The Many Faces Of A Half Marathon Runner

I surprised myself a little today by completing the Belfast Half Marathon in under two hours. Weather conditions were horrific but at least I didn’t have to worry about getting dehydrated. Here are some photos that Fionnuala took at various points out on the course. Thank you to Rebecca and her for braving the elements to support me. I think that’s about 30 half marathons now, but I’m not sure, I lost count. 😳

20,000 Reasons To Wake Up

I woke up at 3 a.m. loaded with the cold and that was me wide awake. I contemplated getting up to watch the early match in the Rugby World Cup but ended up working on Book 2. By the time I finally got up to take Adam to his rugby match I’d polished off another chapter. I’ve now written 20,000 words and the story is flowing freely in chronological order. It’s certainly proving a lot easier to write than Book 1 but I guess practice makes perfect.

Here’s to the next 20,000.

What Are You Up To This Weekend?

One thing we are good at in Northern Ireland is complaining about the weather….whatever the weather. Most of time we moan about it being too cold, too wet, too windy. Yet the second the big yellow ball in the sky makes a rare appearance, we invariably fall to pieces. We are sweltered, roasted, ‘while warm’ or a combination of all three. Perched at the extreme west of the European continent we are utterly unsuited to anything remotely resembling a heatwave.

Take this week for example. It’s September, the hatchlings are all back to school and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Yet we have been hit with an Indian summer which has left the meteorologists scratching their heads and the rest of us scrambling for the suntan lotion. Nobody knows what to wear, leading to some weird and wonderful sights around the city centre. Shorts and hooded tops, anyone?

For once, the roving gangs of American tourists are not the most oddly attired. Us locals are giving them a run for their money. It’s Culture Night in Belfast this evening meaning all manner of street entertainment was being set up this morning. At lunchtime an Afro-Caribbean DJ began blasting reggae music across the square where my office is situated. I contemplated busting a few moves but wisely decided not to.

On the other side of the square, rows of food stalls were emitting all kinds of delicious aromas. I was sorely tempted to join the office workers sampling their wares and soaking up the rays but I had other business to attend to; namely the office charity walk which I had agreed to run. On one of the hottest days of the year. It’s normally snowing at this time of year, for goodness sake. I laced my running shoes, muttering at the inclement conditions.

Despite Hannah threatening never to speak to me again if I donned them, I had no choice but to set off in my short shorts and short sleeved t shirt. Normally I’m facing arctic winds in leggings, under armour, gloves and hat at this time of year. It’s a good job President Trump assures us there is no such thing as climate change, for I’d be tempted to disagree given our crazy weather conditions.

Within a mile it was as if a bucket of water had been thrown over me and I erred on the side of caution by maintaining a slow, steady pace. The city was buzzing with music and marquees on every corner. A food festival was in full swing in Custom House Square, Viking longship races were taking part in races on the river and, irony upon ironies, there was a climate change protest at Cornmarket. The entire city seemed to be out and about.

Thankfully there were dozens of other runners on my route so I was not alone in my huffing and puffing. On the way back I met the charity walkers who set off after me. They were already talking of retiring to a packed riverside bar on the return leg. There were going to be a few sore heads as well as legs come the morning. By the time I arrived back at the office I had hit the 10 mile mark.

Job done, I changed, packed up my gear and made my way to the train station for the commute home. Tomorrow it’s an early start for Adam’s rugby and then it’s the Belfast Half Marathon on Sunday. I hope it’s a bit cooler for that one. I’ll be looking forward to a well earned rest when I return to work on Monday morning. Thankfully I’m taking a few days leave next week. Can’t come soon enough?

What are you up to this weekend?

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Sorry for the lack of content today but I’ve rediscovered my creative muse and have been typing furiously in order to keep apace with the flurry of ideas and dialogue assaulting my senses. I’ve now passed the 16,000 word mark for Book 2, having bashed out 5,000 words over the last three days. As a writer you have to strike while the iron is hot and mine has been white hot over the last 48 hours. So, I’m just going with the flow and making hay while the sun shines.

Today I’ve been working on a Harley scene. Regular readers will know that the character is based on our own teenage daughter, Hannah. I was excited today to squeeze Hannah’s favourite catchphrase into a piece of dialogue. It’s little in jokes like this which keep me sane much of the time. Plus it’s a tribute to a brilliant daughter whom Fionnuala and I are super proud of 24/7/365. Hannah is an inspiration to us, just as Harley is to her friends in the Kirkwood Scott universe.

The weekend ahead looks busy already. I’m taking part in a sponsored walk tomorrow afternoon for our office charity. The Rugby World Cup also starts and on Saturday I’ll be on the touchline cheering on Adam in his latest schools rugby match. Then on Sunday it’s the small matter of the Belfast Half Marathon which I’m running with my friend, ‘Fast Eddie.’ I’ll of course do my best to keep you all updated.

I’m Writing Again

After two weeks of inactivity on the writing front I sat down and blasted off 2000 words last night. The first few paragraphs were a struggle, like starting an old car which had sat neglected in a garage all summer. But once the engine started to tick over I found myself immersed again in the story as the characters welcomed me back and brought their AWOL creator up to speed on what had been happening in their peculiar little universe.

Writing is weird. Some days you can stare at the blank page or computer screen, inwardly screaming for a drop of creativity which will not come, no matter how desperately you crave it. Other times, like last night, the words gush from within, a life affirming torrent which you struggle to keep pace with. You hang on grimly, your arms wrapped round the neck of this runaway stallion as it gallops towards your literary horizon.

It’s exiting, exhilarating and more than a little scary. I’ve discovered I’m an impulsive writer, known as a ‘pantser.’ I have a rough idea in my head as to where I want the story to go, but the many grey areas are only filled in as I indulge in the actual act of writing. There are no detailed storyboards where I’m concerned. I allow the characters to write the story for me, to evolve and develop with each passing paragraph.

Last night was a Harley chapter, the plucky, wild haired teenager who has overcome adversity and heartbreak to join forces with Kirkwood and Meredith to save the world. Before then she was a nobody, broken both physically and mentally by a cruel, unrepentant world who cared not a jot about the brave, bubbly, beautiful girl it had conspired to destroy. But Harley’s back and fighting hard, as I discovered to my delight yesterday evening.

I’m hoping to strike while the iron is hot and write some more on the commute to and from work today. Hence, the ridiculously early morning blog. I’m just excited and when I’m excited I want to tell my blogging family all about it. Wish me well as I delve back into the Kirkwood Scott universe. It’s been a while and I’ve missed them all. I’ve some catching up to do and then some. Catch you all on the other side.

My Wee Book

Just a shoutout to my new followers that I’ve written a book which is now available to buy on Amazon in e book & paperback format. Here’s the back cover blurb:

It’s selling well and, at time of writing, has 23 five star reviews on Amazon from satisfied customers. Here’s one:

So if you like my words and want 350 pages of them, then what are you waiting for. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’

Are You Out There?

There have been a few technical issues with the blog of late, meaning my posts haven’t been reaching everyone. Fionnuala made me aware of this yesterday and we’re not quite sure what is causing it. Either way, I woke up this morning with the word ‘connection’ in my head. As a writer, it’s a key word. How do you connect with your readers? How do you strike that sweet chord of resonance and bridge that ethereal, invisible gap between one soul and another?

I know, when I write certain posts, roughly how popular they will be. My running posts tend not to do so well, but that’s okay as it’s a niche subject and not everyone wants to read about a sweaty middle aged man plodding along the country roads of this fair isle I call home. Likewise when I plug the book, as I must as a fledgling author, people who already know about it will scroll past that particular link.

It’s a tough one. I want the blog to do well and see its traffic grow. But, at the same time, I want to write about what I want to write about. I find it’s the more personal, introspective posts that seem to hit home and connect with people. The posts where I open up and expose my weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the world. That leads to engagement and interaction. For we all want to know we are not alone in this journey we call life.

As fellow bloggers and travellers I encourage you to do likewise. Writing reveals the true self. Blogging isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about reaching out and realising you are not alone. It’s about finding your tribe, building your community. It’s about connection. For when we connect, we live. Connection gives us the strength to carry on when all seems lost. It’s what makes me write. I hope the same applies to you, fellow traveller, for you are not alone.

I’ve Been Invited To A Book Club

While I continue to blog regularly, my creative writing has dried up over the last fortnight. After a burst of activity, which produced 10,000 words in just over a week, the well has run dry again. I know what I want to write, it’s waiting patiently in my head, I just can’t physically plant myself in front of our shiny new laptop and type the words. It’s frustrating and worrying in equal measure, and we all know how much Stephen likes to worry.

I think part of it is letting go of Book 1 and committing solely to writing Book 2. I’m still promoting the former and sales are steady, if unspectacular. I’m not in a position to retire just yet but they have been enough to encourage me to keep writing. I’ve gotten excellent feedback and lots of glowing praise on both WordPress and Amazon. It’s all a bit embarrassing for an introvert like me but I’m grateful nonetheless.

Perhaps the biggest boost of late has been two ladies approaching me independently, one in the village shop and one on the rugby pitch sidelines, to say that their book clubs are going to discuss the book and would like me to come in and talk to their members about it. This thrilled and terrified me. What if they hate it? This could be a bloodbath. Will my skin be thick enough to withstand their critiques?

Imposter syndrome kicked in until I had a firm word with myself and settled the jangling nerves. If I’m going to get anywhere on this writing journey I have to be prepared to front up and talk about my book. Can I answer all their questions? Well, I hope so, and I’m well used to public speaking from the day job. On paper, this should be a piece of cake, a walk in the park. Yet, I still worry as much of it is so deeply personal to me.

I’m trying to convince myself this is what I’ve dreamed about for years, the opportunity to write a book and then talk about it who are genuinely interested in what I have to say. Ignoring the insistent voice in my head which snarls I’m a fraud and a fake. This is the good stuff, the icing on the cake. Plus it’s a fantastic opportunity to promote my future writing plans, what’s in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond.

So, with beating heart and furrowed brow I’ve gratefully accepted both invitations to attend the book clubs. It will be a nerve wracking but, I hope, rewarding experience. In the meantime, I need to get my bum into gear and get cracking on my works in progress, ‘Skelly’s Tower,’ and ‘Bomb Girl.’ The latter is a serialised work that I’ve been posting on WordPress. It’s set in the Kirkwood Scott Universe and I’ve big hopes for it.

‘Skelly’s Tower,’ is the sequel to ‘Skelly’s Square.’ It starts an hour after the first book ends as Kirkwood, Meredith and Harley continue their battle to fend off an ancient evil threatening to overrun Belfast and throw the world into a new Dark Age. If you’re interested Book 1 is available to buy on Amazon in e book or paperback format. Here endeth my gratuitous plug for the day.

I like to keep you all updated on my writing journey, the rough and the smooth. When I post next about it I hope to have a first book club meeting under my belt, so watch this space. In the meantime thank you to those of you who have bought the book and supported my writing. If you have read and enjoyed the book please feel free to post a review on Amazon or WordPress. Reviews are oxygen for new authors like he.

Book Review: ‘Undivided’ By Vicky Beeching

I’ve just finished reading ‘Undivided’ by Vicky Beeching, a memoir of her life as a Christian singer/songwriter who played to thousands on both sides of the Atlantic until declaring she was gay a number of years ago. It was a moving, challenging and ,at times, unsettling account of the experiences of one woman within the evangelical church movement. One that left me saddened and inspired in equal measure.

Vicky knew from 13 she was gay but hid her sexuality from family and friends as she was raised to believe homosexuality was sinful and depraved. The early chapters tell of her struggle to serve and worship God through her music while battling to cope with the shame and guilt she felt at her sexual orientation. As a teenager she was told by ‘well meaning’ adult Christians that her sexuality was as a result of being possessed by demons.

She studied theology at Oxford, while continuing to develop her musical talent by playing major Christian conferences and festivals throughout the U.K. This attracted the attention of a leading American Christian record label. Before she knew it Beeching was based in Nashville, recording albums and playing at megachurches and stadiums where she regularly sang to crowds in excess of 20,000. She became the poster girl of Christian contemporary music.

Throughout this time, while outwardly living her dream, Vicky was sinking into an ever deeper trough of depression. Lonely and unhappy, she travelled across the States battling fatigue and jet lag, while unable to disclose her true self to another living soul. She was part of a community where elements professed extreme homophobic thinking and behaviour based upon their interpretation of the Bible.

Vicky eventually ‘came out,’ aged 35, when she could conceal her sexuality no more, given the impact it was having on her physical and mental health. Diagnosed with scleroderma, fibromyalgia and ME, she was also treated for depression and anxiety. Upon coming out, her performing and recording career ended overnight and she was inundated with hate mail and death threats from the evangelical Christian community.

Despite this, Vicky rebuilt her life and, while still struggling with extreme exhaustion, has established herself as a successful writer, columnist and social commentator. She is an influential mental health advocate and is fighting for the church to adopt a more open minded, inclusive and loving attitude towards gay and bisexual people. Now working towards her Phd. in Theology she argues that the Bible is a living document of mystery and revelation.

Throughout the book, Vicky Beeching comes across as a likeable, intelligence and sensitive young woman who grew up wanting nothing more than to share her love of Jesus via her music. Her message is one of love and acceptance, which contrasted starkly with some of the brutal attitudes and behaviour she encountered in the evangelical movement. How she emerged on the other side with her faith intact is testimony to her deep relationship with God.

I really connected with this book, even though I’m a heterosexual male who will never have to endure what the author did. Her story makes my own negative church experiences pale into insignificance. Church goers talk about walking in the footsteps of Jesus, but how many actually do? We are instructed to be the light of the world and to love unconditionally. The Vicky Beeching story tells me we all still have a very long way to go.

Big Day For Adam

A super exciting morning as Adam scored his first try for Lurgan College’s 1st XV in a 50-0 win away at Royal Belfast Academical Institute. After last week’s narrow loss this was a richly deserved win for the boys. I was bursting with pride at the final whistle and our normally camera shy sporting star even allowed me to take a photo to mark the occasion. Hopefully the first of many more victories in the months ahead.


Monday of this week was world suicide prevention day which Stephen blogged about. On this blog we try to reach out to anybody that is struggling with their mental health in any way at all. I struggle with my own head space as does Stephen sometimes a thought would take up residence in our mind for a while and play havoc with us.

For me this usually ends in me feeling lonely, unloved, unappreciated and worthless. I know all of that is nonsense I know that my family love and appreciate everything I do for them but that didn’t stop me feeling the way that I did at that time. I always try to overcome these thoughts on my own but it’s impossible the thoughts snowball out of control until I’m a blubbering wreck and the only way of release for me is to open up and tell Stephen and just like that it is broken and I feel lighter and can breath again.

I’m very thankful I have someone that I can talk to but it’s got me thinking today about those people who don’t have someone to talk to who are feeling lonely. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely you could be lonely in a room or house full of people but your head is so consumed with negative thoughts that you simply just can’t interact.

Sometime ago Stephen wrote a blog about writing letters to fellow bloggers which was quite successful and yesterday we received a handwritten letter from a new follower of the blog and it really did make me smile. It touched my heart that somebody thousands of miles away who doesn’t know us had a thought to write us a beautiful letter telling us about their own struggles with life and how this blog helps them.

This letter flicked a switch on in my head and this is where I need your help and assistance if you are willing to take part.

I know it’s only September but I was thinking of the readers on here who are feeling lonely and especially so at Christmas which can be a very hard time of year for some. So I thought it would be a good idea to send a Christmas card or letter to a stranger somewhere in the world and be a shining light of hope to someone that is feeling hopeless or lonely and let them know that someone out there is thinking of them.

If you would like to take part please send me an email with your name and address and at the beginning of November I will send you the details of who I have randomly picked to receive a card or letter from you.

Emails can be sent to

Please feel free to share this on any of your social media platforms I’m excited to see how this will turn out in our quest to be a shining light in what can be a dark time for some.

Questions Of The Day

Occasionally I’ll sit back and let you lot do the work. Fionnuala and I spend our weeks in a blur with work and family commitments. There are many days I have little opportunity to run, write or blog. So this morning I’ll leave you with a question. Or three. Please answer, especially if you are new to the blog. We encourage interaction and making new friends within the WordPress community. So don’t be shy and here we go….

Where in the world are you today?

What brought you to this blog page?

What’s your favourite movie franchise?

My Annual Hair Cut

I’ve been putting it off for some time now, but the day has finally arrived where I’m getting my hair cut. My unruly mop has reached the ridiculous stage where people are stopping and pointing at me in the street and young children burst into tears at the sight of the ‘strange man’ with Dickensian sideburns. I’m fed up with my fringe and flummoxed by the annoying sticky out bits I’m constantly having to flatten down with cold water.

I’ve written before about my morbid fear of indulging in smalltalk with barbers. The topics of conversation terrify the introvert within me; the weather (a Northern Irish standard), how Manchester United are doing (badly) and Brexit (don’t ask me, I haven’t a clue). The barbers at my local salon are hard core Belfast, bedecked with tattoos and talking a million miles an hour. I get around one word in seven if I’m lucky.

Their establishment is a shrine to local boxing legends, of which there are many, and the aforementioned under performing football side. I don’t know a lot about boxing but can pass myself off if required. ‘Did you see the Conlon fight?’, ‘Yes, that was some body shot,’ etc etc. Then we will bemoan the state of United’s midfield and how the current over paid primadonnas aren’t fit to lace the boots of dear old Georgie Best, God rest his soul.

Then there are the mirrors, an occupational hazard of entering any hair cutting establishment. They’re everywhere. And if there’s one thing I hate more than excruciating small talk it’s having to look at myself. The same goes for shop windows or anything that emits a reflection. I don’t like looking at myself. Maybe that’s the reason I delay getting my locks lopped off for so long. I don’t like what I see.

I’ll religiously avoid them where possible. Shaving in the morning is a challenge and you’ll never catch me preening in front of a full length like some of the sights I saw when I used to frequent the local gym. The same applies to photographs. I don’t mind getting mine taken but I don’t particularly want to view the resulting image as I’m forever disappointed by what I see. It’s illogical and infuriating but I’m not comfortable in my own skin.

You would think by this stage in life I would have grown accustomed to the man in the mirror. But no, he continues to surprise and irritate me. Both inside and out. I’m always striving to be better instead of accepting myself for who I am, warts and all. You eat too much junk, you don’t run enough, the weight is creeping back on, is that the suggestion of a double chin? The voice within never stops.

So I’ll get my hair cut today. When he’s finished the barber will ask me what I think and I’ll nod and mutter before shoving payment in his hand and departing as quickly as I can. I could be walking out with a pink, two foot Mohican, I’d be none the wiser. I’ll walk into the office where colleagues will remark ‘nice haircut’ as I try to curl up into a ball behind my computer screen. Please talk about something else, anything. Even Brexit.

My Wee Five Star Book

The book has now received 23 reviews on Amazon, 21 five star ratings and 2 four star. This amazing response has really encouraged and motivated me to continue writing. Thank you to all those who have posted a review. I’m eternally grateful, especially as I know they are all 100% genuine and honest. I haven’t had to bribe anyone (yet) and I hope I never have to.

If you’ve read the book, it would be great if you could post a review on Amazon. It only has to be a few lines but means so much in relation to boosting its visibility. And for those of you who are new to the blog, my debut fantasy novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is now available to buy on Amazon in e book and hard copy format.

Thank you!

Support World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Every 40 seconds a person chooses to take their own life. All life is precious and every suicide is preventable. The problem is as prevalent and relevant in Northern Ireland, where I live, but it also affects your community. Many of us feel powerless against suicide but we can do more, so much more, to help loved ones, friends, colleagues and complete strangers. Join us today by:

  • Improving awareness of suicide as a global mental health problem.
  • Improve your knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide.
  • Reduce the stigma associated with suicide.
  • Help those struggling with suicidal thoughts know that they are not alone.

No age group is unaffected by suicide but it is the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29 year olds. You can make a difference, be it in a public or private capacity. I encourage you to take 40 seconds today to raise awareness of the issue. It can be a text, a conversation or a post on your social media accounts. This is an opportunity to show you care. But remember to respect the privacy of those who are struggling.

Thank you.


I was delighted to receive this on Twitter today from fellow Northern Irish author C.J. Campbell. She has a huge Wattpad following where her Lord of the Rings inspired fiction is immensely popular. Not just that, but she’s represented by a top U.S. agent and currently working on her debut fantasy novel which I predict will be brilliant and a big hit. I’m honoured and humbled that she has such good things to say about my wee book. Thank you.

Happy Anniversary Kirkwood

My first novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ is two months old this week. What’s more, I started writing the book two years ago this week. It’s been an eye opening adventure and I still can’t quite believe I wrote it. So much so, that I’m just as nervous setting out to start Book 2, with the working title of ‘Skelly’s Tower.’ If you like my writing and would like to find out more then the book is available to buy on Amazon in paperback and e book format. There are also a load of reviews there if you want to see what people think of it.

Thank you 😊

How Do You Connect With Your Readers?

It never fails to amaze me that people regularly return to this blog to read my words. I’ll never complain about having to read and reply to comments because they are my oxygen, the main reason I write and post on WordPress. I want to make a difference and help people. So when I wake up some days and don’t feel like blogging or sharing what’s in my head with the world, I focus on this thought; words matter to people, my words matter to people.

What’s more, all our words matter to people within our spheres of influence, be they written or spoken. Words are a double edged sword, they can heal wounds or cause them. We need to be so careful as to how we wield them and think long and hard before we open our mouths or start to type. Words can save lives, but they can also destroy them. We carry weapons of mass destruction in our mouths and minds.

There are so many other things I could be doing, and maybe should be doing, when I write. I often feel guilty when I begin a new post or chapter of the book I’m working on. Shouldn’t I be somewhere else, doing something else? At times like that I think of the number of people who have encouraged me to write and share my story, who tell me it has and is making a difference to their lives. They fortify me to cast off the doubts and keep going.

I was approached yesterday by a lady I vaguely know and told the local village book club wanted to read my book. She invited me to attend the club and speak to the group about my novel. I was grateful but stunned. People taking the time read my story and then wanting to talk to me about it. I accepted, of course, even though I know I’ll be a gibbering wreck come the day. But I’ll be there.

These last few weeks I’ve posted copies to New York, Utah, Michigan and even Australia. Places I can only dream of ever visiting. I’ve been interviewed by four newspapers and signed dozens of copies for friends and strangers alike. I’ve read, in astonishment, the five star reviews on Amazon. From people I don’t know, people who I have touched on the other side of the world with words I wrote on my sofa.

Every day though I read the words of fellow bloggers whose literary boots I’m not fit to tie. They struggle as I do and question the point of devoting so much time to their craft. Some talk of packing it in, others already have. I can empathise with their thoughts and actions for I’ve been there myself many times. Wondering what’s the point, why am I banging my head off a brick wall when nobody is listening.

I’ve learnt this though these last few years, someone is always listening. Someone, somewhere will pick up on your post, article or book. And it will connect with them, an invisible, unbreakable bond between author and reader. A bond that will always be there and no power on earth can sever or destroy. A lifeline, a force that will always bind you together, even if your paths never cross in the world we call home.

So keep writing, reading and listening. Find your people, tribe, whatever you wish to call them. Form connections that will sustain mutually and carry you through the times of hesitation and doubt. They are out there, waiting for you, needing you. Just as you need them. Feed off one another and grow as an artist and a person. There is always someone out there who needs your words. Today.

Stuff I See On My Lunch Break

Yesterday’s lunchtime run took me out of the city and through the Titanic Quarter to H.M.S. Caroline. Caroline was a British battle cruiser which fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 during the 1st World War. It is the last survivor of Jutland but also operated as the H.M. Naval base in Belfast during the 2nd World War. From Caroline, the Atlantic and Arctic convoy routes were managed, many of the convoy protection fleet operating out of Belfast.

Caroline continued to operate as a training and administrative base until its honourable decommission in recent years. It is now a museum where visitors from all over the world can visit and learn more of its proud history. There and back was a 5.2 run along the waters edge, weaving through throngs of visitors in the midday sun. Be sure to check out Caroline if you visit Belfast. It’s worth the walk….or run.

An Apology

As a blogger, I enjoy interacting with other writers as well as writing myself. But due to a variety of reasons I have got behind in my comments and not replied to as many as I would like to this week. Life can be overwhelming at times and the hustle and bustle of daily life takes over. I’d just like to apologise to those I regularly interact with. I’m not being snooty or distant, and I hope to get on top of my replies to your comments and blogs in the near future. Thank you for sticking with the blog.

My New Toy

I’m looking forward to playing my new toy when I get home from work this evening. I wrote the first book on its beat up predecessor which was on its last legs by the time I’d finished. There was an alarming crack across the screen which seemed to expand every time I used it and it was proving increasingly temperamental when logging on. But it did the job and I’ll always have fond memories of our times together.

I haven’t got near Book 2 this week yet due to other priorities so I’m hoping to find some time this evening. I have Chapter 9 plotted out in my head, it’s just a matter of transferring that to a blank screen. The early section of the book has flowed very easily and I’m ahead of schedule. Here’s hoping this continues in the weeks and months ahead as I’m planning to have Draft 1 finished by the end of the year. Ambitious but attainable.

How is your latest writing project coming along?

Words Are all We Have

There’s are days I don’t see the point in writing. It’s like banging your head off a brick wall, screaming at the world but nobody is listening. You try, and you try and try some more but you might as well throw in the towel. Writing can be the loneliest, most frustrating of activities. Then I walked into a hotel this morning and found this piece of art staring at me. Was it a sign? I don’t know. But it gave me a glimmer of hope to persevere.

I Wake Into Darkness

As we creep into September and the days shorten I now face the pleasure of getting up when it’s dark to commute into Belfast for work. This situation will only continue to worsen in the coming months as the nights become ever longer. Soon not only will I be getting up in the dark but I’ll be heading home in the dark. I will know nothing else until next spring when the sun may choose to revisit our fair and pleasant land.

It’s a gloomy scenario. My fellow commuters look even more miserable than usual as we brave the elements on Platform 1 and desperately seek to avoid eye contact at all costs. The only light I have to look forward to is the artificial variety supplied by the open plan office where I do that 9-5 thing. The days are colder, bleaker and there seems no respite from the grind of the rat race. We batten down the hatches and wish our lives away towards Summer 2020.

Don’t get me wrong, it could be worse. We live in Northern Ireland, not the Arctic Circle. At least we don’t live in perpetual twilight for half the year. Plus we don’t have ravenous polar bears and melting icebergs to contend with. My daily train journey is far from riveting but it beats trying to steer a sled and eight huskies into Belfast during rush hour. I imagine the local constabulary might want to have a word with me about such antics.

No, I’ll take a world of partial darkness over one of permanent night any time. But what about those of us who feel as if they do live in the icy wastes. The sun may be splitting rocks outside but they don’t know as they can barely lift their head from the pillows, let alone get up, shower, eat, dress and face the outside world. The people who life has chewed up and spat out by the roadside. The collateral damage of our supposed caring, sharing society.

There are those of us who aren’t doing so well, who can’t cope, and who are slipping silently beneath the surface. We are oblivious to them as we are too engrossed in our own existences, too wrapped up in ego and self. When we should be throwing a life jacket to them, we are often looking the other way, immersed in the minutiae which occupy our every waking moment. We say we care but do we act as though we do? I know I don’t do enough.

Mental illness is a killer. It’s sucks the last drops of hope from our souls and leaves dry husks behind. Some stumble on, dragging themselves through life the best they can. Battling depression, anxiety, addiction, OCD, BPD, PTSD, and any other number of demons of the mind. They destroy our present and eradicate our future plans. These are the discarded, the unwanted, the people our governments want us to forget about.

Others, seeing no way out, choose to take their own lives. Suicide is a choice, a decision, a conscious act. But like the tip of an iceberg it only shows part of the story. Lurking beneath is the reason why they chose to do so. And that may have been as a result of weeks, months or years of living in the darkness. Until they reach breaking point and see no other option but to step aside, to let go, to slip away. Their journey ends and we scratch our heads in disbelief.

We need to do more. I need to do more. I can write about it, but is that enough? What more can I do to raise awareness of the mental health epidemic sweeping across our lands? What more can you do? I’ll leave that question with you as I travel towards another working day. The sun is out now, the skies are blue. I feel alive again as the light floods our carriage. I am grateful as so many others see nothing but the dark this morning.

What It Takes To Succeed

It’s a big week ahead as Adam’s rugby team get ready for their first match of the season this coming Saturday. It’s also a big season for him personally as he steps up into the college’s 1st XV and prepares to play top level Schools Cup rugby against some of the best teams in the country. He will take all this in his stride, of course, while the rest of us will be nervous wrecks on the sidelines, cheering him on.

Pre-season training started some weeks ago and before then even, Adam has been working hard in our garage which he converted into a gym. This is the unseen work, the hard yards which will give him the edge over his opponents when the whistle blows this weekend. Some of the weights he lifts would put me in hospital if I attempted them. He’s prepared to put the hard work in as he knows natural talent alone is not enough.

Adam has the physique and ability to play top level schoolboy rugby. It’s a brutal spectacle at close quarters and I’m convinced that many of those playing it are not ‘schoolboys’ but rather huge, grown men smuggled onto the field by devious coaches. The tackles are bone crunching and woe betide any opposition player who stands between my son and the try line this season. It’s frightening stuff to behold.

As well as technique and ability, Adam also has the necessary temperament to succeed. In the white hot heat of competitive schools rugby I’ve only seen him lose his cool once and that was with a member of his own team. While I’m leaping up and down on the sidelines he remains focused. He tells me he doesn’t hear the crowd as he is concentrating so completely on the match. I’m convinced he has ice in his veins.

He wants to win and plays to win. He gives 100% every time he crosses the white line. Yet, while he’s disappointed when the team loses, it’s not the end of the world. He has the ability to quickly put the experience behind him and look ahead to the next game. Rugby is important to him but it’s not his be all and end all. He has other things going on in his life and maintains a healthy balance between sport and life.

I can learn a lot from my son. I’ve been told I have ability as a writer and I’m prepared to put the work in. Where I fall short is temperament. Adam believes in himself and has perspective. I struggle on both these counts. I doubt myself and my obsessive nature does not serve me well when it comes to remaining calm and proportionate. I’m too likely to down tools at the first hiccup, throw my toys out of the pram.

So I’m looking to learn from my son this season as I travel the country supporting him and the team. I need to take the rough with the smooth and keep writing through the disappointment and rejection. Every day is a new opportunity to network and improve. I need to develop a glass half full mentality and turn my back on gloomy thoughts. This is what my son does, this is what it takes to succeed.

It’s That Time Of The Week Again

Yes, it’s that time of the week when I tell new followers about the little book I published in July. It’s called ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ an urban fantasy mostly based in modern day Belfast. It’s been getting very positive reviews on both sides of ‘the pond’ and is available to buy via Amazon in e book and paperback format. So, if you like my writing it would be much appreciated if you would invest in a copy and take me a step closer to realising my dream of becoming a full time author. Thank you.

Back To School

The alarm went off just before 6 a.m. this morning heralding the start of a new week and a new school year. It was dark outside as I stumbled to the bathroom to shave off my three day beard and attempt to look remotely human before battling through hordes of bag wielding hatchlings in a vain quest to secure a seat on the Belfast train. No more leisurely commutes with the carriage to myself.

When I was a teenager, back when Queen Victoria sat on the throne, I used to dread going back to school. I hated the place and, even now, several decades later, I still get an uneasy feeling in my stomach at this time of year. There is a change in the air, the temperature drops a few degrees and a general air of gloominess prevails. My memories of the Northern Irish grammar school system are not fond ones.

Which makes me eternally grateful our three hatchlings are made of sterner stuff. Adam and Rebecca announced yesterday that they were looking forward to going back. Adam is entering 6th Lower, having passed his GCSE exams. He now starts ‘A’ levels in History and Geography combined with a B Tec. Diploma in Travel and Tourism. Turns out he’s got brains to burn as well as being a star on the rugby pitch.

Rebecca is entering 2nd year at Junior High school. She took to her new school last year like a duck to water, allaying any concerns we had. She has worked hard in class and made lots of new friends. She is joining the local U15 girls football squad this evening, an event she is very excited about. Last night she compared returning to school as being similar to Christmas. My jaw dropped in astonishment but she was deadly serious.

Of our trio, Hannah is probably the least impressed at the return. She would much rather be spending the morning in bed, surfing social media and listening to her beloved Shawn Mendes. We know though, from experience, that when she gets into the swing of things she will be fine. Hannah can light up a room with her smile and makes new friends whenever she goes. She also has a new Drama group to look forward to on Thursday evenings.

Fionnuala is rejoicing at getting rid of us all at last. She will be super busy of course and if I attempted to type out what she does in an average week then I’d still be typing this post at midnight. She runs the household like a well oiled machine, keeping us all organised and getting us where we need to be without looking as if we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. She holds the family together.

I’m glad the kids haven’t turned out like me, the awkward, nervous, geeky teenager who turned into a….well….awkward, nervous, geeky adult. I’m amazed by their confidence and relaxed attitude towards an event that still sends chills up and down my spine. Thankfully I’m not quite as weird about returning to work after the weekend break. Although I still fret every time I check my diary to see what the days ahead hold.

So we dive into the year ahead. Time is passing so quickly. Our little Hannah is entering 5th Year. I’m proud of them all as they reluctantly pose for the annual ‘back to school’ photo in new uniforms. Our children are our greatest achievements, our most precious commodities. In another few years, these photos will be a thing of the past. I’ll hang onto them for as long as I can, regardless of the ‘back to school’ jitters.

Three Weeks To The Big Day

The Belfast Half Marathon is now a mere three weeks away and I’ve been anxious about the lack of long runs I’ve managed to squeeze in. My longest, to date, had been 10.6 miles with my brother in law several weeks ago but, since then, a combination of inclement weather, other commitments and a general lack of running mojo have restricted me from getting out there and pounding the roads.

This morning was my last chance until we were thrown into another week and a packed diary. The kids return to school tomorrow and all have after school activities this term. Adam has rugby training most days, Hannah is joining a musical theatre and drama society and Rebecca is starting at the local football club. Fionnuala and I will be sharing the taxi duties and, combined with the darker evenings, running opportunities are at a minimum.

Despite having run nine marathons and over two dozen half marathons I am a less than confident runner, always fretting over my ability to maintain the pace and distance I expect of myself. I had a couple of untimed runs during the week to ease this pressure but knew today I’d have to record the time and distance to ensure my training was on track. The plan was to run 11 miles at or around two hour marathon pace.

I was greeted by dry, pleasant conditions as I reluctantly dragged myself out the front door. I felt sluggish the first few miles as I’m not a fan of morning running. Mile 4 is always a problem mile for me, I’ve no explanation as to why, and as ever it was a slow one. I stopped briefly at the house at the half way point for a drink and energy gel, then it was off again for two further loops of the village, along a road called Rock Lane.

Rock Lane is an undulating 2.5 mile loop but I always seem to pick up my pace when on it. The energy gel also kicked in meaning my mile splits began to steadily improve. After the first loop I knew I had a sniff of getting back on sub 2 hour pace so dug deep for the final loop. With two miles to go I was back on track so focused on maintaining my breathing and rhythm as I counted down the distance.

I felt better at the 11 mile stage than I did at the 4 mile point, so much so that I latched on an extra third of a mile at the end. It was a relief to finish and I was tired but pleased to have eased four seconds per mile inside the desired pace. I’m pacing a colleague at Belfast and he’s aiming for a sub 2:15 time, it being his first half marathon. It was nice to know I’ve still got a sub 2:00 in the tank if need be.

We are also running for the office charity so the aim is to get round in one piece and raise some money for a worthy cause, the Northern Ireland Hospice. My days of killing myself over attaining personal bests are a distant, and somewhat unpleasant, memory. That was a different me, back then, a me I have no desire to return to. I’m much happier running for pleasure now, as opposed to my ego driven previous incarnation.

So that’s the dull running update over. Thank you to those of you who made it this far. You are real troopers. Despite the anxiety preceding it, I know the longer term mental and physical benefits outweigh any thoughts I might have of packing running in. I’ll continue to run where and when I can. One or two more long runs should have me ready for Belfast and I think 12 miles will be the next step up. Here’s hoping.

We Are Here For You

Excited as I was last month at the continued growth of the blog, I was even more thrilled yesterday to realise we had broken our monthly views figure again in August. With a day to spare, no less. Yes, 14,000 of you clicked the view button on a FracturedFaithBlog post. Or maybe 7 of you did it 2000 times each. Either way we are very grateful for your continued support of what we do. There have been some ups and downs so thanks for sticking with us.

We will continue to keep the blog running as long as you want it. While, yes I’m an author and use this platform to promote my writing, the primary purpose for existing is to provide a message of HOPE to those of you feeling HOPELESS. Less than three years ago that’s how I felt. Yet, through the grace of God and a loving family, I crawled back out of the abyss into the land of the living.

You might not believe in God, you might be unsure, you might want nothing to do with him even if you do think there’s something to it all. But whatever your belief system there is still HOPE. What’s more, it’s free and in unlimited supply. I’ll not sugarcoat the pill. There will still be crappy days and any of those happy clappy, ‘perfect’ Christians who tell you otherwise are liars. Which makes them less than perfect after all.

But, rain or shine, we will keep posting a message of HOPE. Realistic HOPE. This blog is for Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics, Gay, Straight, Black, White, Abled Bodied, Disabled and everything in between and beyond. If you comment every day or are an occasional visitor you are welcome. It takes a lot to ruffle our feathers or shock us. We’ve been around the block once or twice.

Thank you and keep clicking that view button.

Book Review

The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square

The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square
— Read on

Thank you to my fellow blogger, Chelsea Owens, for her very complimentary review of my first book, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ Chelsea’s blog is a cornucopia of creative thought and writing. Her weekly ‘Terrible Poetry Contest’ has reached near legendary WordPress status. If you’re not aware of Chelsea and her little corner of the bloggersphere then I suggest you hit that follow button now.

The book is now available to buy in e book and paperback format on Amazon.

Does Your Writing Ever Disappoint You?

There are times the words flow, they are an unstoppable tide which rushes up the shingle beach, taking all before it. The words, sentences and paragraphs form a not so orderly queue in your mind, tripping over each other to be unloaded onto the blank page or computer screen. It is a literary stampede, a runaway train and you go with it, delighted at the ease with which the story is forming.

I’ve felt like that at times this week. I’ve been writing consistently and my word count has pleased and perplexed me in equal measure. Pleased because every time I have a few spare moments I feel drawn to the story whereas often in the past wild horses could not have dragged me to it. I’m ahead of schedule and it shows no sign of letting up. I’m going with the flow and making the most of this Indian summer.

But I’m bemused as well. Because why can’t it be this easy all the time? What about the times when I sit staring at the blank screen unable to string two coherent sentences together, when the well is utterly dry and the word drought shows no sign of abating. Why it so often famine or feast when it comes to story telling, there is no comfortable middle ground where we can hone our craft in peace.

Then there are the times when the work is cast aside for days, weeks or months on end. There was a two month period during the penning of Book 1 when I couldn’t look at it. I still blogged but the laptop was otherwise neglected, sitting in the corner of the room staring at me forlornly every time I walked past. It could feel it’s rejection burning into back of my neck but I was powerless to pick it up.

Lastly there is the garbage shift, where you pour your heart and soul into a piece only to sit back and realise you have just created the worst piece of prose in living history. You clench your nose for it truly stinks. Did I really think that was any good? Self doubt creeps inside you, that old friend of even the most talented author. It whispers old truths in your ear, shaming and belittling your ability.

You angrily run a red pen through the line, rip the page from your notebook or hit the delete button on the keyboard. I’ve wiped entire chapters in the past, hours of work in a fit of pique. I’ve seen fellow bloggers delete multiple posts because they feel inadequate and unworthy. This saddens me because we are all equals within this community. We checks our egos at the door when we log on.

Writing, like every other art, is a process and, at times, that process can be tortuous. There are days when nothing seems to be going to plan and everything we touch turns to mush. My advice? Persevere. Don’t give up. Even the greats have struggled to create, to produce the works of greatness we purr and coo over today. There are no short cuts and there will be tough times when we can see no light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ll return to the book later, eager to pick up the golden creative thread and add to my burgeoning word count. I have plans of finishing the first draft by the end of the year and my hopes of that are growing by the day. Yet I’m always warily looking ahead waiting for the tensile thread to snap and for my dreams to unravel before my eyes. Leaving me alone and adrift, a writer who cannot write.

7000 Words Later – A Writing Update

I’m now 7000 words into Book 2 of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles,’ tentatively titled ‘Skelly’s Tower.’ I’ve been knocking out 1000 words a day and, to date, it’s proving a lot easier to write than its predecessor. I like to think I’ve developed and improved as a writer which has helped. I also know the characters so much better now, it’s like slipping into a pair of old comfortable shoes. They are almost writing the book for me.

I resolved to document my progress on the blog just like I did for the first book, now available on Amazon in e book and paperback format. The plan is to have finished the first draft by the end of the year, with a view to publishing it in 2020. The plot is unfurling in my head like a red carpet as I write. I need to write to determine the way forward, it’s like driving through a heavy mist. The outline of the story emerges from the gloom as I type.

Don’t Live Forever, Live For Now

25 years ago Oasis released ‘Definitely Maybe.’ Hearing this announced on the news this morning made me feel very old. It also brought memories of listening to the album on my ancient CD Walkman while walking to my first ‘proper’ job all those years ago. I was incredibly nervous but the music helped me to enter the premises and start a career which has taken me to where I am today.

If it wasn’t for that job I wouldn’t have the job I currently hold, met Fionnuala, got married, raised a family or all the other life events which have flew by in the last quarter of a century. Quarter of a century! Now I feel even older, like I should be in a museum or a dusty crypt. I’ve achieved a lot but know there is still so much to do, to cram into the time I’ve left on this little planet we call home.

Some bright sparks are marking the release of this iconic album by producing a musical based on the music and story of the band. It’s been provisionally titled ‘Live Forever,’ after one of their most famous hits. There are times I wish I could live forever or at least for much longer than our current lifespans. Oh, to be Methuselah who was 969 when he popped his clogs back in Genesis. What a guy he must have been.

Methuselah must have seen and crammed a lot into his time on earth. I wonder if he worried that his elongated existence wasn’t enough, if there was stuff still left undone when he breathed his last. I’d like to think there wasn’t and he died a contented man, surrounded by family and loved ones, and secure in the legacy he was leaving behind. Instead of worrying about living forever he lived for now.

Thanatophobia is the fear of dying. Also known as death anxiety, it is an affliction that affects many of us. The aggravating factor is that, by worrying so much about what he haven’t achieved we are losing our focus on what we are capable of in the here and now. Fretting about the future leads to decision inertia in the present. We freeze and fritter away the precious days and weeks we should be squeezing every last drop from.

Instead of day dreaming about living forever we should be living for now. So many are swallowed whole by the disappointment of what they haven’t achieved when they should be concentrating on the the potential for what is still possible, probable even, if they apply themselves fully to what is staring them in the face now. Hope is one of the strongest emotions we have, we need to release it’s power into our lives.

I read so many blogs where people are frustrated and struggling, where they are on the verge of quitting. Their dreams have been crushed, ground into the dirt by this juggernaut we call life. They’ve pulled the plug on their grand plan for life, flicked the off switch, turned out the lights. Some are so young as well, they still have so much to offer and achieve. They’ve given up on their stories as I’m still reading the prologue.

Live for now. Small steps, one at a time. Break your goals and targets down into bite size, manageable chunks. Even if it’s just getting out of bed and taking basic care of yourself. It’s a start, a step in the right direction. The present is life, it’s not behind or in front of you. Make the most of every minute you have for every minute is a new chance, a new start. Don’t live forever, for that’s a fairytale.

Live for now.

Can You See This?

I posted a blog earlier today but due to unknown technical reasons, it hasn’t appeared on a lot of timelines. Either that or I didn’t get the memo about the universal boycott of FracturedFaithBlog with immediate effect. The former is the obvious reason but my OCD addled brain latches onto the latter. It whispers ‘they all hate you and want nothing more to do with you or your stupid blog.

So, help me out. Can you see this blog post?

Too Hot to Handle

Sunday was a rarity in Northern Ireland. A hot, sunny day. We should have been out on the streets rejoicing, and many of us were. Apart from those who when they aren’t complaining about it being too cold, are complaining about it being too warm. It’s the nature of the beast. You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but when it comes to the weather there will always be those who have a permanent rain cloud over their heads.

I’m a bit like that and when I jumped into the car on Sunday lunchtime, it was no exception. Placing my hands on the steering wheel I discovered they were red hot from the sun’s rays. OUCH! It took several further ginger attempts before I felt comfortable enough to start the engine and proceed on my journey. But for the first mile or so, until the air conditioning kicked in and cooled down the interior of the vehicle, it was a decidedly unpleasant journey.

Heat. Flames. Fire. Pain. These are themes that I often visit in my creative writing. Indeed, I was working on a chapter yesterday where they featured prominently. Why are we so attracted to the flames of life when we know instinctively what the consequences are going to be? That train wreck of a relationship or friendship, just one more mouthful/drink/puff. When all the warning signs scream AVOID we stumble blithely onwards toward the cliff edge.

There are situations in our lives that are simply too hot to handle, like my fiery steering wheel from the other day. Yet we ignore the voice of reason screaming in our ears and embrace them with both hands. The temporary pleasure negates the nagging sensation that this will all end in tears and we will be picking up the pieces and licking our wounds for a long, long time. We are the architects of our own destruction. Time and time again.

I read a lot of blogs where folk have made bad decisions and are now repenting at their leisure. They are dealing with guilt, shame and a lack of self worth. They feel useless and broken, discarded by the wayside and left fumbling about in the dark, trying to rebuild what is left of their lives. Many talk of giving up, others have given up. The burns are too deep, the scars too visible. They have become pariahs, no longer able to look at themselves in the mirror.

I know this guilt. I’ve experienced this pain. I’ve grabbed the red hot steering wheel with both hands, gritted my teeth and careered into a brick wall at ridiculously high speed. I’ve sat dazed in the wreckage wondering where it all went wrong. My instincts overwhelmed the calm, rational voices in my life telling me to take my hands off the wheel, step out of the car and walk as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I thought I knew best. How wrong I was.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve learnt some lessons and earned my battle scars. Wisdom comes at a price, a sometimes terrible price, but when you accrue even a grain of it, cling on to it as if your life depended upon it. For one day it might. Not for nothing did Solomon offer up all the riches in the world for what he desired more than anything – wisdom. It is more precious than gold, worth more than all the tea in China. It is the key to a life worth living, the life you were meant to live.

If you’re perched in the driving seat as you read this, about to clasp the steering wheel and turn the ignition over, then please think again. Is it really worth it? Have you seriously thought through what you are letting yourself and those you love in for? Are you willing to live with the pain of those third degree burns for the rest of your life? You have a choice. It’s called freewill. Walk away. Now.

Hi, Hello & Welcome

I’ve been delighted these last few days by the number of new followers to the blog, in addition to all the positive comments about our recent posts. Just to introduce myself, I’m Stephen (waves awkwardly) and I write the large majority of the words, ably supported by my wife, PA, Marketing Manager and chief cheerleader, Fionnuala. She occasionally writes as well as do our two daughters, Hannah and Rebecca.

Our eldest, Adam, is much too cool for this blogging caper and can normally be found on the rugby pitch. We live in a small village about 20 miles outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I work at stuff I’m not allowed to talk about online or I’d get in a whole load of trouble – draws breath. In the little spare time I have I run marathons (9 so far) and eat copious amounts of honeycomb ice cream and German Biscuits. Go google what they are.

If you’re a regular follower you can look away now but for the newbies, just to let you know I’ve recently published my first novel, an urban fantasy set in modern day Belfast called ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ It’s got a bit of everything – see the blurb below. And don’t I look suitably ridiculous in the author pic, taken in the back alley where I first got the idea for it. I don’t make it a habit to hang around back alleys by the way.

Thanks for checking out the blog. If you like my words then 130,000 of them are available for you today on Amazon in e book and paperback format.

Mastering The Mist

I write this from a very misty train platform, waiting for my daily commute to work in Belfast. I would share a photograph with you all but it would show nothing but a grey shroud. You couldn’t tell if it was a train platform. I could be at the Grand Canyon, Yankee Stadium or standing outside your front door. Don’t worry, I’m not standing outside your front door. I would have called in advance if I was calling over.

The mist is rather beautiful. I can make out the morning sun struggling to break through and resume its mantle as the main attraction in the sky. The birds are happily chirping away and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day. I’m running later so can look forward to the prospect of seven miles without being soaked to the skin or battered by hurricane strength winds.

There is a sense of calm on the platform. The schools aren’t back yet which might have something to do with that, no armies of chattering hatchlings to battle past in order to secure a highly sought after seat. Everyone seems fairly relaxed after the final bank holiday of the year, the last now until Christmas. Did I just mention Christmas? Has 2019 really scuttled by so quickly. It feels almost autumnal this morning.

Yes, all seems well. I look at my fellow commuters to be met by largely blank, unemotional faces. The shutters are down as we all adjust our 9-5 masks for the working day ahead. If this were a poker match or quick draw competition I reckon we could have a few world champions in our ranks. I recognise the regulars as they no doubt recognise me. Some of them I’ve known for years, but we’ve never exchanged a word in all that time.

Nobody is giving anything away, for to do so would be a sign of weakness and that wouldn’t do at all now, would it. We all exist behind a mist, where our real selves are but a shadowy outline in the background, reserved for a favoured few if even that. Some trundle through life never revealing their real selves to the waiting world. They fear the consequences, what their peers would say if they knew the truth, if they saw the real deal.

Us writers are an exception. We think, create, explore and most of all reveal. We reveal who we are, an act of bravery if ever there was one. What you see is what you get, hearts on sleeves, staring defiantly into the crowd. We are not perfect, we are weak and flawed and broken. Yet we don’t fear the mist. Our words burn it away just as the sun will prevail over the dank skies enveloping me this morning.

The mist can be a thing of beauty but only if we know it is a temporary feature. Some of us are prisoners, unable to escape its chilly tendrils. The mist is their world. They are trapped by guilt, shame and fear, unable to face reality. Some cannot open their front door, others are unable to crawl from under bed covers. Ensnared by addiction, mental illness, childhood trauma and any other number of internal demons.

Mastering the mist is no easy matter. Some of us don it as a suit of armour to discard at the end of the day. It is a flag of convenience which we walk under, safe in its protective shadow. Others are less fortunate. They will never see the light unless we focus less on ourselves, recognise their pain and reach down into the abyss. We reach down blindly and grasp their cold, helpless hands. They squeeze ours in gratitude. It’s a beginning.

Suicide – What Do We Do?

Over the last 10 days, 15 young people have taken their own lives in Belfast. There is not a week goes past when I’m on call, that I don’t receive a phone call to inform me there has been another suicide. It has become an epidemic in all our cities and communities, cutting a swathe through our society. And, I for one, feel helpless and don’t know what to do. So when I don’t know what to do, I write.

I wrote a post not long ago where I referred to the suicide of the American poet and author, Sylvia Plath. Suicide affects all echelons of life, money and fame are not the key to a happy, fulfilled existence. Robin Williams anyone? Depression does not discriminate and a 7 figure bank account protects you no more from its clutches than a paper shield on a battlefield. It cares not who it cuts down.

Some say only cowards take their own lives but I don’t buy that. I wouldn’t have the guts to step off that chair, to swallow those pills, to pull the trigger. People in such positions have been driven to the end of their tether, they are at their wits end. To choose to end your life must take a degree of personal courage. To take that final, irrevocable step into whatever you believe in, known or unknown. The decision to end your life is the biggest decision of anyone’s life.

Suicide is painless? I doubt that, for most it is a clean, quick death. They do it to escape from a pain I can’t imagine, a pain which has driven them to this most extreme of solutions. It is the pain they leave behind I struggle to comprehend. The broken lives of those left to pick up the pieces, to try and answer the endless questions that assail them but which all boil down to one simple word – why?

I believe those who take their own lives are not, by and large, selfish people. They are not insensitive, rather so sensitive they were never able to develop the necessary social and emotional armour to cope with the car crash we call life. They have entered a state of mind where they honestly see no other option for them which involves life. They are not thinking rationally, it is a place where fear and pain overrides everything else.

But, let me get one thing straight. Suicide is neither glamorous or romantic. It’s not candlelit baths and rose petals. I’ve been to the scenes. It’s dirty, disturbing and debilitating. It’s finality hits you over the back of the head so hard your teeth rattle and everything changes forever. There is no comeback, no second chance. It’s over. How many would say they regretted their decision if we could only speak to them now?

It’s so many unanswered questions, so many unfulfilled dreams. It’s the fear of a parent when their stroppy teenager throws a temper tantrum and storms off to their room. It’s that homeless person who you saw every day on the daily commute and now, we’ll they’re not about anymore. It’s the out of character comment that you don’t pick up on at the time but then ruminate over after the event. Was that a cry for help?

I don’t have all the answers, actually I don’t have any answers. I read poems and prose from fellow bloggers that hint at unspeakable pain, unmentionable depths of despair and depression which finds them teetering on the brink. I watch as bloggers disappear from WordPress and I wonder what if? I feel useless, helpless, hopeless. For without hope, there is nothing but the abyss, so deep and welcoming.

I don’t know what to do. So I write.

What do we do?

Stepping Over The Threshold

I met a man the other week, completely out of the blue, and immediately knew I wanted to include him in the next book. He was a walking, talking caricature, an absolute gift to a writer. His mannerisms, his speech, his appearance just screamed inclusion in the chapter taking place in my mind. He was literary manna from heaven, just too good an opportunity to miss out on.

Characters can be birthed in so many different ways. Some can be based on the author themselves, or exaggerated versions of their personalities. Others are based on friends, foes, work colleagues or complete strangers. And other times, they can be complete figments of the characters imagination. As I’ve said before, some of mine were born as I sat on the sofa staring at the blank screen of my laptop.

They just pop into my head unannounced, politely introduce themselves and I start typing. That’s why I’m not totally won over by books that tell you how to write. I can write about how I write but that won’t necessarily work for you. We all have different tips, techniques and tactics. That’s the magic of writing, why it knows no boundaries, why we never know what’s coming next when we lift our pens or sit at a keyboard.

Yet, as with my new character, sometimes as a writer you need to step across the threshold of your front door. Get out there, interact, live and let the characters come to you. Or maybe not a character but a location, object or conversation. I’m a natural introvert, as many writers are, and often have to force myself to attend social events. I tend to get anxious before them and am forever trying to talk myself out of such occasions.

I always find, however, that the risk is outweighed by the bountiful opportunities to garner fresh writing material. There is always something or someone who sparks an idea in my head which has me scrambling for my little black book to scribble it down before it slips away, never to return again. You need to live in order to write. A lucky few are able to make a living from their art, the rest of us do it for a plethora of other reasons. But often, I see something and I just….well….need to write about it.

It’s hard, I know. Life delights in knocking us down in all manner of different ways. Sometimes there feels as if there’s no respite, no break from the various missiles thrown at us from all directions. We dive for cover and pray for a ceasefire, an opportunity to draw breath and regroup. I often feel I should commute to and from Belfast in a suit of armour as opposed to a work suit. It’s a battlefield out there.

You can’t write a book though, hiding beneath the bed covers. Well I can’t anyway. I need to pluck up the courage to get out there. I’ve had my fingers burnt so many times and resolved to never trust again. Yet how can I earn the trust of those I’ve hurt in the past if I don’t learn to trust again. To trust others and trust my own judgement which has let me down and left me so battered and bruised. To trust myself, the one I distrust more than anyone.

There Is Always Hope

Being a total dork, I was studying our WordPress stats the other day and discovered the blog recently passed 200,000 views since its creation just over two years ago. Wow! And I’ll say that again. Wow! I still remember nervously tapping out my first post, ‘The Bag Lady,’ before hitting the publish button and sending it out into the great unknown. Back then, double figure views were a major cause for celebration.

I know figures aren’t everything but they reflect the impact and scope of the blog which means more to me than all the tea in China. I don’t make a penny from it and it’s an advertisement free zone. All I want to do is entertain and help people. My only message is that there is always HOPE. Even at your lowest ebb when there seems to be no conceivable comeback. Thank you each and every one of you.

For believing in me, because I believe in you.

More Thoughts On My Writing

I’m sitting here on the sofa in my….ahem…loungewear surrounded by copious amounts of crisps and Diet Coke. The house is quiet as Fionnuala and the hatchlings are visiting my beloved mother-in-law. It’s a tight agenda today as the big Ireland v England match kicks off at 3 p.m. That’s less than five hours away and I’ve so much to squeeze into that ever decreasing window of time.

I’ve e-mails to send to reviewers and columnists, pitching the book in the hope one of them will pick up on it. I was hoping to get out for a run as for once it’s not raining cats and dogs. There are a few household chores to attend to and, last and probably least, the daily blog has to be posted. Which is all the better for, in recent days, the creative juices have started to flow again.

For several months now I’ve been finding excuses not to grab the thistle and start work on Book 2. I was mentally drained as it’s been such hard work pushing the first book through the promoting and publishing phases. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again; writing the book is the easy part, getting it to the final printed, polished article is where the hard work really starts.

There have been numerous other distractions as well. Some think us authors spend our days reclining on chaise longues sipping camomile tea while languidly dictating to our rather brilliant personal assistants. I do have a rather brilliant personal assistant. She’s called my wife, Fionnuala. But if I dared to lounge languidly in her presence I’d get quite rightly told to grow up and stop acting the clown.

There are bills to pay, hatchlings to raise and a day job to hold down. I squeeze writing in where and when I can. On the train as I commute to and from work, in bed if I wake up in the dead of night. I get ideas for characters and scenes when I’m out running and have to hope my less than perfect memory retains the necessary details until I get home and scribble them down somewhere.

Yet somehow, amidst the chaos, I’ve started to write Book 2. Or rather, Book 2 has started to write itself. I often feel as if I’m just the conduit transcribing the words of another. Almost 3000 words in two days, no less. It’s a tough target but I’d like to have the first draft completed by the end of the year with the intention of publishing in 2020. I’ve set aside all my other projects for now and am placing all my literary eggs in the Kirkwood Scott basket.

‘Bomb Girl’ is therefore being shelved for now. But worry not as the adventures of Ariana Hennessy will be back. Who knows, she may even crop up in a Kirkwood Scott story as I’ve always envisioned both tales belonging to the same story arc. At the minute I want to focus on completing the Skelly trilogy and then seeing where the characters take me. Those that are still alive that is….he sniggered malevolently.

It’s good to get these thoughts down. In doing so I’m committing to deadlines and projects that otherwise I’d allow to meander and drift. By holding myself accountable to the WordPress community I know I’ll put the work in, plus it’s a diary of the process I can look back on in years to come when I’m too old and crumbly to remember any of this. As ever, thank you for putting up with my ramblings. Your support of my writing is always much appreciated.

Stained Glass Belfast

My running blogs are entirely unremarkable as, let’s face it, who wants to read about a middle aged man trudging around the byways and highways of Northern Ireland in gaudy fluorescent clothing? So I thought I’d spice up my lunchtime run today by capturing some of the spectacular Game of Thrones stained glass art which has cropped up in the Titanic Quarter. My favourite is Stansa Stark, obviously. Did I tell you about the time I met her? Oh alright then, enjoy the photos.

This Is Who I Am

A neighbour, who is currently reading the book, stopped to chat to me as I headed out to work this morning. I asked her how she was getting on with it, an entirely inappropriate question given she has a young daughter and another on the way. The poor woman has enough on her plate without wading through a 350 page tome about Napoleonic ghost soldiers with supernatural powers rampaging around modern day Belfast laying waste to anyone who happens to look at them the wrong way.

Thankfully rather than telling me where to go forth and multiply, she kindly responded that she was enjoying it, whenever she got a chance to sit down and pick it up. What pleased me most, though, was when she said it was educating her about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the mental illness which has plagued Kirkwood Scott, the hero of our tale, since his childhood. Educating people about OCD was one of the reasons I started to write.

Despite being recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the most common and debilitating mental illnesses, OCD is still viewed by many as a bit of a joke. I involuntarily grind my teeth any time I hear someone come out with the classic ‘I’m a little bit OCD’ phrase whenever describing they’re a bit of a ‘clean freak’ or washed their hands twice, as opposed to once after weeding the garden over the weekend.

You can’t be a ‘little bit OCD.’ It’s like saying ‘I’ve got a bit of cancer’. In the cheese laden words of Samuel L. Jackson, or was it Colin Farrell, you’re either SWAT or you’re not. OCD is the same. It’s not a weekend sniffle that you shrug off with a hot drink and a couple of paracetamol. OCD is a horrific, relentless, debilitating disorder. OCD kills. People take their own lives rather than endure another second of the endless intrusive thoughts and tortuous compulsions which accompany them.

It’s not ‘did I forget to turn the oven off’ or ‘that towel is the wrong colour, it doesn’t match the bath mat.’ It’s waking up thinking you’re a paedophile and you’re going to harm your own kids unless you perform mental gymnastics for the remainder of the day which preoccupy your every waking thought. Even though OCD sufferers are the least likely people to harm anyone because we care that much about our loved ones.

It’s straight people waking up convinced they’re gay and being bombarded with unwanted, extreme sexual images about their family, friends and that stranger they pass in the street on the way to work. Oh, and don’t worry gay people, you’re as likely to wake up feeling just the same about straight people. OCD doesn’t discriminate, I’ll give it that. Nobody is safe from it, yet we still know so little about its origins and how to treat it.

Some say it’s a chemical imbalance in our brains. Cognitive Behavioural Theraphy (CBT) and certain forms of medication can alleviate its symptoms. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. It can lie dormant for months, years and then flare up announced as a result of the most inconspicuous comment or event. It’s always there, lurking, watching for its opportunity to bounce back into your life and turn all your best laid plans upside down.

My neighbour hasn’t been the first person to thank me for raising their awareness of the disorder. I’ve had similar comments from many quarters, from fellow sufferers and from those with zero knowledge of the illness. The message is getting through. Slowly, but surely. And if I never sell another copy of the book I can rest assured that I’m doing my bit to promote awareness and educate others about this most misunderstood mental health issue.

It’s not the best book ever penned about OCD. I could name half a dozen off the top of my head which are infinitely better researched and written. But this is my effort, my very best effort, and this is why I will keep writing and blogging about this difficult and emotive topic. I’m no longer embarrassed by it or willing to hide in the shadows. It’s time to shout it from the rooftops. This is me, this is who I am.

Congratulations Adam

Congratulations to this young man. Our eldest hatchling, Adam, received his GCSE results today, passing all 10 subjects he sat. This means he will be returning to Lurgan College to begin his ‘A’ level studies in September. We are all very proud of his achievement which exceeded all expectations. He studied hard, though, and deserved every single one of them. Seems he’s not just a star on the rugby pitch, he’s also got brains to burn.

Now I Know How George R.R. Martin Feels

Yesterday I sat staring at an empty notebook and began to jot down ideas for Book 2. I then tentatively started to write, three paragraphs no less. Now that might not sound a lot but it was a massive mental step for me. A dam had been opened and the floodwaters of creativity began to gush across the barren plains of my mind. I was writing again, not much, but it was a start. And at at last I could answer the question that had been repeatedly popping up in day to day conversations with folk.

‘Have you started the next book yet?’

No longer do I have to prevaricate over my answer, feeling weirdly annoyed and guilty in equal measure. I don’t owe people anything, least of all another novel. Some of those asking the question expectantly haven’t even bothered to read the first one. Yet, still the question is asked. And still I shuffle awkwardly from one foot to the other like a nervous schoolboy who has forgotten his homework, desperately scrabbling for an excuse. No more.

‘Why yes, I have actually.’

I’m not going to tell them I’ve written roughly half a page, but I have started. And, what’s more, I needed a break. Book 1, from cradle to grave, was a two year process. It was draining, a slog which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet at the end of it I held a book in my hands with my name on it. I was proud of my achievement but tired and in need of a rest. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. Writing is hard work. Give me a marathon any day of the week.

‘Actually, Kirkwood Scott is part of a trilogy. Possibly more.’

Oh shut up, Stephen. Stop telling them that. Now they expect three books, possibly more. Can’t you quit while you’re ahead? Well, no, I can’t actually. This crazy story in my head needs to be told, I need to get it down on paper or I fear I’ll go quite mad. It’s a literary exorcism and, lacking a creepy priest, it’s up to me to drag it kicking and screaming from my imagination. I’m afraid there is no other option.

I now know how George R.R. Martin feels. I’m in no way comparing myself to the great man, in terms of ability or success. I’m many light years from either of those, but if he had a dollar for every time he’d been asked when the next ‘Game of Thrones’ book was coming he’d be a very wealthy man. Or an even wealthier man than he already is. I used to be the same. Just write the flipping book, man. Stop being so lazy and give the people what they want.

I now understand that it doesn’t work that way. In my day job I turn up at my desk at 9am and leave at 5pm. In between, there are eight (mostly) productive hours. There is progress, achievement, activity; a tangible product to show my boss should they suspect I’ve been skiving all day. I don’t even have to think very hard about it. I go to work and I work. Writing doesn’t quite work like that. There are days you turn up and nothing happens.


Make that weeks, months. While writing Book 1, I had a two month period where I didn’t go near it. I had nothing until, one day, I had something. Writing is not a regulated, uniform flow. It can be a rushing torrent, a steady trickle or a rusty faucet offering not a drop. Which is why so many of us are plagued with doubt. We can be J.R.R. Tolkien one day and utterly unable to string two sentences together the next. There are no constants, no norms when it comes to the telling of stories.

I’m writing again. I was bursting with excitement yesterday as I checked over my latest brainstorming session. But for now, I’ll keep my powder dry and my head down. There will be no ‘spoiler alerts’ on this blog, I can assure you. But it is happening and it will happen. Possibly even before the next Game of Thrones tome. I’ve no idea when that is either. I’ve stopped asking.

Are You A Bookworm?

Fionnuala had enough the other week and bought a new bookcase to house my ever increasing book collection. This now sits proudly at the top of our stairs and means I no longer have an excuse for secreting books around the home to be tripped over and stood upon. Yes, I’m going to have to admit it – my name is Stephen and I’m a book addict. There are too many of them, tempting and enticing me into impulse purchases.

The situation is no better on my Kindle Fire. I must have a dozen unread titles on it, yet I still found myself browsing through it last night, planning what additions I could procure this coming pay day. My TBR (to be read) list snakes endlessly over the horizon with no sign of decreasing any time soon. There just aren’t enough hours in the day unless I pack in the day job and lock myself away for the next 20 years or so.

The Kindle Unlimited feature does little to curb my habit. This allows me to ‘borrow’ up to 10 books at a time, free of charge, from over a million titles on offer. Every direction I turn I see books, books and more books. It doesn’t help that my daily commute to and from work involves walking past probably the best second hand bookshop in Belfast. It’s like giving our Rebecca a £10 note and telling her to stand outside a sweet shop.

I read a lot. On the train in the morning, whenever I’m waiting for an appointment, when I go to bed at night. It matters not a jot. I’m nowhere near scaling the Everest of words and pages staring down upon little old me. Then there’s the blog posts, websites and social media platforms which continually clog up my timelines. Then there’s the small matter of the day job where I spend much of my day digesting reports and e-mails.

I love reading. But sometimes I feel as if I need to sacrifice it in order to fit in the many other priorities in my life. My family, faith and fitness. Not to mention I’m supposed to be writing Book 2. It’s at times like that I remember the advice Stephen King gave when asked what his top tips were for fellow writers. ‘You have to read widely….If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools to write.’

So I’ll read, read and read some more. Stop grumbling Stephen. The glass is half full, in fact it’s brimming over. I’m grateful to live in a society where I was taught to read and write, where I have access to books and censors don’t dictate to me when, and what, I can read. I’m fortunate to have my eyesight and access to numerous bookstores and libraries. Then there’s unlimited access to the internet.

To be called a bookworm used to be a derogatory term when I was growing up. I was a bespectacled geek and used to hide my love of Tolkien, King and other literary greats. I’m still a bespectacled geek, the contact lenses didn’t work out I’m afraid, but I’m proud to be called a bookworm now. For we are many. Reading, learning, growing and sharing. There are a lot worse habits to have.

Are you a bookworm?

How long is your TBR list?

My Wee Book

Everything in Northern Ireland is ‘wee.’

Would you like a wee cup of tea?

Do you know the wee woman who lives down the street?

You know that wee ship, The Titanic? It was built in Belfast.

It’s one of our ‘thangs,’ it’s what we do, no doubt bewildering visitors to our fair land in the process. Well, I’ve written a wee book. And by wee, I mean it’s 350 pages long and part of a proposed trilogy. A wee trilogy. I’ve also started Book 2, but it might take me a while to write it. Etc, etc. It’s called ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square,’ and is set in modern day Belfast. Apart from the bits at the Battle of Waterloo and in parallel universes.

I’ve been told it’s quite good. Don’t believe me? Then feel free to visit Amazon and read the reviews, where it’s available to buy in e book and paperback format. If you enjoy the blog then this might be the read for you, if you’re into supernatural beings battling for control of the cosmos on the back streets of my wee city. Can our rag tag heroes Kirkwood, Meredith and Harley stop them? Well, you’ll need to read the book to find that out.

Thank you. I appreciate all the support I’ve received so far.


Keep Screaming

Thank you to those who responded to my post yesterday, calling for more interaction between bloggers. It seemed to resonate with a lot of you, judging by the number of comments I received. Your screams were most certainly heard and I’m still getting caught up on my replies so, please bear with me. You’re never alone on WordPress, no matter what you might think. So, keep writing, keep talking and most of all….


Bilbo Had A Ring

Bilbo had a ring.

That’s how it starts. Arguably the greatest work of fiction ever written. A nondescript little hobbit in the back end of nowhere called The Shire had a ring. I’ve started re-reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ again and, some time ago, promised to share my thoughts on it with you all. Those of you who ‘don’t do’ Tolkien may want to look away now, the rest of you welcome to my take on all things Middle Earth.

Addiction and jealousy. No, not the plot from some 21st century soap opera, but these are the themes that leapt from the pages of the first 50 pages of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Most of Hobbiton is jealous of the mysterious Mr. Baggins. His neighbours gossip over supposed treasures hidden away in his home at Bag End. The related Sackville-Baggins covet his hobbit hole and mutter darkly about it being left to his young nephew, Frodo.

They covet what does not belong to them. When Bilbo vanishes into thin air at his eleventy first birthday party there is a near riot the following day as half The Shire descends upon chez Baggins to plunder and pilfer what is not theirs. Young Frodo, a mere 33 years old, does his best to stem the tide of greedy hobbits flooding into the hobbit hole in search of family heirlooms and dragon’s gold. It’s an ugly scene, reminiscent of many post funereal disputes over a contested will.

Bilbo is long gone, off adventuring again with three dwarves on the road less traveled. He left without the ring, but not without a fight. Gandalf had to reveal a hint of his true self to ensure ‘my precious’ did not depart with him. The hobbit’s obsession with it showed a darker side to his nature, as its evil power warps and distorts even the purest of souls. It destroyed Sméagol and there, but for Gandalf, Bilbo was also headed until he reluctantly departed without the one true ring.

Is there a one true ring in your life? It could be alcohol, drugs or food? A person in your life who is sucking you dry? An addiction ruling your every waking thought and, try as you might, you cannot walk away. Compulsions which hang heavy round your neck as the ring later hung heavy round young Frodo’s neck on the tortuous trek through Mordor towards Mount Doom. But for his best friend it would have destroyed him. Gollum never had a Samwise.

Such addictions dazzle and enthral at first, they are magical, and lift you high above the drudgery of daily existence. They make you feel special, a cut above the rest, providing the buzz or kick you’ve been missing your entire life. How did you survive this long without it? You’re flying high, at 40,000 feet, and nothing or nobody can stop you. For you know best and those that intervene are nothing but jealous party poppers.

An intervention in the Shire. For that’s what it was. Tough love from the most powerful wizard in Middle Earth. Yet even he struggled to break the hold this piece of dwarfish forged metal had on Master Baggins. That is addiction. It brings all to their knees if allowed to infiltrate defences and boundaries. It becomes the blackest most malignant force at the swirling centre of your out of control existence. It destroys everything in its path.

Addiction and jealousy. Two themes that run throughout this epic tale. Two themes that my teenage self no doubt glossed over when I first read the trilogy many moons ago. Funny what a few decades difference can make. If only I had known then what I know now. On second thoughts, scratch that thought. Leave young Stephen alone to enjoy the magic of Tolkien. There will be plenty of time for the other stufff in the years to come.

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

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.

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?

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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 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

If you need the link to the book on Amazon here it is

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.

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.


And here’s the link….

I’m Getting Up In 8 Minutes


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.


Bomb Girl – Chapter 3

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.

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.

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 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.


    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.

    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, 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    How To Speak Belfast #2


    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.

    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.

    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… 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.