Saturday, 3 December 2016

Following the Foo Family

The first time I heard the words “Foo Family”, I was standing in Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. We were talking to the owners when they happened to mention a global network of Foo Fighters fans who referred to themselves as Family.

Those two words were thrust to the back of my mind until November 2014 when I started blogging about a Kickstarter that had recently launched. The crowdfunder in question was aimed at taking action against the secondary ticket market with the end goal of having the Foo Fighters play a small show in Birmingham, England. Unbeknownst to me, that Kickstater was being run by the UK Foo Family and suddenly I found myself as a part of the network that I'd heard about so many months before.

For the world's biggest “I'm not a Foo Fighters fan, really I'm not”, it was like landing on an alien planet. I barely knew the music and only spoke a few words of their language. Yet music truly is an international language and they took me in, welcoming me as one of their own. Due to my own stubbornness, I left and rejoined the group several times, my insecurities flaring because of the unfamiliar territory. Yet they always coaxed me back until, earlier this year, I settled down to write this book.

Getting a writer (or anyone for that matter) to do something that they feel uncomfortable with can be like trying to herd cats. We can be stubborn and awkward. There are times when we don't want to face what our life is calling us to do. And that was especially true with the fan book. I was constantly finding myself redrawn back to the Family and I couldn't explain why. That was until I was speaking to a friend earlier this year and I mentioned an idea I'd had back around the time of the Kickstarter.

The passion that surrounded the Kickstarter made me want to write a book about the fans. I wanted to tell their stories. I wanted to give them a place in history, something to help dull the harshness of the numerous negative entries that litter the record books. Wars, famine, and genocide still happen and will be forever documented. But what about everyone else? Don't they deserve to be able to have a moment to talk about what's important to them?

Music is a way to escape the horrors of the world around us. 2016, while it has had many glorious moments, has also crushed the souls and spirits of so many people. It would be great to think that, in a hundred years from now, someone, somewhere, could pick up this book and read the stories of friendship, happiness, and survival from a group of dedicated and loving music fans.

And so it began. My friend (who shall remain nameless until they give me permission to name them) put the wheels in motion by feeling out the lay of the land. How would others feel about speaking to a complete stranger? Did they want to talk about their love of the band?

The overwhelming answer was Yes. For me, that was a breakthrough and, over the past months, I've told the story of another project that I put to one side. I spent two years hunting for funding for it and, while there was a lot of positive feedback, there was little in the way of any other help. Compared to that, the fan book has been a breeze and, in the past five months, many of the pieces needed for it have fallen seamlessly in to place.

This book wouldn't be possible without the help and support of the global Foo Family and, for that, I am eternally grateful. To know that there are so many kind and loving souls out there makes me feel so much better about the current world we live in. Over the past year, I've been lucky enough to make many new friends and rekindle old friendships. While, in many ways, 2016 has been a harsh and unforgiving year, finding so many beautiful friends has made it easier to bear. If I've spoken to you over the past months, thank you so much. Thank you for answering mine, a complete stranger's, email or phone call. Thank you for your love, kindness, and time. Thank you for the emails, Facebook posts, and Tweets. Thank you for including me in a world that, at times, really does feel alien to me. Your acceptance and inclusion means far more than you can imagine and it's something that this world needs so much more of.

While I'm hoping to have the book in some kind of finished state in the next few weeks, there's still time to get involved. If you'd like to be interviewed, please send me a message over at the Facebook page or email me at:

Take care and have a very Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Magnify Strengths

...Not weaknesses.

So often these posts begin with the words “We live in a world that...”, and this one is no exception to that rule.

We live in a world that tears people down. The goodness in people is diminished in favour of tearing them down for what others see to be negative aspects. In a world where distressing news stories and violence are broadcast 24/7, it's hardly surprising that many people react to everything, including the people around them, with negativity.

Slowly things are beginning to change. More and more people are realising that a world where negativity is used as a currency to climb imaginary ladders is unsustainable. There are communities springing up on social media to help promote positive messages and thought patterns. Websites are dedicated to reporting the happier and lighter side of the news.

I go through a lot of it. As well as this blog (which I try to keep as positive as possible), I also run another site. The other site attracts a lot of users and, as such, a lot of different personalities. Our rules include what is expected of users, including the need to be nice to one another (we use the famous House of Blues “Be Nice or Leave” quote). Most of the time everyone gets on just fine and it's generally a happy place that we've lovingly nicknamed “Like a spa. Except with writing”. When we took it over in 2014 our aim was to turn it in to an online ocean of calm where people could come to chat and create. Thankfully, 99% of the time, that's exactly what it is.

Sadly, there are times when ugliness rears its head. It can be in the form of someone reacting badly to another user's comments or to a request from the admins. Often they speak in a way that's designed to make the recipient feel bad. It's surprising how black words on a white background can make you feel and the awful feeling of the messages can be overwhelming. I've been called everything from a whore to being on a par with North Korea and it's in those moments when my weaknesses, instead of my strengths, are being magnified.

Being in the midst of that can be distressing and I admit that, at times, I've handled things in a way that's probably inappropriate such is the feeling of negativity that I'm receiving from the other end. Dealing with how I'm feeling can be hard and, more often than not, I take a few days out to heal myself. Thankfully I'm surrounded by a group of very loving people who remind me that there's always light, even on the darkest of days.

It's time to stamp out the constant petty criticisms. There's so many ways to make the world a better, happier place. If someone does something you like, say something. Send an email or write a note to a friend. Praise the people around you. Make them laugh and lift them up. Find inspirational communities, both on and off-line. Spend less time on social media and more doing the things you love. Make yourself, and everyone you're with, happy. Live life to the fullest and do it with a smile on your face!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Finding Magic

It's been an interesting few weeks here. The first round of interviews for the fan book have wrapped up and I'm now slowly transcribing them.

Secondly, I got to spend some time away from home and, importantly, away from the computer. Once upon a time, I used to live in the Lake District but rejected it in favour of returning to my town in the heart of the country. Home is centrally located with easy access to major airports and cities.

However, I'd forgotten just how beautiful the rolling hills and flowing rivers of the Lakes can be, especially when you're out in the wilds. There's magic in the hills and mountains. You can feel it trickling through the streams and crashing from the waterfalls. It twinkles among the trees and you can almost see the fairies and souls from the past watching you. There's a feeling that something is calling to you, pleading with you to stay a moment longer among the rolling fells.

Inspiration lurks around every corner whether it's a 600 year old pub, a cascade of rocks, or the drop of a waterfall. It's hidden in crisp scent of fresh grass and moving water curls around you. It's beneath your feet and in the clear, night sky above you.

When I booked that break back in January I didn't realise that, come September, I'd need to get away from everything and be in a place where there was no phone signal. I had no idea what 2016 would hold for me and that by the year's ninth month, I'd need to rest. So far, it's been an amazing year, one filled with new friendships and paths I never thought that I'd take. However, it's taken its toll on me far more than I thought it would and even though my body has grown stronger since 2015, I still need to remember to take time out and look after myself. Because none of us are invincible. All of us need to rest and recuperate.

Getting away from it all, no matter how long it's for, can be an amazing form of therapy. A break from the norm to rest our weary brains and bodies can be just what we need. We all need time to rest and refresh and to see where life is going to take us. Whether it's trekking through the wilds or riding the at a concert, that brief respite from the crush of reality can be all we need to reconnect with ourselves. So buy those concert tickets and take that trip as it may be just the tonic that you needed to find your mojo again.

Have a great day and happy travels, wherever they may take you!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Life at the End of Your Comfort Zone

What does your comfort zone look like? Is it a warm, safe space that you never want to leave? Do you want to leave it but worry about doing so?

This time last year, my comfort zone was torn apart when I moved house. Everything I'd ever known and loved was being packed up and moved across town. It was uncomfortable and painful and I fought it tooth and nail. I wanted to stay in the warm, happy space that I knew. I didn't want to be anywhere else. Yet this move was only the start.

It's a theme that's continued well in to this year. At least once a month, I've had to face up to another fear, whether that's going to a venue that I greatly dislike or learning how to communicate with people. I've met people I never thought I'd meet and done things that, two years ago, I'd have laughed if you'd told me I'd be doing them. 2016 has, for many people, been a year of upheaval and change whether it's been in their personal lives or through watching their favourite musicians die.

Yet it's also been a year that's shown many of us where we're supposed to be heading. We've discovered who our true friends are or that our career needs a shake up. The comfort zones that we know have been taken apart and reassembled elsewhere.

It's uncomfortable when your comfort zone starts to dissolve. You may feel frustrated, depressed, and angry. You may get upset with the people around you and have trouble controlling your emotions. I know that all of that happened for me, and is still happening. Little by little, I'm being taken away from the places I used to know and being put somewhere completely new. It's unnerving yet, at the same time, it's exciting. I've wanted to do different things for a long time and now, slowly but surely, they're happening. There are times when it's still distressing but I know that it's part of the growth that I need to go through to become the person that I'm supposed to be.

If you know you need to be somewhere else in your life, get ready for things to happen in order for you to get there. It may be a move, or a loss, or something entirely different. You may have people put on your path who are sent to teach you something, or even to guide you to the next place. Keep your eyes open and trust that things happen for a reason (Again, a year ago, I wouldn't have believed that to be true. But so many things have happened that have lead me to believe that so many things that happen to us have a reason behind them). Let go of everything you know and go with the flow because who knows where you're going to end up!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Letting Go

Dreams are awesome and everyone should have at least one. Whether it's getting that perfect job, starting a family, or finishing that book you started six years ago. Dreams, and the processes that go with them, are a healthy part of life.

However, sometimes there are dreams that we just have to let go of and hope that the universe beings them back to us.

If you'd told me this time last year that I'd be writing two non-fiction books, I'd have laughed. I was deep in screenplay territory, crafting the perfect story for the big screen. Getting it just right was essential. Besides, it wasn't my first go on such a ride. I've worked on screenplays before. I've written treatments for other people. Little parts of me have already made it into cinemas or on TV. I'm not a novice when it comes to the world of broadcast media.

One of the advantages of spending four years in film school is that my writing is apparently already fairly visual. Several people have uttered the words, “It was like watching a film”. So I was fairly confident that I'd find someone out in the world who'd give me an answer on my current idea.

The story started out as a novel and as slowly built into a script. From there, back stories, outlines, and treatments were created and, finally, the whole package was sent out in to the world.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited a little more.

I knew not to pester people because I knew that I'd be asked to be patient for a little longer.

In April of this year, twelve months after the first copies had started to make their way out into the world, I decided it was time to try something else. By then, I was already working on the idea for the tribute bands book and decided that, if the film was supposed to happen, then it would.

So I reluctantly put my dream of selling a screenplay on to the back burner and knuckled down to my latest project. In July, I added a second non-fiction book to the roster. In August, I went back to working on an anthology that I'd started back in February.

Releasing myself from the stress of the wait seemed to fuel me in ways that I may never understand. No longer was I checking my email with baited breath. No longer was I watching my phone from the corner of my eye. Instead, I'd said, “Okay, if this is meant to happen it will happen. Someone, somewhere, will pick that up and think, 'This is just what we want'. But, for now, I'm going to concentrate on other things.”.

It was hard to reach that point of letting go. It was hard to free myself from the daydreams of being back on a film set and of finally seeing the finished article. But I knew that, deep down, it was the right thing to do. Since then, everything I've been working on has seemed to flow like water from a mountain.

You have a right to have dreams. Some are easy to start working on. Eating healthier, looking for a better job, losing weight. Others are based on the whims and choices of others, leaving us to do little other than wait.

But every dream has the possibility of coming true, even if it has to go on a back burner for a while. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow may bring that phone call. Or, somewhere across the world, someone could pick up your manuscript and say, “Hey! This is just what I've been looking for.”.

Give in from time to time and go with the flow. But never give up. Because you don't know where life's going to take you.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Staying Positive

There's a million books on how to be positive. But it's not always possible as there's a myriad of human emotions. There's no way for us to stay happy and positive all the time. Things happen that push our patience and inner happiness; bills need paying, arguments arise, the car breaks down. We begin to wonder if we'll ever get to where we want to be.

These past few weeks have been rough ones for me. There's been an ear infection, followed by some dental surgery, and ending with a thankfully minor accident that left me feeling a little knocked around. I'm grumpy, tired, achy, and not feeling 100%. All I want to do is to delve in to the books I'm writing but my body won't let me. It needs to rest. It needs to eat the chocolate, drink the tea, and read that fun book. It needs to listen to the funky music and to stretch out the aching muscles.

Needless to say, I'm trying not to let the past few weeks grate on those around me but it's hard. Sometimes we can't always control how we feel. Sometimes we need to feel the pain to remind us what how it feels when we're happy. Sometimes we need the exhaustion to remind us that we're pushing ourselves too hard and that, for a while, we need to rest. Sometimes we need to get angry just to remember what it's like when we're calm.

Being positive doesn't mean being happy all day every day. Being positive means not letting yourself stay in the darkness and the pain. Being positive means moving forwards no matter what stands in your way. Being positive means putting your best foot forward, even if you don't feel like it. Being positive means being you, even when the world wants to tear you apart.

Don't let yourself get stuck in the darkness of the bad times. Look for the light around you, for the people and moments that make you smile and realise that life is worth living. They may be fleeting, but they'll be there, waiting to help you. And once you've stepped from the darkness, turn and help the next person behind you.

No matter what you're going through, you can do it.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Butterfly Brain

Why do you always have more than one writing project on the go?

This is a good question and something that's come up time and again. At the moment, I'm currently writing two non-fiction books as well as a series of short stories. And yes, it can get mind-boggling which is why there are spreadsheets and calendars to help me keep track of everything.

The reason I do it is because it actually helps me to focus. For me, switching between several projects helps to keep them all fresh in my mind as well as helping me to keep an interest in them. I'm one of those people who can get half way through a project and suddenly lose enthusiasm. Before I know it, I have a hard drive full of half written books and stories (this is also the reason that you haven't seen Book 4 from the Veetu Industries series. It will arrive at some point, I promise!).

Having a number of projects on the go also allows me to rest when one of them becomes too tough. Sometimes it's like hitting a brick wall and you find yourself living in a haze. You can't find the right words or phrases and everything feels hopeless. Having a second or third project gives me the chances to come back to the first one with fresh eyes and a rested brain. Working on non-fiction projects has reawakened fiction muses that have lain dormant for two years. On the flip side, losing myself in a fantasy world for a few hours allows my brain to think up avenues in which to take the non-fiction books.

It takes some work to juggle several projects at once and, yes, it's tiring. But it's fulfilling and, most importantly, it makes me happy.

If you want to work on several things at once, take it slowly. Map everything out using whatever you need (I personally use calendars, spreadsheets, and flow charts). Learn to step away from it all from time to time and just take time out for yourself.

"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale