At my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near…

Twenty one years ago, when I was 25 – yeh I see the smoke coming out of your ears as you do the maths – a good friend from University was killed in an air crash. She was lively, fun and when we graduated – in the middle of a deep recession – she was one of the few people I knew (I was the other one) who didn’t carry on and do a Masters Degree (no chance of a job so I may as well get another qualification) or just take one look at the job market and do law. Never one to conform, was Sharon, she started to design and make jewellery, instead. I signed on as a temp with a firm of contract cleaners – not quite in the same league. You can see who had the get up and go there can’t you, phnark, but I digress.

Her death had a profound effect on me.

When I heard about the air crash I knew I was going to have known one of the victims. It was almost with a sense of inevitability that I read the huge profile about her in the Times, as one of the most poignant losses. I never got to say goodbye to her. I spent her funeral stuck in a traffic jam on the M6. I got to the wake, spent 20 minutes apologising to her parents for not being there and drove back to London, never to see them again.

But even now, I think about her a lot. I doubt there’s a week goes by when I don’t. I also think about two other friends I lost recently, one of whom was just 60 and the other of whom was a year younger than me. In conjunction with Sharon, I also remember one of my Grandfathers. He died a few years before she did but at the end when he was living in a home, he talked a lot, and with urgency, about a friend of his who’d died when they were both 25. My Grandfather said how he still missed his friend and I remember thinking how deeply it must have affected him and later, when Sharon died in my 25th year, that it was almost as if he knew.

And why am I talking about this cheery subject on the day I launch my book?

Well, because I’ve just been reading this post here, and while I was reading it, a few ideas that have been scattered about my brain finally came together. Because quite a few people have asked me, recently, how come I just do stuff, like writing books. When I answer that it’s impossible for me not to it raises the question, what’s driving me on? After all, I can’t produce books fast enough to be viable to a publisher. I don’t know anyone in the publishing industry either. Commercially, I’m flogging a dead horse. My answer is always, because I have to but I think in some weird way, I’m also doing it for my lost friends. It’s as if I have to live a fuller and more vibrant life for their sakes, in a celebration of who they were and because they no longer have the chance.

I guess we all think we’re going to live forever. And there’s nothing like somebody one’s own age dying to give one a cold slap in the face with reality. We’re not. So I do stuff, because I want to do it before I, too, shuffle off my mortal coil and I do it NOW because tomorrow may be too late, as I have seen from the experience of my friends.

That’s why I keep writing when there’s little commercial point. Why I spent a good 13 years trying to work out how to write a book and why I spent another six chipping away at the K’Barthan Trilogy. I also believe I should make the best job of my work that I possibly can. That’s why I’ve spent ages agonising over each word, splurged on editors, pestered kindly souls to beta read it and bought fabulous covers (well I think they are).

Today’s piece of sage advice, then, is this.

Follow your dreams peps. Do it for yourself and for the people who can’t. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take life by the bollocks and run with it. Find something you want to do and do it. If you can’t find something you want to do have fun trying out the things you might want to do. Don’t wait for the right time to start. The time will never be right, it’s not in the nature of life. Don’t wait for a future you have no guarantee of seeing. The only way to make your dream come true is to take that first step. Just begin.

And trust me all that time eating snail and tortoise dust will be worth it for this moment, when you know that it’s done. And it feels… amazing. Really. Trust me. You want some of this. Make a start.

Oh… and did I tell you I had a book out today? More on that story, and links to buy, here.

Or buy it on Amazon here


Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.


Filed under About My Writing, General Wittering

56 responses to “At my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near…

  1. Every read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People?

    “The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”

    • Bede puts that pretty well. Beautifully, in fact. Life was pretty cheap back then and I’d imagine everyone had seen something or someone die before they hit double figures. It just goes to show how insulated we are in some ways. The first death I was present at was that of my cat, a couple of years ago, aged 44.



      • Well I saw lambs born dead or die soon after when I was very young, I think I’d be about eleven when my grandfather took me round the old Lancaster slaughter house.
        With people I was older, probably forties, because that was the age when I was expected to be senior person and ‘in charge’

      • I had only seen things that were already dead. I found a woman who’d had a heart attack once. There were people round her but no-one had done anything. I called the ambulance but I thought she’d had a seizure so I was waiting until she came round fully to tell her it was all ok. She was taking those deep breaths the before you go ones. But it was only a few years later, when I saw Chewie die, that I realised she was dying. It hadn’t occurred to me to check her for a pulse. She was ok by the way. Well… I mean she survived. The ambulance was with us in about a minute. She was about my age (40s) and going to collect her kids from school. I did manage to get a message to the school to find her kids and look after them.



      • I’ve always been the one who has had to take the decision that treasured pets etc have to die and then to sort details with the vets

      • Yeh, that falls to me in our house too.



  2. Your post is very poignant and apt for me today. My neighbour, (54 yo.) Lies in a coma after a car accident. One just does not know what the future holds. It is such a lovely idea to write for those who aren’t here to do it themselves. I feel so happy for you to have your books published. It must be like the birth of a baby, caring and introducing them and then letting go and allowing them to find their place in the world.

  3. A really meaningful post, MT. And I am so proud of you – four books! Major WOW to you.
    Having read your writing and gotten to know your characters, I can say that your books are successful already. Compelling characters who do unexpected things — what a coup! And I appreciate the high quality of your writing craft.
    And I think it’s only a matter of time before others learn about these books and MT McGuire.

    I am glad you are keeping your loved ones “alive” by honouring them with your writing.
    Long may you write, my blogger-friend.

  4. I have lost two dear friends too young and I never stop thinking about them and ‘talking to them’. You’re absolutely right that we have to grab life by the bollocks. As my fellow actors often say, life is not a rehearsal. Carpe diem!

    • Absolutely. Especially in an arena as shonky as the arts where there is seldom much cash to be earned and it’s really difficult to get career traction. I’m lucky that I can publish my own stuff. I’d never get the green light from a publisher with this rate of output. But this way I can go at my own pace and pursue a dream that might have been close to impossible a few years ago.

      And while I’m replying to you. Thanks for commenting. And for following my drivel. And all the tweets. 🙂



  5. Powerful post. I agree that we have to live our life and go for our dreams. I have (had?) a friend who kept delaying his dream because of the ‘practical’ thing. He died soon after he started pushing forward. Others have passed on before even getting that far. Makes me wonder every day if the entire purpose of being here is to have these dreams and strive to make them a reality. Even if a person tries and fails, at least they can say that they made an attempt.

    • Absolutely. I sometimes wonder what if but only out of curiosity. There’s no hankering. No, I should have tried that. Because if I thought I should try something then in most cases, I did. There are some things I am unlikely to be able to do but I’m ok with that. I suspect that’s why I’m ok with my snail like rate of production – because although it’s frustrating, the other stuff is all important to me, too.



      • I do a lot of ‘what if’ thoughts for some reason. I can’t help myself even when I realize things would have been different. If I had started my self-publishing earlier then who knows if I would have met the same people who have helped me. Hard to play that game and stay sane.

      • Yes. But I’m guessing if you tend towards what if it can make life pretty tough. Just hold onto what you’ve achieved, that you’re doing it now. And you’re doing what you can. As for the rest, what will be will be, right?



      • True. One thing I can’t figure out is that I seem to have gathered people who are quick to make situations worse. For example, some of my books have been falling into the 100,000 ranking levels on Amazon. I get messages asking how I’m doing and if sales are really ‘that bad’. It’s like I have some ‘Doom and Gloom Cheerleaders’ out there who contact me when things appear to be going south. That draws out the ‘what if’ thoughts and makes me wonder if I actually did something wrong.

      • Ooh that must be harsh. Like they’re watching you, waiting for you to fail? I guess you just need to tell yourself that they are clearly compensating for something… 🙂



      • I know. Annoying thing is that I’m trying to edit my book before doing an August 1st debut. These ‘consoling’ messages throw me off after a while, which seems to condense the problem. It really is rough being an author before your books get turned into a movie. 😉

      • Mwahahahaargh too right. Best of luck with it though.



  6. Great post, MT. I agree with almost all of it, the one exception being the part about you not producing books fast enough for a publisher. Imagine being Donna Tartt’s publisher. You’re already waaaay ahead.

    Sometimes it feels like I’ve already lost more than triple my quota of dear people too young – they were too young, I mean, some of them unfathomably so – which seems unfair. And makes me aware of my own mortality, and wonder what I will leave behind. Sometimes it’s a comfort, a macabre sort of comfort but no less satisfying, that any books I leave behind could exist forever without grieving, unlike, say, a child. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

  7. Kev

    Wow… I read your link. Very interesting post… new follow now. Anyway, sorry to hear about your friend. It so true though, about fear of death and it really puts things into perspective when one experiences it close to the heart. …Hope your book launch goes really well for you and if I can help to promote it, let me know. 🙂

  8. Kev

    Reblogged this on Kev's Blog and commented:
    A very interesting perspective. 🙂

  9. Great post MTM, a few years ago I heard that a teaching colleague had died of cancer, she was only about 58. I only worked with her for 2 years but she was one of those people who talked a lot of sense, she was a great parent too. Even though I’ve lost contact with all the other teaching colleagues now and I never really knew her family, I often think of her a lot.

    I like to think that I will write and write when I retire but the reality that retirement doesn’t happen to us all makes me, too, determined to do it now and to do some of those things that I’ve always wanted to do.

    Will order the books next week – looking forward to reading both of them and yes, the covers are brilliant.

    • Thanks. A family friend died of cancer recently in her early 50s leaving daughters of 14 and 10. Make hay while you may etc… It’s very sobering.



  10. rjwestwell

    What a wonderful, moving, heart-felt blog! Well done – more of this please …. love Roe

    Dr. R.J.Westwell (PhD, MA TESOL, MA Ed, B Mus, BA Hons);www.elyforlanguage.wordpress.comVolunteer speaker: Water Aid John, Dementia and Me, Flirting with SpanishPhD thesis: The development of language acquisition in a mature learner Books: John, Dementia and Me ( Spelling Game, Teaching Language Learners, Twenty Tips for Teaching IGCSE ESL (

    Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2014 13:06:03 +0000 To:

  11. Great post. I’m older than you are and have been through these things too. I love the idea that someday never comes. You just have to do it now. Best of luck with the new release.

  12. Dear MTG, wonderful post…thank you…this is a subject I dwell on almost everyday, due to my training in eastern philosophy. The sorcerer Castaneda wrote about said: “Live as if Death were looking over your shoulder”. Many shy away from this kind of thinking but it is the most liberating thought – that our remaining time on Planet Urth is precious…and not mean to be frittered away in meaningless busy-busy pursuits. I also practice and teach a Death meditation — that death is certain,. that the time of death is uncertain, and that when you die all you take with you is your state of consciousness….it comes from the east and is considered a basis for a good spiritual life….as for me personally, i have 6 very close people and the novel i am currently writing is partly about this loss and how to make the most of it….Om!

    • I like that. I do sometimes wonder whether people fill their lives with administriviative crap because they’re too scared to think about it in any real depth. What you say about eastern philosophy is interesting, too. It’s actually Christianity which brought me to this view but it seems to share many of these Eastern ideas as I find my views aligning with the Far East again and again. 🙂



  13. Congratulations on the release of your new book!!! Wonderful news indeed. I’m going to take your advice to heart. There’s been something I’ve been debating about for some time, but I’ve put too much thought into it. Time to get on with life and follow my dreams. Thanks for this post!

  14. Gorgeous post. I often think of my Dad who did his own thing amd didn’t worry (much) what others thought. He died of cancer-related illness at 58 but I think partly because he’d done everthing he wanted and he didn’t want to get old. He was always encouraging me to quit my job and follow my dream. It’s sad he never saw me do it, but I hope somewhere he is watching.
    Congrats on the new book – just in time for me, as I’ve nearly finished book two and it’s only taken a few days a book…. BTW I see now why the books take a long time to write – there is so much amazing detail and world building and brilliant characters and dialogue! Fab. Keep going, you’re meant to do this. 🙂

    • Thank you so much. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed books 1 and 2 – please remember there’s a book three in between this and the second one (One Man: No Plan) – otherwise Looking for Trouble will make very little sense. ;-). I’m sorry to hear about your Dad, it must be harsh, but at the same time, in some ways he may have had the right idea. Getting old can be painful and it’s hard to watch a loved one suffer. Thanks for the follow too. I really appreciate it.



      On 14 July 2014 10:32, M T McGuire Authorholic wrote:


      • I can’t believe I hadn’t followed you before. I couldn’t work out why I never got emails when you wrote a post, and discovered I wasn’t even following you! Muppet. Yes, aware of book three, but it’s a long summer holidays so glad to know there’s more!

      • Don’t worry, it’s easy enough to do. BTW, speaking of Muppets, I managed to publish book 3 with book 4’s innards. It was then like that for 24 hours while I waited for the right version to republish. Sometimes there are advantages to not being a best selling author! Luckily only 10 people bought it and I knew 8 of them.



        On 14 July 2014 13:27, M T McGuire Authorholic wrote:


  15. …LUV this particular post, m’Lady … been there, done that… AM there DOING that …:) LUVS YA!

  16. What a sad but lovely post and I am totally with you. I am keeping this one for future reference when I need that little extra push. Thanks and well done on making such a good point, and also those books once again! 🙂 xx

  17. Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    …LUV this particular post from Author pal, M.T, McGuire… been there, done that… AM there, DOING that …:)

  18. I’ve lost three friends and a brother-in-law over the past 4 years, as well as my Dad and Grandmother. This has certainly re-ordered my priorities and re-oriented my perspective. I enjoyed the Marvell quote, too–it’s one of my favorites. Coy Mistress, along with Prufrock, and Ozymandias are all the wisdom a guy needs in the world.

    • Yeh, the first proper poem I wrote was the Coy Mistress’s reply. You’re obviously about the same age as me. It does make you think though, doesn’t it?



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