My Current Read

Yes, shock, horror it’s a book about the Battle of Waterloo. I’m about 100 pages, the author focusing on the accounts of the men (and women) from both sides who were present just outside a little known Belgian village called Waterloo on 18 June 2015. The carnage which followed reshaped the map of Europe and the accounts of survivors are a harrowing and heart breaking read.

Kershaw manages to evoke the smoke, blood, mud and utter confusion at the heart of the battle. From the diaries of Wellington and Napoleon right down to recollections of the ordinary soldier in the front line this is a tale of gory gallantry. A must for any military historian it recounts the horror and futility of war which still exist today. I’ve this and another three books on Waterloo to read as research for my next novel.

Screaming Into The Abyss

Interaction is so important to me as a writer. Whenever I post a blog, it’s great to see multiple views and likes pop up on my notifications, but it’s the comments that really matter to me. To know that a person has taken the time to read a post, truly thought about it and then responded. Some of the replies can be a few words, others a blog post in themselves, but they are all equally valued and cherished.

There are bloggers I talk to every day, there are less regular visitors and then there are those who I hear from once, then never see again. Often a single line I’ve written has resonated enough to encourage them to respond. I value them all equally. Feedback and engagement is akin to oxygen for writers. Without it, our creative lights flicker, falter, then fade away to nothing. We are left screaming into the abyss.

So I encourage you today to participate, to engage, to become involved in the most supportive online community I’ve ever encountered. While I do dip my toe into other platforms as a necessity, WordPress is where I truly belong. This is my base, my HQ. You don’t have to respond to this post but make a point today of reaching out to a fellow blogger. For all you know, they may be on the verge of giving up, of deleting their accounts.

Don’t give up. We need your voice. We want to learn from your experiences, to grow together and take steps towards a better future. Take risks, write more, open up and expose yourself to new people and experiences. Writing leads to freedom and without the latter, are we truly even alive? So write, talk, be the you that rarely sees the light in the ‘real world.’ You need the light, it is everything. Without the light, there is nothing.

Why Did God Create Wasps?

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things bright and beautiful

The Lord God made them all.

So goes the traditional hymn I recall being belted out on the church organ so many times during my childhood. It was normally reserved for harvest time when each pew would be adorned with fresh farm produce; fruit, vegetables, all manner of breads. The aroma mingled with that of the various garlands of flowers so lovingly arranged by the ladies of the church.

God teaches us to love all of his creations.

Except wasps that is!

I hate wasps! The evil, nasty black and yellow beasties which are currently laying siege to our house. It’s the time of year where they seem to be everywhere. You open a window the tiniest crack and they are queuing up to enter, squadrons of them easterly awaiting to ruin your morning by buzzing around the kitchen looking for a fight. Their sole purpose in life appears to be to sting you. And that hurts.

A wasp stung me on the stomach a couple of years ago when I dared to disturb it when removing chairs from a storeroom in the village hall. And, flip me, but it hurt. The common remedy in these parts for a wasp sting is to rub vinegar on the afflicted area. This works to a degree but leaves you stinking like a fish supper for the remainder of the day, a social leper to be avoided at all costs. There is nothing good to say about a wasps.

Just look at bees. Yes, they sting as well, but they don’t have anywhere near the malicious intent of their vicious cousins. They also serve a useful purpose in the cycle of life, making honey and pollinating flowers. They work hard, have an incredibly ordered social structure and are ruled by a queen who effortlessly runs the whole show from her cosy hive. Yet, everyone talks about killer bees and wasps never get a mention. Why the bad press?

While conducting painstaking research for this post….er…Wikipedia….all my initial thoughts regarding bees were confirmed. I typed ‘wasp’ into the search engine with low expectations. The highlight of my relationship with the creature was when my sister sat on one as a child. Her screams could be heard several miles away. It is now the stuff of family legend and never fails to amuse me. I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this with you all.

But, wait, what’s this? Wasps also cross pollinate plants and flowers? And without wasps predatory instincts, our planet would be awash with all kinds of creepy crawlies laying waste to our crops? Some countries even farm wasps to police this ravenous insect population. They are the state troopers of the microscopic world. Without wasps the earth could be wracked with pestilence, famine and war.

My gob was well and truly smacked at this news, my flabber more ghasted than ever before. Wasps are friends of mankind, a tiny but vital link in the ecological chain. We need them as much as we need cows and fish and every other creature that walks, swims or flies the earth. They say God works in mysterious ways and if that’s certainly the case when it comes to these stripey, flying psychopaths.

It’s hard, I know, but we need to see the good in everyone, even those who make us roll our eyes and mutter under our breaths. Who are we do judge? Who am I to? If I can get it so wrong about the humble wasp then what’s to say I’ve got it hopelessly awry about my annoying neighbour or crazy work colleague. We can still love one another even if we don’t particularly like one another.

Now let’s hope President Trump never gets stung by a wasp live on air. Although it would be funny….

A New Beginning

Today I start Book 2. It’s an exciting, but daunting, thought. The last few months have been such a flurry of activity focusing on the publication and promotion of the first book in the series that I’ve devoted very little time to creative writing. I know there have been a few dissenting voices online but how else am I going to pursue a career in writing if I don’t talk about it every now and then.

Those isolated voices aside, the blogging community have been largely supportive and encouraging. For that, I thank you all. I won’t bore you to death but I will provide occasional updates as to progress of Book 2. I have a working title and a loose plot worked out but as with Book 1, I’m largely relying on the book to write itself when I sit down in front of the blank screen.

I have a tonne of research to plough through as well. I finished the book I’ve been reading for pleasure last night so it’s now time to get into the heavy stuff. I’m hoping the research will also inspire me with ideas as to new character, locations and plotlines. That’s the exciting part of writing, well for me anyway. I never know what’s around the corner. When I started Book 1, the characters of Samuel, Gunther and Willian the Drummer Boy didn’t exist.

I’ve learnt so much during the writing and publication of Book 1 that I’m confident Book 2 will be a much slicker process. The plan is to publish next year and I’m giving myself roughly a year to churn it out. In the meantime, I’ll keep the blog ticking over, go to work every day, train for and run a marathon and be the best husband and father I can possibly be. Normal service, I suppose, so stay tuned.

Thank You Amy

My first book review

My first book review
— Read on amy-westphal.com/2019/08/14/my-first-book-review/

Thank you Amy for this wonderful review of the book. I’m honoured. Amy is a very talented writer and is currently querying her first novel, ‘Capture The Tide,’ a brilliant YA/NA tale of hope, faith and survival set in post apocalyptic America. I certainly recommend checking out her blog where you can follow her literary adventures.

Who Are You?

This was a question I was asked yesterday and it immediately popped into my head the moment I opened my eyes this morning. Hmmmm….now let me think. I’m a father, husband, son, brother, uncle and cousin. I’m a manager, employee, friend and acquaintance. I’m a runner, writer, blogger and lover of honeycomb ice cream and German biscuits. But does that answer the question? Does that capture the essence of who….I….am?

When I was born, forty something years ago, I was none of these things. I have accumulated them as I’ve moved through life, becoming more and more laden down as I’ve struggled towards the summit of wherever I’m meant to be going. Other guises I’ve discarded along the wayside. I’m no longer a student, a drinker, an incredibly average rugby player, and so on. We acquire and shed these skins as we traverse life’s ever meandering paths.

We are chameleons, ever shifting creations, forever morphing into different versions of ourselves. We are moulded by external and internal factors, by circumstance and environment. I’m happy one minute, sad the next. I can be calm, courteous, controlled or cheeky, cutting and caustic. It all depends. On a billion factors, determining how we respond to any given situation. Who am I? I haven’t a clue.

We are layer upon layer of contradiction and juxtaposition. We chop and change at will. The Stephen of ten, five, two years ago bears absolutely no resemblance to the one writing this post today. I’d like to think I’m evolving into a better version of myself but who’s to say what the future holds. In five years time I might not like what I find, if I’m even here at all. And if I’m not ‘here’ then what’s left? Memories of what?

One person will say ‘what a great guy that Stephen was,’ while another might reflect ‘Well, I was never that keen on him and his stupid blog.’ I am a collection of anecdotes and experiences which have left mental imprints on those I’ve encountered on my journey to wherever I ended up. Here lies Stephen Black. Who was he? Well, don’t ask us for he didn’t even know himself. He used to write about it. Something about German biscuits, whatever they are.

If I don’t know who I am, then this begs a further question or two. Why am I here? And seeing as I’m here for the foreseeable future, what do I want to achieve before I move on to….wherever it is I move on to? It’s frightening when you begin to peel away the layers as to who you are and come up with a big fat nothing. For the clock is ticking. Days, become weeks, before months, become years and we are none the wiser as to answering these BIG questions.

Where are the answers? In the Bible, the Quran, sitting cross legged atop a picturesque Himalayan peak chanting sweet nothings into the air? We are searching, scrabbling, forever seeking the truth. The truth of who we are, what we want and where we need to be. One thing I am sure of is I won’t find out by sitting in my house waiting for the front doorbell to ring and the solution to be sitting on the doorstep in a pretty box bedecked with ribbons.

We need to chase, pursue and wrestle with the truth. The truth of us, our very essence. Only then will we begin to scratch beneath the surface and secure a tantalising glimpse of the real us. Inertia and indifference will only lead to frustration and disappointment. We need to succeed, fail, and everything in between. The comfort zone is crammed with like minded souls staring in the mirror and scratching their heads. The answer is out there. Seek and ye shall find. I think.

Who am I?

Who are you?

Killing Villanelle

I’ve been binge watching, and raving over, the BBC series ‘Killing Eve,’ of late. So as I spill the rest of my life all over WordPress I thought I would share the love with my blogging friends. It stars Sandra Oh (from Grey’s Anatomy) as Eve Polastri, a MI6 operative tasked with tracking down a Russian female assassin known only by her codename, Villanelle. It’s a darkly comedic thriller, now into its second season.

Eve and Villanelle are both brilliant in their respective fields and embark on a cat and mouse chase which takes them across Europe. As Eve becomes increasingly obsessed with catching her prey, Villanelle, played by English actress Jodie Comer, wreaks havoc across the Continent, leaving a swathe of bodies in her wake. She manages to narrowly avoid her pursuers at every twist and turn.

The show is stylish, outrageous and bizarre in equal measures. But the real star is Comer who masters numerous languages and accents with consummate evil as the chameleon like assassin. On the surface, her character is utterly detestable. She is an total psychopath, a deeply damaged individuals with no qualms over killing. She is utterly ruthless, displaying no conscience whatsoever.

The genius of the writing and her performance, however, is that we end up loving her. Comer plays Villanelle with incredible grace and charm, one moment an ice cold killer, the next displaying a child like fascination with her surroundings. She is completely out of control and both her handlers and the Security Forces are repeatedly outwitted. The series is such fun that we don’t want her to be caught.

Oh is also brilliant as Eve, struggling to maintain a semblance of a private life while being drawn deeper and deeper into the murky world of spies and contract killers. A strong supporting cast and the backdrops of London, Paris, Amsterdam and Moscow round off a memorable show. I’m restricting myself to an episode a night at present as I don’t want it to end. Life post Eve is a depressing prospect.

I’m a terrible judge of character which, down the years, I have come to rue at my leisure. Fionnuala, on the other hand, is astute when it comes to weighing up new acquaintances. ‘I really like her/him,’ I’ll gush over an individual only to be met by her steely gaze. ‘No, I’m not so sure,’ she will reply. ‘There’s something about them I can’t warm to.’ Nine times out of ten, she’s spot on. Oh alright then, ten times.

So, if we were to meet Villanelle tomorrow I’d be declaring her my new best friend while the alarm bells would be sounding for my wise wife. Before you’d know it I’d be found floating in a suitcase on the River Lagan with my throat slit. Fionnuala would tut, shake her head and frown. ‘I told you to give her a wide berth but you never listen to me, do you? And look where it got you now.’

I’m getting better at this people judging lark, but it’s still one of the many chinks in my armour. The old me craves to be liked so threw caution to the wind when it came to new friendships. I always thought I knew best and stumbled from one catastrophe to the next. I’ve learnt the hard way, had my fingers burnt and my knuckles rapped so many times. I err on the side of caution now, the coin has flipped and I’m much more wary and suspicious.

I don’t have anywhere near as many friends. I’ve bolstered my naturally shy disposition with a distrust of new people. My defences are permanently raised and it takes a lot for me to lower them for anyone. It’s not an ideal life default setting but a necessary one in order to maintain the status quo of calm I’ve worked so hard for. So the Villanelle’s of this world can try their damnedest, I’m not falling for their charms.

Are You In A One Way Friendship?

We all lead busy lives and it’s increasingly difficult to find the time to forge and maintain the deep friendships which anchor our lives and provide safe refuge when the wheels come off. True, lasting friendships are precious and should be protected at all costs; our friends are our first line of defence when besieged with all that life can throw at us. We depend on them, they are our be all and end all.

Or are they? When does a friendship reach the point where it becomes toxic and damaging to us? When we are faced with the decision of cutting off all ties and moving on without someone who had previously been a mainstay in our day to day existence? It’s a tough, painful decision but sometimes it has to be made for the sake of our own sanity. Boils need lanced before they poison us from within.

Today, I’m writing about one way friendships, the type you give everything to, but are left feeling that the sentiment is not reciprocated on the other side of the fence. The friend who you only ever hear from when they need something, the friend who reads your messages but it’s beneath them to actually respond. The person who is oblivious to the serious damage they can cause via their apathy and indifference.

Friendship is not a one way street. It’s a living, dynamic relationship requiring commitment and interaction from both parties. Yet, for some that seems like way too much effort. They exist in a bubble of self, immune to the sad soul looking in, craving even a crumb of their attention. I see these people everywhere I go. They are vacuous, insipid and narcissistic beyond repair. They seek your adoration but don’t be bringing any problems to their door.

They won’t answer the door in the dead of night, when you come desperately in need of their aid. They will parade their perfect, airbrushed lives in front of you via the numerous social media platforms they inhabit. They will hug and air kiss, hearty handshakes and booming laughter aplenty. But step beyond the classroom, church or workplace and you are dead to them. Until next time, that is.

I’ve been on the receiving end of such faux friendships and, believe me, it hurts. You’ll hear from them the second you aren’t fulfilling your side of the arrangement but unwilling to lift a finger when the shoe is on the other foot. For that would be awfully tiresome and they’re far too wrapped up in their own soap opera existences to afford you the time of day. They are parasites, leeches, devouring your self worth and confidence.

Cauterise and cut them out. For otherwise they will bleed you dry, discarding the hollow husk that was your soul by the roadside. Unfollow. Unfriend. Do whatever it takes to squirm free from their incestuous influence on your life. Driving down a one way street can only end in calamity and chaos. You will be left trapped in the wreckage, battered and bruised, while they saunter off without a mark on their bodies. They will not look back, for they care not.

Some fires, no matter how much time we afford to them, will splutter and die. They flatter to deceive until you are left with nothing but a wisp of smoke when the heavens open. Some plants will wither away, no matter how much we water and tend to them. The clock is ticking. We are all running out of that most precious of commodities, time. Don’t waste yours on the one way friendship.

My First Ever WordPress Rant

An uncharacteristic day on WordPress where normally I encounter universal support and positivity from my fellow bloggers. I’ve had a handful of negative and, in my humble opinion, utterly unnecessary comments pop up on the feed. I’ve thought long and hard about responding to them but have finally decided to get it out of my system. So please bear with me while I have my little rant. It won’t be long, I promise.

Firstly I am totally open to constructive feedback and criticism. My skin isn’t that thin and I understand it’s the only way I will improve as a blogger and writer. I welcome these. What I don’t welcome are hurtful and hateful comments aimed at jibing me and provoking a reaction. These are all the more hurtful as the author appeared to have devoted considerable time and effort. There was also more than a hint of gleeful malice behind them.

Next up are criticisms of what I write. I wear my heart on my sleeve and pride myself on the honesty of my writing. If I’m having a bad day/week/month it will tend to come across in my content. I make no excuses for that, it’s who I am. You will get warts and all from me as opposed to a ‘happy clappy’ worldview where everything is wonderful and rainbow coloured unicorns frolic on marshmallow clouds.

If you don’t like this then feel free to unfollow the blog. Nobody is forcing you to read this if it doesn’t agree with your faith, ethics or morals. My faith is fractured, the clue is in the title, and at times on the verge of collapse. You need not fret as I’m sure God and I will work it out in the end. I’m a bit like Jacob in that respect, forever wrestling with the fallout from the toxic and distinctly un-Christian behaviour I regularly witnessed within the church environment.

Next up, I’m a writer, so I tend to blog about writing quite a bit. I’ve written a book and I’m about to start a second one. A follower today had an issue with the amount of time I spend blogging about said books. I’m apparently at fault for daring to promote my novel. Once again, I’m not asking anyone to buy the book, I’m sure you all have budgets and I never would dream of being at the top of them. But I do reserve the right to utilise this forum to talk about my passion for writing.

I also was at fault today for daring to post a quote from Sylvia Plath, the American poet and author who tragically committed suicide at a young age. My critic stated It was inappropriate to use a quote from someone who had ‘stuck their head in an oven.’ Shame on me, but thank you for bringing this failing to my attention via your staggeringly insensitive comments. I pray to God you and your family are never plagued by the mental illnesses that drove this brilliant, deeply troubled woman to her death.

Because people who commit suicide are weak and wrong and somehow bad, right? Mental illness, pah! These people need to ‘shake it off’ and ‘pull themselves together.’ I apologise on behalf of us all and bow to your superior wisdom and mental fortitude. In over two years of blogging I’ve never felt the need to respond in this manner. But today was the day that broke this grumpy camel’s back.

Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed tomorrow, or as normal as I’ll ever be. To continue the desert analogies, this will be my line in the sand. I won’t rise to the bait again, I’ll simply delete the offending comment and block the person who wrote it. Life’s too short. The other 99.99% of you are utterly wonderful and I apologise for sounding off in this manner. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Writing Doubts

I’m experiencing a mental block with regards my writing. Note, I’m not calling it writer’s block for it’s not as if my creative well has dried up. Rather, the opposite. The ideas in my head continue to pile up, so much so, that I’ve purchased a notebook to write them all down in. I amuse myself by thinking that one day it will auction for £1 million. There’s no harm in dreaming, I guess.

I’m also blogging regularly about a range of topics. The problem is breaking the ice on Book Two. I roughly know the plot which revolves around several key incidents which rise out of the murky waters of my mind like craggy rocks jutting above the surface at low tide. They are the foundations of the novel, the rest will form around them as I engage in the creative process.

I am a ‘seat of the pants’ writer or ‘pantser’ as the writing community refers to us. It’s not a case of making it up as I go along, but a lot of my ideas come to me as I engage in the physical act of writing. It’s as if the book is writing itself, some other being has taken control of my fingertips as I tap frantically at the keyboard. Sometimes I read back over what I’ve written in astonishment. Did I actually write that?

To date, sitting down and launching into Book 2 has evaded me. Even thinking about it causes me anxiety, just like I fret before a long run or business meeting. I know when I start I’ll be fine and the nerves will disappear. It’s just typing that first sentence, getting back into the groove of the Kirkwood Scott universe. It’s a big ask and people expect me to deliver the goods. As ever, I doubt my own ability.

I’ve been tinkering with another story, ‘Bomb Girl,’ in the meantime, posting it on the blog in a serialised format. It hasn’t been scoring a lot of views, which has impacted upon my always low confidence. Equally, sales of Kirkwood have been steady, but unspectacular. I still have a way to go before I’m packing in the day job. But I knew all that. I’m a fledgling author, I need to build a body of work.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, or Belfast for that matter, yet the doubts persist. People who say they were going to read the book haven’t, people who have read it haven’t posted reviews. Do they all hate it but are too nice to tell me so? Are people tiring of it all? I need to promote my work but am I starting to sound like a broken record. Am I turning folk off in my efforts to publicise my work?

It’s a double edged sword and I feel as if I’m walking a jagged tightrope along its gleaming edge. I’m returning to work this morning after almost two weeks off and the net sum of my writing has been one rather hurried chapter of ‘Bomb Girl.’ And only then because Fionnuala encouraged me to do so. Left to my own devices I would probably still be staring at a blank laptop screen. It just hasn’t been happening.

I need a collective kick up the backside to pull my finger out and get back in the saddle. Kirkwood was fresh in my mind and I now know I should have started Book 2 almost as soon as the ink was dry on its predecessor. You live and you learn. I need Kirkwood, Meredith, Harley and the others to take up residence once more. It’s time for Skelly to start plotting once more, time to return to the Square.

Woolly Hats In August

Big running day as Gearard, my brother in law, and I stepped it up to over 10.5 miles. Gearard is running his first half marathon next weekend while I stepped up the mileage again as part of my training for the Belfast Half Marathon on 22 September. That’s only six weeks away now! It was a typically unpleasant Northern Irish summer’ morning, hence the hat and long sleeves. Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Girls Night Out….Boys Night In

Fionnuala, Hannah & Rebecca had a great time at the Boyzone concert in Belfast last night. 12,000 fans packed out Falls Park in Belfast to hear them perform their final ever Irish concert as part of the Feile an Phobail festival. The weather remained (mostly) dry and the girls sang their hearts out, returning home tired but happy. Hannah is now a concert veteran and placed this in her ‘Top 3.’

Meanwhile Adam and I retired to the home of Fionnuala’s brother, Gearard, to await the end of the show. Gearard was the perfect host and we spent the evening dining on pizza, chicken goujons and Pringles while watching rugby, football and GAA on his big screen television. I was fit to burst by the end of the night so it’s very timely that Gearard and I are going for a run on Sunday morning.

What the People Think

Hi everyone just sticking my head in to say hello as it’s been a while since I last posted anything. It’s been crazy busy here over the last month the kids have been on summer holidays so we’ve been going on various different day trips seeing what there is to do on our doorstep and it’s been brilliant everybody has got to see and do what they want so far.

Did you know that Stephen has published his first novel? The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles- Skelly’s Square will be one month old tomorrow!! I’m beginning to think that writing the book was the easy part and I’ve got the short straw of marketing it I hadn’t realised just how time consuming and hard work it actually is I’m fairly certain that I’ve gained quite a few more grey hairs in the last four weeks lol but it has to be done to get the book’s profile out there.

Stephen has had so much support from all of you throughout his writing process and we honestly cannot wait to hear of your thoughts of it when you get round to purchasing and reading your copy.

As I mentioned before the book will be one month old tomorrow and it has received fourteen FIVE STAR reviews!! We’ve had reviews from Ireland 🇮🇪 UK 🇬🇧 USA 🇺🇸 Canada 🇨🇦 and Australia 🇦🇺 – thank you 😊

Stephen and I can keep plugging and plugging the book telling you how amazing it is but I think the reviews say it all so below I have posted the reviews and a few of the #Skelfies we’ve received so far. If you haven’t purchased your copy yet it is available to buy as an ebook or paperback format worldwide from your country’s local Amazon Marketplace just do a search for The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles- Skelly’s Square.

Enjoy reading What the People Think of the book and seeing all the happy faces with their copy of the book.

Reasons To Stay Alive #4

People. My family. My friends. YOU! Writing can be such an insular process. The loneliness of the long distance runner, I get that, but it’s got nothing on the writing experience. The worry, the doubt, the 1001 emotions that rampage through your head every time your finger hovers over the publish button. It’s a whirlwind, forever seeking to scale the summit of an imaginary hill of words. A world of words can be an intimidating landscape.

Yet I survey it, having clambered to the peak. Getting my thoughts on paper has been the making of me, it has unraveled so many emotional knots, scraped away the detritus and revealed the real me to the world. Warts and all. It has been the most cleansing, liberating experience possible, the most refreshing of power showers. Part of that has been not just the writing itself, but the sharing of my labours. With you.

Interaction and feedback have been the life giving literary oxygen my starved lungs have craved. It’s a buzz, a fix, but a positive one that doesn’t result in a 12 hour blackout followed by a 3 day hangover of monumental proportions. I need to write now, as much as I need to eat and sleep. It is a basic necessity, a cornerstone of my day. I’d write if three people read this blog or 3 million. It is part of me, chiselled on my newly refined DNA.

The joyous offspring of this new obsession has been the book. Two years of grafting but when I hold it and flick through it’s pages, I experience a slightly odd out of body experience. Did I really write this? Wow. What’s more, people seem to like it. Double Wow. They can’t all be lying, can they? Is this a world wide conspiracy by a group of people who don’t know one another in order to keep my ever brittle confidence intact?

Writing often involves dredging your past to recover and examine memories you’d rather leave buried. It can be a painful activity but a worthwhile one as it leads to new memories, friendships and experiences. The collage above says it so much more eloquently than I ever could. These kind, supportive, loving people. They are my reason for writing, for being alive, free from the shackles of a shameful past. For that I thank you all.

Why do you write?

What are your reasons for staying alive?

Like my words? Then try my book. ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Just click the link below for more details. You won’t regret it.

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

We Need Your Feedback

The blog passed 11,000 followers the other day and it’s growth continues to amaze and delight me. I don’t know why people keep coming back to view, like and comment but I’m forever grateful. At each milestone, I like to ask you guys what you want from the blog in the future. As well as, what does it mean to you, the deluded fools who read it every day. Without the interaction, blogging is a thankless task. You people make it worthwhile.

Here’s what’s on the table. Let us know what you want to see more of:

  • My fiction writing. I’ve recently published my first novel and I’m serialising a shorter story at present on the blog. I have loads more projects simmering and want to one day make a living as an author.
  • More serious introspective pieces focusing on mental health, particularly OCD, depression, anxiety and addiction.
  • Lighter pieces focusing on everyday events which strike a chord with me and tickle my funny bone.
  • Family posts, including contributions from Fionnuala, Hannah and Rebecca.
  • Spiritual posts.
  • Book and film reviews.

What do you want to see? Please comment below?

The Idiot’s Guide To Writing A Book

Let’s face it, I’m an idiot. Anyone who has followed this blog these last two and a bit years will know that. I stepped away from a chaotic past and started writing….and running….and then writing some more. All in my 40’s! Classic mid life crisis man. I’m sure that’s what some people think and they’re probably a little bit right. It’s been a crazy few years, but in a good way. And I have learnt a thing or two along the way.

Since publishing the book I’ve been asked so many questions about it. How I came up with the idea, the process itself, all the way through to publishing and promoting it. I’ve answered them as honestly and openly as I can, but thought it might be a good idea to publish a blog series, containing my thoughts and experiences. The good, the bad and the exceedingly ugly. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Imaginatively entitled ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Writing A Book,’ it will be an occasional series. I hope it will spur some of you on into taking that huge step and committing to fulfilling a personal dream. I can tell you there is no better feeling than holding a copy of your first novel. Well, actually that’s not true. Holding your first born child trumps it….and second….and third. Getting married. Waking up without a stupendous hangover every morning.

But you get my drift. I hope the series will be of some use. If you have any specific questions or areas you would like to address then drop them in the comments below. Or if you already have an idea for a book, you’re currently writing one or anything else then let me know. Writing is soooo tough and a largely thankless task. I want to help fellow first time authors take that first, huge step. It’s scary but you won’t regret it. You can be sure of that.

The Thunderstorm

Yesterday afternoon I headed out on a scheduled 5 mile run. There were dark clouds overhead but I figured, on current form, I could scoot round and be home and dry without a drop of rain touching me. How wrong I was. About 3 miles into the run I heard the first crack of thunder and looked skywards to see a foreboding sight. Angry, impenetrable clouds about to unload their watery contents onto the head of the foolish man who though he could outrun Mother Nature.

I kicked on but, truth be told, I was already struggling. Yes, it was a hilly and challenging course, but I think it was more mental than anything. This was one of the routes I used to run with my ‘best friend.’ A friend I don’t speak to anymore. The route brought back bad memories and presented a mental challenge I seemed unable to negotiate. I was effectively beaten long before the first fat raindrop landed on my forehead.

I took cover under a tree and flinched as the sky lit up with a streak of lightning. Much closer than I initially thought, it crossed my mind I could be in a spot of trouble. The rain was now bouncing off the road and the overhead foliage was doing little to keep me dry. My running gear was soaked through. I looked at my phone screen to see a missed call from Fionnuala. There was no way I was going to complete the run. I was stranded.

I returned her call and, in my most pathetic, whiny voice, asked if she could drive out and get me. Rebecca was worrying about her Daddy getting struck with lightning and Charlie the dog was going nuts, as animals do when thunder and lightning arrive. I stood on the roadside, a pathetic sight, waiting for my long suffering wife to arrive and rescue me. The crazy thing? By the time we arrived home, the storm had ceased as quickly as it had started. Northern Irish weather, huh?

I vowed to myself I would never run that route again. It was as if God didn’t want me to go down that road, to revisit a past I have worked so hard to walk away from. Even had the rains not come, I think I would have struggled to get round. My arms and legs felt heavy and dead the second I took the turn onto the road. The wrong turn. In future, I would stick to the flatter, boring courses I have come to love and cherish, where it rarely rains.

Running is as much mental as it is physical and yesterday was no exception. I thought I knew best, that I could outrun my past, but got it terribly wrong. I’m not as strong as I think I am and my ego got well and truly mangled as a result. It’s not the first time Fionnuala has rescued me from a self inflicted pickle and it won’t be the last. She’s had 23 years practice and still I think Stephen knows best. Stephen doesn’t know best.

Are you in a pickle? Have you taken the wrong turn and now find yourself huddled by the side of the road utterly exposed as a tumultuous thrall threatens to wipe you out. Here’s my advice. There’s always a call you can make. There’s that one person you can reach out to, who will be there in the blink of an eye, dropping everything to charge to your rescue. It can be a family member, a friend, a work colleague. Just swallow your pride and make the call.

Some roads are not meant to be revisited. Only fools tread there, hellbent on drowning in the dark waters of pasts we need not wade through. Stick to what you know, do not stray for that is where you will stutter, stumble and succumb to thoughts and memories which no longer belong within your being. For you are better than that, you deserve better than that. Freedom comes at a price, but it’s a price worth paying.

Have You Bought Your Copy Yet?

The book continues to sell steadily and has now accrued ten 5 star reviews on Amazon. For some reason, the proud state of Texas seems particularly keen on the adventures of Kirkwood Scott as he battles an ancient evil on the streets of Belfast. Here’s Liz from deepest Texas holding her copy. Available to buy on Amazon in e book and paperback format. You can also download it for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Have you bought your copy yet?

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

What’s Your Favourite Disney Movie?

In the last week we have watched the remakes of two Disney classics, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin.’ I’m not a massive Disney fan so didn’t sit down to either with high expectations. I think I’m still traumatised by 4 a.m. repeats of ‘The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’ during the early years with the hatchlings. I’ve also watched ‘Finding Nemo’ approximately 6,000 times to the point where Dory had better recall than me.

Fionnuala and the girls raved over ‘The Lion King’ remake. I only have vague recollections of watching the original but it seems the reboot remains largely faithful to it. Beyoncé voices one of the lionesses but the highlight for me was Seth Rogen as Pumba the warthog. There’s something about Seth Rogen. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I like the guy. For me, he can do no wrong. He makes a great warthog.

The CGI effects are amazing and most of the original soundtrack makes a reappearance. I’m not a fan of the cheesy ‘Hakuna Matata’ but all the other classics fared well in this reboot. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but wouldn’t be queuing up to watch it again. The hyenas were probably my favourite animals in it, full of sinister intent and sly malice. They wouldn’t have looked out of place on the slopes of Mount Doom in a Peter Jackson movie.

Everyone knows the plot of Aladdin, even though I can’t recall having watched the original from start to finish. I must admit I didn’t sit down to watch it with high hopes, rather it was a family movie I was ‘enduring’ with the ladies of the house. Fionnuala is a tad obsessed with Will Smith and knows all the words to ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ I really can’t compete with that.

Two hours later I was struggling for superlatives to describe it. Brilliant! Amazing! I loved it. Smith is a revelation as the Genie, aided by fantastic special effects and a strong supporting cast. The actors who play Aladdin and Princess Jasmine were superb, the entire movie an explosion of colour and energy. Smith proved he can sing as well as rap and, well, everybody loves ‘A Whole New World.’

My favourite, though, was the magic carpet. Who would have thought a rectangle of fabric could be so expressive and personable. The entire movie flowed with an infectious passion which even an old grump like me couldn’t resist. Rebecca fell asleep towards the end but that was due to the late hour as opposed to any reflection on the film. I’d happily watch it with her again.

The new ‘Aladdin’ has to be up there now with my other favourite Disney flicks, ‘Brother Bear’ and ‘Enchanted.’ The former would melt the ice encased heart of a woolly mammoth while the latter has Amy Adams. I won’t have a bad word said about Amy Adams….ever. Her talent is boundless. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Sharp Objects,’ or any other movie she’s been in for that matter. The girl has talent to burn.

The Disney machine gets its fair share of flak for being a heartless corporate beast pulling at our heartstrings while rifling through our wallets with overpriced merchandise and some dubious business practices. But when it’s churning out classics like the above it’s hard not to succumb to its charms. Life is hard enough and we all need a little magic from time to time. Disney can still serve it up.

Have you watched the ‘Lion King’ or ‘Aladdin ‘ remakes? What did you make of them?

What’s your favourite Disney movie?

Thank You TheNewMrsM

Thank you to my blogging buddy, Lou at https://thenewmrsmblog.wordpress.com/whose copy of my first novel, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ arrived today. Lou runs a great little blog detailing her busy life. Her focus is very much family and fitness and her healthy food options are always a sight to behold. Check her out, everyone. A blogger worth following. And if you like my writing and want to check out my book, then simply click the link below.

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

Me And My XXXL Life

Regular readers will know I recently visited a hydro park with Adam and Rebecca. What’s a hydro park? Well, think of a giant inflatable obstacle course and you’re close….situated in the middle of a reservoir. The kids loved it. Adam is fearless and launched himself off the highest points into the water without a thought for his own personal safety. Rebecca was more hesitant to begin but, by the end of the session was, swimming and sliding with the best of them.

As for me? Let’s just say I survived. I’m not a strong swimmer and had swallowed approximately half of the reservoir by the end of the hour long session. Fionnuala has extensive footage of me falling over and clinging to obstacles, that will never see the light of day. While purportedly there to look out for the kids I suffered the ignominy of being hauled out of the water by my 12 year old daughter while my wife cackled from afar, capturing the humiliation for future generations to gawk at.

I’d rather run a marathon any day of the week. The hydro park worked an entirely different set of muscles from what I’m used to and quickly confirmed what I’ve always suspected; my upper body strength is pathetic and when it comes to aquatic ability I have all the grace and technique of a hyper ventilating hippopotamus. I’ll be able to tell future generations I’ve done it, but will be in no hurry to repeat the experience. I’ll stick to terra firma in future.

The most bizarre event, however, occurred before I even dipped a toe in the water. When we went to collect our wetsuits the girl in charge of them eyed the three of us up and down before handing Rebecca a ‘small’ and Adam a ‘medium.’ Now our son is a big guy, taller and broader than me. Imagine my horror then when I was handed a ‘XXXL’ wetsuit. I looked at the girl in disbelief who smiled politely before turning her attention to the next customer.

I’m paranoid about my weight at the best of times. I lost a lot of weight when I started running six years ago and have an irrational fear of it all creeping back on again. I have a love-hate relationship with food at the best of times, despise getting my photograph taken and have a morbid fear of scales. The voice in my head rubbed its hands in glee as I trudged disconsolately off to the changing rooms. Was I really that huge?

The answer of course was no which was confirmed when I emerged several minutes later. You could have squeezed the offensive line of the Washington Redskins into the wetsuit and still had room for me. To the sounds of familial sniggers I waddled off to the safety talk with as much decorum as I could muster given the circumstances. Whenever you attend a hydro park, make sure to leave your ego at the front door.

Ah, ego. Years ago I did have a ‘XXXL’ ego which could have comfortably filled such a wetsuit. I would have huffed and flounced about, probably asked for a smaller size and ruined the occasion for everyone. Life, however, has a habit of kicking the pomp and haughtiness out of a person and I’m a perfect example. Being part of a loving family is all about teamwork and the emphasis is on ‘us’ as opposed to ‘me.’

I won’t say I’ve changed for I still have my moments, we all do. The difference now is that I quickly realise when I’m being a prat and take action to nip it in the bud. I’m chipping away at the old self, hoping to reveal the version of me underneath which was always there, just biding his time. He’s keen to break free and make up for lost time. He’s ‘XXXL’ on life and isn’t afraid to shout it from the rooftops.

The Four C’s Of Blogging

I keep getting asked what is the secret to successful blogging. Which baffles me as folk seem to be suggesting I’m a successful blogger. I don’t see it that way at all as there are many, many better writers than me out there in the bloggersphere. But for what it’s worth here are my two cents. You can take from it what you regard as useful and ignore the rest. These thoughts are just my personal opinions.

1. Consistency

I blog every day. That’s my personal choice. I realise that doesn’t suit everyone due to other commitments but if you are serious about building a successful blog you should get into the habit of posting on a regular basis. If you propose to blog every day, every other day or 2-3 times a week, your readers will know when to expect new material from you.

There’s nothing more frustrating than a blogger you really like, posting sporadically or going AWOL for long periods of time. Building a readership doesn’t happen overnight. You need to work at it and that involves earning the loyalty and trust of your readers. They will keep coming back for more if they know you’re going to be there. Inconsistent bloggers won’t merit that trust.

2. Content

Every blogger needs a message, a vision statement if you will. Why are you blogging? What are you seeking to convey to your readers? If you want to write about your passions for fishing and pot holing, then go for it, but don’t after three months decide you want to ‘do a 180’ and blog about North Korean politics and architecture.

Content is key. Focus on quality and building a niche for yourself within the community where you feel most at home. Readers know what they like and if they like the topics you discuss, then they will keep coming back to your site. Writing about what you know also equates to more efficient and effective writing. Your passion for your content will shine through and become infectious to others.

3. Controversy

There is an argument that ‘shock blogging’ will get you noticed, but I don’t buy into that. At best, it’s a short term tactic that soon wears thin. Always be courteous and civilised in your blogging. Considering I’m Northern Irish, I largely steer clear of writing about religion and politics, two contentious areas on this island I live on. I tend to keep my thoughts on such topics private.

Call me churlish, but I’m also not a fan of unnecessary swearing. Where I see the ‘F Bomb’ in the title or first few lines of a post, I tend to stop reading. I’m no prude but is that really the best you can manage? I’m all for passionate blogging but I tend to disengage in a person’s argument if it involves a lot of shouting and swearing. Offensive images, memes and videos are also a personal no no.

4. Communication

Communication is a two way street. It’s all very well penning award winning posts, but that’s only half the battle. You need to reach out and engage within your community. If someone takes the time to comment on your work, then reply to them. Read other blogs, like their content, follow them, encourage and support fledgling bloggers. WordPress is a caring and supportive community.

I’ve found it a world apart from the vain, self absorbed platforms of Twitter or Instagram. Bloggers want to build friendships and relationships. It’s a safe place to learn and explore your emotions. I’d say 99.9% of my interactions on WordPress have been positive. I’ve made friends across the world, people I engage with more than my next door neighbours. That’s the joy of blogging.

I hope you’ve found these pointers of use. Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.

Bomb Girl – Chapter 4

The story continues….

Dark chocolate. Darker thoughts. Ariana chewed thoughtfully on a chunk of her bar as she stared across the river towards the main university building. Seated at her desk, she groaned and pushed away the opened text book which had proven utterly impenetrable to her for the past twenty minutes. Was it just her, or did her class mates struggle just as much with the reading list she had been valiantly battling through since the start of term? There was little point asking Tess, whose attention span barely allowed her to consume a Kardashian tweet, let alone a 450 page tome on post-war Europe and its fragile fledgling economy.

Her room was small and plain, but to Ariana it was freedom. Freedom from Monksbridge and the stigma which had hung over her like an obstinate rain cloud, these last eighteen years. She had a bed, desk, books and most of all it was all hers. No intrusions, no being checked on every five minutes, no curfew or 50,000 questions every time she opened the front door. She could go where she wanted, when she wanted and with whosoever she wanted. Not that her social diary was overflowing with engagements. Her conscious decision to fly under the radar was a constant source of irritation to the limelight hogging Tess.

‘Be careful how low you fly, my dear Ariana. We don’t want you clipping the ground and bursting into a ball of flame.’

Ariana winced, altogether unconvinced by her selection of chocolate. She reluctantly forced down the piece she was chewing on, before picking the remainder of the bar and lobbing it towards the overflowing metal bin in the corner of the room. It ricocheted off the rim, before settling on a crumpled mass of clothing where it balanced precariously next to a rolled up pair of unwashed socks. Another luxury of the student lifestyle.

‘For God’s sake, Ariana, your room is a pigsty. I want it cleaned, cleaned do you hear me. Or you know what’s coming.’

Ariana shuddered and shook her head, shutting the venomous voice our of her head. Most days it lay dormant but, occasionally like just now, it would squirm free and wriggle past her mental defences, whispering accusations and false truth into her ear. Stupid chocolate, she thought, what had possessed her to buy it. She hated dark chocolate, always had. Yes, student life was all about experimentation, but she knew what she liked and that was that. Plain Jane, under the radar, forever and ever, amen.

Plain Jane. Hallowed be thy name.

Ariana jumped, the squawk of her mobile phone dragging her back to the present from the introspective pity party. She peered at the screen although she already knew who it was from and what it was about. Tess.

‘I’m outside the Union. Where are u? U better not still be in that bloody library? 😡

Ariana smiled, before picking up her phone and tapping out a suitably pithy response.

‘And what if I was? You’d never find me as you don’t even know where the library is?’

Her finger hovered over the 😊 emoji button, before she thought better of it. Ariana didn’t do smiley emoji, in fact she didn’t really do smiling at all, despite the best efforts of the eternally effervescent Tess Cartwright.

‘Remind me we have to work on your sense of humour in addition to all ur many other social inaddequacues. Hurry up!!’

‘I’ll be there ASAP. And it’s inadequacies.’

‘Whatever swotty pants. Just hurry up. The cider calleth.’

Ariana tossed her phone onto the bed and frowned at the floor, where the majority of her wardrobe currently lay. She eventually settled on a regulation pair of black leggings and formless green woollen jumper she had picked up in a charity shop the week before last. She decided against taming her mop of dark curls, a losing battle if ever there was one. Besides, the earache she would receive from Tess for being any later than she already was just wasn’t worth the hassle.

‘Are you going out looking like that? Why can’t you wear a nice dress? You look like a boy, and a not particularly handsome boy at that. You could be so pretty, if you’d only make the effort.’

Twice in one day. Ariana froze, hand outstretched to grab her phone from the desk. She had finished her last prescription ten days ago and resolved she was going it alone this time. She was finished with pharmaceutical crutches, another Monksbridge hangover she no longer wanted dogging every step of her new life. A tablet a day keeps the voices anyway. Possibly, but the only way to find out for certain was to tough it out and go cold turkey. Seven years of counselling and pill popping didn’t unmake the story that was ‘Bomb Girl.’ The scars were there, just beneath the skin, waiting to be picked at, reopened.

Scabs are a natural part of the healing process. An ugly necessity before the beauty beneath can be revealed.

Ariana snorted. A counsellor had said that to her once. She hadn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She stuffed the phone into her battered leather satchel, before hauling it over her shoulder. The first few days off her medication had been plain smiling, despite a mild, yet persistent neck ache which refused to budge, no matter how often she cracked or massaged it. A small price to pay, though, and a bonus was her skin seemed less greasy and prone to spotty outbreaks.

Every cloud has a silver lining….

But now the ghosts of her past were starting to converge, rather one ghost in particular. Her not so beloved mother. Ariana flung open her room door and made her way out of the halls and along the concourse towards the Students Union at the rear of the main building. She ignored another beep from her bag. Honestly, Tess was so impatient but a godsend, nonetheless. That’s if God existed. A once irrefutable fact and standing fixture in her life which now looked increasingly shaky with every passing day.

‘An untested faith is a useless faith.’

‘Yeah about as useless as all those Christian cliches you shoved down my throat every day,’ she snarled under her breath, earning a curious glance from a male student headed in the opposite direction. Ariana smiled weakly, feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment. She hurried on, determined to shove the ongoing argument with her dead mother to the far recesses of her mind. Where it rightly belonged. Up ahead, she caught sight of Tess, hopping from one foot to the other like an over excited toddler who needed to use the bathroom. Was she wearing…..a ballgown?

‘Well?? Do you like it?’ Tess spun around, an ocean of pink chiffon fanning out in all directions. ‘I picked it up dirt cheap. Less than £200. I’m going for the Lily Allen look.’

‘Lily Savage more like,’ sniggered Ariana, earning a petulant pout from her unimpressed friend.

‘Honestly, Ariana. For one with such a theatrical name, you can be an utter bore at times.’

‘One tries.’ Ariana smiled sweetly as Tess grabbed her forearm and proceeded to frogmarch her through the doors of the Union into an already packed bar. ‘Come on,’ she squealed, the jibe at her attire already forgotten. ‘There are cheap drinks to be necked and boys aplenty.’ She momentarily halted and, eyeing Ariana up and down, scrunched her nose in mild disdain.

‘You really should make more of an effort. You could be so pretty if you only tried.’

Tess froze, the crestfallen expression on her friend’s face confirming she had overstepped the mark. ‘Oh God, Ariana, I’m so sorry. You are fine just the way you are. Ignore me, shooting my big fat mouth off as usual without thinking. ‘Friends?’ She affected her most hangdog expression until Ariana could resist no longer, bursting into laughter.

‘Fine. It’s just someone else used to say that to me when I was younger and it brings back crappy memories. And stop calling me Ariana. It’s Rebecca, okay?’

‘But of course, your most excellent Rebeccaness.’ Tess dropped into an exaggerated curtsey, causing the doorman to eye her suspiciously before deciding all was well and allowing them to enter the Union complex.

‘You’re a clown, Cartwright, an utter clown.’

‘Yes. But I’m your clown.’ Tess fluttered her eyelashes and the two of them were soon subsumed by the scrum of bodies trying to catch the eyes of the besieged bar staff.

‘Two pints of cider,’ screamed Tess, gesticulating wildly with raised digits in the air, while elbowing her way through the throng. Ariana rolled her eyes and offered up apologies to those shoved aside and left in the wake of her friend.

‘Sorry,’ she shouted, struggling to be heard as a beating bass began to reverberate across the cramped dance floor, situated to the right of the bar. ‘She doesn’t get out much.’

Unknown to her, a lean, nondescript male watched from the other side of the dance floor. He raised his pint of Guinness and took a measured sip, savouring the sharp aftertaste. The mad one had turned up looking like a reject from Dancing With The Stars, but nothing surprised him where she was concerned. Adam O’Sullivan smirked for she was nothing more than an embarrassing sideshow which he could dispense with in an instance. He was far more interested in her dowdier companion.

The man began to stride across the dance floor, weaving through the smattering of early revellers submitting to the rhythm and throwing drunken, uncoordinated shapes in a pretence at dancing.

‘Time for you to meet the famous O’Sullivan charm, Ariana.’

Missed out on Chapters 1-3. You can catch up by clicking the links below.

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2019/07/14/bomb-girl-chapter-1/

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2019/07/15/heres-chapter-2-of-my-new-story/

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2019/07/28/bomb-girl-chapter-3/

Like my words. Then why not gorge yourself on 130,000 of them. My first novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to buy on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Just click the link below. Thank you.

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

Kirkwood Reaches Canada

The Nugent family from Cambridge, Ontario, received their copy of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ yesterday and celebrated in some style by sending us this fantastic #skelfie. Photographs like this make the writing, publishing, and promoting process all the more worthwhile. Thank you very much to them for supporting the book. It’s no Booker Prize winner but I’m proud of my little story.

If you like my writing and are interested in the book, then it can be purchased in e book and paperback format by clicking the link below.

If you’ve read the book and could submit an honest review to Amazon I’d be very grateful. Reviews are like oxygen for first time authors as they help boost the credibility and visibility of the book. Thank you.

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

It’s Been Nice Knowing You All

Today I die….

Well, possibly. I am prone to occasional exaggeration and have always been a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy but the omens are not good. Hannah is heading up to the North Coast later today for an activity weekend so Fionnuala breezily announced she had booked a session for Adam and Rebecca at ‘Lets Go Hydro,’ an aqua park situated at a reservoir on the outskirts of Belfast. With an adult! Me!! Yes, me!!!

I have been researching this aqua park. It’s website casually states that all customers must be ‘comfortable’ in the water and able to swim. Yes, I can swim. If a demented 5 metre doggy paddle counts as swimming. And comfortable in the water? For the first time in living memory I’ll be donning a wetsuit, showing off my every curve. Euurgggh! I’m even going to have to cut my toenails for this one. You heard it here first, WordPress.

Then there’s my short sightedness. With my glasses secured away in the locker room, I’ll be launched into an outdoor reservoir and expected to navigate all manner of inflatable obstacles. In a wetsuit….half blind. Thankfully, buoyancy devices are provided. I’ll need about seven. And by ‘buoyancy devices’ what do they mean? A life jacket? I’d prefer a sturdy boat, preferably with an outboard engine and dry cabin.

It appears the park was designed by Torquemada ably assisted by the Marquis de Sade. There are slides, giant walls to clamber over and….get this….a ‘hydro trampoline.’ By the end of the day I could have made history. The first Irishman in orbit wearing a wetsuit. There are also wiggle discs. I have no idea what a wiggle disc is but fear, if I wiggle too much, then I may slip a disc….in my back! Paramedics on standby, please.

Thankfully the sessions are only 50 minutes long but this could well be the longest 50 minutes of my life. My sole strategy is to find the sturdiest looking obstacle, clamber onto it, and perch precariously for as much of the session as I can manage. Although I fear my wicked son and daughter may have something to say about that. Half the fun is watching their father drown before their very eyes.

There will be absolutely NO photographs of this event, so I’m afraid you will have to use your fertile imaginations. If you don’t hear from me by Monday then I suggest you send Fionnuala an e-mail enquiring as to the funeral arrangements. It’s been nice knowing you and I’ll see you all on the other side. I hope I’m going to Heaven, as I fear Hell might be an eternity of teetering on a wiggle disc….in a wetsuit.

Kirkwood Reaches Kolorado

Ryan from Colorado received this little beauty in the post the other day.

Those of you who’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks might not know I’ve written a book.

Well….I’ve written a book. You can check it out by clicking on the link below.

Thank you to all those who have supported my writing and purchased a copy so far. I am very, very grateful.

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

Happy Anniversary To Us

Fionnuala and I don’t get out much but last night we went for a Chinese meal and, afterwards, the cinema to watch the new ‘Lion King.’ Okay, the girls were with us but that’s part of the fun of family life. Just getting out of the house and being able to do stuff together sure beats the ‘ships that pass in the night’ lifestyle that many couples are forced to live, due to the various pressures of modern day society.

Fionnuala and I have been together for 23 years today. There have been many ups and downs along the way. We don’t propose to be the perfect, airbrushed ‘Christian’ couple that so many seek to portray on social media these days. We laugh, we fight, we are who we are and we are real. What you see is what you get with us, warts and all. The good times and the bad. We won’t plaster on fake smiles and tell you ‘everything is fine’ when it’s clearly not.

I drive Fionnuala and the kids insane with my forgetful, awkward, geeky lifestyle. If there’s a wrong way to do something, I will find it. I’m my own worst enemy and I often leave my wife shaking her head in despair at the idiot she married. The woman who took pity on me and has stuck with me through thick and thin, who supported and encouraged me, when so many others turned their backs and slammed the door in my face.

Fionnuala is kind and loving, always willing to help others even when she knows the favour will never be returned. She is practical, yet creative, sensible, yet full of brilliant, inspirational ideas that I would never think of in a year of Sundays. She is beautiful inside and out, always prepared to put herself at the back of the queue. She is the glue that binds us all together, even if it involves a fair bit of shouting and the occasional expletive.

There would be no blog without Fionnuala, there would be no book, there would probably be no Stephen. I don’t say it enough but I love her very much and will always be grateful for everything she has done for me and the kids. She deserves the very best, which is what I am working towards, slowly inching closer every day. We will get there, the five of us, of that I am certain. Happy Anniversary Fionnuala, I love you very much xx

It’s Holiday Time

I’m officially on holiday. The last few months have a been a blur of activity but I walked out of the office yesterday knowing I didn’t have to darken it’s doors again for almost two weeks. As I did so, I didn’t perform a cartwheel or jump up in the air and click my heels in mid air like they do in the movies. I was too tired for any of that. Sleep has been evading me in recent days, for reasons I know not why.

I don’t need insomnia advice for I’m not an insomniac, I just haven’t slept very well these last few nights. It could be the heat, it could be the dogs barking over the bridge, it could be a multitude of factors, I don’t know. I’m just relieved I don’t have to get up, don those despised work clothes and endure the daily commute to and from Belfast. I need a complete detox from that section of my life.

We have several day trips and outings planned over the coming days, so expect some posts and photographs of those. This evening Fionnuala, the girls and I are going to see the new ‘Lion King’ movie, while Adam is working at a function in Belfast. Tomorrow I’m heading to Omagh to visit my mother and on Saturday we are taking Hannah up to an activity weekend on the North Coast.

There are lots of other bits & pieces planned. Adam, Rebecca and I are booked into a hydro park. I’m not quite sure what I’ve let myself into on that one as it appears to be an obstacle course on water but I’ll give it a go. If nothing else, it will give the kids a giggle at the sight of their idiotic father struggling not to drown while looking far from fetching in a wet suit. I can assure you there will be NO photographs of that event.

We have also booked tickets to watch the Ulster Rugby Squad take part in an open training session at our local rugby club. Adam will get to see his heroes up close and personal, before the Pro 14 championship starts next month and the World Cup in Japan in September. Adam steps up into 1st XV Schools Cup rugby this coming season, capped off by a tour to South Africa next June. We take our rugby very seriously in Ireland and I’m an unashamed ‘rugby dad.’

I’ll be focusing on my physical and mental health, concentrating on my family and trying to fret less about the 101 other things fluttering about my head, like psychotic bats in the darkest of attics. I’ve sensed my stress levels creeping steadily up in recent weeks so it’s time to step off the hamster wheel and let the rest of civilisation get on with whatever it is they get on with. Sometimes I wonder, but each to their own.

Given the intensity of my day job and the relentless grind of writing, publishing and promoting a book, it’s only when you step away that you realise the impact it has on body, mind and soul. I push myself hard, probably too hard, so it’s important I rest and take better care of myself and my family. Charlie the border terrier will get more walks and Fionnuala will get to see a little more of that bloke she walked down the aisle with, 16 years ago.

I’ll run, but I’m ahead of schedule in my training for the Belfast Half Marathon next month, so I’ll probably only need 1-2 longer efforts. I’ll try to eat better but what’s a holiday without the occasional bowl of honeycomb ice cream? I’ll also endeavour to get caught up on my sleep. I’ll continue to blog of course so stay tuned for more updates over the next fortnight. I hope you are all having a great summer wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Restoration

Writing can be a largely thankless task. You slave over your words, crafting them into a book that you then timidly reveal to the world. It’s a slow, arduous process. Many ignore it, others promise they will buy and review it, but never do. Then there are the negative comments, the unnecessary remarks and the indifference of others who you counted as friends. Sometimes you wonder why you bothered. You question whether you should keep going.

Then a review like the one above pops up. Entirely unsolicited from someone on the other side of the world who you don’t know. Yet your words somehow resonated with them, your characters spoke to them, lifted them up and took them to a better place. A place where the underdog, the misfit, the outcast, can be the hero and save the world. Thank you Joelle for believing in me. Thank you for restoring my confidence in the process.

My book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is available on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Just click the link below.

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

Speak Less, Do More

Money doesn’t grow on trees and these dishes won’t wash themselves. Two phrases I am very familiar with. If nothing else, life has taught me that you’re likely to be very disappointed if you sit around all day doing nothing, waiting for the ‘good stuff’ to drop into your lap. Life doesn’t work like that and, if it does, then feel free to forward me the secret of your success. I’ll call round to admire your money growing tree before the end of the day….after I wash this mountain of dishes.

I’ve been the recipient of much back slapping and fist pumping in recent months, on the back of a promotion at work and the publication of my first book. Most people like to see other people do well, especially people they know personally. I include the caveat ‘most’ as there will always be one or two who have issues with the success of others. I can’t even begin to get my head around the mindset of such folk so I’m not even going to venture down that road.

Believe it or not, promotions and publications do not happen overnight. The ‘Happily Ever After’ Fairy did not descend upon chez Black one night I was sound asleep and sprinkle the bed covers with whatever he/she/they sprinkle bed covers with these days. This ‘overnight success’ wasn’t an overnight success for, in my experience, such phenomenon simply do not exist. Want to hear a secret? Are you sure? Well gather round then, I will say this only once.

I had to work for it. That’s right, work for it. Flipping hard work. Yes, my promotion hinged on a 60 minute interview. But before that interview there were weeks of study and research to prepare myself; and before that, over a decade of accruing the necessary knowledge, experience and skills to even get to the stage where I would be considered for such a position. I’m sorry if I’m bursting a few bubbles here but the ‘Happily Ever After’ Fairy does not exist.

The same goes for the book. It’s been the culmination of two years soul searching. To coin a biblical phrase, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Those Old Testament folk loved all that, and I would have fit right in with them. Although I’m not so sure about the whole sackcloth and ashes thang. Probably not my best look. What’s that? I’m digressing? Sorry, I’ll get to the point then. The book didn’t write itself. Gasp! Shock! Horror etc etc!

I wrote, I deleted, I wrote some more, I edited it, polished it, rearranged it, drove my wife and kids mad with it. Plotting, proofing, agonising over every line, every character, every twist and turn of the story. Night after night tapping away at a keyboard. And, yes, you heard right. I wrote at night because I was at this place called work during the day earning the money to pay the bills to buy the laptop to write the book. It was, and remains, a daily slog to pen, publish and promote a novel.

I’m nothing special. Every day, ordinary people achieve extraordinary goals in their lives. Goals are met and dreams are realised. But, bottom line here, they all worked for it. As in, put on their big boy/girl pants, sucked it up, put their best foot forward and rolled with the punches. They acted on their instincts, as opposed to sitting around, talking about it and thinking the world owes them a favour/living/all of the above.

People who talk a good fight, tend to very rarely step into the ring when the bell sounds. The walk is not walked for, when the chips are down and the cards are on the table, they back down and opt for the safe, cozy option. In order to grow, you must change and people don’t like change. They are risk averse yet risk is part of life, and it’s not going away any time soon. Speak less, do more. And if that’s beyond you, then count me out of your next diatribe. I’ll be writing my next book.

Do you want a Bookplate?

Just a quick post to say that we can now send out bookplates for those of you that wanted them all that we ask is that you pay the postage costs via PayPal https://www.paypal.me/FionnualaBlack and in the message please leave your name and full postage address.

See the cost below:

U.K. £2.20

Rest of the World £2.70

If you need anymore information send me an email fionnualablack@hotmail.co.uk

If you need the link to the book on Amazon here it is https://www.amazon.co.uk/KIRKWOOD-SCOTT-CHRONICLES-Skellys-Square-ebook/dp/B07V6HVLQV

Some Good News

Some of you may know that I’m currently working on a new book, ‘Bomb Girl,’ the story of Ariana Hennessy as she struggles to adapt to a new life at university while dealing with the traumatic events of her past. I’ve been serialising it on the blog and Chapter 3 was posted last weekend, when I introduced you all to Adam O’Sullivan, the villain of the piece. Or is he? Stay tuned find out more. Oooooh, the suspense.

The good news is that we are going to independently publish ‘Bomb Girl,’ upon its completion, whenever that is, as an interim treat for you all. Fionnuala had this wonderful idea the other evening and who am I to question the superior judgement of my better half. ‘Bomb Girl’ will probably evolve into a short novel and will keep my creative juices flowing before I launch into Book 2 in the Kirkwood Scott series. So….exciting times ahead.

Want to know more about Kirkwood Scott? Then click on the link below. Thank you.

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

Help A First Time Author Out

Marketing a book is an incredibly steep learning curve. Believe me, the writing bit is the easy part. One thing I have learned is that us debut author live and die by Amazon reviews. There are over 6 million books available to buy on Amazon at any one time and it’s those precious reviews which lift your book out of the morass, boosting its visibility and profile to potential buyers.

So if you have been kind enough to purchase a copy of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ I would be forever grateful if you could leave a review on Amazon upon finishing it. It doesn’t have to be War & Peace, just a few lines will suffice, and it doesn’t have to be 5 stars; although that would be nice. All I ask is for a constructive, honest review. That’s the only way I can improve as a writer.

Thank you, Thank you to those who have already been kind enough to buy the book and leave a review. It means so very much to me.

Stephen

And here’s the link….

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

I’m Getting Up In 8 Minutes

Possibly….

We went to the seaside on Saturday. I felt faintly nauseous on the fairground rides, played football poorly on the beach and snapped 1,479 family photographs. It was relaxing, liberating and stimulating in equal measure; to down tools, shake off the shackles and commence my long awaited summer vacation in epic style. Time alone with the family, away from the rat race of life. My holiday had begun.

Except it hadn’t.

It’s Monday morning. 6:37 a.m. to be precise. How do I know this? Well, because I’m eyeing my alarm clock with growing unease as it inexorably creeps towards 6:45 when I’ve grandly informed myself I’ll be getting up and going to work. My holiday doesn’t actually start until Thursday and three days of working joy lie between myself and freedom for two weeks. Two weeks which feel like two years.

I jumped the gun on Saturday, false started and have now sheepishly trudged back to the start line with the watching crowd glaring disapprovingly at me. I have to get up and, horror of horrors, shave and don work clothes. You know, a nice suit, tie and proper shoes. They might as well have been slipping me into a cozy straitjacket for the foreseeable future, such is my lack of enthusiasm for this Monday morning transformation.

And it’s not just any Monday morning. It’s the Monday morning before I finish work for two weeks. Which means I have to work doubly hard, making sure everything is ship shape before my departure. The alternative is worrying about tasks I haven’t completed when I’m on annual leave, which kind of defeats the purpose of the entire exercise. There are e-mails to draft, reports to compile, conversations to be had.

I’m getting up in 3 minutes.

Possibly….

Bomb Girl – Chapter 3

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2019/07/14/bomb-girl-chapter-1/

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2019/07/15/heres-chapter-2-of-my-new-story/

At first, second and even thirty fifth glance, there was nothing remarkable about her. Just another fresher, full of good intentions, hitting the books. It wouldn’t last, of course, he was certain of that. The irritating blonde girl was already chipping away at her resolve, luring her astray at every possible opportunity. By the end of term, such diligence would be a rarity, as the student formerly known as Ariana Hennessy would be a long forgotten memory, overridden by the various temptations the student lifestyle had to offer.

He watched as she struggled through the security scanners at the library entrance, laden down with bags and books. She was a clumsy, little creature, always appearing as if she was on the verge of keeling over. She screamed vulnerability, it oozed from every pore of her pale, awkward frame. One of life’s victims, she stumbled from one calamity to the next, never more than a few steps ahead of the tragic past which had dogged every one of her eighteen years to date.

Their shared tragic past.

He maintained a discrete distance, as she made her way down the steps from the mezzanine onto the main concourse, where she was swiftly swallowed up by the student mass, scurrying this way and that towards the various arterial corridors which starburst outwards in all directions from the campus hub. He ducked and weaved through the crowd, always scanning ahead to maintain visual contact with her. Even if she had glanced back and caught his eye, it wasn’t an issue as she didn’t know him from Adam.

Adam O’Sullivan smirked. That saying always brought a wry smile to his lips. Adam, the first man, whose fall from grace in the garden had cursed mankind from the gates of Eden to the sorry mess it was in today. A world with no redeeming features, a toxic, stinking morass where nothing mattered and nobody cared. Nobody except him, that was, for he saw dear Mother Earth and her inhabitants for what they truly were; weak, vacuous fools leading pathetic, pointless existences. Obsessed with image and little else, drowning in their ever decreasing circles of self.

The girl pushed on, exiting the concourse onto a less populated corridor which led towards the halls of residence. He quickened his step, keen not to lose her, catching the shoulder of a burly male student headed in the opposite direction.

‘Here, watch it mate.’

He didn’t afford the male a second of his time, such was his focus on the task at hand. He’d been monitoring Ariana Hennessy ever since she set foot on campus less than a month ago. Little girl lost, trying to put her horrendous past behind her and strike out into the big bad world. All soulful brown eyes and shy, alluring smile. She was pretty, in her own pathetic way. Pretty, but utterly repulsive to him. Every second she drew breath was a painful reminder of his own shameful secret. Every day she remained on the planet, a testimony to his own inadequacies and failings.

But all that was about to change. For Adam O’Sullivan had changed, evolved, matured, call it what you will. The penny had dropped, the scales fallen from his eyes. He saw clearly now, 20/20 vision bathed in the blood he was going to spill before this week was over. The blood of innocents, the blood of the damned, he did not care, so long as it flowed freely through the lecture theatres and seminar rooms of this university. Cleansing, purifying, sweeping aside all who stood in its path.

It was his right, his destiny, for he had been birthed in the blood of his father, all those years ago. His faithful father, who had risen from his bed, leaving his heavily pregnant partner to go to work that infamous day. He had to work he told her, their child was on the way and so much was yet needed. Nappies, clothes, a cot, so many things. A caring, doting, expectant father, to the outside world at least.

But as he left the house that morning, the last thing on Cormac O’Sullivan’s mind was his partner and child. His mind was full of other people. Fallen comrades, their names forgotten by all but the faithful few. Brave men and woman who had given their lives for a glorious cause which was then dragged through the gutters by their former leaders who sold out and desecrated the memories of the valiant. More interested in column inches and fat cat political careers than ridding their land of the pestilence which had dogged their ancestors for centuries.

People got in the way, organisations diluted and filtered the fire which burned in the likes of Adam O’Sullivan. They spoke of restraint and diplomacy, two words which caught in his caw, beliefs and strategies they had attempted to ram down his throat all his young life. He had no time for that, it sickened him, just like their pandering to the system sickened the memory of men like his father. Men who sacrificed everything, who understood what needed to be done. Who knew the work was dirty and bloody, but embraced it, pushed through the quandary of conscience to see the greater good, the bigger picture.

His father would go down in the annals as the Monster of Monksbridge, the man who drove a car laden with explosives into the middle of the town, all those years ago. The man who walked away, yet was caught in the blast, the victim of an inept bomb maker whose knowledge of a timing switch could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Adam had leant so much from that day, not least the consequences of working with others, relying on people who inevitably let you down. His father had died a martyr’s death, but an unnecessary one. Sins of the father, maybe, but Adam would not make the same mistakes.

His planning was meticulous, excruciatingly detailed, every eventuality considered, no stone left unturned. Monksbridge had dominated the headlines for months, but it would be small fry compared to the dish he was about to serve up. They would villify him, demonise him, he did not care. This would be the crowning glory of his lifetimes work. It would tie up all the loose ends and be a fitting homage to the work of his father. He was taking it to the next level, a higher plane, a new horror marking a fresh dawn.

The day the bomb went off, his mother heard it on the news headlines and knew, just knew, Cormac wasn’t coming home, long before the police arrived and started to rip their home apart. Sending her into an early labour which took her life, but produced a son. A son who became a pariah for all that was wrong with the country, ferried from one foster home to the next. Vilified, despised while the girl born on the same day was feted and fawned over. ‘Bomb Girl’ they called her, yet she knew nothing of that day, the day his parents died. What did she lose, bar her privacy? Nothing.

He had bided his time. Taken the beatings and bullying, worked his way through the system and emerged scarred but unbowed on the other side. For Adam O’Sullivan was blessed, baptised by the blood of the Monksbridge dead. He knew it was from God, a gift justifying the work of his father, work he had been ordained to complete. He was an Angel or Death, reigning fresh fire down upon this troubled land.

He watched as Ariana entered the halls of residence, then followed as she shuffled into the shop in its main foyer. Watched as she stopped and contemplated which chocolate bar she would purchase as reward for her library exertions. He knew she would pick white chocolate, it had been her favourite for many a year. Adam smiled, he knew the bitch inside out and back to front. Slipping into the mind of Ariana Hennessy came as easily to him as putting one foot in front of the other.

‘Go for the dark chocolate, Ariana,’ he whispered as he watched her from across the aisle. ‘Just for me.’ He watched as, with a quizzical expression, her hand wavered over her original choice, before plumping for a bar of dark chocolate. Ariana stared at her selection dubiously before shrugging her shoulders and striding towards the checkout till.

Adam smiled. His gift. The gift of making people do exactly what he wanted them to, without them even realising it. It had served him well, he doubted he would have survived otherwise. And now that little ‘Bomb Girl’ was exactly where he needed her to be, it was a gift he would reveal to the world with devastating effect. It was time to revenge his father and how ironic it would be to utilise the object of his festering hatred to deliver the final coup de grace.

‘Monster of Monksbridge,’ he hissed as he exited the shop. ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’

Tune in for Chapter 4 next weekend.

If you like my writing then why don’t you check out my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ A fast paced and darkly humorous supernatural fantasy set in Belfast. Just click the link below to find out more.

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

Our Day At The Seaside

A picture speaks a thousand words they say, whoever they are. We had a lovely day at the seaside yesterday so, other than describe it in a written post, I thought I’d share some photographs that Fionnuala and I snapped. Eleven to be precise. Which beats me rambling on for 11,000 words. Feel free to share your own seaside photos and I hope, wherever you are, you have a wonderful day.

Do You Suffer From Imposter Syndrome?

I don’t dream much, I leave all that to Fionnuala, who is a prolific nocturnal storyteller. But last night I dreamt I was a trainee pilot. I turned up at the airport for my first shift to be told I was flying a massive jet to Australia. No pressure, then, although I did have to run around the airport chemists in a crazy rush, purchasing toiletries for this unexpected jaunt to the other side of the world.

The captain and co-pilot were very friendly and welcoming but had been misinformed that I knew what I was doing when, in fact, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING!!! Passengers also were permitted to randomly wander in and out of the cockpit throughout the journey, which did little to abate my already frazzled nerves. It’s fair to say I was facing an uphill battle to make it down under.

Thankfully I took to this jumbo jet flying lark like a duck to water. Turns out I was a natural and, under the watchful eye of the captain, I traversed the globe without a hitch, landing in Perth or Sidney or wherever with the tiniest of bumps. I could even afford a snooze somewhere over the Philippines in a bunk bed outside the cockpit. I’m telling you, this plane had everything. A veritable piece of cake.

Before you could say ‘Stephen just flew to the other side of the world with zero experience or training,’ I was back in Belfast preparing for my next mission, and wracked with guilt and worry. I was a fraud, a fake, a complete and utter charlatan. My Antipodean antics had been a fluke, there was no way I was going to pull that off again without being found out for the shameless imposter I actually was.

Imposter. One who deceives and tricks, who is not who they say they are, and do not belong where they are. It even has a syndrome connected to it, these days. I’ve felt an imposter for most of my life, as if I didn’t belong, I was horribly out of my depth and any moment was going to be caught out and mercilessly mocked. Paraded through the streets in a cart until we reached the stocks where little kids would delight in throwing rotten vegetables at me.

I still feel that at times. As a husband, a father, a leader in the workplace. Scratch beneath the veneer of confidence and you will find nothing. I’m like that image of a swan, gliding serenely along the surface, while underneath I’m paddling furiously to stay afloat. The same applies to my writing, running, everything. It’s all a carefully constructed illusion and the wheels can come off in spectacular fashion at any moment.

Thankfully I have a very supportive family who encourage and support me every step of the way. They pick me up and dust me down whenever I hit a bump in the road. I just have to get up and keep trudging forward, always forward. Every step is a victory over the doubting voice in my head which revels in reminding me I’ll never amount to anything. Or the external voices who whisper and mutter as I pass them by.

I’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay, just as long as I’m palatable to those who matter. For every setback and negative comment there are countless others who are there when I need them. Those who are true to their word and who believe in who I am and my capabilities. These are the people I must, likewise, believe in as well as learning to believe in myself. I’m not an imposter. I’m just me.

Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

What Should I Read Next?

It’s pay day tomorrow and, as I’m still slightly adrift of making my first million, it’s the most eagerly awaited day of the month. Even better, it’s the weekend. We are planning a family day out, weather conditions permitting, but before then I’m looking forward to purchasing a few more books on my Kindle Fire. I think I have a book buying addiction but there are worse things to be addicted to; like heroin and er….stuff like that.

My favourite genre is fantasy. I was raised on J.R.R.Tolkien and my favourite read of the year, to date, has been ‘The Grey Bastards,’ by Jonathan French. It’s like ‘Sons of Anarchy’ but instead of biker gangs it’s half orcs patrolling border wastelands on giant hogs, protecting the kingdom from all sorts of nasty creatures. The sequel is out in the autumn and I, for one, cannot wait. Huzzah.

I’m also a fan of psychological thrillers, the darker the better, and anything where things are not as they seem. ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,’ by Gail Honeyman was my 2018 book of the year by a country mile. Anything a la ‘Gone Girl’ or ‘Girl on a Train.’ The word ‘Girl’ doesn’t necessarily have to be in the title but twists and turns a plenty are essential in order to get my reading juices flowing.

So….leave your recommendations below. They don’t have to be household names as there are so many good authors out there who deserve much more recognition than they receive. And don’t forget, I’ve written a book as well! My supernatural urban fantasy, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to purchase on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Just click the link below to find out more.

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

How to order a signed copy of Skelly’s Square

We’ve been receiving a lot of comments and emails from fellow bloggers who want a signed copy of Stephen’s book so I thought it might be easier me posting a blog about it instead.

If you want a signed copy of the book you can do it either one of two ways:

  • You can purchase your book directly from us and make a payment via PayPal the book is £8.99 plus postage and packaging will have to be added to that
  • Or

    You can purchase the book yourself via your country’s Amazon Marketplace and we can send you a signed bookplate which you can stick into your book all we ask is that you cover the postage cost.

    If you are interested in either of these options can you please send me an email to fionnualablack@hotmail.co.uk and let me know which option you want and what country you live in so I can then find out how much your postage will cost.

    I will be placing an order for books on Monday so if you can let me know as soon as possible it would be a great help.

    Fionnuala

    A Record Breaking Day For Hannah

    Hannah wrote her first blog post yesterday, and what a debut it was, as it became the most viewed post in the distinguished history of fracturedfaithblog. She celebrated by hunting down copies of the local newspaper, where yours truly made the front page. It must have been a very quiet news day, but I was grateful to talk about my first novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.

    Want to learn more about it? Then click the link below and all will be revealed. Thank you.

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

    The Lonely Furrow

    Blogging, and writing in general, can be a thankless task. Believe me, I know. You pour your heart and soul into your words only to be greeted with apathy and indifference. Us writers plough a lonely furrow at times. We don’t necessarily do it for the recognition, but it is reassuring to know our work is being read and appreciated. It encourages us to keep going, to pick up our pens, open our laptops and go again.

    Yesterday, fracturedfaithblog.com passed 10,000 monthly views for the first time in its 26 month history. Hannah’s post, ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes,’ also set a record for most post views in a day – a whopping 204, which made a 15 year old girl very happy. We also continue to receive (mostly) positive feedback about the content and quality of the blog. It’s not all about the numbers, I know, but they are evidence that our core message is being heard.

    That message? Hope. Plain and simple. The belief that your circumstances, no matter how dire, can change if you persevere and have faith that better times are ahead. So, keep writing, keep hitting publish, don’t listen to the voice in your head telling you it’s pointless, that you’re useless and nobody cares. Take comfort from our story. You need not plough a lonely furrow, for we are a community that cares.

    Not All Heroes Wear Capes

    Hi everybody it’s Hannah here and I’m nearly sure this is my first blog post. Today I want to tell you a little bit about my daddy and how proud I am of him.

    After Shawn Mendes my daddy is my biggest hero. Everything he does he does it for our family and to try and give us the best life. He has ran marathons to raise money for Shine Charity which looks after me and other kids with the same disability as me and he is currently training for his 10th marathon which he wants to raise money for the Mae Murray Foundation who take me on trips and I go surfing and skiing with them.

    I don’t want to give him a big head he isn’t always amazing a lot of the time he is really cringey and embarrassing and drives me crazy with his version of “rapping” along to any songs I’m listening to and don’t get me started on his dancing. If I’m really honest he should stick with writing because that’s what he is good at.

    He has had a really busy few years writing his book The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles-Skelly’s Square and I’m really buzzing that one of the characters is based on me. We are all proud of my daddy for getting his book published and today the local newspapers have published a story about him.

    It’s true not all heroes wear capes because I call my hero daddy.

    You can buy my daddy’s book on Amazon worldwide and here’s the link that takes you to it.

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

    Thank you for reading and have a great day

    Love Hannah 💕

    Where Are All The Greenlanders?

    The little man who lives in my phone was busy last night as I woke up to discover my WordPress app had changed. Some might argue it was just a standard upgrade but I know better. It was the little man in my phone, right? Anyway the app now had lots of snazzy changes for me to oooh and aaah over on the commute to work. Much to the chagrin of my fellow commuters.

    The most exciting was a map of the world showing where all our followers come from. Apparently we are big in Alaska which pleased me no end as an Alaskan cruise is my dream holiday. So, if the Alaskan Tourism Board would like to sponsor the blog from this time onwards, then I’m open to conversation. Your people can speak to my people, and by my people I mean, Fionnuala.

    It was no surprise that the majority of our followers are based in Europe and North America; and encouraging to see we are also read in Asia, Africa and Australasia. It’s mind blowing to think of these words being read around the globe; mind blowing and humbling. I have no idea why people continue to be interested in my posts. Probably because it’s every day and it’s free, but I’m grateful nonetheless.

    I’m an eternal pessimist, however. I’m a glass half empty kind of guy, forever obsessing on the one job I didn’t do well as opposed to the 99 other tasks I nailed. So, my attention was naturally drawn to the grey areas on the map, the parts of the world where fracturedfaithblog has yet to land. I viewed them glumly as opposed to with any great evangelical zeal. I’ll save the latter for all those missionary types.

    The one that caught my eye, probably due to its size more than anything else, was Greenland. Who knew Greenland was so big? I mean, massive big. I must admit, Greenland is a country that has never registered much with me. When I was a child, I thought Santa lived there. Or was that the North Pole? Hmmmm, now I think about it, did my eight year old self think they were the same place?

    I vaguely recall reading a novel last year that fleetingly referred to Greenland. All I can recollect is fishing vessels, and Denmark used to own it. Or was it Norway? Something to do with the Vikings? Those Norsemen got everywhere, but I imagine they were a bit disappointed when they reached Greenland. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be much to do there, pillaging wise. Which is probably why they kept going to Newfoundland.

    I’ll readily admit my knowledge levels on all matters Greenland are low. So, as I’m too lazy to ask my good friend Google, I thought I’d ask the good people of WordPress for assistance. That’s you, by the way. I need your help. Tell me everything you know about the place. Here’s the catch, though. Don’t research it. Just tell me what’s in your noggin. Now! It doesn’t have to be factually accurate, in fact the more random and made up the better.

    If you know somebody from Greenland, then most definitely let me know. They may have relatives and we could have our first Greenland hit on the blog. They must have wifi, it’s not all fishing and trying to keep warm. I’m expecting big things from the Canadians on this one. You’re always banging on about how much more knowledgeable you are than your southern neighbours, so how’s your big chance.

    Tell me everything you know about Greenland.

    How To Speak Belfast #4

    I’ve written a book.

    Set in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    Where strange beings walk the streets.

    And nothing is quite as it seems.

    Meet Kirkwood Scott and his nemesis, Augustus Skelly.

    Dare you to enter The Square?

    Just click the link below.

    And all will be revealed.

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

    Anxiety Is A Killer

    Anxiety is a killer. It kills your present and lays waste to your future, cutting a bloody swathe through your plans and hopes. It is a creeping, niggling death of a thousand cuts, nibbling away at the fringes of your confidence and self belief. It is slow, excruciating but it is there from the moment your eyes open until your head hits the pillow at night. It is the vulture on your shoulder, it’s the albatross round your neck. It is here and it is now.

    Anxiety is a killer. Like a petulant child it grabs the shiniest treasures in your life and holds them high above its head, gleefully looking you in the eye, before hurling them to the ground, shattering into a thousand pieces at your feet. It is mindless malice, a reckless wrecking ball tearing asunder all you value and cherish. It gives no reason, for it does not have to justify its actions to anyone, least of all you.

    It goes where it wishes, unrestrained by convention and protocol. You cannot shackle what you cannot see, you cannot corral a shifting, vacuous mass of nothing that sweeps and swirls throughout your ravaged psyche. It reigns supreme, it rains fire upon what might have been. Engulfing you in its fiery grip, it caresses your skin, blistering and blackening the purity of your essence.

    You run, you hide, it matters not for it knows where you go. You are it’s plaything, a pathetic puppet on a series of strings which it cuts one by one to leave you dangling by a solitary strand, a mangled marionette staring into the abyss. It devours you whole, sucking the very marrow from your bones. It becomes your everything, for everywhere you turn it’s there, laughing, pointing, mocking.

    There are days it’s barely there, but still you sense it watching from the outer edges of your consciousness. You lick your wounds and gird your loins, hurriedly repairing breached defences with whatever tools are to hand. Desperation focuses the mind like no other emotion. You are driven, bursting momentarily above the surface to suck much needed life into your lungs. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    Anxiety is a killer, and sometimes killers like to watch, savouring the moment before swooping for the coup de grace. They like to watch you struggle and squirm, begging for mercy, a reprieve, another chance at life. They nod and smile, like benevolent parents, before you are told to hush. For that is not the way it works. You both know that, but still you try, to find a way to evade its clutches. You try, you fail.

    Sleep brings little release for it stalks your dreams, reminding you of how little you mean to anyone, how wretched and worthless your life has become. You awake more tired than when you fell asleep, exhausted and utterly unprepared for the day ahead. You lie there, suffocated by the silence. Within the silence, no one hears your screams. Even those who care to listen, hear nothing but the void.

    Anxiety is a killer. It comes knocking when you least expect, a wandering ghoul who travels wherever it so desires. It snuffs out the candle of your soul, enveloping you in its deathly embrace. You breathe deep and are numbed by it’s cathartic, soothing voice. Your heavy eyelids drool and you become still, another notch on its bedpost. You are but one, but we are many. This army of the dead.

    Do you suffer from anxiety?

    How does it affect your life?

    How To Speak Belfast #3

    Welcome to Belfast.

    Where nothing is quite as it seems.

    Including the language.

    Want to learn more?

    Then click on the link below.

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

    Good Morning….

    Good Morning from a breezy Northern Ireland.

    I’m back to work today, but here’s the deal. You are probably sick to the back teeth of me rabbiting on about the book I’ve written but I need your help. Yes, you! If you’ve read, are reading, or considering reading ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ then it would help me enormously if you could post a review on Amazon. It helps in boosting the book’s visibility and is one of the sure fire ways of making this fledging author a happier camper.

    You might think nah I can’t be bothered; you might think it’s not my thang, thank you very much; you might think it stank to high heaven and I never want to hear of it again; you might even think I’ve no intention of reading his lousy little book that he bleats on about every day. If so, that’s fine. But, if you can and will, then I’d be eternally grateful. Alternatively, post a blog review or reblog this post and spread the word.

    The book is available via Amazon in e book and paperback format, just click the link below. Thank you.

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

    How To Speak Belfast #2

    Hello.

    My book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to buy on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.

    Don’t be a chocolate teapot. Click the link below and secure your copy today.

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

    Thoughts On Doubt

    Whenever you poke your head above the parapet of life and try something different, there is always a degree of trepidation. You can be gripped by fear, riddled with doubt or overcome with indecision. You do not know what to expect as this is new ground, never traveled before. You want to turn back, duck for cover or run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, never to return.

    Exposure erodes composure. It is a necessary evil, a double edged sword. Trying something different involves making yourself vulnerable, baring a part of you that has no particular desire to be thrust into the limelight. It’s big, it’s scary and it’s real. It takes nerves, guts, pluck, call it what you may, but you require it in bucketfuls. I don’t like people looking at me, judging, commenting. Yet here I am.

    A large part of you has no desire whatsoever to blow your own trumpet. You’re not one for grandiose solo performances, preferring instead to loiter at the rear of the brass section, bar the occasional hoot or parp when the conductor looks your way. But when you are passionate about something, truly believe in it, you are forced to cast your natural inhibitions aside and dive into the glare of public scrutiny.

    When you are shy, nervous and unsure of your audience this is no walk in the park. You care about what others think and your skin is nowhere near tough enough to protect against any barbs of criticism fired in your direction. You’re not ready, but will you ever be if left to your own devices? You have no idea what to expect, so step forward and brace your body for whatever is hurtling your way.

    You will be surprised, reassured, delighted, Family and friends will rally round and celebrate your achievement. They will bolster flagging confidence and massage frayed nerves. You expected no less from them but it’s still much appreciated and welcome. They are your rocks, the people who’ve stood with you during the good times and the bad. They are always there, yet must never, ever be taken for granted.

    Then there’s the people you are reconnected with, those you had lost touch with for one reason or the other. Separated by time or distance, yet here they are as if it was yesterday and nothing ever changed. True friendships can survive such breaks in communication, the bonds run deep and hold firm. You grasp these bonds afresh, vowing never to let them unravel again. The past throws up fresh treasures to your present self.

    There will be disappointment. Those you expected to be in front line, standing by your shoulder, are nowhere to be seen. You will be greeted with indifference, jealousy and ridicule. It stings but you must force yourself to rise above such hurdles. They are merely flesh wounds. The walking wounded can still walk and walking is what you must do. Forward, always forward away from their turned backs and judgemental looks.

    For forward is where you belong. Those who wish to accompany you are welcome, old and new friends alike. For this is your moment and there is no time for recriminations or regret. You must seize the day and make it yours, casting aside the shrouds and shackles from darker times. You walk towards the light, enter and embrace it. Surrounded by those who matter, who want to be with you as much as you need them to be there.

    How to speak Belfast #1

    Belfast folk speak English but it’s a particular form of English, full of slang and sayings which I struggled to get to grips with when I first moved to the city. As much of my novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is set on its streets, it’s only right that the story is liberally peppered with such colloquial gems. So, for those intending to read my little story, I thought it only fair I get you up to speed.

    Over the next few days, therefore, we will be posting lines from the book to assist you in this process. Today’s offering comes from ‘Big Mark,’ the gentle giant of a doorman who oversees Kirkwood and his raucous friends, Gerry & Grogan, when they visit their favourite watering hole, ‘The Montreal.’ The book is available to buy now on Amazon in e book and paperback format. Just click the link below.

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

    Translation – These are not the most intelligent young men I’ve ever met.

    What’s Your Favourite Sandwich?

    Fionnuala made lasagne for dinner last night. She is an excellent cook so we were all looking forward to it; and rightly so, for it was delicious. What I was not prepared for were the outrageous scenes which followed later that evening. Scenes which scarred my soul and I’ll take to the grave. Scenes which no man should ever have to witness. The sight of his wife eating a lasagne sandwich.

    I think it’s a Belfast thing. The ability to place any foodstuff between two slices of bread and eat them. As a country boy, I was oblivious to this post meal ritual where, whatever remained on an individual’s plate was carefully scooped between two slices of bread and devoured. Everything was fair game. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, even Irish stew! For the love of God. It was a horror show.

    The contrast between the look of pleasure on the diner’s face and the look of utter disgust on mine, cannot be exaggerated. Don’t, get me wrong, I am a fan of the humble sandwich. I eat them most days for my lunch. Give me a BLT or chicken salad and I’m as happy as Larry, whoever Larry is. It’s when the contents of a Sunday dinner are presented to me that I struggle. As in struggle to retain the contents of my stomach.

    We held a straw poll at chez Black last night as to everyone’s favourite and least favourite sandwich. Hannah’s preferences were sweet chilli chicken or turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce; the classic ‘Christmas’ sandwich. Her least favourite was the crisp sandwich which was odd, as Northern Irish people are big fans of such monstrous concoctions. By crisp I mean potato chip, my North American friends.

    Adam’s favourite took me a while to write down – chicken, bacon, cheese, lettuce, sweetcorn and bbq sauce. What a mouthful, in more ways than one. The only item he could not tolerate in his ‘piece’ were gherkins. Rebecca had plainer tastes. A simple ham or cheese sandwich, but not ham and cheese, which turned her stomach. I’m still trying to figure that one out, but she likes what she likes.

    Which left Fionnuala. Lasagne or cottage pie she plumped for, closely followed by Tayto cheese & onion crisps. Ye gods, were there no depths this woman would stoop to in her quest for the most disgusting snack of all time. Even the thought of them are making me queasy. Perversely she hates cheese & tomato, a particular favourite of mine. Truly, my wife and I have very diverse tastes. But, opposites attract, and somehow we work.

    All this made me think of my late father, who delighted in the ultimate sandwich sacrilege. Raw onion and HP ‘brown’ sauce. Even now, I cringe in fear at the thought of him creating this culinary monstrosity. We are all different and, no more so, than when it comes to what we shovel into our mouths at meal times. A mouth watering feast for one, has another reaching for the vomit bags. Each to their own and viva la difference, isn’t that what they say?

    What’s your favourite sandwich?

    What horrors have you seen consumed by family, friends and work colleagues?

    Memories Of Portrush

    Northern Ireland has gone golf crazy as the Royal Portrush course is currently hosting the 148th British Open. The world’s top golfers have descended upon the seaside resort to do battle for the famous Claret Jug. Tiger Woods, Phil Michelson and our very own Rory McIlroy are vying for sporting glory and the opportunity to stroll down the final fairway on Sunday evening, to be crowned champion.

    Portrush has also been inundated with celebrities. George Clooney is reportedly in town, David Beckham has been spotted and our very own Jimmy Nesbitt is everywhere you look. For those that don’t know, he’s one of our leading actors and played Bofur the Dwarf in ‘The Hobbit’ movies. He’s also the star of the hit TV series, ‘Cold Feet.’ Fionnuala and I sat beside him in a pub once, but were too starstuck to talk to him.

    Tickets to the event were sold out months ago and are now changing hands at extortionate rates. Every hotel, bed & breakfast and hole in the hedge is booked up. There are rumours circulating that wealthy Americans are paying the outstanding mortgages of local homeowners in order to rent their properties for the week. The local airport has seen the number of private jets landing, rise by 1000%.

    Hundreds of thousands are expected to visit Portrush this weekend. Local retailers are rubbing their hands in glee at the welcome windfall. Portrush is at the centre of a global media circus and deservedly basking in its 15 minutes of fame. But that’s not the Portrush I know and, besides, I’ve never swung a golf club in anger in my life. I’m a sports obsessive, but I never quite worked out the allure of golf.

    This is all the more peculiar as I was raised beside a golf course in my home town of Omagh. I remember hunting for lost balls in the rough as a young boy and then selling them to passing golfers for 10p apiece. A small fortune back in the day. But that’s as far as my relationship with the game went. I’ll keep half an eye on who wins, but I’ll not be glued to my television screen to watch gaudily attired men hitting a little white ball into a little white hole.

    As a young boy, a week in Portrush was the highlight of my summer, if not year. Although less than a two hour drive from home it seemed light years away from the mundanity of life. I may as well have been in Vegas, such was the excitement of visiting Barry’s, the town’s famous amusement park. I can still conjure up the smell of smoking rubber from the dodgem cars. Portrush was heaven on earth.

    Ice cream cones with a chocolate flake in the top, sickly sweet candy floss and fish & chips every night for tea. It simply couldn’t get much better. My sister and I gorged ourselves on everything edible in sight, between bickering over whose turn it was to sit at the front of the ghost train or any other number of sibling squabbles. The return journey to Omagh was always akin to a funeral cortège, as a depressive pall settled over the back seat of our car.

    So, good luck Portrush. I’m sure once the dust settles and life returns to normal next Monday, many golfing freaks will share the same melancholic comedown that my sister and I experienced. Hopefully, however, they will also have fantastic memories which will stay with them for the rest of their lives; just like a shy, tubby, country boy when he visited the resort over 30 years ago. Viva Portrush, the Vegas of Northern Ireland.

    Are a golf nut or do you despise the sort?

    What’s your favourite childhood holiday memory?

    I Stand By the Tracks

    I write this from my train stop as it’s back to work with a resounding bump this morning. The stop is empty, I’m either incredibly early for the next train or incredibly late for the last one. Either way, I’m sitting here on my own, enjoying the weak morning sun and the cheerful chatter of the birds in nearby trees. It’s a good time to reflect, and prepare for the hustle and bustle of office life again.

    I’ve been recently promoted which means I can now have more responsibility and expectation resting on my shoulders. I worked hard for the promotion and know, deep down, I’m capable but sometimes the enormity of the role overwhelms me, especially when I’ve been out of the loop for a few days. I know the second I sit down at my desk I will be expected to perform.

    The stop is beginning to fill now with fellow commuters. None of them look particularly enamoured at the thought of another working day. We sit in silence, there is no laughter or excited talk. This is the reality of the grind, the working week. It’s the meat and potatoes, the bringing the bacon home, and other meat related analogies I can’t recall this early in the morning.

    The man to my right appears to have a head cold, going by the amount of sniffing. I eye him warily, edging further away from him at every available opportunity. The last thing I need is to get sick and bring it home to Fionnuala and the kids. The lady to my left is skilfully applying make up, with a brush and hand mirror. She looks at her reflected image, seems satisfied, and snaps the mirror shut.

    The train pulls in, it’s half empty, which means I get a seat and, even better, a window seat at that. It’s the school holidays which means I don’t have to do battle every morning with thousands of blazer wearing hatchlings for a pew. The men in front of me are talking of an earlier ‘security incident’ on the line. In the bad old days this would have been an incendiary device. We called them ‘bomb scares.’ People were much less politically correct back then.

    When I hear of such ‘incidents’ now, though, I immediately think suicide. Some poor soul who has chosen to end their life, alone on a track as a train thunders towards them. The driver sees them and slams on the brakes but it’s too late, it’s always too late. Too late for him to stop, too late for them to step aside, to breathe anew and start afresh. A few paragraphs in the evening papers, a few disgruntled passengers tutting about delays on the line.

    I have tasted their fear and imbibed their loneliness. It has never brought me to their final resting place but I walk through the city knowing I am surrounded by others who stand at the edge of the abyss, staring blankly into the void. How many more will make that choice before the day is done. It’s a virus, an epidemic raging through our communities. Life is a killer, it sucks the reason to be, to continue, from our very souls.

    I stood by the tracks alone this morning. I chose life. I chose irritating phone calls and unnecessarily long e-mails. I chose interminably dull meetings about nothing in particular where little is agreed. I chose my loved ones, I chose hope and faith.

    They chose an end to their pain and suffering, an end to indifference and the apathy of a cruel, relentless world. Who am I to judge as there, but for the grace of God, go I and you. Pray for the lost

    and broken.

    Skelfies from the U.S. of A

    Have you ordered your copy yet of my first novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square?’ Ruth from Texas and Amy from California have. I was thrilled to wake up this morning to find they had both e-mailed me #Skelfies of themselves with the book. I made that hashtag up myself. Not bad, eh? If you’d like to join this ‘phenomenon’ then feel free to send your pics through.

    Alternatively just buy the book and er…..read it. It’s available now via Amazon in e book & paperback format. Just click on the link below to discover what all the fuss is about. And if you like it, then please consider posting a review on Amazon. It really helps promote the visibility of the book and would make a middle aged Northern Irishman very happy. Thank you kindly.

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

    I Stand By The Tracks

    Thank I write this from my train stop as it’s back to work with a resounding bump this morning. The stop is empty, I’m either incredibly early for the next train or incredibly late for the last one. Either way, I’m sitting here on my own, enjoying the weak morning sun and the cheerful chatter of the birds in nearby trees. It’s a good time to reflect, and prepare for the hustle and bustle of office life again.

    I’ve been recently promoted which means I can now have more responsibility and expectation resting on my shoulders. I worked hard for the promotion and know, deep down, I’m capable but sometimes the enormity of the role overwhelms me, especially when I’ve been out of the loop for a few days. I know the second I sit down at my desk I will be expected to perform.

    The stop is beginning to fill now with fellow commuters. None of them look particularly enamoured at the thought of another working day. We sit in silence, there is no laughter or excited talk. This is the reality of the grind, the working week. It’s the meat and potatoes, the bringing the bacon home, and other meat related analogies I can’t recall this early in the morning.

    The man to my right appears to have a head cold, going by the amount of sniffing. I eye him warily, edging further away from him at every available opportunity. The last thing I need is to get sick and bring it home to Fionnuala and the kids. The lady to my left is skilfully applying make up, with a brush and hand mirror. She looks at her reflected image, seems satisfied, and snaps the mirror shut.

    The train pulls in, it’s half empty, which means I get a seat and, even better, a window seat at that. It’s the school holidays which means I don’t have to do battle every morning with thousands of blazer wearing hatchlings for a pew. The men in front of me are talking of an earlier ‘security incident’ on the line. In the bad old days this would have been an incendiary device. We called them ‘bomb scares.’ People were much less politically correct back then.

    When I hear of such ‘incidents’ now, though, I immediately think suicide. Some poor soul who has chosen to end their life, alone on a track as a train thunders towards them. The driver sees them and slams on the brakes but it’s too late, it’s always too late. Too late for him to stop, too late for them to step aside, to breathe anew and start afresh. A few paragraphs in the evening papers, a few disgruntled passengers tutting about delays on the line.

    I have tasted their fear and imbibed their loneliness. It has never brought me to their final resting place but I walk through the city knowing I am surrounded by others who stand at the edge of the abyss, staring blankly into the void. How many more will make that choice before the day is done. It’s a virus, an epidemic raging through our communities. Life is a killer, it sucks the reason to be, to continue, from our very souls.

    I stood by the tracks alone this morning. I chose life. I chose irritating phone calls and unnecessarily long e-mails. I chose interminably dull meetings about nothing in particular where little is agreed. I chose my loved ones, I chose hope and faith. They chose an end to their pain and suffering, an end to indifference and the apathy of a cruel, relentless world. Who am I to judge as there, but for the grace of God, go I and you. Pray for the lost and broken.

    Rebecca’s New Book

    I’m going to be posting twice a day for a while, in order to promote the book. I know some of you will be sick of the sight of it, but it’s my one chance to get it out into the big, bad world. Feel free to ignore, if you are, and my apologies. My other daily post, I assure you all, will be a Kirkwood Scott free zone. In the meantime, here’s a picture of our Rebecca enjoying her Daddy’s book.

    ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ Available NOW to buy on Amazon in e book & paperback format.

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

    Where Are Your Words?

    Don’t be sad, or tired, or lonely.

    Be you.

    For that is enough.

    I awoke this morning and the above words dropped into my head. Dropped with such a resounding clunk, that I had go write them down immediately. These words were not of me, I’m convinced of that. I don’t know where they emanated from, but this happens me from time to time. Words arrive, from a great height, like a stork delivering a new born child to an expectant home. I’ll never turn such words away from my door.

    These words might mean something to you, or they might not. You may cling to them, like a shipwrecked sailor clings to a piece of his former vessel. Or they might pass you by, as you yawn and scroll lazily through your timeline, your fickle attention drawn elsewhere by other seductive words and messages. I am but one of many, I understand that, yet still these words come. And when they come, I must write them down.

    Words lead me, they form me, they fill me, an empty, dusty, cracked vessel of little consequence. I am a sponge soaking them up, a crazed arcade character gobbling them down as life happens and I struggle to stay upright amidst the never ending change, challenge and consequence. Without words I am bereft, I need them like an addict needs that next drink, that next fix, that next reason to exist, to persist.

    Where are your words? Are they out there, flowing freely across the crisp, white, virginal expanse of paper or computer screen. Are they breaking barriers and leaping continents with the squeeze of a nib or tap of a keyboard? Or are they rotting in the recesses of your dormant soul, never to see the light of day, never to be the light of someone’s day? To have such a talent is to be blessed, to ignore it a grievous error. The choice is yours, freewill such a double edged sword.

    Words are my anchor. They found me, ground me, astound me when they drift across my mental landscape, dandelion seeds caught in a light, summer breeze. To let them pass by is unthinkable; so I cast my net and commit them to record. I bare them, share them, before they disappear into the ether from whence they came. They are precious, special, diamonds forged from deep, dark, unimaginable places, squirming to the surface.

    These words are not mine. I am merely a curator, caretaker, shepherding them towards those who need them more than I do. These words may change minds, break hearts or build dreams, they are free to roam and flourish now, I have released them into this wonderful wilderness we call life. I turn away, for I know my work is done. Until the next time I am required to answer the calling.

    I’ve been lonely, I’ve felt sadness, I am tired. These emotions have scarred and singed, the cruellest of caresses, the most unwelcome of bedfellows. I see them, sense them all around me as I write. They were written for you, yes you, for I know we have walked the same road. My best friend, or the stranger I pass on a busy city street without a second glance. These words are for you.

    Do you accept them? Do you gratefully cup your hands and gulp them down, this oratory oasis of mine? Or do you stagger by, too proud to accept what stares you in the face? These words are yours to do with as you wish. My offering to you, this day. I move on now, to the next wisp of an idea, the next flutter of creativity. I leave this ground behind, my mark made. Do you see them? Where are your words?

    Who Wants To Eat Some Cake?

    Kirkwood Scott is 5 days old….today.

    So I thought I’d post a picture of some cake.

    Purchase a copy of the book via Amazon in e book or paperback format and you will also receive a huge slice of the aforementioned cake. *

    So what are you waiting for?

    Just click the link below.

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

    * may have made the cake bit up….but it’s still a great read 😊

    A Record Breaking Day

    Exciting times at FracturedFaithBlog. Sunday was our biggest and er…. bestest in over two years blogging. We set new highs in both daily views and likes. And, to top it all off, Fionnuala’s post on being the wife of a published author (moi) was the highest rating blog we’ve ever had. Huzzah. I found that very apt given the enormous, and largely unseen, work she does behind the scenes for the hatchlings and myself.

    We know better than anyone that you never can tell what’s around the next corner, so we are taking this win and running with it. Thank you all again for your support and encouragement which we truly value. 99.9% of the comments we receive are positive and constructive. We appreciate them all. I’ll post again later but, for now, we hope you all have a great day wherever in the world you are.

    Bomb Girl – Chapter 2

    Ariana Hennessy was not one for grand entrances, her birth had seen to that. She ghosted into the cavernous lecture theatre, head down,

    focus entirely on finding an unoccupied seat and disappearing into the welcoming anonymity of the student body. This was her third week at the University of Ulster and she was just another disorganised fresher trying to make her way around the sprawling campus without getting lost. Nobody knew, and that suited her just fine.

    She slid into an empty seat four rows back and began unpacking pens, pads and textbooks from her bag. The lecture was scheduled to be on the Boston Tea Party, her love of all things American having drawn her to select this module as part of her first year studies. Yes, three decent ‘A’ level grades and here she was, a Modern History student, finally free of the stifling prison that was Monksbridge. There she was a pariah to some, an oddity to others. Here she was just plain old Rebecca Hennessy. Her home town and the university were no more than sixty miles apart but, to Ariana, they could have been on opposite sides of the world.

    Rebecca was her middle name after her Granny Hennessy, a more neutral, traditional Irish name. People didn’t bat an eyelid when you told them you were called Rebecca, although annoyingly some of her fellow students insisted on abbreviating it to Bex. She could live with that, though. Had she told them her real name, then brows would have furrowed and distant memories surfaced. For, despite the arrival of her namesake Grande on the music scene in recent years, to the best of her knowledge there was only one other Ariana in the country.

    Ariana Hennessy.

    Bomb Girl….

    Thanks Mum.

    She had battled the stigma her entire life. To be associated with the largest terrorist attack in Northern Irish history hung around her neck like a rotting, stinking albatross. Every anniversary the press pack descended from the city, eager to pick at old scabs and draw fresh blood. What had become of the tiny baby, born at the very moment a car laden with explosives devastated the town. There was no point in correcting them that she arrived almost an hour after the explosion. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?

    ‘Settle down, folks.’ The booming baritone of Dr. Lancaster, their American Studies lecturer, cut through Ariana’s thoughts and the surrounding babble of her fellow students. She risked a glance over her shoulder and saw the theatre was two thirds full. Not bad for first thing on a Wednesday morning, although this was the ‘big night out’ on the campus so many of her contemporaries had arrived early, planning to be in the Student Union bar by lunchtime.

    She caught the eye of a distinctive short haired girl, who waved enthusiastically at her. Tess Cartwright, the one person she had confided her dark secret to since arriving, after a night of cheap cider at the Freshers Ball two weeks ago. Ariana had woke up the next morning with a horrific hangover, kicking herself at having allowed her toxic past to seep so easily into the new life she was hoping to build at college. She had pleaded with Tess not to breath a word of it to anyone and, to date, her newfound friend had kept to her word.

    Dr. Lancaster began to speak, his deep, melodic tones allowing Ariana to blissfully slip away from the jagged memories to tales of valour and derring do as the plucky colonists rose up in arms against the might of the British Empire. She scribbled copious notes, keen to soak up as much knowledge as possible, not allowing a date or reference to pass her by. This degree course was a lifeline, a step away from the shackles of a life she no longer wanted to be a part of; good A level grades were a stepping stone to university, a better degree and….well the world was hers for the taking.

    ‘That’s it for today folks,’ concluded Dr. Lancaster. The hour had breezed past. ‘Remember, your first assignments aren’t due for another month, but now is the time to start preparing. You have your reading lists. Organisation is key, remember.’ With that, the stampede for the exit commenced. Ariana was caught up in the rush and carried through the double doors where the large majority of her peers swung left, towards the stairs leading to the coffee bar on the mezzanine floor above. Ariana started to turn and fight the flow, back towards a lesser stream of students heading for the library in the opposite direction. She fully intended to heed Dr. Lancaster’s advice and make serious inroads into the extensive reading list the lecturer had circulated at the same time as the assignment title.

    ‘And where do you think you’re going Becky Boo Boo?’ Ariana felt herself being spun around and led back into the human tide heading towards the mezzanine stairs. Tess Cartwright, all silver haired pixie cut and sparkling teeth, hooked her arm beneath Ariana’s and guided her away from her original path. ‘An hour of that drivel and I’m on the verge of lapsing into a comatose state. I need a cappuccino to return me to the land of the living….’

    ‘But Tess I….’ spluttered Ariana, vainly gesticulating with her free hand back towards the library.

    ‘But Tess nothing. I have a busy day planned for the two of us and it most certainly does not involve sitting in a musty old library reading boring books about dead men who wore wigs and tucked their trousers into their socks.’

    ‘I don’t think that’s strictly accurate,’ protested Ariana but she knew she was fighting a losing battle. She had only known Tess Cartwright a short time but already learnt one thing. Here was a young woman who was used to getting her own way and rarely took no for an answer. She was already carving out a reputation amongst the student population with her striking looks, vivacious personality and seemingly bottomless capacity for 2 for 1 drinks promotions at the Union bar.

    ‘Well I guess one coffee then,’ surrendered Ariana meekly. ‘But after that I really must study.’

    ‘Yeah, Yeah. We’ll see.’ Tess bounded up the steps to the mezzanine two at a time, her designer leather jacket flapping at her sides as Ariana struggled to keep up. Everything was designer where Tess was concerned as she carried the expensive student scruff look off to a tee. Ariana permanently felt the poor relation when they were together, and wondered what their peers thought of her dowdy appearance compared to her glamorous companion. Tess didn’t seem to mind though and for reasons unknown to Ariana had adopted her as university bestie. They had nothing in common but somehow it was working. So far….

    Tess paid for two coffees, and a gigantic blueberry muffin, before commandeering a booth in a far corner of the bar. Floor to ceiling windows afforded them a view across a sleepy river to the halls of residence where they first met, during a hectic registration day. A concrete walkway connected the halls to the main campus, a campus Ariana hadn’t left since arriving. No weekend trips home for her like the majority of the other students, hungover, laden down with dirty laundry and desperate for a proper meal. Home was the last place Ariana wanted to be.

    ‘So here’s the plan,’ the forever chirpy Tess interrupting Ariana’s thoughts, her mouth crammed with muffin. ‘Finish these, back to the halls, make ourselves even more beautiful than we already are and then hit the Union. ‘What say you, Becky with the good hair?’ She smiled sweetly and fluttered her eyelashes before slyly adding, ‘Or should I say Becky Bomb Girl?’

    ‘Shut up,’ hissed Ariana, looking all around. ‘You call me that again and I’m never speaking to you again, Tess. You swore you wouldn’t tell anyone.’

    ‘Oh relax,’ sighed Tess, rolling her eyes and leaning back. ‘As I’m consigned to this hellhole for the next three years, I need a project. And I see no greater challenge than changing the most socially awkward girl alive into a reasonably functioning human being. Although I admit I may have bitten off more than I can chew, you enormous dork.’

    ‘Alright, alright.’ Ariana sipped her coffee, admitting defeat, an all too common feeling since she fell under the spell of Hurricane Tess. ‘But can I at least have a couple of hours this morning in the library. Then I promise I’ll head out with you.’ Tess clenched her fists and squealed with delight, attracting a few curious glances from adjacent booths. ‘It’s a deal. I’ll see you outside the Union at three. Do not be late. Organisation is key, Rebecca.’

    With a final peal of laughter, Tess stuffed the remainder of the muffin into her mouth and bounced out of her seat, a flurry of long limbs and immaculate cheekbones. Ariana stared gloomily into her coffee. Was this a case of out of the frying pan, but into the fire? Yes, she was no longer Bomb Girl but buying the confidence of Tess was doing her plans of keeping her head down and studying hard no favours. Nor her modest bank balance.

    She drained the last dregs of the coffee and, slinging her bag over a shoulder, made her way back to the mezzanine and down towards the library. Nobody looked at her twice. No whispering, no people going out of their way to avoid eye contact. Just another unremarkable eighteen year old, going about her business. Ariana blew out both cheeks and allowed herself a slight smile. She forced herself to relax. Tess was the friend she had been craving for years. Her new life didn’t have to be all books, books, books. She could balance that by occasionally letting her hair down. Couldn’t she?

    Maybe then, this could work out after all.

    Maybe….

    Bomb Girl – Chapter 1

    As a thank to everyone who has supported the launch of my first book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ I’m going to serialise another story I’ve been working on. I hope you enjoy it.

    Meet Ariana Hennessy, the ‘Bomb Girl.’

    The day they blew up her home town was meant to have been the happiest day of Annie Hennessy’s life. This is how it started.

    The impact of the explosion ripped through the hospital like an aural tsunami. Windows shattered inwards, showering staff and patients alike in a withering wave of glass shrapnel. Doctors and nurses were tossed to the ground and patients flung from their beds, bringing monitors crashing down on top of them. The fluorescent lighting on the ward flickered momentarily as if some unseen giant had casually inhaled and sucked the electricity from the building, before returning it to illuminate the chaos below.

    For what seemed forever there was nothing before the first scream punctured the silence. It would be the first of many that day but for those who heard it, was a sound they would take to their graves. A throaty guttural groan which gradually rose in pitch and volume, soon to be joined by others, a prophetic choir already mourning what lay in the days and months and years ahead. As if on cue, staff began to clamber to their feet, their training kicking in and overriding any desire to curl into a ball until it was all over. Instructions were barked out and a siren outside announced the first ambulance was on its way.

    On its way to the hell that awaited at the seat of the explosion, less than a mile away.

    Secreted in a side room off the main ward, Annie gingerly unfurled from the foetal position she had adopted at the initial explosion. She peeked from beneath the bed covers as a young doctor flashed past the open door, his flapping white coat adorned with a bloody drizzle. Thankfully there were no windows in Annie’s room, but beyond the door she could see the floor of the ward adorned in a carpet of glistening glass, like fresh dew on a crisp spring morning.

    Except this wasn’t spring and she wasn’t sitting in some idyllic meadow watching as the first rays of morning sunshine warmed the cold, damp earth. No, she was in Monksbridge Area Hospital, heavily pregnant and on the cusp of giving birth. Afraid and alone, nineteen years old and without the first clue how to be a mother to the new life waiting to emerge from within her. Annie watched as more staff flew past in either direction, fully expecting the kindly midwife who had been dealing with her up until now to appear and reassure her everything was just fine.

    But everything wasn’t fine.

    Nothing would ever be fine again.

    Annie Hennessy was a forgotten spectator to the bedlam outside. The sirens were incessant now, wailing as emergency services roared towards what was left of the town centre. They would return later in waves, like angry wasps, conveying the dead and dying to a hospital hopelessly ill equipped to deal with the magnitude of such a tragedy.

    It would become an epicentre of grief, around which dazed survivors and crazed relatives would gather, desperate for any crumb of comfort they could seize upon, hoping beyond hope their loved ones were alive. Through that dreadful first hour Annie lay on her back, elbows resting on sweat stained sheets, trying to process what was going on outside, while dealing with the incessant urges of her child to be born.

    Teeth gritted and damp hair matted to tear stained cheeks she rode each contraction, emerging from the other side weaker but no less determined to embrace the next. For this child would be born, with or without a midwife in attendance. She had carried it inside her, a living, growing testimony to the shame she had brought upon her family. A child born out of wedlock, to a father even Annie wasn’t certain as to whose identity.

    Tramp.

    Slut.

    Whore.

    Monksbridge was a sleepy market town, where nothing ever really happened. The Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ had largely passed it by, so any nugget of gossip was gleefully seized upon and dissected, before being disseminated to the next straining set of ears. Everyone knew everyone’s business. It hadn’t taken long, therefore, for the rumours to circulate about the Hennessy girl, the black sheep of an otherwise pure as the driven snow family. Annie’s mother screamed and roared when she broke the news to her parents at the kitchen table. Mildred Hennessy hadn’t been to church since, a self imposed house arrest, too ashamed to face the sharp tongues and sly eyes of her fellow parishioners.

    ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Yeah right….

    ‘You’re a disgrace Annie. Your father would be so ashamed of you.’

    Possibly, had he still been alive. Yet Jack Hennessy possessed a kind heart, and Annie had always been the apple of his eye. He would have been disappointed, hurt, angry even but he would have forgiven Annie eventually, of that she was certain. Unlike her mother, who bore grudges to the grave, eaten up by spite and recrimination, hurling the first stone while others were still rooting around for potential missiles.

    Had. For Jack Hennessy was dead. Ravaged by cancer he slipped away from Annie three years previously in the same hospital where she now lay, frantically trying to compose herself and focus as another contraction threatened to rip her apart. The baby was coming, irrespective of what was going on in the outside world. Annie succumbed to the pain, the anguish of the past eight months temporarily forgotten, and unleashed a scream which normally would have brought nurses and doctors hurtling to her bedside. Not today, though.

    For her scream was but one of many in an avalanche of human agony descending upon the beleaguered hospital. Ambulances formed a snaking queue outside the A&E department , their blue lights clashing vividly with the grey, overcast skies above. Hospital staff desperately struggled to contend with the seemingly endless line of victims being rushed through the automatic doors by paramedics, bellowing vital stats, their voices cracked and on the verge of collapse.

    Even those who were supposed to know what to do, didn’t know what to do.

    Nobody came. Nobody heard Annie scream. Nobody was there to mop her brow and encourage her, cajole her through the trauma. She remembered what she could from the pre natal classes she had attended, focusing on breathing and trying to ignore the pandemonium on all sides. Breathe, focus, ride the pain. It’s a bomb, it must have been a bomb. No, you stupid cow, think of the baby, the baby, she’s all that matters.

    It was there, in a cramped side room off a deserted ward that Ariana Hennessy entered the world, six pounds eleven ounces of mewling, bloody life. A life which Annie clutched to her chest, tears streaming down her cheeks, screaming for someone, anyone to come to her aid. Eventually they did, to find the newborn child with her mother, exhausted yet alive. Alive to tell the tale. Or, in the case of baby Ariana, to be the tale.

    For the town of Monksbridge needed something, anything to cling to. Forty three people died that day, forty two of them innocent souls. Hundreds more injured, bearing seen and unseen scars they would carry for the rest of their days. A town, a nation in mourning for the day the clock stopped for so many. They needed a light, a symbol that all was not lost.

    They found it in the baby girl born amidst the horror. They found it in the story of Annie Hennessy and her daughter. The press, who descended on the town like a pack of scavenging hyenas, latched onto the story and squeezed every last ounce of pathos from it. They had their villain, and no shortage of heroes for their screaming front pages. But they needed something more, the missing ingredient.

    What they needed was an angel.

    What they needed was an Ariana Hennessy.

    So they created Bomb Girl.

    ‘Bomb Girl’ continues next week. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Just comment below.

    Proud Wife of A Published Author

    You are probably all fed up looking at our smiling happy faces the last few days I promise you this will be short and sweet and straight to the point two points actually so here goes.

    Adam, Hannah, Rebecca and myself are all extremely proud of Stephen. He put his heart and soul into creating our fourth child Kirkwood Scott and to see it come to life now it’s truly amazing. It has even given Rebecca ideas of how to coin in on The Kirkwood Scott wave she thinks she can make her fortune by selling her daddy’s autograph 😂 I do believe that girl will go far she never misses an opportunity to try and make some money.

    You all know that I love making things so I’ve had an idea that I need your help with if you’ve bought a copy of the book be it an Ebook or paperback could you please email me a selfie or photo of you holding it in front of you. I want to make a collage of all the images for some artwork that will be hung up in our house.

    We know of a book club in London that are going to make The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles their next read thanks to my lovely cousin Bronagh who is in the photo with her neighbour Mike. If you are in a book club and decide to use The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles we would love to see a photo of you all together and hear your thoughts.

    Lastly if you’ve got your copy of the book would you please write a review on Amazon for us this will help make the book more visible and build up the it’s profile online.

    If you are sending me a photo please send it to this address – fracturedfaithblog@gmail.com

    Thank you for all your encouraging messages they mean so much to us all.

    Fionnuala xx

    Holding A Copy Of My Own Book

    Exciting times at chez Black today as my author copy of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ arrived. Cue lots of photographic opportunities with the hatchlings and Charlie the border terrier. To say I was a tad excited about holding a copy of my own book is probably the understatement of this, or any other, century. Have you ordered your copy yet? If not, then just hit the link below.

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

    Reasons To Stay Alive #3 – It Will Get Better

    It’s the weekend, and a long one at that, as it’s a public holiday in Northern Ireland on Monday. I finally have an opportunity to draw breath and look back on the events of the last few days. I’ve been employed by my organisation for 19 years and was promoted on Tuesday to a senior position I’ve been working towards for a long time. The interview process was one of the most stressful experiences of my working life.

    On the back of that, my first novel was published on Amazon on Thursday. It’s been almost two years since I started writing it and the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. To see it up on Amazon was one of the proudest moments of my life. What’s more, people are buying it, and early reviews have been positive. I sure hope all you North American buyers get the dark Irish humour I peddle.

    Later today I’m off on a 8 mile training run as I continue to work towards my 10th marathon. I haven’t selected the race yet, as I gradually up my distance. So far, that’s went well and I’ve been pleased with my pace. My diet could be better and I’m hoping to drop a few pounds but Marathon 10 is looking more likely again after a year of illness and annoying injuries. The third leg of my Mission Improbable.

    All this would have been HIGHLY improbable, less than a decade ago when I was unfit and unhappy. This unhappiness radiated outwards and affected my loved ones, like a pebble launched into a placid lake. The ripples had repercussions, they reverberated negatively around my little world. I was taking more out of life, than I was contributing, treading water and going nowhere fast.

    The moral of this story, if there has to be one, is that your life and circumstances can change. You can turn your life around, you can start again, but it requires both desire and action on your part. It requires a decision, a choice, to turn your back on what was and embrace what lies ahead. It’s not easy, it’s not instantaneous, but it is most definitely attainable. Faith, Hope and Love conquer all. Even the smallest of steps forward is still a step forward.

    I still have rough days, I still struggle, but the good massively outnumber the not so good. It’s a war of attrition, but a war I’m winning. It’s the biggest cliche in the world and before all this happened I would have scoffed at its mere mention but hard experience has taught me its truth – THINGS CAN AND WILL GET BETTER. Every pit has a rock bottom, every car crash of a life a defining moment.

    Rock bottom is a blessing, the ultimate gift. It’s not the end, but an opportunity to start afresh. If you can’t go any lower, then there’s only one direction – UPWARDS. Grab the rope dangling before you and pull hard, haul your sorry self towards the light above. If I can do it, then so can you, and I’m with you, every torturous step of the way, via this blog. It might take months, years, the rest of your life, but it is possible.

    I’ve said all I can say. I’ve walked the long road, practised what I’ve preached, and washed up on your blogging beach. I’m the message in the bottle, the message you might not want to hear, at this moment in your life but I’m telling you anyway. The message for your mess, I’m not the antidote or cure. Only you can instigate that, but I might be the spark that alights the flames of change within you.

    I’m Shameless, I Know, But….

    Call it shameless attention seeking, but it’s not every day you get to say you’ve written a book and it’s been published. My debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ went live on Amazon yesterday, and is now available to buy worldwide on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.

    I hope you all enjoy the book. All reviews, reblogs, shares and recommendations would be much appreciated. Tell your friends and family, tell the stranger on the bus for that matter. Here’s the link to Amazon:

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

    Also, if you haven’t done so already, please like my Facebook author page at:

    https://www.facebook.com/StephenBlackAuthor/

    Thank you again for the incredible support and encouragement I’ve received this week. I’ve relied so much on my WordPress family during this journey and I’m relying on you all again. Let’s keep the ‘Kirkwood Ball’ rolling.

    Stephen

    My Book Is Available On Amazon

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

    My book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to buy worldwide on Amazon in e-book and paperback format. It’s been almost two years in the making but we’ve finally got there. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way. I hope you enjoy it and am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    Shards #1 – What Do You See When You Look In The Mirror?

    When you look in a mirror what do you see? Is it a functional task, performing a visual checklist, before you step out to face what the day ahead brings. Hair, check. Clothes, check. Overall appearance? Meh, acceptable, you’ll do, I’m late for the train, no time to think too hard about this. Then it’s off without another thought until you partake of the same perfunctory ritual again, 24 hours later.

    Or is it a more drawn out process? You preen and pout, basking in what faces you. A selfie perhaps, for you like what you see. And why not for you’ve worked hard to cultivate this image of perfection. You smile as you know you’ll turn heads wherever you go today. Image is everything and you are enraptured by yours. You stare at the centre of your universe and it smirks back at you.

    Or do you cringe and shy away from the face and body looking back at you? You don’t like what you see, it’s a visage which fills you with guilt, shame and despair. Oh, to be anywhere else, to be anyone else. You hate what you have become, what you are. The mind plays tricks but the mirror never lies. You are an embarrassment, a joke, and the whole world knows it. They only have to look.

    Self can be an idol or an enemy. It flatters, it taunts, it throws you this way then that on a whim. We fixate, we obsess, shackled to the altar of me, me, me. It is a prison of the soul, the darkest, deepest of dungeons from which there is little hope of escape. It’s a life sentence with no chance of parole. You are stuck with one another. We are what we eat, drink, intake or inject into our bodies. We are consumed by what we consume.

    Yet what’s that lying at your feet? So small and seemingly insignificant. You stoop down to pick it up. A sharp edged stone which nestles neatly in the palm of your hand. A stone is a stone. It holds no secrets or hidden depths. You watch as you form a fist around it. An idea takes root in your mind. You blush at even daring to think such a radical thought. Seven years bad luck, isn’t that what they say?

    Before you realise what you’re doing, you throw your arm back and hurl it at the mirror, the stone striking its surface and sending a thousand shards shattering in all directions. You stand at the centre of the carnage, unscathed, without a scratch or cut. You look beyond the damaged mirror and the scales finally fall away to reveal the truth which was there all belong. The truth behind the mirror.

    Shards. They cut the self away without mercy or regrets. Multiple edges carving out a new message, one of hope and love. The self is dead, long live the self. Selflessness, that is. For you look into the eyes of the family and friends behind the facade. You look into their eyes and see your true self, the person you were created to be before the world perverted and distorted you beyond recognition. You see the original prototype, box fresh and flawless.

    It is then you can breathe out, exhale and experience freedom in its purest form. You are free at last from the yoke which has hung around your neck for so long. Free to live a life uninhibited by the face in the mirror. All you have to do is pick up that stone at your feet and start living the rest of your life. Death can be a beginning, a purification, a cleansing ritual like no other. Kill the self.

    How do you see when you look in the mirror?

    Can I Ask You A Question?

    Whenever people ask me what my book is about, I hmmmm and haaaaah without really giving them an adequate answer. I used to describe it as ‘Harry Potter meets Trainspotting,’ until Fionnuala told me it’s nothing like Harry Potter….or Trainspotting for that matter. Sorry to disappoint all you Daniel Radcliffe and Ewan McGregor fans out there but I don’t want to be accused of product representation.

    I’m much better with the written, as opposed to spoken, word so here’s the back cover blurb as it will appear on the book. I wrote it on Monday and it’s the final piece of the Kirkwood Scott jigsaw. I received an e-mail from my publisher late last night that the book will be available to buy on Amazon as an e-book or paperback from next week. I’ll post when I have a definitive publishing date.

    In the meantime I’d be grateful if you could help us out by taking part in a little survey to assist us with orders and the like. Just answer the following questions in the comments below.

    1. Will you be purchasing a copy of the book?

    2. If so, will you be purchasing the e-book or paperback version?

    3. Would you be interested in a signed copy, with personalised message from yours truly?

    4. What are you expecting from ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’

    Leave your comments below. Thank you 😊

    Normal Service Resumed Tomorrow

    Just a brief notice that normal blogging service will be resumed tomorrow after real life intervening over the last day or so. See you all then. Until then feel free to drop by my Facebook author page at the link below. Thank you all.

    https://www.facebook.com/StephenBlackAuthor/

    Hear Ye Hear Ye

    Hear Ye Hear Ye

    I’ve (or rather Fionnuala has) recently set up an author’s page on Facebook. You know, that archaic social media site that kids don’t use. It would be great if you could drop by and give it a like. It means you get twice the ‘Stephen experience’ and see what I get up to in the ‘real world.’ If you do, I also promise to cut down on the use of inverted commas as a substitute for ‘finger waggling.’ Oh….anyway here’s the link. Hit me up!

    https://www.facebook.com/StephenBlackAuthor/

    The Last Lap

    I’m proofing the final edit of the book today. I really should be doing other ‘stuff’ but I’ve foolishly informed my publisher I’ll have the final, final, final version with her by close of play tomorrow. So when I should be running, or studying or watching ‘Killing Eve’ boxsets I’m poring over a manuscript I’ve pored over on countless occasions before. Familiarity breeds content? Not quite, but I’m starting to tire of my own words.

    The good news is that it reads well. The publisher has done a fantastic job with the layout and format and an even better job at ironing out my ever so dodgy grasp of punctuation and grammar. I have learnt so much about apostrophes and semi colons these last two years. And as for the mighty comma, don’t even get me started. I’m sure the grammar freaks will find something to moan about but, hey, we’ve done our best.

    The cover is stupendous, beyond anything I hoped for. Although it’s the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles,’ I really wanted Meredith to be on the cover so I’m glad the publisher went with my thoughts. It really helped being able to visualise my concept in a photo shoot and send the images to the ‘arty’ people who designed it. Thanks again to my talented photographer, Peter Johnston, and ‘Meredith model’, Rebecca Monaghan.

    I’ve had several bizarre out of body experiences while reading this edit. It’s been some months since I visited the story. Despite being almost two years of my life when I finally closed the lid of my laptop I never wanted to set eyes on it again. I had overdosed on Kirkwood, Meredith and Skelly. Stuffed to the gills, I was. I never wanted to read another word of it again. Yet, here I am.

    It’s bizarre in that, while I remember writing it, the words feel as if they belong to someone else. Did I really dream up this story? It’s like it’s someone else’s work and they dumped it in my head whereupon I regurgitated it word for word, the clumsiest of conduits. It’s daunting. Could I ever repeat the feat or was this a one off? Am I a shrivelled husk now, drained of creative juices and anything remotely resembling a sequel?

    There’s also the mistakes. How can you read a page 22,578 times and still overlook a glaring typo or get a date wrong. Repeat after me 100 times. The Battle of Waterloo was in 1815, not 1814, 1816 or 3589 for that matter. Consistency is key. There’s nothing worse than a glaring error to distract the reader from the story and make them doubt the already dubious talents of the author. The least I can do is get my dates correct.

    Yet here I still find myself, trudging through the final chapters. It’s the last lap of the track, the home straight, the final furlong. All I have to do is keep my legs pumping for a few more seconds and I’ll clatter over the finishing line, exhausted but fulfilled. While my lungs scream for oxygen and my legs cramp up, I’ll fall to the ground safe in the knowledge I’ve run my race and earned the plaudits of the crowd. The pain is temporary, the achievement permanent.

    The finished product is never perfect. No matter how many times I will read over it, I will always find some blemish or imperfection. It can always be better, improved upon. But there comes a time when you have to step back and let it go, out into the great unknown. I’ve done all I can and it’s time to let my literary first born step out into the big, bad world. Kirkwood Scott will have to fight his own battles from now on.

    It’s Competition Time!

    https://www.facebook.com/StephenBlackAuthor/

    To celebrate the launch of my first novel, we are holding a competition on my Author Facebook page. Click the link above to find out more and while you’re at it like the page. The prize is a signed copy of the book. Yes, signed. By me! Hurry Hurry. In the meantime I’ll be sitting awkwardly in the corner, practicing my autograph. Thank you 😊

    Happy Birthday Adam

    A belated Happy Birthday the big lad himself, our son Adam, who turned 17 yesterday. We celebrated with a family BBQ which he oversaw himself. On Saturday he has invited some friends over for more of the same. It’s a well deserved break given he has studied so hard these last few months for his GCSE exams. He can now enjoy his summer break in style.

    Happy Birthday Adam

    Book Cover Reveal

    Well here it is….

    A sneak preview of the book’s cover which my publisher e-mailed me last night. I just have to proof the formatted manuscript one more time and you can all then buy it as an e-book or paperback via Amazon. I’m really excited at how it has all turned out but would love to hear your thoughts. Leave your comments below. Not long now people!

    Happy 4th July America

    Happy 4th July to all our American followers! A long time ago there was a war after some tea got poured into a harbour. The redcoats got a bit of a pasting. Some men in wigs signed a bit of parchment. I wrote a dissertation about Earl Cornwallis and his dodgy military tactics in the Carolinas. I got a 2:1. Before all that the Chinese invented fireworks. I think. The end.

    Anyway….enjoy the holiday!!

    Hungry For Life….And Toast

    Now that the hatchlings are on their summer holidays, our house is a little less frenetic in the mornings. I’m the only ‘child’ Fionnuala has to usher out of the nest, so there is (slightly) less screaming, shouting and general pandemonium. It’s chaos but organised chaos for Mrs Black runs a finely oiled domestic machine, despite my frequent best efforts to throw a spanner in the works.

    We now don’t have to get up quite so early and there are less bodies jockeying for access to the bathroom. School uniforms don’t have to be ironed or lunches prepared. There are no school bags to be hurdled on the floor or notes to be written to Mr. Thingy or Mrs What’s Her Face. One thing hasn’t changed though. I still wake up hungry. Useless to all and sundry until I visit the toaster.

    They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and who am I to argue. Like most people, I’m a bit grouchy when my stomach is empty. Normally I consume a cheeky banana while waiting for the bread to pop up, a golden brown vision, all ready for buttering and consumption. After that all is well with the world, until mid morning anyway when the next refuelling is required.

    Hobbits had the right idea. No self respecting Baggins or Took would set a large, hairy foot out of their hobbit holes until they had partaken of several breakfasts. It does exactly what it says on the tin, breaking your fast from the day before. Without it, the tank is empty and seizing days is frankly out of the question. These ‘I don’t do breakfast’ types leave me baffled. I simply couldn’t function without food first thing.

    I appreciate we are all different but if I were a visitor at your house and you offered me a solitary cup of coffee the following morning, I’m afraid you would get a strange look or seven. At weekends Fionnuala has accused me of refusing to surface until I hear the sound of sausages sizzling and their aroma wafting up the stairs. This, of course, is an outrageous allegation which I vehemently deny. Ahem….

    We all need something to get out of bed for in the morning. It can be sizzling sausages or a variety of more serious motivating factors. It can be family, friends, work or all three rolled into one big satisfying ball. But there needs to be an accelerant to fire our engines and coerce us into throwing back the bedcovers no matter how daunting a proposition that might seem. We only have so many revolutions on this earth.

    We must use them wisely, squeezing every last drop of value from each one. Depression and anxiety often materialise as a lethargy to face life and the myriad of challenges it presents. Their victims choose to opt out, to stay in bed and hide away from the big, bad world. The hunger is gone, the inner spark which propels us up and out the door every morning. Hunger has many negative connotations but when it comes to living, we all need to hear our bellies growl now and again.

    I’m writing this from bed. All is quiet, the alarm clock is yet to sound and herald another day of ‘adulting.’ Well, I say quiet, but Woody Woodpecker is already gently tapping at my stomach, suggesting I get up and raid the kitchen cupboards. His incessant nudges will only increase in frequency and force unless I slither from under the sheets soon. I’m hungry for another crack at life. Are you?

    What’s your favourite breakfast?

    What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

    I’m Not One To Tempt Fate But…

    Today I ran my best time in months upon months. Here’s hoping I’m finally over the injuries and illness which has plagued me so far this year. Hoping to keep it going through the summer in anticipation of a half marathon in September. Here’s a screenshot of today’s effort. I’m no world beater but it’s good to be getting back to a semblance of my former self.

    Blinded By Your Grace

    I believe in God but haven’t been to church in a number of years. That’s a story in itself. Suffice to say, I’ve never quite fit into the traditional church environment. Maybe it’s the inner cynic inside of me, forever questioning the motives of these ‘too good to be true’ people I found myself hanging out with every Sunday. People who then often disappeared off the face of the planet for the remaining six days of the week, when I really needed them.

    I’ve always felt an outsider when it comes to organised religion. It’s not that I’m out of my depth, more in the wrong swimming pool altogether. I’ve never truly fit in, despite the welcoming veneer and painted on smiles which greeted me every Sunday morning. It was all too cosy, too comfortable, which is strange as I never recall Jesus living that kind of life whenever I used to pick up my Bible.

    On Friday night, the U.K. grime artist Stormzy headlined the Glastonbury music festival to an estimated 200,000 people. Millions more watched on television. Grime is a form of urban hip hop/rap which has swept the charts by storm this year. Stormzy’s recent single ‘Vossi Bop’ hit Number 1 and his second studio album is eagerly awaited by his army of fans. The artist and his musical genre are a phenomenon.

    Stormzy has a social conscience. He raps about life on the streets, about major social-economic issues. His lyrics are intelligent and insightful, fuelled by a desire to expose the injustice he sees all around him. Topics include the epidemic that is knife crime, gang culture and racism. This is no brainless wannabe gangster. He writes with passion and purpose, spitting out his rhymes to promote important topics we so often turn our backs on.

    The highlight of the show though, for me anyway, was when he slowed it down to perform his massive hit ‘Blinded By Your Grace.’ Backed by a soulful choir he revealed a deep faith which bolsters his career. Despite his tough guy image and, at times, expletive ridden lyrics, he laid himself bare as he sang a song of thanks to his God. And, cynical old me believed him. 200,000 voices sang along, mobile phones in the air. I remember when we used lighters but hey ho.

    Many of the huge crowd and watching TV audience may have had no idea what the song was about. Maybe others did, but weren’t going to let a bit of ‘God talk’ get in the way of a good tune. And maybe, just maybe, for a few the penny dropped. They stopped and thanked God for everything He was doing in their lives. People who had never stepped foot in a church building before, suddenly found themselves surrounded by it. Proper church.

    Death Of A Jane Doe

    Belfast. A Friday afternoon in sunny June. Afternoon revellers gather at the end of a busy day to unwind and start the weekend in style. A blues band play in the packed beer garden, the singer’s gravelly tones drifting across the square, backed by a guitar which reverberates through your very marrow. The Guinness is flowing and the craic is mighty. Tourists mix with locals and all is well with the world. Or is it?

    Alleys run off the main square in all directions. One leads to the main shopping thorough, another to a nearby church. Arterial routes where curious eyes and ears are drawn to the throng, swaying as one to the intoxicating music. They scurry from their offices and shops, eager to join the mellow mass, savouring that first mouthful of ice cold cider, that first peal of laughter which quickens the heart and lightens the soul. Friday and sunshine. A potent combination.

    A picture speaks a thousand words. If only they knew what lurks just beyond the lens, along the urine stained alleys just out of sight. Broken bottles and broken dreams, the living dead lie huddled desperate for that next fix, that next drink. Ignored by the revellers they shiver in their rancid sleeping bags, despite the sun’s warming rays. They know no weekends for every day is the same monotonous routine, a battle to stay alive.

    Until the day comes when they no longer do. When something snaps, imperceptible to all but their inner ear. Be it rope, needle or pill, the decision is the same. The ends justify the means. They lie, waiting to be discovered, for their 15 minutes of fame within the crime scene cordon. At the end, they received the attention they had craved all their lives. Nobody walks past them now, for they are the entertainment on the square for all to see.

    A crowd gathers, but their is no applause or laughter. A few stern faces, a muttered prayer or two, as they are zipped up and carefully placed in the private ambulance. The photographer packs up his gear and moves on to the next call. For there is always a next call. The cordon tape is torn down and the alley re-opened. Nothing to see here, everyone move on now. And perfect timing for the landlord is eager to open up.

    Within hours, the square is heaving again and they are all but forgotten. A few throwaway remarks. ‘Was there a body found last night?’ ‘Yeah some homeless person. Overdose I think so sad.’ ‘Yeah, terrible. Anyway, what are you drinking? Same again.’ Meanwhile on a metal slab on the other side of town, the first incision is made. Jane Doe lies impassively, waiting to reveal her secrets to the pathologist’s scalpel. Such a pretty girl, such a terrible waste.

    This is how it is, day after day after dreadful day. It is a creeping epidemic and we are indifferent as it caresses the fringes of our consciousness, a gentle tide lapping against a deserted, moonlit beach. Two paragraphs in the morning edition, 30 seconds on the lunchtime bulletin. She was nothing, but to someone once she was everything. It might be days, or weeks or months but that knock on the door is coming. Jane is finally coming home.

    What could have been? What should have been? Before whatever happened and she fled the nest, destined for the bright lights of a city which consumed her whole. Glasses click and songs are sung in the square. Off to the side, a solitary bunch of flowers mark where she left us. She had sat there for months watching them pass. None of them saw her, nobody cared. Just another day, just another statistic. Until the next one.

    This Is Me

    I received an e-mail from my publisher yesterday to say they had completed the final edit of the book and are now finishing off the formatting and cover design. I’m hopeful the proofs will be forwarded to me next week for final checks. I’m particularly excited to see what the artists come up with for the cover based on the suggestions I sent them. It feels like Christmas Eve and I’m seven years old all over again.

    Although the book is called ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ I’m rooting for Meredith Starc to be the cover star. I’m starting to seriously think about Book 2 but can’t commit to it until ‘Skelly’s Square’ is birthed. Being a typical man, I can’t multi task. The launch excites and terrifies me in equal measure. It’s all bubbling to the surface, about to burst through and become as real as real can be.

    Believe it or not I’m painfully shy and take social awkwardness to a whole new level. WordPress is one of the safe places where I can expose myself through my writing. ‘Skelly’s Square’ is the pinnacle of that dream, where I’ve poured my heart and soul into a story which I hope many of you will read and enjoy. The support I receive on this blog never ceases to amaze me. If it weren’t for my fellow bloggers there would be no book.

    Exposure is scary, isn’t it? Right now I’m starting to tell ‘real’ people I’ve written a book. Friends, work colleagues, the community I immerse myself in every time I step out the front door. The response has been er…..interesting. While many have been genuinely delighted, others have viewed me as if I had two heads. A few responses have been largely indifferent which I’ve found hurtful.

    It’s at times like that I’ve understood how some writers prefer to maintain their anonymity under a pseudonym. Why reveal yourself and your art to the world to be greeted by a blanket of apathy and ridicule? Maybe I’m being a tad paranoid and overtly sensitive but I dread the thought of being mocked. Authors take the bravest of steps when they face the world head on and announce, ‘I’ve written a book.’

    Take my author photo. I was deeply embarrassed having it taken in a public place, the Belfast backstreet I was walking through where I first had the idea for ‘Skelly’s Square.’ Passers by eyed me curiously as I tried to follow the instructions of my photographer, Peter, and look natural. Easier said than done, let me tell you. I hate getting my photograph taken at the best of times.

    You need to be brave to write, to bare all, to reveal the real you to the judging eyes of others. The book is two years of my life. I want you all to love it, but what if you don’t? You need to be braver to write and publish. The process is daunting and discouragement lurks around every corner. Author photos, interviews and reviews are just parts of that process. So….deep breath:…here goes nothing.

    Here’s my official author photo. This is me. Warts and all. Looking awkward in a Belfast alley. Although, just to clarify, I don’t actually have any warts. Kirkwood would be so proud of me. The book is imminent, a whole new chapter in my life. Watch this space for more details next week. Hopefully the long wait will be over soon. Thank you all again for your unceasing support. I will always be grateful.

    Reasons To Stay Alive – The Now

    I wish it was this time next month. I would be on my summer leave. I’d have another stressful job interview behind me. My book would be published. I’m anxious about the latter two. Very anxious. The next month could be one of the most important of my life. In so many ways. It’s a big deal, the biggest of deals. Well, to me anyway. I’m wishing my life away, I know. Yet, still this is my wish.

    Anxiety is the fiend of the future. It’s worrying about what lies ahead, what’s around the corner, over the next hill. It’s a fear of the unknown, the uncontrollable. Depression, however, is a vitriolic demon from our past. Regret, guilt, dismay at past actions and decisions which hang over us like the darkest of clouds. Depression is a backpack of boulders which you lug around after you, years after the event.

    These toxic twins converge in the present. The now. They are two tiny drops of ink released into a glass of cool, clear water. There, they wreak havoc, clouding and contaminating everything we think, say and do. They perch on a shoulder apiece, poking and prodding, whispering acidic asides, draining us of our confidence and calm. They strangle hope and aspirations. They are the destroyers of worlds. Your world and mine.

    This battle rages in the now. An invisible struggle which many around us know nothing about. We keep it locked inside us, too ashamed and fearful to open our hearts and expose them for what they truly are. A Pandora’s Box of despair and dismay. We soldier on in silence, refusing to reach out for the help we so desperately need. We drown in the abyss, the quietest of deaths. Nobody needs to know.

    The now is our prison. It’s bars are thick and strong. Our cells are bleak and bare, and we have few visitors. Here we wither away, starved of nourishment. Our souls wither on the vine, our hearts shatter into a million shards. There are no witnesses to this disintegration. For on the surface everything is great, wonderful, fine. Meet pride. Another enemy of the mind.

    Want to know a secret? The now is freedom. We must embrace it, open our eyes and look around. The now is virgin ground, a sanctuary from poisonous pasts and fetid futures. A summers walk, a child’s laughter, a meal with loved ones. These are the now, our escape tunnel from what was, and what is yet to come. Each hour, minute, second is the now. There is nothing but the now. Fresh hope, another chance.

    I must recalibrate and focus. Stop looking over my shoulder, or straining to see what is ahead. Remove the scales from my eyes and look around. Appreciate life for the miracle it is. It’s a mindset, a philosophy I strive and strain for every day. So tantalisingly close, all I have to do is stretch and grasp it. Carpe diem. Seize the day. For within it, lies the glittering jewel we call our lives. Seize the day. Seize it now.

    Give Me Your 10 Best Words

    I realise I don’t post a lot, if any, of my fiction writing on this blog so thought I would give you all the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. Is he actually any good? Or is he just full of it, whatever it is. I’m, therefore, seeking your co-operation. I need your ideas, thoughts, suggestions for some short stories I will post on the blog over the summer. So….ahem….cue drum roll…. give me 10 of your best words.

    Comment below with a 10 word (or less) premise for a short story. I’ll select those I like the most and will write a short story based upon it. Seeing as I have so much spare time on my hands and don’t have a whole lot to do. I’ll keep them short, which I guess is the whole point of a short story. But, who knows, you might have given me the germ of an idea for a full blown novel. We shall see, won’t we?

    Give me your 10 best words….

    Reasons to Stay Alive #1

    I’ve just finished reading ‘Reasons To Stay Alive,’ by Matt Haig . It is a shocking, raw, yet ultimately uplifting account of his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. I devoured it in two days and took a lot of learning away from it. I would encourage anyone with mental health issues to pick up a copy of it, as it’s well worth a read. Here’s what I took away from it. Feel free to agree, disagree or comment below.

    Depression, anxiety, OCD, BPD etc are all recognised illnesses. Mental illnesses, yes, but illnesses. They are nothing to be ashamed of, yet so many people hide them away like a guilty secret. If you sprain an ankle, do you avoid talking about it? We talk about our coughs and colds, aches and pains endlessly. Yet, so many still treat mental health as a taboo subject?

    Why? I think a lot of it is down to lack of knowledge. It’s that awkward subject, the elephant in the room, the issue we’ve heard of but it only happens to other people and not us. How do you describe OCD to your friends and family without sounding like a raving lunatic.? Explain it to people who have little or know understanding of the illness? Aren’t we all a little bit OCD? Is it something to do with being a clean freak? Er….no.

    Education is key but education cannot happen without communication. Two way communication, yes, but we as a society need to become more open and accepting to discussing such matters. Burying our heads in the sand won’t make them go away. The problem will remain, growing and festering until it becomes too late to do anything about it. We need to grab the thistle and stare these demons squarely in the eye.

    We need to create an empathetic environment where individuals can feel comfortable and confident enough to speak up about their illness. Without fear of judgement, ridicule or patronising comments. Telling them to ‘snap out of it’ is not an acceptable response. Do you snap out of a broken leg? No. We need to be prepared to listen to those around us who so desperately need to talk. Actively listen.

    Yes, it’s an awkward subject matter. Big, scary topics. But they won’t go away and we need to start somewhere. We need to let people know that we’re there and we care. It can be in the house, the workplace or even in this wonderful online community we call WordPress. If you see someone who you think is struggling reach out to them. Be that beacon of hope, that light in the darkness. You might just save a life.

    I need to practice what I preach. I personally need to do more. It’s one of the reasons I started writing, to share my own experiences in the hope it resonated with someone and helped them with their own struggles. I remain visible and available. I’m here. Every day. I’m no expert or counsellor but I have two open ears and a willing heart. I want to help. All you have to do is ask.

    I could write so much more, this is only the tip of the iceberg. And I will in the days to come. But for today I’ll leave you with some food for thought? Are you doing enough for the mental health of your loved ones? What else could, and should, you be doing? Or are you suffering in silence, an anguished prisoner in the grip of mental torment. Be brave. Speak up. Talk. Listen. Today. Please.

    Everywhere You Go….

    I don’t know what it’s like in your little corner of the world but, when all else fails in Northern Ireland, we talk about the weather. We talk about the weather A LOT. I say talk but it’s more complain. It’s either (mostly) too wet but then we moan when it’s too dry as it’s not good for the garden. It’s too hot or too cold, we are a nation of whingers obsessed over a phenomenon we have no control over and which, invariably, disappoints us.

    If it wasn’t for the weather a lot of folk on this fair aisle would barely open their mouths. When I make my nightly phone call to my mother, it takes up a good third of the conversation. It is our go to play when all other avenues and topics have dried up. It can fill the most awkward of silences and rises like a verdant oasis in a desert of silence. ‘So….terrible weather these days, isn’t it?’

    It’s the base level, the common denominator, the gungy goo at the bottom of the chat barrel which we scrape at so gratefully when all else fails. The media are just as obsessed, as we are bombarded with updates and predictions. There are weather shows, weather channels, dancing weather men, singing weather woman. The weather is often the only reason we watch the news. Never mind Brexit or war with Iran. Is it going to rain tomorrow?

    As a runner, I have an acute interest in the weather. It determines what I wear, my route and all sorts of other variants. Take yesterday for example. The ever so smug forecasters predicted thunder, lightning and heavy rain from lunchtime onwards. I had a meeting at noon and then planned a 5K. It was a race against time (literally) to fit it all in before the heavens opened.

    I set out, with one eye nervously scanning the skies for ominous clouds. 27 minutes and 41 seconds later I was home and hosed. Well, not hosed, as I was dry as a bone. We waited and waited throughout the afternoon but the anticipated deluge never turned up. Surprise. The meteorologists had got it wrong. Again. We were treated to that rarest of sights. Blue skies over Belfast.

    Want to know what the weather is doing? I suggest you just look out of the window. For we have no control over the heavens above, despite all the fancy gadgets and ever so expensive computer programs. We can never tell what’s around the corner so best be prepared for all eventualities. Umbrella, sun tan lotion, scarf & gloves. Best bring it all. This is Northern Ireland after all.

    A bit like life. We can be sauntering along without a care in the world when, out of nowhere…..BANG….the storm strikes. We are left battered and bruised, having been completely unprepared and left utterly exposed to the earthly elements. Try as we might, we cannot predict what lies around the corner. That’s just the way it is. Suck it up, move on, get over yourself. Etc. Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum.

    Like the weather, we have no control over what we seek to control most. We are leaves in the wind, to be lifted and thrown about like….well….leaves in the wind. I don’t know what lies ahead in the coming weeks. Anxiety and worry reign supreme. All I can do is my best and hope everything falls into place. Look out of the window and survey my mental landscape. Can I chance it? Will it rain on my parade today?

    Running In Circles

    Back running today after my latest injury setback. I originally thought it was worse but, thankfully, it seems to have settled down after a week of rest. Well, I say rest, but what I actually mean is a week of not running. You never really get to rest at chez Black as we lurch from one drama to the next. That’s all part of the fun, I guess, but Monday morning seems to come round earlier and earlier every week. Oh well.

    I’ll be effectively starting from scratch again today but, all being well, I’ll build up in distance as the week progresses. Weather permitting, as there is thunder, lightning and heavy rain forecast for later today. I can’t remember a wetter June and I’m certainly getting plenty of use out of the Ulster Rugby anorak I recently purchased with some of my birthday money. Us Irish have webbed feet.

    I like to have a running target and had previously agreed to run a half marathon for our Office charity for 2019, the Northern Ireland Hospice who provide palliative care for terminally ill people. It’s looking like it will be the Belfast Half Marathon in September which leaves me the whole summer to prepare. I’m not setting myself a time target, I’ll be happy to get round in one piece and raise a few pounds for the cause.

    After that, it will be my tenth marathon. I’ve decided I want to run it for the Mae Murray Foundation, a charity which allows disabled young people to access activities they would otherwise never get a chance to enjoy. Thanks to them our daredevil daughter, Hannah, has been cycling, snow tubing, surfing and skiiing with them in the last year alone. They had a disco last Friday night and she was the last person off the dance floor.

    I’m not sure when I’ll run it. It will most likely be Belfast 2020 which seems an awfully long way off, especially given the injuries and illness I’ve had, to date, in 2019. I worry so much could go wrong between now and then. Part of me is tempted to commit to something earlier but this clashes with Adam’s rugby schedule and I’m loathe to miss any of his matches when he has such a big season ahead.

    I need to learn to walk before I run. Any distance. Small steps, build it up gradually. Learn to enjoy running again instead of waking up enveloped in a blanket of gloom at the thought of having to run. I don’t have to run, the world will keep turning if i don’t. But I want to and probably need to, more so for my mental than physical health. The thought of running causes me anxiety but the actual act itself is a complete stress buster. Figure that one out.

    Today I run.

    Fear The Niggle

    Niggle. Such an innocent little word. Quaint. Cute. Inoffensive. It’s been in my head of late as I’ve had a few injuries this week which have curtailed my running. A twinge here, a strain there. Nothing in themselves but just enough to keep me off the roads. Niggly injuries. They’re not causing me any great pain, I don’t need to be rushed to A&E. They’re just there. Doing enough to be noticed, and little else. Niggling me.

    Niggles are a blessing and a curse to runners. Don’t worry, this post isn’t all about running. Bear with me, I’ll be finished in a paragraph. Two at the most. They frustrate and hinder you, but they also act as red flags, a warning sign to slow down and take some time off. For if you ignore a niggle and keep running then snap….scrunch….squeal. The situation becomes a whole lot messier and you do find yourself in the back of a speeding ambulance.

    I embrace my niggles then. The physical ones at least. But what about the niggles of the mind. Those unwanted, obtrusive thoughts that pick and poke at you, demanding your undivided attention. They start as the tiniest seed, lodged in the corner of your psyche. They are minimal, minuscule, much a do about nothing. You ignore them for so long, they have no hold over you. The battle has been won and they are the vanquished. Right?

    Niggles love playing the underdog. They thrive on licking their wounds in the corner. Their days of lauding over your every waking moment are a distant memory. They cannot harm you. But try as you might you can’t completely dislodge them. That’s the strength of the niggle. It’s perseverance, stayability, I’m not going away and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m dead, I’m buried, I’m sprawling on the canvas. But I’m still there.

    They love complacency and they never rest, forever probing, testing, seeking out that one chink in your otherwise impenetrable armour. When they find it, they slither inside like a venomous viper, before sinking dripping fangs into exposed flesh. Then slither off again as the poison surges through your system, spreading it’s toxins at a rate you cannot repel. Niggles are nasty. Once they are within, they will not relent until you bend the knee to them.

    Niggles are for life. Imagine a radio turned up full blast. It’s at 10. You take the pills, read the literature, talk to the right people and, in time, it’s a 7, a 4, a 1. You can think again, live again without the deafening, all consuming background noise of the obtrusive thought and it’s accompanying compulsions. OCD is the Crown Prince and it’s army of niggles assail your defences tirelessly. They do not sleep.

    I wrestle these niggles every day. Most times, I have the upper hand, but now and again they threaten to overwhelm me. I educate, medicate and mediate. I flirt with the OCD community, like a child holding its hand over an open flame. Afraid to spend too much time there in case the heat becomes too much and my soul is singed. Fire purges, it cauterises, but it can also burn to the bone. It is a double edged sword.

    I turn my back on the niggle. I look away, using the same coping mechanisms and strategies which have served me so well these last years. I walk the streets and wonder at the faces I see. Calm, composed, seemingly in control. But what lies behind the mask? Is all as tranquil as it seems? Or has the niggle taken hold, dragging them screaming in silence towards fresh, unvisited hells? I wonder as I walk. I fear these places.

    Do you have unwanted, obtrusive thoughts?

    Are you anxious, worried, depressed?

    Do you fear the niggle?

    Stephen v The Rock. You Decide?

    I’ve just finished watching ‘San Andreas’ starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Fionnuala found it while flicking through the channels after a long day tidying gardens and cleaning up the back yard. We both love a good disaster movie, and this was one of the few we hadn’t watched. Basically ‘The Rock,’ in the space of 114 minutes saves his family and a bunch of other people, while San Francisco collapses all around him. All while bursting out of a ridiculously tight t-shirt.

    I’ve had a soft spot for ‘The Rock’ since his WWE days. His movies never require much usage of the grey matter but are largely solid, watchable entertainment. Plus, he doesn’t seem to take life too seriously and isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. In ‘San Andreas’ he’s married to the very young looking Carla Gugino and they stretch my incredulity to the limit by being the parents of Alexandra Daddario. Gugino must have been a young mother. As in 12,13?

    ‘The Rock’ drives jeeps, flies planes and navigates motorboats in the search for Alexandra who seems more than capable of looking after herself, but who am I to argue. About a billion people die as earthquakes and tsunamis ravage the city, but we don’t see a body or drop of blood because it’s not that kind of movie. Carla glistens throughout while ‘The Rock’s’ teeth shine through the smoke and devastation like a beacon of hope.

    By right, they should be killed about 368 times in the first hour but possess the outrageous luck that all self respecting action heroes have. Nothing can stop ‘The Rock’ when it comes to saving his family. He also locates his daughter amidst the carnage of a destroyed city in about three and a half minutes. Not bad, even by his standards. At the end, when asked what happens now, he stares stony faced at the ruined landscape and replies ‘Now we rebuild.’ It will probably take him a week or so.

    I’ll never be ‘The Rock.’ Unless I win the lottery, hire a personal trainer and have some serious dental bleaching work. I’m no hero and reckon I would have lasted less than a minute, before falling down a hole or getting flattened by a lump of flying debris. I would have crashed the plane, run aground in the motor boat and totalled the jeep. I’m not great with pressure. And, when faced with the end of civilisation as we know it, fear I wouldn’t cope very well. Or, at all for that matter.

    I also lack self-confidence, which the Big Man possesses in spadefuls. I worry about everything and tend to regard the bottle as half empty, whereas Mr. J is the eternal optimist. Well, you would be if your muscles had muscles and your bank balance had more digits than pi. But I do have one thing in common with El Rocko. We share the same dogged, never say die determination.

    I don’t give up easy. I dig my heels in, chip away at challenges and persevere while others drop by the wayside. I’ll never win a marathon but I’ll always finish it. I’ll never win the Booker Prize, but I will see my dream of having a book published. I’ll never have a million followers on social media, but I’ll blog every day and not disappear off the face of the WordPress World, a flash in the pan, never to be seen again.

    So while I’ll never prance around a wrestling ring in a tiny pair of spandex trunks, I’m maybe not that different from ‘The Rock,’ as I first imagined. I can smell what he’s cooking and I’m putting one foot ahead of the other, feeling my way towards the finishing line. He will probably fly over me hanging by a rope ladder from a helicopter, but we are headed in the right direction. Consistency & Coherence = Results.

    Stephen v The Rock? You decide.

    What’s your favourite disaster movie?

    Whose your favourite action hero? Or heroine?

    Need a little inspiration?

    A few days ago I wrote a blog about being a mum and got talking with another mum Cathy http://cathy-cade.com about her daughter Jen who has faced many challenges from a baby and now as young woman she is battling cancer.

    Jen has started writing a blog about her cancer journey, I have only read one post so far and this girl is full of so much positivity that I really did feel I had to share her blog with everyone here on WordPress.

    www.mycancerand.me/hit-with-a-curve-ball/

    Go and have a read and wish her all the best on her journey and it may even help put your own life in perspective.

    Sending you big hugs and lots of love Cathy & Jen from Fractured Faith

    Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter….Larne

    This week has been incredibly stressful at work. I’ve had a niggly injury which means I haven’t been able to run at lunchtime, which usually acts as a sure fire anxiety buster. Instead I’ve been largely chained to my desk, desperately trying to avoid the quagmire of office politics and gossip which have threatened to subsume me. Friday couldn’t come quick enough.

    Hannah is at a youth club tonight in Larne, leaving Fionnuala, Rebecca and I with a couple of hours until we pick her up again. It wasn’t worth our while driving back home so we retired to the nearest fast food joint, a largely deserted Kentucky Fried Chicken. I wouldn’t normally frequent such eateries, but some days joy can only be found at the bottom of a bucket of fried chicken.

    I discovered what a spork was. Genius! It’s up there with the moon landings and the wheel as far as I’m concerned. I also discovered they don’t serve Diet Coke (BOOOOOO!), only Pepsi Max. Meh. I reluctantly poured myself a glass after briefly considering smuggling a tin of DC in from the car. Even I have standards. I then explained to Rebecca who Colonel Saunders was. Sheesh! The youth of today.

    Before too long the bucket was empty. ‘Do they only serve chicken in here?’ enquired Rebecca. ‘Yes,’ I replied wearily. ‘What about burgers?’ she persisted. ‘Yes. They’re called chicken burgers,’ I shot back in her direction. That shut her up for a while. There isn’t a lot to do in Larne I rapidly discovered, bar eat fried chicken. It’s a soulless place, with no apparent centre. Just lots of roundabouts.

    It’s a town I don’t know, nor do I particularly want to know. There’s a standing joke that the only good thing to come out of Larne is the ferry to Scotland. At one point I found myself going the wrong way down a one way street, before almost accidentally boarding the outgoing boat. I don’t think Hannah would have been particularly impressed if we had phoned her from the other side of the Irish Sea.

    We now have only 25 minutes to while away before the youth club ends. Thank God for blogging. Towns like Larne and my brain dead adventures around it have proven a writing lifeline and spared me the ultimate humiliation. Returning to KFC for seconds. A burger, possibly. One of the chicken ones. That Colonel knew a thing or two about product placement. 23 minutes….

    Welcome to Larne. Abandon hope all ye who enter.

    Where is your ‘Larne’?

    Life as an Additional Needs Mummy

    I am a mummy to three amazing children one of which has additional needs and relays on me for her personal care. I love being a mum and I’m really enjoying watching my teenagers turn into young adults. I look at them with so much love and pride that sometimes I think I could cry. Don’t get me wrong there are times I look at them and I could cry because of the attitude they have but they are teenagers I was one too a long time ago and I am so thankful to God that none of them are as troublesome as I was to my parents, but that’s another story!

    Our lives could be so much different today if Stephen and I had took the advice of doctors when we went for our 20 week scan with Hannah. We were told at our scan that she had spina bifida and hydrocephalus and that she would be severely disabled both physically and mentally. My heart sank, the room was spinning and Stephen almost passed out. Our image of our perfect world was crumbling to pieces and we couldn’t escape.

    We were advised by doctors at that appointment to have our pregnancy terminated and because we were at 22 weeks gestation we were given 24 hours to think about it and get back to them with our decision. We both knew that that option was not on the cards for us we had been blessed with this pregnancy and we were continuing with it no matter what the outcome would be we were giving our baby the chance of life. From that day we gained the strength to fight for our baby and as I write this today almost 16 years later we still fight for her with her by our side.

    My life changed forever that August morning at Hannah’s scan when we were given her diagnosis. At that time I had been working full time in a job that I loved but the people I worked with their attitude towards me changed they all felt sorry for me and I could see it in their eyes. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or pity me I wanted to be treated just like any other pregnant woman. I ended up starting my maternity leave early and got myself mentally prepared for what lay ahead for me.

    Being a mum to a child with additional needs, in my opinion, is a very scary experience but it is also a very rewarding experience. The night before Hannah was born I was terrified of her being delivered into the world. I had made it this far with her she was safe and loved and I felt I could protect her from anything. I didn’t know what was going to happen when she was delivered; would she be able to breathe on her own, would she know me and her daddy, would she be able to walk or talk or feed. These things were all unknown to me and if I thought the last 18 weeks had been a rollercoaster of emotions I was in for a huge shock.

    As soon as Hannah was born she was taken to the Neonatal Unit I didn’t get to hold her she was brought up to me to look at it then immediately put in an incubator and whisked away for medical attention. At that time I was so relieved that she was here and she was breathing – that’s my girl keep fighting you’ve only just been born and that’s two things ticked off the list that the doctors told us you wouldn’t be able to do:

    1. Survive the pregnancy and birth

    2. Breath on her own

    For what seemed like an eternity but only an hour or so I finally got to see my beautiful girl. The nurses wheeled me up to the neonatal unit from the recovery room and there she was the youngest baby in the unit and the biggest i thought my heart was going to explode I had so much love for this tiny human and I knew there and then she was a fighter.

    Hannah’s first few months were very intense our time was shared equally between hospital and home. She had countless surgeries the first one when she was just a day old and our girl never let us down she kept fighting and proving the doctors wrong she was our miracle girl.

    As a mummy to a child with additional needs I have found myself at different stages along our journey grieving for a life that I thought I would have but it wasn’t to be. Life was slowly becoming lonely for me Stephen was at work all day and I was at home with two young children who were only 17 months apart in age. Most weeks had hospital appointments, doctors visits or community nurse visits. Friends had stopped asking me out because every time I was invited I had an excuse not to go. Life was never going to be the same again or so I thought.

    We have faced many obstacles with Hannah and each time it has been battle which we have got through and that’s thanks to our faith and our determination to make sure that Hannah gets the best care that she requires.

    Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit low I think of all of the things that Hannah has been able to do and I feel so proud of her and the young lady that she is turning into. I still continue to tick off on my mental list all the things that Hannah continues to do which defies what the doctors initially said she wouldn’t do the most recent being skiing on the dry ski slopes. Just a few weeks ago she hugged me and thanked me for not listening to the doctors and for giving her a life – that girl can melt my heart like chocolate.

    Without having Hannah in our life our life would be very dull. Hannah brings us so much joy and happiness and along with Adam and Rebecca a lot of grey hairs! We don’t have a big house, two holidays a year, cars and money but what we do have money couldn’t buy. We are a family that love each other unconditionally and we support each other in everything we do. We have been riding this rollercoaster for 16 years now and right now we are enjoying the ride.

    I have no idea why I have wrote this today I sat down on the sofa a few hours ago with a cup of tea picked up my phone and started typing this out so I believe that this is a message for somebody.

    If you are in a situation similar to us or are a parent of a child with additional needs and would just like to chat send me an email and we can get something arranged.

    A diagnosis like this during pregnancy doesn’t mean it’s the end it can be the beginning of an amazing journey with many bumps along the way but the rewards are priceless and are something that money can’t buy.

    Im Odd. I’m Awkward. I’m Me

    As I’m a BIG BOSS now, I’ve moved up in the world and am now mixing in much higher social circles. Take today, for instance. I’ve been invited to a drinks reception at a fancy city centre location. It starts at such and such a time with complimentary wine, followed by speeches, but I’ve been told to arrive 20 minutes early in order to ‘mingle.’ I’m not quite sure what this means, but it I’m about to find out.

    Mingling sounds ominously like having to socially interact with total strangers with whom I’ve nothing in common bar we’ve been thrown together at this event. Neither of us particularly want to be there but it goes with the job, so tough luck matey. I’d much rather be back at the coal face, getting on with the actual work. Which, sad man that I am, I find incredibly interesting.

    But here I am, suspiciously eying up all around me, while nibbling on a lukewarm cocktail sausage. I’m socially awkward, a floundering fish out of water when it comes to small talk and networking events. Whereas others hold court and strut about like proud peacocks, I cringe and want to curl up in a ball until it’s all over. I nod and smile, but inwardly I’m dying the slowest of deaths.

    So think of me, when you read this. Any survival tips would be much appreciated. Failing that, feel free to list any topics for inane conversation which might while away five minutes or so. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one hiding behind the potted plants in the corner, desperately trying to avoid eye contact with everyone. I’m odd, I’m awkward but I doubt I’ll change how. I’m me.

    Today Is A New Day

    When it wins, it wins big, so I must start again. It’s all or nothing where I’m concerned and this morning I find myself sick and tired, full of loathing and regret. OCD fights a guerrilla war now, striking hard and fast before skulking back into the shadows again to await its next contact. There are no unfurled banners and sparkling uniforms. This is the dirtiest of dirty wars. It takes no prisoners and seeks no parley.

    I’ll pick up the pieces, batten down the hatches, bury my dead and face the day, afresh. This is a silent war, there are no booming cannons or clashing swords to herald the coming conflict. It’s an internal struggle, a ten steps forward, nine steps back war of attrition. I play the long game, ceaselessly patrolling the borders of my psyche, ever vigilant, my finger twitching on the trigger.

    You will not see it coming. A blade in the back and a second of recognition before the darkness descends is the best you can hope for. Mental health is the most fragile and fickle of commodities. We preen and pose to attain physical perfection, while inside our neglected minds wither on the vine. It laughs as I lace up my running shoes and prepare to pound the pavements once more. For it knows. It knows.

    I have my allies. Defences have been bolstered and ramparts manned. The long watch begins once more as I scan the horizon, watching the weakest of suns peek above the treeline in the distance. It’s out there, watching me watching it. We are in this for life, joined at the hip. It will not stop and I will not give in. A fight to the death. Every war has its casualties. Yet, today is a new day. Today I start again.

    How is your mental health today?

    Thoughts From A Crime Scene

    The written word is a smoking gun. It leaves clues, drops of blood that we follow pitter, patter to the scene of the crime, the grisly truth. A crime scene is an oasis of silence, a deadly dearth, until life explodes upon it. Raised voices, orders tersely barked, the click, whirr, click of the photographers lens. It lies before us, to intrigue and disgust in equal measure. An opulent opportunity to discover what really happened.

    DNA, fingerprints, a single strand of hair. A discarded apple core. Every inch of ground pored over in microscopic detail for the ethereal evidence we so desperately seek which is right there, staring us in the face. If only we can find the key to unlock it, to throw back the latch and reveal the light. To lead us to the killer, see justice prevail and restore calm and order, separate right from wrong.

    Such it is with our words. What does he mean? Who is she talking about? We second guess and speculate. Is it me, is it him, so and so or what’s his face? The author beguiles and intrigues, smoke and mirrors, scents and shadows. My words mean everything, my words mean nothing, the fickle strokes of a pen on the page building worlds and destroying empires on a lazy whim.

    The ideas, they keep coming. An endless procession of plots and characters, hurtling round my mind, begging to be released. They are my then, my now, my not so happily ever after. My past becomes the currency of my future, I’ll pay the toll and take my chances. So much to write, yet so little time. Shackled by the weight of the daily grind, the 9-5. Bills to pay, when all I want to do is tap, tap, tap these characters into being.

    Soothing words, brutal words, words of hope and hopelessness. I am a prisoner to them, they will not release me, until I birth them, gagging and choking onto the harsh glare of the keyboard screen. They haunt the inner recesses, demons from the past gorging on the success of my present situation. Dare I let them out for where they dwell, chaos follows close behind. They destroy all they survey.

    The written word is a smoking gun. Bag it, tag it, you’ll never get to the bottom of it. A conundrum of could be and what if? It drives me forward, day by day to where I do not know. Will you join me on this journey for I know not where it ends? Words kill like guns, another darling bleeds out from my fingertips. Every contact leaves a trace, a trace of what could have been.

    Follow the clues, follow the words. Down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, we know not where it ends. Life or death, the flick of a coin, I write on the edge, and none of them are safe. Nobody is safe when I’m in the zone, when I lift the yellow tape and take in what I have created. The bloody, magnificent madness of it all. I am what I am and what will be, will be. Que sera sera, tick tock, adieu.

    My characters sleep with one eye open for I am coming for them, a literary assassin. My pen is a blade, the prose spattering the page like an arterial spurt dancing across the watching wall. Look close at those random patterns of life extinct, look closely, can you see yourself? Or is it merely a trick of the light, an illusion of your desire. Time will tell, the truth will out. Every crime scene leaves a story. This is mine.

    Another Day….Another Mountain Of Food

    I woke up to a bounty of Fathers Day presents this morning, many of which were edible. Hmmmmm….what are my family trying to tell me? Double Decker bars, German Biscuits, Coconut Mushrooms. Not to mention the huge tub of honeycomb ice cream already taking pride of place in the freezer. I sure have ‘a whole lot of eating’ ahead of me but I’m sure I’ll have several willing helpers, if required.

    I was also super excited to get a writers mug, monogrammed pen and selection of sharpies. Apparently I have to practice my autograph for future book signings. We will see how that goes. For now, I’m just grateful for my family continuing to put up with me. I’ll blog again later but, for now, here’s some photos to keep you all occupied. Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and godfathers out there.

    A Writing Update

    I was asked the other day by a fellow blogger what had become of ‘Bomb Girl,’ the story I was releasing in a serialised form on Wattpad. Had I forgotten all about it? Well, I hadn’t but such has been the focus on getting the first Kirkwood Scott book out, the adventures of Ariana Hennessy have been unfortunately shelved. I will return to it and I’ve a loose plot in my head. But for now, I just want to get ‘Skelly’s Square’ out and see what happens.

    In my mind, the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles’ were always going to be a trilogy and I’ve already begun researching Book 2. I’ve several big set pieces plotted in my head which the book will be structured around. Belfast will feature obviously but be prepared for plenty of twists and turns. Nobody is safe and nothing is impossible as Book 1 proved. It will be published next month, and I hope you all enjoy it.

    My imagination is constantly churning and I’ve a couple of other ideas bouncing around. ‘Surviving Custer’ is a standalone book based in the Kirkwood Scott universe but featuring entirely new characters. Then there’s ‘This Troubled Land Of Ours,’ my post apocalyptic saga set in a Northern Ireland where the 1969-1998 ‘Troubles’ never ended. I’m doing a lot of background reading at present for them all. So, watch this space.

    In the meantime, ‘Skelly’s Square’ will be landing on Amazon some time next month. I’m still awaiting a firm date from the publisher but when I do you will be the first to know. I’m super excited about the cover art and what you all make of the adventures of Kirkwood, Meredith and Harley. It can be ordered in e-book and paperback format. We are also looking into am audiobook if it takes off.

    Quite a few people have been asking about signed copies. We’ve mulled this over and think the best way is for those interested to order the paperback off Amazon, then post it to me along with a prepaid envelope. Then I’ll happily sign it and return to you in the mail. If anyone else has a better solution then I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll just keep counting down until launch day. Hopefully not much longer.

    Honey Coma Ice Cream

    After a long day at the office it was lovely to return home to an early Fathers Day present – a ‘small’ tub of my beloved honeycomb ice cream. I’ve been fretting all week about work, writing and everything in between. So I’m about to succumb to a food coma of epic proportions. Thank you to Fionnuala & the kids. I don’t deserve you lot but I’m grateful all the same.

    Guest Blogger – Chelsea Owens

    Chelsea, or Mrs O as I like to call her, hosts a wonderfully eclectic blog offering an intelligent, but equally witty, take on her world. Whether it’s serialised fiction, terrible poetry contests or the trials and tribulations of motherhood she covers it all. In the post below she considers a word we all dread perfection.http://chelseaannowens.com

    Have you ever worried about being perfect?

    I have. I am what is known as a perfectionist, often in the most crippling sense of the word. Out of terror of error I will not consider thinking about the possibility of forming a plan to begin the process of outlining a project.

    Not only that, but I stalk myself with a measuring stick of self-worth. Was this action flawless enough? Did I talk with that person well? Do I know where all of the socks in the house have gone? No matter what, I am never good enough.

    I suspect that way of thinking is damaging yet I also see its prevalence in other people’s thinking. A friend of mine told me that she could never get her house to look perfect. Another said the same of her children. A third used the term when describing the management of her time. My last friend lamented the imperfect state of her appearance.

    In my experience, this imperfection complex is really what perfectionism is about. It leads to a constant gray cloud of self-disappointment and a mental barrage of negative observations. It also accounts for the majority of my chocolate consumption …which only leads to more mean thoughts regarding my weight and self-control.

    We are in obvious need of a re-definition of the word perfect.

    Where did that insidious word come from, anyway? Does it really mean that something is without any mistake at all? Hasty internet research answers, “Yes.” Definition after definition cite phrases like “being entirely without flaw or defect (Mirriam-Webster)” and “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement (dictionary.com).”

    Even a religious perspective seems to add more gloom with passages like, “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” Knowing I need to try to be as good as God is very intimidating.

    How do we re-define all that? Simple. Let’s start at the very beginning: its root.

    Perfect began as a marriage of per, meaning thorough or completely and facere, which is do. It meant that one is in the act of complete. I want everyone to think about that, because it is where we are going to take our new meaning of the word. Perfect was not intended to mean something finished, but something finishing.

    Perfection is an ongoing process. It has to be. As writers we experience this, for there is always a point at which the book or story or poem needs to be published. An artist needs to allow the paint to dry so he may list his masterpiece for sale. Parents need to kick their nestling out into the world.

    And in religion? I grew up in a religion that teaches of eternal progression. Our heavenly Father wants us to learn, grow, improve, and eventually achieve a glorified seat in heaven. Without grace, we cannot even get close -but why is there grace? Why are there not more scripture references to being “flawless” or “without blemish?”

    It. is. because. that. is. not. perfect.

    The Oxford dictionary, bless them, listed a definition to support this idea: “as good as it is possible to be.” Perfect, therefore, is the act of trying for constant betterment. It is mistakes we learn from and skills we improve upon and knowledge we continually acquire. It is an act and not a final state we cannot ever achieve because we are human.

    Heck; in French, the word for perfect is a tasty layered dessert. Which form of perfect would you rather have?

    My Desert Of Doubt

    Sometimes I don’t know what to write. The ideas well has run dry and my imagination stretches before me, an arid, endless desert of dearth. Those are the worst mornings. The mornings where I sit before my blank screen feeling I have nothing to offer. Nothing to offer myself, nothing to offer my family, nothing to offer the world. I am a husk, an empty, brittle husk, devoid of creative intent.

    Doubt is the cactus of the mental landscape. It thrives, where other emotions flounder, it’s roots find purchase in the parched earth and suck what little sustenance there is out of the soil of my soul. Doubt is the demon that doesn’t want me to write, doesn’t want me to run, doesn’t want me to do anything for I’m a fool, a fake, a fraud. Trying to wrestle that cactus of doubt and you are left with bloody, tattered hands.

    Doubt will always introduce you to it’s cousin, worry. It’s a weed, strangling any fresh shoots of hope, condemning you to hours of negative, introspective thinking. I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, this is the end of the road. Fatigue plays its part but once doubt and worry get their claws into you, it’s painfully difficult to wrench free. Even when you do, they draw blood, they leave scars.

    I am on the cusp of potentially great times, both in my working and personal life. I stand on the edge of achievement and recognition. That is when we are at our most vulnerable, when we relax for an instance and start to think we’ve made it. We are valued, loved, worthy. Then….BANG….we are lying on our backs, staring at the sky, dazed and confused. How on earth did that happen?

    I am guarded when it comes to plaudits and praise. I am naturally shy and introspective, socially awkward at the best of times. I wear a mask, exuding confidence and calm, but beneath it I am brittle. The slightest setback and I can crumble, reduced to a pathetic pile of ash. Peeking from my shell is an arduous and nerve shredding matter. It’s not where I want to be, exposed and alone.

    It’s when I am here, I rely on my loved ones to gather round, to form a phalanx of protection, shielding me from the barbs of enemy forces. It’s when I need them most, when I reach out and hope they will respond to my cry for help. Without them, I will be overrun, trampled underfoot before being dragged from the battlefield, a lifeless lump. History is written by the winners. The dead can’t talk.

    So today, I am anxious, worried, afraid. I don’t know what lies ahead, the next month is make or break in so many ways. Part of me wants to turn around and run screaming for the hills. The way of the coward. But when I do, I see those who have remained loyal, barring my path. They encourage me, console me. Many have dropped away, so I am doubly grateful for those who remain.

    I’ve written today’s blog….somehow. The words have trickled, then flowed, the screen is full as my finger hovers over the ‘publish’ button. I’ll go to work, play the game, hit the ball out of the park. It’s who I am, what I do. Always on the front foot, never looking back. You never look back, for that is where the past belongs. Behind you. It’s a long, hard trek across this desert. One step at a time. It’s all I know, all I need.

    One Month To Go

    ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ will be available on Amazon in e-book and paperback format next month. My first novel, it’s an urban fantasy set in modern day Belfast. Serial loser Kirkwood Scott discovers an ancient battle raging on the city’s back streets between supernatural forces of good and evil. The future of the planet is at stake and only he possesses the power to defeat his nemesis, Colonel Augustus Skelly, and his army of vicious ghost soldiers.

    Will you be reading it?

    Where Are You On The ‘Me Me Me’ Tree?

    We are all a little self obsessed. It’s human nature, that we focus on our own interests. Animal instinct, if you like. The trick is to be aware of this character defect and work against the grain, to put the needs of others before our own. Love others. You get my drift. It’s not easy though and often the old habits slip back, leaving us trampling over all and sundry in our desire to clamber to the top of the tree. The ‘me me me’ tree.

    Life seems grand at the top of the ‘me me me’ tree. We can scan the world around us, pat ourselves on the back and look down disdainfully at those beneath us, who are scrambling for purchase on the slippery trunk and branches beneath. They haven’t quite made it to the top, which makes the fact we have all the more satisfying. It’s easy to forget about these folk who, not so long ago, meant the world to us.

    We become immune to their pain, we don blinkers and ear protectors to protect us from their suffering. It’s all so unnecessary and, well, frankly a tad desperate. You don’t need to be sullied with their grief and anguish. It takes the sheen off your own glorious rise to the top. You tend to forget that if it wasn’t for some of those far below, you wouldn’t be lording it up at the top of the pile. Memory can be so selective at times.

    Having a conscience is a double edged sword. Wouldn’t it be great if we could plough ahead without that little voice in our head popping up and whispering in our ear; correcting us, chastising is, reminding us of the difference between right and wrong. It can be a real party pooper, a wet blanket of immense proportions. The adult in the room, tidying up behind us and suggesting we turn the music down a little.

    Conscience acts as a radar as well. For at the fringes of our senses, we will detect the faintest beep. A voice, a cry of desperation. We look down and far, far below we see someone clinging to a lower branch. We recognise them immediately and our heart aches. For it is a loved one, a person dear to us and who, not so long ago, was an integral part of our life. They haven’t fared so well on the ‘me me me’ tree and have been left far behind in the climb to the top.

    They catch our eye, they tug at our heartstrings and, suddenly, it’s too late. We acknowledge that they are part of the reason we are where we are. Have we trampled over them in our victorious ascent? It’s hard to remember, it was all so rushed and confusing. Did we? Possibly? But it’s too late now as the gap between us seems too far to be bridged. We are filled with guilt and regret.

    The good news is that it’s not too late. You might be reading this, thinking it doesn’t apply to you. Life is going pretty well right now and you’ve nothing to feel bad about. But look around and think hard. Listen. Do you hear that faint, almost indiscernible beep in the far distance? Listen. There it is again. It’s that relative, friend or colleague who you haven’t heard from in a while.

    They need you. Now. Today. Reach out. Make that call, send that message, ask how they are doing. Reach down from where you are perched and haul them up beside you. All they need is that one helping hand, to know they are still cherished and not forgotten about. To show them that you are still there for them, that you still care and will never leave their side again. The ‘me me me’ tree can never destroy that bond.

    Where are you on the ‘me me me’ tree?