Something To Do During Lockdown

Haven’t done this in a while, as not sure if it was appropriate, but here’s a little plug for my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ It was released last summer and has done rather well with over 150 five star reviews to date on Amazon and Goodreads. More people are apparently reading now during the pandemic so if you like the look of this, then it might help you pass the time for a day or two.

What’s it about? Well the link below answers that question. Let’s just say it’s a darkly humorous fantasy set in Belfast which explores themes such as mental illness, addiction and disability across a supernatural background. The link below is the U.K. link. North American folk can find it at amazon.com or your local Amazon site wherever in the world you reside. It’s available in e book and paperback format. https://www.amazon.co.uk/KIRKWOOD-SCOTT-CHRONICLES-Skellys-Square-ebook/dp/B07V6HVLQV

Plus, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can pick up a copy for absolutely free. I’ve just completed its sequel, ‘A New Jerusalem’ and will be starting the third book in the series in the near future. I’ll be posting my normal ‘Coronavirus – Northern Ireland’ update later today as usual but, in the meantime, you can escape from the horrible reality of what we are all going through into the crazy, upside down world of Kirkwood Scott and his friends.

Comment below if you are interested in the book. Thank you.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #15

We woke up to another bright, sunny day. The best weather of the year and the whole nation is on lockdown. Typical. Even better weather is predicted for the Easter weekend and the government are warning people of the need to stay at home in order to save lives. Over 900 people died in the U.K. yesterday, bringing the total to over 7000. It was the highest daily total yet, more than Italy or Spain at their worst.

Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, remains in intensive care in a London hospital but is stable and sitting up in bed. A big relief and, bar a handful of online trolls, the majority of the nation are willing him to pull through. I now know every senior member of the Cabinet, something I had no idea about before all this started. I find British politics much more interesting than their Northern Irish counterparts, who are continually arguing and achieving very little.

I started the day with a seven mile run, wearing my new running shoes which were an early birthday present from Fionnuala and the kids. They certainly put a spring in my step as I was 30 seconds a mile quicker than my last effort two days ago. Or perhaps it was all in my head. Either way, I was very pleased with the time, much more like my old self. I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully my fitness will continue to improve.

Fionnuala and Rebecca have jigsaws being delivered to the house later. Adam held an online quiz with his friends last night and Hannah has been reading in our back garden which we tidied up over the last few days. We are all finding ways to pass the time while trying to keep the place clean and tidy. It’s a good thing as well as it’s likely the lockdown will be extended next week. I hope this finds you all well. Stay safe.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #14

The U.K. death total passed 6000 yesterday, an increase of over 800, which showed how premature the calls of some had been for a relaxation of the lockdown rules. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but this is a very long tunnel. There were three deaths in Northern Ireland, bringing our own death toll to 73. Northern Ireland has a population of approximately 1.8 million people.

Fionnuala taught me how to bake flapjacks yesterday. These are oatmeal bars, sweetened with syrup and packed with raisins, nuts and chocolate chips. I was surprised at how easy they were to make, so as even an idiot like me can prepare them without setting the house on fire. Fionnuala and Hannah also baked a carrot cake. The Black family are not going to starve to death on lockdown, that much is sure.

We got caught up on Season 8 of ‘Homeland’ last night while the girls read for a while in the garden. There is even talk of them reading their Daddy’s book. They must be bored! I’ve promised to help Rebecca with any ‘big words’. I’m just awaiting beta feedback for Book 2 and then it is complete. Then I can start on Book 3. Fionnuala has already told me to hurry up as she is eager to find out what happens next. Although even I don’t know that at the minute.

Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, remains in intensive care in a London hospital. He is very ill but, at present, not on a ventilator. I’m not a very political person but am willing him to pull him through. His fiancee, Carrie Symonds, is pregnant and their child is due in the summer. It would be a personal and national tragedy were he not to survive. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is effectively running the country in the absence of Boris.

The Queen and Prince Philip are in isolation at Windsor Castle. They are aged 93 and 98 respectively so it’s paramount they are shielded from the virus. The Queen issued a televised address to the nation on Sunday evening, which was watched by over 23 million people. She only does this at times of crisis, such as during the first Gulf War and when Princess Diana died. Her son, Prince Charles, has now fully recovered from the virus and is out of isolation.

I’ll keep these updates coming so long as the lockdown continues. Thank you for everyone who is engaging with them. It’s interesting to hear all of your own experiences from around the world. I read a very inspiring post from a New York blogger this morning so it’s important we keep writing and supporting each other. I speak to many of you more than I speak to my neighbours. We are a community. Let’s keep that going. Stay safe everybody.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #13

People. Sheesh. We are in our third week of lockdown in Northern Ireland, yet some are already asking when the restrictions will be relaxed. Three weeks! Look around, there are still thousands of people dying across the globe every day from this relentless pandemic. Yet, you’re playing the martyr because you’re being asked to stay in the house and watch television. The selfishness of some knows no bounds.

There is a lack of patience, understanding and community within such folk. They don’t get the bigger picture because they are part of the ‘me me me’ generation. Beyond numero one they have no comprehension as to what the concept of citizenship is, they are morally and ethically bereft. Such people demand so much, yet give so little in return. This crisis has brought out the best in people, but also unfortunately the worst.

Deaths dropped in the United Kingdom yesterday and many jumped on this as an indicator that the situation was improving. Such people choose to ignore the scientific advice that we are yet to see the peak and the surge has not hit us yet. The likely reason for the dip is an administrative one, as weekend deaths have not yet been fully calculated. I hope I am wrong but fear the situation will worsen before it improves.

As for me. I painted a fence yesterday and Fionnuala taught me how to bake flapjacks today. I’m learning new skills. I ran 10K this morning under blue skies along beautiful country lanes. My wife and children are happy and healthy. I have a lot to be grateful for, the lockdown is there for a reason and it will work. Normal times will return if we only give it a chance to work. Let’s not mess it up. Stay safe, everybody.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #12

My 12th lockdown blog. In a way the time has flown by, in other ways it drags interminably. Today is grey and chilly. The weather forecasters predicted a warm weekend and there were fears people would leave their homes and flaunt government instructions to stay at home. Hopefully the cooler conditions will dissuade anyone from being so selfish and irresponsible. It’s sad people still put their own needs first at a time of national emergency.

There are now 56 dead in Northern Ireland and over 4300 across the United Kingdom as a whole. Over 700 people lost their lives yesterday and the experts say the peak is still 7-10 days away. Some predict it will be Easter Sunday which would be a very symbolic date for many. Before all that, though, there will be many more deaths, many more grieving families. I am hopeful but there is still a very long way to go.

Some are already looking forward to lockdown conditions being relaxed. I personally believe it is much too early to think of that. We are in this for the long haul and cannot underestimate this virus. Give it an inch and it will take a mile. It shows no mercy, offers no parley. It is a relentless, indiscriminate killer and nobody is safe from it. Black, white, old, young, gay, straight, whatever your political or religious beliefs. It cares not.

I’m going for a run with Adam later, if he ever surfaces from his bed. Fionnuala is rearranging the kitchen with the radio blaring. Rebecca has been taking Charlie for his daily walk while Hannah occupies herself online and pottering about her room. We have a routine in the most extraordinary of situations. We are a family and the five of us will come through this together, stronger than before. Stay safe everyone.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #11

The forecast for the weekend remains good but the furthest we are going is our back garden. We are digging in for the long haul. Adam and I are power hosing the yard today, Rebecca is on weeding duties and tomorrow we are fence and furniture painting. The pandemic does give you the time to tackle all the odd jobs around the house that have been neglected by the busy hustle of normal life.

I ran five miles yesterday but think I will take today off, before tackling a 10K tomorrow morning. I’m sticking to country roads so there are few folk about. Unfortunately the hills remain but I found yesterday slightly easier than my last effort. I’m looking forward to progressing my fitness during this protracted period of leave. Adam is continuing to lift big weights in our garage gym. I can only look on in awe.

There were 12 deaths in Northern Ireland yesterday bringing the total to 48, with over 900 people testing positive for coronavirus. The figures are misleading though, as currently only those admitted to hospital are being tested for the virus. There are probably many thousands more within the community with milder symptoms. Our government are currently under a lot of pressure to increase daily testing from its current level of 10,000 to 100,000 by the end of the month.

Fionnuala has been putting her crafting talents to great use and I’ve included some photos of the Easter baskets and displays she created yesterday. They have really brightened up the house and I’m fortunate to have such a talented and resourceful wife. She loves the outdoors so this is a particularly tough time for her. Please spare a thought for her as she struggles to survive with three crazy kids and a highly annoying husband at home 24/7.

I hope you are all keeping safe and adhering to your government guidelines on social distancing so we can beat this virus. It’s a global effort and we must all remain strong as a blogging community and do our bit for wider society. Keep writing and sharing your own experiences. They could be a lifeline to someone out there. Never underestimate the power of the written word, especially kind words. They cost nothing but are priceless at the same time. Enjoy your Saturday wherever you are.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #10

Another sunny day in Northern Ireland, but another 12 deaths bringing our country’s total to 48. Over 3600 dead in the United Kingdom as a whole. It’s getting to the point where the numbers are almost irrelevant, they lose their meaning and impact the more they rise. Every day is worse than the one before, they say it will peak at Easter. But, what then? And for many, it will already be too late then.

The girls have been busy with their crafts. Fionnuala is making Easter decorations as I type this and the girls spent the other day making a beautiful heart display for our front window as a tribute to our National Health Service who are fighting the virus on the front line. Every Thursday evening at 8pm the nation is being asked to stand at their front doors and applaud such key workers. It has become a national middle finger to coronavirus.

Adam’s school held its Spring Concert this morning online and Adam was awarded rugby colours for the 2019-2020 season. This was kind of his teachers as he spent most of that time injured but turned up every Saturday to support the team in any way he could. Hopefully when all this is over he will have a full year fit and healthy to play rugby in his final year at Lurgan College. It’s the least he deserves for the way he is tackling his rehabilitation.

I ran just over five miles this afternoon. It’s been three weeks since I last ran but, at times today, felt like three years. But I did it and my time was a slight improvement on yesterday. It was good to get out in the fresh air and run along the country roads outside our village. My plan is to run or walk every day I’m off work. Keeping my mind and body healthy for when reality returns to this crazy world we live in. Stay safe everyone.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #9

Fionnuala was out early this morning to the supermarket where she picked up our pre ordered shop at the ‘click & collect’ point outside the store. Lots of treats including pizza for lunch. The kids have been crying out for a ‘games day’ so the Monopoly board will be coming out afterwards. Hopefully, the five of us can complete the game without coming to blows or anyone going into a massive sulk.

I’m heading out for a four mile run before that, my daily exercise. I’ve lost a tonne of fitness over the last month so am determined to use the enforced break from work to build it up again and lose some of the weight which has crept back on. It has been frustrating not being able to run and I’m slightly anxious about hitting the roads again, but I’ve plenty of time now to gradually claw back my fitness and rack up the miles.

I’m currently reading ‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn. I struggle to sleep unless I read at bedtime and this has been a brilliant book so far. I’m nearly 3/4 through it and will probably go straight into ‘Gone Girl’ after that. I’m also looking forward to starting the third book in the ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ series by Tana French. The first two books in the six book series were excellent. More reading time is another silver lining to the pandemic.

As for my own writing? Well, I should be finished the third edit of ‘A New Jerusalem’ by the weekend, averaging eight chapters a day. I’m very pleased with how it has turned out and excited with where it might lead. ‘Skelly’s Square’ continues to be bought on Amazon and downloaded on Kindle Unlimited. Looks like I’m not the only one picking up a book at the minute. Keep safe everyone and stay at home if you can.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #8

Today marked the end of our 14 day self isolation. Adam and I ‘celebrated’ by going for a 5K run along the towpath out of the village towards the Broadwater reservoir and back. We met about a dozen people but made sure to adhere to social distancing guidelines. It was great to get out into the fresh air again and feel part of the human race. I’ll go for a solo run tomorrow and hopefully increase my distance to 10K.

Fionnuala and Rebecca are going to go for a short walk after dinner. Hannah is refusing to leave the house until all this is over. I woke this morning, not knowing the date. I’m struggling to tell what day it as well, every day feels like Sunday, like at Christmas time. In fact, the pandemic is a bizarre, surreal extended holiday where all that’s missing is the tree in the corner of the room. I have threatened to get the decorations down again out of the attic.

Oblivious to the fact it was April Fools Day, Hannah pranked me this morning. I went into her bedroom to be greeted by my daughter promptly bursting into tears. It took me several minutes to calm her down and establish they were tears of joy as her idol, Shawn Mendes, had liked one of her tweets. She said she would send me a screenshot of the tweet but when I looked at my phone all I could see was an April Fools message. Doh! I thought it was still March.

She’s quite the actress, our Hannah, and can turn on the waterworks like twisting a tap. I think this is the third year running she has caught me out, although I am incredibly gullible. That said, it was welcome laughter on a day when the death figures continued to rise within Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole. Thank you for sharing your own experiences on the blog. Keep them coming please. Stay safe and stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #7

Today is our last day in self isolation. Hurrah! We are all well, it’s a lovely spring morning and I can hear a wood pigeon cooing outside as I write this. Tomorrow Adam and I are going to celebrate our newfound freedom with a run along the towpath which stretches from our village to the nearby town of Moira. It will be my first run for almost three weeks so I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy it. But the joy of getting outside should outweigh any aching limbs.

The girls have adjusted well to home schooling at the kitchen table. Fionnuala and I have helped out with their various questions the best we can. I’m still rubbish at maths but I did have some fun learning the various instruments that can be found in an orchestra. Yesterday I discovered what an erhu was. Every day is a learning day even at my age. Rebecca is baking today for Home Economics while Hannah was focusing on Religious Education yesterday.

Fionnuala joked yesterday I was so bored I had started cleaning. I’m doing my bit to keep on top of the household chores and whoever thought dusting could be so therapeutic. The penny has finally dropped as to the difference between cleaning and tidying up, a point Fionnuala has been trying to hammer into my head for many years now. It’s important though we keep on top of this important aspect of home life more so now than ever.

We ordered some hair clippers which arrived yesterday so Adam cut my hair. I must say he did a good job although I had my doubts at the halfway point when I resembled Friar Tuck. Fionnuala did an equally good job on his, before taking several inches off Rebecca’s purple locks. Even Charlie got a good brushing and will be bathed later today. A task he hates and normally ends up with Rebecca and myself more wet than he is. That dog sure hates water.

I’m working hard on the latest edit of my new novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: A New Jerusalem.’ Presently, I’m averaging 8-10 chapters a day which I normally focus on in the afternoons. I’m pleased with how it’s progressing and also delighted that my first book, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ continues to sell on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. I’m nearing 50 five star reviews in both North America and Europe, which I’m told is pretty good for a previously unknown Irish writer.

As you can see we are doing our best to avoid the news but it’s hard not to; we tune in every afternoon to hear the latest government briefing. Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, have both tested positive for coronavirus and are currently in self isolation with mild symptoms. There have been 22 deaths now in Northern Ireland and over 1,400 across the United Kingdom as a whole. We are still nowhere near our peak.

Thank goodness for box sets. Last night Fionnuala and I started on ‘How To Get Away With Murder.’ There are 84 episodes in total and we are planning to watch two an evening, which should take us well into May. I’m also currently watching Season 8 of ‘Homeland’ and Season 2 of a British thriller called ‘Liar.’ I really miss live sports though so have been watching old clips being posted by Ulster Rugby, Manchester United and the Washington Redskins. Back in the days when the ‘Skins had winning seasons!

I hope you are all keeping safe and staying at home unless you absolutely have to go out. Remember that WordPress is a community so if you are feeling lonely or fed up, then please feel free to drop a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. The pandemic is bringing out the best and the worst in people. Let’s ensure our blogging community represents the former, as opposed to the latter. Talk to you all tomorrow.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #6

It’s Day 13/14 in self isolation here. I should be giddy with excitement at the thought of getting out of the house again and breaking free of the shackles of house arrest. But I don’t. For, where is there to go, what is there to do? I thought I would treat the family yesterday to some Chinese food but when I phoned our local takeaway the phone rang unanswered. I phoned two more…nothing. Society has ground to a halt.

The figures continue to escalate, to the point where they become surreal, almost meaningless. Over 1200 deaths in the United Kingdom now, another six in Northern Ireland. It’s scary, do I even want to step outside on Wednesday when I get the all clear? Any excursions will be for basic purposes; to buy food, collect prescriptions and brief exercise. I’m looking forward to running again, but other than that…I’m worried.

I worry about bringing the virus back into our home. As many of you know our eldest daughter Hannah has spina bifida and hydrocephalus. She also has asthma. She is vulnerable as is Fionnuala, her primary carer, who has Type 2 diabetes. Adam and Rebecca, our other two children, are fit and healthy but the slightest cough rings alarm bells. It’s hard not to be paranoid and obsessive when it’s your own kids. Ah…obsession, my old friend.

It’s so easy to be negative when all you see and hear is death and misery. It’s my default setting and I fight the urge of it snowballing and consuming me. I want this blog to be a beacon of hope and light. I have neglected it, too wrapped up in myself and my own selfish needs. We all have gifts and mine is writing. It’s my tool, my weapon. So I intend to wield it, via this medium, to help others and do what I can. That starts now, today.

Keep safe. Stay at home. Don’t give up hope.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #5

I will never take anything for granted again. During this lockdown I have become increasingly fixated on sales of my first book and finishing the edits on my second. This is what I do. When stuff gets real and scary I tend to hide in fantasy land. I struggle to cope with the situation so disappear down the rabbit hole, where I’m of little use to anyone. I panic when I should be calm; I become selfish, fixated on tiny little specks of my life which don’t particularly matter when you look at the bigger picture.

There are now people getting seriously ill who I know. Only through work but, still, it has brought it home to me like a hammer over the head. This isn’t Sky News, this is real and it’s happening now. The death toll is now 21 in Northern Ireland and over 1,200 across the United Kingdom as a whole. The figures coming out of New York, Spain and Italy are even more terrifying. I need to wise up, we all need to wise up. COVID-19 is on our doorstep. Thinking of all my fellow bloggers at this awful time. Stay safe wherever in the world you are.

Coronavirus Northern Ireland #4

Day 11/14 in self isolation begins. I miss running. Before the craziness of this kicked in, I was struggling with my running, half heartedly training for a marathon that has now been cancelled. I chose not to run more often than not when I had a choice. Now when I don’t have a choice, all I want to do is run. Run slowly, but run. You only appreciate what you take for granted when it is snatched away from you.

Our family is strong. We have rallied round and stuck together. Routines have been established and memories created. Memories which we can take with us into an uncertain future. I spot Adam in our garage gym and Fionnuala and I watch a movie every night; Rebecca decides to dye her hair purple with hilarious consequences; Hannah meditates with her musical heroes on Instagram. Little things but precious all the same. We are together and safe.

The news is cloyingly addictive, car crash television from which we cannot look away. The figures rise as we powerlessly watch. 13 dead now in Northern Ireland and over 750 in the United Kingdom as a whole. Nothing compared to the likes of Italy and Spain yet massive and monumental all the same. They say the surge is coming and we are not prepared. There seems no light at the end of this toxic tunnel. All we can do is look on helplessly.

It is unstoppable. Man can’t stop it, God can’t stop it or doesn’t care to. Our Prime Minister is sick, our Health Secretary is sick, the heir to the throne is sick. Nobody is safe. And all we can do is watch, car crash television that slowly sucks the last dregs of hope from your marrow. I’m reading a lot, working on the book, diving into fantasy in order to escape the horrific, bizarre, reality of today, tomorrow, of now. This is 2020 and this is all we know now.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #3

It’s Day 7/14 of our enforced self isolation. Fionnuala and Hannah are recovering well while Adam, Rebecca and myself continue to display no symptoms. As the schools have closed, our kitchen has turned into an online classroom, where the girls busy themselves with coursework forwarded by their teachers. Adam has been busy in our garage, which has been converted into a gym, focusing on his rehabilitation from knee reconstruction surgery last November.

Yesterday we phoned through a grocery order to the village shop who delivered it later in the day. It felt weird, imprisoned in the house, as our order was left on the doorstep by staff wearing latex gloves. We are very grateful, though, for their kind gesture in caring for those in the community unable to visit the shop in person at present. Only a week to go and we will be able to venture out into the world again. But there are even tighter restrictions in place now.

Last night, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made a televised address, announcing new travel restrictions which many refer to as a ‘lockdown.’ People were instructed to stay at home unless they were shopping for food or collecting medical supplies; they are allowed to exercise outside once a day and only travel to work where ‘absolutely necessary’ and work from home where possible. Social gatherings are to be restricted to no more than two persons.

All stores selling non essential goods are to close. Legislation is being rushed through Parliament giving police the powers to enforce the above restrictions if required. This followed the idiotic behaviour of thousands at the weekend who flocked to markets, beaches and parks despite strong advice not to do so; they put their own selfish pleasure before the greater good. We will never know how many were needlessly infected because of their selfish, thoughtless behaviour.

My workplace has closed to the public with only a skeleton staff in place to deal with urgent matters. Staff are being placed on a rota to attend the office as required. At present, given the nature of my specific role, I’m being asked to remain at home. I will be contacted if needed, it is the weirdest of enforced holidays. I’m occupying myself on helping with household chores, home schooling the kids, promoting my first book and working on edits for its sequel.

The crisis is bringing out the best in people…and the worst. The doctors and nurses in our National Health Service (NHS) are performing heroics as are other essential key workers. Local communities are uniting to help their elderly and more vulnerable members. Many are making selfless sacrifices although the core message is a simple one. In order to defeat the virus, protect the NHS and save lives we must stay at home. It’s as simple as that. Keep inside and get caught up on all those box sets you’ve always meant to watch.

Happy Mothers Day Fionnuala

It’s not the Mothers Day we would have hoped to give her, as we enter our fifth day of self isolation, but nobody deserves this post more than Fionnuala. She puts our kids before everything and, although worried by recent events, continues to do everything within her power to keep them safe and healthy. She is strong and brave and beautiful and I’ve learnt more about good parenting from her than anybody else. Happy Mothers Day, Fionnuala. We love you xxx

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #2

So, we are a household in self-isolation. Hannah had a cough and high temperature last week and we were advised to self isolate her for seven days. Following that, the government advice changed to if any of your family displayed symptoms then the whole household had to go into self-isolation for two weeks. Yesterday Fionnuala was sent home from work with a cough and sore chest. So, here we are, day two of self-isolation.

Personally I feel fine, no symptoms, as is the case for Adam and Rebecca. Our Education Minister announced yesterday that the schools are to close from Friday for the foreseeable future. The general feeling is that they won’t open again before the new school year in September. I’ve also spoken to my boss and explained the situation. Thankfully I am allowed paid special leave during this period away from work.

We have been in touch, via telephone, with our local pharmacy and shop who are kindly making deliveries to our door as required. Mother’s Day cards have been ordered online and we are well stocked with food, drinks, medication, toilet roll and all other necessary supplies. Especially Diet Coke. We have satellite TV, wifi, books, board games, PlayStation and everything else we need to keep ourselves occupied.

Northern Ireland this morning had its first confirmed case for coronavirus, an elderly person with an underlying health condition. There have been 68 confirmed cases so far, but currently they are only carrying out tests on those admitted for hospital treatment. In the wider United Kingdom there have now been 2,626 confirmed cases. The belief is that, in reality, there are tens of thousands more.

I’ve been speaking to a work colleague in Belfast, who says the city is quiet. We don’t know if there will be a lockdown but a lot of bars, restaurants and cinemas are closed, due to lack of footfall. The Prime Minister is giving live, televised press conferences every evening where we are updated as to the rapidly evolving situation. I’ll keep updating you all as to events here as they continue to unfold. Stay safe, everyone. Treat the pandemic seriously. This isn’t a drill.

Coronavirus – Northern Ireland #1

It’s a worrying time for us all and no different in Northern Ireland regarding the coronavirus. At present, government are adhering to the mantra of improved personal hygiene. Our Prime Minister has told us to regularly wash our hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds; the time it would take to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice or ‘God Save the Queen.’ I’ll be singing them internally as otherwise I’d feel quite barking mad.

If anyone displays signs of coronavirus, that being a dry, continuous cough and/or high temperature they are to self isolate for 7 days. Many are saying that isn’t enough and are demanding the schools be closed as in the Republic of Ireland. The British government and Northern Ireland Assembly haven’t made that decision yet, even though our First Minister and Deputy First Minister are openly disagreeing on the issue. Our politicians can’t agree on anything, even in times of national crisis.

As I write this there have been 45 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Northern Ireland and almost 1400 in the United Kingdom as a whole. 35 people have died, aged between 59-94, all with underlying health conditions. The figures don’t tell the whole story, however, as tests are now only being carried out on those requiring hospital admission. It’s estimated there could be 30-40,000 cases nationwide.

We are said to be a few weeks behind where Italy is. The government are mulling over a number of options, including increased social distancing, the self isolating of the elderly and entire households to self isolate if one person shows symptoms consistent with coronavirus. As for work, well it’s business as usual at present. I shall be expected at my desk tomorrow morning despite the growing anxiety sweeping across the country.

Supermarkets are selling out of commodities such as toilet roll and sanitising hand gel as queues form. People are also bulk buying pasta, rice and other non perishable foodstuffs. Our village shop still has 99% of what we need but panic buying is happening. Some stores are to start opening early solely to cater for the needs of the elderly. If you were to rely only on social media for your information, you’d be convinced the fabric of society was unravelling and Armageddon was nigh.

The British Government have been widely criticised over poor communication and failing to act swiftly like other countries have. The current guidance is that mass gatherings can still take place and its ‘business as usual.’ Many sporting and entertainment bodies have ignored this advice and professional sports have effectively ground to a halt across the nation. People are scared, confused and desperately in need of clear and decisive leadership.

In the neighbouring Republic of Ireland more severe restrictions are already in place. Schools have closed as have pubs, bars and other venues. The island of Ireland covers two separate jurisdictions whose medical experts and politicians currently hold opposing views as to how we combat the virus. It’s no wonder people are confused. Clarity and direction are lacking at a time when they are most critically required.

I’ve decided to blog daily about coronavirus in Northern Ireland, how it is affecting our lives and society at large. I hope, by doing so, I can offer comfort and community via the blog. Feel free to comment and add your own experiences, wherever you are in the world. We are all in this together and nobody need feel alone on WordPress. Until next time, keep safe and do what is best for you and your loved ones.

The Heavy Load

Some days my head feels like this. I’m a born worrier and my OCD means I fret and pick at small things, magnifying them to a point where they utterly consume my every waking thought. An OCD head is an unbearably heavy head. Lessen the load if your head is heavy today. Set down the cart and seek help, be it a professional or a loved one. The road ahead is hard enough without carrying burdens that need not be.

Happy Birthday Fionnuala

Happy Birthday to a wonderful wife and mother today. Fionnuala is the reason I took up my pen and started writing. She is constantly supporting and encouraging me, putting up with all my quirks and oddness. She is the kindest, strongest person I know and the love she pours into our family on a daily basis never ceases. We love her very much and hope she enjoyed her birthday breakfast and present opening this morning.

Are You Weird?

Yes, I’m weird, I’m awkward, I’m a geek, but I’m me. I spent a large part of my life trying to be somebody else, trying to fit in, to please people. It didn’t get me anywhere. You can’t force people to like you any more than you can control the tides. It took me a long time to realise this and I still bear the bruises. So take me as you find me, my days of being a social chameleon are no more. Yes, I’m weird. Are you?

Book Review – Skelly’s Square

Here’s today’s five star review for my fantasy novel, ‘Skelly’s Square.’ I’m now nearing 150 five star reviews world wide which I’m led to believe is quite good. Thank you to the people supporting my writing with their time and money. It’s available to buy in e book and paperback format via your local Amazon site or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

What Mental Illness Looks Like

I think I’ve ticked every one of these boxes at some point in my life but, thankfully, not for a while now. But I’ve been there and I know I could return there, we all could. Nobody is immune from mental illness, we are all vulnerable and few will live their lives untouched by it. It’s everywhere, it’s here today, it is now. Don’t be too hard on others, you know not what they’re going through. For you could be next.

Try This Book, You Will Like It

I was delighted to wake up to this review of ‘Skelly’s Square,’ from a fellow blogger. I poured everything I had into this book so it’s heartening to know that people are enjoying it. The book is now nearing 150 five star reviews worldwide which I’m told is pretty good. Thank you to those of you who have supported my writing by picking up a copy. It’s available via your local Amazon site in e book and paperback format, or free to read if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

Things I Do At Work

I’m on the train as another week in the office looms ahead of me. I’m not quite representative of the diagram below but I’ve certainly had my moments. I’m grateful to have my job though. Much as I detest Monday mornings it pays the bills and affords me the financial stability to pursue other interests. I remain grateful for having a loving family, a good job and a roof over my head.

Thank you River

I was delighted to wake up to this review of ‘Skelly’s Square,’ this morning from River Dixon, a blogger, poet & writer who I hold in high esteem. When times are tough and you’re doubting your own ability, reviews like this encourage and motivate an author that they are headed in the right direction. Thank you River. ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is available to buy via your local Amazon site in e-book and paperback format.

Walk Away

No words needed. Walk away.

100 Five Star Reviews

‘Skelly’s Square’ is now nearing 100 five star Amazon reviews worldwide. Not bad for a little story I wrote largely on my daily train commute in and out of Belfast. I want to thank again those of you on WordPress who, not only bought the book, but took the time to pen and post a review. Reviews really matter in promoting the visibility of the book to other potential readers. If you haven’t already, please consider posting a review. Thank you.

We All Need A Log Cabin

Now, I’m not talking UnaBomber isolation. But sometimes we all want to pull down the shutters and take a break from the relentless babble of life. Which is okay. Society doesn’t require you 24/7. The world will keep rotating on its axis. But if you don’t take care of yourself you might not be spinning with it. We all need our log cabin from time to time. As long as it doesn’t involve the construction of explosive devices.

Skelly’s Square – Out Now

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

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

You Matter

Good Morning WordPress. This spoke to me today. Sometimes I feel useless, not as much as I used to, but it’s still there occasionally. Yet I know I matter to my family. They are the reason I keep going, the reason I get up and show up. I’m an idiot but I’m their idiot. That’s enough for me. I hope there are people in your life who feel the same about you. Keep going for them. They need you as much as you need them.

I Don’t Like You Very Much

I don’t like you very much.

You’re hard work.

An acquired taste.

You make me cringe, retch, squirm.

With your words, your actions, your thoughts.

We’ll never see eye to eye.

Yet here we are.

Staring at each other in the mirror.

Eye to eye.

Stuck with one another.

I don’t like you very much.

Is Your Future Exciting?

I woke up this morning and groaned as I faced another wet and windy Monday morning. But after the initial shock I realised I’m incredibly fortunate and have so much to look forward to in the coming days, weeks and months. My default setting is ‘glass half empty’ but I’m making a real effort now to count my blessings and make the most of the life I have. Your future can be as exciting or grim as you want it to be. Today I choose the former.

Bomb Girl – Out Now

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083N7YT3G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_TFTfEbCCH8PG2

Care Enough To Look

No words needed. People with mental illnesses may not have broken bones but they have broken dreams, broken minds and broken hearts. Their illnesses may be invisible but the signs are there if you take the time to look for them. The onus is on you to reach out to them, not for them to prove their desperation to you. Compassion is a builder of bridges, a changer of worlds. It can heal the deepest of invisible scars. Care enough to look.

Don’t Be Afraid To Start Over

When I started this blog, I started all over again. Turned my back on the past and threw my energy into new passions. Almost three years later, I’ve published two books and completed a third. I’m training for my tenth marathon and been promoted at work. I’ve living the happiest & healthiest life I can. It’s not perfect, we have our ups and downs, but I’m testimony to what can be achieved with a little ability and lot of perseverance & support. And if I can do it, then so can you.

Adam’s Comeback Run

Very proud of Adam this morning who accompanied me on a short run, his first since knee reconstruction surgery last November to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. This was a big moment in his rehabilitation programme and he passed with flying colours. experiencing no pain or reaction to the session. He’s been working hard at physio and in the gym and we hope this is another positive step towards a return to competitive rugby.

Churches Are Funny Places…

This quote pretty much sums up why I stopped going to church. People who talked a good fight on a Sunday morning but then disappeared for the remainder of the week. Especially when you really needed them. It’s sad in a sense but I actually feel more settled and safe since I left the church environment. A place I came to dread, when I should have felt valued and loved. Churches are funny places, but I’m not laughing.

I Refuse To Give Up

I’ve been beavering away on the second draft of ‘A New Jerusalem,’ this last week and am pleased to report I’m well ahead of schedule. I must be getting better at this writing lark as there seem to be less typos & structural/plot changes this time around. Fionnuala has been a great help, as ever, pointing out the occasional blooper and ensuring the storyline is consistent and makes sense. As a result, I’m already almost half way through the edit.

I believe ‘A New Jerusalem’ is a better book than ‘Skelly’s Square,’ but I’ll leave that up to the people who read it. All I can do is deliver the best possible manuscript and hope an agent and/or publisher picks up on it. It’s hard work when there is so much else going on in our busy lives but I’m determined to follow it through to the finish line. Writing is as much refusing to give up as it is talent. I refuse to give up.

Bomb Girl – Would You Read This?

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊

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

Reach Out

Continue reading “Reach Out”

Skelly’s Square – Out Now

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

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

Let me know what you think?

Today I Will Win

Today, I will not let OCD win. I will get up, wash, shave and go to work. I will not give in to it’s urges. I will work hard, run and eat healthy. I will be the best father and husband I can possibly be. I will come home. I will Dad taxi and edit my book. I will ignore the voice telling me to succumb to compulsions and obsessions that are unhealthy for me, both physically and mentally. Today I will win.

Continue reading “Today I Will Win”

Bomb Girl – Out Now

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊

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

WORDS HURT

I’ve been very quite for a while on the blog I’ve been processing a lot of things that have been going on and trying to come to terms with other people’s actions and behaviour towards me. It has took me a good 6 months to try and move forward it hasn’t been easy but I’ve got through it with the love and support of my family who are the most important people in my life.

Yesterday we heard the news of a UK TV personality who sadly took her own life. She had been bullied, trolled online and received so much abuse from the media and social media platforms the poor girl felt she had no other option. Society today needs to wise up and stop with the bullying, body shaming and judging people, nobody is perfect in this world. Just because you are typing something online or saying something behind their back and not saying it to their face doesn’t make your actions any different.

Words hurt and that’s a fact. Nasty words spoken to you take root inside you that is so hard to remove. They love to tell you what a failure you are and how worthless your life is until you can’t take much more. You might as well have physically stabbed them.

I’ve been there a few times in my life and have thought that it was the only way out but believe me it is not. It was through the love and support of my husband and my children that I am here today.

So yes words do hurt but they can also uplift you and make everything you are going through feel a little less of a burden.

Before you make that nasty remark, or break someone’s confidence and gossip about them behind their back remember this, which is a saying I was brought up on:

IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY, SAY NOTHING AT ALL

It is so much easier to show love and spread love than it is to be cruel, mean and heartless.

Fionnuala

Rebecca’s First Goal

Last night was a proud one as Rebecca scored her first goal for Lurgan Town U15 Girls in a 3-1 win away to Armagh City. I had a feeling this would be her game as she scored six goals in training on Wednesday and her confidence had grown as a result. She has worked very hard at her football and we hope this is the first of many as we head into the final months of the season. Well done wee woman.

The Right Ones Will Always Stay

Good Morning WordPress.

A short word today.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, but learn it I did.

Have you?

Bomb Girl – Out Now

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊

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

Starting All Over Again

Last night I started the second draft of ‘A New Jerusalem,’ Book 2 in the ‘Kirkwood Scott Chronicles.’ I finished the first draft about a month ago and decided to take a break so I could tackle the story afresh. Writing is a draining business and sometimes you have to set a story aside and focus on other projects. But now I’m refreshed and keen to get back into the thick of the editing action.

I could barely remember the first chapter, which I penned over five months ago. I was also wary in case I discovered it was utter rubbish and I’d been deluding myself all this time. Thankfully I was quite pleased with it, with only minor amendments required. I’m aiming to edit a couple of chapters each evening with maybe a bit extra at the weekend.

After that I’ll be sending the book out to beta readers for their feedback, prior to hitting the querying trail again. I haven’t secured a literary agent so far but I’m not giving up quite yet. Thank you, as ever, to those who have supported my writing so far and invested their time and money into the first two books, ‘Skelly’s Square,’ and ‘Bomb Girl.’ The reviews and messages have kept me going throughout this latest piece of work.

What are your views on the blog and my fiction writing. All views welcome.

Skelly’s Square – Out Now

Hello new followers.

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

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

Let me know what you think?

The End Of Your World

I missed the early train by about thirty seconds this morning. It was so early the ticket office, which provides a modicum of shelter, was closed so I cut a sorry sight on the platform. The wind picked up, the temperature dropped and wicked blasts of snow cut across me as I faced an interminable twenty minute wait for the next Belfast connection. Needless to say, I was not a happy bunny.

I was also alone. I looked up and down the platform but there wasn’t another soul to be seen. There were no cars on the road, not even a chirruping bird in the trees to keep me company. I felt like Charlton Heston in ‘The Omega Man.’ Or for the younger generation, Will Smith in ‘I Am Legend.’ And he even had a dog for company.

My dog, Charlie, was wisely curled up in a ball, back in our warm house, while I froze my extremities off on Platform 1, a frosty post apocalyptic landscape which offered me no heat or hope.The minutes ticked by as if the hands of my watch were set in concrete. I huddled deeper into my coat and pulled my hat lower over my ears. Was this what the end of the world felt like?

If you check the news, it certainly looks that way at times. Brexit has finally happened and we’ve left the European Union, there is major political change in the Republic of Ireland and our schools and hospitals are in disarray. The coronavirus has reached our shores and the harbingers of doom are screaming from the rooftops. I even saw a lady in Belfast the other day wearing a surgical mask.

Most days I avoid the news because the only news ever appears to be bad news. I focus instead on the here and now, the daily humdrum. It’s akin to sticking my head in the sand or placing my hands over my ears and singing loudly, hoping it will all go away. I have enough on my plate without worrying about Trump, Boris and that climate change girl who frowns a lot and wears a yellow anorak.

My train finally arrives and I thankfully seek refuge within it, huddled into a window seat nearest the radiator. Light and heat do wonders for my mood and soon the horrors of Platform 1 are behind me as I look forward to the day ahead. The carriage fills with fellow commuters and I’m reassured that the human race is still very much alive and kicking. I’m not the last man standing, the lone survivor.

It’s a lonely place, being the last person on Earth. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Many of us feel that way even when we are surrounded by others. We are islands cut off from the rest of society for all manner of reasons. It can be depression, anxiety, grief, guilt, the list goes on and on. For those who live in such self contained cells it is a miserable existence. It corrodes the soul, stripping away any last vestige of faith or hope.

Loneliness is a silent, creeping killer. Some have no say but others choose this solitary path through life. It is a matter of freewill whereby they shut themselves off from the rest of the world. Please don’t choose this route, for there lies death. Reach out, engage, even if it’s only to reply to this post. Don’t be the last person on the planet. You deserve to be heard and seen, you deserve to live.

Bomb Girl – Out Now

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊

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

My Thoughts On The Oscars

Good Morning. I hope you all enjoyed the Oscars. But, has anyone actually seen ‘Parasite’? Fionnuala and I get to the cinema about once a decade. The last film we saw was ‘Bad Boys For Life,’ and before that I think it was ‘Gone With The Wind.’ Yes, that’s how bad it is. We still refer to the ‘talkies’. The Olympic Flame gets out more than us. Okay, I’ll stop with the rubbish jokes.

I would quite like to see ‘1917’ as I’m a war movie fan. I’ve heard good reviews of it from work colleagues although it would have to be monumentally good to oust ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as the greatest war movie of all time. In my humble opinion. Did you know that the beach landings in it were filmed on the west coast of Ireland? Using real amputees in some of the scenes?

I grew up on war movies, I guess a lot of boys do. My other favourite was ‘Zulu’ starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. It retold the Battle of Rorkes Drift, an isolated British outpost besieged by thousands of Zulu warriors during the war of 1879. Apparently it’s considered racist now by the rampant politically correct lobby. Soon, we won’t be allowed to screen any of the old movies for fear of offending someone.

I didn’t watch the ceremony, it’s on far too late for me, but I’m aware there were speeches about lack of diversity amongst the nominees. Certain actors made the most of the opportunity to highlight an issue which they argue needs to be urgently addressed by the Academy. Strong words on big issues. The beauty of the Oscars those is that it has something for everyone.

Yes, there’s the actual movies for the film purists and political & cultural debate galore for those passionate about such matters. But for others it’s the glitz and the gossip which fascinates them. Who wore what and which designer dress will everyone be gushing about the next morning in the office? Did he really say that? Is she really dating so and so? And did you see your man? What was he thinking?

We all appreciate being recognised for our efforts, be it at a star studded awards ceremony or a simple ‘well done’ from your boss at the end of a busy working day. It is human nature to want to feel valued and worthwhile. The large majority of us go out to work and endeavour to do our best. It doesn’t matter if you’re Tom Cruise or working on the checkout at the local supermarket.

It’s not as if we are vain peacocks desperate for attention at whatever cost. It’s a more humbler need than that. Awards ceremonies are probably the extreme form of this, but we almost must learn to praise our own efforts, rather than relying on others to do so. I, for one, used to continually beat myself up and focus on my flaws and weaknesses instead of my strengths and achievements.

My default setting is to view the glass as half empty, especially when it comes to self analysis. I’m regularly putting myself down when there’s really no need to do so. I’m not perfect, but I do the best I can and am always seeking to improve. Are you like that as well? If so, I think it’s about time we awarded ourselves an Oscar – for best portrayal of us. It’s a long overdue accolade but one we should cherish.

Hannah Wins The Cup

We have cause to be very proud of our Hannah this weekend. Firstly she has started attending Slimming World classes with Fionnuala in recent weeks and between them have lost almost a stone in weight. I’ve been very impressed with their dedication and willpower, not to mention the many delicious sin free meals they have been researching and preparing for us all.

Hannah is a very determined young lady and when she sets her mind to a task, she always completes it. She has overcome many obstacles in her life but always comes out the other side smiling. Fionnuala and I are very fortunate to have such a kind, loving and talented daughter. She never fails to cheer me up with her laughter and occasional diva moments. Well, we all have our moments.

Hannah also won her schools Music Cup at their annual Prize Giving on Friday. Hannah is passionate about music and can always be found singing along to her favourite artists – Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift. And yes I did have to check the spelling of their names. Her Granny Marie still spells Hannah’s hero as Sean Mendez. I don’t want to get in trouble for that as well.

She’s also learning to play guitar and has a lovely singing voice. Music is her life so it was only fitting her teachers and fellow students recognised this at the prize giving. Hannah is one of the main reasons I do what I do and whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself I only have to look at her to be inspired to try harder. Well done to our wonderful daughter. We love you very much.

I Must Survive

There are days I feel a failure. A failure as a husband, father, son, colleague, runner, writer, you name it. Where it’s one step forward, ten steps back. Yet, here I am. Still hanging on. Surviving, somehow. Doing it for my family, for the people who believed in me when I was at my lowest ebb. To the people who I owe everything to, I have to keep going, to prevail, to survive. To prove the doubters wrong, to shut the haters up. I must survive.

Hello

Hello new followers. So very pleased to make your acquaintance. If you like the blog and my writing style, please check out my debut novel, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square.’ It’s a supernatural fantasy set in modern day Belfast which tackles the very real issues of mental health, addiction, homelessness and disability. All sprinkled with the dark humour us Northern Irish are renowned for. Thank you. Available to buy on Amazon in e book or paperback format; or completely free on Kindle Unlimited 😊

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

I Am A Man….

You may or may not know this, but I am a man. A supposedly fully grown, mature one at that, although my family may beg to differ. Yet, for years, I neglected my mental health to the point where it was having a detrimental effect not only on myself but also those around me. It was only when I hit rock bottom that I was forced to confront my inner demons. Head on. It wasn’t a pretty process but it got me to where I am today.

Where’s that? A better place, thankfully, on more solid ground. It was only when I recognised I had problems and was prepared to discuss them with others that the situation improved. A weight was lifted off my shoulders and I started to make forward progress. You are not an island, you cannot muddle through on your own. If times are hard, talk to someone about it. Doing so is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness.

R.I.P The Flowers of Manchester

Remembering today the 23 souls who died in the Munich Air Disaster on 06 February 1958. The dead included 11 players and staff of the famous Manchester United football team, who were returning from a European Cup quarter final in Belgrade. Nicknamed the ‘Busby Babes’ after their manager, Sir Matt Busby, who survived the crash, the club recovered to win the illustrious trophy ten years later.

Other survivors included Sir Bobby Charlton, who went on to win the World Cup with England in 1966, and Harry Gregg, the team’s Northern Irish goalkeeper, who went back into the wreckage to rescue a young woman and her baby. As a Manchester United supporter all my life, I know the impact of the Munich disaster on the club’s history and culture. R.I.P. ‘The Flowers of Manchester.

Bomb Girl – Out Now

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and posting such great reviews for my new novella, ‘Bomb Girl.’ It’s a psychological thriller set in modern day Northern Ireland with a smattering of the supernatural. It’s available to buy now on your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. Like my writing? Then check it out today 😊

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

I Hope You Understand….

If I’ve been a bit quiet of late I hope you understand it has been due to the hectic nature of life. We are a busy family and Fionnuala and I are dragged in various directions with competing demands and priorities. One of us is out every night performing taxi duties for the kids as they engage in their various social activities. Then there’s work, marathon training, writing and promoting books. The list goes on.

This all started with the blog, though, so the blog will go on. I may not write as much every day but I’m still committed to posting a daily blog. It might be no more than a short motivational post or running update. I’ll still promote my books on here as it’s part and parcel of trying to realise my dream of becoming a full time writer. I hope you all understand and continue to stick with us on the journey.

Thank you.

What Was Your Last 5 Star Read?

Just finished ‘In The Woods,’ the first book in the ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ series by Tana French. This book had been on my radar for some time after watching the excellent BBC television adaptation. And I wasn’t disappointed. A gripping, rattling, rollercoaster of a book which leaves you turning the pages at a frenetic pace. Beautifully written and bursting with splendid prose. Five stars!

What was the last 5 star book you read?

Ways To Support Authors

As an newish author, this post struck a chord with me. It contains both humour and truth. Writing is a largely lonely journey and we authors snaffle up whatever crumbs of support and encouragement we can get. It’s often one step forward, two steps back, but we soldier on for we know nothing else. There is no other way but to duck into the squall and keep moving forward. Thank you to those of you who support my journey. I will always be grateful.

Bomb Girl – Out Now

My new book, ‘Bomb Girl,’ is now available to read via your local Amazon site. Or, completely FREE, if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Like my writing? Like the blog? Then please consider supporting my writing dream by picking up a copy today. Thank you.

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

Stepping Off The Beaten Path

Just a few photos from a recent wander I took down one of the many back alleys that criss cross Belfast city centre. They are full of quirky little pubs, betting shops and characters. It’s amazing the adventures you can have when you stray off the less traveled road. When was the last time you stepped out of your hectic schedule and took time to explore your town or city? You will be amazed at what you didn’t know. Live a little. Step off the beaten path once in a while.

The Enemy Within

The enemy within, the one you can’t run away from, that’s where you will fall, that’s where you will fail. Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will suck your soul dry and leave you for dead. Words are the death of a thousand cuts, the traitorous voice that never stops. Doubting, belittling, mocking. Block it out, by any means necessary. For if it prevails, then all is lost for you and I. All is lost forever.

I Cannot Let That Voice Win

My brother in law, Gearard, and I embarked on our latest long run yesterday in preparation for the Belfast Marathon in May. This time we stepped the distance up to 15 miles, our longest effort yet. It was chilly but thankfully dry as we set off on the first of several loops round the village, well wrapped up to ward off the icy wind. This will be Gearard’s first marathon and my tenth.

Long distance training runs are as much mental as physical and I always find the first few miles the hardest as you dubiously eye up the road in front of you. No matter how many times I set off on such a run I always experience the same emotions. Anxiety and a sense of hopelessness, convinced this will be the time I’m caught out and shown up for the running fraud I truly am.

Given this, I’m always grateful for running company. I normally run on my own and it’s tough hitting the road for over two hours with only the voices in your head for company. Voices that whisper you’re not good enough and urge you to stop and give up with every passing step. Having someone with you helps to keep these harbingers of doom at bay. It keeps them in the shadows.

Gearard and I found a pace that suited both of us and by the second loop I had found my rhythm and felt much more comfortable. We ran at a conversational pace. The secret of the the long run is to travel well within your optimum pace. It’s all about discipline and conserving as much energy as possible for the latter stages of the race. Slow and steady wins the marathon battle every time.

Refuelling is also very important so each time we passed the house we made sure to take a quick timeout to get much needed fluids on board. On race day itself we will also have energy gels which give you a concentrated hit when you most need it. They have rejuvenated me many times when I’ve been running on empty. Such tactics are essential if you want to avoid the dreaded wall.

I used to be obsessed with times and achieving personal bests but those days are behind me just like the miles passed us by yesterday. I run to complete the course, I’m not overly bothered as to how long it takes me. This coming marathon will be one of my slowest but I’m okay with that as, in other ways, it will be the one most precious to me. I’ve conquered that side of my ego.

We completed the 15th mile still on our feet and able to converse easily. Much of the route passed by in such a fashion and I can’t say I was struggling or in pain at any stage during the run. I guess that comes with experience. Next month we will step it up again to 16 miles, our training peaking in a 3/4 marathon in early April. After that we wind down or ‘taper’ towards the big day in Belfast itself.

Running a marathon is a big step to take, many see it as the ultimate physical challenge. In order to take that big step, you must first take many, many little steps beforehand. The 26.2 miles is simply a lap of honour, the culmination of months of effort and hundreds of miles. It is about dedication, focus and battling the inner voice that tells you to stop. I must not let that voice win, I cannot let that voice win.

RIP Kobe Bryant

Bomb Girl – Review

Another great review for my new book, ‘Bomb Girl.’ Thank you to the people picking it up and supporting my writing. It’s really encouraging me as I prepare to dive into the second draft of my latest work, ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles – A New Jerusalem.’ Pick up your copy of ‘Bomb Girl’ today via your local Amazon site or free on Kindle Unlimited. And keep your eyes on my WordPress, Facebook and Twitter accounts for further updates.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Bomb Girl

There’s been a fantastic response so far to my new book, ‘Bomb Girl.’ Below are some of the reviews I’ve received so far. Thank you to all concerned. You can pick up your copy via your local Amazon site or for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Click the link below if you want to see what all the fuss is about.

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

Rock Bottom

I’ve been to rock bottom. It’s not a nice place. I never want to go back there. But it’s made me who I am today and inspired me to push on for fear of stumbling back down into the pit. The knowledge of rock bottom keeps me honest and humble whenever I feel I’m getting too big for my boots. Rock bottom is not the end, rather a beginning. For when you hit rock bottom you have two options. Give up or survive. I chose the latter. So must you.

Life Goes Faster Than You Think

I’m learning to make the most of every day.

Put in that extra bit of effort.

We only have so many days on this planet.

Push the boundaries.

Never give up.

Makes your dreams a reality.

Bomb Girl Is Released

The big day has finally arrived.

‘Bomb Girl’ is released.

Available on your local Amazon site.

Are you picking up a copy?

Let me know what you think.

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

A Nervous Evening Ahead

A nervous evening ahead as I await the launch of my new book, ‘Bomb Girl,’ tomorrow. Fionnuala and I have worked hard to self publish it as a stop gap between Books 1 & 2 in the ‘Kirkwood Scott’ series. It’s my dream to become a full time writer and this is another small step towards that goal. I hope people like it but a recent downturn in blog traffic still leaves me worried. Here’s hoping and thank you to those who continue to support me

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

Monday Needs You

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

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

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

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

Sunday Run

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

Bomb Girl Countdown – 14 Days

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

Available to pre order now on your local Amazon site.

Thank you for your support 😊

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

Bomb Girl Countdown – 15 Days

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

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

Click link below for details.

Thank you 😊

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

It’s Ok Not To Be Ok

Good Morning WordPress.

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

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

Another Busy Day Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your day, whatever you are doing.

Bomb Girl Is Coming

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

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

Unputdownable

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

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

Hello New Followers

Hello new followers.

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

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

Let me know what you think?

Lose Your Baggage

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

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

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

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

Bomb Girl – Coming Soon

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

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

Getting Off The Wrong Train

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bomb Girl – 21 Days To Go

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

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

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

Er…..guilty?!

Good Morning fellow bloggers from a breezy Northern Ireland.

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

The Battle of Waterloo features heavily for me.

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

Belfast – The Old & The New

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

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

It’s Celebration Time!

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

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

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

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

Don’t Be A Mug

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

I’m Excited To Announce….

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

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

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

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

Will Christmas Ever End?

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

My First Book Club Appearance

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

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

Thank you Magheralin Book Club.

How’s Your Zero Talent List?

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

Hit The Unfollow Button

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

OCD Humour

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

10K To Start The Day

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

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

A Writing Update – Patience

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

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

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

Here’s To The Survivors

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

Happy World Introvert Day

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

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

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

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

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

It Is Finished

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

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

It’s Never As Bad As You Think

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

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

Middle Aged Men Run Half Marathon Shocker

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

Got A Few Extra Pennies?

Got a few extra pennies at Christmas?

Like my writing?

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

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

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

Night Out At The Rugby

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

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

Would Jesus Vote For Trump?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Christmas Everyone

Happy Christmas to everyone from the Black clan.

We hope you all have a wonderful day.

🎅🏻🎅🏻🎅🏻🎅🏻

🎄🎄🎄🎄

Man Shopping On Christmas Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Christmas Eve everyone 🎄🎄🎄

Have You A Writing Question For Me?

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Anniversary To Us

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

Are You Too Comfortable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you too comfortable?

Caption Contest – The Circus & The Church

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

Do You Need A Break?

Good Morning

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

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

A time out in the game of life?

Well, we are here for you then.

Fractured Faith Blog will be posting every day in 2020.

We are here and hope to see you there.

My Christmas Writing Plans

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

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

Thank you

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

A Chilly Morning At The Rugby

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

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