Sunday, 31 January 2016

Writers’ & Artists' 2016 Short Story Competition

Dear all,

I think 2016 will be the year I might try entering a few competitions. I’m sure I have talked before about hating them, and I sort of still do… I can’t explain what has changed in me to want to do this but I think it’s possibly a way to tricking myself. By forcing myself to enter competitions I am forcing myself to write more, work on different topics and to different word counts. As I mentioned in my previous blog post I want to try and keep as busy as I can be this year, really stretch myself. Even though I have all the same trepidations with regards elitism and so on, I just want to improve and look back at the end of 2016 and see a lot of new content but of course, regardless of its impact or significance. I’m not worried about that in the slightest. The only thing you need to be concerned about is knowing you have improved, and yes, it’s true that one of the main ways is to receive external criticism and reviews, but entering competitions isn’t the way to do that. The process by which you edit and redraft your work, showing it to others and receiving feedback, so that you can send it off to the competitions in the first place means that is it the more useful by-product of entering competitions in my view. You don’t receive any feedback from the vast majority of competitions so unless you ensure the process includes that criticism before sending it off then you won’t know if it was any good, and more importantly, an improvement on what you have done before. So, for those two reasons, wanting to improve and wanting to keep busy, I will give competitions a go. I hope anyone reading this will give it a go too, why not?

Here is the link for one with a deadline in two weeks:

Writers’ & Artists Short Story Competition
Deadline: 15th February 2016

I think what I will do is keep a note of all the entries I make, share the criteria and deadlines with you, and when they announce the winners (which of course I am fully confident about will not include me) upload the stories I sent in to this blog. I don’t think I have ever shared any of my creative writing before, other than putting it for sale as ebooks of course, so it will be another interesting outcome for me as a result. Quite looking forward to that in a self-flagellation kind of way.

Good luck!

R.G Rankine 

Saturday, 30 January 2016


Dear all,

I started writing this post earlier in the month as I thought it would be good (for my own benefit) to put my hopes for 2016 down on paper. As with a lot of list makers, the process of writing down what I want to do, then re-writing that list several times over, really helps (and wastes time, yes) to drill down to the nitty-gritty.

Then we had that dreadful run of ‘celebrity’ deaths. I don’t think celebrity is the right way to describe them individually but you know what I mean. First of all I was really upset at the death of ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister. I have never been rooted to one style of music so I’m not going to pretend I have been a die hard metal fan all of my life but I grew up with an affinity to rock and heavy metal and it was rare for much time to pass without blasting out something loud and raucous. I grew up to Iron Maiden and they are still the soundtrack of my life but Motorhead certainly played its part, and more importantly the ethos the people that made up these bands had, and the way they lived their lives was just as impactful. As with who know how many hundreds of thousands of people around the world, news like that makes you think about mortality and without realising my draft blog become quite the depressing pessimistic final-diary entry piece, so I thought it best to let some time pass.

I write this blog for myself. I’ve given up on diaries and I end up keeping most of the notes I make for stories I have in mind (I always think they will come in handy for a character or scenario later down the line). I realised though that I was becoming a bit more boring in my blogging, in that I was using it just for news and announcements and I have trailed away from writing about my feelings. I wanted to change that in 2016 and get back to exploring my views on the world but aware of not going too far, I don’t want to spend too much time here rather than on my stories or get too personal either (we all have those Facebook friends who post ‘Too Much Information’) but it’s an interesting exercise and good practice, and I quite enjoy it. Even if no one reads my blog, it’s the routine and discipline involved that helps me so I’m going to make a renewed effort this year to post on personal subjects as well as more business related ones.

Then David Bowie and other influential people died and I really felt down. As with Lemmy, he wasn’t a bigger or lesser influence on me than many others but for sure, there were moments in my life when I listened to his music and it made me feel better. Just the fact that he existed and did what he did made me feel better. Just the awareness of how creative people sometimes do succeed and flourish makes me feel better. Just the fact that ‘ordinary’ people become famous and despite ups and downs remain ‘ordinary’ and people you can associate with makes me feel better! That’s where YouTube comes in. It still amazes me that we have access to the history of the world’s media within a few clicks on a computer. I’m 36 years old so I’m not fully eligible to use the ‘in my day…’ phrase but ACTUALLY in my day growing up in the 80s it was still the case that you had to go to long lengths to get access to the information you wanted. All those crap magazines you had to pay mail order subscriptions to, VHS rentals that only had three copies of the latest films and were always out, satellite channels only one person in your whole school year had and so on. You couldn’t simply go to a computer and type in ‘David Bowie interview’ and be presented with countless clips from every decade and every country. It is incredible. Of course that is exactly what I did. I must have spent hours watching interviews and documentaries of David and Lemmy… and I was so moved. As I said earlier, it was their sense of purpose and direction that was just as important as their work to me. They knew what they wanted to do with their lives and they worked hard to get it, and yes, no one, including them, would say it works for everyone, you need luck and the dice to roll your way sometimes and have people to support you, etc. but I don’t care about that. You need that in ordinary everyday life just as much. What I care about is that they had passion and didn’t give up, and you get the feeling that they would have been more or less the same personalities regardless of what ever job they would have ended up with. That’s also the point, to remain connected to reality despite the craziness around them (and to which they succumbed at times of course, but wouldn’t everyone?) and still be just decent ordinary people.

But there is another element to their deaths. As I mentioned above, I am 36 years old and that means that for the most part, people my age have parents roughly the age of Lemmy and David. Mine, and my friends’ parents are their ages. If you saw Michael Caine’s interview last week where he talks about being 82 and remembering when he was younger (he actually says he feels like he was 36 only yesterday) and his perception of people in their 80s was that of a being really really old and doddering about on walking sticks and speaking in dry raspy voices. He doesn’t think that now of course! I’m from the UK and like most other places our society (despite the many, many serious issues we have) is serving our health well, we are growing older, growing older fitter and stronger, and being in your 60s and 70s is not the same as a few generations ago. So, it feels like dying in your 60s or 70s is somehow wrong, it is like being robbed of decades of potentially rewarding and fulfilling life (for the individual and those individual’s families and loved ones) and that is why it seems so upsetting. What else could they have achieved given more time? It’s a horrible thought… and selfish too, I’m looking at it in the sense of what pleasure could they have given me, but I don’t mean it like that. I want them to enjoy life for its own sake. Then there is the thought of my own life, if I am 36 then that is over the half way mark! I have less time that I have already lived to achieve what I want to achieve. It’s a sobering thought. One last comment on why these people had such an impact, and again, it’s another selfish one I’m afraid. If you live near to where someone famous lived you have a sense of connection. You may never meet them, never have any physical connection to them at all in fact, yet because you know that they came from the area you did, there is a sense of emotional connection. There were two articles from a couple of weeks ago that touched on this.

Culture should never be a privilege - it must belong to us all
The entertainment industry has always been a route to fame and riches for people from modest backgrounds

David Bowie: how a broken pint glass in a Blackheath pub changed the course of music history
David Bowie was only 16 when he stepped in as lead singer for The Konrads when the band's frontman cut his foot on broken glass at a pub gig in 1963. The accident propelled the then David Jones to stardom

I can walk to where that pub used to be. I can walk to where Kate Bush used to live. I could go on and give you countless examples of being able to walk to places where ‘famous’ people came from. Coming from London this may not be unusual, I know. I realise that living in a big city you can’t turn a corner without some link to a fascinating historical fact. That doesn’t take away the point that these places are still ordinary. Ordinary places with ordinary people. That’s why when you watch these interviews on YouTube it is surprising that we are surprised, if you know what I mean. Of course they were just ordinary people. Why would they be anything else? Why do we expect them to be anything else? They come from ordinary families and from ordinary places. They worked hard like we all do. It just so happens that what they worked hard at had an impact on millions of people. We are surrounded by ordinary people that are also magical beautiful people, we just never get to see it because they don’t have their day to day lives recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Think of how many wonderful people you know that would be an inspiration to others if only you could somehow transport them into the living rooms of the world. That’s why when watching the following interview for instance, which happens to be the last one Lemmy recorded, it makes me smile so much because it could quite easily be the bloke down the pub, or the uncle you see at Christmas, or the mate from secondary school who now runs his own plumbing business, etc. He is just someone who had success, but still enjoys life for what it is and that’s all I want really. To be able to enjoy life knowing you took the decisions that were important to you, risky or not, dangerous or not, crazy or not… you just worked hard doing what you want to do, as the saying goes, the journey is the important thing, not the destination; if you had told Lemmy or Bowie what they would achieve when they were kids they would not have believed it just as much as if I told you – you reading this now - what you will achieve. That’s why you just have to enjoy the journey because we simply don’t know.

(I tried to find the original from German TV channel ZDF
but couldn’t so apologies for posting a re-upload)

So... I ended up writing this blog again and changing the angle from pessimistic to optimistic. From Lemmy to Bowie (, to those who have passed so upsettingly young to those who have lived to see a full and complete journey, reflecting on the meaning of what work and art is, and the means by which you judge success, takes me back to one thing: focusing on the present. It is the hardest thing to do sometimes, I constantly think of the past, my mistakes, the things I wish had turned out differently, and so on, but channeling all that energy (and it can use up a lot of energy!) into the present is what we have to do, what we must do. That’s what you get from watching people like Bowie and Lemmy, despite what they have already done, and their age, and changing commitments, they are still looking forward to the next project, the next gig, the next whatever is may be… As someone who is interested in writing, I have to remember to think of anything negative as a tool, a means by which I can develop my writing, in the same way you need to tools to fix something mechanically, and when sad things happen and life forces you to reflect on your mortality, celebrate the good things and not rue the bad. Use those emotions for the next project just like Bowie or Lemmy would have done. Get busy. Get to work. Stay focussed on your passions!

With that in mind, here is a very quick mention on the things I will be working on this year and bringing you updates of through this blog and my other social media sites.

Self Publishing Package

For at least a year I’ve been thinking about selling a service, partly because I have been asked to by a few people and it got me thinking and partly because I find it an interesting business opportunity. I enjoy helping people and over time it has become apparent there is potential to develop the company in a way that would make me feel like I am giving people something genuinely helpful and growing a team, or a community, at the same time. The start of this year (what I said above) has settled it for me. Why wait any longer! I am finalizing the details of offering a self publishing package. I would like to help people build the foundations of a self publishing author profile that may assist them in growing and developing as a writer (and cross fingers moving on to bigger and better things) and so after a couple more weeks of tweaking the business plan, working out advertising, sales reporting, contracts, agreements, editing, design services, blah blah… I will start that venture. I will keep you posted. Initially I would like it to be just a local thing, working with people in south east London but we shall see.

My First Novel…

I spent a lot of time in 2015 setting out the story I want to tell for my first novel. I stopped developing it while I worked on my last set of short stories and there has been a further disruption now that I have been developing the self publishing package but I am nearly ready to get cracking. I pretty much know the main characters, the main settings, the main plot and have a folder full of notes concerning various episodes and conversations so it’s just a matter of sitting down and focusing one hundred percent on it. My aim is to have a complete first draft complete by December. Again… we will see…

I started a separate blog this time last year to show you photos and notes from the various trips I took to research locations I want in my book but stopped. I am not sure it is worth starting up again so instead any trips I take I will post about here. It’s a bit too much work trying to maintain so many different sites to be honest and it takes up too much time. I won’t reshare the first few posts as it’s all in a different format however every time I go on a jaunt around town from now on, I’ll share it with you here.

Author Website

I have had my domains registered for years but have spent up to now developing my company website and other services. Before the self publishing package goes live I will make sure I have my own author website up and running and I will use it to offer any potential visitors an insight into my personal passions and share the experiences that have formed me (writing and non-writing related). Again, I’ll let you know when it goes live.

I think this year will be busier than ever. I really want it to be. I feel the need to be active and make some progress. I look forward to sharing my journey with you and hope you feel part of it with me.

Thanks everyone,

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New Short Story Collection

Dear all,

I am pleased to announce I have self published my latest ebook. It is a collection of three short stories, very simply titled, ‘Collection Three’ (as it follows on from my previous two self published collections – the first collection being utter and total drivel but needs must at the time!)

The main work is titled, ‘The Trees of '87’ and runs to approximately 25k words, and the two smaller works are titled, ‘The 6.30 to Marionette’s End’ and ‘A Scream is Coming’, running to 8k words and 5.5k words respectively.

‘The Trees of '87’ is a piece that I have had in mind for quite a long time as it is very loosely based on a memory of mine in which some friends and I played around in Greenwich Park (London, UK) when we were ten years old or so. As with most ideas it changed quite dramatically once I started and only the park and the storm are the ‘real’ things left from the original idea. I twisted the personalities of the main characters beyond anything that is close to my real life and if you read it, none of the incidents are based on my life either…however I found them a good way to express the most important theme of the story, which is losing the wonder of childhood imagination. A very distinct recollection I have is being dismayed at how empty Greenwich Park seemed after the storm of 1987 when so many trees were uprooted. I thought I could combine the two memories and use it to create a conflict in the protagonist’s memory (once you add some family issues and a tragic accident…)

I have written a few ‘odd’ pieces in the past that have a slightly surreal nature to them and I have two more in, ‘The 6.30 to Marionette’s End’ and ‘A Scream is Coming’. Although I am not suffering any weird compulsion to produce works that lead people to think I am crazy-bonkers-mad, I do have a gut feeling telling me to finish a few pieces that I know won’t be straightforward reads, and to be honest, probably liked by people. Of course, it’s not a popularity contest and I am only writing for myself anyway, but even I see that some ideas have the potential to make me seem unhinged. Never the less, they have very important themes to me. I don’t know why some themes I feel I want to express in normal contemporary drama narratives and some come out in these whacky manners but for whatever reason these two pulled me towards the peculiar. They both concern a person’s emotions when trying to face up to something they have suppressed for a long time. They may not necessarily be aware they have suppressed certain feelings or knowledge, but once it’s apparent to them, it is all about how they deal with it… I’ll leave it at that for now. I’m not joking when I say I don’t expect anyone to like these stories but they do mean a lot to me and I look forward to the coming years as - I hope - my writing becomes stronger and more confident and I am able to tackle these issues in more complex ways and most importantly, as a better storyteller.

In case you are interested, here are the links to purchase on Amazon (all of my short stories are priced at £0.99 inc tax or in equivalent currencies):



I haven’t set the ‘free days’ yet so keep an eye out but I will probably only do one run of free days as I will be uploading to Nook, Kobo, Apple, Google and Scribd too. You can see all of my works and those of the writers I am working with, along with distributor links, at

The Cover

I have a funny little side issue to tell you about… it’s a bit embarrassing but I am used to highlighting my failures by now! When it came to creating the cover I knew I already possessed some photos of Greenwich Park and it was just a matter of selecting one I liked. I also knew that as a basic concept I would use elements from ‘The 6.30 to Marionette’s End’ to manipulate the image. I won’t say exactly why in case anyone does decide to read it, but it meant turning the image very yellow. As I was testing this out I had the idea of creating a specific font too. Again, I won’t explain why, but I thought it would be great to have the letters wrapped in yellow rope/twine.

To cut a long story short… I couldn’t find what I wanted so in the end I printed out each letter the size of an A4 sheet of paper, then physically threaded the paper like you would sewing a coat or shirt. Once I had done this with each letter, I then photographed them, imported them into Photoshop and went about cutting away the white of the paper and any shadows, etc. This meant I had each letter as a separate image. I then placed those letters in a row to form the title.

Which is when I realised my two days of messing around was largely wasted… OF COURSE, once I had the words ready I had to reduce them in size to fit onto the page and that meant that the detail of the wrapped rope/twine was mostly lost because it was too small to see! Don’t I feel like a ‘Grade A’ idiot! Normally, I plan these things out and think ahead but I guess I was so consumed by getting the font to look how I wanted it, I steamed ahead too quickly… anyway, lesson learnt and to be honest, I still am glad I did it as it came out as I wanted and as a friend told me, it’s all in the detail.

Okay, moving on. I hope you enjoy these short stories and I would welcome your feedback, you don’t have to leave a formal review on Amazon or anything like that, feel free to send me an email on and let me know what you think. Or if you have a short story and want to do a (HONEST) review swap then get in touch.

Thanks everyone,

R.G Rankine.

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