Friday, 23 February 2018

Watch the Skies

Watch the skies.

Sky watching is something that I've always done. Fascinated with what lies beyond our own, meagre existence, I've spent hours with my eyes turned heavenwards in the hopes that the questions that roll through my mind will one day be answered.

And spread across the velvety night, things have appeared. Stars, satellites, aircraft, and a few objects that were never identified. The red star that faded to away. The clouds that had been punctured by something other than mere weather. The flicker of light that was neither plane nor satellite. The metallic orb that lazily drifted across the heavens only to disappear in the blink of an eye. The pair of lights that spent three nights dancing above my house.

My fascination with the skies started young. I found myself immersed in the world of the extraterrestrial from the time that I was able to wield a library card. Books that would be classed as out of my reading range were sneaked in to the house and hidden under pillows and behind toys. There was that burning desire to know whether we were alone in the universe and what, if anything, was visiting us.

The stories that were told in those early books were full of fascination, wonder and, to some degree, a little bit of terror. They spoke of incidents that had happened many years before my birth and had photographs of crafts that were supposedly from other worlds.

As I hit my teenage years, I lapped up episodes of the X-Files and signed up to SETI. In more recent years, I've come in to contact with people who, like myself, are also searching for answers but keeping a healthy sense of scepticism in their lives (it's good to ask questions but don't fall too far down the rabbit hole). One of them treated me to a care package from Roswell and it's no accident that I named my fledgling publishing company Roswell Publishing.

A few years ago, I wanted to go back to a prominent time in UFO lore. During World War II, mysterious balls of light were seen flying alongside fighter aircraft. This didn't just happen once; it happened numerous times and, for me, is one of our biggest UFO incidents. The balls of light appeared to be under intelligent control and were believed to be either St Elmo's fire or one of the German army's many wonder weapons. Yet there is very little information on the subject and what literature there is has been buried because the term that was given to these balls of light was lifted from a book and used.

Foo fighters.

I wonder how many articles begin with a variation of that paragraph?!

Tweaked search terms yielded some results. But, sooner or later, you'd hit a brick wall and find yourself reading about the band. It was frustrating and eventually I found myself going down a different road, one that I never imagined that I'd take.

My bookshelves are now lined with books on UFOlogy and my iPad has apps to help me identify aircraft and satellites. Every night I still go outside and take a look at the sky above me.

I did write a book in the end. It just happens to be about Foo Fighters, the band and not foo fighters, the aerial phenomenon. It'll be out later this year.

Maybe, just maybe, this is where the path that I started walking when I was six years old was supposed to take me...

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Time That I Tried to Buy a Nuclear Bunker

Let's talk about the mania part of bipolar. It's interesting and, at times, can be useful. I've written entire books while in the throes of a manic period. Once harnessed, it can be a force for good, and a ride that you don't particularly want to get off of.

Then there's the really crazy times. I know people who've blown through money with nothing to show at the end of it. Or who have gotten themselves into life threatening situations. Thankfully I'm still here to tell the tale but there was the time that I tried to buy a nuclear bunker. You didn't misread that.

I tried to buy a nuclear bunker.

They're not hard to get hold of if you have buckets of cash and live in certain parts of the world. The issue is that I don't have buckets of cash, nor do I have the right to buy property in places like the US (and the other issue is that I have no right to remain there, which kind of defeats the object of such a lavish purchase).

But you can't tell that to a manic brain. As far as it's concerned, it can have whatever it wants and the consequences will be dealt with later. Why did it want a nuclear bunker? Why not? It was one of the many supposedly rational things that my brain told me that I needed.

Please laugh. Because I do. I'd end up in hospital if I didn't laugh at some of the completely ridiculous things that surround the bipolar.

The mania can be amazing. But it also comes with its downsides. Like the aches and pains as it wears off. There's no concrete reasoning for them and theories range from the body tensing up during the period to lack of sleep caused by an ever active brain to the body dumping the excess chemicals that it's created during that period. All I know is that it hurts. And you don't want to do a damn thing during it.

Mania can feel like this!
Anxiety is another side effect. Crippling, uncontrollable and unfounded anxiety. Because of my reluctance to take any medication (I'll be off them 3 years this year) I have to rely on talking myself out of it, reasoning, or using natural over the counter products (Bach's Rescue Remedy is a saviour during these times). But the anxiety is something that can last for months with no rhyme or reason to it, causing untold anguish and additional physical pain.

But I'm blessed. Blessed to have family and friends who will go out of their way to make sure that everything's okay and to talk me into situations that are entirely safe but, to my brain, are life or death events. I know that not everyone has such a support system so we need to look out for one another. We need to take care of each other and make sure that everyone has a place to feel safe and supported. Please don't go through it alone.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Very Merry Christmas

Christmas has rolled around once more. Where have the past twelve months gone?! It only feels like yesterday when we were all hanging decorations, writing cards, and wrapping gifts for Christmas 2016.

2017 has been a strange year, one of ups and downs. Things that we thought would happen haven't come to fruition while some far off dreams have become reality. Some of us are still battling to get to where we want to be while friends and family have far surpassed their dreams and are heading for the stars. We sit and watch them, smiling as they achieve all that their hearts desire.

Amid it all, we've watched as the world has changed beyond our dreams and nightmares. Political powers have risen and are battling it out with one another, putting our safety at risk. Companies have fallen because of corrupt and unethical ways. New ways of living are being developed and we find ourselves staring at the beginning of a new, technological revolution.

What will 2018 bring? More of the same instability? Or something a little more settled? The past three or four years have felt as though we've been in a snowglobe that is randomly picked up and shaken. None of us know where we're going to land nor what is going to happen next. We just hold on and hope that whatever is coming will be better, happier, and bring peace to the world around us. The pain for many people has been unimaginable and the hardships tougher than anything we could have dreamed off. In the end, we have to believe that maybe these events are occurring in order to teach us something about ourselves and the world that we live in.
What kind of world do we want? Do we want one where the power is in the hands of a few unstable and megalomanic people? Or one where worry doesn't perpetually live in our hearts?

This Christmas may be harder for some people because of the impact that the world is having on them. They may not feel like being around people, nor be in a particularly festive mood. They may be tired, or just feeling the strain of the past year. If there's someone you think of over the festive period, drop the message, even to just say hello.

Hopefully 2018 will see us in a much better place. Hopefully the wrongs will right themselves and the rights will become reality. Whatever you're doing over the coming days, may your days be merry and bright and may your 2018 be filled with all the joys that you wish for!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

What Makes a Fan?

Photo: Sarah:

What makes a fan? Is it someone who spends thousands of pounds a year on their favourite band and goes to see twenty shows? Or is it someone who never sees a live show yet quietly appreciates an artist? Is it someone who is actively involved in a band's fandoms? Or someone who sits somewhere in the middle, never really participating but wanting to be a part of it all the same?

There's no definite answer to what makes a fan, nor should there be. As anyone who loves an artist knows, circumstances differ from one person to the next. Some people have the energy and resources to spend several weeks following a band. For others, anxiety, lack of money, or their location may stop them from attending live shows.

Photo: Bantam10

One of the reasons that I wrote the fan book was to explore the sense of community that springs up around bands. From the local guys playing bars on a Saturday night to the bands hammering away at sold out stadium shows, someone, somewhere will love what they do. And the communities that spring up around them are incredibly important. Not just for sharing news but for the support that they bring to those who reside within them. Support that includes shoulders to lean on during the tougher times of life as well as love and laughter for when things are going well.

People gravitate towards these communities for a variety of reasons, and the internet has made it far easier for us to find those who resonate with us no matter what our circumstances. Our own, local, communities may hold nothing for us and finding a support network can be hard at the best of times. The internet allows us to remain anonymous while also building up friendships with those who share our interests and passions.

As for the communities that surround the Foo Fighters, a quick search of somewhere like Facebook throws up a myriad of meeting areas from the large Foo Family groups to smaller, more niche ones which focus on everything from hotel shares to dating to news pages. All of them are interconnected, not just physically by the people who are in them but also by their love of the same band. It's a world that can, on one hand seem very tiny but, on the other, feel as though it goes on forever. And, like any community, it's moving from being an online village to a sprawling digital city with an ever-growing population.

For me, I found a home among the Foos community. At the time, it was a home that I didn't realise that I needed, nor wanted, and from which I'd constantly try and leave. But it was one that drew me in, one that was filled with the kind of fun, laughter, and love that I'd spent a good deal of time looking for. And, while I might not be the most active, or most talkative, of members I still enjoy the company and camaraderie of those that I meet. In an age where the internet can bring about a great deal of loneliness, these pockets of music fans have proved that they can also be a haven for those who are seeking a place to call home.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Waves of Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from?

It's one of those questions that so many people ask themselves. Inspiration is a strange creature, one that comes and goes in the depths of the night or the wee hours of the morning. A sudden flicker of an image can spark an entire novel. The sound of a long forgotten song can trigger a wave of frenzied creativity.

Inspiration is all around us. From the brilliantly bright colours of autumn to the dull moments when we allow our mind to drift off to unseen worlds. Catching that inspiration doesn't take any kind of knack. There's no tricks to finding it. The only thing you need to engage are your senses.

Look around yourself. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What's sitting beneath your fingers?

What do you have hanging on your walls? What do you see out of the window? What does the sky look like?

All are questions that we can ask ourselves in the eternal question for that (sometimes) elusive spark of inspiration. In those moments of darkness when nothing seems possible, it can be a simple questions which triggers the outpouring of words on to paper, or art on to canvas, or music on to tape.

For me, it's photographs that get my creative juices flowing. I can spend hours searching through archives for that one perfect image that will help me to express what I want to say. Social media, Imgur, Getty Images, Shutterstock, and a host of other sites can transport you to anywhere in the world (or off it) and to any kind of situation require. It's like piecing together a giant puzzle, one that will eventually tell a story.

For others, music does the trick. Scanning through liner notes, hearing the crackle of a needle against a record, or taking in the smell of a used record store can trigger what they need in order to delve in to the depths of their minds and retrieve the emotions that they need to create.

For those of us who are currently experiencing winter, inspiration can be hard to find. The long nights and the cold, sometimes sunless, days can drain an energy that we have. Yet it's important to continue creating, even when we don't feel up to it. Creativity is a way to push through some of the more sombre, and often depressing, feelings that we encounter during winter. Losing yourself in another world, even for a few moments, can help to alleviate cold, dark months.

Whatever you use to inspire you, use it well. Spread it around like glitter and make the world a better place one piece of art at a time.

If you're stuck for inspiration, please feel free to visit my page. There you'll find posts that will hopefully help you to find the spark of creativity that you need.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Watching the #MeToo campaign over the past few weeks has been painful. Seeing the stories of sexual harassment from so many other people makes you realise that you're not alone in this world and just how widespread the issue is.

#MeToo was started over ten years ago by actress Tarana Burke and has gained traction in the past month due to the ongoing confessions of celebrities who've been attacked or assaulted. Those two words have spread like wildfire, opening a can of worms that no one thought existed.

Except that we, deep down, we knew that the unopened can was there. We knew that buried deep within the confines of every industry there's a black hole of sexual assaults, rapes, and misogynistic behaviour. For so long we've chosen not to speak its name for fear of being ridiculed, shamed, or fired. We've feared for our lives, our families, and our security. Speaking out doesn't pay the bills. Staying silent does.

#MeToo – I've been followed through towns and cities more times than I can count.

#MeToo – I had a stalker for 6 years. He would travel hundreds of miles to stand outside my house and follow me. Wouldn't take no for an answer. The police didn't want to know until he hurt me. Yet if I lashed out at him I'd be the one getting arrested. My family eventually had to tell him that I was dead in order to get him to leave me alone.

#MeToo – The man who insisted on grabbing me every day on my way to work. The police took me seriously and the man was arrested.

#MeToo – The complete stranger who grabbed and choked me at a concert.

#MeToo – I was drugged and raped when I was 19.

There are so many people who are hurting right now. There are so many people who are still scared to step forward. Wherever you are, don't be afraid. Everyone is here for you. They will support you and love you and hold your pain. They will be there for you during your darkest moments. They will encourage you to step forward and tell your story. They will walk with you through whatever comes next. We are there for one another. We have to be because without an army of brave women and men nothing will change.

The time for change has come. This change has been brewing for many years and it's now time to storm the castle and drag these people from their ivory towers to face the justice that's long been denied to the victims. For so long they've threatened to blacklist and finish those that they've abused, using the power that they know they wield in order to keep the victims quiet.

No more. This can no longer happen. It's time for that power to be removed from them and returned to those who've lived through decades of pain. It's time for them to fear for all that they've accumulated through intimidation and threats. It's time for changes to sweep through these industries and for transparency and morals to take over. It's time for the climate of fear to become a climate of hope. No more should anyone have to fear for their security, life, or family because they were wronged by someone else.

Stand strong, my friends, for you are helping others to do the same. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloween Fiction - Brandy's Battle

Brandy Snaps stared at the glowing screen of her phone. It cast the only light in her neatly decorated apartment, the glow harsh and blue. Every now and then, she tapped a painted fingernail against the plastic screen and either accepted or rejected one of the many requests that she received every day.

As her name implied, Brandy was a woman of the night. With her long bleached hair and narrow waist, she was the plaything that many desired. Yet those who wanted her never got her. Instead, they paid by the month to leer at her through their own electronic devices, sending her lewd comments whenever she dared to bare herself on their screens.

The lights in her apartment were out for a very good reason for even ladies of the night had their fears. Everything from losing their looks to their lives ran through their heads and Brandy was no exception.

She'd been a good girl. Raised by a God-fearing family in Iowa, like many other young women, she'd been lured to Hollywood by the promise of fame and fortune. She'd tried to keep her morals, scared that the slightest violation would send her to Hell. The fear of disappointing her parents had also snapped at her heels, their gentle judgement and her mother's soft words forever burned in to her psyche.

But the casting couch had called even for the tiniest of parts. Did she want to be Background Girl Number Three? Then she'd best pay her dues on her knees or back. She'd shamefully lost her virginity to a sleazoid director in a dirty motel room somewhere in the valley in return for a walk on part in pilot that had never aired. From there it had been a slippery slope until she had realised that there was more money in taking her clothes off for a global audience.

The time on her phone flicked closer to 1am and Brandy felt her body tighten. She sat with her back to the lounge window. The blinds were drawn against the sight of the street below. But it was still there, lingering like an old memory.

On the street outside her building sat an old air raid siren. Left over from the days of World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War, the mustard coloured cake shaped device peered in to her window from the top of a tall pole. The sirens had long since been decommissioned, modern technology having given the authorities an easier, and quicker, way to contact people if an emergency were to sweep the area.

Brandy remembered the night with the same clarity as one remembers every significant event in their lives. She had been sitting on the same, grey couch and staring at the screen of her phone. Every few hours another request had come in, begging her to take her clothes off and bare her body, and her soul, to the anonymous user at the other end. The numbers in her account had confirmed the lack of popularity in her life; she had just a handful of users watching her and making the rent was a struggle. Other bills were rapidly begin to form a snow drift on her otherwise spotless dining table.

“I'll do anything,” she'd murmured. “Anything to get out of this fuckin' hell hole.”


The voice had entered her brain like a lightening bolt. She had looked around herself as she'd tried to determine where the voice had come from.

Finally, she'd replied, “Anything.”

In that case, go to bed and I shall take care of the rest.

She had done as the voice had instructed. The following morning, Brandy had woken to find that her account had several hundred more followers and that the money her videos had earned was enough to pay the rent and the bills.

That had been a month previously and, since then, her popularity had only grown. Her bank account was comfortably in the black and there was money for luxuries as well as the essentials. A few days after the voice's appearance, she'd received the first call from a casting agent in many months. They'd offered a speaking role in an established TV drama and, no, she didn't have to spread her legs to get it.

It had started the night after the voice had spoken to her. The road she lived on was, thankfully, fairly quiet. Her neighbours rarely made noise and parties were events that happened in other neighbourhoods. So her interest had been piqued when she had heard a click and a whirr.

The sound had been low at first, rasping and asthmatic before it wound up in to a high pitched whine. Brandy had slid to the floor, cowering in a corner as the noise had risen and fallen. The windows of her apartment had rattled and her hearing had dulled as the sound screamed around the neighbourhood.

As the noise had finally died away, Brandy had struggled to her feet and made for the window. Opening the blind, she had scanned the darkened street for anything that could have caused the spine-tingling whine. Yet there had been nothing.

Unable to settle and with the high-pitched sound still ringing in her ears, Brandy had gone to bed. Sleep hadn't come easily and Brandy had found herself playing over the previous days. She questioned where the voice had come from and who it belonged to. Where had her new subscribers come from? It had been months since she had contacted her agency so who was bringing in the offers of film and television work? And what had caused the sound that echoed around her skull?

Her phone didn't stop ringing or beeping with offers of work or new people signing up to her site. Each day had been the miracle she'd asked for. Yet every night brought the haunting whine that sent Brandy cowering for the corner farthest from the window.

She'd asked the neighbours about the sound yet none of them had heard. In the end, she had resorted to the internet and a post on social media had informed Brandy that she was hearing the sound of a long dead air raid siren. Sirens that had been disconnected from the power supply many, many years before.

Desperate to find answers, Brandy had called everyone she could think of; the police, the fire department, and the local government. All of them had said the same thing. That the ageing air raid siren outside of her apartment was no longer capable of sounding. She had begged them to remove it but they had citied budget cuts as the reason for it remaining in place.

And every night, at 1am, the siren began to toll its painful, mournful sound, a warning that something unpleasant was going to happen.

Brandy's phone changed to 1am and she closed her eyes. Sliding down the couch, she pressed her hands over her ears as the now familiar click and whirr started. Slowly the sound began to grow, aching through her gut as it reached its pitch before it fell and began the cycle again.

You can't escape, Brandy.

“I can,” she hissed. “I can escape. I've got the money. I'm getting the fuck outta here and somewhere better. I don't care where. Anywhere but here!”

You can't. You can never escape.

She dropped her hands from her ears and bawled, “Who the fuck are you?!”

Why don't you take a look?

Brandy tossed the phone to one side and scrambled onto the couch. Yanking the blind up, she peered in to the dark street. The siren screamed from across the road, its shadow seeming longer and darker than on previous nights. Beside the pole was another shadow, one that appeared to be cut from the black skies above the city. Brandy could make out slender arms and legs that were attached to an equally skinny body. Mist or smoke, Brandy couldn't tell, seemed to radiate from the shadow and seep out in to the street. When it lifted its head, she found herself looking into a pair of blazing red eyes.

She screamed and pushed herself away from the window. Landing heavily on the floor, Brandy scrambled across the room. Her mind was whirling as she pulled herself to her feet and grabbed for her purse. She reached the door that would give her the freedom she craved only to watch it melt into the wall and become nothing.

You can't escape, Brandy. You're mine now.


For more information on LA's current air raid sirens, please visit: