Depression – my lifelong companion

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We all have acquaintances. A mere handful of them can maybe be considered as friends. As for the rest they are what I refer to as ‘fair-weather’ friends, people who while professing genuine friendship towards you, cannot be relied on to sense that all you really need is a shoulder to cry on and a real hug from time to time, two of the things a life long depressive like myself constantly craves, together with actually sitting down talking to people, face to face.

Apart from a brief eighteen month period back in the middle sixties, I have always lived alone. The fact that my mother and father never showed any recognisable sign of love towards each other or me come to that, probably has a lot to do with it.

Not once while they were alive did I ever see them so much as hold hands. Nor kiss or a hug each other. It was as if being demonstrative towards one another was somehow a crime, something I still fail to understood to this day. Take it from me, when you grow up without love as I have you crave the love and companionship of another human being on a daily basis.

Is it any wonder that as I get older, I write to keep myself from giving up on life itself? Not that I’m brave enough. If you will pardon the bad pun, the dead giveaway for all of you would be if you saw no more daily posts from me, here on my blog.

I’m sorry if this post is a bit disjointed. I really hope I snap out of this mood soon. From past experience I know it normally takes a few weeks before I begin to perk up…

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Thank God!!!

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I’ve almost finished writing my latest novella The Guardian, traditional science fiction featuring an erotic love affair. By the time you read this, I will once again be busy with the last chapter. How it ends all depends on… Oh no, wait a minute. You almost had me then. I’m not telling you. You will just have to read it for yourselves to find out.

Like all of my previous books, when I reach this stage, if for no other reason than the state of my health, at long last I will be able to breath a huge sigh of relief. Why? Because unlike a lot of people, I always work at a level of intensity well beyond what is considered normal. I make no excuses. I know no other way to work. By the time the book has been published, one thing is certain. I won’t want to subject myself to my tough work regime for at least another year.10816213_776738435708326_2117558725_n

A couple of days ago the tell tale signs of exhaustion manifested themselves in their usual manner. On Monday morning I woke up with the unmistakeable taste of acid in my mouth. No not that kind of acid. I’m talking about stomach acid. Less than an hour later I was in the bathroom throwing up. Just quietly, I still feel fragile. But I must be on the mend. Today is the first time I’ve been able to keep anything down since Monday. Until last night all I could manage was an occasional sip of water and some dry bread. Consuming anything else was completely out of the question given the state of my stomach.

Why do I put myself through this each time I write a new story? Don’t ask me. Maybe there is a grain of truth in what some say about an artist suffering for his art after all. If that’s the case, is it any wonder I now restrict myself to one work each year? I need the ten to twelve month gap between each one simply to recuperate.

More later

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I tell you, it’s a wonder I’m still here

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It’s hard to believe that I was born on this day, sixty-seven years ago. With everything that life has thrown at me since that day way back in nineteen forty-eight, it’s a wonder I’m still alive to tell the following tale.

***

When I was about ten months old, I had my first encounter with danger. Fortunately for me, when they realised I was missing from my pram, my parents searched the garden and eventually found me hanging in midair above the cold dark waters of the garden pond. All that was between me and death was a bit of barbed wire which had dug itself into the fleshy pad directly below my left thumb. Dad had put the wire up once I started crawling. Maybe that episode accounts for my later adventurous nature – who knows? I’ve still got the arrowhead shaped scar on my left hand. Mum said I wasn’t crying. Apparently I was just hanging there with not a care in the world.

 1_12_05_14_1_18_00 Then when I was five I was almost drowned yet again when a large Pike dug its teeth into one of my legs and began trying to drag me into deep water, when I was collecting frogspawn in the shallows of another pond on the farm to put in a jam jar. Fortunately I had mum’s small garden fork with me. I forget why. It was a long time ago. But it’s a good job I had taken it with me. Repeatedly stabbing the monster fish with it, made it let go of my leg. Those future tadpoles were hard won I can tell you.

In the nineteen-sixties came military service during the Vietnam war, where I was badly wounded, not once but twice.The next thing that hit me between the eyes was when I lost my beautiful Mai and our four month old son John, when the suburb where we lived in northern Saigon, was wiped off the face of the Earth, thanks to friendly fire, while I was up country on patrol.

A few years later came the first of three mental break downs, followed by being thrown on the employment scrapheap when I was fifty-five, and as a result, being made homeless; meaning I was forced to sleep rough for several months. As if all of that wasn’t enough I also suffer from skin cancer, a legacy of living beneath the hole in the ozone layer in the southern hemisphere for forty-two years. Its a wonder I’m still here, and yet I am.

Given all of that, is it any wonder I resorted to my first love, books, to console myself, which led me to write my own and much later, to blog? The written word has become everything to me, no matter whether or not my books are read. Fortunately for me they are.

As for why I’m still here – I’m a stubborn cuss. I’ve had to be. Anyone with a weaker disposition would have given up the ghost years ago. Not me. Now all I have to do is survive the next three years to reach my seventieth birthday.

Child’s play

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Panic Sets In When…

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Not too many years ago when I was like everyone else, I used to visit the shops, my local pub and the corner shop, almost on a daily basis. Those carefree days are now long gone. Thanks to two mental breakdowns brought on by my constant companion, PTSD, a psychological condition I would not wish on anyone, a legacy of my time spent fighting Communism in South East Asia. If it wasn’t for my love of the written word, who knows what I… But let’s not go there.

It would be fair to say that without my internet connection, I would be completely cut off from the world beyond my front door because of my very real fear of the world outside this house. Consequently when I temporarily lose my Wifi, I tend to panic.

For the last few days, the bars that show my internet connectivity strength, slowly but surely lessened. This always happens when there is a demand on the electricity supply in this part of the world. Yesterday morning when I woke up I had totally lost the lot. While I was still half asleep, for a few minutes there panic set in until my mind began to calm down. I remembered that this had happened on two occasions during previous winters.

At some time during the night, there must have been a boost to the electricity in my area to compensate for the high demand brought on by people needing to heat their homes to stay warm. A surge in the amount of power makes my wireless router close down. Sure enough, when I went to investigate, while it showed that a signal was being sent to it, via the dedicated telephone line which connects me, I needed to reset it and its Wifi system.

Whew panic over! Connection re-established. For people like me who are totally housebound, having an internet connection is an absolute necessity, not a luxury.

Now, if only I can figure out a way of ensuring my email Inbox can become a junk mail/spam free zone.

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“Man, the novella I’m working on is so emotionally draining.”

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What we’re talking about here is one writer’s admission that whether she realises it or not, she is finally getting totally inside the heads of her characters. She is a dear friend from across the pond in the US State of Kentucky.

She said to me recently while we were chatting on Facebook, “man, the novella I’m working on is so emotionally draining.” To which I replied, “Congratulations, you are finally allowing your characters to take you over.” Meaning that in effect she has stopped trying to dictate what her characters get up to, by following a preconceived plan, to become a reporter of her character’s every move as they write the story for her.

Untill you as the writer first get to know and believe in your characters, no matter whether they are good or bad, how can you possibly expect your readers to do the same thing when they read your book? In a lot of cases these days, so many characters in books are one dimensional to the point where I have to wonder why the author of the book included them in the first place. In other words, unless you invest all of you’re time and energy in your main characters, in effect they are nothing more than peripheral to the story. The concept cannot be taught no matter what some may say. To achieve it you have to allow the story to write itself. Yes it is emotionally exhausting. That’s the way it should be for the author of any book.

My friend has finally emerged from the chrysalis stage of her career, to become the writing equivalent of a beautiful butterfly. In other words, a fully fledged writer.

I’m so proud of you Mysti Parker, so very proud. 😀 xx

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Click on Mysti’s picture to go to her Amazon page

 

 

When will I Ever Learn?

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There was a time when like most people earning a wage I did just what was required of me and no more, merely to stay employed. Then back in nineteen seventy five I secured a job as a lab technician in a leading New Zealand university. I absolutely loved being there. Barely a year had passed before I changed my attitude regarding the employee/employer relationship. Yes I was still receiving a weekly wage. But the benefits of working there changed me forever. From that day forward I have continued to give, give, give to the detriment of my sanity and wellbeing.

Back then as an emerging writer, being able to pick the brains of certain among the academics within the School of Science where I worked was an absolute godsend as far as I was concerned. In appreciation, whenever any of them wanted something from me, I gave them two hundred percent of my time and energy. Five years before I finally quit in two thousand, after twenty-five years loyal service, I was hospitalized after suffering the first of two major breakdowns. There is only so much stress an individual can cope with before your system shuts down to protect itself, and you.

In two thousand and three, I quit my job here in the UK to return to New Zealand with one aim in mind, to concentrate on writing the Science Fiction Space Opera which by then had completely taken me over. I just had to get it done! To say I was obsessed would be a major understatement. Nothing else mattered.

Why head back there? Because If I had remained here, either I must buckle down and carry on working in a dead end occupation working as a labourer on a building site in Hampshire (the only job available to me at the time), or pursue my dream. I needed the peace and tranquility that New Zealand offered, and still does…

You would have thought that the fact it almost finished me off would have slowed me down. It hasn’t. Because of the level of stress and anxiety, when I returned to the UK, I had another episode far worse than the first. This time what triggered it was the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness over the endless rejection letters each time I sought a publisher for my first novel which added to the usual stress I had become accustomed to.

Yesterday, after gathering together a raft of research material for my next novel, I began ravenously devouring the information like there was no tomorrow. Then the old familiar alarm bells rang in my head.

Ease up you idiot!

At one point I even imagined that I heard the famous line from the nineteen sixty-six song by Jerry Samuels aka Napolean XIV – “They’re coming to take me away, Ha Haa” in my mind. You would have thought that after almost sixty-seven years, I would have learned to pace myself by now. When will I ever learn? Probably never.

More fool me…

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Click On The Link Below To See The Song Being Performed

http://youtu.be/hnzHtm1jhL4

Obsessive Writers

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It has to be said. A proportion of today’s self-published writers, those who churn out six or a dozen books each year, have to be suffering from some form of desperate obsession. What other explanation can there be for their compulsive need to flood the market with poorly written books? Perhaps they honestly believe that they will gain a large readership, in which case they are deluding themselves? Who can say? If only they were OCD sufferers. Then at least their books would be well written, and would clearly show their need for order and detail.

Normal well adjusted writers, which is the vast majority of us, may publish one book each year, or perhaps every two years. We gain our faithful readership by producing well written books with a strong story, not by doing things the way the obsessive writer does.

Oh yeh clever dick – what about spelling mistakes in self-published books then? I am always finding them.

Not that old chestnut again!!!

Once again, just for you. Yes its true that spelling errors are held up by armchair critics as a reason why you should not buy a self-published book. But even mainstream produced books are hardly error free. I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but I have news for you. There is no such thing as a perfect book. There isn’t one that doesn’t have the odd spelling error. The writer of the book you are reading cannot be held responsible for a copy or line editor missing the odd one or two. All he or she can do is hand over a manuscript as error free as is possible to his/her editor. Once the editor has placed it in the hands of a publisher, it is largely out of the writer’s control.

When it comes to works originally published as paperbacks or hard covers, in a lot of cases when they are converted by mainstream publishers to gain a foothold in the eBook market, they often contain larger than normal gaps between words as well as gaps between the letters making up a word, rendering them unreadable. This practice of churning out a cheap and nasty product, does nothing to enhance an author’s reputation. Sadly it is becoming more prevalent as the major publishing houses look to the growing eBook market.

As writers, once we have a story in our heads, its true that we do become obsessed up to a point with getting it onto paper and/or our computer screens. But in general that is as far as our brush with obsession goes. We don’t overly concern ourselves with whether or not it will become the next best seller, unlike the obsessive writers appear to do. What the next best seller will prove to be is in the lap of the gods. There is nothing any writer, publisher, agent or editor can do to influence that, no matter how hard they may try.

Irrespective of which format is used, the mark of a good book is whether or not it is still being bought several years after it was published. Four of my six are. How about you?

 

 

Imagination and Observation

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When I was a child during the late nineteen forties into the fifties, our only family entertainment was the radio. Times where tough back then. To all intent and purpose, Britain was bankrupt and in a period of austerity. It was still recovering from the ravages and deprivations brought on by the Second World War. Food was still being rationed. No one had much money.

One thing I absolutely loved to do was imagine what the people we used to listen to on the radio each night actually looked like. Far too often my childish imaginings were way off target whenever I saw a photograph of them. When I was ten, we finally got our first black and white television after we had emigrated to New Zealand in 1958. My favourite childhood activity of imagining what people looked like faded into the distance for me, or did it?

For all of us the difference in the post war standard of living between New Zealand and here in Britain was startling. For the first time in their lives my parents had spare money left over each payday. Compared to what they had to put up with in Britain, New Zealand was, and still is, a paradise.

Apart from playing outside, climbing trees, making friends with the Jersey cow named Gwen that gave us and the owner of the orchard we had moved to and his family, fresh milk each day, plus making tree huts out of whatever was at hand, my main passion for reading, instilled into me by my parents from the age of four, meant that I still liked to imagine what a character, or characters, in the particular book I was reading at the time looked like. Even today at sixty-six, whenever I read any book I find myself creating a mental image of what those characters may look like, or at least how I would like them to look that is.

When I write a book, I conjour up mental images of my characters in my quest to get to know them intimately. Plus, having created that mental image, it makes it easier for me to work out what physical attributes to give them along with the various mental and emotional traits which are necessary for the reader to also imagine them. As their creator, you will soon find out which characters you like and which you loath. Yes, even we writers don’t necessarily like every character we create. In that regard, people in books are really no different from people we all encounter during our lifetimes.

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Continuing the twin themes of this post we now move on to observation. I don’t know about you but I like to observe people. Doing so is just another tool that I use when creating my characters.

Here’s a challenge for you. Could you pick out the writer from a crowd of people in the street? What does a writer look like? Is there anything about their physical makeup that says writer to you?

In my own case, if I managed to conquer my fear of what lies beyond my front door for a moment and left the safety of this house to head into town, chances are that because of the way I look folk would either ignore me, or having briefly observed me, simply pass me off as a dishevelled down and out and cross the road to avoid me. In their wildest imaginings it is safe to say that not one of them would make the connection between the individual they saw before them and the successful mid list writer that I have become. Why? Because most people are far too quick to judge others by the way they look, often making completely incorrect assumptions. Everyone makes snap decisions about others…

If writers were easily recognisable, we would lose our anonimity and to a large extent our privacy. If your are passionate about writing, the last thing you need is to be constantly interrupted. From my personal point of view, there is a lot to be said for looking dishevelled. It doesn’t mean that I am someone to be avoided at all costs, far from it. I’m comfortable with who I am. You should be too…

A reclusive life

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Whether we live in a loving family environment, or lead a solitary existance is all down to circumstance. In my own case these days I exist hidden away from society and the world, behind securely locked front and back doors. Why? Because like countless others across the planet, life has dealt me more than one cruel blow during my lifetime.

When I was nineteen I was deliriously happy, married for a brief eighteen months to a beautiful Montagnard girl named Mai, who I met in a bar in Saigon. When we wed in a magical Buddhist ceremony, Mai was seventeen and I was eighteen. We later had a sweet baby boy – John. Without going into gruesome details, suffice it to say that because of a cruel act of war, both Mai and John were killed by friendly fire, while I was on patrol up country. John was just four months old at the time.

From that terrible day until this, I simply could never allow myself to grow emotionally attached to another human being. Call it pathetically stupid, or self-protection if you like. Whatever you want to call it, I have lived the solitary life of a recluse ever since. Some people find someone else and are happy. I’ve never been able to do so again.

The next blow came in 2005 when I was physically beaten up in broad daylight outside my local corner shop in full view of people on the street and in the shop by a bunch of young thugs from the Council Estate close to where I live. Being an older man with a distinctive limp, who at the time exhibited all the signs of someone who was still suffering from a complete mental breakdown, from which I gradually emerged six months earlier, by that I mean I could never look someone in the eye, let alone hold a conversation! If anyone called out to me, either I froze, or I began shaking uncontrollably. Given all of the aforementioned, I made an easy target for them. What really galled me is that at no time did any of the onlookers come to my aid.

These days I am resigned to my solitary, almost monk like existance. I had two friends in this my home town, the Boswell brothers, Jamie and Duncan. I don’t easily trust people as I once did, but they were the exception to my set of rules, designed to keep me safe. Both brothers are fine genuine human beings I am proud to call my friends. Sadly they had to move.

I still wear my wedding ring in memory of what might have been had Mai and John lived. Meanwhile I keep the world at large at arm’s length for the sake of my sanity. Add to all I’ve said a body peppered with outbreaks of skin cancer. Tendonitis in the feet (very painful), worsening eyesight, and apart from that I’m fine…