Another crack of the whip…


That’s a bit of shit title in fairness. *Quick Google*

“Crack the whip”: An expression for using one’s authority to urge subordinates to work harder or behave better

So it doesn’t really fit does it? Unless I assume my brain is the subordinate, or my motivation, or self-discipline perhaps. Take your pick. The point I am trying to make is that I’ve been here before, trying to resurrect my writing mojo so many times that its become a bit of a joke.

What’s kicked it off this time? A few things, but chiefly, events in my life have forced some inward reflection on what really matters. I won’t bore you with the details of what my introspection revealed other than to say materialism seems to be a constant and vacuous part of my life. Such thoughts push one to want to change and grasp those things that mean something, create memories, affect oneself and those around us. One quick and easy way I have found that shines a brilliant light on areas of my life that are quite possibly a bit pointless, is to look closely at the outgoings from my bank. I have no mortgage, and yet £800 a month leaves my bank that is not connected to any necessary household bill, food (of which I mean food for the family) or fuel. £800 is attached to various subscriptions, gadgets, toys, or takeaways. That’s a lot of money. A quick scroll back through my banking app reveals that this is a near constant monthly expenditure with variations of plus or minus £100. I tested this by going through each transaction and asking myself if I really needed to spend that, and worryingly the answer was no.

This made me wonder if I could live on a significantly lower income, and if so, could that mean I could drop hours at work or even go part-time? It’s a reasonable assumption but the reality is, probably not. There is a saying in my family I’ve come to accept and believe. It something like “no mon, no fun.” Basically, no money = no fun.

I know I could live on significantly less. I know it. But would I enjoy it? Well, I’d have to find a completely different way of living. I’d have to give up a lot of things I spend money on now. A very quick search of my spending history shows that my top two expenditures are on takeaways/alcohol (family/friends/socialising) and then gadgets/toys – bits for my computer, my motorcycle, clothes. I spend a lot on other people too, at least a few hundred each month and I think that stems from not really caring a great deal about money. Sounds easy to say, and if I’m honest I probably only feel that way because I have money to spare and don’t miss it. I’m pretty sure I would feel different if I was on a lower income and struggling to put food on the table or fuel in the car.

Another constant and reoccurring feeling is that I never joined the army, or any of the forces. I think I believed that was my path from when I was barely old enough to understand what the army was, right up until I was in my twenties and received a fateful letter. That letter informed me I was not eligible on medical grounds. I can recite every word of that letter. To this day I wish I’d appealed, but instead I got on with life. I went for uniform, perhaps stupidly thinking it would be the same existence as one might hope for in the military, and joined the ambulance service. Anyone who has worked in the ambulance service will tell you that of the three services (fire, police, ambulance), the ambulance is perhaps the furthest from any semblance of military life. The sheer lack of discipline make those who decide to join more akin to pirates of the road. I enjoyed my time with them anyway and made some good friends, so its not all bad.

What’s the point of all this? Well, I love writing. I’d love to do it more often and very occasionally I have a real crack at it. At my peak I was cranking out two or three short stories a month and even had some small success in selling them. It is, to me, extremely enjoyable. I love to try and write the stories that I want to read. Unfortunately, I have a full time job and (happily) a family and so my time is limited. I’ve often wondered if I can go part-time and therefore spend more time reading and writing, but the reality is that I don’t think I could. Sure, I might enjoy it for a while, but I’d soon miss all those comforts I obviously take for granted now. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it will just remain a hobby forever and I’ll never write my Legend, as David Gemmell did, coincidentally becoming one himself, I might add.

That will do for tonight anyway, or knowing me, this year, if my output on here is anything to go by.

Let me know your thoughts on this if you can spare a few minutes and jot a few sentences. I know I’m not the only one with aspirations to write and no time to do it.

Love to you all,

M.

Bitten again.


The so-called writing bug found me again last night and bit deep so that this morning I woke with an unquenchable desire to have another crack at writing my own stuff.

A few years ago, when I was keen on it, I had some limited success. I went through the stage that many who aspire to write go through and penned story after story, in countless different genres and sent them all into the aether. I lived through the waiting as though it were torture, the waiting to hear if a submission had been accepted. Eventually, I learned that hearing nothing is normal and, to get a response, particularly a personal response, was the next best thing to an acceptance. After what felt like years, the responses started to appear in my inbox. Not too long after that, they became more frequent. At the height of my “success”, I was receiving as many as two personalised rejections a month. If you’ve never tried to get your stories out there, for someone else to like your stuff and want to publish it, you just won’t understand what joy even a personalised “no” can bring.

“Thank you for your submission, Mark. We enjoyed the story but we don’t feel that now is the right time for this particular story. Why not try again in a few months?”

“Thank you for entering the competition, Mark. Your story, Dogs with swords for tales was very well written. Your style is very accessible and we are sure that in time you will find success. Please consider us again for future submissions. We’d very much like you to consider our upcoming competition in September.”

Close but no cigar.

However, not long after that, I started to receive the odd acceptance. The editors were often with online magazines rather than actual print, but an acceptance, wherever it comes from is like heroin to a writer. Within a very short space of time, I had three of my stories accepted for publication. I think they all came in the same month if I recall.

So what happened? Life happened. Like everyone else in this world who has commitments, namely family, work, pets, social life etc., it all takes its toll. My firstborn son tipped the balance for me. He has brought immense joy, but the cost is paid for in time. To a writer, time is currency. After family, it is the single most precious thing in the world.

With that thought in mind, this morning I had read through the bits and pieces I was writing just before life intervened. I had hoped to be able to pick up where I left off but sadly I don’t think that will be possible. Writing is a craft and needs working at. There are things I’ve produced in the past that now, reading them, I can’t fathom how my mind was working or how I made the connections I did. I like a lot of what I wrote before. I like where it was going and feeling in those words. Man, finding that again is going to be hard.

There is a submission window opening in a few days for a horror anthology. I’m going to try and submit something into it. Who knows, if I bag myself another personal rejection then I’ll know I’m onto a winner.

M.

Time to Grow Up…


Well, it’s been a while but what better reason is there to come back to blogging than the birth of a son?

On August 27th, 2014 at 0324am my son, Arthur Atticus Thompson, was born by emergency caesarean section. I remember the moment vividly.

My wife had been in labour for thirty-one hours and although she had her heart set on a natural birth, it was the consultant’s decision that enough was enough and our baby was to come out whether he wanted to or not.

The wife had struggled through every minute of those thirty-one hours. Contractions began at 2am on the Monday morning. By 2pm she was in so much pain we contacted the hospital to discuss coming in. Naturally, as contractions were only about eight minutes apart at this time, the hospital staff were not keen on having us turn up. Come, they said, but if you’re not ready then we’ll send you straight home.

We live an hour’s drive from the hospital so we were always planning to start travelling in the direction of the hospital early, although we had hoped to wait until contractions got down to about 6 minutes apart. An interesting thing about the timing of contractions – I didn’t know this but the apps that you can download for your phone, the ones (and we used several) that the wife and I were using, time your contractions from the beginning of one contraction until the beginning of the next. This is not how out hospital does it. Instead, they count from the end of one contraction to beginning of the next. The wife and I were twenty hours in to her labour and we never saw her contractions get closer than eight minute apart until we discovered that little gem. As it turns out, her contractions were actually four minutes apart and had been for some time.

The midwives knew I was recording the contractions and so took my word (or the apps word) for it every time I updated them as to our progress. It was only when a student midwife walked in and commented that she thought the contractions were closer to three minutes apart that things started to get a bit exciting.

Enter the Registrar – the senior doctor on shift. The wife was assessed again and found to be only two centimetres dilated. Ideally, they like for the mother to be ten centimetres dilated and to be having three to four contractions every ten minutes. It was suggested at this time that we should go home.

I took a short break at this point and telephoned my mother-in-law to update her on the wife’s progress. My ear grew hot as her threats to murder me should we be discharged blistered my eardrum. I actually had to hold the phone away and I could still hear her. Caesarean sections, it would appear, run in the family and both mother-in-law and sister-in-law had already been through exactly what I was now seeing with my wife.

I walked back in to see the Registrar begin her discharge speech, saying how it would be beneficial and promote more rest for mother if she was at home and not taking up a bed in hospital.

The wife became frantic at this point. Whilst under the care of the hospital staff she had been on Entonox (or gas and air) constantly and the thought of being discharged without any pain relief was terrifying for her.

Now I can understand both sides of this argument. The wife is not progressing; therefore the hospital staff can do nothing. Yet, we have no pain relief out side of hospital and we live an hour away. That’s a two hour round trip if we are ejected. I did the only thing I could do which was to look stern and say nothing. I did not want to get into an argument with the staff, as doing so would mark us as ‘difficult’ and likely improve the odds of being discharged. Instead, I said nothing, looked at the registrar with my sternest ‘I disagree yet won’t voice this,’ face, and allowed my wife to seal the deal with a well-timed howl of pain. The midwives attended at once and remarked that a two hour round trip with no pain relief might be a bit harsh. Credit due, the Registrar considered her underlings opinions and then offered an epidural. This, I knew, was good news. An epidural, once given, must be monitored; hence I knew we would be staying.

An epidural is a truly horrific thing to watch. I observed the kindly anaesthetist insert a foot of metal (okay, slight exaggeration) into my wife’s spine, with a smile. To say I felt light on my feet would not do that feeling justice. I definitely swayed, not because I am unfamiliar with the procedure (I am a paramedic and see some pretty gruesome stuff), but because the wife had no say in the matter. She was either so intoxicated on gas or blinded by pain that making a decision for herself was simply not possible. The anaesthetist explained the possible side effects and risks (one of which included spinal cord damage) and asked me to sign on the dotted line. A howl of pain from my wife produced the most frantic and unintelligible signatures I have ever produced.

My God, what a drug! The pain virtually vanished after about twenty minutes and my wife was returned to me once more as one who is able to hold a conversation and is, more over, recognisable one more as my wife. Watching her cling to an Entonox cylinder, half in half out of bed, dribbling and screaming is not something I ever want to see again.

Part of having an epidural is that the patient must be monitored, or more specifically, the baby must be monitored. The wife was hooked up to a machine called a CTG, or Cardiotocogram, which allowed the staff to monitor both foetal heart rate and also the length, duration and frequency of the wife’s contractions.

It quickly became apparent that something was not quite right. The duration of my wife’s contractions were lasting up to ten minutes and rolling straight from one into another. A normal contraction might last up to a minute, sometimes two and you would normally have a little gap in between which would allow both mother and baby and chance to recover before the next assault. Small wonder then that my wife had been in so much pain for so long.

Once more the registrar was called and once more it was discovered that, despite the intense contraction activity, the wife had not dilated further than 4cm. It was some improvement but the Registrar was not happy and made the obvious decision to pass the case up the chain of brains.

Enter the Consultant, who as I said, was not messing around. Baby will be delivered tonight, she said, by c-section. Enough is enough, she said with finality and that was that. She scribbled some notes on our care record and handed over to the registrar. I go now to prep theatre, she said as she left.

It was something of a relief to be honest. We could have struggled on in the hope that my wife would dilate a little more but I think it would have been in vain and potentially dangerous for both wife and child.

Furthermore, Arthur is a big boy. I cannot imagine that my wife would have pushed him out without causing some serious undercarriage damage. Sometimes I wonder if she would have survived at all. My wife is quite petite. Perhaps then, this is nature’s way of saying that children should not have been an option for us. Arthur is an IVF baby. I wonder if the reason we were not blessed with a natural conception is because my wife would not have survived to deliver without the intervention of modern medicine. I guess we’ll never know.

To say I’m proud of my wife is not enough. I was by her side every minute and although I can never understand what she really went through, she will never understand what I went through either. To see someone you love in so much pain, to worry if they will even live, is a most sobering and terrifying experience. I may be over playing things a bit but at the time, during those long hours of listening to her cry, I can only say how it felt to me.

The wife and I have discussed our time in hospital and agree that although it was hard, we received excellent care and there will be more than a few thank you cards leaving here in the morning. The bottom line however is that we are pleased with the end result.

Arthur is worth it.

For her he is worth the three days of pain. For me he is worth the intense feelings of uncertainty and fear as she laboured so hard, struggled for so long for a natural birth that ultimately did not happen.

We love our boy very much. I may well remember every detail of the struggle to bring him into this world, from the initial IVF consultation to wanking in a cupboard, the anxiety of waiting for the test to show positive, the initial three months of hormonal imbalance, the labour, the birth, and now sleepless nights, shitty nappies and dodging projectile bowel movements but I would not change a thing.

He’s here and it’s great.

Perspective


April! That was the last time I posted about anything and you know what? I’m really not surprised.

I hold a full time job as a paramedic (Although I work as an on-call police medic), I live on a working farm and my wife is thirty weeks pregnant with our first born. Oh, and we have a fourteen week old puppy.

That’s a lot isn’t it? I read that all back to myself and I think it’s bloody loads. Too much maybe for one person to deal with but you just have to suck it up and soldier on. My wife and I always busy. Always. It never used to be this way. It used to be that she was always busy. I was never busy. My free time used to involve playing xbox or PC games. I may have watched the odd movie or perhaps even had an odd afternoon to spend doing nothing more than abusing myself in which ever way I saw fit. Not now. I don’t blame the wife. She’s just a worker, a hard worker… and she she makes me feel lazy if I’m not working too.

Oh, one more thing. Being as I live on a working farm, there is one more little thing I forgot that may actually take up a little of my time…

Harvest is coming.

 

Image

 

I small disclaimer. I don’t grow pumpkins, but I thought this was funny and illustrated my point nicely.

Okay, so we’ve established that life is busy. That’s fine. I’m not miserable. No bloody time to be! So what do I actually do with my spare time? Well, I write. I have a few pieces I’m working on that I hope will impress a few editors but you know what, that’s no easy task. Neither is typing while drinking whiskey. I do hope you’ll forgive my grammar and any other mistakes. If not, have a whiskey and you’ll understand my drivel fine.

You know what? I digress a lot. I meant to explain something insightful and in truth, I’ve completely forgotten what I meant to say. It was probably something unimportant like how things change when a baby is on the way. Something about how before I’d waste my days playing games and abusing myself but now… well things have changed. I have to prepare for First Born’s arrival. I must work, set an example, provide.

Okay, enough’s enough. I’ve often found that long posts discourage readers. Something about attention span I think, I can’t really remember because I wasn’t paying attention that day at school.

Right then, cheerio!

M 🙂

Fat Count


Another 4500 words today which would normally be cause for celebration. However there will be no such thing today. 

One of the problems with being glued to a desk all day in an effort to hit targets is that you snack. You get the munchies all the bloody time. Get a bored and there’s a bag of Smarties that will cure that. Stuck for something to say? No problem, why not have a few bags of crisps while you think about it. Celebrating because you’ve hit your word count for the day? Why not have a bottle of wine?

I’ve been steadily expanding for some time now, particularly since I broke my collarbone. Being unable to drive has meant I can’t go to the gym which as kind of bigger excuse for me to be able to say I can’t do any exercise whatsoever. 

This is not good. I can feel my lack of energy dragging me down everyday now. I’m constantly lethargic. Everything is too much effort unless it involves sitting on my fat arse and typing into a keyboard.

This will change. Starting tomorrow I’m going to try and go for a run. I’ll start small again, like I did last time and start off with a 2 kilometre run. A few months ago I had built up to 5km. I could run that every night and you know what? It felt great. 

So, tomorrow this emphasis switches from Word Count, to Fat Count. 

Wish me luck.

M 🙂

Word Count (Part 2)


Word Count, hmm, I like that. I should have called my blog that. Short, straight to the point. Like me.

Anyway this is just a very brief update. I said yesterday that i was hoping to have a 7000 word day. Well I managed 3000 which is not too bad. I’m on target anyway. Total word count now stands a little over 20K which is just lovely to look at. Lovely? I mean awesome. Come on Mark, man up. 

Right, as I said, quick update and that was it. Lets see if I can get another 3000 out today.

M.

The Sphincter of Pain


I’ve had a truly awful few days. The wife caught a sickness bug thats been doing the rounds and brought it home to share.

The problem with my wife is that when she gets ill, she really gets ill. A normal blood pressure for her, when she’s healthy, is something like 95/50 so anything that lowers that makes her hit the deck faster than a footballer in the penalty box. Something like diahorrea that literally turns your arse hole into a fountain and smells, well evil, will drop that blood pressure five points in no time. Add in vomiting and I soon have a wife who faints every time she takes a shit.

Oh you think thats bad? As it progresses she no longer has to be standing or sitting upright for her to faint. She’s the only person I’ve met who will pass out laying down. Don’t think thats bad? Well what if she’s vomiting when she passes out?

I stayed up the entire night with her, catching her when she fainted, turning her when she vomited and swapping buckets and bowls where needed.

All this with a broken arm!

I know, I know I’m a hero. But now I’ve got the bug and my ring is as raw as if I’d rolled up a sheet of sand paper and… well you get the picture.

So as Im unlikely to get anything else done, today will be another writing day. I wonder if I can have a 7000 word day?

The challenge is set. I’ll report back later with an update.

M.

A Good Day’s Work


Just a quick one to say I reached today’s target quite comfortably. I put down 4000 words which might not sound terribly much but it is. I find any distraction difficult to deal with when I’m writing and today I had the nieces over for tea and my wife was in all day. Breaks are important though and so we entertained the children with a BBQ, then went on a walk around the local area and even managed to fit in an episode of Game of Thrones. So, 4000 words is really pretty good.

Tomorrow I’ll be hoping to achieve even more. The wife will be at work leaving me on my own so there will be no excuse. Hmmm, except perhaps that I re-discovered Civilisation this morning. If you’ve never played that game then I advise you not to start. There is not better way to lose countless hours than by playing that game. If only it wasn’t so damn awesome.

Right then, a glass of wine to finish and then bed.

M 🙂

 

Word Count


3,500 words per day.

That is the bare minimum I have to lay down to stay on target. 

In my previous post I described how my beloved Bonneville met its end and how I broke my collarbone. As a result of this I have six weeks off work to recover. There is much you can do with six weeks but I have decided to use the time to complete my novel.

You should note that I spent my first week outlining and planning but I’m confident that will end up being time well spent in the long run. I like the idea of sitting down and just writing with no plan but from experience I know that this will result in thousands of words going no where. I know some people who wok this way and good luck to them. I can only think that they must already have a deep understanding of where they want their story to go before they begin.

Right, I best get back to it. This post was intended solely to get me off my arse and typing and its done that. 

I’ll update in future with a brief synopsis of what my story is about. 

M 🙂

Coming out…


… of hiding.

No, no, no. Not in that sense. Happily married ta very much.

It struck me yesterday that I’ve pretty much hidden my web presence from a great many people for too long. Yes I have a blog, a Twitter account and a Goodreads profile, but I don’t really make it very easy for people to find me. Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve really wanted to be found anyway.

You see, when I decided to embark upon this perilous writer’s journey, I did so behind closed doors. I was very much afraid that anything I wrote would be laughed at. Yet, with time, I have come to realise that I’m not half bad and in fact, I’ve had a few things published. Coincidently, if you’re interested you can find links to those pieces above. Why then should I hide?

Precisely the question I found myself wondering last night and so this morning I have linked everything to my blog. Now if I write anything at all, it will be cast far and wide for all to see. Doesn’t mean any bugger will read it but still, its a rite of passage for those who choose to tread the path of the writer. It’s an awakening, a beginning of the next chapter – a mother f*!king “Level-Up”.

So, here I sit. Level 2 – apprentice – still wannabe – writer.

Best I get to work penning something interesting then.

M 🙂