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.

My Early Christmas Present

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

105,000 Words

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

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

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

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

Lagan Towpath

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

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

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

Lunch At The Stepping Stones

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

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

Happy Sweet 16th Hannah

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

Santa Arrives In Belfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you make of this Silly Santa

FREE Book Giveaway Competition

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

JackSpeak

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

Fractured Faith. 12,000 Not Out.

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

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

Who Is Your Lighthouse?

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

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

Who is your lighthouse?

I’ve Had An Anxious Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have anxious weeks? Can you relate?

Christmas With Kirkwood

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

It’s Christmas 🎄

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

Would You Like To Make My Christmas?

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

Belfast Christmas Market

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

You Know You’ve Made It When….

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

Horsing Around

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

It’s Black Friday. It’s Free

Have you checked out my debut novel yet?

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

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

Here’s the cover..

Let me know what you think.

Thank you.

5 Things To Quit Right Now

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

Find Your Light

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

Merci Beaucoup

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

Not Forgotten

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

A Chip Off The New Block

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

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

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

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

I Am Goliath

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

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

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

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

Do You Find It Hard To Make Friends?

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

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

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

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

Do you find it hard to make friends?

Who are your animal friends?

82,000 Words

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

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

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

Adam’s Surgery Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consistency Is The Key

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

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

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

Loneliness at Christmas Update

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

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

My Love Affair With Toast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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