious knee injury he sustained playing rugby two months ago. We knew at the time something was amiss as he heard a ‘pop’ during a tackle. A MRI scan revealed the full extent of the damage, a full tear to his anterior cruciate ligament. The only option was surgery to repair the damage followed by a lengthy rehabilitation period.

Adam has been philosophical about the injury. In his words ‘it is what it is.’ I’ve been very impressed with his attitude as, personally, I would have been devastated. He is ruled out for the season and playing for a team who have a real chance of a trophy this season. He loves playing rugby and just happens to be very good at it as well. There have also been professional scouts sniffing around the team.

In order to be ready for surgery he has undergone a six week period of physiotherapy so as to be able to fully extend his leg. This was successful meaning the surgery went ahead yesterday as scheduled. The operation lasted an hour but he needed two hours in the recovery room before we were allowed to see him. Those were long hours and we were relieved to see him finally return to the ward.

The procedure was keyhole, involving four small incisions. Holes were drilled at the top of his shin bone and bottom of thigh bone, before a small piece of tendon grafted from his hamstring was looped through and tied to replace the torn ligament. He spent the night in hospital and was in a lot of pain when he woke up. Thankfully Messrs Morphine and Co-Codamol were at hand to get him through the night.

He will be on crutches for two weeks and off school for a while. His rehabilitation will start soon though and he already has a series of exercises which he has to perform three times a day as well as regularly icing and flexing his leg. His physiotherapy will recommence in two weeks and after that he will return to the gym to start strengthening the knee and the muscles and ligaments surrounding it. He will be okay to start jogging in 3-4 months.

The target is South Africa in July 2020 which his team will be touring for three weeks. Adam is determined to be back playing rugby by then. It will be hard work but he is a determined young man and has the full support of his family, coaches and team mates. That’s the reason the blog has been a bit quiet of late. Hopefully when he get him home later today normal service will be resumed again.

Consistency Is The Key

Book 2 hit the 76,000 word mark this morning. I wrote almost 3,000 words yesterday which is a high word count for me, as my daily target is 1,000. But I am discovering a new consistency in my writing with the sequel. I wrote the first book in spurts, perhaps 5,000 words in a day followed by a week of nothing. I am becoming more disciplined towards my art and keep chipping away.

Book 2, provisionally titled ‘A New Jerusalem’, is much more challenging than the first as I’m juggling multiple characters and sub plots. I’ve introduced at least six significant new figures to support the main cast of Kirkwood, Meredith, Harley and Emily. I’m also weaving my ongoing serialised novella, ‘Bomb Girl’ into the Kirkwood Scott universe. It’s complex but satisfying work.

I hope to have have the first draft of Book 2 finished by January 2020 at the latest and I will then be entering the editing process. I will also be seeking beta readers to constructively critique the draft so if you would be interested in that then please let me know As ever, thank you to those of you who supported Book 1 in the series, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ which is free on Kindle Unlimited and available on Amazon in e book and paperback format.

Loneliness at Christmas Update

Thank you all so much for all the emails I’ve received to partake in our beating Loneliness at Christmas project. I’ve been really busy lately so sorry for not being in touch with you all yet. I have tomorrow freed up to finalise everything so I will be in touch.

It’s still not too late to take part if you would love to receive a letter/card from somebody then please send me an email with your name and address ASAP.

My Love Affair With Toast

The day we discovered the joys of lightly burning bread and then buttering it was a great day for the human race. Toast. I have had a love affair with this breakfast staple for much of my life. In fact, never mind breakfast. I can quite happily eat toast at any time of the day. If you analysed my familial DNA you would probably discover I’m at least 1% hobbit due to the multiple breakfasts I partake of on a daily basis.

Given my distinct lack of culinary skills it was perhaps inevitable that I would gravitate towards toast. There are certainly less dishes involved than cereal, eggs and the ever so complicated process that is porridge making. You just pop it in the toaster, wander off for a bit and then wait for the distinctive ping announcing that its chow down time. Even an idiot like me can manage that. Well, just about.

Now that’s the easy part. Listen closely for I’m about to reveal the secret of great toast making, toasting, whatever you wish to call it. The amateur toastmonger will react to said ping by immediately slathering the round with their favourite spread, allowing it to melt into a gooey, liquefied form. None of that nonsense for me. The toast must be allowed to cool sufficiently before application of said spread.

In my single days I used to make my toast the night before then place it in the fridge overnight. The next morning I would leap, yes leap,out of bed to enjoy the delights of rock hard, ice cold buttered toast. Fionnuala was horrified when she discovered this practice and quickly beat it out of me along with a couple of hundred other bad habits I had accumulated down the years.

We have now reached an uneasy compromise whereby I create a toast tent, leaning two rounds against one another on the kitchen worktop to accelerate the cooling process. All is well and the fridge is freed up for milk and cheese, stuff like that. I also used to put tins of beer in the freezer during my drinking days but that’s another story for another day. Needless to say, don’t ever do it.

Compromise is the key word in all this. I am a creature of extremes, when I set my mind on something I do it to excess. I’m a runaway train when it comes to such matters and as we all know, if allowed to career on unchecked, this will undoubtedly end in a train wreck. My OCD means I don’t have an emergency brake, there is no trip switch to avert disaster when it comes knocking.

It can be anything, even positive, healthy pursuits like running, writing, watching the kids play sport. I get too obsessed, I take it to the nth degree, don’t know when to stop. It requires medication and wise counsel from the likes of Fionnuala to temper these destructive urges within me. Left to my own devices I’ll resort to ridiculous practices like putting toast in the fridge overnight.

I’ll be a work in progress, there will always be room for improvement. Progress and improvement occur by listening to the advice of those around you who care and are willing to take the time to smooth the rough edges. It’s no easy task, a labour of love and it’s not for everyone. But the results can be spectacular and life changing. Just ask the idiot who used to place his toast in the fridge overnight.

What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t been blogging as much lately due to pouring all my creative forces into my second novel which passed the 70,000 word mark yesterday. I’m averaging around 1,000 words a day and am so in the zone with this story that it’s difficult to focus on any other writing projects. The blog has therefore been placed on the back burner but I will keep dipping in with updates as to how life is treating us all.

Book 2 in the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles,’ has the working title of A New Jerusalem.’ It’s a sequel to ‘Skelly’s Square’ which was published in July. The plan is for a trilogy of books but I’m starting to realise there is scope for other stories and characters to develop within the KSC universe. I’m already writing a linked novella, ‘Bomb Girl’ which some of you have been reading.

I’m already plotting a spin off novel, ‘This Troubled Land of Ours,’ which will be set in the wilds of County Donegal at the beginning of the 22nd Century. To be honest, I could write for the next hour about all the story ideas which pop into my head on a regular basis. It’s a good job I have a notebook always handy to scribble them all down, otherwise I’d forget. Thankfully Fionnuala keeps me just about tethered to the real world.

I’ll keep posting periodic writing updates but, as ever, I’d like to thank all the people who have supported my writing and read ‘Skelly’s Square.’ The five star feedback on Amazon keeps me going through the tough times when self doubt and imposter syndrome take over. WordPress is where I first shared my writing with the world so it will always be a special community for me.

The good news is that ‘Skelly’s Square,’ is currently FREE if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Alternatively you can purchase it in e book or paperback format on Amazon. And if you would like your hard copy signed I offer a bookplate service to facilitate that. I’m off now to write some more words and keep the momentum going. I’ll talk to you all soon and hope you have a great weekend.

Writing Won’t Make Me Rich But It Makes Me Happy

I’ve now hit the 65,000 word mark on Book 2 which is more or less the half way mark of this latest writing odyssey of mine. Quotes like this might seem trite to some but they bring a smile to my face. In the last week alone, I’ve sold books in France, India, the U.K and North America. Mind blowing when I think back to starting to write the Kirkwood Scott series two years ago. Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing so far.

It won’t make me rich but it makes me happy.

Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

We awakened this morning to high winds and rain beating against the bedroom window. Peeking outside revealed little as it was pitch dark. Yes, welcome to Northern Ireland in November. A bleak, dreary landscape. It’s little wonder the Game of Thrones producers chose our little country to film many of the Winterfell & Iron Island scenes from the books. Our weather is erratic, unpredictable and most definitely challenging.

They call Ireland the Emerald Isle and first time visitors are often amazed at how green our fair isle is as they fly in over a patchwork quilt of verdant fields. Our grass is so green because it rains so much, as in most days. Our summers usually consist of a weekend in June, preferably during exam time just to annoy the kids. The cows love it and happily munch away, watching the rest of us mutter and grumble.

As a commuter, I am rapidly resembling Scott of the Antarctic as I step out into the wilderness to brave the bitter conditions. Heavy duffel coat and woolly hat, it won’t be long before the scarf and gloves are also dusted down for their seasonal debuts. My fellow travelers on the 07:35 express to Belfast will be even surlier than normal this morning. We are united in our misery and we quietly seethe on the journey to work.

When it comes to griping and groaning about the inclement conditions I’m up there with the best of them. If there’s a torrent to be caught in, I’m invariably slap bang in the middle of it. It’s as if every time I step out the front door the heavens open. It’s particularly delightful in the middle of a 10 mile run. Why does it always rain on me I cry to the clouds, clenching my fist. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It’s a similar scenario with life in general. I tend to be a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person and the last few months have done little to convince me otherwise. I was out running yesterday and whatever turn I took I was staggering into a gale. You get to the point where it becomes almost laughable if it wasn’t so heart wrenching. Really, God, is this what it all comes down to at the end of the day?

I can take the personal knock backs as can Fionnuala. We are well used to disappointment and frustration. Maybe we deserve it for past transgressions, I know I do. It’s when it affects the kids that I get peeved. Our children have done nothing to deserve the illness and injury which has befallen them in recent times. We stand by, helplessly watching life deal another low blow. I feel useless, neutered.

We keep soldiering on, we keep turning up, we dig deep and draw closer as a family. The five of us form a core, a defensive hub. Friends come and go, churches drop by the wayside promising so much yet delivering so little, yet we go on. For there’s nothing else for it. Our kids need us to be strong, to be there, come rain or shine. There is no other option, no other way.

And I write about it, not because I particularly want to do, rather I need the cathartic release. It’s therapy and it’s free. I don’t do it for attention or numbers as was suggested yesterday. I don’t crave the limelight, my default position is to shun it. I write for myself today. Warts and all. Why does it always rain on me? Because it just does, that’s why. So best get on at dealing with it

A 13 Year Old in London

This weekend past Rebecca and I went to London to celebrate her 13th Birthday. Stephen was at home in charge of the older teenagers and done a fantastic job which means I really should go away more often lol.

We had a fantastic time in London we stayed with my cousin who lives in East Croydon which is a 20 minute commute on the train into central London were spent all day Saturday.

Saturday morning we took a bus tour before the heavens opened at 12 noon and rained the rest of the day but that didn’t stop us girls shopping!!

Here are some photos of our adventure

Peeling Potatoes Is Hard Work

Fionnuala and Rebecca travelled to London at the weekend for a shopping trip as part of the latter’s thirteenth birthday celebrations. They shopped til they dropped as well as taking in all the sights with their cousin, Bronagh. Which left me home alone with Adam, Hannah and a list of instructions as long as my arm from my every helpful wife. The gist of it was feed the kids, clothe the kids and don’t set the house on fire.

Now I’m no domestic god but basic household tasks are not beyond me if shown clearly, very clearly, what to do. I mastered the various buttons and dials on the washing machine, reheated precooked lasagna and fixed curtains, blinds and multiple cushions under the watchful eye of Hannah, who had been put in charge by her mother before leaving. I even remembered to feed Charlie the border terrier, much to his tail wagging relief.

The Everest of the weekend, however, was when Fionnuala asked me to peel the potatoes for Sunday dinner. My efforts at this in the past have been somewhat erratic to say the least. Stephen and sharp knives are not a good mix and the emergency services were on standby in case I nicked an artery. I’m sure it’s a common sight in Sunday A&E departments with ‘home alone’ husbands being wheeled in and out.

The first rule of peeling potatoes is to ensure you are left with more potato than peel at the end of the process. My previous enthusiastic, if somewhat ham fisted, attempts at this have resulted in potatoes the size of marbles which wouldn’t feed a field mouse. Meanwhile the mound of peelings require a crane to excavate to the recycling bin. There’s a reason I didn’t pursue a career in neurosurgery.

The art seems to be in the wrist motion. As you daintily peel you rotate the wrist, the trick being to remove the entire outer skin in one single, fluid motion. I’ve yet to achieve this ‘holy grail’ of kitchen etiquette but my technique has considerably improved in its pursuit. The result was a full pot of edible potatoes more than capable of feeding a family of five.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this blog lately, where it’s going and the topics I should be writing about. Creative writing is increasingly taking up more of my time and I don’t write about faith matters anymore. Some of my most popular posts have been deeply personal and introspective. But am I revealing too much of myself, peeling away too many layers, leaving myself utterly exposed?

Twitter seems more receptive to the creative side of my writing. I’ve picked up more sales and interest, having tapped into a huge writing community there. My creative posts on WordPress are always amongst my least popular so do I stop posting creative fiction on the blog. If so, what is left for the blog? It’s something which has been nagging away at me in recent weeks to the extent I took a four day break from blogging last week.

As ever I’d be grateful for your comments and feedback. As a writer they fuel my writing and encourage me to keep going. The blogging world has been somewhat flat in recent months. A lot of regular bloggers have drifted away or are posting less frequently. Is this merely a blip or symptomatic of a broader issue? I don’t know. What is do know is that blogging is hard, just like peeling potatoes.

My New Doggy Friend

A beautiful sunny morning, if somewhat chilly, for this this week’s long run. Parts of the route were slippery underfoot but just being out there in the crisp, cool air made it all worthwhile. I planned to run 7 miles but ended up doing 8 at 8:56 average pace. I even made a new canine friend at the halfway point. Just over 30 miles in total this week with I’m pleased with, despite the slightly wonky knee.

Kill Loneliness At Christmas

Fionnuala has asked me to write, updating you on the Christmas card initiative which she posted about several weeks ago. If you are taking part she will e-mail you next week with details of who you are writing to. You can still take part if you would like to send a Christmas card to someone and make their holiday period a little less lonely. Just e-mail Fionnuala with your details via the blog. Thank you.

Loops Of The Village

Here’s today’s long run. I’ll be posting these as I work towards Belfast Marathon 2020 which is a mere six months away. Today involved four loops of my village in perfect autumnal conditions. I was happy with my pace and stamina which I maintained despite a niggly knee which has been bothering me for several weeks now. I think the extra .4 miles were all the puddles and slippery leaves I had to negotiate.

If I Hadn’t Seen Such Riches I Could Live With Being Poor

Today I woke up tired. I’m a middle aged father of three teenage kids. It’s what I do.

Today I woke up sore. I’m training for a marathon next year. My tenth no less. At the minutes this necessitate 30 mile weeks. My knee hurts. My back hurts. I’m sore.

Today I woke up without a hangover.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve been waking up without a hangover for over seven years now. Yet today it hit me, amidst the yawning and aches and pains. I wasn’t hungover. There was no nausea, no fatigue, no headache. Best of all, there was no fear. The dread of ‘what did I do or say last night.’ The shame, the guilt, the worry that I had messed up again and hurt loved ones.

The one day hangovers became two, then three. My body couldn’t cope with the weekly poisoning I was inflicting it with. My already fragile mental health couldn’t cope with the damage I was inflicting on myself and, more importantly, others. My father was dead and no matter how many tins of beer I consumed that wasn’t changing. He wasn’t coming back. It was time to sober up, man up and front up.

I stopped hiding. Behind the hangovers. For all the big promises and false starts, it was actually quite easy in the end. I just stopped. No big announcements, no magic pill, no dramatic intervention or twelve week counselling session. I just stopped. I remember the last night I went out drinking a work colleague I was with had a stroke. Maybe that was a contributing factor, I don’t know.

I stopped lying. That was more difficult. Lying is a habit and it came easily to me. It was much simpler to lurk in the shadows, to evade reality than step out into the glaring light and expose my vulnerabilities and weakness. It’s still a work in process and there’s always the temptation to take the easy option when the going gets tough. I’m a recovering liar, I always will be and that’s the truth.

I’m not perfect, far from it. I’m no superhero or knight in shining armour. I still drive Fionnuala nuts on a daily basis. But I’m making progress, despite all the slips and stumbles along the way. And I will never grow tired of waking up on a Sunday morning without a hangover. What’s more it’s absolutely free, in fact I’m saving money. I awake now with dignity, pride and purpose. I have wrestled my life back.

I turn my back on what has passed and focus instead on what could be, what will be. It’s amazing how far you can get on a bucketful of determination with a sprinkling of ability. You can only truly appreciate the freshness of the morning breeze when you have tasted the dank, foul air at the bottom of the abyss. To quote the band James, ‘If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.’

Are you waking up hungover today? Alcohol? Prescription drugs? Or has your mental health taken such a battering in recent days that you feel broken, bereft, on the point of giving up? I can’t wave a magic wand and make that disappear but I can offer you my story; one of hope and possibility. I can tell it again and again for whoever wants to hear it, whoever needs to hear it. Today we live.

Do You Like Ireland? ☘️

Do you like Ireland? ☘️

Do you like contemporary fantasy?

Then why not try out my wee book, now available on Amazon in e book & paperback format.

And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, it’s absolutely FREE! 🙂

Thank you 🙏🏻

Do You Need A Hug?

Fractured Faith Blog.

Dispensing online hugs since May 2017.

Another Step Nearer The End Of The Rainbow

I passed the 50,000 word mark on Book 2 yesterday, a fact I’m very pleased with. The creative juices continue to flow as I make steady progress towards the half way point. I’m finding the sequel much easier to write than Book 1 as the characters almost write their own dialogue. It’s as if the book has already been written and is being revealed to me every time I sit down to write, like a sculptor chipping away at a block of stone.

There are new characters aplenty in Book 2, but at its core are my three heroes, Kirkwood Scott, Meredith Starc and Harley Davison. They are the cornerstone of the novel as they continue to battle the evil Augustus Skelly and his company of ghost soldiers, hellbent on exposing the world to the horrors of The Scourge. Belfast continues to provide the story’s backdrop but it’s a slightly different city from Book 1.

Large chunks of this book have been written on my phone as I journey to and from work in Belfast. You can find me in the corner of a carriage, tapping away furiously as my fellow commuters sit around, oblivious to the workings of my fevered mind. It’s probably a good thing as I might have the train to myself if they knew half the stuff I dream up. There would probably be a straitjacket and padded cell waiting for me at the station.

I’ve set myself the target of writing 1000 words a day and have mostly stuck to that. Some days are easier than others but I normally find time somewhere to eke out the required numbers. Sometimes it takes one session, others it’s fifty words here and fifty words there. I’m determined, though, and motivated by the support of Fionnuala and the kids who keep me ticking over. They are the reason I write.

Book 1 continues to sell steadily. I’ve been particularly pleased at how it’s been performing on Kindle Unlimited, where its available free to subscribers. It’s the equivalent of an online lending library where you can ‘borrow’ up to ten titles at a time. I can log into my Kindle Author account at any time and see how many pages of the book have been read that day. Over 1000 in the last week alone.

I get paid 0.5 pence per page read so it’s not going to make me a millionaire overnight. It is kind of cool though to wake up and think to myself ‘Oh I made 43p while I was sleeping last night.’ Most of my KU readers are from the United States so I’m grateful to them all, whoever they are. If you’re one of them don’t be afraid to say hello. I’d love to talk to you about your thoughts on the book.

Also, if you’ve read the book and haven’t yet left a review, then I would encourage you to do so on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews help boost the online visibility of the book, making it more accessible to potential new readers. It only takes a couple of minutes and would mean a lot to me. All I ask is that you are honest in your review. I’m very open to constructive feedback, it’s the only way I can improve as a writer.

I’m always listening out for lines and character quirks I can sneak into the story. Book 1 is overflowing with such inside jokes and asides. Who knows, you could turn up in a future story if you play your cards right. Thank you, as ever, to all of you who support my writing. It spurs me on and keeps me motivated through the dry times. Here’s to the next 1000 words. Another step nearer the end of the rainbow.

How do you motivate yourself to write?

The Butterfly

As we’ve been posting for Spina Bifida Awareness Week Stephen and I thought we should repost my very first blog from two years ago which was about my journey with Hannah’s diagnoses.

In March 2003 we discovered I was pregnant.  We were really excited we had already a son Adam who was 8 months old. We were looking forward to our two children being really close together and good company for each other as they grew up.  My pregnancy was progressing really well. I was healthy and had gone back to work after my maternity leave with Adam. Life was good and our baby was due on Christmas Eve.  We were really looking forward to our big scan coming up and we decided that we were going to find out the sex of our baby this time. I was just too impatient and had to know.

We were so happy that morning and excited to see our baby and find out if it was a boy or girl. The sonographer took a lot of time doing the scan and was extremely quiet and I can remember thinking she is being very thorough she then said she just needed to nip out for a moment.  I didn’t think anything was wrong at this stage not until a woman entered the room with the sonographer and introduced herself to me as my consultant and my heart sank as I knew there was something wrong. 

She scanned our baby and then informed us that our baby had Spina Bifida and possibly hydrocephalus and that things were not looking good for her.  I can remember thinking that this can’t be happening to me things like this don’t really happen it was all a bad dream.  I could see her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear anything.  Next thing I knew there were other nurses in the room with us and I looked at Stephen and he had turned grey; that’s when I knew it was real.

I had heard of Spina Bifida before but didn’t know what it was or how it would affect our baby.  We were fortunate enough that day that the doctors and consultants who we needed to speak with were there to give us information and tell us what to expect.  We spoke with one doctor who told us that if our baby survived the pregnancy it might only live for seconds, minutes or days and if she did she would be both physically and mentally disabled.  She wouldn’t be able to talk, walk and in his words would be brain damaged.  He advised us that we should have our pregnancy terminated and gave us 24 hours to think it over.  I can remember thinking there is no way on this earth I am giving up on my baby and was worried Stephen wouldn’t have thought the same as me.

The doctor left us alone for a few minutes and we both agreed there and then that we were not giving up on our baby and we were going to cherish whatever moments we were going to be blessed with her and remember them always.

We told the doctor our decision but he still insisted that we think it over and really did try and persuade us to change our minds.

The next morning at 9am Stephen rang the doctor and told him that we were not giving up on our baby and going ahead with our pregnancy.  The remainder of the pregnancy was just full of appointments monitoring everything with the baby and each time they were giving us the most terrible news but we were still not giving up on our baby girl.

I experienced very mixed reactions from people regarding my pregnancy; both of our families were very supportive but what shocked me was my friends that I had been through everything with telling me that I was being selfish and not thinking of Adam and how it was going to affect him; another friend of my mums asked her, in her words, “why did she not get rid of it”.  They couldn’t understand that whatever time, whether it be long or short, we were going to have with our baby was going to be the most precious time of our lives.   I know I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had have given up on her and I now thank God that it was us that he trusted with that decision for our baby and not them.

I got a real strengthening of faith over the next few months and started going to mass and praying more that I probably ever had before.  The nuns prayed for us every day and they had a few special masses for us.  The last mass that was said for us was the weekend before I went into hospital for a C Section to deliver our baby into the world.  During the mass I noticed a beautiful butterfly on the altar and it stayed there all throughout the service. I can remember thinking I have never seen a butterfly in December before as in Ireland this is very rare.  At the end of the mass one of the nuns lifted the butterfly and brought it over to me and placed it in my hands.  Now if you have ever tried to lift a butterfly and carry it across a room and place it in another persons hand it is extremely hard to do.  The butterfly just sat in the palm of my hand and didn’t move, I actually thought it wasn’t real until it started to flutter.  This butterfly has always stayed in my memory and I have always thought there was something very significant about it.

On 10th December 2003 at 10.30am our baby girl Hannah was brought into the world weighing a whopping 8lb 12oz.  She defied everything the doctors had said and would continue to do so.  Stephen had a quick cuddle with her before she was taken away to the neo natal unit.  When I was brought out of theatre I was brought to see Hannah it was very funny she was the biggest and healthiest baby in the neo natal unit filling the incubator with this massive head of brown hair. I knew then and there that she was a fighter and that everything was going to be just right.

I didn’t get to see Hannah again until later that night. I couldn’t settle back on the ward and one of the nurses on the night shift said that if I was able to get out of bed they could get me a wheelchair and take me up to see her.  She didn’t have to tell me that twice I was up and out of bed right away.  When I got to the neo natal unit the doctor  was doing the rounds and he told me yet again how my baby wouldn’t walk, talk or be able to do anything for herself and that we wouldn’t know until she was a year old what damage there was going to be to her brain.  I was petrified as it was nearly midnight and I was sitting here on my own in the hospital with my baby in an incubator and I still couldn’t get to hold her.  The nurse came and brought me back to the ward and gave me a sleeping tablet to help me sleep but it never happened and I couldn’t wait until morning when my Stephen would come and see me.

The next day our little girl was transferred to the Children’s Hospital to have her first of many surgeries and that evening I signed myself out of hospital and went to see my daughter where I finally got to hold her for the very first time.

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On Christmas morning we got the best present ever and we were allowed to take our baby girl home from hospital.  The first six months of Hannah’s life were spent in and out of hospital and either myself or her daddy were with her at all times and Adam was never neglected or felt deprived in any way.

Hannah is about to turn 16 years old and she is the most amazing and outgoing girl you could meet.  Don’t get me wrong she is a typical teenager; mood swings and temper tantrums are a daily occurrence in our house.  Hannah did and continues to defy everything that the doctors said she couldn’t do.  She can talk, boy did they get that one wrong, the only problem we have there is getting her to stop!  She sings, dances, writes, reads and stalks celebrities on social media especially Shawn Mendes.

We are all different and unique in our own way.  Some of us are black, some of us are white, some tall, some small, some thin and some not so thin and then there are the Limited Editions who have a very special, uniqueness about them that light up the world.

 

Running For Hannah

It’s Spina Bifida Awareness Week so what better time to announce I’m getting back on the marathon wagon. I will be running my 10th marathon next May in Belfast to raise funds for a local charity, the Mae Murray Foundation. The Foundation was set up to allow people of all ages and abilities to come together in inclusive environments. A worthy cause that has done so much for our family in recent years.

The charity has allowed Hannah to participate in activities and events that she otherwise would not have access to; surfing, cycling and snow tubing to name a few. As ever our Hannah has tackled them fearlessly, having lots of fun and making new friends in the process. She has also attended overnighters, barbecues, rave nights and their youth club. This is my small way of saying thank you to them.

I’ll be posting periodic updates of my progress over the next few months. I’m not getting any faster and it will be almost two years since I’ve tackled the marathon distance but I’m determined to run, walk or crawl over the finish line. Nearer the time I will post a link to a Just Giving page if anyone would be so kind as to sponsor me. Now I’m off to dig out my running shoes and start training. Enjoy your day.

Fractured Faith Is 1000 Posts Old

Today marked our 1000th post on Fractured Faith. We started the blog back in May 2017 and, back then, had no idea what to expect. Fionnuala encouraged me to share my writing with the online world as both a form of personal therapy and to encourage others that there is always hope, no matter how bleak your circumstances might seem. I hope I’ve succeeded to some degree on both counts.

In that time there have been highs and lows, both on the writing front and in respect of work and family life. I’ve always sought, however, to remain true to the blog’s ethos of remaining as open and transparent as possible. Some topics I’ve had to refrain from talking about for personal reasons but I’ve strived to be as honest as I could about a range of other everyday matters.

I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea but, by and large, the response has been a largely positive one from you, my fellow bloggers. Some posts have soared high, others sunk without trace but I’ve always felt at home on WordPress, more so than the other social media platforms I’ve embraced in order to promote my writing. WordPress will always be my first home, my safe place.

I’d just to thank you all again, followers old and new for dropping by when you can to read my words. Fionnuala and the kids will forever be in your debt as well for ensuring I have somewhere I can offload my rambled thoughts. Who needs therapy when you have WordPress? I will always be grateful for the support and encouragement I receive on a daily basis via your comments.

My Book Is FREE!

Yes….if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can read my fantasy novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ for absolutely FREE. Find out what all the fuss is about over Kirkwood Scott, Meredith Starc, Harley Davison and their nemesis, the dastardly Augustus Skelly. A sweeping tale that veers from the bloodbath of 1815 Waterloo to the back streets and pubs of modern day Belfast.

It’s a darkly humorous story that tackles the very real issues of mental illness, addiction homelessness and disability against the backdrop of ancient forces of good and evil waging a supernatural battle for control of the planet. Only Kirkwood and his misfit friends can stop Skelly by harnessing a supernatural power within them. Grab your copy now before Book 2 hits the streets in 2020.

If you have read the book then a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be much appreciated.

Alternatively the book is available to purchase on Amazon in e book and paperback format.

Thank you for supporting my writing.

Here’s Where You Find Me

Some of you already do but for those who don’t here are my contact details for other social media platforms I’m on. It would be great if we could connect. I’m active on them every day and you’ll find all sorts of stuff that isn’t on the blog. Don’t be a stranger. Drop by and say hello.

https://m.facebook.com/StephenBlackAuthor/

Twitter – @stephenRB4

https://www.goodreads.com/user/edit/profile/profile_url

WattPad – @stephenblack70

Instagram – @stephenblackauthor

Website – https://www.stephenblackauthor.com/

Meet My Hero

I have never fainted in my life but the nearest I ever came was at the 20 week scan for our second child when we were informed the baby had Spina Bifida. I’m not sure of the sequence of events but I ended up lying flat on the bed being tended to by medical staff when it should have been Fionnuala. What was meant to have been one of the happiest days of our lives became one of the worst with one short, devastating sentence.

The rest of the day will forever be vividly etched on my memory, which is saying something as mine is not the best. A cold, clinical doctor informed us our daughter would never be able to walk, speak or communicate with us in any way. He urged us to consider an abortion and we were given 24 hours to go away and think about it. We shuffled out of the hospital that day like zombies, broken and baffled.

We didn’t need 24 hours. Both of us had decided independently of one another that we were giving our unborn child a chance at life. Who were we to deprive another human being of that? No matter what the severity of the disability, abortion could never be an option. It was the easiest decision of our lives, the most important, the best. It was the only decision. We chose life and hope and love.

Hannah was born on 10 December 2003, our middle child of three. The running joke in our family is that she hasn’t stopped talking since. Yes, she can’t walk (yet) and needs a wheelchair to get about but, other than that, she is a normal, happy teenage girl; whatever normal is. She laughs, she sings, she obsesses over Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello and binge watches Pretty Little Liars with her mother.

She cries over soap operas, she fights tooth and nail with her brother and sister, she teaches herself via You Tube to apply make up (perfectly I might add), she cringes at her father’s awful rapping and dancing, she spreads happiness and light wherever she goes. She never complains about her disability, just gets on with living life to the full and proving the doubters all wrong. She is our hero.

Whenever I am having a crappy day I look at Hannah and tell myself to wise up. She inspires me to be reasonably good at the things I tackle in life. If I had an ounce of her fight and spirit I’d be a champion runner and best selling author. I’m not but they are targets I can still aspire to. I’m sure I speak for Fionnuala as well when I say Hannah, indeed all three of our kids, are the shining lights in our lives.

Out of the darkest day came the brightest of lights, out of hopelessness came hope, from heartbreak came joy and bottomless love. This blog is all about hope and Hannah’s story lies at the heart of that. This week is Spina Bifida Awareness Week. Fionnuala has previously shared her story so I thought it was the perfect time for me to tell mine. I hope it encourages some of you today who may be in similar bleak places.

Drug addiction. Alcoholism. Depression. Anxiety. Stress. OCD. BPD. Bereavement, Divorce. Homelessness. PTSD. Anorexia. Bulimia. Bullying. Unemployment. Physical Disabilty. Disease. Chronic Illness. Cancer. The list is endless, but hope trumps them all. Never give up, never stop fighting. Believe in yourself and the power within you to overcome, just like our Hannah. You are a warrior, you are strong. You are not a label.

Spina Bifida Awareness Week

Over the coming days we will be promoting Spina Bifida Awareness Week on the blog, a cause very close to our hearts. Stay tuned for more. We, as a family, have come through so much together. The key word here is ‘together.’ Together we are strong and the five of us will never be broken as long as we believe that and stick together. Through thick and thin, whatever the world throws at us. We need nobody or nothing else.

Never Forget

Never, ever forget….

Have You Ever Been Ghosted?

Ghosting – ‘the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without any explanation withdrawing all communication.’

Have you ever been ghosted? I have, am, probably will be. It’s a no man’s land of doubt, a limbo of what if, a purgatory where you are left dangling in the wind. It’s a bewildering, baffling set of circumstances. One day you’re happily ensconced in a solid friendship, the next all contact is severed. There is no rhyme, no reason and you are left with nothing but untested theories and endless questions.

Ghosting often manifests itself on your phone. Calls aren’t returned, text messages unopened and e-mails unanswered. You find you’ve been unfriended, blocked or no longer followed. It’s a creeping death leaving you numb and raw. What did I do, say, write? You are left dangling in the wind, hung by your own petard. The sense of confusion and lack of closure can drive a person to the brink.

Those on the other end continue their lives as if nothing has happened. They will find others to replace you and make every effort to show the world that ‘life is great, wonderful, better’ without you in it. There is a sense of malevolent glee in their words and actions. They get a kick from the the power they exert over their hapless victim, who can only watch helplessly from the sidelines. They are gods.

Ghosting hurts, an icy, relentless pain that eats you up from within. For those with an obsessive nature, like myself, it can cause lasting damage. The unanswered questions spin round your head in a never ending loop. The confusion turns to resentment, then anger. How dare they? The hypocrisy and arrogance of those on the other side beggars belief. Let they who are without sin, right?

We limp on, politely fending off queries about the other party. ‘What about so and so?’ ‘Oh we’ve kind of lost touch.’ Awkward silence until the subject is changed. Meanwhile your ears continue to burn. What mistruths are being spread about you regarding this alleged transgression which you are supposed to have inflicted. How many others now eye you warily? ‘Did you hear about him/her?’ ‘Who would have thought it?’

You soldier on, there’s nothing else for it. Life goes on. Ghosting is a growing phenomenon in our increasingly technological age. People don’t have to talk face to face, there is no requirement to meet the other party and explain your actions and rationales. You simply hit the delete button on their involvement in your life. It’s the easy option and, for some, the cowards way out. Confrontation is a dying art.

Reconciliation, mediation, negotiation, compromise, these are also all redundant words in our insular, black and white lives. There is no middle ground any more, just a battle scarred no man’s land where none of us dare tread for fear of being blown to smithereens by sharp tongues and dark looks. We cower in our respective trenches, unwilling to raise the white flag of truth. No quarter is asked or given.

It’s a war of attrition, a fight to the death. Every yard gained is drenched in the blood of broken friendships and dead relationships. The ghosts of the latter endlessly wander this barren terrain, forever restless, always seeking. They will never find release, never know the peace of calm and truth. Theirs is a desolate existence as they haunt the realm of what might have been. We are the walking wounded, the victims of a brutal, invisible war.

Have you been a victim of ghosting? Please feel free to share your experiences?

Dare You Enter?

My first fantasy novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to buy on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Here’s the cover and back cover blurb. There’s even a photo of me pretending to look ‘hard’ in a Belfast back alley where the idea for the book was born.

What’s more, it’s FREE if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Golly Gosh.

So what are you waiting for?

Dare you enter The Square?

Sasha

I first met Sasha about a year ago, crumpled in a corner on a city centre street. She struck such a pathetic picture that I couldn’t walk past her and stopped to offer some help. We got talking and I see her most weeks now at various locations about the ‘town’ as Belfast folk refer to it. We’ve built up a friendship of sorts, a level of trust whereby she has began to tell me a little of her past. Bit by bit I am learning her sad story.

Sasha isn’t her real name by the way, for reasons that will become clear later. She was born in Russia but moved to another Eastern European country at an early age. Her father wasn’t on the scene and for reasons I’m still not totally clear on neither was her mother. As such, she was raised by her grandparents. At some point, everything went wrong though and she found herself in Northern Ireland.

Sasha told me she was trafficked to the U.K. to sell drugs and operate as a sex worker. She is slowly unpeeling this layer of her story to me. Another homeless friend of mine, Maggie, told me Sasha used to sell heroin in the park. This surprised me at the time but is now beginning to make more sense. Maggie and Sasha don’t get on. Sasha says Maggie bullies her, Maggie says Sasha is a dealer.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. All I can say is what I see with my own eyes. I’ve never witnessed Sasha selling drugs, although they are rife throughout the city centre. She speaks good English, is intelligent, polite to a fault and has never asked me for anything. I’ve had to force money, drinks and food upon her in the past. She carries herself with pride and dignity.

She has a boyfriend, let’s call him Yuri, but I rarely see him. His pitch is on another street which doesn’t form part of my daily commute to and from work. Her pride and joy is her little black and white dog who is forever at her side. Cynics might say the little girl lost routine and cute dog are all part of the scam, to make mugs like me part with our loose change. Maybe, but I honestly don’t believe this is the case here.

She gets hassled a lot by men on the street. I witnessed such an incident the other day. She politely told the guy, a fellow rough sleeper, to go away but he persevered for some time before stumbling off, clearly under the influence of something. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. Sasha is streetwise, she can fight her own battles, but should I have intervened and said something?

Risked a punch to the head? A knife to the guts? But there I go throwing stereotypes around again. It’s so hard to get to the bottom of these people, you barely scratch the surface. I’ve joked to Sasha about interviewing her for my next book and next time I see her I’m giving her a copy of the first one. She’s a reader and seems intrigued that one of my main characters is a young homeless woman.

Our streets are saturated with such young, lost souls and they all have a story to tell. I can’t help them all but if we all do just a little bit more then we can collectively make a massive difference. So if you pass a Sasha today, or a Maggie or a Yuri stop and talk to them. Ask them how you can help. Even a five minute conversation can make all the difference to them. Show them you care.

A New Jerusalem

I’ve now passed the 42,000 word mark for Book 2, although it was a relatively quiet weekend on the writing front. I had to work yesterday so my creative juices were somewhat stymied. It was also quite a draining period on the blogging front not helped by poor sleeping patterns and the usual hectic family schedule. Anyway, here I sit at 42,000 words, a considerable milestone nonetheless.

In the midst of all this I decided to change the working title of the book. Up until now it had been ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Tower,’ which I thought tied in quite neatly with Book One, ‘Skelly’s Square.’ There was a symmetry, a consistent theme which would run throughout the trilogy. Well, that was the plan anyway. Try telling that though to the little orc in my head writing the book. Let’s call him Norman.

Norman writes on the hoof, he’s not one for plotting and planning. In writing circles he’s known as a pantser, that meaning he writes by the seat of his pants. Those organised, methodical types are known as plotters. We laugh in the face of plotters, however, for they know nothing. Norman the Invisible Writing Orc knows best, he always has and always will. Especially when it comes to book titles.

Less than 1% of ‘Skelly’s Square,’ takes place within ‘the square.’ Yet without the square there is no book. It lies at the heart of the story, it is the hub around which everything else revolves. If there was no square then there would be no reason for Skelly and The Company to behave and react the way they do. Therefore the title, ‘Skelly’s Square, made perfect sense to me, it still does to this day.

Without giving too much away, a lot more of Book 2 is written in ‘the tower.’ It’s a key location in the story and possibly the central chapter of the book will occur there. But it didn’t sit quite right with either Norman or myself. So we’ve come up with The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: A New Jerusalem.’ Who knows, it could all change again in a weeks time but, for now, I’m running with it.

So where, or who, or what is ‘A New Jerusalem?’ Well I’m afraid my lips are sealed and I can say no more, as to do so would give away much of the plot. I can guarantee you, however, a story which I believe has even more scope, action and excitement than the first. I know this as I’m excited as I write it, wondering what twists and turns lie ahead for Kirkwood, Meredith and Harley. It’s darker, edgier and funnier. I hope.

I really hope the folk who bought and loved Book 1 will enjoy the follow up as much. You are the people I keep in mind every time I sit down to write. You all invested your time and money in the story so I feel a responsibility to deliver the best possible product I can. It’s your book reviews and blog comments which have kept me chipping away during a tough period on the home front. I truly appreciate your continued support.

So there you have it, this weeks writing update. Norman and I will leave you now and retire to the KSC universe where nothing is quite what it seems nor anyone is quite who they say they are. We all have depths, you just need to reach beneath the placid surface to discover them. Just ask Norman, he spends most of his days there, dredging my murky mind for writing nuggets and gems. Everybody needs a Norman in their life.

What do you think of the book title?

Do you own a Norman?

A Shattered Faith

Yesterday I posted a blog which touched upon a number of negative experiences I have had within the organised church. It was written on the hoof without much forethought or planning. Much of my writing is produced this way, I tend to make it up as I go along. Such writers are known as ‘pantsers.’ I shoot from the hip. Sometimes I hit the bullseye and others I miss my mark, that’s how it is.

I meant every word I wrote and don’t regret what I said. The post remains, I won’t be deleting or editing it. And, as ever, the response from those who commented was largely supportive and understanding. Many sympathised, others wrote of similar experiences. When I write, I always aim to engage and connect with my fellow bloggers. Otherwise what is the point.

All bar one. A woman, who from her comments I believe identifies herself as a Christian, responded to say she viewed my comments as arrogant and unkind. She said I lacked compassion and grace. She said she did not want to criticise me but the entire tone of her lengthy reply was critical. She also threw in a bit of Scripture for good measure. To say I was shocked and disappointed by her passive aggressive stance is an understatement.

Not only did I view her comments as an attack on me, I viewed them as an attack on my wife and kids, who have been treated horrendously at various times by organised church and those within it. I have referred to such experiences in previous posts but don’t wish to dredge them up again. Some hurts are best left buried, sometimes the pain is too much to revisit. The responses of this lady were, at best, ill informed and presumptive.

Having reflected on the matter, I have decided to no longer write about faith issues. This may sound a little contradictory given the name of the blog, but I believe it’s best for all, most importantly my family and my own mental health. I believe in God and the teachings of Jesus but the damage caused by supposed Christians can no longer allow me to engage with such establishments or organisations.

I am far, far from perfect and every day ruminate on my own failings and inadequacies. I am sorry if this disappoints some, you may no longer want to follow the blog after this change in direction. If so, I understand your stance and no hard feelings. I will continue to try and help others through my writing, to encourage and offer hope when there appears to be none. I’ll keep on being me.

I have prayed long and hard regarding a number of issues relating to my family this year. None of them have been answered and with regards one we were delivered a crushing and heart breaking blow which knocked the wind totally from our sails. Thanks to incredible family support we are recovering and picking up the pieces. The church, however, were nowhere to be seen.

Our fractured faith has been shattered in recent times. It is one thing to have prayers unanswered, it’s entirely another to see the complete opposite being delivered and innocent parties having their hopes and dreams blown out of the water. I’ve said my piece, however, and won’t comment any more on the matter. Thank you for taking the time to read the post.

Shiny Happy People Not Holding Hands

Don’t you just detest them? You know the type, the perfect, airbrushed families you see at the school gate or in the supermarket? The kids are always perfectly behaved and immaculately attired. No snotty noses or cheeky answers from these little darlings. They are top of their class and destined for great things, just like their parents, for that’s how the world works, right? Them and us, the have and the have nots. The shiny, happy people.

The dads high five each other a lot and laugh a little more loudly than is required. When you attempt to strike up a conversation with them on the sideline they will humour you but edge away ever so slightly. They congregate at social events such as barbecues and stand as far from the great unwashed as is humanly possible. Their BMWs are always spotless and you could cut your finger on the seam of their chinos. They are called Chad or Brad. Or Tad.

And then there are the mothers, bless them. Permanent grins plastered across their perfectly made up faces, dripping in designer labels and faux sincerity. They nod a lot and are often found at coffee mornings and on school fund raising committees. They were no doubt captains of their high school cheerleading teams. They don’t mean to come across all superior but, well, when in Rome….

These folk, when asked, are always ‘fine.’ Life is wonderful, as depicted on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Their kids never cry, they never argue with their spouses and the ‘f’ bomb has never crossed their lips. The highlight of the week is invariably Sunday when they attend church to meet and mingle with other like minded types. They are often to be found on mission trips to far flung lands helping those who so desperately need them.

They are experts at nose crinkling. Confused? Well let me explain. When you are in conversation with them look beyond the immaculate haircut and gleaming teeth. Look into their eyes and tell me what you see. That’s right, there’s nothing there. You will have seen more compassion in the black dead pools of a great white about to lock its jaws on a doomed swimmer. Then look at their perfect, surgically enhanced, noses and spot the crinkle.

It’s that faintly disgusted flare of the nostrils as if someone has passed wind in the vicinity. They are uncomfortable in your presence as you are not one of them. Come Sunday morning they will hug you, engage in small talk and ‘promise to pray for you’ but the second you turn your back their memory banks are erased of all knowledge of you. Until the next Sunday, that is, when the same tired old routine will be played out again.

You won’t see much of them during the week. They are far too busy on the golf course, at yoga class or being ‘fine’ at some other unspecified location. If you encounter them in the street you’ll get the plastered smile and high pitched greeting but they’ll be too busy to stop and talk, gotta rush, so much to do. They leave you standing there, wondering what on earth you’ve ever done to deserve such appalling indifference from another human being.

They have doors and they have demons but they will never open or acknowledge them. For everything must be perfect, the facade must be maintained at all costs. There are cakes to be baked, holidays to be booked and all that other important stuff that a Proverbs 31 wife and mother does. They are good people and never let that be said against them. No snarling, no claws, no needless gossiping nor staggering hypocrisy from them.

Heaven forbid as they are the chosen ones. They are the shiny, happy people. But let’s not hold hands. Unless it’s a Sunday and the pastor’s watching.

Where are the shiny, happy people in your life?

Have you ever been the victim of a nose crinkling incident?

They Must Never Win

There are days when I want to give up. When book sales aren’t what I hoped they would be, when I put my heart and soul into a post and it sinks without trace. When I wonder what’s the point? There are thousands of other authors out there, what makes me any different, what makes me the one who thinks they are going to break through to the point where I can focus on writing as a career?

It’s a tough gig. Despite the support of loved ones, self doubt creeps into my mind at every possible opportunity. The voice snipes and sneers, undermining me at every twist and turn in this journey. You’re no good, you’ll never amount to anything, you’re a fake, a failure, a fraud. Writing can be the loneliest, most frightening place on earth. You put your everything out there and hope for the best.

There are silver strands of hope. An encouraging review, kind comments on your timeline, helpful words from family, friends and strangers. You cling to these like a drowning man clings to a life jacket for there is no alternative but to slip beneath the still, black waters never to resurface again. Just another wannabe, forced back down where he belongs. Ideas above his station, who did he think he was anyway?

I don’t think about this all the time, most days I am upbeat and positive. I’m going through a bit of a purple patch at the minute, if the truth be told. Book 2 has passed the 40,000 word mark and I’ve resurrected my short story as well. I’m averaging over 1,000 words a day and am grateful that the creative juices continue to flow, despite the dark thoughts which occasionally cloud my judgement and thinking. Like all things in life, they pass.

So there is sunshine waiting to peek out from behind the clouds, there is hope. It is that which I must focus on. If you never left the house because you thought it would rain, then you’d never start any journey in life. There are risks, they are part of the package. It’s how you confront and manage those risks that determine where it will all end up. I’m not afraid to face up to these, it’s part of the process .

I’m going to encounter obstacles, hurdles to overcome and barriers to breach. There will be dead ends which will force me to back track to where I started. Frustrating, time consuming and debilitating. There will be signposts which provide false information, fellow travelers will misdirect you, distractions and a million other scenarios will lead you astray, time after time. It’s tough, but it’s life. Stop whining and get on with it, many will say.

So, today, I’ll write, and tomorrow, and the day after that. I’ll not give up, I’ll not back down, I’ll keep hammering on the door until access is permitted. Giving up is not an option no matter how many times I’m ignored, how many times I’m shunned and sent scuttling back to square one. I’ll lose friends and followers alike but I won’t go away, I’ll keep writing my words and hitting the publish button. They are there….if you want them.

Do you feel like that? Have you a passion in life that you feel is stymied? Do you sense there are forces, seen and unseen, working against you? Are you sick and tired of the door being slammed in your face, of blank expressions and uncaring eyes when you tell others of your latest project or achievement. I want you to know, today, that you’re not alone and you must never give up. For that way they win and they must never win.