Reconnect with yourself… a few thoughts following ‘Offline October’

It’s 1st November and I’ve just had a month completely away from Twitter and Facebook. When Sarah Pinborough suggested this self-imposed exile, I jumped at the chance knowing I spend way too much time trawling timelines, getting dragged into stupid rows about things I don’t care about and losing hours and hours of working time.

It was easy

I’ll get straight to it. I cannot recommend time away from social media highly enough. I know some people have to monitor it for their jobs but the rest of you have no excuse. The benefits were immediate and obvious and the anticipated downsides trivial by comparison.

I wondered if I would find it impossible not to sneak on, even anonymously, and see what was going on… whether I would feel I was ‘missing out’ in some indefinable way, whether I would feel excluded. Was there a risk of feeling isolated by avoiding online social contact?

Well, perhaps I’m not such an addict as I think I am because it was embarrassingly easy to keep away. Not only that, I felt liberated. No longer did I feel I had to check in, to be there, to be a presence of any kind. I didn’t have to think about what I might tweet or post. No longer was I measuring my intellect or the impact of my humour, my worth, by the number of likes and retweets. And before, that’s what I did and I feel sure that many of you reading this do the same. Let’s be honest, it’s a bit pathetic, isn’t it? I wasn’t conscious I was doing it either, which is somehow even worse.

Beyond that admission, the greatest revelation was the sheer amount of time I found myself with during a normal office day. It’s obvious when you stop to think about it but from constantly dipping in and out of social media to check on those cursed likes, shares and retweets, to getting sucked into a debate or an argument, it is incredibly disruptive. But I don’t think I’d realised quite how disruptive and again, I’d sleepwalked into it, assimilated it as just part of life and it’s stupid frankly. Because writing novels and the like requires uninterrupted focus. Simple, really.

As you’ll expect, having read so far, I’ve been far more productive. I’ve also found more time to watch saved up TV, read books, do exercise… I feel more connected to me and the backlogs of this and that are falling and that is a very good feeling.

What surprised me in the early days was how much calmer I felt. I’m not writing this to knock social media because it is wonderful for many things but too often it is an echo-chamber of hate and fury and unfairness and bile and cynicism and try as I might, I’m drawn in to respond. I have no desire whatever to go back down those blind alleys.

Coming next…

The question is, I suppose, how do I handle it all now the month is over?

I haven’t ever considered abandoning social media altogether, it has too much of a positive side for that and it would deny all the enjoyment I’ve derived, the friends I’ve made and the benefit it’s been to me as an author and actor. But it’s the at-times appalling negativity in all its forms that needs to be avoided, or minimised at least. What I am tired of is engaging in a thread that goes wrong and ending up feeling cross half the day. I don’t want to engage with people who appear to be angry nearly all the time. It’s destructive of time, mood and morale. There’s plenty enough bad and fury-inducing news emanating from every news outlet daily as it is without enraging myself with it further on social media.

The plan is this. One: a cull of Facebook ‘friends’. It’s an echo chamber of hate far too often and it needs a serious pruning. Second, not to trawl timelines anymore, rather to keep up with the people I most care about in a more targeted manner. If there’s anything that eats most time, it’s reading post after post, tweet after tweet just in case something sparks my attention or anger or disgust or whatever. Third, not ever again feel internal or external pressure to post or tweet something erudite/pithy/witty… that’s a sorry self-obsessive road and life is too short to waste on such things.

Who knows how it’ll go from here on in but I changed my priorities last month and I want to keep it that way. I honestly don’t think I’ll be on social media as much. This break has (re)opened my eyes and it has been so refreshing.

If I have one recommendation, it’s to think about your relationship with social media. Take a step back and consider if you’ve absorbed it so deeply you cannot comprehend a day without it. Be honest, and if that is you, take a week off, or just a couple of days even, and fill up those days with all the stuff you’re normally so busy posting about loving so much.

Re-connect with yourself on your terms.

James Barclay

November 2016

• November 1st, 2016 • Posted in All the rest, Blog, News • Comments: 0

Out and about in August

Heart Of Granite

Heart Of Granite

I am emerging from my office and even taking a day off rehearsals for a few events this month and here they are:

Tuesday 9th August – It’s book launch time at Blackwell’s High Holborn. The sheer joy that is a dual launch for my new novel, Heart of Granite and the lovely Ed Cox’s The Watcher of Dead Time will be marshalled by Jon Wallace (pity the poor chap). There’ll be chat, Q&A, maybe the odd reading and perhaps even a glass of something. It all kicks off at 6.30pm and probably ends in a local pub. It’s completely free so all you need to do is book by clicking here.

Thursday 11th August – Is there any other place to be this evening but Fantasy In The Court hosted by Goldsboro Books (the court being the tranquil and beautiful Cecil Court near Leicester Square) I’ll be there standing around talking to anyone and everyone and signing books if you bring them along (or even better, buy at the event, something that ensures my undying love). All the details about tickets, location and the excellent line-up of authors can be found here.

Friday 12th August – It’s day one of Nineworlds at Novotel London West in Hammersmith and it’s also my 11th Wedding Anniversary. I’ll be at the convention all day. I’ve got two panels in the morning:

World-building: No One Sells Happy Life Day Cards
Bouzy, 10:00am – 11:00am (Living Words)
Tracks: Living Words

Economics, geography, infrastructure – it’s the background stuff that, like concrete breeze blocks, comes off as the dull, uninteresting graft of world creation. But what makes it come alive and make sense for the reader? What makes people care, and what makes a fictional culture viable?

Getting fighting wrong
Cremant, 11:45am – 12:45pm (Living Words)
Tracks: Living Words

Meaningful exchanges of blows: how to lose pace and focus in every action scene! A lot of things go into a good action sequence – sharp things, explodey things, possibly an angry person waving a mildly threatening stick – but what does it actually take to make a fight scene work? How does writing a battle differ from running one, if at all? Here are some authors to spill their guts! Hopefully not literally. PLEASE not literally.

2-1455219435_SCOTT BARCLAY_Jan16-84croppedSuper panels with top panellists, I think you’ll agree. And if you can’t make the panels, feel free to find me afterwards, most likely having a drink or two…all the details of Nineworlds can be found here.

• August 2nd, 2016 • Posted in Books, News • Comments: 0

A Change Of Tune

I like it...

I like it…

I went to see Take That last Saturday night. There, eight words I never thought I’d write.

Let me start with a little context… I’ve been brought up on rock and heavy rock, with a bit of new romantic and boogie woogie chucked in for good measure. When I go to a gig it’s to see, say, AC/DC, Jethro Tull, ZZ Top, Cinderella, Bryan Adams, Jools Holland, OMD. Y’see, I’m not just a rocker, I’m an old rocker. A good song is one that grabs you by the balls from the first bar and doesn’t let you go until the final chord has faded. One thing I swore never to do was go and see a boy band. Well, a man band as this particular one is these days.

So, it was with some trepidation and few (positive) expectations that I went to see Take That at the O2 Arena, having bought tickets for Clare as a Christmas present. I mean, I like the odd Take That song for sure but on the whole, let’s face it: they’re just not my sort of music.

What I did expect was screaming and yes, there was some but I guess age has taken the hysterical edge from it and the demographic of a Take That fan has shifted… a very good number has grown up with them and while they may still want Gary Barlow’s babies, they don’t tend to announce it to the O2 audience and in front of their husbands.

I expected it to be a bit naff. Y’know; three men trying to cling on to the glory days of yesteryear, that sort of thing. During the rest of my life, I will have to fight hard to exceed the error in that assumption.

I’m well used to quality spectacles in arenas… ZZ Top at Milton Keynes stands out and to be fair on him, Robbie Williams at Wembley last year was terrific. David Lee Roth was a brilliant showman. I could go on.

Take That completely blew every other live act I’ve ever seen completely out of the water.

This was no mere gig or concert; it was an event. It was theatre, a spectacular for the eyes and ears in which you submerge from the moment the first dancer appears to the last echoes of the encore applause. Yep, I was swept away. The opening sequence was mesmerising, the opening number was performed in an orgy of colour and light.

The Colour & Light Fantastic

The Colour & Light Fantastic

It was flawless in every aspect and it didn’t let up for two hours.

There were several things that struck me. The show, which was put together in three acts, if you like, was incredibly tight, well-rehearsed and fantastically creative. Sure, the band have a musical director, an artistic director and so forth but the beating heart of it all is Barlow, Owen and Donald, men who, among other things, know how to write a tune and how to hold it live. The attention to detail was extraordinary; the innovations in costume, staging and effects enhanced but never overwhelmed; and the interactions between band and dancers, band and audience, dancers and audience, were genuine and warm.

The energy, passion and sheer love that had been poured into the production shone out and it was clear that every singer dancer and musician utterly loved it. Unsurprisingly, the audience felt the same way. This was not a ‘Hey look at us, we’re Take That’, show, more of a, ‘We’re Take That (or as they put it, ‘what’s left of Take That’) gorge yourselves on the show’, show. It wasn’t, in the modern vernacular, all about them.

Weird but, yes, wonderful

Weird but, yes, wonderful

From new material to old favourites played the original way (and with the original dance moves which showed a charming awareness of the present while nodding respect at the past), this was an event to savour and it was as far from a famous band banging out a few songs as it’s possible to get.

They’ve been going, on and off, for almost twenty five years now, so they should know a thing or two about how to put on a show but this took arena concerts to a completely different level. I know not everyone can play arenas but for those super-groups who can, here is your benchmark.

I still wouldn’t class myself as a Take That fan necessarily but I’ll tell you this: I’ve changed my tune about them and next time they tour, I’ll be first in the queue. Does that mean I’m mellowing? Possibly except the track I’m listening to right now is Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ so maybe not so much. Does it mean I’m having a mid-life crisis? Well, maybe but if so, bring it on.

Take a bow indeed, Mark Owen

Take a bow indeed, Mark Owen

• June 10th, 2015 • Posted in Blog, News • Comments: 0

My friend, Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce died on 9th September 2014 aged only 59. It is a monumental injustice.

I met Graham back in the very late 90s at a party. We’d been introduced earlier but I’m terrible with names and was overawed at being in the presence of so many amazing writers and industry folk. So, naturally, when we bumped into each other later in the evening, I called him ‘Pete’, because I’d confused him with Pete Crowther (I’ve never worked out why).

He stared at me with those extraordinary eyes of his and said. ‘James…’ (because he never forgot a face or a name). ‘I’m Graham. Pete’s the old bastard.’

Then we stood and talked about books and films and football, drank beer and became friends. Bless my poor name recollection.

I’m not going to go on about his extraordinary talent as a writer; just open one of his books on any page and that’s self-evident. I’d rather remember the man and the friend because he was a truly amazing human being.

Graham had such passion and he brought it to bear in every aspect of his life. Beyond his family and his books, he cared so deeply about inequalities in society, in education and healthcare particularly, and was always nothing less than forthright in expressing those views. I didn’t always agree with him and occasionally there’d be a spiky exchange but Graham respected honesty and a coherent argument (when I could muster one). Mind you, he wasn’t easily persuaded from his point of view. Mind you, that was because very often he was right…

I would drink at the well of Graham’s knowledge as often as I could. Whether it was politics, football, literature, faerie, history, writing… Graham had such a wealth of understanding and experience but he managed never to be patronising or impatient. I’d come away from the conversation armed with new information, new ways to look at things.

And then there was the simple pleasure of sitting with him over dinner. I particularly remember a wonderful evening in Brighton in 2012 with Graham, Sarah Pinborough, Joe Abercrombie and Conrad Williams. I’ll treasure the memory because I have rarely laughed so hard for so long. Graham, with his piercing, sparkling eyes was on incredible form and we all fed off it. Graham had the gift of instantly measuring a mood and he turned that night into something magical. I was lucky to be there, we all were.

Graham’s was the most generous of souls and his was a life that burned so brightly and not for long enough, not by a long way. Whenever I spent time with Graham, I came away feeling improved. Whenever we spoke on the phone, I didn’t want the conversation to end. Selfish, I know but I just loved speaking to him and was greedy for his wisdom.

I am blessed to have known Graham as a friend. We are all blessed that he has left behind such warm memories and the most wonderful body of work. His death has robbed his family of his extraordinary capacity for love and the rest of us of his boundless talent. Today we are all lessened.

• September 10th, 2014 • Posted in Blog, News • Comments: 0

World Fantasy 2013 – my schedule

Buy your copy at the DGLA Awards

Buy your copy at the DGLA Awards

OK, here it is, the stuff I’m doing at World Fantasy, the official stuff anyway. Naturally I shall be as available as possible to answer questions, sign books, chat and all such lovely things. Come find me wherever I am.

Meanwhile, I’m arriving early-mid afternoon on Thursday 31st October and heading off soon after breakfast on Sunday 3rd November. And the programme is…

Thursday 31st October, 8.00pm – The David Gemmell Legend Awards, Oxford Suite – I’ll be doing the opening reading and running the auction.

Friday 1st November, 2.30-3.00pm – Reading, Hall 8A – I can exclusively reveal here that I’ll be reading from my current Work In Progress… yep, the new stuff that won’t be published until 2015. So come along and get a sneak preview of a very, very early draft. By the way, Sir Terry is on at 3pm so I’ll be wrapping up a few minutes early so I can lead the stampede.

Friday 1st November, 8.00-10.30pm – Mass Signing, Oxford Suite and Cambridge – I won’t be there for the whole evening. Best thing to do is find my name card as I’ll scribble on it when I’m going to be sitting and signing.

Saturday 2nd November, 12 noon – Nifty Shades of Fae, Oxford Suite – I’m moderating this panel… ‘From Grimm to Once Upon a Time, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in classical fairy tales. What is our continued fascination with these kinds of stories, and how do they still resonate with today’s audiences?’ Should be a lot of fun, do come along and participate.

Any questions, do please fire away…

• October 14th, 2013 • Posted in Books, News • Comments: 0

Elitist Books reviews ‘Ravensoul’

The absolutely splendid Steve Diamond at Elitist Book Reviews has penned his thoughts on Ravensoul. As usual, he’s honest and open.

Here’s an excerpt :

I want to point out how well Barclay manages to make the reader feel emotion. Not gonna lie, DEMONSTORM had me shedding more than a few tears. I didn’t think Barclay could outdo that level writing excellence. But man, there is a scene at the end of RAVENSOUL that just thinking about it makes my eyes get watery. It’s one of the most emotionally powerful scenes I’ve ever read.

Head over here to read the full review. Then you could consider buying it along with the other six raven novels. Oh, go on…

• September 15th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

Rise of the TaiGethen – publication delay

Publication delayed to February 2012

Sorry to be the bearer of unwelcome tidings but the UK publication date for the second Elves book, Rise of the TaiGethen, has been put back to February 2012. I shall not bore you with all the whys and wherefores but suffice to say multiple little delays on all sides have contributed to the decision.

On the hugely positive front, though, you’re going to absolutely LOVE it when it does come out. And look at it this way… when the weather is cold and the icy rain is rattling against your windows, you’ll be able to relax inside with a really good book and forget the hideous nature of our climate as winter tries once more to tighten its grip before giving way to Spring.

• September 12th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

James opening Felixstowe Carnival 2011, signing in Magpie Books

Very exciting, is this. I’m opening my home town carnival on Saturday August 13th at Midday (at the Triangle, if you know Felixstowe. Having grown up in the town for 18 years and often gone to see the carnival procession as a youngster, it’s a real honour to be asked to open the whole event. It promises to be an excellent one too – local bands, entertainments, fairground rides as well as the procession. All good fun.

For more on the carnival, click here

And if you’re in the area earlier, then pop along to Magpie Books, 36 Hamilton Road at 10.30 where I’ll be doing a signing for an hour or so before the carnival opens.

I’m really looking forward to this.

• August 2nd, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

Barclays take delivery of new Sleep Deprivation Unit

What's that you said?

The very latest in Sleep Deprivation devices was delivered to the Barclay residence on Saturday following its successful launch on Wednesday 8th June 2011. The arrival of the unit had been trailed well ahead of time and the sudden internet silence of all Barclays led many to suspect that delivery was imminent. Now, exclusive photos and information leaked to this website confirm the reason for the sightings of senior Barclays in what was either heavy make-up or down to a significant lack of sleep as all the memories of how it was with Oscar came crashing into sharp focus.

The unit is the top of the range Oliver Dylan and comes packed with a full suite of fantastic features:
  • Weighs: 8lbs 5oz
  • Measures: 50cm
  • Delivers extraordinary volume for such a compact unit
  • Automatic wakefulness function preset to 1am – 2am
  • Additional random wakefulness feature covers sleep-time hours only
  • Automatic Pee Feature (APF) engages the moment the nappy is removed
  • APF further enhanced with ‘double-pee’ technology to ensure you get a soaking one way or the other.
  • APF range begins at approx 60cm and rises daily
  • Baleful one-eyed stare engages on changing table enabling accurate targeting of APF
  • Randomised limb movement ensures changing and dressing are genuine challenges every time
  • Eyes that stare into your very soul and bid you serve him willingly in perpetuity
  • Incredible softness of skin enhanced with ‘downy hair’ function for a limited period only
  • Cuteness engine makes even 4am seem a good time of day (eventually)
  • Range of snuffling noises carries guarantee of stoniest heart melting
  • Massively proud and intensely happy father

One happy big brother

Oliver’s biggest fan is his big brother, Oscar who is so proud of him and so gentle with him. Fair brings a tear to the eye.

Clare, Oscar, Oliver and I are a very contented bunch, asyou can probably imagine.

• June 17th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

Elitist Books review of Demonstorm

The magnificent Elitist Books have reviewed Demonstorm. It’s another great review from Steve Diamond, Gawd love ‘im. Click here for the full review and just to whet your appetite, here’s a wee excerpt…

What made DEMONSTORM so satisfying and awesome? The same thing that captured us from the very beginning of DAWNTHIEF: the characters. The truth of the matter is that a series cannot survive the test of time and the readers’ patience if the characters don’t grab you. Through the Raven novels we have become ridiculously attached to the characters of the world. We have been through so much with them that we identify with them. This novel is really the Raven’s last ride, and the immediacy of that statement is felt right from the beginning of the novel.

• May 24th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0