Keep Showing Up

It starts with a death.

Warning, reflective, rambling piece ahead…

I did a search for my dad on Google about a month ago. It was about time. The last time we spoke was in 2010. I called him from Qaanaaq in Greenland. The last time I saw him was when we were pallbearers, carrying my firefighter uncle to his grave. I was 18. My father and I hadn’t seen each other for two years. I didn’t know then that I would never see him again. Through the search on Google I discovered that he died over a year ago. I still miss my uncle, but my dad… that’s another story.

Stories have become my life.

Since January 2018 I have focused on writing as a career, ditching the teaching job, ignoring the year-old mortgage, and basically deciding that life really is too short not to do what I want to do. I chose to disregard what is expected of me. Chose to ignore the bank balance, or lack of one. I realise that I am privileged to be able to do so. My life is not affected by war or corrupt governments, I am not sick, I am able to do this, so long as I am willing to give some things up. A lot of things really.

But giving things up brings other opportunities.

I pretty much gave up meat a long time ago, only half-heartedly eating burgers and chewing – not enjoying – the occasional steak when forced to. But, since January, I have adopted a plant-based diet, with the occasional travel-lapses – I must get better at preparing for journeys and visits.

So, that’s two changes, two opporunities – a new career and a new diet. Anyone might think I had hit middle age. Well, I turned 45 in August, so I guess it’s starting to make sense.

The third thing – it’s all about threes, right? The third thing is running. I’ve started to run again, building up slowly. I’ve now hit the 16km mark – that’s 10 miles. It sounds so much better in miles. Now my sights are set a little higher and longer.

Middle age.

I must keep up.

But it’s about showing up too, and that’s basically where I am headed with this post, just in case you were wondering.

I showed up every day to teach, but I hated it. I can say that now. Although I have many good memories of positive students (especially in Greenland) and good colleagues, there were far too many negative moments (especially in Denmark) with a fairly toxic working environment, enhanced by some fairly crappy colleagues. It was pulling me down, and I needed to make a change. My all-time favourite teaching job was teaching cadets at the Police Academy in Greenland.

I loved that gig.

As for regular teaching, I’ve never said it publicly for fear of needing to go back to teaching if the writing doesn’t pan out. But I now know that I will never go back to teaching.

Never.

I’m done.

And the writing? Here’s the thing – you really have to keep on showing up. I get that now. Every word, story or book I write is practice, developing the craft, and I’m getting there, slowly but surely, because I show up.

It helps that I am absolutely loving it.

That’s the message then, isn’t it, to keep showing up. To just keep doing what you love doing, to get better at it.

Since January 2017, when The Ice Star came out, I have sold over 16,000 books. Added to that, over 1.4 million pages have been read via the streaming service. All this without much more than two pay-per-click ads and almost zero social media.

As an indie writer it’s also about research and learning, being inspired by other writers, not getting bogged down by tradition and myth, and not giving a damn about what other people think or do, but just getting it done, and then doing it again.

Showing up.

Again, and again.

So, this death I mentioned, my father’s, I guess there’s an element of “showing up” there too. The fact that I didn’t meant that I never got past the shadow of my father, and who he was or what he did, and what it meant to me. On the face of it, he wasn’t necessarily a bad man, he was just a bad fit for me. Now that he is gone, despite never resolving our relationship, I can move on. I feel lighter. The chip on my shoulder has been dislodged and I have no excuses anymore. I certainly can’t use him as an excuse.

It’s done.

Time to move on.

Time to keep on showing up.

So, as the nights start to get a little darker, and the end of the year approaches, I plan to show up in the new year and kick in the afterburner, light some fires, burn away the shadows.

Dead is dead, done is done, and it’s time to move on and show up.

And the photos? How do they fit in? One word: Alaska.

If you live there or have been there, you’ll know. 😉

P.S. To Jane – thanks!

Cold Research

I write about a lot of things in my stories about which I have thankfully no experience, but there are some things I have done, and when I write about them I have a wealth of memories to inspire me. I had a team of dogs in Greenland, and, while it may have taken us a few years, we finally found our sledging mojo and made some tracks on the sea ice. We had plenty of misadventures too, but always got home safely, even in the dark.

The dogs were built for the Arctic, but I wasn’t. Every day was a learning curve. But I do miss it, and I miss my dogs. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have a team again. Until then, I’ll keep writing.

Small Time Criminal

There’s a star-studded cast …  and me. I have booked a coffee table stand at the Crime Festival in Horsens on the 17th and 18th March. There’s a lot of big crime writers coming. Lots of Scandinavians. Lots of Americans. Lots of Brits. And … me. When I contacted the organisers a while ago, they were kind enough to present the whole palette of options available. “Great,” I said. “And do you have anything smaller?”

I believe strongly in the old adage of fake it til you make it, and this small time crime writer is faking it all the way to Horsens this year. We’ll see what happens. Until then, be sure to check out the programme – and, if you’re looking for me … just keep scrolling to the very end.

The Festival looks really exciting, with loads of presentations, talks, book signings – the works. There should also be plenty for English readers this year. So, if you happen to be in the area, or are travelling to Denmark for the festival itself, please say “hi”, I’d love to meet you.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, the venue is the old State Prison!

January Updates

I have finished updating the webpage – for today at least. I will add content and generally fiddle with the pages through the course of the year. The main changes reflect a focus on writing and being an author. They include:

An EVENTS page with a calendar of dates when I will be speaking, reading, or just generally hanging out in person.

I have added a READS page, and I intend to mention some of the key polar books that have inspired me as a reader, writer, and adventurer (of sorts).

I have also tried to distinguish between works of FICTION and NONFICTION.

That’s it for now. I’ll leave you with a photo of Uummannaq in January. The yellow building in the centre is the hospital, and figures heavily in The Ice Star.

It’s Emotional

Okay, I admit, I made my wife cry. Normally I wouldn’t be proud of such a thing, but in this instance it is justified. Before you click away in disgust, allow me to explain myself.

Jane is an avid reader.

I wrote a book.

She cried when she read it.

We’ve been on lots of adventures together, but the time after the Yukon River, when we were touring around Alaska – with a quick visit to Seattle – was important to us. What’s more, when waiting on an Amtrak train from Seattle to Vancouver, I saw a poster for another train: The Coast Starlight, and was inspired to write a book.

I literally plotted the whole thing on the train journey, beat it out chapter by chapter, and sent a copy to my mail as a back-up. When we arrived in England in early September, 2016, I wrote the story that has become The Starlighter. Then I waited a year, sat on it – content with the fact that I had a whole story in the drawer, something I could dust off at a later date. Well, this September, I did just that, and now it is being edited for release.

So this book is personal. The others are too, but this book was meant to be something else. I was meant to write a book about our expedition on the Yukon River, but I wasn’t ready for that. I was, however, inspired by Naomi Klein’s book: This Changes Everything, and the idea that we are all very good at “looking away”. I decided that I was tired of looking away, and I wrote about Jayla Cooper, a twelve-year-old girl who does anything but look away.

Instead of writing an account of the Yukon, I wrote about the places we visited after the Yukon. The action takes place in Fairbanks, Alaska, and in Seattle, Washington, two places that have always been of interest to me, and are now important for Jane and I. So, The Starlighter is personal, just like Greenland is personal, and reading connects the dots. And sometimes connecting those dots makes us cry.

I got emotional when editing the first and second draft of The Starlighter. It makes me wonder, will other people find it emotional too?

Bring me that Horizon

September, two years ago, this happened – I graduated with a writer’s degree. I started studying around the time of the publishing revolution that Amazon kick-started. I realised that my dreams of being a writer were not so far-fetched after all, but I wanted to qualify my writing with  a theoretical background, to create a solid foundation for my books. Two years later and I had done it. Now I just had to make some money. it turns out that that particular aspect was going to take a little longer … another two years. While I am nowhere near full-time, the potential is there, just on the horizon.

The purpose of this pat-on-the-back post is less about me (believe it or not) and more about dreams, working hard, and getting results. Amazon might have given me a means of getting around the gatekeepers (traditional publishers), and avoiding the pitfalls of agents, but I still need to put in the legwork – and so do you. 😉

If any wannabe authors happen to pass by this website, take heart, you can do it too. Put in the time and effort, and you will begin to see results, just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. I guess that’s that why they call them dreams. So, without further ado, I’ll finish with a suitable Jack Sparrow quote:

Now … bring me that horizon.

Into the Black

Today is a good day. There have been many good days on this indie author’s journey, but today is especially good as I have now – according to my budget – moved out of the red and into the black! I have now earned back the money I have paid for covers and promotion, and am now a colossal £7 or $10 richer! Of course, after Danish tax, that means about £3.50 or $5 richer, enough for a coffee without cream. But the journey to this point has been wild. And it’s the journey that counts!

So what’s next?

Well, it’s not like I don’t have any plans, but for this moment anyway, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the coffee – without cream – and dream of distant peaks, and icy summits, for the climb is what it is all about, summitting is just the moment when every step on the journey comes together.

I have a lot of steps left as an indie author, it’s time to gear-up!

Curious about that “next step”? I’ll be sure to post more information soon, but until then, you might be interested to pick up a cheap pre-order of book two in the Greenland Trilogy. In the Shadow of the Mountain is available from Amazon for kindle books and apps.

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

A Kick in the Pants

I write all year round, but I write more each November. It’s NANOWRIMO and it’s a serious kick- in-the-pants motivator.

It’s also a lot of fun. Writing 50,000 words in a month is a challenge, to be sure, but the end result is never the end result. There’s beta-reading, editing, proofing, etc. But Nanowrimo works for me, and for many other writers, as a motivator. It doesn’t mean that the finished drafts each November are published, but it feels great having a project on the shelf, one that can be dusted off each April and July at Camp Nanowrimo.

Are you an emerging writer with the ambition of getting published, or just writing for fun? Then Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo are definitely worth checking out.