I tried to make a table of contents for this, like a Wiki page. It would have been great. But I'm terrible at HTML and Blogger, so this...

I tried to make a table of contents for this, like a Wiki page. It would have been great. But I'm terrible at HTML and Blogger, so this pile of shit is what we'll have to settle for. Enjoy.

1. Introduction

I don't know about you (and frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn), but one of the things I notice everybody saying at the end of every year - along with 'Sweet Stevie Wonder, I hate New Year's Eve. I was the first person ever to say this, everyone else in the world who rabbits on about it is just copying my boring rabbiting' and 'Christmas is such an anticlimax, why does no one else ever realise this? Baahhhhhhhh humbug' - is this: 'By the beard of Brian Blessed, that was a shit year. I'm so glad it's over.' And yeah, sometimes I've even been one of the people who says this, because we all have shit times and sometimes they seem to be such long shit times that we're fooled into thinking they snatched the whole year from us. But this year, I decided I'd summarise the year accurately. I wouldn't be one of those people who insult a year, put it down and make it feel bad just because I had a bad month. I'd treat it nice, I'd hear it out, then I'd rate it, just like on Hot or Not - all dignified, like. In 2013, my New Year's Resolution was to rate every week out of 10, and write an article at the end of the year about the averages, the highs and lows, the summary of the year as a whole. And now, 52 weeks later, here it is, just for you.
Bet this is just want you asked Santa for.

2. Numbers, Graphs, Tables, Science

Fig. 1: the year's ratings.

Fig. 2: a quarterly breakdown, just like you were hoping for.

Fig. 3: a completely unrelated number.

3. Highlights and Lowlights

Yeah, it's nice to see a squiggly line plotting all the year's scores, but what do they mean? What are you supposed to take from this information? Well, here's what I've learnt from my highs and lows of 2013.

   3.1. Sockin' it to the Tattoo H8erz

I got my first tattoo and my second tattoo this year, starting a minor addiction that I plan to feed again in January 2014. No more of this small text, mind - the next one is a half sleeve, then one day I'll wear a suit of them. Tie and all.

   3.2. 100% Grumpster

Have you ever had a bad mood that stuck around for weeks, even months? I haven't. In general, I'm normally in a good mood - the way I see it, as long as I'm alive and have all my limbs, I'm a lucky guy. As one of my heroes said, there ain't no use in cryin'; it doesn't change a thing, so, baby, what good does it do? But at the beginning of this year, I was moody for weeks. A quarter of the year was eaten up by it. Nothing was cheering me up, not even all the women who fancied me or my trip to New York to see Gaga (in fact, this may have actually contributed - she cancelled the gig two days before we flew out). But one day, in week 15, it just disappeared. I still don't know the reason for my mood, but I know that I fucking hate winter and I always have, so this probably contributed.

   3.3. Everything Around Me was Destroyed or Damaged

This little lump here (no, not there, look at my face when I'm talking to you) marks the release of my book, Everything Around Me is Destroyed or Damaged. It was a little ambition of mine to release an eBook this year, since it's so easy to do (it really is - too easy), so I worked away for the first half of the year, polishing up old stories, digging some out of the Unpublished Even On My Own Website pile, and writing new ones... and on July 23, it was released to a critical reception that would have blown me away, had I been expecting less than a few polite compliments from friends and a 'well done' from my mum. But seriously, I have had some really lovely feedback - literally hundreds of copies downloaded (I was expecting tens at most, but it is worth noting that I have more Facebook friends than downloads, so there are some people I know who wouldn't even download my book if it was free, which it has been for limited periods - bastards!), 11 4- or 5-star reviews on Amazon, this lovely review from BookCunt... I'm very pleased with how it turned out. If you haven't got your copy, download it now! Please.

   3.4. 99 Problems

I've always had unusual relationships with women. One of my male friends calls me King of the Friend Zone, because I have very flirty relationships with girls, but it's pre-decided (often by me) that they'll remain platonic forever. I dominate The Friend Zone, he says, make it my home. Live there by choice. Unfortunately, this came back to bite me in August, when several of my relationships with female friends went all weird for a bit. A lot came all at once - eerie silences, showdowns, comments that made me go, 'say whaaaaaaat?!', and to top it all off, a big slab of gossip dropped right in my lap, specifically designed to play on my paranoid side. And all of it pissed me right off, because a general rule of mine is that unless you're family, I don't want to have to deal with your shit. That's what makes me such a good bad friend.
I won't go into it all here, because this is the Internet and the Internet is no longer the place for my dirty laundry to dry, but I will say this: the way I see it, being a friend is not about dropping gossip bombs to sit back and watch the fallout. It's not about playing Sexual Politician, and it's not about only maintaining a friendship in the hope that one day it will suddenly blossom into a marriage. It's definitely not about getting jealous when your friends make new friends, like we're still at fucking primary school or something. It's about enjoying each other's company and wanting your friends to be happy. And above all, for me, it's about being able to feel comfortable and relaxed around someone. Because what's the point in a friendship that makes you feel tense? 
It was a big deal at the time, I was in a right strop. But I'm over it now, and I'm trying to modify the behaviour that led to it. Part of that involves getting closer to my male friends, which, I suppose, has done me some good, because I'm becoming less and less camp by the day.

   3.5. I Was a Teenage Harajuku Girl

If you haven't been to Tokyo, you have to go. I spent a week there this October, and it's shot straight into my top 5 places in the world ever. The lights, the music, the excitement, the arcades, the toys, the fashion, the excitement, the good looking people (every-fucking-body!), the food, the politeness, the excitement, the culture... I'm out of breath just thinking about it. Highlights included Akihabara, where every other building is an arcade; the comic stores where every graphic novel is a sexually graphic novel; Shinjuku; Harajuku, where I bought the coolest, most colourful (woman's) shorts ever for myself; all the restaurants where service means pressing a button on a vending machine; and Mount Fuji, which was way too misty to hope to see the top, but that didn't matter when we had such a hilarious tour guide.
Oh, and I also hit Hong Kong. That was very nice too, but it had a lot to compete with in Tokyo.

   3.6. Up and Down

Yeah, I noticed that this section looks pretty all over the place. One minute I'm down, the next I'm ecstatic, and then I'm down again. I'm afraid I don't have anything juicy to share (unless you want to hear the boring story about the dragon eating my baby) - there was a bit of shit around the house (owning a flat and/or a car is overrated, I'm sure of it), and things didn't go how I'd have liked at work one weekend, but other than that, it was alright. In fact, I was more than alright - at the end of November, the PS4 was released, hammering in even further the Writer's Block that had been clogging up my Creativity Hole for months. This actually highlights an issue with the rating system - since I rated every week on Monday evening, if something dramatic hit at the weekend, then the rating would often be skewed, as I rated it with a bad memory fresh in my mind. Short of attaching gadgets to my brain and measuring my mood every minute throughout the year, I can't think of a solution to this problem, so I didn't try to solve it at all. Deal with it.

4. Music

2013 was a fantastic year for music, and anyone who says it wasn't is a fucking ballbag. As well as discovering Charli XCX and falling madly in love with her, I was kept constantly erect by releases from Queens of the Stone Age, Paramore, Panic! at the Disco, Nine Inch Nails, Eminem, Little Boots and Depeche Mode, until I was dizzy with all the blood not reaching my head and fell unconscious at the end of December. And though I'd love to add Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to that list, I thought that their albums were wank. Soz, loves, I love you both, and you can still come over mine for an omelette and some kissing, but I'm not a fan of your newest stuff.
The year's best album was, by a long way, ...Like Clockwork (with The Marshall Mathers LP 2 coming second); and the best song of the year was obviously Still Into You. SuperLove almost clinched it though.

5. Films

I was going to write about the best films I'd seen this year here, but I can't remember which films came out this year and which came out last year. It was easier with songs, because I could just sort my iTunes library by Year. Ah well, fuck it; you didn't come here for film reviews anyway. Iron Man 3, Kick Ass 2, Despicable Me 2, The Way Way Back... I know I enjoyed those this year. Was Django this year too? If so, that one.
Oh wait. Anchorman 2. Yes. Incredible. That they can make a film which is pretty bad, but still beats every other comedy this year, blows my mind. I lolled most of the way through. Is lolling a verb yet?

6. Writing

As I've mentioned (again and again and again), I wrote and released a book this year. But apart from that, how is my writing going? Well, as you can tell by the time my last post was made (and its apalling content), I've been struggling to find the inspiration to write any more fiction in the second half of this year.
I force myself to do it sometimes, and sometimes that stuff is even fairly good; but it hasn't been flowing like I'd like. I've had months like this before, so I'm not worried; I'm just sayin', don't expect that short story collection sequel any time soon. And any writers out there that might stumble onto this page, if you have any tips for beating it, let me know, won't you?

7. Relationships

I'm not talking about sexual or romantic relationships here. I mean, I could, but just like my romantic encounters, this paragraph would be a rushed, clumsy affair that would be over way too quickly, leaving behind only shame and an awful, sticky, tearful mess to clean up. It's more friendships I wanted to write a little bit about. This year I've made a few new friends, I've reconnected in a small way with some friends I pushed away back when I went mental that one time, and I've even managed to keep most of the friendships I started the year with (despite their best efforts to get away from me). It feels nicer to have positive relationships than it does to have negative ones, so I'm glad that I have a few more; but I'd like next year to bring even more. I used to think it was really important to have a small, tight group of friends, but I'm definitely converted now to the view that having as many friends as you can possibly find is the way forward. About tools, my brother always says, 'It's better to be looking at it and looking for it.' I think the same of friends. Because, why not? So, make friends! Okay, great. #sowise
Oh, okay, I'll talk about romance too. I used Tinder for a bit this year (even though it doesn't have a Windows Phone version, so I couldn't use it on the move), and while it was fun, I just don't see how one can forge lasting relationships on it. For me, the best way to get to know someone is to see them face-to-face, have real life interaction. I thought for a while about writing an article on how hard it is to meet exciting, new people these days, and how it's a shame that we have to resort to apps and websites like this... but then I realised I don't really know what I'm talking about, so I didn't.

A wonderfully positive message I found on a wall in Tokyo.

8. Conclusion

What's the year average again? 6? *Checks*… Close enough. 6 is good, right? It's above 5, so it's certainly at the positive end of the scale. And, yeah, I think I have had a good year. I certainly don't feel bad about it, and with the paranoia that was eating me alive in 2011 and 2012 pretty much gone, the only way was up. I enjoyed the year, I feel good about it, and I think I can make 2014 even better. Because that's one thing I'm really focused on at the moment - we're masters of our own destinies, we can decide how our lives go, we are in control. 2013 was a good year because I made it a good year, and 2014 will be even better because I just said so. You should say so too, and then we'll all have a fantastic year together. Yeah!

    ‘Don’t worry about me, just point me in the direction of the body,’ ordered Detective Inspector Groves, rolling his way out of the pass...

   ‘Don’t worry about me, just point me in the direction of the body,’ ordered Detective Inspector Groves, rolling his way out of the passenger seat of the Ford he and his partner had arrived in, and refusing the help of the constable who was there to greet them. Groves knew he still had plenty of pounds to lose – hence the aggressive diet Mrs Groves had him on – but the lure of the biscuits and Kit Kats on offer at the station was just too strong for him to resist. Old habits die hard, and it’s even harder to kill them when you have a job as stressful as Groves.

   This was the last thing he needed. In all his years as a detective, Groves couldn’t remember a time when he’d had a week filled with this much evil. On Monday, he had had to attend the house of an elderly lady whose mail had been stolen. She cried so hard, Groves wondered if he would ever get over it. It had really started the week off on the wrong foot. But it just got worse from there – Tuesday opened The Case of the Missing Wing Mirror, where an unseen culprit drove off immediately after impact with a parked car, and has been on the run ever since; Wednesday saw a profanity too rude to print (starting with B, ending with M, and rhyming with HUM…) sprayed by some vandal on the side of a public toilet on the high street; and now, this. Thursday brought the worst crime Groves had ever had to investigate – a murder. Virtually unheard of, in this day and age.

   Reaching the room where the body lay in a shallow pool of its own blood, Groves saw that it was mutilated. The single stab wound was so deep, it looked like it had been made by a pair of… safety scissors or something. It must have been three inches deep. For a moment, Groves felt like he might bring up the biscuit and cup of tea he had consumed before leaving to answer this call; but his throat remained strong, under the pressure of his instinctual professionalism. He knew that he had to be the rock for his team here, to help them through the most horrid experience they would ever go through. He stood in the doorway of the bedroom and surveyed the scene, his eyes glistening with a thin layer of tears, but his face showing none of the emotion that exploded within him.

   Before too long, his partner was standing by his side. Poor, young Hadley, he was so horrified by what he saw that he began to cough into his tie, nearly dropped his notepad. ‘Oh, God, sir,’ he spluttered, ‘who would do this?!’

   ‘I don’t know, Hadley,’ Groves said, straightening his trousers by the belt, ‘but can you imagine how much worse it would be if that porn blocker had never been activated? I don’t even want to think about it. Thank the lord for David Cameron.’

   Hadley just nodded.

They make it way too easy to release books on KDP . It was a couple of clicks, and I was done. It's out. Here it is. It's se...

They make it way too easy to release books on KDP. It was a couple of clicks, and I was done. It's out. Here it is.

It's selling. People have bought it and are buying it and, I assume, must be reading it. It's as terrifying as it is exhilarating. Look at that, I've even had a cheeky review, there. By the time you read this, there might be 20,000 more reviews. But I doubt it; it's not selling that well.

If you look at the top of the page here too, you'll see links to different pages: Everything Around Me is Destroyed or Damaged and About Me. I added these to make this site look a bit more professional. Like I mean it, y'know. Because I do. And everything on those two pages is true and anyone who tells you it ain't is a FUCKING LIAR.

So what now? Well, if you could buy my eBook, that'd be fantastic. And if you could review it after you've read it, that would be even better. And if you would then share it with any of your friends who would also enjoy it, you're verging on best friend material. You hear that? WE COULD BE BEST FRIENDS. But, y'know, you don't have to do any of that stuff. You could do none of it, and I wouldn't mind too much. *grumbles*...

Thanks for reading the My First eBook series. It was fun. And so much quicker than I thought it would be. Story of my life.

I got my second tattoo today. In fact, it was finished less than 3 hours ago. It was the second of many, and I enjoyed it just as much as th...

I got my second tattoo today. In fact, it was finished less than 3 hours ago. It was the second of many, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. Here's a picture. If you're considering getting a tattoo but haven't brought yourself to do it yet, get on it.

click for full size.

It's a Queens of the Stone Age thingymajig, and it's from one of the best albums ever made. Yeah, I went there. Deal with it.

Release date, and marketing plan. The first, I have. The second, I'm a bit sketchy on. I've never been very good at selling mys...

Release date, and marketing plan.

The first, I have. The second, I'm a bit sketchy on. I've never been very good at selling myself (and in saying so, I'm proving it right off the bat. Skillz); unless I'm pretending to be arrogant for comic effect with friends, I'm generally self-deprecating, because I've always felt like that's a better quality to find in a person than actual arrogance, so I've spent years cultivating it. But too much modesty is harmful to someone who has something to sell, to get out there, to spread... and confidence in your own work and your ability to market it to people isn't a bad thing at all. You can be healthily, tolerably confident in something you've done without being intolerably arrogant. I definitely believe that. I just find it hard to pull off.

So I've taken steps to prepare myself for selling my eBook, and steeled myself emotionally for their epic failure. These preparations take the form of the following:

Compiling a list of book bloggers. These people are everywhere on Twitter, and they're infinitely more helpful and nice than I'll ever be, and they love to have books suggested to them. They'll review them, write blog posts on them, spread the word, you name it... but they have to like your work first. So you can't be all like, YO, READ MY BOOK ABOUT A MURDERER WHO RIDES DRAGONS IN AN ALTERNATE REALITY IN THE YEAR 6043 PLZ to someone who likes to review chick lit. It just won't work. So what I've been doing is reading blogs and working out tastes so that I have a list of people who might actually like my book, and when it's released, I'll send them personal e-mails (not templates, never templates) begging them to love me. If even one of them does, it's better than none, isn't it.

Throwing pictures about, and that. I've made some images to put up on my Twitter page, as the background, and across the Facebook pages I manage, so that everyone who stumbles across me will know that I have a book available to buy. I'm not hard selling. Except maybe I'll post 400 tweets a day with links to the Amazon page.

Facebook ads. I've done this before, and it wasn't fantastic, and it gets an even worse press these days. You hear that unless you're spending big, Facebook will make sure your ads are hardly ever seen by anyone who'd care; but who knows if that's true? Who wants to risk it? I dunno. This is just a consideration right now. It's an option.

Communities. I'm a member of several writing communities on Facebook, so I'll post it around there. The problem I have is that most of those are just full of people begging for other people to read their work, and no one who actually reads any of it. So while I'll let them all know what I've done, I won't expect much feedback. Cynicism is cool, kids. More useful, I expect, will be my presence on Twitter (and my Twitter friends), along with some new tools I'm toying with like Triberr.

Friends and family. Yeah, this is what I'll resort to in the end. Bugging the shit out of everyone I know until they've all bought 5 copies each. I've already started - I've sent 529 texts since I started this blog post, and before the night is out, I will have sent 529 more.

So that's the plan I have right now. It's not comprehensive, or structured, or sensible, but nothing about my life right now is. I live in the fast lane, baby, and when you live like me you'll understand that we ain't got no time to put our seat belts on.

Oh, and the release date? July 23rd. Because I fucking love working to tight deadlines.

Formatting for Kindle. I know I said this would be a better post than the one before it, but I was lying. It's gonna be so much wor...

Formatting for Kindle.

I know I said this would be a better post than the one before it, but I was lying. It's gonna be so much worse. Deal with it, dickhead.

Also, this isn't to say I'm definitely opting for Kindle over, say, Smashwords. It's just to say that KDP is a bit of a prettier site, so it held my attention for longer and I ended up experimenting with the advice given by this booklet, and eventually creating a proper .mobi file, like what real authors have. Now that I've linked to that book, in fact, I don't really need to write any more blog post. Everything you need to know is in there. As long as you follow that advice word for word (except for a couple of points below), you'll be fine. But in case you've missed something along the way, here are my tips:

  • Remember to work on your book as .doc. I'm on Word 2013 and so will a lot of you be, but most people are probably on Word 2007 or 2010 I reckon. Either way, you'll be saving as .docx by default, and the new format will mess with your formatting, so just hit File > Save As, and shut up moaning, alright?
  • My only issues with Building Your Book for Kindle are that it advises you to set 1.27cm indents and 10pt paragraph breaks. This is completely your choice, and you might like those settings, but I thought they were both way too high. When I viewed it in the previewer, I thought it looked terrible. I think I ended up using 0.8cm and 7pt. Deal with it.
  • I centre-aligned all of my headings. I just think that looks so much better. But you can do what you want.
  • It's so important that you use the previewer to view your .mobi file on every device possible - each of the e-inks, each of the Kindle Fires, and each of the iOSes. What looks fine on e-ink might not look good at all on Kindle Fire. For me, this was because e-ink devices were using the default font for their system (which I liked), but the Kindle Fire devices had the sans serif font that I had used to create the file, and it looked terrible. I changed it all to Garamond, and now it looks better on those devices, while remaining the way I like it on e-ink. I'd still rather it was a bit prettier on all those shiny screens, but I don't know what that pretty font is that the e-ink screens use. Or do I? I do. I wrote it down somewhere actually. Let me get back to you on this one.
I wish I had more to say, but that book really does explain it all. God, I feel so useless. At least I still have my looks.

Metadata.   That is, blurbs and shit.   So it turns out that I forgot or I didn't think about until now the fact that books hav...

That is, blurbs and shit.
So it turns out that I forgot or I didn't think about until now the fact that books have blurbs, and eBooks are no exception. When I was formatting my book to give it a go on that there Kindle emulator thing (full details on formatting to follow, in a much better blog post than this one), I realised that I would have to enter all of this stuff in order to preview it. So I've started brainstorming.
I don't know if there are people who write blurbs as a job, but my mind tells me there must be. It's an art form, condensing the message of a 100,000 word book down into 5 lines of enticing summary, and it must take a certain sort of mind to perfect it. It has to be witty but not too playful, clever but accessible, cheesy but aware of its cheesiness, inviting but not too revealing. Authors don't write their own, surely? No, of course they don't. Don't be ridiculous. They're too close to the work. They'd be terrible at it.
But I have to, and so do you if you want to self-publish. So get to it. Here's my first attempt (with a clever play on words which I'm not sure comes across very well now I read it back):
From disturbing to enlightening, seedy to romantic, Everything Around Me is Destroyed or Damaged is a 23-story fall through the mind of the author of DestroyedorDamaged.com.

Featuring a selection of stories from the site and a whole bunch of exclusive new ones, this collection is full of laughs and shudders and lovers and losers, and is sure to change the way you feel about street magicians and business meetings forever.

Designing a cover. Have you noticed how a lot of self-published books on Amazon, particularly the ones with 20p price tags, have terrible...

Designing a cover.

Have you noticed how a lot of self-published books on Amazon, particularly the ones with 20p price tags, have terrible covers? Like, as you gaze at them, valiantly holding back the tears and vomit, you wonder if the person who designed them has ever seen a printed book in a shop? I'm not sure if what I just said is really controversial - nobody seems to talk about it, so it might be one of those things everyone knows about but no one mentions, like the menopause and the fact that Daft Punk are overrated - but I've said it now, so deal with it. Whenever I see these terrible eBook covers, I think, surely this person could have done better than that, if they're creative enough to write a book?!

With that in mind, I set about attempting to design a cover that a real book cover designer might design, if they'd had only a very light head injury recently. And what I found out is this: it's really hard. Covers like this one and this one just get it so right - font, style, effortlessness... and it's so hard to recreate that yourself, having had no design training at all and with only the shitty kind of free software one obtains when one doesn't want to do pictures and that for a living. So yeah, I apologise, cheap eBook writers of the world. I was so wrong about your design talents.

Anyway, I've come up with a couple of designs I like. I'm going to keep working on it, so there'll probably be another "Designing a cover" post soon, but for now, here they are:

FIRE. (click for full size)

ANGRY SCRAWL. (click for full size)

The problem I've found - and I might be wrong here, feel free to correct me - is that Amazon really don't care what size the cover art you upload is. And nor do Smashwords, as far as I can see (I haven't decided how to publish it yet. Maybe both - these are the two options. Thoughts on a postcard, or in the comments section). They offer guidelines, it must be at least this and at least that; but no clear standard, which would be nice for a computery person like me who likes rules and clear guidelines and all of that bullshit. So I've read a few blog posts and they said that it should be something like 1500x2500 pixels, so that's what I made the above. They look good enough to me, sizewise, but if you've published to Kindle or whatever before, let me know what you did. I want this communication to be two-way. Why don't we talk like we used to?

Where was I? Oh yeah, those two covers. Do you like either of them? Do you have suggestions? Do you like onion rings as much as I do? Answers in the comments or in tweets to me. Thankyouverymuch.

The order. A first stab at it, at least. I've always thought that so much effort must go into deciding album song orders. The way t...

The order. A first stab at it, at least.

I've always thought that so much effort must go into deciding album song orders. The way the songs in ...Like Clockwork flow into each other is a prime example - the album is so cohesive, so meticulously planned out, that the instant it ends, you want to begin it again. And while I can't hope to give the purchaser of a cheap, possibly crappy totally awesome future eBook the same level of pleasure that album gives me, I do think that the order in which they read the 23 stories I've written for this collection is very important. If the reader starts on a downer, they won't want to continue; and if they finish on a high, they'll forgive any dips they felt along the way because they'll be left with a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside. This is probably damn obvious to anyone with half a brain, so I'm sorry if you're bored; but if you are, then you should really be off watching Arrested Development or something instead.

So I've been thinking carefully about the order of the stories. I thought I'd start and end with two of my favourites; and between, I'd spread out my other favourites between stories that I don't love quite as much, in anticipation that the reader will feel exactly the same as me, which they definitely won't will. Also, stories which are about me being drunk and self pitying need to be spread evenly so that they're not in a clump and the reader doesn't form the wrong impression of me, so I've thrown in some stories about mutilation and abduction and jumping from great heights onto concrete, just to level it all out.

And this is the order I've come up with:
  1. Town Hall
  2. Hole in One
  3. The Beauregard Wishlist
  4. She has a Boyfriend
  5. The Street Magician
  6. The Carriage
  7. That Girl
  8. Real Monsters
  9. Reliving the Future
  10. The Harshness of Life
  11. A Note to a Former Lover or Friend or Pet or Piece of Furniture
  12. I was sick to death of masturbating my nights away
  13. The Writing Club
  14. Against Nature
  15. An Imagined Affair
  16. Saved
  17. Scud
  18. Watch This
  19. Against Nature
  20. The Girl with the Riddler Tattoo
  21. The Girl from the Station
  22. The Slightest Hint of Moisture
  23. Alley Dogs
This, I've compiled into a rough draft and sent to a number of close friends to assess. Their feedback will shape future revisions to the order. To be honest, just sending it to that small group was daunting enough, what with there being so many stories no one has ever read in there... so only Derren Brown knows how I'll feel when I release it to the hyperglobalblogosphere.

And yes, I realise that you're not getting much from that list since some of the stories you can't find on the Interweb, but one day you'll look back on this list and say, 'Wow, I can't believe the order of stories on the world's best-selling eBook ever was going to look like that, once upon a time... can you imagine how different history would have been?! All hail Aaron!' and then you'll bow to me and I will say unto you, 'Get up.'

At the beginning of the year, as well as some ridiculous new year's resolutions , I came up with one that I actually aimed to do: relea...

At the beginning of the year, as well as some ridiculous new year's resolutions, I came up with one that I actually aimed to do: release an eBook of short stories before 2014. It was part vanity and part ambition, I guess, because half of me just wants to see my name on a Kindle screen, and the other half hopes that there's something deeper within me than blind love of Lady Gaga, tattoos and Batman. So I set about writing some stories, or in most cases, collecting them from around this site (and fixing up the cracks I left in them, in my rush to post them online and gain attention for them). And now, nearly 6 months down, I have 23 stories ready for an eBook.
Yay! I hear you saying. When can we buy it?! Well, not yet. I've come up with the title of the collection, but I don't intend to shout about it yet. I've written the stories, but you're not seeing the exclusive ones yet. I don't have a cover, and I'm yet to work out how exactly I'm going to get it online (in case you've never published an eBook - you're probably in the minority by now - the choice I face now is Amazon, or a million other services which all promise me instant fame and fortune. But I don't know if I'm READY for fame and fortune yet!); so for now, I'm just opening up a series of blog posts in which I'll write about all the snags and funtimes of preparing and self-publishing an eBook, in the hope that it will help someone somewhere sometime in some way.

Then you have to buy it. You cheeky bastard.

    When Dr. Klepto died in that firefight with Power Man and the Revenge Crew in central Chicago, I saw a thirteen year career flushed dow...

   When Dr. Klepto died in that firefight with Power Man and the Revenge Crew in central Chicago, I saw a thirteen year career flushed down the toilet. I saw all those years I’d spent working my way up from Admin Assistant to Admin Executive, Assistant Vice President to Senior Assistant Vice President, thrown instantly into a smoking nuclear grave. What prospects would I have now, when the only guy who could give me a credible reference was a pile of ash in a crater outside the Field Museum? What could I go onto? There aren’t many visionary evil masterminds in the world, and even less who are hiring in this climate. For a while, me and the guys continued to fight for the cause, kept trying to execute Klepto’s Grand Plan, but without the big man the direction was just… gone. We couldn’t do it anymore. We were all so used to following orders that we’d forgotten how to think for ourselves. So, after bombing one more children’s hospital, for old times’ sake, we went our separate ways.

   I was lost for a long time. I tried putting together a résumé and applying to other evil corporations, hoping that Klepto’s name alone would carry me into at least a low-level henchman job; but I would have had more luck trying to jump off a cliff and land on my feet (which, coincidentally, I saw Dr. Klepto do once, when he was battling X-Ray Girl at the Grand Canyon, trying to poison Vegas with his deadly Déjà Vu Gas). These days, unless you have some terrifying deformity or are covered in scars and skull tattoos, you just have no chance of getting a job in the mischief and mayhem industry. They say you don’t grab the eye well enough, or you weren’t as edgy as they were looking for, and you’re shown the door without so much as a thanks for coming.

   So instead, I started working the kind of shit jobs disgraced policemen have to resort to. I was a bouncer one week, and the next week I’d be a taxi driver. I worked for private security firms, bare-knuckle boxing clubs, haulage companies, porno studios, you name it. Anything that required burliness, big muscles and a shaven head, I did it. But I couldn’t find satisfaction. Working for douchebags and sickos is nice, but it just doesn’t compare to the thrill of working for a genuinely insane, murderous psychopath. I was going cold turkey from the havoc I had spent my whole life wreaking, and it was hitting me hard.

   So I hit the bottle. I drank heavily, wherever I could and whenever I could. I knew it would just exacerbate my depression and cloud my mind (Dr. Klepto had been sure to clarify his feelings on doing our work with an unclear or overly happy mind by making the company slogan “no drink, no drugs, no kisses, no hugs”), but it was all I could do. At that point, I felt so sure of my worthlessness that it was that, or throw myself off a bridge. I was kicked out of my crummy apartment, I was barred from half the bars in town for ranting about that god damn Revenge Crew, and all signs were pointing to a cold and lonely death on the near horizon.

   But then I met Greg. Greg, with his goatee moustache and love of show tunes and his way of saying pick yourself off that floor, dust off your butt and keep mincing toward that happy ending, hun. He took me off the streets, shipped me to New York, cleaned me up, and taught me how to love again. With Greg, I relearned how to live, and this time I did it right. He showed me music, he let me dance, he showered me with joy. Greg taught me that it was okay to be myself and let go of all the badness that had ruled my life, because I didn’t need it to cover up my faults anymore. He told me I was perfect, and that I should let the world see just how perfect I am every single day.

   So that’s what I do. They call me Brenda Blowhard now, and when I sing those Whitney Houston songs in my sparkly pink dress and feather boa in the Stonewall Inn, they cheer my name so loudly that I feel like a big gay rainbow might just burst out of my chest and explode into the night’s sky, brightening the whole world for everyone to see. Finally, I can be me, the me that I’ve been hiding all these years under aggression, steroids, hate and evil; and I realise now that Power Man and the Revenge Crew are the best thing that ever happened to me.

    I didn’t refuse to dance with Abigail because I can’t dance (though I can’t) or because I thought she should spend more time dancing wi...

   I didn’t refuse to dance with Abigail because I can’t dance (though I can’t) or because I thought she should spend more time dancing with Harry, her husband of six years and my good friend of who knows how long. I didn’t refuse because Harry would get jealous or because I needed to sit down for a while. No; when she was pulling my hand, half-heartedly trying to lift me from that seat upon which I slouched and watched the dimly lit function hall with a half-smile plastered permanently on my face, and she said come on Aaron, just get up and dance for one little song, I didn’t get up and dance with her because I was drunk enough by then that if I had started to dance with her, I never would have let go, and what I whispered in her ear would have been that I had always thought she deserved better than Harry and if she wanted to I’d run away with her tomorrow and we’d live the life she had always deserved to live and she’d never have to worry about anything else again because I loved her more than he ever could and ever would.

   But I didn’t tell her that. I said, no, no… I can’t dance.

   You should spend more time dancing with Harry. Look at him, he wants to dance now.

   Really, Abigail! Harry will get jealous!

   No, go on without me, I need to sit down for a while.

   And I watched her bottom jiggle as she shuffled back to the middle of the dance floor, looking over her shoulder at me and pouting like a rejected schoolgirl.

   I was drinking so much those days, I didn’t even consider that every word of the little speech I had run through in my head was a lie. If I had stolen Abigail away that night, I would have come crawling back the very next day, tired of her company and hating myself and in desperate need of a stiff drink and maybe even a little medical attention. I was just clutching at straws, clinging to the hope that there might one day be another attractive woman who would look at me the way attractive women used to look at me before I put on all that weight and stopped shaving and started working as a software developer (worse: a Java developer). Abigail was just something lofty I could pin the hook of my desperation onto so that I could stay hanging just those few inches off of the cold rock bottom I had been dangling inches away from for years.

   And I guess that deep down, I knew that. Even sitting there that night, sipping on a quadruple vodka and orange juice (a double into which I had poured two more shots; a desperate measure I had been resorting to ever since I had discovered that only the most careless or clueless of barmaids would ever pour four measures of vodka into a glass for anyone, let alone a fat, sweaty, bearded man whose neck and forehead started to itch when he hadn’t drunk for a day and whose nose glowed red with the exploded blood vessels of years of substance abuse) and wincing with the heartburn each gulp brought on, I already realised that Abigail wasn’t who I wanted. Who I wanted was anyone that would take me in their arms and tell me I wasn’t the worthless prick I thought I was. I wanted someone, anyone, to tell me that they didn’t hate me half as much as I hated myself.

   ‘So how long have you wanted to fuck Abigail?’

   The voice shocked me like ice cold water poured over one’s head. ‘E-excuse me?’ I coughed, turning to my right to look at the woman lighting a cigarette on the opposite side of my table, raising her eyebrows at me and grinning, flashing bright white teeth between vivid red lips.

   ‘I’ve been watching you watching her dancing. You have it written on your face. You’ve been undressing her with your eyes since your eighth Screwdriver.’

   ‘Ha, I – obviously I don’t –’ I spluttered, trying not to slur or let my eyes wander back to Abigail’s legs or feet or hair or neckline and instead focusing on the tattooed arm of this slim woman in a dark, dark dress who sat smirking knowingly at me, smoking a long cigarette which she held between slender, manicured fingers, ‘she’s the wife of one of my best friends. I don’t want to f… to make love to her at all.’

   ‘Whatever you say, Casanova,’ her grin remained upon her face as smoke crept out of the sides of her mouth and framed her symmetrical face in a dreamy haze and she held out the packet of cigarettes to me and asked, ‘want a cigarette?’

   ‘No, thanks. I’ve stopped. My body is a temple. A temple I fill with vodka.’

   She let out a quiet chuckle, this stranger, and her eyes drifted toward the room and away from me, allowing me to take a longer look at her. She had hair a sort of dyed grey with blue streaks, but both colours were so dark that at a glance you’d just think it was all black. Her earrings were upside down crucifixes and she had a tattoo of The Riddler, the Batman villain, surrounded by green question marks on her arm which spread down to her elbow and disappeared into her dress at the shoulder, ending who knows where. Her dress was black and low-cut, revealing normal sized breasts and collar bones that stuck out because she was so slim. Her eyebrows were either shaved off or had fallen off, and she had drawn deep black lines where they should have been, which served to accentuate her piercing blue eyes, blue the colour of the Las Vegas summer sky. She was stunning, this woman, and it struck me at that moment that in all the years I had known Abigail and Harry, I had never seen her at any of their parties. The way she had just burst into my consciousness, it was more like she was an invention of a mind in need than a friend of a friend who had decided to talk to the lonely drunk who wouldn’t get up and dance. Not that I considered this at the time; I was barely able to pick my jaw off of the table.

   ‘Don’t worry,’ she said, watching Abigail dance and taking a long, seductive drag from her Pall Mall, ‘I think you’re one of about a hundred million men at this party who want to fuck Abigail. Anyone who’s hit puberty wants to hit that next.’

   ‘It doesn’t sound like you have a high opinion of the men here,’ I replied, trying to hold it together, trying not to let my tongue drown itself in a paddling pool of Smirnoff.

   She shrugged. ‘I don’t know many of them.’

   ‘Well,’ I replied, seizing an opportunity to work my drunken magic, ‘now you know me. I’m Aaron.’ 

   I held my clammy hand out for her to shake, and she ignored it. Instead, she stared into my eyes and purred, ‘Are you, now. How nice for you.’

   ‘So… how do you know Abbie and Harry?’ I mumbled, shaken.

   ‘Muh,’ she shrugged, dropping her cigarette into her empty wine glass, ‘I don’t, really. They’re friends of a friend. And even that friend is a new friend. I’ve only just met them, really. They wouldn’t know who I was if they had even noticed I was here.’

   ‘And your friend thought that you should come to their anniversary party? Knowing no one?’

   ‘I think he needed the company.’

   He?’ My drunk heart sank.

   ‘Yeah,’ she grinned, those beautifully straight, white teeth once again flaunting themselves shamelessly as she leaned her elbows on the table and pulled another cigarette from the pack, ‘he. You jealous, stud?’

   I laughed, blushed, hiccoughed, coughed. No, I’m not jealous, I rehearsed in my head. ‘No, I’m not jealous,’ I lied, terribly.

   ‘Don’t worry, I think that all my new friend needs is a pick-me-up,’ she breathed, blowing smoke into the air between us and now leaning on the table full time, facing me head-on, ‘like we all do, now and then.’

   Her eyes bore into me. I began to sweat. She wasn’t smiling anymore, just watching me, and my neck and forehead began to itch.

   ‘Are you… Are you saying I look sad?’

   ‘How long have you been an alcoholic, Aaron?’

   ‘Er, excuse me?’

   ‘I’m not judging. I just want to know how long you’ve felt like you don’t have control.’

   ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I faux-laughed, shrugging and avoiding eye contact. I can stop whenever I like, I don’t need to drink, I rehearsed in my head. ‘I can stop whenever I like. I don’t need to drink, I just like to ease the tension,’ I lied, terribly.

   ‘Why do you feel like you need to drink to ease the tension?’ She asked, pressing further, leaning closer, ‘What tension do you need to ease?’

   ‘The tension of… life,’ I sighed, rubbing my temples, inexplicably feeling like I could trust a total stranger, ‘the pressure. The fact that I’m perceived as a fucking loser by everyone I meet and my last girlfriend left me because I was addicted to Sim City and I’m thirty-six.’

   ‘And how exactly do you know that people think you’re a fucking loser?’

   ‘I can see it on their faces. All I have to do is start talking about my life and I see people’s faces drop. Their eyes glaze over, and their lips curl. It’s as if they’ve just smelt shit on my breath.’

   ‘That’s not what I thought when you started speaking.’

   ‘You’re not like everyone else.’

   She grinned, and shot me a wink. ‘That’s sweet, sugar plum; but you should know that I’m exactly like everyone else. We’re all so different that we might as well be the same. And we’re all so incredibly concerned, twenty-four seven, by what everyone else thinks of us, that we forget to ever make these harsh judgments that we imagine everyone else making. We’re all in the same boat, sinking in a sea of self-consciousness and insecurity. It’s all in our heads.’ She tapped her temple with one hand, and held the cigarette to her mouth with the other, to take another deep, enticing suck.

   ‘I wish it was. I wish that was true.’

   ‘It is. Everything you think people think about you is a fiction. You can’t ever know exactly what people are thinking, so you have to make it up. You could just as easily make up a positive perception, but right now you’re choosing the negative. All you have to do is change your choice. Choose to believe that people are seeing a winner, and maybe you’ll become one.’

   I laughed, enjoying the sound of her voice and the way her words were lifting me, ‘Where have you got all this from?’

   ‘It’s the truth. The first truth I’ve told you. No, the second; the thing about every man in this room wanting to fuck Abigail is also true.’

   ‘It’s the truth that everything I’ve ever thought that people thought about me was made up?’

   ‘Absolutely true, yes. We know that the sky is blue because we see it, and we’re told it, and everybody talks about it being blue; we know that the Earth is round because it’s been proven, and scientists have told us, and Google Earth showed us. When we know things, it’s made easy for us; but as soon as we can’t know something, our minds panic. They say, shit, I don’t know what people think of me, so I better make something up. What can I base it on? I know! My perception of myself! and normal people like you and I start this self-loathing spiral that leads us hurtling down toward a life of constantly trying to improve personalities that needed no improvement to begin with. Meanwhile, cunts like… I don’t know… Piers Morgan are so sure of their own superiority that they turn themselves into Iron Men, when really they’re… Balsa Wood Bastards at best. The world you think you know is imaginary, Aaron, and only you can change it.’

   We sat for a few moments, staring at each other and grinning. ‘I think you just blew my mind,’ I said, downing the rest of my Screwdriver and slamming the glass onto the table.

   ‘You haven’t heard anything yet,’ she replied, ‘there’s so much more where that came from. I have a whole barrel of crackpot theories. For instance: can you be sure that I exist?’

   I giggled drunkenly, uncontrollably, embarrassingly. ‘Of course I can,’ I snorted.

   She raised her drawn-on eyebrows and finished her cigarette.

   ‘I tell you what,’ barked Will, an old school friend who couldn’t hold his drink, as he threw his weight down onto the remaining seat at our table, ‘I would pay good money to fuck Abigail right now. Good. Money.’

   The girl with the Riddler tattoo smirked at me and began to pack her packet of cigarettes and her lighter into the clutch bag she had rested on her lap.

   ‘Will, this is –’ I began, desperate to keep the stranger at the table, to learn her name, to follow her down her rabbit hole of endless possibilities and realigned perceptions of this cruel world.

   ‘…a shit hall,’ Will blurted, finishing my sentence for me, and chuckling at his own joke. ‘Can you believe it’s three quid a pint? This is fucking Blackheath, not Mayfair. And the female to male ratio, it… it leaves a fuck of a lot to be desired, Aaron.’ He could barely keep his eyelids open.

   ‘I… I’m sorry about this,’ I said to the girl, surprised that she had stirred enough motivation to impress in me that I felt the need to apologise for my drunken friend’s behaviour.

   ‘You don’t have to be sorry, Aaron. I told you, how people see you is nowhere near as terrible as how you’re seeing yourself. You just have to wake up to that fact. It’s all in your head.’

   ‘What are you sorry about? What are you talking about?’

   The girl was getting up, so I grabbed her hand. ‘Wait, don’t go,’ I begged, trying to keep my cool and failing.

   ‘I need to get out of here. I don’t think my company is needed anymore. This party is wrapping up soon, anyway.’ With that, she leaned down, kissed my sweaty forehead, and walked off into the darkness of the hall, seeming to disappear in the fog of the smoke machine and the alcohol and the cheap disco lights.

   ‘What do you mean don’t go? I’m not going anywhere,’ slurred Will, his head starting to slump onto the table.

   ‘Will,’ I sighed, still staring into the space where the girl had disappeared, ‘do you know who that girl is? Do you know who she came here with?’

   ‘Who, Abigail? She came with Harry, you spastic,’ he replied, his eyes closing.

   ‘No, the girl I was talking to. The one sitting at this table until, like, a second ago. Do you know who she is?’

   ‘Mate,’ he mumbled, ‘there was no one sitting here. I honestly have no fucking clue what you’re talking about. It’s all in your head.’

   And then he began to snore.

   Do you ever wake up happy?      Every morning, you struggle to muster the motivation to lift your head from the pillow. You sigh and...

   Do you ever wake up happy?
   Every morning, you struggle to muster the motivation to lift your head from the pillow. You sigh and you drag your feet around your cold, lonely little flat with no purpose or desire to seize the day. You dread work not because your job is stressful or you hate your colleagues, but because you feel like spending ten hours outside of the house every day is somehow holding you back from devoting necessary time to following your dream. What is that dream, you wonder? Who the fuck knows anymore? Fame, money, love… something like that.
   You feel like maybe there’s potential for greatness within you, but you don’t quite know whether it will ever reveal itself. There’s a talent for something lying in wait within you, a real uniqueness that could one day propel you into the world you’ve always dreamed of inhabiting, but what it is is a mystery to you. You try to create, to be creative, but you hate all the stories you write and you don’t have the confidence to act anymore. Long ago, you slipped into a pattern of spending most of your day at work and coming home to watch pornography and write mediocre, unentertaining stories about yourself in the third – or worse, the second – person, and you can’t get out of it now. Everything you write sounds like something your heroes would scoff at when you read it back to yourself. If they ever wasted their time reading it.
   You’re not sure anymore whether you hate yourself or you’re just being eaten alive by self-pity. You’re certain you don’t hate everyone else as much as you try to convince yourself you do, or else you wouldn’t be so desperate all the time to impress them, or to take back the bad things you’ve done. You wouldn’t cringe thrice daily, each time remembering some long-passed story about a teenage sexual encounter or a relationship regret. So often, you ask yourself if the world would be a better place if you weren’t in it; then you wonder if anyone gives enough of a shit about the things you’ve done to wish you’d never existed. Probably not. So why are you pondering it?
   More times than you can remember, you’ve promised yourself that you’ll change. You’ll somehow become overnight that guy that everyone turns to for a good, honest laugh or a wise, insightful byte of advice, and you’ll stop pushing everyone away with your lack of empathy or your mixed emotional messages. You’ll become the type of man you only see in films or in books and never in real life – a real hero. But you never have become that man, and until you do, you plan just to continue to make mistakes and then let regret eat away at you after each one.
   Too often, you wish you were back with that one girlfriend who you ruined it with all that time ago. You’ve had girlfriends since her and you have options now, you’re sure you do, but all you want is her. But then, if you really think about it, you can’t even stand the idea of ever seeing her again. If you hated her then, can you imagine how much you’d hate her now? Fuck. She must be a nightmare these days. You need to get a new girlfriend – someone sweet, and kind, and beautiful, and caring. The problem being, of course, that sweet, kind, beautiful, caring girls have better options than a miserable old man trapped in a twenty-odd-year-old’s body. And besides, where do you expect to meet these women when all your time is spent at work, commuting or on the Internet? Twitter isn’t going to help you, it’s full of angry feminists and retarded pro-lifers. The Internet is a swamp that the scum of the earth fly around and all the losers like you sink into.
   At least the paranoia is dying down. You can console yourself with the revelation that you can make it all the way to work these days without thinking some stranger is going to kill you. Most days. You wonder, is this how everyone feels? Is this how we were built? Were we designed to be permanently punishing ourselves in our heads? Forever self-loathing? So many of us seem to do it. It’s an epidemic. Maybe, you often think, it’s the case that mental illness has such stigma attached to it because it’s everyone’s best kept secret, and we’re all terrified that it will get out. It’s certain that on this one aspect of your life, you don’t feel alone. Everyone is at least a little fucked up, you know it; because without it, we’re just not human.
   But still, you feel alone. Like everyone else, you are lonely. It wouldn’t surprise you to find that the whole world was a creation of your mind to stop you going insane, and nor would it surprise you to find that you were a creation of someone else’s mind. You feel like everyone is together in being completely separate. You long for the touch of someone whose love is unconditional and everlasting, but you’re not even sure that exists. Who has time for romance, these days? Who has the energy to kid themselves so?
   Above all this, in so many spare moments, the deepest of all your thoughts, is a voice that repeats itself over and over and over. It’s a voice that you know chants its mantra in everybody’s heads, and only a brave few have fully embraced. It’s a voice whose philosophy you preach, but don’t practice. But you have always wished you could. It whispers, again and again:
Get the fuck over it. Live your fucking life.

Yesterday, I got my first tattoo. It's a quote from Fight Club and it's on my left pec. And here it is:     This isn't ...

Yesterday, I got my first tattoo. It's a quote from Fight Club and it's on my left pec. And here it is:
This isn't an article. Don't think this is an article, because it isn't. It's just me showing off the writing that's stuck on my chest forever. I have nothing to tell you about getting a tattoo other than that it doesn't hurt much, and actually feels quite nice. I'll be getting more tattoos, and I'll be showing you all of them. So, y'know, have a nice Sunday evening and a lovely week at work.