Play to Win

One of my jobs on Monday (21st) apart from finally starting the long-overdue Spring Clean of the house is to make a list of the various Poetry and Writing prizes I would like to start aiming for in the months that follow. Twitter has become quite useful as a means of working out where such things exist, and is slowly allowing me to build a plan of attack in relation to what is possible in the time frames available. Right now, there are two poetry prizes and one short story prize that are eminently doable. There have to be more.

Then, it is a case of believing I’m good enough to try.

throwsomeshade

There are people around me (in a virtual sense) whose self-belief and inability to be blindsided by their own shortcomings is frankly astounding. I read blogs and posts and tweets from people who seem to believe they are capable of anything, with parts of my brain wondering how this is possible. I’ve become my own worst critic when it comes to ability, and that needs to change, but this only happens by decoupling the fear and doubt from my equation. All this stuff about how you are supposed to sound a certain way, or project a particular persona is all well and good, to a point.

I am proud of my work, but I’m not an idiot.

surprised5.gif

There is a list of dates and deadlines, things to do when on holiday as distraction. There’s a Long List of projects to complete, clearing the decks as planning begins for a new route forward. I think I’ve found an alternative to Patreon that will work for me.

Now to start building a framework to support this change.

Electric Dreams

It had been a bit of a struggle to come up with a theme for June’s content, until an idea for the Twitter short story presented itself…

This week’s been a lot about how Online deals with reality and vice versa, and with a cracking idea now in the planning stage, it was time to start making the graphics and planning a way forward…

ALIAS.jpg

I’ll sort out the #Narrating2018 and #Soundtracking2018 titles in the next few days, but I severely doubt there’ll be any struggle coming up with suitable subject matters. The Internet’s a big place, after all. It’s also full of some QUITE RIDICULOUS STUFF.

The problem I forsee, at least is planning, is finding enough stuff other people haven’t shared about a bazillion times in the first place…

I Don’t Like Mondays

Learning how to take criticism is a life-long journey. Sometimes, it is simpler as a writer to just switch off and ignore everybody, but there are also moments in the development process where the right commentary can completely alter the momentum of a project. For many successful writers, Social media is a place you simply don’t go to. There’s a very good reason for that, and it is seen every day, often with quite depressing regularity from the same group of destructive, morally ambiguous users. Those who now feel their voice is more important than anything else, and will comment relentlessly on anything which they feel an opinion is warranted on, are slowly eroding away centuries of conventions that have kept many institutions afloat.

Criticism relies on some fundamental principles to remain relevant and useful.

Philosophy underpins much of what I am: it should be the same for everybody, but for some, all that matters undoubtedly, is the self and nothing more. Having a reasonable debate with such people can become impossible face to face, so one anonymity is introduced the entire delicately balanced structure will come crashing down. If you don’t grasp the basic concept of the Social Contract, I’d urge taking some time on Wikipedia and other sources to learn about Jean-Jacques Rousseau, because this is a fundamental part of existence that really does matter quite a lot, and extends into pretty much every aspect of our current lives.

Grasping criticism effectively comes from the realisation that your work and your ego are two different things. A criticism of content is not a personal attack, just as a disagreement over ideas or beliefs should not become a fight. Once one is able to establish basic tenets of existence (everyone is equal, regardless of sex, ethnicity and religious belief) all of this should be a simple, hassle-free process. However, that’s not been the case for… well, since that bloke came down a mountain with a bunch of carved tablets which were supposed to keep everybody in check.

Rules only have relevance if everybody sticks by them.

In reality, with so many people now granted a voice that can be heard in places that would never previously have been the case, the rules of our Social Contract on Social media are distorting and warping. Lies and truth become the same thing because individuals are unable to distinguish where one starts and the other ends. Is this country an enemy, or a friend? Is this leader asking for peace because they want it, or have circumstances dictated the need to change direction? What set of circumstances have pushed this movement to emerge now, and why did this not happen years previously? So much of life is filled with questions, yet few people take the time or thought to consider the answers.

Most days, people complain about what upsets them the most.

April 14-20th is Mental Awareness Week, and it is really rather important that everybody, regardless of their own personal issues, grasps how society as a whole is contributing to slow, overall disintegration by refusing to think outside our own lives and issues. Criticism should be an essential part of the creative process, and yet so many people now refuse to take the concept on board. Without it, you will never grow and improve, but most importantly of all, you will lose respect from those who, in many cases, simply wish to help and support.

Learning to deal with contention, now more than ever before is vital to developing as a better human being.

Honesty

Yesterday’s estimate of novel editing completion was, unsurprisingly, somewhat generous. However, there’s a Bank Holiday Weekend coming up with lots of free time on the table, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be done by Sunday night. That means giving some thought to the next project: it’s already percolating around my head, and there’s a Spotify Playlist to create as a result. Most importantly of all, there’s a cover.

Delayed Exposure.png

I’ve always envisaged a very simple cover for this story because my protagonist is incredibly black and white. As a result, this works on multiple levels. There’ll be some time next week spent building dedicated pages for my first Novel and this one here, so that not only can the process of writing be shared but also some insights into story and inspiration. It also forces me to start creating pitches for them both (a short synopsis of the plot) which will be needed going forward if I’m attempting to get someone to publish.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement at present for this part of my life going forward. There’s also a very real grasp of the potential disappointment and effort that will be needed to maintain positive and optimistic in the face of a very robust and competitive marketplace. I have no pretensions about any of this and am well aware of what will need to be done in order to succeed. The foundations are in place, and now it is time to start building.

I Have a Dream

Tomorrow, all things being equal, will be the last day of editing the Novel. After that, I’ll be creating a PDF of the whole damn thing and sending it off to people to read. If only it were that simple to get published, but sadly not. Once it’s done, and other people are seeing if it is enjoyable or not, there’ll be a chance to read this massive book to my right that tells me how to get it published, after which all hope of doing so will summarily vanish.

There’s a dream however that maybe, just maybe, it could all go to plan.

fingertheworld

If the desire to finger the World can be suppressed, albeit briefly, there is that chance. Confidence, which used to be the biggest stumbling block to progress, no longer worries. This is GOOD WORK, and there is genuine pride in what has been produced. Editing skills are light years better than was once the case. All in all, this is the best everything has ever been in terms of capability. Now it is time to capitalise.

There is also thought about what happens next.

I’ve picked the manuscript, will make a ‘new’ cover for it tomorrow, and after that, it’s all systems go. It’s another NaNoWriMo effort too, one that isn’t nearly as bad as previously recalled.

The second novel is already set to go.

April Short Story :: Thriller

This story was first published in 30 parts via Twitter during April. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.

Enjoy.


Thriller

1977

They meet at an audition for kids to star in a West-End production of ‘Oliver.’ Lizzie is 11, Marcus is 12. Their mothers bond over science fiction and Star Wars. It is a match made in a draughty East London rehearsal room.

The pair tentatively holds hands after an hour.

Over five years, Liz and Marc become inseparable, despite living on different sides of London. The Circle line acts as both backdrop and setting for the performance: Hammersmith to Moorgate fuses mothers as friends, shifting offspring progressively closer until they collide. The pair loses their virginities to each other on the weekend before Lizzie is due to begin her BA degree in Acting at the Guildhall School. Marcus will be returning to a second year at RADA: as a symbol of continued devotion, they symbolically exchange Russian wedding bands.

This is the moment where Marc becomes obsessed with the instant of sexual release, and Liz the joy of being loved and respected. It becomes almost immediately obvious that the pair is unable to successfully combine these two concepts into a long-term, prosperous relationship. However, for close to a decade they try. Through numerous infidelities on Marc’s part, Liz remains staunchly devoted to care and consideration. One evening in 1992 she returns to their flat to find him sleeping with another man: a final straw which destroys intimacy for good.

Except that is not the end of the relationship. For the next 20 years, Marc drifts in and out of Liz’s life, becoming increasingly controlling and demanding. He remains the oldest friend she has, but as time goes on comes understanding this entire situation is increasingly toxic. New friends suggest starting fresh, so she does. Despite Marc being both well-known and popular as an actor, he’s finally removed from her life for good. Stubbornly, one legacy remains. However hard she tries, Liz cannot remove the Russian Wedding band from right middle finger.



2012

On an extended lunch-break from the Barbican, Liz is struggling to locate an address in Covent Garden. Edwin, who she’s been seeing for a month, has suggested a place capable of removing her ring without damage to either it or finger. However, it does not seem to exist. She’s walked up and down this tiny street three times, and nowhere can ‘Semper Femina’ be seen, despite knowing this is the location. About to give up and go back to work, she turns suddenly and is presented with a pale cream shopfront accompanied with faintest whiff of jasmine.

Pushing open the door, ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ plays inside, a song consciously avoided for over thirty years. An already anxious Liz finds herself wanting to turn around and leave, were it not for the woman standing behind the cluttered, disorganised counter, smiling warmly. The shop is a disaster area; child’s room not properly cleaned or organised except in gentle, pastel shades. The shopkeeper is the most attractive woman Liz has ever seen: dark skin, jade eyes, hair so black it is impossible to see where it begins and ends against the skintight dress.

In fact, if Liz didn’t know better the long, flowing and incredibly figure-hugging outfit is part of her own body…when the woman speaks, the air around them both seems to move of its own accord.

“Your friend sent you: you wish to let go of the past but still hold it as a souvenir.”

A hand is extended, talon-like nails painted purple with thin, black streaks. It holds a small, glass bottle, inside which is a tiny, white seed.

‘Take this before bedtime tonight, your ring will fall off in the morning. Say the words on the bottle. You’ll know what to do next.’

Blinking, Liz finds herself back in the alley. The shop remains, but a sign has appeared in the window stating, in Gothic script: ‘Gone for Long Lunch.’ Looking down, tiny bottle is clutched in her hand. On its front is a label, stating:

‘A Spell to Re-Unite Two Lost Objects.’

The front label unfolds: on Tube back to work, contents are summarily digested. Any spell, once cast, becomes the soul obligation of the user, and by swallowing their tablet an individual takes full responsibility for any consequences arising. Most importantly, results will vary. ‘How bad could it be?’ Liz thinks, rattling tiny white speck inside thick glass, size of a sesame seed. ‘Perhaps I should do some research online, just to check.’ Being her own boss ought to have some advantages…

The rest of the afternoon becomes a transformative experience.

Internet search after search brings forth glowing reviews of Semper Femina’s products: happy souls who used the place as the means to start journeys to enlightenment and self-discovery. There’s even a Guardian review which calls the place ‘an antidote to traditional witchcraft.’ The shop’s own (very impressively produced) website reminds her that ‘magic is as much about belief as results. Only by truly wishing to change our lives for the better, does the Nirvana we individually search for come to pass. You are, in effect, your spells’ own catalyst.’

By bedtime, Liz is convinced, desperate to remove the ring before her next scheduled date with Edwin. She will tell him over dinner she’s not interested in seeing him anymore regardless: his constant assessment, often during sex, of her shortcomings has become a deal breaker. However, he was right. This physical connection to her past is toxic and negative, so needs to go. Getting into bed, the seed is placed on back of tongue before being washed down with a swig of water. Sleep hits with surprising speed, Liz lost to dreams almost immediately.

Saturday is warm and welcoming: she’d be hours late for work if this were a weekday. Taking a second after waking to feel for her finger, ring appears to have finally been dislodged: but where has it gone? A frantic search of the duvet begins, but Russian band cannot be located. In increasing desperation covers are removed, pillowcases taken off until Liz’ foot treads on something hard. The ring’s on the floor: hand must have slipped out of bed during the night, or the disturbance of covers caused it to fall there… the spell has indeed done its job.

Taking the ring, placing it in her palm, bottle is retrieved from dressing table before words on label are recited:

“Woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing.”

The bands are suddenly so hot Liz recoils in shock, making them fly upwards. Unexpectedly the room seems to pivot. It’s the same unmistakeably odd feeling experienced at the shop: a small and perfectly formed black hole then appears from thin air at eye level. Its gravity is immediate and apparent: before there is time to react, the Russian wedding band has been swallowed into nothingness.

Liz is coughing, sudden and violent before the swallowed seed shoots out of her mouth, also sucked into non-existence before hole shudders, folds into itself, through and round into a vortex, before completely vanishing. The doorbell rings but woman is far too shocked to move. Finally, awareness prompts movement: walking downstairs to see if the person who rang still remains, a sumptuous vellum envelope awaits, resting on the doormat. It is wax sealed with the Semper Femina crest, and on the front is hand-written a message in lush, purple script.

‘Your spell has only been partially successful. If you wish to complete the incantation, now break the seal on this missive. However, BE WARNED. Please ensure this outcome is EXACTLY what is required for your own particular situation.’

Without thought, Liz opens the envelope.


She’s about to leave the house to dump Edwin six hours later when Liz remembers she’s left the TV on in the bedroom. As the BBC News titles fade, the woman is suddenly staring with mounting horror as Marcus’ beaming image appears on-screen, newscaster looking distinctly spooked. Ex-boyfriend had been doing live TV on a popular morning cookery programme when there had been an ‘incident’: as video plays, Liz scrabbles for the spell bottle, reading its label with mounting panic, before the true horror of consequences captured on multiple cameras registers.

As Marcus is bodily sucked into a perfectly formed, man-sized black hole at head height between the cookery corner and guest sofa, Liz realises that his ring must still be being worn somewhere, even if it wasn’t obvious on his finger. The spell, undoubtedly, had done its job.


Poetry Archive :: Time’s Up

One of the first real lessons learnt in my exercise journey was that the biggest obstacle to progress is not my body. It does not matter what weight, shape or physical restrictions might lay in place to hinder progress. If your brain decides that something is doable, mind over matter really can do the job. The biggest problem, inevitably, is allowing fear to eat away at enthusiasm or motivation. That meant that on Friday night mind pushed through fatigue, sore legs and lethargy to complete a bike ride, and it will propel me to the Gym across the weekend with the knowledge that each day spent rehabilitating my left arm is a day closer to me being stronger than I was before the accident.

Sometimes, to take control of destiny, it is necessary to have a long, serious chat with your own psyche.


Time’s Up

This is notice, hear
Change of tune: no longer can
Fear be accepted.

Pack your bags, depart
Quickly: presence offending
Sensibility.

Your time has ended
Shrunk, ignored: alteration,
Fundamental shift.

Thrall severed, broken
Ticking countdown: last seconds
Toward extinction.

Time’s up, consciousness:
Release the future: not yours
To hold to ransom.