17 September 2014

A Personal View on Scottish Independence: The Journey from ‘Don’t Care’ to Yes

I’m hoping that it isn’t the case that we’ve become so expectant of being screwed over by the political elite that we’ve become used to it, that we’ve become complacent, that we have succumbed to a form of political Stockholm Syndrome.

At first I thought it was a joke.

Not the issue of an independent Scotland but the appointment of Alistair Darling as the man to lead the Better Together campaign. This was the man you were supposed to trust and believe that he was making the best case against an independent Scotland. Trust Alistair Darling? With this man’s record I wouldn’t trust him to walk my dog.

This man?

Then again, Darling’s track record is excellent if you’re looking for someone who doesn’t mind lying and who excels at trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. So maybe his appointment does make sense. With voting day fast approaching, Darling is already crowing that independence has been lost. But of course, he’s someone you should believe in.

On the other side there was Alexander Salmond leading the cause. Salmond was someone I didn’t really have much knowledge of except for the fact that he allowed Donald Trump to build a golf course in Scotland. Trump is a man I have very strong feelings for and none of them good. Plus Salmond is SNP and I’m in no way a nationalist. In fact since Labour become the alternative Tory party there isn’t really any political party I would align myself with. I mean I’m not going to vote for the Lib Dems now am I? Fool me once and all that.

Personally I thought this whole thing was a no go from the start. Why would I want to see the UK split up? I’ve lived and worked in London for years in the past and on the whole it was a positive experience. But I didn’t particularly like living the UK and it’s always been on my mind to escape to some other country, a country where the grass is always greener.

Why didn’t I like living in the UK? The answer is not because I dislike the people or the places I’ve lived in and I really don’t mind the weather at all. I like to live in a place where the seasons change. The answer to that question is pretty simple. It’s because of the governments and the political leaders we’ve always been ruled by.

Thatcher, Blair and Cameron are the three of the most hated and corrupt politicians I’ve had to live under. Thatcher I can’t see as having any redeemable features whatsoever, she was a friend only to the rich, the corporations and to dictators such as Pinochet. Blair maybe started off well, I mean I think I voted for him, but he threw it all away by lying to the public and leading the UK into an illegal war and became the psychopath we know today. Of course Blair was and is simply a Tory under the New Labour disguise although it’s also pretty shocking to see the Labour party today in bed with the Tories. And Cameron. I could go on about Cameron, Osborne and Clegg but I’ve written most of it before in a previous article. You cannot pick up a newspaper or go online without seeing how this government is screwing over the people of the UK, not the rich but the ‘ordinary’ working person. Crime syndicates wish they were as organised as Cameron’s government.

I don’t trust politicians and I never have since Thatcher was welcomed as Prime Minister with a groan of despair from the working class. And politicians have given me no reason to change my mind in the years since she implemented her iron fist. When the independence issue first came up I wasn’t undecided back then, I was pretty much a ‘couldn’t give a toss’. Politicians look after themselves, the corporations and the rich, in that order.

And then I was asked to write an article for a company I worked for.

The entire article can be found here at Expats Post.

05 May 2014

Why do you write?

 “Being a writer is like being stuck in a leaky rowboat tossed about in a tumultuous sea of poverty, rejection and isolation. But I still love writing.” – Arthur Nersesian
The question 'why do you write' may seem simple but coming up with an answer isn’t always that easy.

After taking a slight detour into the land of excess cynicism the other week (probably from spending too much time in the snark polluted waters of the internet, although my excuses and reasons are indeed my own) I decided to obtain some advice and perhaps inspiration from a variety of writers by asking them one question – why do you write?

The writers who took the time to give me an answer were Arthur Nersesian, Julian Gallo, Bill Friday, Loren Kleinman, Hunter S. Jones and Dean Walker, all of them excellent writers, novelists and poets who are the embodiment of the word 'inspirational'.

The article 'Six Writers, six reasons' can be found by clicking here – Expats Post

11 April 2014

Writing Through the Hangover

I’ve a feeling I’m supposed to be doing promotion for my new book. 

The promotion side isn’t something I hate doing but I’m definitely no professional at promoting my own work.

As a freelance writer I’ve done it for other people but when it comes to touting myself - touting, is that the right word, well, when it comes to touting myself or my work I feel a bit nervous, anxious, I don’t know how to describe it actually. You have doubts when you’re writing your book, you have doubts when you put it out there and then you have doubts when you have to kind of gently force this thing onto people. 

I feel like I’m standing in an alley whispering to people as they walk past, “Hey, hey, you, c’mere. Take a look at this”, which in itself is a dubious image I don’t want in my head.

Anyway, I’m in the midst of a hangover due to the visit of friend who is in town on holiday and who doesn’t seem to realise that there are maybe other things to do in this town apart from getting hammered in the pub, not sure what else there is to do but there must be something. So I’m writing through the headache, which seems as good a hangover cure as any other. I can’t actually blame my friend for the hangover as I’m my own worst enemy when people say, “do you fancy a drink” but, as way of an excuse, I haven’t really had a drunken night since my holiday to New York in January.

So, as we were talking about New York and promoting my book, well I was anyway, I’d like to mention Julian Gallo who interviewed me and wrote a book review for Leaving London. I’ve known Julian online for many years now, I’m not sure if it’s quite 10 years but it must be getting on to that. Mr Gallo is a fantastic writer with five novels under his belt as well as being a tremendous supporter of other writers. He placed the interview on Expats Post as well as his own blog Desvario for which I thank him. Julian has also conducted a series of interviews this week with Dean Walker and Loren Kleinman, two great poets, check out the interviews if you get a chance.

Wait, the reason I mentioned New York is because Julian is from New York and I had a great time meeting up with Julian, his sister Andrea, Andrea’s son Stephen and his cousin Steve Palermo, who is also a fine artist. It was great to wander around the East Village, Little Italy and Queens with these guys and see New York through the eyes of people who actually live there. I sometimes dis Facebook as being annoying mainly due to its distraction qualities but it does offer you the chance to connect and meet up with people from all over the world. I met a few other people that I had known via facebook on my second trip to what I consider one of the world’s most amazing cities and I will get back there soon, I hope. The picture below is Julian, Andrea and Steve, taken in Vincent’s restaurant in Little Italy. Great couple of days with those guys during the holiday.

A short excerpt from Leaving London was also accepted and published on Roadside Fiction literary site, issue seven. Very happy they decided that the piece fit in with the theme of their magazine. Rejection in the literary world is par for the course so it’s always nice to see an acceptance email. So thanks to Roadside Fiction Editor John Campbell for that and you should head over there if you get the chance and check out all of the excellent writers and stories in this quarterly magazine. Another short excerpt from the book can be found here at Createspace previews.

Thanks also to Baxter Labatos for this piece on his The Wind Sings website. After completing Leaving London I was looking to change a few of the character names and I needed a strong name for one character and couldn't really think of anything to fit this character's personality. The name Baxter just seemed like a really strong name and i've never actually met anyone with this name before so I settled on Baxter after taking a look through the names of my friends on Facebook. I know Baxter, the real life Baxter, has gone through some tribulations and tough times recently, and i'm glad this cheered him up a little.

Anything else? Thanks to all who have bought the book and shared comments and reviews. If I’ve forgotten anyone let me know, the hangover is impairing my memory, which is sometimes a good thing but not in this case. Slange!

22 March 2014

Leaving London – An Anti-Romance Story for the Analyzation Generation

Leaving London
360 pages

A ramble on writing that first book.

And so my first book has been set adrift among the millions of others out there hoping to find a home. 
Finishing a first, full length book is a strange feeling. I expected elation but found myself sitting at the laptop looking at the last sentence with a sense of, “okay, that’s done, time to move on.” I let the book sit for about five months I think before putting it out there on Amazon. It had been in my head for a decade, five more months wouldn’t matter.

I started writing it about 10 years ago when I was still living in London. I think when I first started to write it I had just been sacked from another soul-crushingly boring temp job and this was a way to fill the afternoons or the evenings. Actually, now that I think back, I had just left a job because the management wanted me become a permanent member of staff and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want permanency, I wanted everything on a temporary basis, which is one of the themes of the book. At that time I’d rather choose nothing over permanency because when you’re in jobs that you hate, the term ‘temp employee’ seems like you have a 'get out of jail free card’ tucked in your pocket - nonsense of course, you can leave permanent jobs almost as easily as temp jobs.

When I eventually moved out of London I fell into a relationship that lasted six years and not a word was written in the book during that period. But during those six years I started writing as a way to earn a living, writing articles for both print and online. Writing for others for money has its ups and downs, and although I didn’t undertake any writing on the book during that six year period, (I think I stalled after about 80 pages), it was never out of my mind. So eventually, a couple of years ago, probably during a period when my freelance writing had dried up for a bit, I started to tinker around with it, consider ideas on how the story would progress, where the characters would go.

The characters and the story I wanted to tell were still there, like a film that I had only watched half of years ago and then tuned into again recently. Rereading those first 80 pages and then continuing to write brought back to me the excitement of living in that grubby flat in London, (although it probably didn’t seem all that exciting at the time, the selective nature of memory) with my money rapidly dwindling or more likely non-existent and the only thought in my head being, “just write, at least you're doing something, fuck London and all its problems.”

And yet, although at the time I thought, “fuck London and all its problems”, the problems I had back then or the situations I found myself in were not caused by London, the city is just a backdrop. There’s a line from the great film ‘Round Midnight said to Dexter Gordon’s character Dale Turner as he is about leave New York for Paris for a better life, “You know who's going to be waiting for you at the airfield in Paris, don't you? You.”  Unfortunately with no escape to Paris or anywhere else open to me there was nothing much else to do but write.

Creative writing is a completely different thing from writing articles for websites and copywriting for businesses. With creative writing you can escape, create your own world and do as you please and the only person you have to please with your writing is you. When you write you escape, even if the thing you are writing about at the time is the situation from which you’d like to escape. You can change your circumstances in a story, take small elements from your life if you wish and enhance them, exaggerate them, make them better or worse, bring in completely imaginary characters and situations, it’s the writer’s choice.

Maybe the thing that makes writing a pleasurable experience much of the time for the writer or for anyone who is engaged in a creative endeavor is that for once you have control over a situation, it’s yours, you own it or maybe it owns you. You're doing something you want to do. Whether anyone else likes it or not is not your concern during writing. You have no one to answer to but yourself and once it's over, hopefully, you will feel a bit better about having accomplishing something for yourself.

I’ve rambled on aimlessly now for 700 words and barely mentioned what the book is about.

Well, it's about life in London. An anti-romance story for the analyzation generation, about the city and a selection of its inhabitants, most of whom have all landed in London for their own reasons and soon find that the streets in London aren't paved with gold. I'll leave you with the book cover description. Thanks for reading.

"It’s not like I didn’t have a life before she arrived. She didn’t magically appear out of nowhere and give my life meaning." - Cal

"Your problem is that you’re more like an empty book and you’re waiting on someone else to write your pages for you. For someone who doesn’t believe in fate and destiny and all that shit, you seem to spend an awful lot of time waiting for something to happen to you.” - Sofia

Temporary jobs, temporary friends and temporary relationships. Temporary can easily become a comfortable lifestyle if you linger in London too long.

Moving to London means you’ve now become one of the eight million players on a large, vibrant and sometimes dangerous stage. This is a city that offers something for everyone whether you’re looking for love, money, work, fun or simply a way of avoiding life. Drink, drugs, sex, relationships, office politics and the daily grind – just another day in London. Leaving London takes place within one year in the city, a year where two people, who weren't looking, find each other among eight million other inhabitants.

Narrator Cal finds himself living in the city once again, trying his best to traverse the metropolis by having only the maximum fun with the minimum of effort. The city has other plans. Mugged on Christmas Eve, daily office politics and a suicidal flat mate all conspire to add to his constant hangover but it’s Sofia who makes the biggest impact on Cal’s year. It’s easy to find someone in London but trusting someone, that’s a different matter.

Leaving London is an anti-romance story for the analyzation generation. A humorous and often dark look at everyday life in a city where a year can be a life changing experience.

*Review copies are available.

31 August 2013

It Has Been a While - Some Writing News

Tonight I shall mainly be discussing writing stuff including my last short story, Dean Walker’s collection of poems, Julian Gallo’s new novel and Blogger Interactive. Oh and my hatred of Donald Trump, that had to be included.

I haven’t written anything on this blog for nine months.  Nine months!!! 
What bullshitery is that? It’s not really that I gave up writing here, more that I’m not a full-time blogger, as in, I post here occasionally and you have to admit that a nine month gap is stretching the occasionally limit.  I usually use this blog as a place to put articles that I’ve posted elsewhere but a few things have been going on and I thought I’d mention them here, writing things that is, no one is interested in my latest coffee maker acquisition, which was pretty much one of the year’s highlights.

Back in June I wrote a 30 page short story called Grand Canyon, which I didn’t really publicize that much. This is a surreal little tale about a recluse who is forced to make a stand against big business. Part of the description I placed on Amazon was, “This is a story about fathers and sons, about how the past can determine your future if you let it, and about making a stand for something you believe in.”


The idea for this story actually came from Donald Trump (thanks Donald) and if you know the story behind Trump and the golf course he built, up near Aberdeen in Scotland, then you may well recognise him as the character Donavan Thurrock. It takes me ages to get around to writing stories unless I really have something persistently nagging in my head and Trump’s destruction of that part of Scotland, in order that some old rich guys dressed up like a clown's wet dream could knock a ball into a hole with a stick really did it for me. I mean Trump is so unoriginal he built a golf course in a country awash with golf courses and in the process he destroyed something of great beauty and unique scientific importance. The guy is, if they served a burger in France named after him, le bell-end supreme.

I read a newspaper article recently about New York's attorney general suing Donald Trump for $40 million due to Trump’s phony “Trump University”, a course designed to make students rich. One piece of the story stated, “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of "The Apprentice" TV star.”

It just takes a tiny bit of internet research to show that no one benefits from a Trump deal but Trump. The term ‘buyer beware’ is tattooed somewhere on Trump’s body, probably under his hair, which is why you will never, ever, see it. He knows he is conman, his track record is there for all to see and yet people still hold him up as businessman worth emulating. 

If your idea of a good business role model is Donald Trump, do yourself and the world a favour and don’t start a career in business, the world does not need another Donald Trump, we don’t even need the one we have now. The guy is the biggest douchebag in business and he has a lot of competition for that title. There are plenty of other weasels in the business world but they are just clever enough not to hog the limelight unlike Trump; I’m sure Trump is there just to take all the heat of their shady dealings. If there was a Mount Rushmore for business assholes and Trump’s face wasn’t on it he would sue whoever sculpted it just for the sake of few more inches of publicity.  

Enough about Trump.

I wanted to give a mention to a few writers I know who have come up with some good stuff in recent months. Dean Walker, he of Expats Post, who you may know for his spot-on political writing, has written a book of poetry called Hurricane: A Collection of Poems. I really didn’t know what to expect from this as I’m not really a massive reader of poetry at all.

The book description said:

“During my divorce I wrote many distraught and desperate love poems. Eventually, I put the collection into a box and moved on with my life. After a few years, I finally pulled the poems out and re-examined them. The poems in the following collection represent the poems written during this time in my life. What I found in the poems is that during the winter years of love, the themes of longing and vulnerability became the dominant themes.”

I downloaded from Amazon and thought I would read a few poems before going to bed except that I could not stop reading and ended up finishing the entire thing. This could have easily been a bunch of schmaltzy love poems that should have stayed in that box but instead what you get is some of the most honest writing on a break-up I have read. Maybe the reason these poems are so honest and unpretentious (and the feelings and emotions written about throughout will be completely recognizable to anyone who has been through a bad break-up) is because the poems were written during or after the break-up, without any intention of publication, so there was no censorship, no “what will people think if they read this, I better not write that, it’s too much.”

To me it brought back all the ‘lying on the floor reliving memories shit’ that people go through when they break-up, trying to hopelessly work out what went wrong, what could have been done to put it right, just the sheer fucking torture of knowing you have lost something that’s not going to come back no matter how much you want it to, and sometimes for good reason. The water down the drain.

And these poems are beautifully written. Walker really took his time over these. After I finished the book I wrote to Dean to express congratulations on this collection and he deserves congratulations. There are poems in there such as Bagged, Ex on Meth, Tomorrow I will Sing, Suicide Watch and Wild Geese that made me sit up as they brought back memories, and some of them were like a punch in the gut. The end of the collection does bring a surprise and it’s a great way to end the book. He has written something at the end that feels like the world moving from winter to spring (emotionally speaking) and it definitely lifts you up. Melody Haislip, no slouch in the poetry writing department herself, also deserves an honorable mention here for her editing skills.

So I would highly recommend Walker’s book, available on Amazon, and I just have, above.

What next?

Next is Julian Gallo’s novel Europa. Julian Gallo is a writer I have known for a few years now and I think I’ve read and reviewed every one of his novels. He is nothing if not prolific and he’s actually now more than halfway through his new novel before I’ve even had time to review Europa.

The thing with Gallo’s novels is you never know what to expect, you never know what he is going to write about next. If you have read more than one of his previous novels you will know that each one is completely different. There is a big argument about self-published writers not being of the same quality as those published by one of the big publishing companies but if you have ever read any of Julian Gallo’s novels you will realize that this argument does not hold water and that the people saying this have either got very unlucky with their choice of reading material or are just talking shit about self-published writers for the sake of it.

I read three books recently by a well-known writer, a very successful, well-known writer. The first two I thought were great, not the type I usually read at all but I couldn’t put them down. However, I did notice that the same plot-line ran throughout both books, then I read the third one and I was like “wait a minute this is the same plotline as in the last two” and I gave up on the third after about 50 pages, it just didn’t hook me because I kind knew where it was going.

With Julian Gallo’s books such as Naderia, Be Still and Know That I Am, Mediterraneo and Europa you are getting something different every time. There is a theme of searching for identity running through his books, and I’ve mentioned that to him before in an interview, but the stories are always different. If you have read any of his previous novels and then read Europa you will notice that Europa seems harder hitting, more graphic in parts, maybe because it deals, in part, with themes such as the racism and fascism that are running through Europe or more specifically Eastern Europe at the moment.

Anyway, I’ll be interviewing Julian on this novel soon and will update when that is out.

Finally. I say finally because this post is getting on to 1800 words and I was only going to highlight a few things to do with writing. Too much coffee. Did I tell you I bought a new coffee machine?

As this post is all to do with writing I want to mention Blogger Interactive. This is an event taking place in Austin, you know the place right, it’s in Texas, you know, the state that is the same size as the UK. The UK, you think you’re so great, you’re tiny UK tiny, get over yourself, and your right wing government sucks ass. Sorry, I live in the UK and can say things like that, especially after too much coffee.

Anyway, Becca Cord of 25toFly and Jen Sharp of Sips of Jen and Tonic did something together, I don’t know what they did but they will give birth to this event on October 25th to 27th 2013. It’s an event designed to bring bloggers together and from what I've read on the website it sounds like it’s going to be pretty amazing. Julian Gallo, he of Europa, is going to give a talk about self-publishing and Chiara Mazzucco, CEO and Editor-in-Chief at The Indie Chicks is also a guest speaker. 

The event is open to all and it’s free to all plus there’s alcohol, which you’ll probably have to buy yourself although you know, if it were me, I would just drink the mini bar dry and then charge it to Blogger Interactive. What do you need, a written invitation? Go on, go to Texas, go to the convention, meet everyone, get drunk, get up on stage, dance naked on the bar, tips some cows over if you feel the need – sorry, flashbacks there.

If it ends up like the photo below, you'll know you've had a good time. Just avoid the vodka cranberry drinks.

And that’s it, that’s all I’ve got tonight. I felt like doing a bit of writing and this was the result – it was okay right, it could have been worse - oh believe me it could have been.

Now I’ve got to put all those damn links and pictures in!!