Writing a novel taught me a good deal about myself and a publishing world, which has changed beyond recognition in recent years. Advances in technology have irreversibly transformed the way we consume media. However, some things don’t change. I write about human nature, which has evolved little over millennia; we still possess the same ape-like brains as our ancestors. To see this, you need only spend a few minutes observing our politicians and their tribal behaviour.
An understanding of the human psyche is helpful to any writer and was essential when I worked as a trader. We often spoke of fear and greed: the irrational driving force pushing commodity values up and down. Shortly after arriving in Spain, I founded the now-defunct website, tradinginspain.com. I had visions of taking on the markets, placing buy and sell orders from the luxury of my terrace next to the pool. Sadly for me, another facet of a trader’s life did not receive sufficient attention: the monumental stress which comes with taking losses. A few years later, a friend told me he was going to take up dealing currency derivatives and asked what advice I could offer. I told him the truth:
“Don’t do it.”
“OK, if you must, here is a test: go to the cash machine and draw out 1,000 euros and then give it to the first person you see that you do not know. If you can do that, you can be a trader. If not, you will be taken for every cent you invest.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Right back at you. I have taught you a lesson that people spend thousands failing to learn from bogus websites and seminars. Here is another question: If these alleged trading experts were so skilled, why do they waste their time teaching newbies how to become their competition, when they could otherwise be trading themselves and earning millions?”
At one point I had people literally throwing money at me to invest on their behalf but I couldn’t live with the deceit. I already knew that at least 95% of all new traders failed. However, there were plenty of less scrupulous dealers only too willing to take their money. The reason I am telling you this is because I write about what I know. I understand what it feels like to be on the wrong side of a market position heading south. You will find yourself quickly introduced to the law of negative attraction. By that, I mean the people you will be mixing with when word gets out that you are a trader. In my first book, Permissive Ink, the antagonist is a derivatives trader, and whilst I ultimately took a different path, I was acquainted with a few who followed their dream all the way down the rabbit hole.
Mystery, humour and unrequited love are part of the narrative, but martial arts in the lives of ordinary people is also an element. The road to completing my first novel reminded me of the journey one takes in karate. After a few classes, I wanted to give up. I was no longer in my first flush of youth and I feared getting hurt, except I had reason to keep working at it. In common with my anti-hero, Paul, in Permissive Ink, I too had fallen foul of a dangerous outfit. I was to discover that a life lived in constant fear, was no life. The Costa Blanca had become a sunny place, full of shady people. I eventually overcame my fears and after years of perseverance, was promoted to black belt. Even this achievement came with unexpected consequences: a black belt under Spanish law is considered a lethal weapon. With power comes responsibility. If you are forced to defend yourself with karate, it absolutely has to be a life and death situation. When I read about Jack Reacher in the best-selling Lee Child novels, taking on a bar full of Nazi sympathizers and beating them all unconscious, I find myself wondering what a real martial artist would have done. Jack Reacher is strong and instinctively knows exactly how to deal with the worst of society. However, in the real world, a bar fight would be a disaster; all that broken glass and furniture would have been used as weapons. I believe there is a good chance a well-trained martial artist could prevail but I doubt they would put themselves in that situation in the first place. I also know that they would train, just in case…
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