Fruit picking, Poetry, Poetry, Raspberries

A fruity call

Her natural beauty is hidden for all to see

Desperate to share her love she waits patiently

She remains invisible to most who pass by

Until one who looks deeper and gives her a try

At first glance you might miss her treasure

But under the surface lies unlimited pleasure

Once discovered you’ll be ever so sure

To go back and see her, she’ll always have more

Get in there quickly, to ensure delight

But always remember her love might just take flight

Others are blinded, but true they can see

She may well be patient but is egger to flee

Do not despair though, where true love is sow

You can be pretty much certain more raspberries will grow

Mental Health, Pandemic, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction, Uncategorized

What social media doesn’t show

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps just recently. I mean who hasn’t?

We are all still feeling the shock waves of the COVID crisis and I’m sure we will do for years to come. Naturally this might be what is causing my mood management trouble.

After all we have lost out on so much fun and a very real question mark remains over how life will be post June.

In an effort to combat my bouts of depression I took some time to really consider what might be the root cause of my suffering.

Although there was no immediate light bulb moment, in the few days that followed I couldn’t help but notice my mood seemed to take a nose dive after each and every session on a social media platform.

Although I have a lot going for myself right now, I happen to be at that awkward stage in life, where everything is in question. As a 31-year-old engaged (but not yet married man) with no children of my own, it is clear that I am becoming more of a minority as increasing numbers of people my age have now crossed that bridge. In my rational and not usually envious mind I am able to make peace with this fact and focus on what is happening in my own life rather than compare with others.

That is however until I take one innocent scroll through social media and for some reason my head becomes awash with feelings of pressure, envy and to be brutally honest, anger. Every single post I set eyes on has pictures of people parading their new born babies or bragging about how amazing married life is; and for some reason this triggers me.

The bombardment of content is so overwhelming it often results in me now throwing my phone aside. I can’t imagine the soul sucking tech giants anticipated that happening when they chose to cast their bait at me.

The problem I have though, is that I always end up coming back. This is unfortunately an outcome I’m sure that big tech giants evidently do bank on time after time.

Since recognising this effect social media has on me, I have had several conversations with people close to me, during which an unsettling conclusion was reached.

People only post stuff on social media that they want people to see! Furthermore, social media platforms only show you stuff that they want you to see. When you consider that we all have this tendency to fabricate how we really feel and paint a picture-perfect vision of how we think our lives should be, is it any wonder we fight to exceed expectations all the time? If we maximise this perfect vision by let us say 500 Facebook friends and imagine that there is an algorithm somewhere spoon feeding you this stuff for a reaction, is it any wonder that it is driving me (and all of us perhaps) to despair?

Think about it this way, how many posts do you see from people announcing the death of a family member, a failed IVF attempt or details of a violent relationship? Ok perhaps there are a brave handful of individuals who might do us. Perhaps that adds a fraction of perspective. It is sad to think in reality though, people who post about the bad stuff are often ridiculed as attention seekers, even if people do not openly admit it to their faces.

Think also about all those people who are unlucky in love, have crippling health or mental health problems or might not even be able to afford the luxury of social media due to extreme poverty?

Just because it appears as though everyone online is living the life of riley; it is quite simply NOT TRUE.

Let us not forget either that people rarely post pictures in the middle of the night when their teething baby quite simply will not stop crying or when a couple’s happy marriage is tainted by one or both having been unfaithful.   

I know this also sounds rather sinister of me. And I Just to clarify I am not one of these sick individuals who gets a thrill off the misfortune of others; far from it. The issue I have is more due to the fact there is little to no platform in which to relate and empathise with others on social media. This for me is a critical factor in helping to maintain our well-being.

Before I get berated by all the families I’m friends with online too, I also want to make clear that I have nothing against you and your children. I’m sure you all have wonderful families and that is great.

I think this crisis has come about partly by accident and partly by the sheer greed of the tech companies.

I don’t think any of us really think before we post a nice-looking picture. Maybe some of us do so out of vanity, but that is a separate issue in itself. It is hard for us to grasp the concept that our little mark on the world can actually have a negative impact on someone else. It is a deep thought to consider when you are in the moment.

I think the biggest issue of all in regards to the potential for harm from social media is that most of us simply do not realise that it is these very platforms that are causing us harm.

Therefore if this blog helps just one person to give a thought to how social media might be affecting their mental health (and that of others in fact) that for me is a start.

As many of you may know, my feelings towards smartphones and social media addiction are well documented in my debut novel The Invite, aimed at young adults everywhere. If you found my insights above of interest and you haven’t read my book already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

I think at some point, big tech firms need to take some accountability, but in the meantime we are on our own, swimming in unchartered waters. Let us all help each other, rather than letting some of us sink.

Books, Dogs, Lockdown, New Fiction, Smartphone, Technology, Teen fiction, Teen Novel

Plodding on with my new pooch

Poppy is an author’s pup

How in god’s name are we approaching May already!?

I find it hard to comprehend how time can whizz by so quickly when we have all been stuck in lockdown for 4 months. Perhaps that is a good thing, who knows. I think the term ‘time flies when you are having fun’ definitely does not apply here!

Not to act up like an angry old goat or anything, but oh my days, has this year been a sack of stale cow dung! I mean the previous (I don’t even know how many) lockdowns were painful, but this one has cut the deepest. I don’t know if everyone else feels the same?

The endless days of bitter cold, working like a robot without any play and simply being made to stare constantly at the same four walls have sucked away my very soul!

Thankfully there has been a shining little light that has helped guide me through the dark times. At the end of January this year, myself and my fiancé decided to extend our little family to three and bought home a 10-week-old Cocker Spaniel, who we named Poppy.

Now don’t judge me for following the lockdown puppy craze. I can assure you the decision was a long and informed one. It just felt right!

I’m ashamed to admit I am not historically a big dog lover; however, the other half had a lovely Labrador which completely changed my perspective on these wonderful creatures.  

The moment we first met Poppy she melted our hearts and we just knew she had to come home with us.

As amazing as the whole experience has been so far, little could have prepared me for the extent in which it would turn our lives upside down. I was offered a fair warning about the commitment, but I figured this was just an exaggeration. It was not!

I have not been blessed with children in my life just yet, but I can imagine having a puppy is comparable to having a baby; except puppies also have sharp teeth and love to bite EVERYTHING!

It is safe to say that it has been an absolute mad house here for the past 3 months. Sleepless nights, multiple toileting accidents, lots of destroyed furniture and one major scare which cost us a hefty vet bill.

The good news is that there has been little time to fester in an ocean of self-pity when there are walks to be taken or military style training to conduct.

The bad news however is that I have had next to no time to reflect on my debut novel The Invite, let alone focus on writing anything new.

Now I have finally had time to breath again, I have decided it is time to get back to the bread and butter. And when I look at the continual avalanche of online hate that plagues us, I think getting the word out there about my teen fiction novel has never been so essential.

Factor in the disturbing figures surrounding mental health in young adults, I almost feel that it is my duty to spread the word far and wide about my fictional interpretation that drills into issues surrounding smartphone addiction.

For those who are yet to read The Invite, this debut novel of mine takes readers on a twisted journey with troubled teen Lindsey Hoodwink who is treated to a night full of virtual horrors that tap into her unhealthy obsession with her smartphone. Let’s just say the boundaries of technology and real life, become unbelievably blurred…

You can get your copy of The Invite now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

To be honest I doubt there will be a better time to pick up a copy, as I have decided to offer my pride and joy for FREE, for the May bank holiday weekend only!  

So now things start to return to normal (majorly touching wood right now!) I plan to keep on with the writing exploits and although I have been somewhat occupied over the past few months, I may have a little new writing project that has been sometime in the making over lockdown…

More details to be revealed soon.

As an end note, I can’t believe this might actually be my last blog before we return to real life. Do I dare the dream? We can but hope!

Chris

films, Lifestyle, New Fiction, Technology

So, it is acceptable for our tech to snoop?

In a recent attempt to bypass the lockdown boredom, I stumbled across a film that really captured my attention. I seem to keep doing this at the moment.

The film was called The Circle and after watching the trailer I immediately questioned how and why I had never watched or even heard of this before.

I mean the movie had an all-star cast, which included huge names such as Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It was only released in 2017 and the concept looked pretty on trend to me.

After enjoying the trailer, I didn’t have to think twice before initiating a search for it on Netflix. However, in the few moments before playing the thing I scoped out the reviews on IMDB and was dismayed to learn that it only had a rating of only 5.3. With no back-up option at the ready, it felt like a slap-in the face.

In my stubbornness and determination not to follow the flock of film critical sheep, I disregarded the information at hand and decided to give the film ago regardless.

I’m really glad I did.

Ok so it wasn’t the greatest Tom Hanks film I have ever seen, but it was certainly an eye opening one, that is for sure.

To explain in a nutshell, the movie was basically about a rogue tech firm who glorified its new surveillance products as innovations that would make the world a safer and more transparent place. Furthermore, the company headquarters were essentially a camp where young employees were brainwashed into endorsing a rather sinister obsession to eradicate people’s privacy. Emma Watson’s character was introduced as the company’s latest recruit/ victim and the story considers her disturbing journey which leads her to discover and challenge what is really going on.

Aside from the immoral undertones of privacy breaches explored within the film, I found I could really empathise with the culture of the company that was portrayed; which was one of obedience, intense pressure and a lack of longing or courage to challenge an unfair system. It is quite disturbing to realise that this culture is one of familiarity and I’m sure this is an ethos that many major companies instil. The company in the film was on a mission to gain power and control in order to maximise profits at everyone’s expense.

On a whole the film really helped me to consider a dangerous side to technology that I hadn’t considered or at least was not overly concerned with before. It made me think about how our phones quite clearly listen in to our conversations and then as if by magic offer us a targeted advert or offer us a news article based on the subject. I’m sure lots of you will have noticed this.

At times this may seem comical and sure, we are just being provided with an innocent looking advert. But if you take a moment to actually think about it, it just isn’t right. And The Circle just made me ponder the possibility of how the benefit of technology can quite easily turn into turn into a danger if manipulated against us.  

So again, I think back to the IMBD rating and have to ask myself the question, why was it was poorly rated? Aside from the important overall message, it had a big name cast, lots of action and some good twists. I just cannot seem to comprehend it. Perhaps I have an unusual taste in films, who knows.  

It is all a matter of opinion, I guess. Maybe it is the fact that we find the concept far fetched? Worse still, is the premise just too real that we can’t handle the dark reality?  

Or are we simply not bothered or even interested in our own right to privacy?

Whatever the reason behind the ratings, I find the poor response to the film rather unnerving. Ok I get that it is only a film, but I believe we should all be intrigued by the big issues that are arguably happening right now.

If IMDB ratings aren’t the be all and end all and you are interested in issues around technology and privacy, you can check out The Circle on Netflix

In recent years I have become both fascinated and disturbed by the emergence and potential dangers of technology. So much so I decided to explore this issue with my fantasy fiction debut novel The Invite which is aimed at young adults. The story considers a scary concept of VR and addiction, but doesn’t cover privacy. Maybe it should have. Something of a thought to follow up on perhaps.

All that is left for me to say is I’m not too sure what will it take for us to wake up? Maybe movie directors should go with Tim Allen over Tom Hanks next time…

Uncategorized

Staying in with C. P. Riches

Linda's Book Bag

Once again I’m frustrated by the fact I simply cannot read every book that comes my way. However, I am fortunate that authors are willing to stay in with me to chat about their writing. Today I’m delighted to welcome C.P. Riches to Linda’s Book Bag.

Staying in with C.P Riches

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag ChrisThank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Hi Linda, the pleasure is all mine. Thanks very much for inviting me to your site. It really is a haven for juicy book content here and I love what you are doing to showcase authors and satisfy hungry readers everywhere.

Ha! ‘inviting’ – I like what you did there! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have brought along my debut the novel The Invite and I…

View original post 788 more words

Climate change, Social media, Teen Novel

The silent victim of our online addiction

In the midst of the lockdown boredom a few weeks back, I resorted to mindlessly flicking through the TV channels when I stumbled across a programme that really grabbed my attention.

It was a Dispatches programme by channel 4 entitled ‘Is Your Online Habit Killing the Planet?’.

The programme title immediately didn’t sit right with me at all. This is because we often regard both elements here as two separate beasts.

Of course, we are well aware about climate change and understand that we need to cut our carbon footprint in order to manager it. We all know about social media too and the impact it can have on our mental health and human behaviour. 

Vary rarely however do you see both these monumental dilemmas latched together in the same context.

I’m sure if we all embarked on a journey into our thoughts, we could summon a bond between the two problems, but I’m sure (as I have done before) the thought could be dusted off as being a trivial one. After all there are much graver concerns such as plane travel and gas guzzling cars, right?

Well after watching this disturbing 30 minutes of information it would seem as though we should all be much more concerned about a momentous problem that we didn’t even know existed.

The bottom line from the watch is that pretty much all of us are motoring through a ton of climate damaging fuel in order to maintain our unhealthy habits with our devices.

What is such a big deal I hear you ask? Surely it can’t be that bad if there are less cars on the road and planes in the sky. Surely just a quick peek on our Instagram every now and then isn’t exactly the crime of the century. And when you consider the improving function of the batteries of smart devices, I pretty much felt the same way.

But here is the thing, apparently it is data storage which is the hidden killer!

It is not necessarily the constant usage of the devices which is necessarily causing the dire situation (although I am sure it doesn’t really help) but it is in fact your online footprint that takes an almighty toll on the earth’s resources.

Every time you stop to take a cheeky selfie or watch a video on Youtube, this data is stored and also activated on mass physical hard drives based in giant storage facilities which are powered day and night to maintain that one innocent little picture or load your favourite music vid.

Apparently, there are literally thousands of these machines, under constant strain to deliver our online demands. As you can now probably guess, these things are not run-on unicorn dust.

The documentary highlighted a few disturbing facts which to be honest blew my mind. The first related to our habits with emails. If anyone is the same as me, then you might receive a stack of emails on a daily basis. 99% of which are probably garbage that you don’t even read. The thing is (again if you’re a bit lazy like me) you probably won’t bother to delete them and stay on top of your inbox.

If I now told you that every single one of those (yet to be deleted) emails is stored on one of these machines that works non-stop 24 hours a day, what would you say? You wouldn’t believe me right. Well according to channel 4, that is exactly what happens. I found myself scrolling like a madman deleting hundreds of emails straight after learning that.

The next fact I learned which actually burst my bubble if I’m honest is that working from home, where we all meeting via zoom these days, may actually produce more greenhouse gas than the car drive into work. This depends on the length of the journey of course and also the amount of individuals on the Zoom call. I must admit this fact made me feel sad, learning that the one good thing to come out the pandemic (less car emissions) is actually not necessarily saving the planet at all.

Now I’ll leave you with this one final fact from the show. Apparently just one average Instagram post by footballer Christiano Ronaldo, uses as much energy as it takes to power 10 houses for a whole year!

You can check out the documentary on demand now @ https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/71182-001?fbclid=IwAR3SJGgfdIEz_a4ybqM9hfS4BivW55Z6S5t_oVRSo7NVxjpmlEg0TBVO1bk

This all sounds very sinister indeed I must admit and I’m sure you will agree. But on a positive note, the solution seems quite clear to me. We just need to stop using our devices 24/7. Let’s switch them off for a few hours. I do wonder how many of you will get straight onto the email accounts after this and start hacking away at the mass of junk. I know I would and obviously did.  

Maybe before reading this you haven’t even considered the amount of smart device usage as being an issue. If not, I do get it. It has become a way of life. But you might want to check out my book The Invite to see if this offers an alternative view on things? It is available to purchase now through Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Hopefully one day soon when this awful pandemic is over, we can go out and enjoy the real world again. But until then I would just try to remember one thing; make sure you use your smart device but don’t let it use you! Because if you do, it would seem as though it is our earth that pays the price after all.

Books, New Fiction, Teen Novel

I invite you to join my debut novel adventure

Seeing The Invite on sale for the first time

How on earth has a month passed by already since publishing my first ever novel?!

I mean seriously.

It feels as though I am frozen in continual state of disbelieve at what I finally managed to accomplish. And now that its over it feels surreal.

I’m awful for returning to my amazon account on a regular basis to see how things are going and to simply remind myself that it wasn’t all one big, crazy dream.

I’ve been so caught up in the madness of it all I’ve only just found the time to sit and reflect. This has also been hindered by my long-awaited return to work after my 7-month stint on Furlough.

It is safe to say that it has been a manic month!

On this cold, December night I can at finally cast my mind back to how the book launch unfolded on a night full of trick and treats.

Halloween was the day I decided to deliver the goods. It only seemed fitting as this frightful night of celebration 2 years back was the day I finished the first draft of The Invite. Scary how fast the time has gone.  

Myself and my partner Jenny had a jam-packed day of treats and spooky activities planned for the occasion. I was so excited for the big day but soon after it began this nervous energy began to boil over.

I had created a countdown to the big release for 12pm and it wasn’t long before I felt restless, nervous to ensure that everything ran smoothly for the big moment.

I had little time to dwell on my thoughts though as Jenny had me working like a slave in the kitchen as we prepped a wicked afternoon tea.

In what felt like an eternity (in spite of being busy) the clock eventually informed me that I had 2 minutes to go before the final mission. 

I took off my apron and fired up the laptop.

After a quick social media update, I began to undertake the final steps on Amazon to set my dreams into reality.

After years’ worth of preparation, I only had a few buttons to press, but my mind seemed to have melted like hot butter and it took longer than it should have.

I was finally greeted by the invitation to publish my book to the world and after a mere moment of holding my breath, clicked ‘ok’.

I was rewarded with a message congratulating me on the published work, but my heart quickly sank as the small print said it could take up to 72 hours to appear in the Amazon store.

I had promised excited family and friends they could purchase their copies in a matter of moments and now I was faced with the unbeknown and embarrassing job of updating my prospective customers with news of a delay.

I was furious but did all I could to appease people. Afterall it was only a couple of days added to many month’s of waiting. 

I posted an update on social media and then tried to force the issue from my mind and crack on with the fiendish fun.

After a couple of hours, I couldn’t resist having a cheeky check on Amazon on the off chance that The Invite had bypassed the waiting time and I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was there.

Clear as crystal my book shone out on my screen, patiently waiting for new customers.

Except it hadn’t been waiting at all. I further check on social media confirmed that a couple of people had already bought the thing before I even knew it was on sale!

From here on in the day was a whirlwind of excitement as I shared the news and people embraced my journey to make the event more of a success than I ever could have imagined.

I was pretty much on cloud 9 as evening approached, but this was soon shot down somewhat when Boris spontaneously invaded all of our celebrations with grave news of a second national lockdown.

Even this shoddy news couldn’t break my spirits though and we celebrated with fizz and our afternoon tea. I think this is the first time I have ever been toasted an achievement and it was a humbling moment.

Toasting the release

We then had fun all evening watching scary films, carving pumpkins (mine was Harry Potter themed) and then fancy dress before enjoying our latest zoom quick with the in-laws; Halloween themed of course.  

After what had been the most amazing yet bizarre day, the following days (or weeks in fact) were spent observing all progress and spreading the word before a nervous wait for feedback.

The first finished reader comments came from immediate family and friends who loved it. They could just be being polite, but I welcomed the kind words anyway.

During this time, I was busting a gut back in the office, enduring long days in retraining whilst helping to train a new addition to our team. It was so frustrating when all I wanted to do was shout about my book.  

Even though I couldn’t spend too much time promoting, the feedback has continued to trickle in and I’m ecstatic to state that I still maintain a 5-star feedback rating on Amazon. I can’t thank those of you who have taken the time to download a copy, read it and then leave your constructive comments.  

Now the initial launch is kind of coming to a close I am torn between spreading the word about The Invite some more or starting a new book from an archive of ideas that I have accumulated over the years.

As authors we can’t keep away from the pen for too long, so no doubt I will end up doing both. Looks like 2021 is going to be just as crazy as this one. Hopefully with a little less Covid this time though!

If you haven’t checked out The Invite already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Books, Lifestyle, Smartphone, Technology

Smarten up on the dark truth

Teenagers chained to their phones

After sharing an update on my new book release, I received a comment online that intrigued me.

It was a suggestion to watch a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma.

I was told it would blow my mind… and it did!

This production was suggested due to a strong overlap of themes to my book release, The Invite.  In my haste to find out exactly what these might be, I decided to watch it that very same evening.

The first thing I noticed is that the documentary was being presented by original employees from tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. I immediately thought this was unusual and so did not expect the content that was to come.  

The whole thing was cleverly done and quickly turned from being light-hearted and conversational to deeply disturbing.

The best way I can surmise this unnerving watch, is as a stark diagnosis and warning about our relationship with social media. The content focussed primarily on the sinister psychological methods of social media technologies to manipulate us, the people. We were educated about the use of clever algorithms that learn our behaviours and exploit them to the achieve the goals of the tech companies.  

The key message was that we are the product and social media companies will do whatever they can to keep us plugged into their pages.  

Without giving too much away, some of the shocking topics discussed included revelations such as how your phone knows what you are looking at, for how long and then feeds you info related to this.  

Scarier still, these algorithms conveniently refrain from showing you content that may contradict the opinions/views that you are being spoon-fed. When you factor in that social media sites do very little to filter out fake news, which in fact often enhances consumer engagement with their sites, it is very easy to see how many of us can develop a warped and extreme view of the world.  

There are various key messages conveyed throughout the short film, but rather than verging any further into spoiler territory, I will zip my lip there and strongly recommend you give it a watch. https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224

The more engrossed I got into the documentary the more I realised how the content directly mirrored a lot of the dark themes presented in my own book. When you consider my story is fiction and this is real life, that is a rather terrifying conclusion.   

The warning conveyed on my screen made me realise that the release of my book might actually be the most important thing I ever do and is needed right now!  

Thankfully I can announce that my book is ready to make us all think about online addiction. You can actually order The Invite now by visiting  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

In the interest of objectivity, I should say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The narrator’s believed that it was never the initial objective of tech companies to brainwash society. Like any other business, they just want to make money. It is just that somewhere along the way, things have got out of control. The key message I guess you could say, is that we need to get it back!