The shouting factory that is the internet is destroying me


This isn’t hard to admit, because I have had to face this fact for a very long time; I totally SUCK at social media. I get a big resounding FAIL in that department. You have to be good at SM these days in order to market your novel and your work to the world, but I have never managed to figure it out, despite trying. 

I like to think I can turn my hand to many things. Here’s a small list of things I can do:-

I can sew, cook, drive, organise events, read Latin, Spanish, Catalan, bits of Italian, I can walk long distances and climb up steep hills, I can swim, change a fuse, bake cakes, ski, snorkel and translate French into English. I can speak French pretty fluently and understand most of it, I get Economics and could probably change a tyre if I had to, BUT…….I simply DON’T KNOW HOW TO ‘DO’ SOCIAL MEDIA. 

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SELL MY BOOKS ONLINE! I don’t know how to sell anything online, and it’s making me miserable, truly miserable. 

I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I don’t understand why – with my reasonable normal set of skills and my fairly decent intelligence level, I can’t make my social media work for me. I want to sell my novels online but haven’t been able to do it. I don’t sell my books, no one buys them. Amazon did a decent job for me when I was with them. They sold 35,000 copies for me approximately. 

Back in the old days, that would have been a vast sum, and enough to make agents and other literary presses come running, but not anymore. I am not ‘Out There’. I feel like a failure. 

Anything, anyone? 










Listen to the young & be there for them

Young people are under stress these days, more stress than ever before. Their lives are so much more insecure than past decades. There are millions of statistics out there that prove this, so I won’t info-bomb you with these details. I just want to say this; the young people in your life need you and you have a duty as a parent or relative to really, really listen to them, and care for them, in whatever way you can.

I have two young ones; young adults who have struggled and who I have given my full attention to. Without this love, I know they would have gone off the rails. I was them once. I had no support. I believe I was the first generation, post World War II, who experienced the massive insecurity of joblessness, homelessness and a life journey carved up by ultra-capitalism. This road of insecurity was/is long, and nothing matters except love and support.

I was in my mid-teens when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to power. She was still in power when I left university and met homelessness and poverty bang on. I lived and breathed her market-forces non-society, which to me, is a shockingly softer version of what is at play now.

My two boys are now in their 20s and the world they inhabit is a harder world, it’s a scarier world, it’s a world that appears free of regulation but is suffocatingly oppressed; it’s a world that chants out about freedom and democracy but then smacks down rules wherever it can and seems incredibly undemocratic.

It’s a world that encourages ultra-capitalism and free market insanity, injects stress and anxiety into every waking moment, but allows no real alternative, not really.

For example, want to go and live off-grid in the UK, buy a little block of land and grow your own vegetables? No. You’ll come up against planning laws, and involvement from every department of whatever you can ever imagine.

Want a job in the UK? Fine, but you’ll be on zero hours contracts, on a minimum wage and you won’t be able to pay your rent or afford to eat.

Want to make a difference on social media? Be prepared to be laser-zapped down with online abuse and trolling.

If all this sounds negative, it is. Mental health issues among young people are at a record high. Your children, your adult children, your nieces and nephews, your young friends, the young people you work with all deserve some loving kindness, some real time spent listening to their concerns, their fears, their stresses.

I talk to my sons endlessly about life’s problems, their problems, offer solutions, support and more. It’s practically a full-time job. I was ignored as a young person, had no mental health support at university. It wasn’t heard of at that time. I struggled. It doesn’t’ have to be like this. Just learn to listen, really listen. Young people are angry. And I am angry for them.

Press down, give up, breathe

Dear Life, today you’re pressing down on me. All I want to do is sit quietly in my flat and stare. There you are pressing down on me, on my heart. I have thoughts of giving up, of finally admitting that I don’t have what it takes to be a player in this world. I don’t even know what that means.

What does giving up mean? Perhaps, if the cold, raw truth is uttered, it means this: that I am tired of trying, tired of trying to fit myself – the square peg – into the round hole; that I never ever fit and that my edges are sore from trying.

So giving up means what? Does it mean never writing another word again? Does it mean never writing another story, never publishing anything, never speaking again, never feeling any passion? Does it mean selling all my beloved books and never, ever holding them in my hands again? That’s the pressing down on me.

I don’t know what this life wants from me? There’s the horrific Empire Windrush story in the news, the denying of rights of our beloved friends from Caribbean countries who built Britain to become the place it is today, and yet here is a government who cares nothing for them and pays only lip service to past wrongs with falsity smeared all over their faces.

There’s the chemical attacks in Syria and the insanity of people in power. There is in me a desire to do damage to names like Assad, Trump, Putin and May. But I am powerless. I am nothing. I write little novels and so, the fuck, what.

We talk about our worlds, our lives – make good in your own little world and that’s about all you can do. But then all I can think of today is powerlessness and giving up. My voice is getting weaker and weaker. Surely that must be a reason to get angry, that I am voiceless but a big voice needs a stage and people who want to listen, otherwise it’s just a big voice in a desert.

The characters in my novels are often voiceless, until they find their voices and bring about change. They are never pressed down upon, they never want to give up, they always breathe.

Enchanted April, enchanted life

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did, instead of reading the news on my phone and setting myself up for a day of deep politically engaged depression, was to pick up my copy of Elizabeth Von Arnim’s beautiful novel The Enchanted April. I lay in bed and read and read, in warmth of Von Arnim’s exquisite prose, and I felt happy, truly happy.

Elizabeth Von Arnim’s story speaks of leaving behind duty, misery and rainy weather in London, England in the early 1920s, to spend a month in ‘paradise’ at a castello on the Mediterrranean in Portofino, Italy.

I adore the surreal dissection of her prose, the way she unwraps human existence down to the mundane and makes it precious and flowery.

After twenty pages of The Enchanted April I felt calm and ready to face the day. So perhaps that’s it! Medical prescription: 20 pages of a beautiful novel every morning, before rising, prescribed to every soul on the planet, for serenity, for happiness, for that feel-good factor. It’s a free way to calm and soothe the mind, a gorgeous way to prepare for the day, and as the day wore on, with it now being 3.15 in the afternoon, I am still entranced and in the story of The Enchanted April in my mind, the effects last, like jogging or fasting or climbing a mountain with stunning views. I can’t wait to carry on reading tonight, and will promise myself that tomorrow morning, on rising I will read more as a way of keeping the good feeling going.

Two days ago, I was having a soap box moment. Now I say enough! Let there be more books, more Elizabeth Von Arnim’s, more enchanted Aprils.

So, here we are in April, and the snow is melting and the sun is shining and I am mentally planning my own enchanted April in some castello somewhere in Europe.