Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Cheer up and Walk it Off - Chronic Illness

Been struggling a little with motivation of late. I thought I'd post an overdue treatise on the joys and sorrows of schizophrenic affective disorder, but this time on chronic pain, too. Because it's not a competition, is it? Equal rights for illness! *Fist pump*

First up, it's always been a bugbear of mine - depression et al are just cameo players in the daytime tv show of your life who you can just write out of the script. No, they are not. They're recurring characters, relations of the producers who in a terrifying display of the power of nepotism force you to let them have roles in your life from walk-ons to major roles.

Mine's a shithead. I don't like the downs, I don't like the (less now) paranoid spells, I don't enjoy the anhedonia...that's kind of the fucking point of anhedonia, isn't it? I don't enjoy the irritable restlessness of spiders crawling beneath my skin, or of their tender little webs brushing my skin.

Chronic pain, though...that shit gets anyone down, doesn't it? I don't think there are many people in the world who enjoy being in pain all day, every day. I find it quite and quietly depressing. I say quietly because we don't grumble, do we? It hurts every day, so it's not like you can walk around all day saying 'ooch', and 'I can't do that because I'm in pain'...so we try to say things like 'ah, it's not so bad', or we try to be honest with ourselves (I do) as to how bad it is, and if I can manage something.

I have arthritis, which is the major player. My wife's convinced I've got fibromyalgia, too. Fibromyalgia translated to 'muscular and fibrous connective tissue pains'. Bit of a shit definition, isn't it? Whether I've got it or not, some days I can't stand up straight, can't sleep, haven't got the energy to walk five metres from my study to the kitchen. I get restless legs, so can't sleep. It feeds into a low mood, low energy, so it's a cycle.

I don't mind taking my crazy pills. It doesn't worry me. I take anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers, and anti-depressants, the ocassional one for anxiety. Now I take painkillers everyday. I'm not worried about that, either. If you're ill and something helps, take it. Why not? People worry about being addicted to painkillers. Fuck that. I'd rather be addicted to painkillers than a glutton for punishment. Pain's a rubbish addiction.

So, walk it off? Cheer up? No. I won't. I can't. No one can. Sure, you can do things to help yourself, but that's so shallow, isn't it? If you're so low you can't get up off the floor, literally, you're not about to go out for a jog. If you're in so much pain you can't concentrate, you're not about to take up a healthy hobby like painting landscapes.

I haven't got any answers for anyone. I can't fix me, I can't fix you. I write these posts though so that you might understand you are not alone. Others struggle. You're not weak if you're still alive and you have any form of chronic illness. You're a badass, with your walker, your painkillers, your fatigue. The fact you do anything at all is heroic.

Love you. x


Monday, 30 December 2019

On the 12th Day of December My True Love Gave me a Really Shit Present

It's the 30th. BJ has had the PM slot since the 12th December.

Here's what's happening:

Tory supporters who have done nothing useful have been given seats in Lords, cementing Tory strength there.

Britain First have joined the Tory party. Britain first threaten violence to any who speak out against the Conservative government.

Priti Patel will end free movement of people. Could be granted sentencing powers under proposals drawn up by advisor to the Kings and Queens Dominic Cummings.

Iain Duncan Smith to receive a knighthood. The politician responsible for 'Universal Credit', which is putting millions in further poverty and killing people.

The government 'accidentally' publishes the addresses of 1,000 New Year's honours recipients. Says it will investigate itself.

Priti Patel blames poverty on poor people. Again.

Anti-Semitic signs seen around London.

 

Widespread flooding, during which the PM goes on holiday to the Caribbean.

Johnson bans his ministers from taking part in some interviews and press meetings.

The government realises we don't have enough qualified people to do our jobs after making higher education to the elite. Offers fast track process to professionals, so that they can be demonised, shunned, and face slurs and violence as hate crimes against immigrants rise.

Hate speech, far right groups and presence on social media increases with attacks and threats against PoC, Muslims, Jews, and LGBTQ+ people.

The NHS is clearly for sale. Documents released show the NHS is available in trade negotiations with the US.

The UK looks to the US for trade partnership in failing European relations.

'We must make immigrants know that the UK is not their home' - the Tory party, paraphrased, from various statements.

Protections for children of immigrants separated from their parents removed.

Talk of banning the ability to strike. Public assembly (protests) already regulated.

Police use batons and beat anti-facist protestors bloody in London.

Tory's promise new nurses, promises to keep old nurses, admit it won't happen.

The Sun and other right leaning news sources ramp up rhetoric blaming the left for anti-semitism, racism, poverty, crime, in a continue assault on impartiality. Evidenced further by the Telegraph, otherwise called the Tory-graph, reporting only that BJ got a bike for Christmas.

In positive news, a large movement to identify bias news sources is on the rise. Control of the sources of information is paramount to the ruling party, as seen by the massive bias in the lead-up to the general election.

I'm not impartial, obviously. I don't have to be. I'm not the 'news'.

Love you.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

A Decade as a Writer in Review

A decade is quite a long time, isn't it? A bit different to a yearly progress update. I'll try to keep it short. I never feel like I've done enough, but looked at over a longer period...I don't know. We'll see.

'Til 2010 I'd been writing for about four or five years at this point. Printing out thousands of pages to send to agents, posting them. I don't know how much I spent on that process, but I got nowhere until I finally put myself out there (figuratively - I have Always Lived in the Shed).

Beginning

In 2011, my first novel, 'Rain', was published. It's third edition now.


I wrote this in a freezing cold shed, no heater, power run from the back of the house. I lost all my old acceptance and rejection letters to damp in that shed.

In a further attempt to get out and about (I am actually mostly a shut in, so I don't get to very many conventions or signings) I started this blog in 2012, joined FB, and later I joined Twitter (when I was feeling a little braver). The things that have made a difference, for me? A publication history, definitely. Being polite, without doubt. Being 'out and about', i.e. having some form of presence in the world - I think so. Otherwise, nobody knows you, nobody knows your work. You're writing in a vacuum, which is what I was doing before 2011. Only allowing myself to take a chance and face rejection turned it around from 'unpublished' author to 'published'.

Since then I've published 50 novels or so as a 'hybrid' author, which is what I've settled on being, and what I'm comfortable being - it basically means I self-publish some, and traditionally/legacy publish some. I'm happy with that situation. Anything I feel would best go out on my own I don't submit to agents or publishers in the first place. I don't submit anywhere near as often as I used to, either, and that suits me, too. The process is time consuming and the writing has long been the reason I do this, not the money...thankfully.

Financially? It's not a winner. It's pocket money, or as an accountant called it 'hobby money'. I make maybe 1/100th of a living doing this. I'm fine with that, thought obviously I'd be a little more fine if that were a slightly higher fraction!

I've published 100 or so short stories and four short story collection. I got paid varying amounts for around 40 of those, professional rates for some of the horror, and sold my first science fiction story at a professional rate only this year. For those who think short stories are a waste of time - I don't. I love short stories, and novellas, and between novellas and short stories I've probably earned roughly what I have from novels. (Well, excluding one novel, 'Vigil', from which I earned a fair amount and got an Amazon #1 bestseller, but that was honestly a fluke I haven't repeated).


Middle

Life, of course, happens in between. At the start of the decade two of my children were only babies, and honestly, babies were hard work. In the middle I lost my father after his long battle with frontal lobe dementia. Toward the end my wife and I home schooled our children for two years. I constantly battle with the ebb and flow of schizophrenic affective disorder. The one constant I keep coming back to, though, and the thing that's always helped me get through, is writing.

I started out the decade writing fantasy and horror. I've drawn a line under fantasy and finished a septology. I've no intention of writing any more fantasy. I started writing some science fiction toward the end of the decade and I've published three so far, with more written and on the way under my sci-fi psuedonym 'Craig Robert Saunders'. I still write horror, and still enjoy it. I don't write comedy anymore. I wrote a few funny books, but that's not me, either. I've settled on horror and science fiction and I'm happy doing that. Hush, one I independently published, actually sold quite well.


I've been published traditionally by some publishers I really wanted (DarkFuse and Thunderstorm Books) and seen off a few publishers too (DarkFuse...). I've met other writers whose company I've enjoyed at the rare conventions I have been to. I've had some wonderful endorsements from writers whose work I admire, notable Andy Remic (my favourite), Bill Hussey, Allan Leverone, Michael McBride, William Meikle, and many more who were kind enough to give up their time for a novel of mine.

End

I'm not fancy. I still write in a shed. I've got brick walls now but it's still a bare wooden roof. It's a damn sight warmer, though, and more comfortable. I'm happy in my shed. No sense in having a million-dollar view for someone who stares at a computer screen all day. In 2020, I'm going to StokerCon. Hopefully I'll see some people I met at F-Con for a tipple. That's something to look forward (also, to panic about for a few months...).

Next year, and decade should I make it (that's further than I usually plan ahead) I just hope to keep writing, and keep finishing stories to put out. I'm not a big city author. Firmly small time, but some people do buy my stories, and read them which is kind of the point, isn't it? Looked at over ten years, it's good enough for now.

Thanks for being around. Love you.

End of Year Round-up 2019

I have to look back over what I've done/not done this year. I can't really remember. I've been a little obsessed with Nazis (oh, okay, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, whatever). It's how I'm built - firstly, hating Nazis. Secondly, I've always been a man who needs an obsession. I can't sit around and do nothing. It doesn't suit.

So, work? Hmm...

I got my first professional short story sale - 'Taking the Nine to the Last Shop' with the podcast/online publisher Cast of Wonders. That was nice.

I put out two science fiction novels as Craig Robert Saunders - 'Hush' and 'Field of Heroes' (with Severed Press). The mighty Andy Remic wrote a lovely endorsement for that one, 'A powerhouse of action and war reminiscent of Iain M.Banks.' That's my two happies.

'Red Ice Run' came out from Grand Mal Press, a viking/gangster mash-up that Ryan C. Thomas and I wrote. It's a second edition, too. The first edition was from Thunderstorm Books.

I nearly finished 'It Always Rains when the Circus Comes to Town' which will go to Thunderstorm for a yeah or a nay early in the new year.

I wrote 'Black Planet' and 'Battle Station Ruin'. Both are at a publishers under consideration at the moment. They're science fiction.

I did some more, but honestly I've left this a little late in the year for me and I'm worn thin, so I'm going to read some stories and put my feet up 'til I've got a little more energy again.

I'm not a spring chicken you know.

Love you.




Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists (and oh so much more...)

I started at the top, now I'm going to the bottom. The veritable arse end of facist movements.

The Fist

Easy to put it this way, isn't it? Steve Bannon's there, with his education and his razorsharp wit. But, we talk about the ground movements of white supremacy, facists and so on and we mock and minimise it. Contrast just your average Aryan Brotherhood guy with '88' tattooed on his forehead. You see a meme on Twitter. Some overweight guy with a monobrow. 'These guys think they're the supreme race?' He must be a fucking idiot, and so on.

No. Don't make that mistake. Please, do not. Don't get me wrong. This is scary shit. Looking like a dick doesn't mean they're not a danger, though.


Thankfully, someone in the meme generating population gets what I think, too. Ten idiots can still kill you, and a damn sight easier than one alone.

The myriad, nay legion, of 'far right' ground movements are the fists at the end of the arms. These fists, however, are perfectly able to think for themselves. Not all, maybe. Their thoughts and beliefs are wrong, dangerous and a threat to the rights to life and liberty, obviously. Are they misguided? Fuck off. Who cares if they're brainwashed? Just because someone tells you something, you can still think for yourself. You're an adult. These people aren't automatons. They're responsible. They chose their 'ideology'. They aren't innocent bystanders accidentally kicking in a Muslim with their oddly-laced steel toe-capped boots, or a lynching a black man in a field.

But any less dangerous because they are 'just fists' with 1488 tattooed on scarred knuckles? Nope. Are the leaders of each of these often disparate groups unintelligent thugs? Some, sure. But not all, and in many instances charismatic, quick, and literally able to quote elements of Mein Kampf verbatim, like others might be able to quote verse and passage of the Bible or the Quran.

Here's a short anecdote. I was 18 and I hiked a lift from Wales to the East of England. Just so happens a bone fide Neo-Nazi picked me up. I was 18 years old. I didn't realise this until he started practically singing 'I Love Hitler' at me. I got out on the motorway (highway) and took my chances elsewhere. Oh, they're real. I've met them.

It's a driven mind (perhaps only in straight line, but unerringly so) but if you imagine someone you know who is an absolute legend, a geek, even, who can build a PC from the ground up and tell you where you're getting a bottleneck on your motherboard because the RAM and the GPU really aren't hitting it off you might understand the specific intellect of your average 'grunt'. Imagine anyone who is passionate about something, willing to do violence because of it, and backed up by a bloody great big gang.

The Reach

It's scary. People aren't afraid of Steve Bannon as a person, met on the street, and it's easy for 'intellectuals' to overlook this. People are rightly afraid of the fucking nutcase they might meet on a city street.

I'm cheeky, too, aren't I? Here I am, all Mr. Rogers. 'Today, we're talking about Neo-Nazis, kids!' I'm approaching this from a 'Neo-Nazi' angle, but dropping in Nazi, facist, racist, anti-semitist, islamophobic, white supremacist and more into the mix. The truth, despite the eye-catching title of this blog post, is that it is a vast network with tentacles all throughout the world. Not just as some might think is it a group of skinheads in a dingy pub drinking German pale ale and throwing out Nazi salutes. That's looking at this from the view of a movie you saw once and it's a view that's too small by far. These people are in jobs. They are in your office. They are editors at newspapers, they work in PR, they drive your train, they sit next to you in your coffee shop. They are in every aspect of life, all walks. People say you walk past a murderer in your life, and probably more than once. You walk past a member, collaborator or sympathiser with one of these groups far more often. And yes, sometimes they're one and the same.

This fucking guy, though.


This is Stephen Miller, who as editor of the right wing media machine 'Breitbart' sent hundreds of right wing hate emails to a colleague. He's the advisor to the President of the United States.

To cover this topic and do it justice would be Wikipedia, Louis Theroux, a decade of research, and three thousand academics from the ADL wearing kevlar level impossible. Not only that, though. It's ongoing, evolvent. A tumour that's not happily run its course that we can just cut it out and move right along. This is a blog post. Look it up. Seriously, please. Look it up. You want horror? It's there for you.

Who have we heard of in the national news in this country alone, the UK? The National Front, sure. The English Defence League (EDL, Tommy Robinson and the like. Katie fucking Hopkins but she's a party of one). Maybe we've heard of the Proud Boys. We've heard the term 'Neo-Nazi'. That's one term the BBC hasn't managed to whitewash out of existence.

In this country alone there are perhaps a dozen active groups - others I haven't heard of without a doubt. In the USA this figure is double, maybe quadruple, maybe more. Bear in mind for any number of populace though there will be a commensurate number of arseholes and the population of the US is larger than the UK. In England, though, we've all heard of the British National Front. The NF, most often, but are they alone? Not a chance.

The Signs

The EDL is currently in no-man's land. Column 88 were around but are disbanded (far as I know...), but I mention them because of the '88' a tattoo commonly seen on Neo-Nazis. The '8' represents the 8th letter of the alphabet (H) and so stands for 'HH'...Heil Hitler. See also Combat 18. The 1, therefore, stands for 'A' (1, Adolf, 8, Hitler). Combat 18, by the way, and their North American counterparts, are the first white supremacist paramilitary group to be classed as terrorists...not everywhere (Canada, certainly, I'm not sure of everywhere else)...and not until this year.

Are the majority of these groups classified as terrorist? Don't make me laugh. No, please. I feel a little sick looking into this today as it is.

White supremacists, facists, neonazi groups/gangs/organisations love a bit of numerology. '14' is a common example, too. The 14 refers to '14 words', a little bit of dogma you can look up.

Note the use of symbols and numerology in tattoos, flags and written material. I'm assuming the 'Page 48' conspiracy surrounding Dominic Cummings and the Tory party manifesto which allegedly refers back to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution at the rise of the Reich is a stretch...but I'm not discounting anything. I'm just watching, same as I hope many others are.

The ADL has a great and unfortunately growing database of hate symbols, tattoos, signs, numbers and more on their website. The ADL, if you didn't know (and I'm not trying to teach anyone to suck eggs) is the Anti-Defamation League.

Link: https://www.adl.org/hate-symbols

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is exhaustive, or that the ADL is gospel. Same as my only 'advice' - research, educate, consider. I'm not the gospel, either. I'm not even a cog in a huge wheel. I'm nothing more than a writer trying to do something good in the small way he is able.

The Punch

I don't want to spread unnecessary fear. Maybe that's why reporting is very minor - that's not something I think, but wish. Is this problem, in fact, 'minor'. In weight of numbers? Weighed against the majority of people, who mostly just want to exist? These movements are nothing. Minor, though? It's malignant. It's not minor. It's not a disgruntled employee keying the boss' Lexus.

The far right groups are terror organisations. They are dangerous and violent. The EDL were planning on blowing up a mosque. That's kind of grist to the terrorist mill, isn't it? In the US bombers and mass shooters have had links and interest in far right groups. But let's be frank, eh? It's not just mosques or synagogues, oh no. Some of these called themselves 'Christian'...they burn churches, too. Some call themself Socialists. Like they've never killed the odd politician with a little limp to the left? My arse.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_neo-Nazi_organizations

You should also be aware that this is far from a comprehensive list here on Wikipedia, and that I'm not listing specific incidents as such in this blog post because there are too many.

The Taunt

Words are pointless? Are they? Is it pointless that someone as tiny and insignificant speaks out about this, no matter how small and alone my own reach is?

Ask yourself this. Here's a question of Newtonian simplicity for you.

How dangerous is normalising hate speech? Far right dog whistles? White power signs?

This is the head telling the fist it's okay to lash out. When Kellyanne Conway flashes a white power hand symbol at a press conference it is telling the white power and facist and neo-Nazi organisations that the Government of what they see as their land is on their side. Bullshit? Fuck no. This is how dangerous these signs, tattoos, hand symbols, and the transmission, submerged, often, of what on the face of it is a simple and innocuous statement.

But whether afraid or not, this is about being informed. When the propaganda machine tells you to call anti-facist demonstrators 'Antifa' it's disingenuous. Sounds a bit terrorist, doesn't it? Antifa, right? They probably come from the Republic of ISIS.* They are a response to these groups and their long, long reach. Those arms of theirs can more than punch down. They reach up, too, don't they? A fist must receive direction from somewhere. It must receive the okay to strike.

Terrorists engender fear. ISIS, Combat 18? These are terrorist organisations with an agenda and a will to do harm and strike fear into people, whoever those people might be.

The Counter

'Antifa' is a bullshit slur, a sly misnomer and a media slight of hand. They are Anti-Facists. They are fighting facists. They are opposite.

I'm a knob, sure, but let's return to Newton because I like being a knob. F=ma. It's force equals mass times acceleration, but you might have heard it expressed otherwise. It means, more simplified, this:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

If there are facists, there are anti-facists, and thank Baby fucking Jesus and all his Christmas reindeers for that.

In my extremely humble opinion, fighting facism should be the absolute minimum human state. Once upon a time people didn't have to state that they were anti-facists. Remember those halcyon days? I do. Others remember a time when the entire world was at war because of it. I'm paranoid, I look too wide and imagine too large, perhaps. I really hope I do. I promise you, nothing would please me more should every word I write be fiction.

That's me being a knob in part, and trying my best for the rest, out. Happy Christmas? Not really. I'm quite possibly as unhappy with all this shit as I sincerely hope you are. Consider this my gift to you in the season of love or whatever this is.

Love you. x

*Republic of ISIS. There isn't one of those, sorry. Physics, though. If there ever is? A 'Republic of Facists' has to follow. My one hope is that if that happens, a Republic of Anti-Facists will be there as a counterweight on a scale. F=ma.