Saturday, 26 March 2011

Past/Present, Hand Written/Typed and Good News

As always this update is some more thoughts that I have had about writing and the experiences I have had with it. Also at the end is just an update of how promotion of book one is going.
When writing I often think about all the information that has been written over thousands and thousands of year and it makes my head feel like it's going to explode.
I marvel that these writings have survived so long. So many things that have been written have been given such a long life that is far beyond that of a human. I guess it was because the words contained power to captivate people, protected and mass produced, or that they were just lucky to have survived wars and disasters where others didn’t.
This makes me think of the Great Library at
Alexandria. What a wealth of knowledge it must have contained and it was burned to the ground by a simple accident created by Julius Caesar (see good old wiki for more info). I wonder what life would have be like if we still had that wealth of information. We would have such a greater understanding of the peoples of that time and those who lived before. It is a tragedy that it was lost.
This lesson from history shows that writing is both fragile and powerful.

I love that because of writing we know so much and can learn so much. The power is in the fact that it gives us the ability to understand life, people and ourselves. Then even more than that it can give us enjoyment and make us smile or cry and reproduce the amazing array of emotions that make us human. These are a few reasons I feel words and the ability to write and read should be treasured and encouraged more.
In the present we have such a wonderful wealth of technology that allows us to store information and protect it. Imagine if the great library had been able to put all its information on a hard-drive to back it up, we would most likely still have it. Then again all it takes is to hit that delete button by mistake and it's all gone. I guess it is all part of that “power and fragility” concept. Ultimately one of the great things about technology is that it increases the safety of our work.
I am so glad that I am able to back up everything I write. I think my heart would stop if I lost the file that contained my books and I think everyone understands that feeling. I'm sure you have accidentally forgotten to save a document or your computer has crashed and you lose what you were working on. It's just such a horrible feeling. That's why I am so thankful for the wondrous age we live in and the ability to back up our work. It's great how it is so easy and how this increases the chances that what we write will survive time.
I wonder if in a thousand years someone will read something you have written. They may be working through an assignment for their history class, or for a hobby, or as research into their family history. They will see what you have written as an individual and imagine who you were as a person. They will see how we as a race used the technology we had. They will learn from it and see how we lived our lives and read what we have done all because we recorded it in writing. If that isn’t evidence for the power of writing then I don’t know what is.
Hand Written/Typed
Continuing the theme about technology I want to discuss a few things about the method of writing I have used. As mentioned in a previous blog update I typed the first book about an hour a day because of how screens hurt my eyes. With the second book I decided to hand write it as this would not hurt my eyes (hand writing book two was finished at the end of summer 2010). After this I hoped to have help from someone and for them to type it up as I read it out to them. I was helped for a while by my friend David Swanson and we worked through the first couple of chapters. I am grateful for his help but unfortunately having to travel to meet up made it difficult and on top of that book one editing and marketing took over. This left book two being put on the shelf for a while.
Recently I have had the urge to write book two onto the computer so it would be safe and ready to be printed. I wondered how it was all going to work. Typing up the hand written version was taking longer than before and it was pretty painful because of having to read the words from the pages, then type them and lastly double check it on the computer. I tried to figure out another way and didn't want to burden anyone else by asking for help.
The solution came recently when my step dad reminded me that my blackberry can hold word documents and that they can be edited. This is another reason I am so grateful for technology. I can Use my blackberry to type it out and for some reason it hurts my eyes less. Whatever the reason for this I am just so grateful because I have been writing up book two using my blackberry and use it to write this blog as well.
I think about this situation and how I would probably have always used computers to write my books if it wasn't for my limitations. I find myself being grateful that it has turned out this way because there is something organic and inherently beautiful about writing with a pen. It is nice to write the symbols that represent the words that we use to communicate with. Even though sometimes I can hardly spell them, but I am trying to improve and again technology has helped me because of spelling checks.
Because of all this I think I will hand write all my books, then type them up on my blackberry and then edit it on the laptop. It just works best that way and I get the best of both styles of writing.

Good News
The marketing of book one is moving forward slowly, but is moving forward :). I have been in touch with local newspapers and they have agreed to look over what I have done and hopefully if they write an article it will bring some badly needed publicity. Only time will tell and I will keep you posted.
Finally I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has brought a copy of the book and thank you to those who are telling people about it.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Extract of Love

This update is me finally giving you a look at some of my book.
I'm not sure why I haven't done this sooner. This blog is about writing and the main thing I have written is my book so I feel it’s about time I shared some.
The idea to share some of my book came to me because recently I have been thinking a lot about the emotion of love. Love is an emotion that fascinates me as it is something that causes such a vast amount of actions from different people. Some of those actions are beautiful but some are pretty disturbing. I guess the negative ones stem more from obsession than love but maybe for some people they are the same thing, it all depends on perspective but I won’t get into a debate about it here.
I've recently been thinking about love in my personal life and how it relates to my writing and I have decided to take something from my book that deals a little with this emotion and I hope you enjoy it.
This extract is very important to me but before telling you why I will give you a brief summary of my book so you understand the context, then the extract will be given and then why it's important to me.
The book is a journal called 'The Journal of Fire.' It is the first of 6 books that make up the series called 'The Chronicles of Elementary.' The writer of the journal and main character is called Dragatu. He is a triplet and his other two brothers are called Unilus and Phoenon.
This extract is from chapter 4 and Dragatu is beginning to fall in love. The problem he faces here is that he is not good at articulating his feelings and after some teasing his brothers help him write something to give to the girl in an attempt to impress her.
So here it is.
  “Perception has often been the fuel to change a person’s existence, the opening of the eyes to something never seen before, and see something you always knew was possible, but never had considered.
  This was revealed in a single instant and I was blinded by a revelation that turns a seed unknown into a rose fully understood, but what to do with that rose?
  Give it to you with chance of reciprocation? Or hide it under glass for fear of rejection?
  How did the seed turn into this rose? What circumstance led to this moment?
  It was a humble parting moment and regular event. Yet that parting smile, the feelings I felt as I left you standing there. I have never seen you so radiant, so unique, so perfect.
  At that moment I realised I would do anything to make you happy, as I had known you were when you were with me.
  The perception had changed and I saw all the time we spent together, and all I had ever done since we met, was for you. I had done it as more than a friend.
  To see all this in a single moment cannot be described.
  I came to realise a simple truth. That you are the only exception, the only star at night, and that this fact remains when all dies, I love you.
  Yet what to do with this enlightenment? What to tell you? What to say?
  I had never known such fear. I who had faced beasts three times my size and been victorious.
  I know I had discovered in you a treasure far beyond riches or power, I had become the richest man with fewest possessions, but my conscious has made a coward of me. Is the risk too high?
  I never want to lose your friendship, and I fear what I feel could be a rift between us.
  Would you return my love?
  The hope in me cannot understand why you could not love me. I am a man of strength, of power and of honour. I would dedicate every breath to seeing you smile and laugh.
  How could you not want this?
  You who are gifted with a love more powerful than most would surely understand, but this love was previously burned. I hate how you were hurt so much. How I wish I could take that pain away from you.
  I have tried my best to relieve your agony by making you smile and laugh, but even suffering from such pain I could see your strength and capability to love. Please don't close your heart because of this experience. Just learn to position your love towards someone who will always be there for you.
  Someone who understands your feelings, who has, and will be there for you as long as you need him. Who loves your secret desire to be comforted? Even though you are so strong and hide this side of you behind a mask.
  Someone who loves your desire to achieve and be successful, and would encourage you to be the best at everything you do.
  Someone who would dance with you forever, holding you close to shelter you from any storm.
  Someone who comprehends your space and time, to acknowledge and appreciate when you need your own, but would always let you have his when you required it.
  I could be that someone, but if not, find him, be happy. I love you.”

An interesting secret, that will no longer be a secret after this, is that I wrote this before any idea of the book had come into my mind. It has been changed a little to make it work for the story but this was a typical 'Steven' attempt to understand his own emotions, from a real situation in life, through writing.
It was an important part of my life to have written about, which I guess is the point. Moments that involve such strong emotions such as love, hate, anger, despair, joy, fear etc are important to remember and in my opinion should be record in some form so we can learn from the experiences.
This is so important when it comes to writing stories. I love to observe and learn from the world around me but there is nothing that can beat experiencing the broad spectrum of lives circumstances and emotions for yourself. In the context of story writing it just allows you to write better characters if you understand what they are going through.
Hopefully all the experiences in my life allow me to write situations and characters that you can empathise with and I also hope you will see a little of yourself in some of them, or what they go through.
I just hope you enjoyed the extract and it should give you a small peek into the world I have created and hopefully will make you want to discover more.
(for any guys, yes I am being stereotypical and sexist, that read this there is a lot of action in the book too
J love for some reason was just on my mind recently)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Gratitude to all who help me fight the solitude

As I have written my blog updates I have noticed that they have become quite personal. I never really had an idea of what I wanted this blog to be, obviously it was meant to be about writing, but part of me wanted to keep it away from personal things. I realise now that I was very naïve because writing is personal, no matter what form, it will have some personal aspect to it. It was inevitable that I would be as honest as I could about everything that has happened with this project and I am glad it has evolved this way.

I have also noticed that I am writing as if I am some kind of motivational speaker. I am not. I just want you to see what I have learned from my experiences and hope that something I say may inspire, educate, entertain or interest you or someone else. Maybe it is arrogant of me to think that but I know that one person can make a huge difference in the life of someone else, so why not me with my cheesy smile, good heart and desire for everyone to be happy.

How do I know one person can make a huge difference in the life of another?
Because so many people have made such a difference in my life and helped me move my writing forward.

This is the point of todays update. To say thank you and acknowledge the greatness of those people I have met over the years and who have helped me with my writing.

Like everyone I have had those moments when you feel completely alone. I could expand on this but we have all have had these moments so I know you understand. The fact however is that no one is alone unless they choose to be. This world is full of amazing people and I have been fortunate enough to have met so many of them in the brief 23 years I have been alive. There have been so many people who have helped me overcome that feeling of being alone and I am about to either embarrass or boost the egos of a lot of those people. But I need to do this to let people know I am so grateful for their love, support and uniqueness. 

Before I start naming names I want to share a few of my beliefs about myself.

I used to think of myself as a mirror. This was because I felt I reflected peoples personalities. When I was with certain people I would behave a certain way depending on who I was with. Sometimes these behaviours were very different because people are very different. I used to wonder who I actually was because all I seemed to do was reflect who other people were. It always meant I could make friends no matter where I was because even though I had my core beliefs a lot of my behaviours, the ones that had little consequence, could be adapted to who ever I was with. I used to wonder if I had any backbone or integrity because I changed so easily and I wondered which part of all those behaviours was me. I now know they all are part of me and I guess I’m more like a sponge.

Recently I have been thinking about this more because of my writing. When I write my stories the characters can be very similar to parts of my personality, or be very different, or remind me of a friend. I then realised I can write characters that are so varied in personality because I have absorbed the personality traits of those I have spent time with over the course of my life. Hence all the behaviours are part of me.

I now realise that I am more like a sponge or even like a plant taking in sunlight. I like the plant simile because people do give of a kind of light, some brighter than others, and I have taken those parts of their light and used it to give me knowledge about people and behaviours. I can use the things they have learned, or ways they tackle the troubles of life for myself, or for characters of a story if I wish. This knowledge has been paramount for my writing and for the way I view life as a whole.
I guess I am grateful for this ability because it has allowed me to do what I have done with my writing and has helped me learn so much from the people around me.

So here we go. Time to start naming and shaming. I have decided to write every name from my facebook page and also as many as I can remember from my life. I’m not sure why I want to do this, but it will be good to see that list written down.
(I would recommend doing the same thing if you ever have false thoughts of being alone, because having now compiled the list my eyes have been opened to how many people I actually know and how long it takes to write them all down).

After this list I will thank those who have helped with specific aspects of my writing, but please know each person I have ever met has had an impact on my writing. You are all apart of this journey by the fact I have met you, learned from you, and in lesser or greater ways loved you.

(There are a lot of names here and so feel free to skip to the more interesting stuff).

Fred Smith, Bruce Rodgers, Eoina Rodgers, George Stewart and family, Garrett Prather, Neil and Julie Beveridge, My American Mommy Lesli Askew and family, Lisa Dendy, Ryan Wark and family, Jenifer Proctor, Cheryl White and family, Hannah Neil, Richard Wills, Emma Somers, Linda Clark, Diane Quell, Sarah Mauro, Kathleen McGeoghan, Angela Crawley, Cat Tippett, Sean Clayton, Jenny Mattisson, Siobhan Higgins, Ruth Bowler, Adam Preece, Abi Carey and family, Jill Kennedy, Alan Duncan, David Clark and family, Matthew Sneddon and family, Stephen Batchen, Tom Granger and family, Neil Campbell, Alison Dibble, Allan Freed and family, Andrew Duke, Iain Banks and family, Andrew Pollard, Andy Mcdonald, Angela Bews, Anna Manajeva, Callum Mcneish and family, Arlene Fraser and family, Stephen Kerr and family, Benjamin Esiana, David Cleland and family, Tom McKenna and family, Colin Partington and family, Bryan Quinn and family, Calder Niven, Calum Gibson, Caroline Sansome and family, Catherine Murray, Teachers from school, Adam Brown, John and Mary Mckenzie and family, Phil and Karen Reid and family, Norman and Esther Brown and family, Penny and Andrew Casey and Family, Andrew and Maureen McCormack and family, Thomas Irvine and family, James Liddle, Catriona Wood, Claire Cristie, Conor Kay, Emma Currie and family, Conor Muirhead, Corey Milne, Danielle Kelly, Bill Easton, Daryl Golding and family, Dave Goss, David Swanson, Derick Willis, Devin Goodwin, Dominika Powwojska, Donovan Oliver, Elaine Morrison, Sammy, Sadie and Joy Mitchell, Eammon Brereton and family, Emma Couper, Fernando Quintiliani, Carlo Pazzani and family, Fraser Kirk, Garrett Smith, Gary Paton, Gillian Carins, Graeme Butchart, Graham MacDougall and Anne MacDougall, Gigja Bjornsson, Hayley Nettleton, Heather Peterson, Ian Buzzard, Jacob Longstaff, Ian and Janet Miller and Family, Jake Mulford, Jamie Thompson, Jared Linekar, Jennifer Manson, Jo Peek, Johanna Stalker, Jonathan Shenton, Anne Perry, John Walker and family, Julia McMurray, Justin Whitehead, Kerry Blyth, Kirsty Fowler, Kylie Beveridge and family, Laura Scott, Lewis Gunn, Linda Mitchell and family, Lori McCann, Chris Brown, Chris Boyd, Louise Edgar, Hilary Bowler, Louise Heatley, Luke Scrivens, Lyle Borders, Mark Blennerhassett, Mark Walker, Elisabeth Dybdhal, Martin Black and family, MJ, Maureen Mcintyre, Mauro D’Ottavio, Megan Calderwood, Nate Ross, Nikki Goffin, Nyree Bell, Philip Reilly, Rachel Wakeford, Red O’Flanagan, Rhiannon Page, Samantha Drummond, Michael Seddon, Reece Throop, Richard McConkie, Rob Senior, Mhairi Archibald, Rob Roy and Family, James Melvine, Roddy Kirk, Roisin Cowans, Ron Peacock, Rory Macleod, Ross Thompson, Samantha and Campbell Brander, Jacqueline Fisher, Sarah MacLennan, Graeme Mcdonald, Graeme McDougall, Graeme Robb, Ewan Bell, Steve Pryor and family, Simon Beveridge, Stacie Allan, Jill Wylie, Joanne Kennedy, Jason North and Family, Steven Warby, Murdoch Family, Trevor Chadwick, Veronica Mcgowan, Vicki Mckay, Will Grant, Will Whitehead, Zena Ambrose and family.
People who I can only remember the first name. (sorry)
Gregory, Adonas, Ryan, Batica, Lyndsey, John, Dany, Moose, Colin, Declan, Jason, Alex, Wes, Ewan, Alban, Stephen, Graeham, Roslyn, Catherine, Judith, Stephanie, Nima, Jenna, Jenny, Debbie, Matt, Diane, Andy, Neil, there are more but I am losing patience lol.

The Guscott Family, Moxey Family, Weir Family, Webb Family and Pratt Family.

As a result of doing this I may have missed names and if so I’m sorry. Therefore thanks to all those who I have shared good times with from Schools, Summer Camp, Church activities etc. I am sorry I can’t remember your names due of the limitations of my memory. The memories and faces are there and maybe the first name, but not the full name. Sorry.

Individual thanks to the following

Fred Smith.
You have been such an amazing friend. You have kept me level headed when times were hard. You have been a rock and very few people have any idea of just how great you are. Also you have supplied the Ben and Jerrys ice cream (the only reason I’m your friend) so thank you.
Also thank you for the front cover of my book. You have no idea how amazing it is to see the vision of what I wanted my cover to look like come to life because of your skills. I owe you so much for this and hopefully will be able to repay you for this in the future.

Bruce Rodgers
You too have been an amazing friend. We have had such fun times over the years and your belief in me and willingness to help me with my dream is touching. Your ideas have been so helpful. Thank you for buying the first two printed hard copies of my book. I don’t know what the future holds but I have a feeling you will have a big part in helping me be successful I guess only time will tell. I also hope to be able to repay you.

Eoina Rodgers, Garrett Prather and George Stewart
You were the first three people to finish my book and give me a detailed amount of feedback. Thank you for believing in me and taking the time to read it. In a way you three have become my proof readers. I cannot wait to finish the second book and send it to you.
Eoina. Thank you for being the first person to buy a hard copy from the internet and for all your kind words of encouragement that have brought tears to my eyes.
George. Thank you for your wisdom, advice and faith in me.
Garrett. Thank you for your support, detailed feedback and objectivity.

Cheryl White
Thank you for encouraging me to write this blog. Thank you for supporting me and helping me move my dreams forward by using some of your contacts to help me. Thank you for the chats and laughs. Thank you for your own motivated personality. It is great to see someone who is such a fighter in the face of so much responsibility.
Thank you for always being right lol. 

Thank you to everyone who has bought the ebook.
Thank you to those who have bought the hard copy.
The fact you are willing to invest money and time in my dream fills me with feelings of humility and gratitude far greater than written or spoken words can express.

To all my family, thank you. Thank you for your support during difficult times. Thank you for listening to me harp on and on about my book. I hope one day to repay you for your patience. Thank you for your love and support.

Thank you to all my friends over the years. I have shared such amazing experiences with so many people and I am thankful to each person both close and a far.
From those friends I had in Riseley, Northampton, Bonar Bridge, Dornach, Alness, Invergordon and surrounding areas, Stirling and surrounding areas and to all those I have met who live elsewhere in the world. I will see you all again one day. Thank you.

To those who I have lost. I value the memories we share.

There is so much I wish I could say to so many. What I have said in this update will have to suffice. I just hope you all know that my success is your success. My failures are my learning experiences and no matter what is said and done I am grateful to all of you who help me fight the solitude and who have influenced me, and therefore influenced my writing.
Thank You.
Oh and Thank You for reading my blog.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Strengths and Weaknesses

It has been said that courage and fear go hand in hand. You cannot be courageous if you have no fear.

This blog will be similar to last weeks in the fact that it will give you more of an understanding of who I am as a person but more importantly how it relates to my writing.

As I watch the world around me and observe my own behaviour and the behaviour of others I am always fascinated by many things.

One thing that fascinates me is the diversity of people. Everyone is an individual with their own genetics, environment and ability to choose. The uniqueness of every individual is incredible. I love this fact for many reasons but also because it relates to writing. This is because as you write you can shape the things in your own web of circumstances. Then you can dictate the actions and reactions of the character because of their own environment, genetics and ability to choose.

Observing these things it is very clear that humans, whether real or fictitious, have strengths and weaknesses that are influenced by the three things mentioned.

As always I will indulge in my own experiences and as I write it will be clear why I am discussing this topic. Just like last week I must go back to my childhood and youth, but this time I will keep it brief. First of all I must make a bold statement that is the premise for this blog.

I suck, (excuse the colloquialism), at spelling, grammar and punctuation.

As far back as I can remember everything I ever wrote at school had statements, in various forms, telling me I had to improve my spelling, grammar and punctuation. Did I listen to these statements? I was far too distracted and pretty lazy when it came to that sort of thing, so no. I always passed essays and exams, who knows how, and that was enough for me. Even at university I got through my course despite these weaknesses.

…As I write I am starting to think this may not have been the best thing to write about when I desire to have a career in writing, but my justification and explanation is about to follow and this will hopefully keep you on my side…

I finished the first draft and began editing my book. One word comes to mind, “Humiliation!”
So many errors and so many mistakes, it was embarrassing. I think I read through it seven times and still mistakes get highlighted even now. I don’t envy my editor if ever I get one. A couple of times I wondered if I should pack it in. I could save a lot of embarrassment from when people highlighted my errors. And I admit at times I was scared of people’s opinions.

So why did I not just accept I was poor at this and just stick to my plans to go back to university to become a primary school teacher.

I like a challenge, that’s why. But more importantly it was my strengths that kept me going.

I completely believe that what I am writing about is really good. And so far opinions from those who have read it, and those who have left comments on the Facebook page for ‘The Chronicles of Elementary,’ seem to be the same. The ideas and concepts and how they fit together really excite me. It gives me that drive and belief I discussed in the last blog update. Add this to the fact that I know what’s coming in the other books, and especially the last of the six, I am very very confident. I must admit it is sometimes hard for me to contain my excitement. But I try hard not to get ahead of myself because if people don’t enjoy the first book etc they will never get to the sixth and then it becomes pointless.

The strengths of the ideas and concepts kept me going, and despite my weaknesses, I pushed on with my work. The great thing about weaknesses is that they can be improved.

I have learned so much since writing. Granted the technical stuff I should have learned at primary school, but it’s never too late to learn and grow. Furthermore there are other things I have learned from these weaknesses, I guess you can call them life skills. These were learned because of the experience and could not have been learned at primary school.

I am currently writing up book two and I can already see a Grand Canyon size improvement in my abilities to write. It is very encouraging to see this improvement.
I am so glad that somewhere in my genetics, environment and choice making I have, or have learned, the ability to see my weaknesses objectively, understand them and then improve them. Because of this my writing, and my life, will only improve with time and that is a happy thought to have.

The great thing is that the examples highlighted by my own weaknesses and strengths in writing can relate to everything a person does in life, whether a job, family life or a hobby. We all have things we are good at and we should be proud of those things. Then we all have things we maybe aren’t good at and can improve if we choose to.

It takes courage to overcome the thoughts of being embarrassed and the fear of failure. No one likes to feel weak or be told they are bad at something, but sometimes we just have to understand our limits, be objective and to “know thy self.” When you overcome those fears you will realise that you have no limits and your potential is like the numerical figure pi. You will then be able to feel the enjoyment that comes from progression, where otherwise you would remain in the same place treading water.

Have enjoyment and belief in your strength.
Have courage and objectivity in your weakness.

Foot note: 02/09/2016

I can't believe it was five and a half years ago. I don't think I've come as far as I thought I would, but I've learned that maintaining who we are is actually just as important as trying to become who we want to be. It all depends on the stresses, pressures, levers and circumstance we face. A lot of them could easily swallow us whole or break us. Therefore, maintenance and patience comes before naive perspective of success.